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September 30, 1972 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1972-09-30

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Saturday,_ September 34, 1972


Page Five

Saturday, September 30, I 972 PHE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five








TIONS, by Frederick J. Pratson.
Chatham Press, distributed by
Viking Press, $3.95, paperback.
ALABAMA, by Bob Adelman,
with text edited by Susan Hall.
McGraw-Hill, $16.95.
Daily Books Editor
Land of the Four Directions is
a photographic essay of .the In-
dians of the Maine-New Bruns-
wick border, and Down Home
is a similar treatment of pover-
ty-ridden Wilcox County, Ala-

bama. Each, in its own way, is
a moving statement of the trag-
edy which humans inflict upon
other humans and upon them-
By now neither tale is, in and
of itself, particularly new or re-
vealing. Photographers have been
concerned with the mystique and
the poverty of the South and
with the awesome grandure of
the American Indian and of the
horror brought upon him by the
white man ever since the camera
was invented, and in many ways
the photographer has been more
concerned and in advance of his
time than have the rest of us.

Yet each new book to appear
adds its own little bit of infor-
mation, its own perspective to
the way we live.
Down Home is a portrait of a
poor area in the heart of Ala-
bama's Black Belt. (I've always
suspected that the phrase "Black
Belt" was conjured up by some
Yankee who found it unbelieve-
able that there should be a place
in the U.S.A. where there were
more blacks than whites; I won-
der if it would have ever occur-
red to a resident, black or white,
of one of these areas that it
made any difference what the
population balance was. Where
is the White Belt?)

"There's (I code of
behavior between
white (i niggers.
It's not (I set of rules
you jOt downa I
teach your children.
Wf e don't know how
to keep the code.,
but wce do knoici when
ice viOl(lte it."

The demography of Wilcox
County, racially speaking, is fas-
cinating. In 1860 there were 5,517
whites and 11,835 blacks (all of
whom were slaves; there were
no free blacks). By 1900 there
were 6,779 whites and 28,652 non-
whites! And by 1970 the white
population had shrunk to 5,117
while the nonwhite had also slid
back to 11,123. But image the
situation in 1900. Either (1) the
white population had barely man-
aged to maintain itself, while
the black had proliferated, or
(2) most of the whites had got-
ten out whenever the chance
presented itself, while the blacks,
either having no choice or actu-
ally liking their life, stayed, or
(3) everybody intermarried, pro-
ducing by the American way of
counting heads a largely "non-
white" population. The heritage
of this situation is profound.
Wilcox County and its county
seat, Camden, are places we
ought to get to know better,
something which Down Home
goes 'a long way toward doing.
The white tenant farmers, the
black sharecroppers, the sheriff,
the proprietor of a country store,
the proud old women living in
antebellum mansions, the middle-
class family in a ranchhouse, the
young men who went North to
college and came back, the littie
girl who was the only black child
in a third grade class-they are
all impressively recorded photo-
graphically and in the text
through their own words.
In the pages of this 'ook the
whites, predictably, are usually
always bigoted; the blacks are
jiust as predictably pleasant,
warm, and tolerant. "If you have
business with anyone in Cam-
den, you sit under the pecan tree.
Sooner or later everyone in town
goes by . . . There's not a bit of
gossip that doesn't pass through
as evidence. Under the tree men
think they're smart. They talk
about foreign affairs like they
got a Ph.D. from Harvard. Wo-
men aren't allowed and the col-
ored have a bench around the
corner." And so goes life.
The Indians of Frederick Prat-
son's Land of the Four Direc-
tions live in a different world.
Unlike whites and blacks in the
South, whites and Indians don't
live in the same society, and the
Indian has-fortbettertorbfor
worse - two things the black
doesn't, territoriality and a spe-
cial legal status. The Indians of
the Northeast, unlike the Plains
Indians, have had to live with
the white man from the begin-
ning, and consequently in years
their burden has been that much
greater. Their population decim-
ated, their culture exposed to
white culture for an unbearably
long time, virtually forgotten be-
cause of their lack of visibility
in numbers, they struggle on in

"I've beets married to Tinee for fifty-six years. She's my boss. But there's one thing that troubles
me-that I didn't re-raise her and whop her. If I'd whopped her a little, she would have been a

"The white people
done done the colored
people in all kinds of
ways. They wants you
where you say 'Yes
ma'am' and 'No
ma'am,' 'Yes sir' and
'No sir.' If you don't
do it, they look at
you real hard."

sreeter t!ife."
spite of poor organization, and
The message of this book is in
one way clear: the Indian has a
life and a culture that the white
is trying tomdestroy. But what
does this mean for the white
r e a d e r? "The anthropologists
come into the communities,"
says the author, "asking the
tribal councils for permission to
study the People in order to earn
an advanced degree or write a
book. They are sincere scholars
in their quest to further knowl-
edge. The People are generous
in the giving of their time and
their memories. Sometimes the
attention is flattering and can kill
the boredom for a few hours, but
often they feel like living curiosi-
ties in a woodland extension of a
university museum."
I once sat in on a seminar on
the reservation Indian, and after
a particularly frustrating discus-
sion of the Indian's existence
someone asked, "But what can
we do?" The instructor said,
"They need lawyers." Not an-
thropologists, and maybe not pic-
ture books either, no matter how
well done.

