Growing Up In University School
An Autobiographical Look Inside
America’s Most Experimental Laboratory School
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By Robert W. Butche
The Halcyon Era In American Education
“Growing up In University School is, in many ways, a new genre of book – a personal educational anthology.”
Although it has a solid historical foundation, this is not a history of University School. Nor is it a treatise on the school’s academic qualities or pedagogical methods. A great deal is known and has been written about University School and the twenty-nine other experimental, secondary schools.
Those interested in knowing how the school was organized, its pedagogical legacy, or its philosophical foundations will find a wealth of literature about the progressive era, its progenitors and its scholars in most college libraries. So, to put it in simple terms, this book is not about how the car was designed and assembled. It is about what it was like to ride in the car during a very long journey.
To some degree, this is the story of one child’s experiences at one of America’s premiere laboratory schools. But so is it, to a larger degree, about that student’s experiences during the experimental era in American education in the first half of the twentieth century.
The realities of University School are not masked in this story – nor are the issues and problems of the American nation during times of turmoil and exhilaration.
This story, and the school it showcases, are in some ways bigger than life; evidence of a sometimes troubled and forward looking school. It’s no accident that University School was to arise on the great American prairie during a time when America was bent on renewing its vigor after near financial collapse in 1929. By the time Robert’s story begins, America was still praying for economic recovery.
The story is told through the experiences of one child, but it is equally a story of great ideas and enduring human values.
For here is the full record of one student’s real-life experiences in a school modeled on John Dewey’s concept of citizen democracy and Boyd Bode’s unrelenting confidence in a society steeped in the value of group problem solving.
Robert’s childhood biography and the school’s assessment of his scholastic progress are connected, but while the biographical story is a moving picture, the archival progress reports about young Robert are not.
They are, instead, snapshots of scholastic, cultural, behavioral , and social advancement at more or less regular intervals.
6×9 Book – 546 pages – Copyright 2000
239 research footnotes
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014915929
University School Photo: David Parsons
Historical Photos: David Curl
Cover Drawing: Robert E. Miner