The School That Was

James Cass

gunter's book picNOTE: This is the introduction to Gunter Nabel's "A Fight For Human Rights - Documents of The Stockbridge School." Ordering information for this volume, which everyone should own, will be available on this site as soon as possible.
Adam Brower

   Most institutions die because they have failed to achieve their purpose. Some out live their usefulness and fight to continue a marginal existence. A few die because they have been so successful. And so it was with the Stockbridge School.
  Founded in the fall of 1949 at Interlaken, in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, the Stockbridge School set out to challenge some of the basic premises of American education, indeed, of American society. As a private boarding school for adolescents the maverick institution found itself in an unlikely spot amid the prim conservatism of the New England hills. But its departure from accepted policy and practice was not merely a desire to be different. Rather, it reflected the deeply held convictions of its founder, Hans Maeder, a 39 year old German political refugee. From the time he was a student leader as a teenager until he came to Interlaken, he had been working with young people and developing his own conception of the proper learning environment for adolescents.
  The school he founded was completely interracial, at a time when other "liberal" boarding schools were proud of their token one or two Blacks and Jews. The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which mandated desegregation of the public schools "with all deliberate speed" was still five years in the future and a decade and a half would pass before the Civil Rights Movement seared the conscience of the nation.
  Stockbridge was coeducational at a time when housing adolescent boys and girls under the same roof was considered scandalous by many. Nearly a quarter of a century would pass before economic necessity made coeducation fashionable among New England boarding schools.
  The school was dedicated to "education for world understanding" and set out to prove that students of every color, creed, and culture could live and learn and work together in harmony, and in the process learn much from each other. It enrolled students from all over the world while the fledging United Nations was still taking its first halting steps toward international cooperation.
  It was an experimental school that believed there were always better ways to stimulate learning by the young, and the search for those ways was constant. Nothing was sacred merely because it came from the past, nor was past practice rejected merely because it was old. The objective was a pragmatic one: to find what worked best under existing circumstances with the people at hand. Structure and discipline were both firm and flexible, and despite the school's innovative thrust, strong emphasis was placed on traditional academic learning.
  The Stockbridge School died in the fall of 1976. Why? Enrollment had risen rapidly from the original 16 students to more than 150 in the late 1960s. Both parents and students were devoted to the school and it was widely known and admired in international circles, though it was never completely accepted by other New England boarding schools. Those who were close to the school offer a number of explanations. Most of them are not unique to Stockbridge.
  The 1970s were not kind to most private boarding schools. Enrollments were dropping in the wake of egalitarian spirit of the 1960s. The "flower children" were not attracted by the elitist reputation of private boarding schools. One unofficial estimate has it that private schools, both day and boarding, were closing at the rate of one a day during the early 1970s. And one Stockbridge graduate remembers that "every school in the area that I played soccer against in the 1950s closed in the 1970s. It wasn't just Stockbridge."
  More important, perhaps, is the fact that Hans retired in the spring of 1971 to care for his seriously ill wife. The driving force behind the school was gone. Hans was a man of great charm, tremendous energy, and total dedication to the school he had created. It was he who raised the funds for scholarships and special projects. It was Hans and his vision of what education for adolescents should be that attracted devoted parents. It was Hans' warmth and understanding of young people that made it possible to recruit students from around the world. One boy who had had a disastrous experience at a prestigious private day school, talked with Hans, enrolled at Stockbridge, and had an enormously successful career there. When his mother was asked recently about Hans' role at the school, she said simply: "Hans was all."
  Since Hans dominated the school so completely it is possible that no successor could follow him completely. Certainly none did. Hans attracted many strong, independent teachers who invested much of themselves in the school. They sometimes fought with Hans and resented his dominance. But they needed him at the helm, he had to be there. A successful successor as headmaster would have had to be as strong a personality as Hans himself, and would have had to have his own clear vision of the direction the school should take. Several attempts were made to groom a successor, but with no success.
  Another view of the reasons for Stockbridge's demise accepts the many factors that contributed, but goes beyond them. Benjamin Barber, a 1956 graduate who, after college and graduate school, remained close to Hans and the school and served for many years as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees until the school closed, does not grieve for the passing of Stockbridge. "As a political scientist looking at institutional history, " he says today, "I believe that special mission institutions, which is what Stockbridge was, have a natural life cycle. I don't believe they can, by definition, be made permanent, be institutionalized. If the ideas on which they are based are of a critical nature, if they challenge society, as Stockbridge did, then they have a natural life span. If a special mission institution attempts to prolong its life cycle, it loses its vitality, its creativity, its sense of purpose. Stockbridge challenged American education successfully for 20 years, until the rest of society caught up with it. It had an influence in secondary school circles out of all proportion to its size. Then its mission was over. That ultimately is the story of Stockbridge. During those years it mattered. The challenge it presented to American education was terribly important. By the 1970's it was no longer needed. Society had caught up with it. Hans had been proven right, his vision had been vindicated. "
  Hans Karl Maeder was born in Hamburg, Germany on December 29, 1909, the third child in a well to do middle class family. His father was an authoritarian man, a passionate nationalist and anti-Semite who taught his children to revere the Kaiser, to accept without question the superiority of the German race, and to believe that neighboring nations hated Germany and were bent on her destruction. The post World War I years were hard on the family and in the 1930s Hans' father responded eagerly to Hitler's nationalistic message and became an ardent Nazi.
  Meanwhile Hans, in his teens, met a teacher and friend who opened a new world to him, who introduced him to books that had been forbidden and who l encouraged him to question the supernationalism of "Deutschland uber alles". On summer hiking trips to Denmark and Sweden he met open and freedom loving youths of other nations and began to develop his own commitment to democracy and international understanding. This led to bitter conflict with his father and when he was 18 he left home. He had refused to go into business, as his father wished, and had decided that he would become a teacher.
