And though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall
-Paul Simon, "Kodachrome"
|Juanita High School, Kirkland, Washington about 1972 (photo credits below*)|
|Erroneously assumed to be the computer|
that ran our academic life
|A Media Carrel. The push-buttons were new. |
Remember, it's 1971.
This was that era's iPod along with the computer to the right
The concept was revolutionary. Hence, the Rebel mascot. (It was clearly a Revolutionary War Rebel, not Confederate. This was the Pacific Northwest even if oddly with a Spanish-named bay on Lake Washington.) And it was uniquely the "Juanita System" even if open-concept schools were the new thing in education making their way around the country.
It was a good idea, I think, then as well as now. Students would spend most of their time independently or in groups working at their own pace on Teaching-Learning Units (TLUs). Classes were small and only took up a portion of the school day. The teachers were to pay more attention to students that way. They were available in unscheduled time to mentor students one-on-one and in groups. Most of them were young and idealistic - well suited to the revolutionary system. But it was the facility that astounded.
|Note the Pillar Marked with a Letter of the Alphabet to Identify Locations. I think there were at least 26.|
Teacher Carrels Front Right, Student Carrels Left.
|Another class or study session at Pillar E.|
A good friend of mine sits upper right.
|A Language Arts classroom with Ms. Anderson|
|Modern Auditorium 1971|
(Hey, TVs in schools!)
|Serious study around the media computer|
|Less serious study at Pillar D. Note Washington State flag - the Evergreen State.|
|Food court. No scheduled lunchtime.|
Here's a design schematic of the academic side of the school:
|Kiva "module" from the back (everything|
was "modules" in those days.) Pic to the
left is a kiva section facing front. And,
in the front row, just right of aisle, is
another good buddy of mine!
While not being a real athletic guy myself, the physical education "box" of campus was truly impressive. There was an Olympic-size swimming pool, a state-of-the art weight-training facility. And a gym so huge that when the Seattle Symphony came to perform they set up in front of our pulled-our bleachers in the center third, had their semi-truck parked in another third, and a whole third of the room was left unused!
|Regulation basketball court & bleachers only took the middle third of the PE big box. I think that's my shirtless friend on the left!|
The computer didn't care about progress as much as activity, so some of us figured out that we could mark the IBM cards to show movement back and forth between modules of the same Math TLU and it took quite a while for a human to catch that. I was placed in a remedial Language Arts class (but not Math?) with a bunch of pot-heads which I found rather entertaining but not what I wanted out of life. My parents helped guide me to the decision to transfer to another public high school for which they had to pay out-of-district tuition. And, somewhat embarrassed to admit, I was already deep into my own self-exposing literary career:
Transferred student criticizes JHS
(Editor's Note: The LEXINGTON does not intend to provide space for those who have left this school to speak out against it. This editorial was printed so that you might assess whether or not the cause for failure at this school is the system or whether it is only the failure of the individual's responsibility)
Since I have attended both Juanita and Inglemoor high schools, I would like to make some comparisons of the Juanita system and a conventional school.
How many of you at Juanita have ever skipped classes or had your parents receive those letters in the mail? How many of you have felt guilty because you were behind in a class? How many of you have procrastinated on a test or assignment, or maybe took a test and just guessed at the multiple choice answers? How many, after you finally passed a TLU, wondered if you really learned anything? I know about these things because I did a lot of them myself. Maybe this is supposed to make you a responsible and mature adult, but maybe at the expense of your high school education.
At my present school there are still the opportunities to cheat and procrastinate, but you know what is required of you and how to do it, and if you don't do it you fail.
When I was at Juanita, I really didn't feel anybody was concerned about me as a person. There were some good teachers, but most didn't seem to care enough to find out who I was. There was my counselor who didn't even remember me when I was seeing him every other day trying to get things straightened out. Then there were the administrators who told my concerned parents not to worry because I could always stay another year or make up credits at a community college.
At Inglemoor I found most of my teachers are concerned about me as an individual. They make sure all of us in the class understand each of the things we learn. Many of them talk to me personally and are interested in me and the things I do.
I know I was not the only one at Juanita that ever had trouble. Many friends I know there have or have had trouble. There are at least twenty former Juanita students here at Inglemoor and many at other schools. At Open House, one of my old teachers explained that they changed the furniture around and said that the school is different, but it is really the same as always.
I would just like to say that I am very happy with the choice I made, and I assure you that I will graduate in June 1975 with a fine education (and probably pretty good grades).
[dated Friday, November 16, 1973 - in my junior year having left Juanita in March of my sophomore year. I self-fulfilled my prophecy at graduation in '75 after having transferred to one more high school with the benefits of many educational doubts when my family moved to Wyoming!]So, what could have been done better? Certainly I could have taken more responsibility for academics and spent less time goofing around - but I was only a 14-year-old ninth grader at the start! Maybe my parents could have paid more attention earlier. Maybe a teacher or counselor could have. I now think the Juanita System may have been more successful at least for me if there had been twice as many teachers. (Having spent all the money on facilities, I'm not sure the district would have been able to afford that.) The teachers tried hard yet more easily connected to the already motivated students. Maybe there could have been more community preparation. Or perhaps the experiment was better suited to a magnet or charter school (admittedly more recent innovations in education.)
I just don't know. It was a "brief, shining moment" know as the Juanita System - an idealistic dream I was glad to fail at trying.
*Photos graciously provided by my good buddy from 6th Grade into High School and continuing current friend, Dave Sexton. He took some of the photos here. Dave found them as they had been discarded by the Eastside Journal where he worked just after high school. (I think that means they are in the public domain.) They are a rich, historical treasure. Thank you, Dave! [And Dave is not the high-school friend I had trouble with in other stories!]