M-T History Page 3


October 1975

Reaching one’s highest potential in a constantly changing world is easier said than done, particularly when attempted within the confines of outmoded educational institutions, some social critics and educators believe.  “Is it possible that compulsory education has become a monster, keeping people out of the real world?” asks socio-economist Robert Theobald.  “Is it possible that the whole idea of education as a block of time is obsolete – with the concept of lifelong learning more relevant today?”  “Yes,” replies Alvin Toffler.  “Kids are in a strange and painful position in our society. We make them stay in school longer and longer with the sentiment that ‘it’s good for you and, incidentally, you won’t be in the way!’  We need a more flexible education experience where it’s possible for kids to work and then come back and acquire more education later.”  “Also, passion and compassion are missing from education today,” says Robert Theobald. “We train teachers not to be human beings.  Most students haven’t met human beings in the course of their education experience but role models instead.”

Attempting to counteract these traditional limitations and to develop a prototype for education in the future, students and teachers at the new Maslow-Toffler School of Futuristic Education in Brentwood, Long Island, are exploring all aspects of themselves, their environment and their possibilities.

There are no bells, homerooms, grades or detentions.  There is an emphasis on doing and experience and an unusual closeness among students and between students and staff.  All make decisions regarding school policies and, instead of grades, students and teachers do written evaluation of each other.

“Grading is ridiculous!” says student Ona N., a National Merit Commended Scholar.  “Letters and numbers really tell so little about human beings.”

Work experiences often relate to future career aspirations.  Award-winning photographer Doug Knox, a Maslow-Toffler student, works as a photographer at the Suffolk County Crime Lab. Tina Paparatto, interested in working with autistic children, has completed a work experience in special education at Pine Park School.  As a preparation for a nursing career, Dianna Chase works with patients at Pilgrim State Hospital while Lisa Agis has experienced notable success in music therapy with children at Montfort Seminary Suffolk Child Development Center.

Individual responsibility replaces superimposed discipline at Maslow-Toffler and can be initially hard for students to accept.  “Many experience several months of floundering trying to adjust to the new freedom and responsibility,” says Ona N.  “You hear things like ‘Make up my own schedule??  But it’s always come out of a computer before!’ or ‘Can I really get away with not going to class?!’  You begin to realize after a while that if you don’t go to class, you’re just hurting yourself.  At this school, you learn a lot about respect.  We relate as human beings. Teachers have something to offer, but so do we.  We share with each other.”

The sharing atmosphere has brought interesting results in the one year of the school’s operation.  Sixty percent of those students with no previous plans to attend college applied – with a total of eighty-four percent of the student body going on to college.  Seventy-two percent have increased the number of books they read and most see new value in education.

“I’ve started to think of all the options I have and have decided that I do want to go to college,” says Ona.  “My experience this past year has helped me - and all of us – to feel for and relate to people as people.  I want to be a part of the social change and to be, most of all, a vulnerable human being.”  Such openness and flexibility is vital for coping with the future, insists Ed Herman, an educational administrator from Orange California, who admires the Maslow-Toffler experiment.  “Things are changing so fast that the student body today will probably have six different careers in his or her lifetime,” Herman says.  “You will have to be retrained for each one and you will need a great deal of flexibility.”