Re: Many painfull years at The DeSisto School
Date: September 04, 2008 11:09AM
I attended DeSisto in Stockbridge from '85- '87...that is, for the time I was actually at the 'school' and not on the road.
Was it a cult?
I think DeSisto was different for different people, and it depended on what time period you attended. My years were tough ones, and yes, I would have to say it was a 'cultish' experience. I certainly feel like I am just starting to come to grips with what I experienced there. It was not a positive experience by any means, and Michael certainly was a cult like figure.
DeSisto was a segregated environment. You were cut off from the rest of the world, staff and 'student' alike. The parents attended meetings, and went through the same brain washing the kids/staff went through. I call it brain washing, because that is exactly what it was. Student were pitted against each other. Back stabbing and betrayal were rewarded, all in the guise of 'caring'. It was a brutal environment. The monkeys were left to work it all out in the jungle. Confrontation was encouraged. A whole dialect was developed; "turn-ins", "leashed", "sitting group", "take downs" and being "sheeted". Group upon group, with everyone confronting each other, and if you were confronted, it was time to cry to show your remorse and understanding. Should you disagree, you were in denial.
My friend and I smoked a cigarette in a closet. I turned us both in. I did it because I knew I would be praised and viewed as though I were taking responsibility and making progress. He was never my friend again. At the time, I thought that was just a sign of how little progress he was making, but in the end, it was just that he knew loyalty and was stronger than the peer pressure we faced to conform. He was leashed. Then he was 24 hour leashed. Then he was sent to the Farm. I never saw him again, because he ran away and never came back.
I ran away a number of times. Two years after the final time, I learned that my parents were still paying $26,000 per year tuition. After all, I was still part of the school.....just "on the road". Pretty cult-like, don't you think?
My parents would not talk to me, because those were the rules. I felt abandoned. I was abandoned. All of us were. I lived on the streets of NYC for two years. What was my crime? Oh that's right, at 14 I got kicked out of camp for smoking a joint, and ended up at DeSisto.
For many of us, DeSisto was an exercise in survival. It was an effort to resist brain washing. It was an environment so terrifying, that I chose to live on the streets, rather than be subjected to Michaels methods.
I am successful in life. I have my own business, I am motivated and skilled at what I do. I make good money, I have a beautiful family and great friends. I have seen much of the world, and I am happy with who I am. But I shall never forget DeSisto and I fear that I am just beginning to scrape the surface of the trauma I experienced there.