Hope Leichter Oral History

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  • Oral Histories

Citation

Leichter, Hope, “Hope Leichter Oral History,” Harlem Education History Project, accessed September 17, 2019, https://educatingharlem.cdrs.columbia.edu/omeka/items/show/2261.

Transcript

Participant: Hope Jensen Leichter, Elbenwood Professor of Education, Teachers College (“R”)
Interviewer: Nick Juravich, PhD Candidate, Department of History, Columbia University (“I”)

I: And we are recording—
R: And if I need to stop for water or anything, we can stop, right?
I: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So—
R: OK.
I: Uh, yeah, so to open this recording, this is Nick Juravich, uh-, recording for the Educating Harlem Project on October 23, 2014. I have the privilege of sitting with Professor Hope Leichter of Teachers College, uh-, who has been uh-, involved in many different aspects of uh-, paraprofessional training, family education, community education over her career. And thank you so much for sitting down with us.
R: Well, thank you for coming to me. I-, it’s an honor.
I: And so to start with, we should say first off that this recording is being made in accordance with uh-, what we consider to be oral history best practices, so before anything said on this cassette is made public, and it’s not a cassette—. I should—. This digital thing. Um-, you will have a chance to review the transcript, uh-, to strike as much of it or all of it from the record if you’d like. And also to make any edits to anything you’ve said. And then once that process happens, this will be archived for the Educating Harlem Project, and also uh-, I’ll use it as part of my dissertation.
R: That’s fine with me.
I: Wonderful. Another thing with respect to the interview today, if at any point you’d like to stop the tape, uh-, we certainly can. So for (___?), you don’t need to give a reason, for any reason at all, if you say you’d like to go off the record, stop the tape, take a break, anything like that, you stop it. And that’s that. And also if—
R: I—
I: —you’d like the interview to be over, too.
R: Well, we can—. Right. Right.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: Uh-
I: And we can always come back to it later as well.
R: And can you just tell me the Educating Harlem Project—. Who-, who are the people?
I: Ah. So uh-, Ernest Morrell and Ansley Erickson are the co-directors uh-. Professor Morrell with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, and Professor Erickson with uh-, the History and Education program. And now I guess the new Center for History of Education as well.
R: All right. Uh-. Well, I was with Professor Morrell earlier today [laughing while talking: at a search committee.]
I: Ah. Fantastic.
R: You know. (clears throat)
I: So I should also say that the topics that I was hoping to cover in the course of today’s interview—and we’ll get as far as we can—I would love to hear from you about uh-, the, um-, the programs you worked with that connected to particularly paraprofessionalism, but also to hear about your own story more broadly. How you came to do this work. How it fits into your larger uh-, work and the stuff, um-, that you’ve done both here at TC and, and more broadly. Um-. There’s a couple of uh-, institutions and organizations and programs I’m interested in specifically, one of which is the Women’s Talent Corps. Another of which is the Parent Teacher Teams Programs here at Teachers College. Uh-. And I’d also-, I’d love to hear you say more about the sort of-, the idea of both paraprofessionals but also community-based educators more broadly. Think about what was achieved, what proved challenging, and also as we talked about last time, what this might all offer us today.
R: Mm—
I: So those are-, those are the big themes, the big, the big questions. But um-, sometimes the best way to start this is to ask: Where should we begin? (heh, heh)
R: Well, um-, let me see. Um-. Chronologically, I guess, the first thing. I mean, I can tell you my, my background, where I came from educationally, and, and how I ended up doing family things here. But maybe that’s a longer story than you need for, for all of this.
I: No. I’d love to start there.
R: —Uh—. (clears throat)
I: That’d be great.
R: Well, uh-. I got my—and then perhaps we said this last time, but we’ll pretend I didn’t. OK? (heh, heh)
I: Quite all right. (heh, heh)
R: Uh-. (clears throat) I received my doctorate from Harvard University in the Department of Social Relations, which was sociology, anthropology, clinical and social psychology at the time. And I did not imagine that I would have a faculty position anywhere because at the time I was at Harvard, there were basically no full-time women faculty. So I thought I would be a researcher in various places. And I didn’t have the feminist consciousness to say I should be a professor. I just thought: Well, I’m lucky to be here. I’m lucky to have this opportunity. And long story, personal story, is I came to New York. My husband was going to law school here. So I ended up in New York and worked for a while with the Russell Sage Foundation. I had a grant from the Russell Safe Foundation later. I worked earlier than that on a study at Cornell Medical School on Chinese who were exiled in the United States. I did my dissertation using data from this project.
