Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

November 08, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-11-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.







Number 35 Night Editor: Jim Beattie

Sunday, November 8, 1970





kid. ..





. . .

ON A TYPICAL day at Angell School nine-
year old Tim DeRosia sat in his seat al-
most all day. The only time he could get out
was to go to recess and lunch, and if it were
the right day, to gym, music or art class.
Whether he wanted to or not, Tim had to
do his one hour of math, his one hour of
reading and writing when and how the
teacher wanted him to.
If he and his classmates were quiet and
good, the teacher told them, they would
get a treat at the end of the week. But
at the end of the month, Tim says, there
was no treat. Somebody always made too
much noise or was bad and wrecked it for
the whole bunch.
Tim didn't like this set up. He was bored
and discouraged. So his parents, Marlene
and Jim DeRosia, enrolled him in Clonlara,
a privately run nursery and elementary
There are no typical days at Clonlara.
Each one is different because each of the
30 kids who goes there feels different on
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and
Friday. One day they all might sit for a full
half day and do math. Another day might
find them out in the yard building bird-
houses or making forts out of the giant logs
there. Still another might find them back
in one of the work rooms having a science
hour to unearth a problem one of them
has been puzzling with. Or they might be
making collages from magazines and con-
struction paper, or decorating Indian tom-
toms that were once gallon ice cream con-
1rH AT STARTED Clonlara was the con-
cern of two parents, Pat and Jim
Montgomery, for their children as they
started their formal education. The Mont-
gomerys were anxious for their kids to avoid
the kind of experience Tim had.
Pat knew his was real. She has been a
school teacher for 18 years - eight of those
in a convent, and, she says, "I knew what
it was I had left. I didn't want my children
to go into that - not into a situation where
they would be mistrusted."
So, in October, 1967, the Montgomerys
plunked down a $4,000 payment on a piece of
land just off Industrial Highway on Jewett
and set up a viable alternative to public
education in Ann Arbor. It started as a
nursery school and expanded to a certified
elementary school in September, 1969.
Pat and University graduate Steve Sand-
ler do the bulk of the teaching for the
elementary school students. They get help
from University and Eastern Michigan
University student volunteers and from Jim
Montgomery who is the secretary-treasurer
of the school.
Pat does not mince words in expressing
her views about public school education, and
her elucidation of what she dislikes at the
same time reveals much of what Clonlara
is about..I
"Public schools can be a waste of time,"
she bluntly says. "It is a waste of time for
kids to be with people who don't trust them."
Consequently, at Clonlara great emphasis is
put on the child's ability to make valuable
and correct decisions for himself in terms
of what he would like to do each day and
what he would like to learn.,
"YOU HAVE to respect the child's individ-
ual feelings-what he wants," she main-
tains. "And you have to have an enormous
amount of faith in kids." The method of
operating schools now, Pat adds, is ground-
ed in the theory that "if we don't train
children they will not grow up right and
will veer from the right path.
"But allow a child to discover for himself

Making pretty things

the way to go," Pat contends, "and he will
never veer."
All of this philosophy is transformed into
fact at Clonlara. Classes take place wherever
they happen to develop-in the yard build-
ing a birdhouse with Steve, in one of the
workrooms clustered around a table making
wax collages from candle drippings, in the
music room singing. around the piano, in
another room at the math table, at a rock
quarry in the area, in downtown Ann Arbor,
at the University's philharmonia rehearsal
and almost any other place where the chil-
drens' interests lie.
And learning-the mastery of the skills
we've all been taught to hold dear like read-
ing 'riting and 'rithmetic-does take place.
Only it takes place in an atmosphere of
exuberance and creativity. The kids pick up
math, for example, through the use of Cui-
sinaire rods and Montessori counting beads.
The rods are graded by colors and the colors
make up families of different size rods.
When the kids want to learn to read,
they learn .the words "out of their head,"
Pat says, "none of the Dick and Jane stuff."
They tell Pat or Steve a word they would
like to know and then either one of them
writes it down and the kids learn it.
Writing works much the same way. Friday
the group was sending letters to Steve who
had been sick. They were busily printing up
their messages as best they could with help
from Pat, because prior to that time, she
says, half the kids didn't know how to write.
But they learned. some of it Friday
through their desire to send a letter. And
one is confident that this new knowledge
will stick with the kids much longer than
it would, had they been taught it through
an educational super structure that said,
"Today is Friday-it's time to learn how to
write, like it or not."
1jHIS IS the type of education that drives
people like Steve out of the public school
system "I was very disillusioned with the
kind of education I had had," he says. "I
wanted to teach but didn't know what set-
ting I'd be comfortable in. I heard about
this place and started to volunteer."
When one of the regulars became ill in
May, Steve filled in full time and has con-
tinued ever since.
This kind of devotion to the ideas Clon-
lara espouses is not unique. Many books
have been written about the concept of open
education and many schools have tried to
achieve it. Clonlara's philosophy likewise