  In the years that followed Hans became active in the anti Nazi underground and in 1933 had to flee Germany to avoid arrest. He went to Denmark where he continued his studies and remained active in the underground. In 1937 the Danish authorities, hoping to avoid conflict with Germany, forced him to leave the country and subsequently he was pursued across four continents by the Gestapo and Nazi sympathizers. But everywhere he went he found opportunities to observe and work with young people, in Kenya, in Singapore, in the Philippines, and finally in Hawaii, where he was interred as an enemy alien on December 8, 1941.
  Released in the U.S. on February 23,1943, he set out immediately for New York where he found a room at the YMCA. Through the YMCA he was hired by the Civilian Defense Organization to open a store front youth center in an endangered area" where the threat of youthful delinquency was serious. He received $20 a week from Civilian Defense and a free room from the YMCA. His work was so successful that the following September he was appointed director of Boys' work in the eastern district of the YMCA and the United Neighborhood Houses on Marcy Avenue and Broadway in Brooklyn.
  Meanwhile, Hans had been making new friends and reestablishing contact with old ones. Among them were Max and Gertrud Bondy, whom he had known in Germany where they ran a private boarding school. With the advent of Hitler, they had moved their school to Switzerland and, subsequently, to the United States. They invited Hans to join their faculty and in September 1944 he moved to the Windsor Mountain School in Lenox, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires.
  At Windsor Mountain Hans was immediately aware of how few Jews and no Blacks there were in the student body. When he asked why this should be so, the Bondys told him that they didn't feel secure enough yet "to buck the system". The system? Hans set out with characteristic energy to find out what New England prep schools were doing about integration. What he found was the quota system which allowed each school to have its token minority students. "l was disturbed by this, "he says, "because l was in a democratic country and I felt something was wrong." He had discovered that the reality of American democracy in 1944 was less perfect than he had imagined.
  During Christmas vacation he was introduced to Alice Keliher, director of the Walden School, a private day school in New York City. At Walden he found "total integration, a wonderful climate, the kind of environment in which I really wanted to teach". He was invited back for a second day and Director Keliher asked him whether he would like to join the staff. The German teacher was leaving at the end of the year and Hans was invited to take her place. He accepted and joined the faculty in September 1945. He taught German and the History of Language, and to fill out his program he was asked to be the shop teacher as well.
  Hans was not a skilled shop teacher ; "all thumbs" is the way he describes himself but the assignment offered him other opportunities. The school had been given a residential property in Ossining, New York, about 40 miles north of New York City, on which the house had burned, but the barn remained. Hans started spending weekends there with some of his students converting the barn into a country weekend retreat for the city kids at Walden.
  The Ossining project was typical of Hans' approach to his students. During the winter he took groups of 12 to 18 students to the Adirondacks or New Hampshire for skiing weekends. Again, he claims that he wasn't a skilled skier, but he could teach them the rudiments of the sport and if they became interested they could take lessons from professional teachers. More important to Hans than the skills acquired, however, was "the opportunity to know more about my students. I always felt that I understood them better when I lived with them. I knew them in the classroom, but working with them in Ossining or going on trips with them I learned much more about them what they were thinking, how they responded to things, what they feared and what gave them Joy. I think knowing my students better made me a better teacher. "
  Life at Walden School was good. Both the faculty and the student body were fully integrated, the concept of the school the openness, the mutual respect of students and teachers, the emphasis on learning without academic rigidity were extraordinarily appealing. But Hans soon "began to get itchy. I began to realize that life in the city was not completely fulfilling. I wanted contact with the country. I realized, too, that a day school where students come for six or seven hours and then go home to another environment and other friends and interests cannot be completely successful. The Ossining project and the weekend skiing trips helped, but they didn't include all my students. So I began thinking about an integrated, coeducational boarding school Where I could develop my ideas about helping students to become citizens of the world. "
  In the spring of 1947, in his second year at Walden, Hans resigned his position as of the end of the school year and started looking for an estate where he could start his own school. Typically, he had formed a committee of prominent New Yorkers, including Mario Pei. He found an estate in Nyack, New York, a few miles south of Ossining and on the other side of the Hudson River, but negotiations fell through when the owner discovered that Hans did not have cash in hand and needed time to raise the money. Hans went back to Walden and asked for his job back.
  Early in his second year at Walden one of Hans' students, David Gordon, was having a little trouble with his studies and Hans told the boy that he wanted to talk with his mother at the October parents' meeting. Hans met and talked with Mrs. Gordon and made a single notation on the report form of the conference: "Must see more of the mother."
  Walden School is located at 88th Street and Central Park West. Hans knew that Mrs. Gordon lived across Central Park on East 84th Street, so he offered to drive her home after the meeting. She agreed, and as Hans tells it:
   "We drove over to East 84th. She got out of the car and l walked her to the door. When I came back a friend who was with me asked, 'Who is she?' Oh, I said, that's David Gordon's mother, Ruth. She is going to be my wife. 'What,' said my friend, 'does she know it? ' 'No,' I told him, 'but l do. I knew that as soon as I met her.' "
  Ruth Gordon had been widowed a year and a half earlier, and left with a 12 year old son. She was a city girl who loved the arts and worked as a play agent for the Music Corporation of America. A friend describes her as "a small, square, pink blond lady with a marvelous husky voice. She was a warm, loving, giving, crazy lady. Just a loving person."
  Hans courted Ruth with fervor, but she was deeply involved in the theater, the music scene, and the social life of the city. Retiring to the country to found a school did not attract her. But the ardent Hans did. After they had known each other for about six months, they set their wedding day for May 29, 1947.