After the Cornell Project, I worked on research at the Jewish Family Service with funding from the Russell Sage Foundation. The Foundation’s mandate at that time included bringing social science theories and methods to bear on the “practicing professions.” The history of the Russell Sage Foundation is an interesting reflection of the times. In the book I did, Kinship and Casework with William E. Mitchell, there is a Foreword by Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr., one of the key members of the Foundation staff, that I think is relevant to the history of the time and why social scientists, who were working in this country at least, were working in ways where the connection with practice was considered one of the things that we ought to be doing. We shouldn’t just be theorizing about society and what’s going on. We ought to bring the things we do known from our profession to bear on the practicing professionals. These ideas made it seem legitimate for me to go from Cornell Medical School to work in a social work agency where we ended up doing a study of kinship and how social workers intervened in relationships with extended family networks. The casework agency was doing family therapy. Bill Mitchell and I had been very junior researchers on the Cornell Project. When that project ended, we moved to the project at the Jewish Family Service with support of the Russell Sage Foundation. We wanted to bring social science concepts to bear on the then understanding of families.
The agency wanted us to prove that family therapy in their particular version was the way to go. I think the term “evidence-based” was not the vocabulary at the time, but the agency wanted social science proof that family therapy was more valuable than individual therapy. We said: Oh, no, no, no. We’re social scientists and we’re trying to help you see things you wouldn’t otherwise see. And so what did we do?
Well, one of the things anthropologists do is look at family structures and kinship systems around the world. And there is such a thing as the extended family. The Jewish Family Service was an agency that was working on family relationships, bringing family groups together but mainly nuclear families or whatever pieces were intact. For example, husband, wife, and children. And doing therapy with them. But not necessarily thinking about kinship. And so a long series of negotiations, which I won’t go into at length—this is really background for the work on the College of Human Services and Paraprofessionals. Except that it’s background for why I felt it was OK to be working in a school of education on a practical program in Harlem that involved families. So just to finish up on the piece of the saga on the Kinship and Casework project (clears throat) which you might find interesting—
I: Hm-. Yeah.
R: We did some research and we went trudging around—. Your recorder is teeny (pointing to recorder) We went—
I: This thing?
R: We went trudging through the Bronx and to various homes of clients of the agency with big heavy tape recorders.
I: (heh, heh)
R: Heavy, heavy [laughing while talking: tape recorders and they—] I don’t know what the fidelity was but they didn’t screen out a lot of the background noises so there was an awful lot of background noise. But in any case, that’s [laughing while talking: it was an earlier time.]
I: Sure.
R: Families had the television on and we had traffic noises outside and the neighbors screaming and all that kind of thing. But we were in people’s homes and studying the families. And in the course of this, we’re trying to find out why they were going to the social work agency and what family therapy meant to them. In this preliminary pilot study, talking with people not as social workers but as researchers, we kept observing relatives come in and out. There was one cast I can remember where there was an extended family. They happened to be a Jewish family. Neither my colleague Bill Mitchell nor I were Jewish, although my late husband was. But he was not religious. That’s another story.
But in any case, we didn’t know the Jewish religion or beliefs or anything. But this, this mother-in-law or mother, mother-in-law, depending whether it was the husband or the wife’s point of view, was sharing the refrigerator. She lived next door or somewhere nearby. And they were sharing the refrigerator. And there was some degree of controversy over this because how can you be sure that everyone has the same degree of care with respect to what makes it kosher or not.
I: Mmm.
R: But it seemed to be a viable relationship in some ways. But people were dropping in all the time. Friends, neighbors, relatives. That’s just one example to try to make the point vivid. We kept thinking about this. Partly it was the distractions on the tape and then we were thinking things like: Maybe we should have had a way to screen out the sound or gone into a little room within the apartment to talk to one person. Then we realized we’re anthropologists. We’re seeing things that are interesting.