is in good company among the education
world. Educator John Holt, for example, in
"How Children Fail," offers some views that
are remarkably similar to those expressed
and implemented at the Ann Arbor school.
Near the end of the book Holt says:
"It is not the subject matter that makes
some learning more valuable than others,
but the spirit in which the work is done. A
child who is learning naturally, following
his curiosity where it leads him, adding to
his mental model of reality whatever he
needs and can find a place for, rejecting
without fear or guilt what he does not need,
is growing in knowledge, in the love of
learning and in the ability to learn."
Despite affirmations from Holt and other
notable educational innovators like A. S.
Neill of Summerhill, the concept and reality
of Clonlara is foreign and frightening to
more traditionally minded people. They are
the ones, as Pat notes, who basically mis-
trust children and who fail to see them as
small human beings who are separate en-
tities and who are entitled to develop along
the lines of their interests and needs.
t "LONLARA REALLY goes beyond being
simply an educational institution where
children learn FACTS in an open environ-
ment. It becomes instead a way of living
and looking at the world. It is both a posi-
tive and sensitive way-positive in that it
sees people - grown ups and children in
terms of what they are able to do. And it
assumes they can and will do. Sensitive in
terms of each person understanding first
himself and then understanding and accept-
ing others for what they are and wish to be.
These ideals inevitably lead people to
believe that everyone runs wild at Clonlara,
that, like the title of the recently popular
song, "Express Yourself" is the prime ideal
-no matter where, with whom and how
that expressing is done.
Both Pat and Steve can easily correct this
error in perceiving what open education is
all about.
"Some people think permissiveness is what
the school is about," Pat says, "and it de-
cidely is not. Permissive-that means a cer-
tain letting go, a certain not caring about
what the child does. The idea of school is
to do what I understand is the child's level
of development.
"What you always want to remember
about a school like this is that there are not
times when no one has control," Pat em-
phasizes. "That would be like chaos, utter
chaos, no direction of any kind."
INEVITABLY, A situation such as Clonlara
involves not only the children but their
parents as well. And sometimes the parents,
whether they realize it or not, do not fully
understand and embrace what the school
and they are doing.
Many times a disparity exists between
the way the child is treated at school-as
a person with the ability to make his own
decisions-and at home where he is strictly
governed, the implication being that he
is unable to make his own decisions however
small they may be.
This, Steve explains, is a very trying and
unhealthy predicament for the child. "The
child is caught between two different life
situations. In one," Steve says, "there is
a certain set of authority figures, certain
things a child can say and what he can't.
Then he is in this (Clonlara) atmosphere
for five, six, seven hours a day where that
is broken down. He ends up going from
one to the other, one to the other-the
kid consequently grows up filled with so
much confusion and hostility.
"In the morning when he gets to school
he's angry and frustrated," Steve adds.

