M-T History Page 5


June 1976


I feel a little bit like a displaced orphan.  I was here some months ago and learned about what you’re doing.  I've known some of the people associated with the school going back some time, and for that reason I’d like to address you, not as Board Members or parents, but as learners all.

Some years ago I had the opportunity to see an interesting picture that was in Life Magazine. It showed a group of graduates from some institution in their caps and gowns coming down the street passing under a sign that had been put up there, apparently by the street department. The sign said "IMPROVEMENT FINISHED." I don’t think that’s where you are today. As a matter of fact, I don’t even like the word "graduation." In medieval times, when the masters of learning continued to inflict on others what had been inflicted on them, they’d call an occasion like this a PRINCIPIUM -- a new beginning, which is really what this is – a  COMMENCEMENT.

You have a lot of commencements to face. This graduating class, and those of you that are members of the prior graduating class and of those to come, are especially concerned with the whole question of new beginnings. That American flag was a new beginning. You are entering a period in which there will be all kinds of new beginnings. The kind of new beginning that you face has to do with where you've been and where you’re going.  You've been to a place, this school, where you've been learning about learning.

There’s a quote I’d like to read from your philosophy statement, and I’m sure you've heard it, but it cannot be repeated too often.  It says this:

"Our philosophy is based on the assumption that all people of all ages are intrinsically valuable and naturally curious and want to learn at their own pace and in their own way."

In another of your structural documents titled "PARTICIPANT GUIDELINES TO STAFF EXPECTATIONS," the number one item, on the first page, is TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF.  Now that’s kind of an extraordinary idea in education.

I just had the experience of working with the U.S. Office of Education and in doing so have had the opportunity to work with teachers from 180 teachers’ colleges around the country. We held a series of symposia in St. Louis. The first of those was one at which I got up in front of a group such as this which was scheduled to assemble at a particular time, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the first day, and I didn't do anything. Now, I didn't do anything for an extraordinarily long time. I smoked about nine cigarettes, read some notes, had conversations with various of my colleagues. Forty-five minutes of just sitting in a chair like you are in an auditorium with nothing happening when something was scheduled to be happening is an extraordinarily long time -- I think it’s about three years altogether. The extraordinary thing about it is that in none of those symposia with none of those teachers from 180 colleges from around the country has anybody come up yet and said, “Hey, let’s start doing something,” and not yet have they started doing something before they started doing anything. That’s really interesting when you stop to think about it, because they came there to be taught. They said, “Here we are.  Do it!”

We’re beginning to understand today that life and learning is not having to do with being done. It has to do with doing for yourself, with taking responsibility for one’s own learning, for one’s own growth, and that’s what you've been doing here. It’s a very exciting kind of experience. I am almost frightened to see as many of you being graduated today going out into the world with the idea that you can take responsibility for your own learning. That’s in a sense where you've been. Where you’re going is into a new world. We come out of a world of unbridled optimism, living in a place that has a lot of fat on the carcass, going into a world with a lot of new difficulties, a lot of new discoveries about how things are connected with each other.

When I was back in school, if we wanted to demonstrate that what somebody said was particularly irrelevant, we’d say, "Well, what does that have to do with the price of eggs in China?"  Well, everybody would laugh!  Now we’re finding out it does.  Practically everything does. It’s a kind of a new world in the sense of the way we’re interconnected and the way we’re interdependent on each other, and I think that (American) flag means a lot in that ours was not a war of independence, it was a war of interdependence.  We were not saying, “Here we stand alone and want to be cut off from everybody." What we want to do is be part of the action and we want to take responsibility for ourselves.

That really was the idea of our founding fathers.  A lot of that has been lost somewhere along the line. Because, you see, we did build a world in which we told people WHAT to think rather than HOW to think. We developed institutions, like the medieval ones where we gave people answers; we don’t teach questions. How many times did those of you in my generation out there ever get homework that said, "Bring back ten questions about the subject." The homework was to bring back ten answers, and they had better be the answers that were in the back of the book.  Well, to use the vernacular, there ain't no more back of the book.

Without writing any book, and because of where you've been, in this place and this time, and because of where you’re going, you have a unique and very special kind of responsibility. You are really demonstrating a new kind of human right. The evolution of society is one that progressively evolves more and more human rights. As we’re seeing around us, people want the right to stay alive, the right to eat, the right to be educated, the right to take some degree of participation in their governing bodies.

You have taken and will be taking into the future that you create a new human right, the right to think for yourselves. It is in this connection, however, that I disagree to a certain extent with one of the namesakes of your school, Mr. Toffler. In my experience around the country, I run much less into FUTURE SHOCK than I see PRESENT BLINDNESS.

I’m reminded that if you had approached a bricklayer who was laying a foundation for a factory in Birmingham, England, in the 18th Century and said, "I say, old chap, did you know that you are building the Industrial Revolution?"  He would have looked at you somewhat askance as he asked in return, "What’s an Industrial Revolution?"  People who are part of a revolution are frequently those who are most blind to it. That’s something that we really can’t afford to do today. We can’t participate in the new revolution and not be aware of what we’re participating in.

There’s very little that this orphan can really contribute to your proceedings today. You built the foundation and the edifice and a little decoration and a little flower (pointing to his boutonniere).  I didn't have an opportunity to go to a school like this. I wish I had. There are not enough schools like this today.

And therein, with those noises that you made out there are the basis of your very, very real responsibility because you don’t only just carry responsibility for yourself but you carry a special kind of responsibility for society. It’s not enough just to go out there and succeed because what you’re doing is at the cutting edge of this new revolution. How deep and how well it cuts in meeting those challenges of the future and creates the new attention for mankind is appealing to very few people today, a very few pace setters, and you’re part of that group. So big brother will be watching you and people will be watching you because they’ll be saying to themselves, “Hey, this idea of letting students think for themselves is a new idea, and maybe there’s something to it, but we’ll just have to watch and see, make some measurements, see how it works out.”

I’d like to be in your shoes but they’re tough shoes and they’re shoes that are loaded with growing pains because this commencement, this new beginning is a new birth for you. It’s a rebirth into a new world and a new life for you. You just don’t slide into it gently and easily. It’s going to be very painful. You’re going to meet a lot of people who don’t appreciate the idea that you should be thinking for yourself. It’s going to hurt. But all growth is a painful experience. To which babies can testify, and mothers too to some extent. So don’t look forward to a life of ease and grace immediately. You’re going to have to pay for it. You’ll continue to pay for it. And I hope that somehow you will be sustained in your revolution by the knowledge of how much it means to all of us.

Yes, Milt was there with Joyce & Tom Pellegrino & Mary Magnetico

Prior to its release "Grow or Die" was explained to us by George Lock Land

Laura and Vieda listen as George describes "Grow or Die" at South Elementary

George Lock Land as Laura Morelli looks on during his visit

George Lock Land presents Transformation Theory to MT students and staff

A youthful George Lock Land visiting MT at South Elementary in 1974

George Lock Land autographing a copy of GROW OR DIE for Milt Siler while Karen White, Laura Morelli, and Guy Gaudet look on.

George Land's Secretary, Eva Rodriguez, with John Sherin at Turtle Bay Inst. Feb. 1974

John Sherin at Turtle Bay Institute, 1974


Please visit the following links for more information about George Lock Land:

George Land Obituary (World Business Academy)

George Land Obituary (AZ Central)