So fast forward. We ended up doing some interviews and surveys looking at the relationships with the extended family. And how social workers intervened in relationships with the extended family. We also got data from the social workers, for example, their goals for therapy. We didn’t know what the outcomes were, but we found that the social workers were much less kin-oriented than the clients. And the social workers often saw their goals as modifying relationships with the extended family. We have a whole section in the book that’s kind of neat on that point, showing that ways of talking about kin relationships were different. The social workers would use psychological phrasing and the clients would sometimes use rather (laughing) vernacular accusations, let’s say.
The general gist was that the clients often had conflicts and arguments and differences, but they didn’t necessarily want to cut off the ties with the extended family. And the social workers believed that a part of psychological therapy was to cut your ties with the extended family to “individuate” and “mature.” As anthropologists trained in looking at kinship systems around the world, this was intriguing. So we got data. We did interviews and questionnaires and so forth. It’s not a large sample or conclusive, but the ideas were, I think, very interesting. It was also a kind of neat example of really bringing the social sciences to the practicing professions because, frankly, I don’t think they wanted to hear what we had to say. I really don’t. We argued in an appendix to the book that while research doesn’t get applied to practice by being put in a book or put in a folder or put in a research file, you have to continue talking with people about it. Indeed, I think that’s what you do have to do.
Subsequently, there was a lot of talk in the social work field, and not necessarily referencing what we had done, but we did happen to do it first. Saying, oh, well, maybe the extended family is a resource and we should not be cutting people off from the extended family. That is one piece of the background I brought from very, very abstract Parsonian sociological theory at Harvard and social relations, bringing together these different fields and disciplines. It was a very exciting time.
Harvard was great because we thought we were at the pinnacle of the world, having all these intellectual breakthroughs. But I also didn’t know. You’d walk out in the Harvard Yard and say: I don’t know which is true. Are the trees true or is Parsons true? Then I got into this case where we were in fact trying to work with people. Then that project ended.
In the meantime I’d finished my dissertation while doing both the dissertation and the research project. And I had a son. But that’s all another story.
I: (heh, heh)
R: Then I had a chance to teach a course at Columbia School of Social Work because they were very impressed with the work we were doing for the project. Then I was asked to come to Teachers College. And because of my family background—my mother had been a teacher and my stepfather also taught for a while. My mother had actually gone to Teachers College for a while and studied in the heyday of the Deweyan emphasis here. I had a feeling that in education, you can make use of your social science background to make a difference in the world. You can do it with—how should I put it? More optimism if you do it through a school of education than if you do it in a school of social work.
Social work somehow seemed to me at the time more remedial. In education, you can start working with people who are going to be working with young kids. That’s background on some of the ideas that I brought with me when I first came to Teachers College. Do you have any questions on any of that? Or—
I: No. That’s great. Thank you so much. When did you come to TC?
R: Oh, dear, I can’t remember that. You’re [laughing while talking: you’re, you’re not supposed—
I: (laughter)
R: —you’re supposed to do history for dates.]
I: I’ll look that up.
R: No, you can, I can—I could tell you. But I actually uh-, that’s my standard answer.
I: Mmm.
R: Because if you’ve been here too long, you say uh-, you know what I say?
I: What?
R: Too long to remember. Then people don’t start saying: Oh. Why are (laughing while talking: you still here?—
I: (heh, heh)
R: —in any case. You can look up that secret.
I: Yeah. I will. (heh, heh)
R: I came here to teach a course in the Family Life Education Program and also in the Clinical Psychology Program to teach field courses for social psychologists on community mental health because I had the community background through trudging to the Bronx, (laughing while talking: looking at real families with these heavy tape recorders] that made me a community expert. That was an adjunct job of which there are increasing numbers today, but then a chance opened up for a full-time position.
I: Interesting.
R: Parenthetically, professors of practice was a controversial issue in the faculty meeting I attended today. But in any case, I wasn’t interested in families. I didn’t really want to work on families. You know why?
I: Why?
R: Oh, I thought they wanted me to do it because I was a woman.
I: Oh.