"By the end of the day he's calmed down
and then he goes back to the hostility at
Pat and Steve attempt to remedy this
as much as possible. The first step, of course,
is trying to select kids who come from
homes where the philosophy of Clonlara is
accepted and encouraged. "We don't like
to accept children of parents who just want
to get their kids out of the house for the
whole day," she says.
BUT PAT admits that the degree of com-
mitment to the school varies with each
Regardless of the commitment, though,
both Pat and Steve agree that it is "in-
cumbent upon the school to maintain close
relationships with the parents and kids."
This takes place through workshops where
the parents get together at the school and
discuss what goes on there and at home.
Most parents of Clonlara kids seem to
genuinely believe in the school, evidenced
by the large number of kids who are in
their second, third or fourth year there.
Virginia Thomas says she sent her son
to Clonlara "the day it began. People say
public school is supposed to prepare a child
for life, but I don't feel it did that for me-
why subject my child to that?" she asks.
"For Parky (her six-year old son) Clon-
lara is good," Thomas adds. "It may not
be for every child. My daughter starts next
fall-she'll be three," she adds.
"Parky is more relaxed and secure than
most kids," his mother believes. "He knows
what he's about. He's gone through a divorce

if they don't want to be shown no matter
how those parents try. It comes from the
inside out.
"If you don't allow children to recognize
themselves as loveable human beings," she
warns, "then you have denied them the
most essential thing in their lives. You can
give them all the clothes you want . . . and
it's not going to work."
Steve speaks to this point on a somewhat
more day to day basis. "We're not letting
kids run around without limits," he says.
"We're giving them limits that are based
on reason, a reasonable sense of what a
child can do and what is harmful to other
"We don't let a child run free to harm
himself physically, emotionally," Steve ex-
plains. "We're not going to let a child crack
his head against the wall or throw a tantrum
until he's sick."

PARKY THOMAS is a six-year old Clonlara nursery school graduate who
moved into the elementary school section. He is a whizz at math,
already up to fractions. But he can't read, apparently because he isn't
interested. This does not mean, however, that he will go through life able
to communicate only through quotients and products. He will learn to
read when he is ready and that day seems to be rapidly approaching.
About two weeks ago the following conversation ensued between Pat and
"Pat," Parky said, "I'm mad at you cause you didn't teach me to read."
"Did you come to reading class," Pat asked.
"No," he admitted, "I was too busy."
"What were you doing?"
"I was building birdhouses."
"Well," Pat told him, "if you can take time out to come to the class
I'll teach you."
"What will you teach me?" Parky asked.
"What do you want to know?" Pat asked.

with no side effects-unless they show up
later," she adds. "I don't think he would
have been as secure if it were not for the
LIKEWISE, Richard Venus who has two
children enrolled in Clonlara, is tre-
mendously pleased with the experience his
children are having. "Wow," he says, "my
kids like to go to school." Venus says he
sent them there for both positive and nega-
tive reasons. "Positively," he explains, "we
think the free school education is impor-
tant. Kids ought to be allowed to make
choices. It's free versus repressive learning."
"That's the negative part. We think that
public schools are in the main repressive.
They do two things: One, they build kids
into the system which seems to be going
nowhere. Two, they hinder the child's own
growth and development."
Some parents-some whose kids are at
Clonlara, and some who shy away from the
idea of open education, cannot totally ac-
cept Clonlara's philosophy. One of their
main difficulties seems to be overcoming
that long held view that children cannot
make wise decisions for and about them-
selves. Children need limits, they say, to
preserve themselves. They need to be taken
care of so they won't harm themselves or
While this is in large part true - a small
human being cannot cook his own food
and drive himself to work or get a job -
Pat and Steve can provide explanations
for why these parents' fears can and should
be alleviated.
"People are always more aware of the
physical needs of kids and that is sad be-
cause in our day and age the physical needs
- and I'm not including the ghetto - are
more attended than they've ever been,"
Pat says. "If people were as concerned about
the psychological development of children
as they are about the physical development,
we'd have a lot fewer kids running away
from home, a lot fewer kids on drugs, a
lot fewer kids not knowing themselves.

