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RE: [xmca] Fwd: SEcond note: John Dewey school at Towson Maryland

Helen, the school you describe sounds as if it were inspired by A. S. Neills' Summerhill in the UK.


Dewey did complain that schools which claimed to be inspired by his philosophy often weren't.


Phillip White, PhD
University of Colorado Denver
School of Education
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Helen Grimmett (Education) [helen.grimmett@monash.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2011 6:50 PM
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; derekpatton19@gmail.com
Subject: Re: [xmca] Fwd: SEcond note: John Dewey school at Towson Maryland

Hi Andy, Derek and others,

This conversation seems to me to link with your previous conversation Andy
about "dream keepers" of institutions. I attended an alternative secondary
technical school here in Melbourne in the early 1980's and my older brothers
had attended since not long after it opened in the early 70's in a motley
collection of old portable buildings plonked on a large bushy piece of land
between the sand-belt golf courses. I suspect the early philosophy of the
school was quite inspired by Dewey. Teachers were known on a first name
basis and regular student meetings were held to allow students to have a
voice in the running of the school. We also had a significant amount of
choice in the classes we took and most classes were very hands-on and
self-directed. It wasn't perfect, and probably far too many kids got away
with doing not very much, but for kids like me who were keen to learn it was
really great, and never dull, mind-numbing or inhumane like most schools
seem to be.

When I started in 1980, the school had just moved into a brand new purpose
built building and the founding principal (who had obviously been the dream
keeper) had just left. At first the vice-principal was acting principal but
then a new principal from outside the school was appointed and during my 5
years at the school significant changes began to take place, particularly as
other original key teachers retired and moved on. I remember visiting a few
years later when I was graduating from teachers' college and found the place
almost unrecognisable - all of the open plan learning spaces had been
divided up into classroom sized boxes, the structure of multi-age home
groups had been changed, and the atmosphere and morale seemed completely
different. Another few years later as all the neoliberal political changes
swept through the system the school was merged with the local high school
and so uniforms were introduced, curriculum offerings were rationalised,
teachers were to be called Mr and Mrs and the school became just like any
other underfunded, underappreciated generic government secondary school.

I feel very privileged to have caught the tail end of the dream, and just
wish that somewhere similar still existed for my own children. It was
obviously a matter of the right people coming together in the right
political climate that allowed it to happen in the 70's, but I often wonder
what might have happened if the dream keepers had still been around in the
early 90's when the mergers took place. How hard would they have fought to
maintain something unique? Mind you, at that time I was teaching in a tiny
school that was forcibly closed, and found there was nothing that we could
do about it. A hard and bitter lesson in political cynicism and economic
rationalism for a naive and optimistic young teacher to learn! I have no
doubt though that it is all of these experiences that have fueled my passion
for educational research and the belief that we could be doing school

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