From: allenbutcher (
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 09:38:27 -0700 (MST)
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about individuality versus
collectivity in community, with regard to child care and education.  I
have discussed this topic with others in different contexts, and it is an
important issue.  

I might note first of all that I wrote this before the advent of
cohousing, so it was actually written from the perspective of life in
communal society, a more "intentional" design than cohousing, yet even in
that context I felt that everything begins with the individual.  People
must deliberately make the choice to cooperate, children as well as
adults.  Of course, some of us have more of an inclination toward
cooperation and sharing while others are more inclined toward
selfishness, yet I feel that in either case community starts with the
individual's awareness of who they are and the kind of relationships they
want to build.  

While I certainly agree that our goal is to acculturate children into
community (and for an excellent example of an extreme perspective on this
I would refer you to Gertrude Huntington's description of child raising
in Hutterite Colonies, let me know if you are interested and I'll forward
the material) the important issue with respect to children is that they
do not choose community, they are born into it.  My perspective at the
time of writing "Values to Teach Our Children" was that if they should
choose to not live in community when they are adults, the most important
things for them to learn is how to be safe, strong, free, self-reliant,
independent, self-motivated and all the other values discussed.  I felt
that this must be adult's primary responsibility in child raising, to
prepare them to take care of themselves what ever culture they choose to
live in.  And even in community I feel that these are important values to
teach children as means of avoiding the "shadow side of community"
(details of that I have posted earlier).  Even in pre-teen and teen
culture all these issues of following the group versus thinking for
oneself are often daily challenges.

Yet your suggestion that children get plenty of direction in personal
preservation from other sources is a good one.  I noticed also that you
used some terms and concepts that I did not include in my list:  "values
of interdependence, asking for and receiving help, teamwork, sharing,
consideration and caring for each other and our community as a whole."  I
would encourage you to develop these ideas more, including something
about how adults may teach these values, as I attempted to do with each
of my values statements.  Then add that paragraph to the list.  How do we
teach "community" as a value?  I certainly never felt that what I wrote
was an exhaustive set of values, and I appreciate that other people put
more thought into this.  We would just have to go to a legal size poster
rather than 8 1/2 by 11, and that is fine!

Please do let us know if you write another paragraph, and feel free to
change or rearrange any of the current text.  I'm not attached ... the
most important thing to me is the collaboration.  

Other people have questioned that my writing about community doesn't take
the orientation of the group first, individual second.  My perspective is
really that the two must be balanced.  Perhaps you can come up with a
better way to strike such a balance in this document.

Finally, after 12 years someone is thinking critically enough about this
to further develop what I think is an important and valuable document,
and sharing their ideas!

> Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 10:44:32 -0500
> From: cynthia.e.carpenter [at]
> To: cohousing-l [at]
> Subject: Re: Children
> Allen,
> I like the content and tone of your piece on the whole.  It seems 
> ironic to me,
> though, that a value statement aimed at cohousing children would 
> first emphasize
> such values as self-reliance, independence, self-motivation, freedom 
> and
> autonomy, with a later focus on cooperation, responsibility, caring 
> and empathy
> for others.  I would emphasize first the values of interdependence, 
> asking for
> and receiving help, teamwork, sharing, consideration and caring for 
> each other
> and our community as a whole.
> My experience of cohousing so far has been that it is often much 
> easier for any
> one of us to develop an individual solution to a given problem, 
> whatever it may
> be, than it is to work with other community members to develop a 
> solution.
> Individual solutions often solve the immediate problem at hand, but 
> they tend to
> reinforce patterns of isolation and frustration with other members.  
> My kids get
> lots of experiences of independence and self-reliance from other 
> parts of their
> lives.  From their experience in cohousing, I hope my kids will gain 
> both the
> inclination and the skills to resolve issues by working with other 
> members of
> the community.
> - Cindy
> Cambridge Cohousing
  • Children allenbutcher, January 22 2000
    • Children allenbutcher, January 23 2000
    • Re: Children cynthia . e . carpenter, January 24 2000
    • Children allenbutcher, January 25 2000

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