12/28/17: The Cruel Years: Fear and Coping with Teenage Reality in 1970s America (Part sixteen, Fun in the Rebel Factory)

… this factory was there to manufacture… rebels. That’s right, rebels.”


But who wants to be a rebel if you don’t have some fun doing it, eh?

And yes, we teenage rebels did indeed have fun at our brand new and modern John Adams Jr. High School in my home town of Rochester, Minnesota. My adult self also suggests to me now, that our brand new and modern rebel teachers and administrators were having some vicarious fun.

Of course I’m sure they really did believe in the brand new and modern system they were experimenting on us with. And my adult self is glad and grateful that they wanted to incorporate as much fun as possible into our educational experience. It just seems like they were so focused on how much THEY would have loved to go to a school like this, that they weren’t really all that prepared for the parts that just didn’t work. Or would take a lot more time to work the way they envisioned them to.

“The Commons” was a perfect example of this.

As I mentioned yesterday, The Commons was what the cafeteria became when lunch was not being served. There were ping pong tables, and games that could be checked out at a storage room across the hall. The room also became a little store where kids could purchase snacks and even had some audio equipment plugged into the school PA system, so we could create our own little radio station. I tried being a DJ a few times and I wish I had spent more time with that, but for some reason I didn’t. Probably because it cut me off from a more direct involvement in the social scene.

And what a scene!

My adult self agrees with what I imagine our brand new and modern teachers and administrators were thinking, regarding the need for kids our age (twelve to fifteen) to be free to develop social skills. That adults can find a way to support the social development of kids this age and perhaps help them to avoid some of the alienation and angst that they endured as teens themselves. I am completely on board with how much our society needs to transition away from the rigid, old school, rule-driven systems set up by the world of early industrialization. The days when public schools really were little factories. Factories with a clear intention to pump out armies of factory workers.

And here I was in the rebel factory. Where the factory’s purpose was to try and start a “Rebelution”. And have some fun doing it. But real revolutions are never fun. And they never go the way the rebels plan them to. Nobody wants chaos, not even rebels. But chaos always accompanies rebellion. I’m not sure it’s even possible to plan for this.

The commons was the first experimental element of our brand new and modern system at JA, to fall into chaos. It was a really fun place to be so everyone… EVERYONE! wanted to be there ALL THE TIME. During the first year (1971 – 72) when the schedule was completely free and open, kids simply scheduled themselves to be in the commons for nearly every open MOD they had. A few made the appearance of going to a few resource centers but either left shortly after getting there, or just didn’t go at all.

So when we weren’t in class, we were in the commons. This of course led to the inevitable chaos that then led to the inevitable clampdown.

More on this again will have to be..

To be continued…


By |2018-02-14T12:15:39+00:00December 28th, 2017|Memoirs|Comments Off on 12/28/17: The Cruel Years: Fear and Coping with Teenage Reality in 1970s America (Part sixteen, Fun in the Rebel Factory)