THE TREND OF MODERN EDUCATION
A recent article in Newsweek described what it referred to as a new concept in education which, hopefully, will resolve many of the problems now facing the nation’s public schools. We quote from the article.
There is no principal. Pupils need not attend class. There are few desks and no neatly stacked textbooks. The children learn photography and human reproduction, paint prehistoric villages, play chess, nurse gerbils’ and frolic in the halls. But this is not just another unconventional and expensive private academy. It is East Hill Elementary School in Ithaca, New York, quite possibly the most innovative U.S. Primary school every supported by taxpayers.
East Hill is the brainchild of two Ithaca educators, Robert Herse and Dan Lee. Last spring, when the tired old East Hill school building was slated to be torn down, they mobilized neighborhood parents and petitioned the city’s school board for permission to transform it into a laboratory for nonregimented, independent primary education modeled after the famous English Summerhill school. “‘Maintenance of the building was hard to justify without the idea of a more individualized and creative school,” said school superintendent Roger Bardwell. More than filling the prescription, the new school opened in September with 175 children, many of them from academic families at Cornell University or Ithaca College, and Bardwell’s own son was one of the first to enroll in the sixth grade.
In keeping with the principle—if not the practice—of “freedom, not license” laid down by Summerhill’s founder, A.S. Neill, mornings at East Hill are fairly structured. Children choose three-week projects, e.g., preparing a fundraising photo exhibition, constructing an Indian village, or reading with “golden shapes”—books with large pictures and works that children memorize and apply to other readings. In the afternoon, they may move freely among such electives as Chinese, German, French or Russian, creative writing or mathematics, constructing a clay canoe or, if they choose, simply reading.
Children often turn to one another for help, and one of Herse’s dreams is having fifth- and sixthgraders write texts for the younger,students. Pupils are encouraged to make their own choice and to stand up for their rights; a child’s word is as respected as any adult’s. Even the school code applies equally to teachers as well as students, and recently several children rebuked teachers for breaking the 710 smoking in the classrooms” rule (the teachers have abstained ever since). And when the student government showed favoritism toward several pupils not long ago, the student body voted to end it without further ado.
Naturally, the school’s freedom pleases most youngsters. “I like it here. You can learn what you want to,” says Jackie Smith, a 10-year-old blonde. But older pupils and some parents worry about how well the children are being prepared for secondary education . . . Bardwell hopes, however, that one of the two new junior highs now being built in Ithaca adopts some of East Hill’s innovations.
“We’re not teaching kids how to pass achievement tests,” concedes Lee. “Maybe we’re away off in left field here, but we think they will face a better life after this.” . . .
Now it may appear as if all of this is just a rather silly experiment in education, interesting, to observe, fun to try, perhaps doomed to failure; but surely not something to get excited about. Quite the contrary is true. If those who are responsible for the erection of a school of this nature think they are doing something original, they are sadly mistaken. It was not too much more than a couple of decades ago when the country went through a period in which schools of this nature were the popular thing. This was especially true in California. The whole thing at that time was called “progressive education”. It had disastrous results; and the schools of the land have scarcely recovered from that noble experiment today. Why these men speak of innovations is a bit of a mystery—unless they have never studied their “history of education” in college and grad school.
But it isn’t the disastrous results that concern us at the moment; it is the basic philosophy behind the whole thing. At one time progressive education way dominant in pedagogical thinking, there were basic ideas in the minds of educators concerning the nature of a child and the purpose in educating him. These ideas are apparently at the bottom of the school in Ithaca, New York.
Educators who promoted progressive education considered a child to be spiritually, psychologically and intellectually sound at the moment of his birth. If he, in the course of the years, turned out to be delinquent, it was because wrong forces had molded him. In fact, some more liberal educators were of the considered opinion that any kind of molding force was detrimental to the child’s development. He was good. If left alone to do what he pleased, to develop from his own inner reserves of power and strength, he would become the ideal man. The figure was often used of a rose. The new born child is a delicate and fragile rose bud. If left alone, he will unfold and develop into a fragrant and beautiful rose. If tampered with, he will be irreparably harmed. Thus education had to be suited to this and the school was only there to provide an environment and atmosphere in which the child could develop in harmony with his own inner nature.