oo ks booksboo k
books books boo
ksbooks books.b

Free schools and self-indulgence

All of today's photographs are by Bob
from his book reviewed today, DOWN


FREE SCHOOLS, by Jonathan
" Kozol. Houghton Mifflin, $5.95.
SCHOOL, by Steve Bhaerman
and Joel Denker. Simon and
Schuster, $6.95.
Jonathan Kozol has written
a political essay and primer on
what he considers to be free
schools. If you are interested in
working -(1) outside public edu-
cation, (2) outside the white
man's counter - culture, (3) in-
side the cities, (4) with the poor,
the black, and the dispossessed,
(5) in the smallest possible
group; and if you are interested
in understanding some of the
legalities and finances of small
schools, then Free Schools could
be very useful,
At least fifty per cent of the
book is devoted to the legal and
financial aspects of free schools,
and the author includes as an
apppendix a list of the best
source materials in those areas.
The other half of the book at-
tempts to attribute a clear ethi-
cal priority to the confrontations
of the misery of the ghetto. The
harassment by the public insti-
tutions and by the wealthy, the
higher mortality rates and the
fight for physical survival are
all emotionally described. Of the
dynamics of human relations, the
complexities . of learning and
teaching, the fragility of hopes
and the persistence of needs,
Kozol has very little to say. He
makes an easy case against so-
cial injustices but is repeatedly
vague in providing images to de-
scribe what action, in fact, can
be initiated by any sizable group
in this country.
When speaking of black libera-

tion and self-determination in
public education, Kozol states
that "there cannot be much ser-
ious role for white men and
white women in the genesis of
these operations." Why is gene-
sis so different in these small
counter-culture schools in black
neighborhoods? How does Mr.
Kozol explain, his role? What
action can be taken to let blacks
help themselves? Why doesn't
Mr. Kozol help the blacks to
write about the free school ex-
perience? low many small
schools will, or can, the cities
support realistically in the next
few years? These are some of
the questions left unanswered.
Basically, the author refuses to
become entangled in the real
complexities t h a t all small
schools must face. For example,
it seems inadequate to advocate
strident political doctrines as a
response to building inspectors;
in some cities, like ours, they
have turned out to be helpful al-
lies. Theory and procedure de-
rived from angry slogans can be
disservices in many instances.
There are many contradic-
tions in the author's style that
confuse us. He states that pub-
licity should be avoided. Yet on
page after page he blasts city
officials and landlords by name.
If those people seek revenge in
Boston, it will not be Mr. Kozol
whose survival is in danger; but
the people he is helping. He also
maintains that viable situations
are the small and personal ones.
Yet he writes books for the
masses and converses with many
free schools in the country
prolific letter writing. He states
through one - night stands and
that his approach will raise
money for the poor, but what if
these schools become fashion-.
able in the future? Are gifts
from Jonathan Kozol and the
Ford Foundation the key to eco-

dox encountered is the possibili-
ty that Free Schools may be-
come a hindrance politically, so-
cially, and intellectually to the
very people Jonathan Kozol is
Joel Denker and Steve Bhaer-
man's autobiographical confes-
sion is unsatisfactory and unbe-
lievable. A good 'portion of No
Particular Place to Go concerns
itself with the interactions of a
learning commune which the au-
thors began in 1969 and left in
1971. They point out some of the
problems encountered while run-
ning their commune; how they
mention the difficulties of at-
tendance, of continuity of learn-
ing, of group learning versus in-
dividual learning, etc. They do
not, however, reveal how to
initiate positive processes to deal
with the problems of a day
school or a commune.
Many of the descriptions of
their experience only serve to
confuse the reader or to place
in doubt the authors' credibility.
One example is Joel Denker's
description of, how the school
very righteously removed "a
cancer" from its midst by adher-
ing to the beauty of love and
other related emotions, instead
of allowing the school to become
involved in the dangers of psy-
chology, extended dialogue, and
The cancer, Arthur, called a
meeting, invited a friend who
was a psychologist, and drew
up an ultimatium concerning his
continued participation in the
community. Arthur was having
trouble coping with the group's
lack of responsibility (cleaning,
etc.). Denker was outraged by
these actions and refused to at-
tend the meeting. He then wrote
his own paper (ultimatum?)
which declared ultimatums to be
unethical. Arthur backed down a
little and sent the psychologist
home. At the next meeting. Joel

xiety. Denker's procedures are
certainly striking, but we believe,
perhaps naively, that adolescents
should be helped to move in the
direction of adult and/or rational
behavior, rather than infantile
and or irrational behavior. Den-
ker seems excellent at exacer-
bating the frenzy of adolescence.
The students he used for his
own needs were never given the
chance in his presence to slow
down. Therefore, he could not
help them to reflect on what they
considered fantasy and reality
in order to establish their own
pace and style. When he decided
to abandon the school, he left in
a hurry. If there was a school
or any person depending on him,
his behavior certainly revealed
how much he cared. One reason
we are being so severe with Joel
Denker is because he has written
a book about free schools after
demonstrating that he did not
understand or care enough to
"make" a viable free school.
We felt much more sympathy
for Steve Bhaerman's plight. He
seems to have been far more
honestly uncomfortable with him-
self, the myriad problems of
those around him, and the com-
plexities inherent in the forms
of seduction that he observed. He
admitted to being an adolescent
among adolescents. We have the
impression that his work has
changed him. He seems to have
left it, not because he was de-
nied illicit satisfactions, but be-
cause a certain nausea and self-
knowledge moved him to seek
out the next step. It is possible
that a different community with
more mature people might have
provided Steve with the possi-
bility of remaining and growing.
To those who know very little
about free schools, we should say
directly that we consider the book
to be more deception than expo-

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