  Meanwhile, Alice Keliher, director of the Walden School, who was also a professor of education at New York University, wanted to retire. However, the faculty was badly split over the personality of the man proposed to be her successor. Suddenly, in a staff meeting on May 28th, Dr. Keliher suggested that the faculty elect Hans as director. "I was totally unprepared for this," Hans says. "But you know l am planning to start my own school, " he reminded Dr. Keliher. "Yes, but you are not starting it this year. Would you take over for at least a year?"
  Hans wanted to hear what the faculty had to say. After lengthy discussion all but two members of the faculty voted in his favor. The following day Hans was installed as director of the Walden School, was married to Ruth Gordon, and became step father to David, whom he adopted as soon as possible.
  During the summer Hans and Ruth and David combed the hills of Western Massachusetts looking for a site for their school. Finally, in November they found the Dan R. Hanna estate in Interlaken, a few miles north of Stockbridge and just across a small lake from Tanglewood, home of the famed Berkshire Summer Music Festival. The setting was magnificent: 1,100 acres of meadow and forest sweeping up the side of West Stockbridge Mountain. Against the mountain backdrop stood a gracious old mansion of 3 5 rooms and at a distance behind the house was "the largest barn in New England", a storybook structure of gables and turrets, built of oak and stone, which housed horse stalls, space for carriages and, among other things, an indoor riding track. "This", he announced, "is where we will have our school. "
  His friends, who had joined in the search, were aghast. The estate had been deserted for a decade and a half. For all their beauty, the mansion and the barn were mere shells. The foundation of the house was crumbling below and the roof leaked above. Vandal had broken the windows and neighbors had "borrowed" most of the plumbing fixtures that were not broken. The sweeping lawns were grown up to brush and the formal gardens were an unpruned jungle. But the stately old mansion gave evidence of the grandeur that had been, and gave promise of what might be. The price was $ 60 000. The family's total bank account of $ 500 bought an option on the property.
  At the beginning of each school year, the faculty at Walden returned about two weeks before the beginning of the term to get everything organized before classes began. Berta Rantz, who was director of the high school when Hans was hired in the spring of 1945, and who later became Hans' assistant director at Stockbridge, tells how Hans took over as director in the fall of 1947 at Walden. "Each day he took a faculty member to lunch for two hours. He asked questions and he listened. He let you pour out your enthusiasms and your frustrations, he encouraged you to talk about your field of teaching and what you hoped to accomplish in the coming year. He really did his homework. That's how he learned what Walden was all about. "
  Walden School had been split over the next director, and it was essential to mend this split, and that he set out to do. Again an outside psychologist was introduced, who successfully began working with the individual staff members who were against Hans Maeder. He was controversial because he had refused to join the Teachers Union, which had a decided left leaning, and Hans Maeder was not yet an American Citizen. A part of the faculty denounced him for being a ""Martinet" as he demanded that students from the first grade on be taught to read. If they were found to be deficient, an able remedial teacher, Naomi Aronson, was asked to work with such children.
  Walden being a cooperative school where parents, teachers and a Board of Trustees worked in unison and where the major supervision was in the hands of a teacher executive committee, often was not able to come to definite decisions. For instance, it took the school several years to institute a Teacher Pension Plan, because too many voices wanted to be heard. Hans Maeder forced the issue and a plan was adopted.
  Basic changes in this school that had functioned since 1915, were not instituted during Hans Maeder's two years stay as the director.
  Hans is a determined man and a resourceful one. What might appear to be insurmountable obstacles to most men, he sees merely as hurdles to be taken stride. With the help of friends he put together a complicated deal for the purchase of the Hanna estate. The real estate agent who had first introduced them to the property offered to buy 200 acres of lake front property for $ 25 000, three cottages that had housed the estate's staff were sold for $22, 000, and an agreement with a local lumber company to cut timber on the mountain brought in another $5,000. With $ 12,000 borrowed from friends, Hans completed the purchase on July 1, 1948.
  One incident that occurred before the purchase of the estate was completed tells a great deal about the man, his forthrightness, his realism which balances his daring, and his ability to inspire the confidence of influential individuals.
  "Before we bought the property", Hans recalls, "I wanted to be sure that the town fathers of Stockbridge would allow me to have a school there. I knew that the Manna estate had been one of the showplaces of the area and l was sure the town fathers would not be all that keen on having it turned into a boarding school. Besides, they had done their homework and had looked me up in Porter Sargent's guide to private schools. They knew that I was director of the Walden School in New York which the guide described as 'a progressive day school with a predominantly Jewish student body'. And all those good conservative New Englanders were very frightened.
  "I received notice of a hearing at which the town fathers would have a chance to question me about the school I was going to found. I went, as directed, and found that the crucial question was 'What kind of students are you going to have?' 'Students who want to learn' I told them. 'Yes, of course, but are you planning to have Jewish students, Negro students?' 'Yes, if they apply and want to come and learn. 'At that point l could see the chill set in. The whole feeling of the meeting shifted away from me. They weren't going to have any of this.
  "Fortunately, I had made friends in Stockbridge with a truly remarkable man, Anson Phelps Stokes, former head of the Yale Divinity School, and later Canon of the Washington Cathedral. Over the preceding months we had talked many times about the school l hoped to found. He had become very interested and so had come to the hearing.
  "At the point where I thought all was lost, Canon Stokes stood up and said: 'Gentlemen, I have talked a great deal with Mr. Maeder about the school he wants to start, and I like his ideas. I think that Mr. Maeder will run a really good Christian school. '
  "Well, Canon Stokes was highly respected in the community and within minutes I had permission to start my school But I was aghast because he had said I would run a Christian school. The next morning I went to him and said: 'Canon Stokes, I hope I haven't misrepresented the kind of school I am going to run. I am not going to have a Christian school, I am going to have a humanitarian school. ' 'But Mr. Maeder', he said, 'that is a Christian school. You didn't misrepresent your ideas."'