Contrary to what many of us might think,
more problems arise from the child "who
will not come out" than from the exces-
sively active one. The quieter one "will not
let himself be known," Pat says. "He does
not trust adults because he has been taught
adults are not to be trusted."
A child like this, Pat says, "withdraws into
himself" and is very difficult to know. "In
fact," she says, "there's a 'no entrance' sign
across his face.
"Nobody's going to push him to come
out," Pat adds. But eventually that child will
come out of himself because he wants to.
"HERE'S WHERE love comes in," Pat
says. "Here where because we're all
human together he might gradually show
himself because he learns that unlike other
adults he has known these, here, are to
be trusted."
And eventually, the withdrawn child can
learn to know and trust the other children
and himself because he interacts with them
all day long at school. "It's the best training
for life," Pat says. "They have to work out
inter-kid problems among themselves."
To accomplish this the kids have meetings
such as the one two weeks ago to set policy
on keeping inside equipment like the mag-
nifying glass inside rather than letting it sit
out in the yard where it may rust.

Or they have small discussions about their
own behavior. If somebody is hitting some-
body else, Pat says, that child will say, "Hey,
stop punching me." And hopefully the hitter
will realize that hitting someone else is
not a good thing to do.
This kind of interaction is geared to let
children find out for themselves who and
what they are and how that fits in with
what everyone else is. In fact this concept
came to the surface Thursday after an in-
fomal meeting suddenly occurred at a table
in one of the work rooms.
The kids were discussing their educa-
tioinal experiences to date and how Clonlara
was different than other systems they had
known. During the meeting they all decided,
as one of the children stated, that "the
biggest thing you have to do at Clonlara
is to care for other people."
This doesn't manifest itself every minute
of every school day, of course. There are
squabbles and frustrations that arise. But
these are worked out by the kids them-
selves or with the help of Pat and Steve
when it is needed.
Neither teacher sees these kinds of prob-
lems asthe crucial ones. One important one
exists, however, stemming from the energy
andcreativity of the children. This is the
problem of finding resources for the school.
"If a child can pick and choose what he
wants, you have got to have an enormous
amount from which he can pick and choose,"
Pat explains. "You need equipment of all
kinds-audio visual aids, things he can make
himself, things that are made for him, things
that we make together.
"Your community is your greatest re-
source." Pat contends. "You've got to know
that when we're talking about rocks, there
are two places in this community where you
could take that child to get those rocks.
Now if you're unaware of these things
you're a lousy teacher."
BUT PAT and Steve indeed are not. And
their efforts have proven successful. The
school is now in its fourth year-two and a
half years longer than the life expectancy of
most open education schools, Pat says.
The only other major effort in the area
recently, Children's Community School, fold-
ed in 1968 as a result of financial difficul-
ties and lack of a viable building.
Pat has a theory on why Clonlara has
lasted when something like Children's Com-
munity has not.
"People who are responsible for beginning
Clonlara are not transient," she says. "They
expect to say in a situation - they do not
expect to be like college students-in town
and then leave. You have to have people
who are going to be. pillars and stay for
a while. It helps also for them to have chil-
dren," she says, "because then they have a
real vested interest. They're willing to put
themselves on the line financially."
Getting down to what Pat calls the "real
fine points," she admits that keeping politics
out of Clonlara has alleviated some of the
difficulties that plagued Children's Com-
munity, run for a time by the late Diana
Oughton and now Weatherman Bill Ayers.
"We don't wear our politics out loud be-
cause it doesn't show well through the eyes
of a three year-old," Pat says. "They can't
be caught up in political things, but their-
parents certainly can and should and must.
But that's if you're working in another ball
Having your own place Pat characterizes
as essential. "Look how our school is left
day after day-we couldn't have this ready
for church on Sunday. We couldn't have
any people coming here using it for meet-
ings. We can't worry every minute if the
plate glass window gets broken."
AND IF IT DOES, it will be repaired prob-
ably by the kids themselves so the school
will be ready for another day, another year.
Current plans call for the expansion of the
school to two different buildings, the pres-
en one on Jewett and another that doesn't










Back to Top

© 2024 Regents of the University of Michigan