Then I kinda went to college
And I learned how to drink
Then I took all kinds of mind-expanding substances and I…
Watched myself think
Only it wasn’t college, it was the brand new and modern John Adams Junior High School in my home town of Rochester, Minnesota.
And it wasn’t alcohol that I had to learn how to handle there… it was the school’s brand new and modern, modular scheduling system. A system that gave a bunch of middle-class, midwestern twelve to fifteen year old’s the kind of freedom otherwise only enjoyed by most college students and THAT!…
Was mind-expanding indeed.
The correlation with my song lyrics above falls apart a bit though, when we get to the part about watching myself think. I very much doubt I was thinking much at all and I damn sure wasn’t watching myself. The shit that went on in homeroom, continued to go on pretty much unfettered all three years of my time at JA. And the bus I rode on every morning (until I started finding ways to avoid riding it) brought our special brand of rural shit to the storm. It was quite perfect and thus only natural, that those in charge of (and feeling responsible for) the resulting chaos would eventually need to start to tighten things up a bit… and then a bit more.
As I’ve said, I wasn’t there for the final clampdown which brought the school completely back in line with every other Jr. High School in Rochester by 1975. But I very much remember the small changes indicating movement in that direction.
Since everything about the brand new and modern system these brand new and modern young teachers and administrators were experimenting with, was based on the schedule, then it was the schedule that had to be the first thing to change. To try and gain some small bit of control over the complete chaos they had wrought.
See… that first year JA opened, (1971) the only thing appearing on a student’s schedule was the few “required” courses. The rest of the “MODS” (sixteen 27 minute periods in the six-day week of A – F day) were left blank (open) and were to be filled in by the student during the homeroom periods at the beginning of the day. The afternoon homeroom was supposed to be for discussing how the day went and how to better manage their time in the future.
There were many rooms designated as “resource centers” where it was assumed students would go on their own accord after indicating on their schedule that they had intended to do so. You know… the teenagers were being trusted to know how much time they would need to spend studying any given subject. That way, students could schedule themselves to spend extra time in a resource center for a subject they knew they needed more work on, while not even go at all to ones they were already doing well in.
That didn’t even last the entire first year. By the spring of 1972, the brand new and modern teachers and administrators were faced with the fact that nearly every student was spending nearly all their open MODS in…
The Commons was what the cafeteria became when lunch was not being served. And it was basically… a fun factory. Well, not like the commercial Fun Factory of our twenty-first century world, but it was pretty fun. So… we all wanted to be there all day.
While our brand new and modern teachers and administrators were all for us having fun (and many were pretty fun themselves) it became clear that much of the chaos (not fun) was happening in and around, or at least in some way related to…
More on this and other aspects of the coming clampdown when this again will have to be..
To be continued…