  As vacation approached at Walden in the spring of 1948, a number of students approached Hans, as they had in the past, and asked what he was going to do during the summer. He told them that he was going to the Berkshires to repair the old house where he was going to have a school."We'll come with you," they announced. "But I can't pay you." "We'll pay our own way. "
  Suddenly Hans had a crew of 25 youngsters eager to set to work on the old house. He hired a cook and another adult to help supervise the crew, bought 50 surplus army cots and an equal number of orange crates that were covered with paper for storing personal effects. Ruth went to a friend in the textile business and got 200 yards of cotton material to curtain the innumerable windows, bought furniture at the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries to meet their basic needs, and they borrowed some furniture from the Walden School so that they would have an attractive living room when friends came to visit and to work.
  By the end of the summer they had managed to arrest the progressive decay. But water still poured through the roof whenever it rained. There were hundreds of cardboard boxes abandoned in the attic and during the summer when it rained everybody raced up the stairs to put boxes under the leaks to sop up the water. At the end of the summer Hans pledged his entire annual salary of $ 5 000 for the following year at Walden to have a new roof put on. For the next year Hans and Ruth lived on her salary at MCA. The great house had been retrieved, but much remained to be done.
  Weekends during the following year were devoted to fixing up the interior of the house repairing broken plaster, painting walls and ceilings, finding more suitable furnishings, and repairing the two ancient coal furnaces that had been installed in 1900.
  Hans and Ruth had many friends whom they invited to spend a "relaxing" weekend in the country. There Ruth would feed them sumptuously and then put them to work scraping an old bureau, painting a newly acquired chair, mending a battered wall or paint a dingy ceiling.
  During the summer of 1949, Hans ran a summer work camp for 57 adolescents who provided a valuable work crew as well as some money for the coming academic year. In succeeding years the summer work camp became a fixture at Stockbridge, providing both willing hands to maintain the large property and substantial funds to help put the school on a sound financial basis. The summer camp was run on exactly the same principles as the school, the only difference being that morning work details replaced classes.
  The Stockbridge School opened on September 22,1949, with six faculty members and 16 students. The student body included Ruth's son, David, two children of faculty members, and 13 others. Before the great house the flag of the fledgling United Nations flew proudly above the stars and stripes, proclaiming to the world the new school's twin commitments to democratic principles and world understanding.
  Studies were offered in grades seven through 11 there was no senior class the first year. In 1952 the early grades were dropped and subsequently enrollment was limited to grades nine through 12. The student body nearly doubled in size to 30 students in 1950, doubled again to more than 60 by 1953, and continued to grow steadily to a top of 150 in the late 1960s.
  During the early years the entire school was housed in the great house, boys in one wing, girls in another, with faculty apartments as well. Classes were held in the living room, library, and in a large sun room which was divided into two classrooms. As the school grew in size it expanded into the second floor of the big barn which was divided into a boy's dormitory, classrooms, and apartments for the faculty.
  The daily schedule was structured, but left students with considerable freedom. Hans rose at six a.m., read, listened to music and checked the dormitories. When the students got up at 6:30 they first cleaned themselves and their own room. Then they joined the work crew to which they had been assigned for that week and went to the kitchen for KP duty or turned to cleaning the classrooms and common rooms. A belief that young people should learn to take responsibility for caring for themselves and for their environment was central to the Stockbridge concept. Breakfast was served at 7:30.
  After breakfast, about eight o'clock, students on KP stayed to clean up and set the tables for lunch. All other students and faculty assembled in the big living room for "Morning Music", 20 minutes of classical music. Individuals could sit wherever they pleased on the floor, on the great staircase, on chairs, sofas, or window sills. There was no discussion of the music, no commentary. Occasionally the music teacher would say: "We're going to hear a lot of Beethoven this week ", or "This is something from Mozart. " The music was put on in absolute silence. It was a period of quiet contemplation during which each person could think his own thoughts and prepare for the day ahead. After the music was over there was a moment of silence, then Hans would stand up and the bustle of the day would begin.
  Classes ran from 8:30 to 10 :30, followed by a half hour break when students had milk and crackers and the faculty met over coffee in a kind of mini staff meeting to talk over what had happened the day before or earlier that morning. Classes convened again from 11 o'clock to one. Lunch was served at 1:15, followed by a free period for students until 2:30.
  On some days there would be afternoon classes, on other days organized sports: basketball, soccer, track, soft ball, tennis, and winter sports in season. About 4:30 another break for juice or a snack. Then until 6:30 students were involved in activities such as art, music, dance, theater, shop, printing and the like. All sports were coeducational except soccer, and neither sports nor activities were considered extracurricular. Everything at Stockbridge, from learning to care for oneself and one's environment to dancing and soft ball were considered part of the curriculum, and all students were expected to participate.
  Dinner was served at 6:30 or seven o'clock, after which students went to their rooms to study. Students who were falling behind in their work were supervised during study hours, and quiet was strictly enforced for all. Bed time was ten o'clock for the younger students, 11 o'clock for the older ones.
  On Wednesday afternoon the monotony of campus existence was broken by a "library trip" to nearby Lenox where students had two hours or more to themselves. Former students are unanimous in failing to remember anyone ever actually patronizing the town's public library, but the name of the weekly trip suggested a legitimate reason for getting away from the school.
  On Saturday the day started as usual, but at Morning Music students could bring their own records and make their own selections, usually jazz in the early years and rock music later when it became popular. The morning was spent in more extensive cleaning and maintenance work than time allowed during the week. In the afternoon students were taken to Pittsfield, a small city about 12 miles from the school where, as one former student recalls, "we were let loose on the town." On Sunday transportation was provided for any students who wanted to attend religious services, but there were no required religious exercises.
