fednesdaEy, November 24, 1971
I HE MICHIGAN DAILY
'enedyNvebr 4 11I l-LMIHGA AIYPaeSee
(Oontinued from page 1)
the students as they all join in
and contribute to a discussion.
Each student chooses and
often plans an individual cur-
riculum. Some of the favorite
classes include Chinese cooking,
parapsychology, Russian liter-
ature, creative problem solving,
American history, and the Bible.
There are no grades: each stu-
dent is responsible for drawing
up a contract which explains
curriculum plans and requests
a corresponding number of aca-
Students at Pioneer II some-
times find it hard to describe
their school to an outsider; for
most of them are still in the
process of discovering it them-
For some students, the free
school is exceptionally reward-
ing; for others it is frustrating.
Fdr many, it is both.
The students realize that to
a large extent, -what they get
out of Pioneer II depends on
Some students, constantly
finding new outlets for their
interests, spend 12 hours a day
or more in school activities,
with dinnertime and evening
classes filling up already crowd-
Perhaps the luckiest are
those who weren't succeeding in
the traditional high school and
have now found their niche.
"I was beginning to feel that
I was really stupid (in Pioneer
High), and I know I'm not
now," says one girl.
Some have found the free
school tobe of little help. One
boy who takes few classes and
is normally out of the school
by 3 p.m. expresses some posi-
tive sentiment, but says that he
hasn't been able to get any
more excited about learning
than he was before.
The freedom of Pioneer II has
proved invaluable to those few
students who function best in-
dependently, or adapt to any
Bill Casello, the school's full-
time director, relates an inci-
dent from the first day of.
school, when one of his stu-
dents quietly left the general
meeting where students were
arguing about the school. He
found him seated on a window-
sill in another room, two math
books open in front of him,
writing out formulas.
But for some who do well
themselves, there is a strong
concern over whether Pioneer
II is working as it should for the
others, and it is a source of oc-
"I know I can make it work
for me, for sure," says one
girl, "but I'm not sure how I
can make an attempt to make
it work for other people."
Just how the free school
should work is a question al-
ways being asked and often
producing friction. No two peo-
ple have the same answer.
To some, the further it is
removed from the traditional
concept of school, the better.
From the point of view of a
girl who simply wanted to get
school over with, Pioneer II is
a blessing. She has found ways
to use her artistic and creative
ability which she never had
within a school framework be-
But there are students who
feel that the obsession of a few
with getting away from tradi-
tion has gone too far, realizing
that some guidelines are neces-
e sary for them.
,s "They equate structure with
1 the old school," says one. "They
- have to realize that structure
e doesn't have to be rotten."
e Others point out that some
- students are so wary of struc-
ture that they are antipathetic
toward anything that suggests
a an "assignment."
Perhaps part of the problem is
e most of their school years in
e a traditional system have diffi-
ieculty getting used to an alter-
One of the students who
d worked on the planning of Pio-
neer II over the summer says
students need to get "uncondi-
"People have an idea of what
a school is," she says, "People
who don't have a class are lost."
She brings up another ob-
stacle faced by Pioneer II, not-
ing that many students who
came hoping that they would be
able to relate better to others
have been disappointed.
Those who felt that 'the in-
formal atmosphere of the free
school would automatically lead
to closer relationships among
everyone have been somewhat
disillusioned. The problem of
cliques still exists, as in any
school, There are still some
students who remain isolated.
But most agree that it is im-
Activities like an evening
class in the home of a student
or teacher bring Pioneer II peo-
ple closer together.
Earlier this month, some 70
members of the school spent a
weekend in a lodge on the shore
of Lake Michigan, planned with
the hope that perhaps they
have time to get to know each
The school has come under
attack from outside for being
too exclusive, particularly from
students of Pioneer High, from
which most of Pioneer II's stu-
dent body is taken.
A column in the Optimist,
Pioneer High's student news-
paper, criticized the school"s
"exclusiveness." charging that
the only people who have ac-
cepted Pioneer II are those who
created it and their followers."
But students in the free
school feel for the most part
that the criticism is unjustified.
Although they agree that the
student body is made up most-
ly of middle-class whites --
there are just three black stu-
dents - they point outi that
every student who applied was
The organizers of the school
explain that enrollment was
open to all Pioneer High stu-
dents, and add that they had
talked to the school's Black
Student Union during their
They feel, however, that be-
cause of the solidarity of most
of the black students in Pio-
neer High, few blacks wanted
to split off and attend another
So amid criticism from out-
side and. some differences with-
in, Pioneer II is striving to'
succeed. Casello sayssthat deci-
sion making and public rela-
tions are two of the school's
One begins to understand
why the general meetings can
become tense at times.
There is almost unanimous
agreement that better commun-
ication is needed. And with
the exception of a few students
who dominate them, it is agreed
that the general meetings are
not the way to achieve it.
Almost all students realize
that the best suggestions and
ideas - the real communica-
tion - have come out of small
group meetings. but they have
yet to form a workable clan for
schoolwide decision making.
In the meantime. school must
go on' And it does. Students
and staf have begun to notice
that Pioneer II is beconing a
little more like home.
Students are finally imm'irs-
ed in most of their classes, de-
velopina a more clear idea of
what they want to learn than
There is an unusual "school
spirit" evident as members of
the free school cook. eat, clean-
up. relax. play chess, discuss.
teach. and learn together.
The one big hurdle remains:
Pioneer II must justify its ex-
istence in this its trial year, in
order to continue,
Part of its task is to under-
go an outside evaluation, as
stipulated by the school's own
It must also show Joseph
Pollack, principal of Pioneer
High and technically also of
Pioneer II, that the students
are satisfactorily drawing up
and fulfilling their academic
Pollack is supportive of the
school, although he tends to
think that it's off to a slow
start. But Casello says Pollack
was not entirely happy with the
first semester contracts, which
were submitted just recently.
In reality, Pioneer II under-
goes a constant evaluation ev-
ery day on the part of those in-
volved, as they constantly pose
new questions about their
And every day the school
gains a bit more of an identity.
There is always some frustra-
tion, but the overall attitude
remains optimistic. Perhaps it
is most evident in the surpris-
ing discovery of one student
who woke up one Monday
morning and realized that he
actually wanted to go to school.
Or in the enthusiastic praise
of another, who, discussing her
photography class, says she
learned in four hours what it
would take weeks to learn in a
Reflecting on her first weeks
at the free school, she realizes
how much she has learned,
not from tests -- that type of
learning she quickly forgets-
but from experience.
"That's what learning is,"
And that's what Pioneer II is
striving to be.
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(Continued from page 1) WISD people and local citizens cit
ization and 'toward a child and severe limitations of these facili
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"If the bond issue passes it will of activities. Lack of recreations
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