THE LIVES OF CHILDREN by George Dennison


Email this review


Mr. Dennison worked as a part-time teacher in one of Paul Goodman's ""minischools"" on the lower East Side of New York where with the help of a grant, 23 children (about evenly divided between white, black and Puerto Rican -- all from very low income families -- all disturbed) were also under the libertarian guidance of three full-time teachers. In alternating insets, these are both daybook notations of the life in the classroom, and discussion of educational theory as initially propounded by Dewey and Rousseau and Neill (Summerhill) and Tolstoy and as advocated by Mr. Dennison. On the one hand you thus have the concepts of teaching in terms of the ""life of the child"" rather than structured to a curriculum or classes which may pile ""boredom upon failure and failure upon boredom."" On the other hand you have the day to day interchanges between Vincente, frantic, jealous, anxious; and Elena, energetic entrepreneur, sweet at times, angry at others; or Jose, 13, or is it 14, who can read quite a little but becomes confused by the word ""I""; etc., etc. Then too there are the parties, projects, outings, and, cumulatively, hopeful evidence of progress.... Sometimes, ""at the risk of repeating myself,"" he does so; sometimes, the more practical-minded will wonder at the applicability elsewhere of what they achieved at the First Street School; or question the inevitable transition from school to home, overlooked here. All in that muzzier limbo of the dedicated idealist along with ""the experience of learning (as the) experience of wholeness.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1969
Publisher: Random House