  Life at Stockbridge was extraordinarily informal for a New England boarding school. Both students and faculty were allowed to dress as they pleased but clean, and comfort took precedence over formality. Teachers, including Hans, were almost always addressed by their first names a practice much more common in the 1 960s and 70s than it was in the 1 940s and 50s. The door to Hans' office, just inside the entrance to the great house, was almost invariably open with Hans clearly in view of passersby. And students felt free to walk through that door to ask a question, lodge a complaint, to share their joys and sorrows, their fears and frustrations with the man in charge.
  But a very few formal rituals were invariably observed which provided a sense of order in an otherwise rather freewheeling environment. At dinner in the evening jackets and ties were required for the boys and dresses for the girls. (Slacks were approved for the girls during the later years.) At all meals the entire group waited in the living room until everyone had assembled. Then they entered the dining room together and stood still until Hans pulled out his chair and seated himself. When the meal was finished, all waited, as at Morning Music, for Hans to rise and then left the dining room together.
  Ask Hans to expound his philosophy of education and that most articulate of men becomes tongue tied. Yet he has devoted his life, often at peril to himself, to promote international understanding and his conviction runs deep that only through learning to respect those who are different respect their differentness can we some day insure human dignity and freedom for all.
  "Tolerance", he says, " is not enough. In tolerance there is a kind of condescension. I fought against having Stockbridge called a 'tolerant school'. Respect for each other. That's really what I was after."
  But Hans has never been an educational theorist. He is the quintessential pragmatist whose philosophy can be discerned only through the institution he created.
  John Tishman is a long time friend who taught briefly at the Walden School with Hans before joining his family's construction business. He helped in the search for Stockbridge and during the early years when Ruth remained at her job in New York, he drove her to Stockbridge and back on weekends. He says: "Hans' philosophy was more a philosophy of life than a philosophy of education. He had a very adventurous early life that took him all over the world during the Nazi years and his own experience fostered his faith in international understanding. So he fashioned his school more as a social structure than as a standard academic institution. I don't think he ever addressed himself to the regular academic subjects. We never discussed pedagogy. He just took for granted his students would have to be taught English and history and foreign languages and math and science. You get qualified teachers and they will take care of that. Hans was more interested in bringing together a very diverse group of individuals who would get something from each other. I don't think he ever focused on education in terms of subject matter. "
  It seems clear that John Tishman is right. Hans was motivated by a powerful vision of the school he was determined to create, a vision that grew out of his own experience. It was not a blueprint, a set of carefully organized plans designed to be followed from page one to page 100. It was a broad, flexible conception which would provide an institutional structure within which an experimental attitude and creative teachers could flourish. Stockbridge was to be a school in which all the participants, students and teachers alike, had to invest something of themselves. Its focus was not primarily academic, "prepping" students for the Ivy League, although it did produce its share of Ivy Leaguers. It was a vision of a learning community in which adolescents could grow in understanding and respect for each other, no matter how different they might be in race and culture.
  Five years before the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown vs. Board of Education which declared segregated public schools illegal, Stockbridge was to be interracial both in student body and in faculty. It was to be coeducational at a time when coed boarding schools were virtually unheard of. It was to be international with students and faculty from every continent, with close ties to the United Nations, and with an international out reach component in its academic program. It was to be a democratic community in which all students and teachers participated equally, in which complaints and grievances, plans and projects, passions and problems could be aired, discussed and resolved in a weekly School Meeting. It was also to be a democratic community which made clear that individual freedom in a democracy also demands individual responsibility for the welfare of the community as a whole.
  When the Stockbridge School opened in the fall of 1949, the 16 students included two blacks and three foreign students. One black girl had come through the Walden School where she had been misplaced. The black boy came from Hessian Hills Schools in Croton on Hudson where the mother was not able to pay the tuition. Kaia Crevenna came from a German family, but had been raised in Mexico. She was sent by her grandmother, Karen Horney, the psychoanalyst. Davi Kunjara, a Siamese boy from Thailand was referred to Hans by Alice Keliher, and a little South American Indian boy from Colombia was brought by his parents after the school was recommended by a friend of Hans' in Washington.
  In the years that followed, black and foreign students regularly comprised 25 percent to 35 percent of the student body and with surprising consistency about 30 percent of the students were girls. Nobody knows for sure exactly what the black and foreign percentages were because no records were kept. Former students can give approximate figures for their own class, but even that is difficulty. Timothy Pitt, a 1966 graduate, speaks for many when he says: "We never thought about it. Color or race or nationality was never an issue at least until the late 1960s when the Black Power Movement caused some black students to set themselves apart, and I think most students resented that. "
  Hans recruited many of the foreign students through friends in Europe and he and Ruth traveled abroad frequently during the summer. In 1951 he had an opportunity to get acquainted with representatives of private schools from all over Europe when he was appointed to a UNESCO commission to explore the development of an International Baccalaureate Degree to ease the problems of college entrance for graduates of international secondary schools. A few years later he was asked by UNICEF to go to India and he and Ruth took the opportunity to continue the rest of the way around the world, visiting schools and meeting schoolmen as they went. After that trip students came from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Japan, and the Philippines. "Somehow ", Hans says, "you know, I became a kind of traveling salesman, but it worked from the very beginning. "
  About a third of the black and foreign students received scholarship aid and some foreign students came on scholarships offered by the school through the Social Services Center at the UN. Funds for scholarships came from the operation of the summer camps and, after 1955 when the school was incorporated as a nonprofit educational institution, Hans and Ruth turned over a third of their joint income to the fund.
  Few of the foreign students spoke any English when they arrived so, long before English as a Second Language became fashionable, Stockbridge was regularly teaching English to its students.
  Hans delights in telling the story of little Chico, the Indian boy from Colombia, whose parents brought him to the school, enrolled him, paid the tuition and fees for the entire year, and took off. "We never saw the parents or heard from them for the whole school year. Never got a letter.
