“America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success.”
― Sigmond Freud
Yup… I was the unwitting subject of many experiments. My parents started me early with their modern, by the book parenting (early 1960’s modern books, that is…) and later in life, I would be part of various experiments concocted by people with the power to hire and fire me.
My older brother (by two years) may very well have considered me a subject of psychological experimentation as he used his exceptional intelligence to torture my vulnerable young mind.
And I suppose I could also make a case for being experimented on throughout my social life by those who saw how easily I was manipulated, simply by giving and/or withholding love and/or attention.
But… besides being part of this “Great American Experiment”, the most significant by far (and the greatest failure?) was my experience as a student at John Adams Junior High School in my home town of Rochester, Minnesota from 1971 to 1974.
It was a brand new and modern school employing a brand new and modern staff with brand new and modern ideas about education and the operation of educational institutions.
Institutions… yea, it sure looked like one. Right away, people started referring to JA as “The Factory”.
But this factory was there to manufacture… rebels. That’s right, rebels. We even had “The Rebel” as our school mascot, complete with a civil war grey rebel uniform. Needless to say John Adams (now called a “middle school”) no longer has the rebel mascot. They are now the JA “Jaguars”.
And the brand newest, most modern aspect of our rebel school was… our schedule. Ha! you say? How is it that a school schedule can be so rebellious? Well, we had the brand newest, most modern idea in school scheduling of the time. Modular scheduling. Interestingly, I recently did a quick search on modular scheduling in schools and found an article about how nearly the exact same system was introduced (also in 1971) at the prestigious Punahou School, here in my new home of Hawaii.
Wow! we sure were brand new and modern eh? Yea well… I’m not going to go into an analysis of the effectiveness or significance of modular scheduling here. I’m no expert and I have no idea how the brand new and modern ideas pioneered by the likes of Punahou School and John Adams Jr. High School affected the development of educational institutions and how they are run today. I’ve no doubt there are plenty of sources for that discussion. But what I CAN offer here is one account of what it was like to actually be a student, a “normal” student at a school that tried this experiment.
And… it seems to me.
In the short term anyway.
See… while those brand new and modern educators (my father included) were figuring out how to use the brand new and modern computers to create their brand new and modern system, there were kids, yes… actual human kids who needed… what kids need. Again, I’m sure many did well at JA but as it says in the above article…
“In general the better students thrived and the poorer students had even greater difficulty. Our challenge is to identify early those who are having problems adjusting and to provide the structure and the guidance which will enable them to profit from the system.”
Well.. I guess I was not one of the “better students” because what I saw was…
And also as it says in the article, “Modular scheduling was expensive…” and the cost I remember had nothing to do with money.
For three years, me and my classmates were beta testers for the brand new and modern ideas of a bunch of academics fresh out of school themselves. They were excited young adults with stable educational experiences behind them and exciting new careers ahead. We were scared and confused teenagers with whatever our childhood was behind us and no idea if there was any future ahead at all.
We will never get that time back. What that time was like for me, will for now have to be…
to be continued…