DSM: "Success" / Awareness through film

From: David Danesh (dave1968@mediaone.net)
Date: Tue Oct 23 2001 - 18:05:48 EDT


This is a fascinating point that was originally brought up about success, and I appreciate the clarity with which Joe has addressed the question. I would like to add a few words as this question is very relevant to a film project I am currently getting under way. But first, a few pieces of background...

I am a filmmaker living in Los Angeles. Over the past couple of years, I have made several personal breakthroughs regarding the state of human existence. Much of this was due to reading J. Krishnamurti, a thinker, educator, perhaps teacher, who through numerous writings and dialogues dedicated his life to setting mankind unconditionally free. There are so many problems in the world--poverty, war, incredible concentration of wealth, lack of universal health care, disease, and general misery and psychological confusion. We have been unable as a race to fundamentally change the way we live in order to see clearly that we are responsible for our problems by the way we have structured our society. We are slaves to our beliefs, our dogmas, our religions, our countries, and so on, which we hold onto more dearly than to the importance of human life. We are separated and divided by our beliefs, and greatly conditioned. We have not been to see through such conditioning. (I hope this does not sound like preaching in an
y way, I am simply sharing my perceptions).

I've come to see all of this, in my own life, in the small community around me, in the world as a whole. And most adults are already so conditioned by their respective culture, past, religions, that any kind of fundamental change is impossible. So where does hope for the future lie? It must lie in the children. Children who are naturally curious, open, and have tremendous energy. And when I realized that our traditional educational systems have been the primary force that has dulled this inquisitive spirit and curiosity in children, I became passionately interested in what "right" education is. I researched the spectrum of educational alternatives, from public to private to magnet to Montessori to Waldorf and so on. Even Krishnamurti was responsible for starting a number of schools in Europe, India and here in America. But it was the Sudbury school that really caught my attention and rang true to me. The notion that a person at a young age should be "responsible" for themselves, for inquiring, for determinin
g what it means to relate to another human being. Sudbury seems to me to be the purest form of education, one that will produce adults who have the tools to think for themselves, and not simply become specialized robots and "productive" members of the status quo society.

So I am currently formulating a documentary project on education. I would like to capture all of these notions I have just addressed within this project, but I am quickly overwhelmed by the undertaking. So in order to keep the project simple, I am looking at carefully examining two different kinds of school systems, one that is traditional, and one that is "alternative." I want to look at the children, how they spend their day, what issues they are facing, where their energy is focused, what they are learning. And it also is important to examine the adults produced by these varying systems. What kind of life are they living? What is their relationship with society? What is their quality of life? Do they consider themselves "successful," if that is even relevant, and how does that differ from society's definition of success?

This is why the current issue has resonated with me. And I felt this was an opportune time to share this project with the DSM mailing list.

I realize my approach is probably fraught with holes. Using two schools, I am subject to accusations of not using a representative sample of society (I am a math major, so I understand the statistics very well). But to get a statistically accurate sample of schools and students would be too huge a task it seems to me. So I am starting simple, and working on my "thesis" from there. I visited the Cedarwood Sudbury school this past weekend, my first visit to one of the schools firsthand. I was very pleased by what I saw, and it definitely resonated with all that I have read about the schools.

There are numerous foundations, educational interests, public television opportunities, etc., that I will be presenting my project to for funding. If any of you on this list have any ideas or suggestions for me I would greatly appreciate your thoughts. I believe that the educational community, and probably society as whole would be interested in a serious observation of what effect current education is having on the state of the world. If any of you have a perspective on how this film project can be more relevant, or more effective, please let me know.

Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring about our children.

Sincerely-
Dave Danesh

-----Original Message-----
From: Todd Robinson [SMTP:todd@ClinicalSoftware.net]
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 12:57 PM
To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
Subject: Re: DSM:

Great rant, as usual, Joe.