  "Two or three weeks after school started, I was sitting on the sofa in my office when this little guy, who didn't speak a word of English when he arrived, walked in, sat down beside me, put his head in my lap and cried. He cried for about ten minutes and I didn't say anything. Then he stood up, dried his tears, and walked out. Exactly two weeks later he came back, sat down beside me, put his head in my lap and cried again. I sat there thinking that one of the women ought to take care of him, but first he had found me.
  "Then Chico got acquainted with our good friend John Tishman who brought Ruth up to Stockbridge from New York City every weekend. He was building himself a weekend apartment in one of the towers of the barn. After that if you wanted to find Chico on a weekend, he would be with John. But he never heard from his parents. During vacations he stayed with Ruth and me, and over Christmas I sent him with a group to Florida.
  "Then, the day school closed, the big Buick drove up and there were Chico's parents. They came in, greeted him, packed his things, came and said 'Gracias' to me, and took him away. But you know, by that time Chico couldn't speak a word of Spanish any more. "
  There were always a few foreign students who had to stay at Stockbridge year round, usually five or six, sometimes more. The reasons varied: political turmoil at home, parents in exile, divorce, death of one or both of the parents, or simply the cost of having a youngster travel halfway round the world twice a year. In some cases Hans was made official guardian, more often there was a tacit understanding with the parents that he would act as surrogate parent. For these students, and some American youngsters from seriously deprived or broken homes, Hans would see that they spent vacations at the home of another student. During longer vacations, such as Christmas, he would ship a group of them off to Florida or Mexico in the care of one or more teachers. During the summer they were integrated into the summer work camp.
  For some students Stockbridge was the first real home they ever had. Benjamin Barber says: "You have to remember that Stockbridge wasn't a standard prep school, it didn't get kids who wanted to go to Harvard, though a surprising number of them did. Choate was the place for that. Ninety percent of the kids at Stockbridge were there because their parents wanted to unload them somewhere. Either they had problems, or their parents had problems, or their parents just wanted to get them out of their hair. I came from a theatrical family and when my father bought a place nearby, the school was a convenient place to dump my brother and me. For many of us it was a home, and for some like me, it was a first home. I hadn't ever had the feeling of being in a home before. That meant, of course, that when problems arose they were compounded by all the emotions that go with a home. Hans and his staff had to deal with those problems. We were expecting a lot more than just a school environment. It is a remarkable tribute to Hans that he was so successful. " Hans demurs a bit at Barber's characterization of the student body, but Harriett Pitt, a long time friend of the Maeders, who sent her three children to Stockbridge in the 1960s, agrees. She says of Hans: "He was giving and loving and he saved a lot of those kids."
  Stockbridge was, among other things an experiment in educational democracy. Hans believed that preparation for living in a democracy should include practice with the forms, the responsibilities and obligations of democracy as well as the rights and privileges. A weekly School Meeting, a sort of town meeting of the school community, provided the vehicle.
  Every Wednesday evening at eight o'clock all members of the school community students, faculty, and administrators gathered as equals to air their grievances, their interests, their frustrations, their plans and hopes for improving life at Stockbridge. No subject was taboo, from the latest international crisis to complaints about last night's tuna fish casserole.
  All meetings were chaired by a student. The chairmanship was rotated every three weeks and meetings were run according to Robert's Rules of Order. A student parliamentarian was elected annually to settle disputes on procedure. Hans spoke rarely except when he asked a question or when he felt that the discussion had gone awry. Other faculty members were free to participate as they wished.
  One former student says: "We had plenty of hassles at Stockbridge, but they weren't organized around race, nationality, or religion. They grew out of personalities, substantive issues, emotions, interests, passions, and that is the way it should be. It wasn't by any means a conflict free environment. The dynamics of conflict at Stockbridge were no different from those in any healthy community where there are individuals and groups with differences. But the conflicts weren't drawn along lines of external bigotries."
  Yet sometimes personal characteristics that grew out of race or culture were the focus of controversy at School Meeting. On one occasion a black boy stood up, pointed a finger at a new Puerto Rican student and said: "When I heard you were coming, I knew I didn't want you here. But you're here and I don't like it. "
  Another time a bright Jewish girl from California was chairing the meeting. She was unfamiliar with European table manners before coming to Stockbridge and she found them repellent. When the discussion turned to cultural characteristics she pointed to four German students and said: "When I sit at the table with Ursula and Annette and Dirk and Eric my stomach turns over at their manners. I can't stand them. " At that point Dirk Sager, now known in his country as the Walter Cronkite of German television news, stood up and announced: "When I was coming to this country my friends told me this would happen to me. And now it has. "
  Issues of this kind were faced frankly and discussed heatedly both in School Meeting and in small groups around the campus. Having them out in the open was the first step toward their resolution. Sometimes it took time, but in most cases the antagonists became friends.
  Students also felt passionate about issues that concerned the whole school. In 1954, during the Senate hearings on Senator Joseph McCarthy, the suggestion was made that the school buy a television set so that everyone could watch the historic proceedings. Some students were violently opposed, feeling that television would change life at Stockbridge, that the close communal life of the school would suffer from the impersonal diversion of the screen. After long discussion the Meeting decided to appoint a committee to monitor programs for a week with instructions to report back to the whole group with a recommendation for or against the suggestion. The report was affirmative and television came to Stockbridge, but it was never allowed to become a substitute for group activities in which everyone participated.
