John Dewey Self-Rule School

NO DON’TS, NO BOSS IN NEW PLAN SCHOOL

Thirty-five Youngsters Being Instructed Under Self-Rule Plan; Students Make Own Laws, Inflict All Penalties

A school where there are no “don’ts,” where the teacher is not “boss” and where the child solves his own problems with the aid of his small companions, is the innovation in education which has just been launched in Berkeley.

Mrs. Paul Eliel, well-known graduate of the University of California, is responsible for the deviation from the set paths of education. Through her interest and with the aid of a group of Berkeleyans has been started in the college city, at 2731 Bancroft way, the John Dewey school, “a co-operative effort in progressive education.”

Mothers as well as children are pupils at the school and weekly classes are held for parents to “educate” them in modern child-raising.

Although the first “project” school established in the bay region and the second one in the state, the John Dewey school gains its inspiration from the famous Lincoln school, operated in conjunction with Columbia university in New York; from a similarly well known “progressive” school of its kind in Dayton and from less than a dozen such institutions which have pioneered the way in new educational practice in the nation.

OUTDOOR CLASSES.

As much as possible classes are held outdoors at the John Dewey school. The rooms, however, are bright with cheerful paint, the walls hung with illustrations of fairy stories and with little low green tables and chairs scattered about.

There is not a nail anywhere to hold the furniture to the floor. Neither are there any “no whispering” laws at the schools by a dictatorial teacher.

Neatness and consideration of the feelings of others are part of the school curriculum.

Never are children punished by the teacher. There is an unwritten code of ethics among the 35 pupils in which punishment is meted out by the children themselves.

“One of the children used bad language on the school grounds the other day,” explains Mrs. Eliel. “A conference of the children was called in which the teacher played the role of onlooker and the youngsters discussed the seriousness of the offense and voted what should be done in the matter. They finally decided that the guilty party should sit in a chair for 15 minutes. The wonderful thing about the system is that the offender never seeks to escape punishment as so often is the case when the teacher in the chastiser.”

CITIZEN-MAKING.

Citizen-making is the real object of the “project” or “progressive” school, declares Mrs. Eliel, who placed her children in such an institution while she was studying for a master’s degree at Columbia and became so enthused with the plan that following her return to Berkeley she interested friends in establishing the John Dewey school.

“Two important factors in developing useful citizens are the ability to reach independent judgments and to reason clearly” explains Mrs. Eliel, who has the role of executive secretary of the school, the duties of which position she fills without compensation.

“These cannot be gained through the enforcing of discipline by one in authority nor from the solving by the teacher but must come to the child through the learning of self-control and through effective experience. By fostering situations that will comfort the children in everyday life in later years and that will demand thoughtful reactions, the school believes that these powers can be developed.

ADULT METHODS.

“When a grown person is given a problem to solve is he placed in a seat nailed to the floor and told to get busy on it without moving from his place or talking out loud to anyone near him? No, of course not. That is why we have no nailed-down seats in our classrooms, why our pupils are free to move about and to seek information and counsel where they will. It is by discussing problems with other children that they reach their conclusions.

“Furthermore in a class of 35 children, interests are not all alike. Consequently we do not say that all must do one thing. The child is allowed to develop the problem that especially interests him and from that problem we guide him to other things. We are teaching children to be independent thinkers and reasoners, to solve each problem as it comes up. Naturally it is the thing in which the person is most vitally interested on which he works the hardest.

STIMULATE INTEREST.

“It is equally true with children. If we can stimulate that interest and reach out from it to other things, have we not accomplished much for the child and at the same time given him a joy in his work? There are no truants at our school; the children are all anxious to come to classes and loath to leave. That they are learning the necessary fundamentals of life is evident, also.”

Dolls, paint boxes, work-benches, blocks and other playthings are among the “text books” used at the school. That there are other real text books, too, is evidenced by the fact that the “Three R’s” are not neglected in any way. So far kindergarten, first and second grades comprise the school but a further development is anticipated. Interest in the movement has been taken by leading educators of the bay region and the work is being closely watched by school experts.

Sponsors of the school include Mrs. Warren Gregory, Dr. Jessica B. Perxotto, Mrs. Louis Bartlett, Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Lamson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Stetson, Jr., Miss Ralph Merritt, Mrs. W.W. Douglas, Mrs. F.C. Turner, Mrs. Maurice Lombardi, Mrs. Frederick Athern, Mrs. Harold L. Leupp, Mrs. H.F. Jackson, Dr. V.E. Dickson.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Sep 18, 1921

[Excerpt] Google Book Link

 Perhaps his greatest joy is his “doll” who calls herself grown-up now. She has dolls of her own and out in Berkeley, Calif., has come into existence this year, a school for the dolls of Harriet J. Eliel and a “group”. It is called the John Dewey School. That is surely some name to live up to. Berkeley is a hot bed for progressive education, judging by the numbers who join from that city.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Apr 8, 1925

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OAC on Harriet Eliel:

Harriet Judd Eliel was born in 1890 in Evanston, Illinois. She attended the University of California, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Health and Social Welfare in 1913. After the birth of her second son in 1916, she completed her Master of Arts degree in Education, also at the University of California. Between 1921 and 1924, she established and directed the experimental John Dewey School in Berkeley, California, which her sons attended.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Aug 25, 1925

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Wikipedia on William John Cooper:

William John Cooper (November 24, 1882 – September 19, 1935) was an American educator who served as US Commissioner of Education from February 1929 to July 1933. According to the New York Times: “His fundamental theory of education, which he often repeated, was that the ultimate goal of teaching should be, not how to make a living, but how to live. Nevertheless, he believed that the system of education in this country should break away from the older traditions of Europe and seek to express the cultural developments of the New World. In one of his last public addresses Dr. Cooper urged a complete reorganization of the education system in this country to bring the schools into closer harmony with modern conditions.”

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