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

Quite possibly so Philip. Of course, as a student I wasn't really in the
know, and by the time I was interested in educational philosophy it was
gone. I remember asking my parents a few years ago about it all and Mum
mentioned Dewey's name, but she could have been mistaken and also wouldn't
really have been privy to all the educational decisions of the school even
though she was quite an interested and involved parent in the school's early
years. I think you are right to suggest that Summerhill was also an
inspiration although I don't think my school was ever quite as radical as
Summerhill (although students were allowed to smoke in a designated outdoor
area of the school, which at least meant that everyone else could go to the
toilet without getting lung cancer!), possibly because it was also larger
and still under some minimal constraint of the government school system.

>From my (admittedly limited) understanding of Dewey I've always thought the
principles were similar (commitment to democracy, importance of experience
rather than passive transmission of content etc). I'd be interested to hear
in what ways you think they differ.


On 3 August 2011 23:23, White, Phillip <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu> wrote:

> Helen, the school you describe sounds as if it were inspired by A. S.
> Neills' Summerhill in the UK.
>     http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/
> Dewey did complain that schools which claimed to be inspired by his
> philosophy often weren't.
> phillip
> Phillip White, PhD
> University of Colorado Denver
> School of Education
> phillip.white@ucdenver.edu
> ________________________________________
> 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
> better.
> Cheers,
> Helen
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Helen Grimmett
PhD Student, Teaching Associate
Faculty of Education
Monash University, Peninsula Campus
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