  On another occasion in the early 1950's students were studying about a famine in India in their World Affairs class. They became concerned and decided they should do something about it. But making a collection from their small weekly allowances, and going without desserts for two weeks didn't raise much money. They didn't know what to do. Then a newspaper man from New York, a long time friend of the school, came up to Stockbridge for a weekend. He learned of the dilemma and suggested that they buy a token 50 pound bag of wheat and present it to the Indian consul in New York. He would see that the presentation was written up in his paper, complete with pictures. The suggestion precipitated a lively debate among the students about whether they would really be trying to do something for the children of India or would merely be seeking publicity for themselves. They finally decided to go ahead with the project, but that they would also write to other schools urging them to do the same thing. They did present 50 pounds of wheat to the Indian consul in New York and it was duly reported in the papers. Then they settled down and wrote 1,400 other private schools urging them to contribute in the same way.
  Hans did take an active part in School Meeting discussions, but he always insisted that two rules be observed. First, after a vote was taken, those who were opposed to the motion should have an opportunity to state their objections, if they had not participated in the debate. Second, no motion was to be rushed through to a vote without adequate consideration and debate.
  One evening during the early years of Stockbridge the School Meeting seemed endless. An issue had been debated at great length and everyone was tired. Finally it was brought to a vote and was passed 40 to 20. Hans asked for the floor and announced that he would like to hear why the 20 were opposed to the motion. "Pandemonium broke loose", he recalls. "Everyone wanted to quit and go to bed. But it was an important issue. And you know what happened ? One of the kids who was opposed convinced the entire group to consider another motion which they finally passed unanimously. Sometimes timid kids have marvelous ideas, but they are so overwhelmed by the group that they are reluctant to speak up. I always watched and felt that everyone have a say on important decisions. "
  Bertha Rantz remembers another occasion during the civil rights movement in the 1960s when a student proposed a motion, gave an impassioned, rabble rousing speech, and pushed his motion through to a vote with hardly any discussion. Hans let the whole thing go through and then stood up. "Do you realize what you have just done?" he asked. He pointed out that they had accepted the student's inflammatory rhetoric without demanding supporting evidence or considering other points of view. "I'm vetoing this whole thing", he announced. "The vote doesn't count. But next week, Paul you come in with evidence to back up your position. We'll discuss it, and then you can bring it to a vote again. You were not ready to vote tonight. You were manipulated."
  Everyone in School Meeting had an equal vote, but Hans retained veto power. It is not surprising, then, that when Hans used his veto he was accused of dictatorship. Hans let students indeed insisted that students take responsibility for making many decisions affecting their lives and life in the school community. He sought to make sure that they became sophisticated about the obligations as well as the freedoms of democracy, about the crucial role of reasoned discussion, about the ebb and flow of emotions within a group, and about the difference between leadership and manipulation.
  Nevertheless, many students resented the fact that there were limits on their participatory democracy. "Here we're supposed to be living a democratic environment where every vote is equal, but it's a democracy headed by an authoritarian dictator. " They were, after all, adolescents testing the limits of authority. And some, at least, recognized the realities of the situation. Philip Reed, a 1967 graduate, remembers that: "A friend and l used to say that even though we're practicing the forms of democracy, this wasn't democracy we were living in. You could go just so far and then Hans would tell you how things were going to be. And that got a lot of people upset. But l think that many of us really knew that the man had a school to run. If we voted to close down the goddamn place, was he supposed to go along with it? Whatever freedom we could have without disrupting operations, we were allowed."
  Hans is philosophic about the issue. "The person who has to make the ultimate decision in any community is often accused of being dictatorial That is understandable and l accepted it as a fact. But democracy in a school is a tricky business because students are there for a specific purpose, to learn, and the school has an equally specific mission, to provide an environment for learning. So you have built in limits on majority rule. What you really mean when you say you want to have a democratic school is that you will listen to what the kids are saying. You will encourage them to make decisions, not only about their own lives, but about matters that affect the school community of which they are a part. Kids aren't going to learn to make decisions, to make judgments, if they are never given a chance to make them."
  

  Hans' whole vision of the school he wanted to create included a strong conviction that young people should learn to take responsibility for themselves, but also for their environment and for other members of the community. Consequently the students were responsible for all cleaning and most of the maintenance of the dormitories, classrooms, and offices. They served the meals and washed the dishes. They cut the grass, tended the garden, and took responsibility for outside painting, garbage collection and disposal, routine car and bus maintenance. They cared for the fields and forest, felling trees and hauling logs for firewood and lumber. They learned to select the trees that should be cut out so that younger growth would have the sunlight needed for it to flourish. They tended the pigs and chickens and riding horses. They constructed ski trails, waterfront docks, and pig sties. They built roads in the forest and, as the school grew, they dug trenches for the foundation of new classrooms and dormitories, had a hand in designing some of the buildings and did much of the construction. They built furniture in the shop, some for the school and some to be sold in New York to earn money for new shop equipment. Whatever needed doing, they did always with adult supervision, instruction, and encouragement.
  Harriett Pitt recalls: "My first and fondest recollections of Stockbridge are of seeing kids outside at work. There were kids digging and planting, mowing and raking, cleaning and sweeping. There was a wonderful sense of bustle, a strong feeling of involvement between the land and the buildings and the kids that you felt almost the moment you drove up to the campus."
  A notable characteristic of Stockbridge students was the possessive feeling so many of them developed for the school. It was as if they had had a hand in creating the place and, indeed, they had. Kaia Crevenna writes that: "It is hard to describe what a close knit family we became, possibly because we had to run the whole show ourselves. Maybe that is why we looked upon new arrivals as intruders. Each new class had to prove itself before it was accepted. The family kept growing, yet the feeling remained. "
  Certainly running 'the whole show' is one of the reasons for the students' strong devotion to the school. When they left they had invested something of themselves in Stockbridge. They had worked to build and maintain the school and they knew when they left that the school was a better place than when they came. As one student put it, "Having worked with my hand in this place to make it more beautiful, I feel that in some way I own a part of it, or a part of it owns me. "
  Work at Stockbridge was not separate from the academic life of the school. Both work and studies were integral part of the curriculum. Students learned from their work just as they learned from their classes, they were proud of the new skills they acquired whether they were physical or intellectual, and they wrote about their experiences in English classes and in Symposium, the school yearbook.