It appears as if the philosophy behind the new school in Ithaca is identical in all respects with this philosophy. It is an open and blatant denial of the fact that every child is born into the world depraved. He is thoroughly corrupt and only inclined to evil. This is not fashionable doctrine today; but it is the truth of the Word of God. If therefore, a child is permitted to develop according to his own desires and in harmony with his own inner nature, the consequences are not difficult to predict. It takes little imagination to guess that the results of such experimenting will be to produce (as it did twenty or more years ago) a crop of intellectual illiterates and a generation which is a law unto itself.
With such a view of the nature of the child, it is no wonder that discipline in a school of this kind is wholly lacking. The teacher is not authoritative who is in the school to demand and expect obedience from the child. He is there simply to aid the child in developing. And the child is really the one in a position of authority. He is the one who can do the dictating about what shall happen to his own life: But when a morally and spiritually corrupt child does this,—once again the results tire not hard to predict.
This is also why the goal of this type of education is stated in the article in the way that it is: “We think they (the children) will face a better life after this.” Is this the purpose of education? Is it even conceivable that ungodly and worldly educators would consider nothing more than this as the goal? This isn’t even wise according to the standards of human and earthly wisdom.
If this country is going to have to go through another educational crisis as it did some twenty years ago on this very point, the future of this country looks dark indeed. How different are our covenantal schools. Let us never fall prey to what our Canons of Dordt call the old Pelagian error resurrected out of hell.
A DIFFERENT VIEW OF MARTIN LUTHER KING
My colleague, Rev. R. Harbach, sent to me a clipping from the December, 1969 issue of The Cross and the Flag which is worth quoting in this column. It is, in turn a quote from the New Hampshire Union Leader written by the editor of that paper on the. subject “The Truth About Martin Luther King”. The quote from the Union Leader is as follows:
It now appears that the government was listening in on the telephone conversations of Martin Luther King. It appears also that the wire-tapping of this supposedly “non-violent” black “martyr” was authorized by none other than Robert F. Kennedy, then attorney general.
So far, this is of no particular interest because this newspaper has long told its readers that M.L. King was not what he purported to be and that neither was Bobby Kennedy. That ruthless little individual was quite capable of putting a wire-tap on his own mother’s phone.
What is interesting is that partial disclosures reveal that King was in direct contact with some of the most influential Communist contacts in the United States. As reported by our Washington columnist, Paul Scott, the FBI has been able to confirm that Kremlin agents whose influence extends into the highest ranks of the Communist Party were King’s ghost writers and chief advisers on protest strategy.
Martin Luther King well understood with whom he was dealing, because several pictures taken by the FBI show King meeting Communist operators at one of the major United States airports instead of at his office or home.
The FBI, according to Scott, ran into the King connection while investigating another national security case. When King’s name was mentioned several times by persons under surveillance, it was decided to put the civil rights leader under close observation.
So alarming was what was learned about King that House Speaker John McCormack was informed. This briefing caused Speaker McCormack to make extensive preparations to defend Washington against King’s plans to cause massive disruption.
Those who heard the playing of the tapes were shocked at the gutter-type language King used in private conversations about the late President John F. Kennedy. Yet, King’s leadership task was to give the over-all movement an acceptable “image” that would attract millions of Negroes, young people, the poor, the clergy, and those’ disenchanted with the Vietnam War.
Thus has been confirmed completely the concept of Martin Luther King which this newspaper has relayed to its readers.
In view of this partial disclosure, this newspaper feels that it is high time the FBI be ordered by the proper authorities to release the entire context of the King conversations. They should exclude only those parts which would compromise the national security.
It is pathetic to see the people, both black and white, misled by the publicity and propaganda surrounding M.L. King into believing him to be something he was not. Such delusions are dangerous to the national security. It is time for the public to be told the truth!
It is difficult to imagine that Martin Luther Ring has indeed become a martyr to many. And such veneration is paid him, not only by the blacks whose cause he espoused, but also by the Church, including many who claim to be Reformed.