Todd Robinson

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joe Jackson" <shoeless@jazztbone.com>
To: <discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 7:32 AM
Subject: RE: DSM:

> Hello William, I hope you had a good summer!
>
> I would hope we would all agree on the silliness of the underlying point
> behind your questioner's "notion", which would seem to be that
> democratic schools don't produce famous people. My reactions are,
> respectively, What?, Huh? and Who Cares?
>
> First point: In today's world, there exist no standard of what "someone
> who has helped create a broad cultural change in understanding or the
> way we see things in art, writing, science, politics, etc." even means,
> or who would fit it. The concept is nonsense.
>
> Almost 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a then very
> Sudbury-ish Arts Magnet High School with Roy Hargrove, one of the
> greatest and well-known jazz musicians of our time. Fifty years ago he
> would have probably fallen under most people's definitions of someone
> who has "created a broad change" regarding art in America. But in
> today's world nobody will ever agree on what "art" is; most people today
> don't even listen to jazz or know who Roy Hargrove is.
>
> There were 250 jazz artists in 1950 who were great enough to shape the
> world's view of art. Today there are 2500, but the world doesn't really
> listen to jazz. So is the questioner saying that it's more important
> for schools to crank out Michael Jacksons (who has had *way* more effect
> in changing the world's perception of music than anyone else in the
> world over the last 20 years) than it is for them to crank out
> Hargroves?
>
> And did anyone catch themselves just now bridling at the idea that
> Michael Jackson created a "broad cultural change in understanding or the
> way we see things in art"? You see the problem.
>
> Fame is opportunity. The relationship of fame to greatness is usually a
> matter of opinion, and when it is not are occurrences that are so
> statistically rare as to preclude a relationship with the type or form
> of schooling.
>
> Just for fun, someone name me five people in the world today who are
> changing our culture in the same breadth and degree of unequivocality
> that Julius Ceasar, Johann Sebastian Bach and Albert Einstein did in
> their respective cultures.
>
> Second point: There's a math problem here. Over the past 50 years
> Sudbury schools have produced maybe 6-8 hundred students. Over the past
> fifty years all the other kinds of schools in the world have produced
> billions of students. So, at this rate, if the all these other schools
> in the world have (arguably) produced one or two thousand of these
> people that can change our culture today (if there are that many we can
> all agree on), then
>
> 2,000/2,000,000,000 = x/800 per fifty years
> .000001 = x/800 per fifty years
> x = .0008 per fifty years
>
> So Sudbury schools only need to produce one U.N Delegate or Pulitzer
> Prize winner every 600 centuries to easily surpass all other schools in
> this all-important category? What a cakewalk!
>
> Third point: While the criteria of "someone who has helped create a
> broad cultural change in understanding or the way we see things in art,
> writing, science, politics, etc." is nonexistent due to its
> equivocality, what is the relevance?
>
> Does the world need Nobel Prize winners more than it needs
> veterinarians? Is someone who is a great writer a better and more
> present parent than a reporter for the local paper? Because it's the
> billions of anonymous people who live their lives with joy & integrity
> that make real contributions to our culture.
>
> Back to the jazz music analogy. In order to follow the track of a jazz
> musician who is at all "known", one essentially has to dedicate their
> entire lives to becoming known. Is it possible to be a good parent and
> be involved with social issues and volunteer for charities when you're
> out on the road ten months a year? No, I tried it, it's not possible.
>
> The relationship of fame to how good a person is is nonexistent.
>
> And much thanks should go to public schools for the fact that the impact
> art has on our culture today is negligible compared to sports. The
> impact of writing on our culture is far less than that of television and
> movies. So your questioner's categories seem a little out of date with
> regard to the real-life culture of today, unless "culture" to them means
> a bunch of college professors and art & music critics sitting around in
> a coffee shop in Geneva sipping cappuccinos while discussing Thomas
> Pynchon's latest book.
>
> Sorry. To me the point, which amounts to "has Sudbury/Summerhill
> cranked out anyone famous?", is so juvenile I am incapable of even
> comprehending whatever legitimacy the questioner intends.
>
> I would tell the questioner that while democratic schooling doesn't
> necessarily help kids to become famous, that every single graduate of
> Sudbury goes on to make *untold* contributions to our civilization, and
> that getting famous is probably not among the top ten reasons parents
> send their children to a Sudbury school.
>
> Rant over.
>
> -Joe
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> [mailto:owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org] On Behalf Of william van
> horn
> Sent: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 6:41 AM
> To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> Subject: Re: DSM:
>
>
> I was in a discussion on the state of the school system here in the US
> and someone brought up the notion that no one that has made a
> significant contribution to our culture has ever come through democratic
> schools such as Summerhill or Sudbury. By significant contribution he
> meant someone who has helped create a broad cultural change in
> understanding or the way we see things in art, writing, science,
> politics, etc.
>
> Does anyone know of a SUdbury alumnus who has gone on to help make such
> a change?
>
> William M. Van Horn
> http://www.angelfire.com/art/inmystudio
>
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________________
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>
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