  Lynda Adler, a 1956 graduate who helped to dig the foundations for a new classroom building, put her reaction to ditch digging on paper:
  "Until the coming of work week, I never thought that there was anything to respect in people who dug ditches or did any job requiring muscles, not brains. I supposed that all it took to be an adequate ditch digging was a bit of muscle training. Anyone, thought I, can dig ditches ! l have now changed my mind. It is easy to fill a shovel with dirt, and toss the dirt once. Even a large stone can be lifted and thrown once by strong girls, weak men, even weak girls, without too much trouble... Ditch digging, I have discovered, involves more than lifting a shovel once. A shovel must be lifted continuously, and this, I have found, takes real strength and endurance, and even real courage, if a person is tired. Even though a physical laborer is trained to have this stamina, I have come to admire him greasy for having it. From now on, whenever l hear sounds of pick axes clanging and shovels crunching, and see heads rising from a trench, I shall look up to them, not down. "
  Almost without exception the students at Stockbridge were city kids. Some came from wealthy and influential families, others came from city ghettos, but few had experience with physical labor. In some cases parents were outraged that their children should be subjected to menial labor. But the kids themselves responded in their own varied fashion. One youngster, for instance, when assigned to the garbage detail, took his responsibility so seriously that he promptly ordered a complete outfit of work clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch so that he would be suitably attired as he transported the garbage from the kitchen to the dump.
  Routine, repetitive jobs such as cleaning and KP were rotated on a weekly basis so that everyone shared equally. A committee of students drew up the schedule at the beginning of the year. Other jobs were distributed according to individual interests and skills. On occasion high prestige jobs such as truck driving and manning the tractor were used as incentives for students who were not doing well in the classroom. Alex Perkins, who taught history at the school during the early years wrote in a handbook describing the school: "The boosting of self-esteem in the social field can do wonders for a young person's performance in scholastic matters. A tractor on many occasions has proven of more value to better classroom response than all the audiovisual aids, all the counseling and supplementary teaching in the world. "
  Certainly using student labor to maintain the school was an economic asset during the early years of struggle to get established. But that was not the purpose. The objective was educational and communal, to demonstrate that adolescents from all over the world and from every level of American society could live and learn and work and play together in harmony. The specific purpose of work jobs was to instill a sense of responsibility not only for oneself, but also for others. The effect was to strengthen that sense of community that was so much a part of Stockbridge, the feeling that led the little boy from Thailand to exclaim: "Why we are a learning family. "
  Phillip Reed, who is black and was an active student leader during his years at Stockbridge, today says of the experience: "The way I live my If e now, the way I see things now are direct products of what we practiced at Stockbridge. It took me a long while to realize why we were taught to do the things we did. Learning how to work communally, whether we were clearing a field or washing dishes or sawing wood or whatever, we were not only doing those things, we were making ourselves a part of the place, of the group, of the school family. Everything we did at Stockbridge was part of the educational process, of our learning. I learned skills, I learned team work, I learned how to make something mine, how to appreciate it, how to become part of it, and proud of it. When you feel part of something you don't vandalize it, you don't put graffiti on the walls. You do that to their house, not yours and this was our house. When a toilet gets plugged, you unplug it, when something breaks you f x it. It's your responsibility. That's what Stockbridge was all about. "
  Academic studies were not forgotten in the concern for a nurturing environment. The attitude toward academic learning was strongly influenced, however, by the school's primary concern for the individual's growth and by respect for students varied talents and capabilities.
  The experience of a 1970 graduate is revealing. The boy came to Stockbridge from another private school with a widely heralded reputation for academic excellence. He was a talented, verbal lad who had difficulty in mastering mathematics. In an effort to overcome his deficiency, his school concentrated on his weakness and ignored his talents. He lost faith in himself and was falling apart. Finally his mother was asked to place him in another school. At Stockbridge he found the opposite approach. His talent for language was encouraged and applauded while his teachers worked with him to overcome his deficiency. He blossomed in the new environment, went on to college and to a successful career as a television news producer for one of the major networks.
  Hans was sometimes accused of downgrading the importance of college. But that was not the case. He fought as tenaciously as any other private school director to get his students into top flight colleges. But entrance to prestigious institutions was not the primary objective. He recognized the vast differences in interests and talents among young people, and he wanted each to develop as fully as possible in his own way. Therefore, he said that "college is not the only acceptable path to adulthood".
  The success of the academic program at Stockbridge was due in large part to Hans' genius in attracting talented, often brilliant teachers who shared his vision of effective education. Many of them, especially in the early years, were not trained as teachers, and often they did not have the credentials for certification. But they were broadly educated, creative people who were wholly committed to their own fields study and were able to make them exciting to their students.
  Hans' vision of the school he would create provided a broad institutional framework for the school. It was a vision of a kind of community and an attitude toward youth and their education. The teachers he attracted, who shared his vision, were given great freedom in developing the programs of study that would make that vision a functioning reality. In return they were expected to invest their own creativity and enthusiasm in developing the school. And they did.
  Former students' tendency to down grade the academic program: "Well, Stockbridge wasn't so great academically, I probably missed some things I We could have gotten some other place." Then the inevitable follow up: "But we got so much, we learned so many things. We were given a chance to grow in any direction we wanted to. "
  Ben Barber's assessment of the faculty: "When I think of the people I've encountered at every level of education I have a doctorate from Harvard and have taught at five or six universities I don't think I have ever met a more unusual and gifted group of teachers than I found at Stockbridge in the 1950s. "