R: I wasn’t a strident feminist. My grandmother had fought for the vote. I thought the feminists in our family were my grandmother’s generation. And I didn’t need to be an active feminist. My mother was avant-garde in everything she did, so I thought those battled had been taken care of, even though as I was saying, I didn’t have any particular consciousness about why there weren’t jobs for women at Harvard on the regular faculty. There were a few part-time jobs. For example, one person, Johnny Whiting, who split his professorship with his wife.
I: Huh.
R: Basically, there is a woman president of Harvard. When I was there, that was unthinkable. In any case, I thought: you get what you can and you have to be glad. And I had a husband who was an attorney in New York, and I had a son. And so I thought: Well, you know, you’re lucky if you have any job. And that’s where the Women’s Talent Corps came in.
But I didn’t want to do family stuff because it didn’t have prestige. I mean, families are the lowest in the prestige hierarch within any university, in some ways. More recently, I’ve learned from being on the University Senate that everybody thinks they’re second class, (laughing) including the medical school that some say “we’re uptown and nobody’s paying attention to us.” And the law school, “We’re not part of the general graduate faculties and nobody’s paying attention to us.” And so on. But I think Teachers College, having originally become a part of Columbia as a women’s institution as a way to get women into Columbia, still is not treated with quite the respect that other parts of the university are. Some say, “You’re across the street.”
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: There is a less than glamorous sense of the intellectual caliber of the school of education. I was there and I wanted to be there. But I didn’t want to do families because I thought, you know, within this place (sighs) then I’m going to be still more out of the mainstream. And yet, that’s what I had been doing through the Russell Sage Foundation and the Jewish Family Service. Before that, I’d been interviewing for my dissertation through a project for Cornell Medical School in New York.
In any case, the course in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College seemed to be an opportunity. So I agreed to do both a family course and the clinical course and take psychology students around the city. I was going out into the so-called community and also teaching courses here in what was then the Department of Family Life Education and Home Economics.
During this period, Lawrence Arthur Cremin was a professor of history and director of the Division of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. At that time there were divisions, the Division of Philosophy and the Social Sciences and the Department of Philosophy and Social Science. It was a stellar department then. That’s been disbanded and Family and Community Education was disbanded. But he invited me to sit in on his classes on the history of American education, which I did.
Cremin was a kind of mentor, although I already had my degree and I’d already published a book, Kinship and Casework. But he was a close advisor to me as a junior faculty. I’ve always found history interesting, but too many battles and kings to memorize. So I was quite fascinated by his course on the history of American education.
One of his key concepts was that if you want to understand the history of education in the United States (it would no doubt apply elsewhere), you cannot look at the history of schooling alone. You have to look at the history of all the institutions that educate. And that includes families, communities, the media, the media of mass communication, as he liked to call it, which at that point meant radio and television and, of course at an earlier point, newspapers in terms of looking back historically.
Cremin was very persuasive that if we wanted to have Teachers College have a really rounded background, we should not just be doing Home Economics and Family Life Education that is training people to work with families in different capacities, planning their household management or helping them with therapeutic issues. We needed to have an intellectual agenda in studying how families educate. That, to me, already made more sense. Because I had done various community work or was in the process, I thought: that really does make sense.
So I was sort of coaxed into coming into a department. At that point, the Home Economics was being phased out because there was a sense that Home Economics was doing things that were going to go away, partly because it was gender specific, woman’s work. There were also all sorts of interdepartmental issues. At that point, we had a huge Nursing Education program, which is not as large now. And Nutrition Education, which was not as big as Nursing at the time. I think at an earlier point it had split off from the Home Economics. A Department of Family and Community Education grew out of the earlier Family Life Education and Home Economics Department. I was instrumental in redefining this department and eventually becoming chair of it. I was chair for 16 years of this renamed Department of Family and Community Education. So it was not family therapy. It wasn’t family life education. It was no longer Home Economics.
That’s a whole other saga for another time, another discussion, whether it was appropriate to close the Home Economics Program or not, or whether it was a wise decision. It was not my decision, but I had the opportunity to redefine a department and take it in new ways. A primary approach from my social science background in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard with sociology, anthropology, and social and clinical psychology was to create an interdisciplinary Department of Family and Community Education. And apart from that, I had the interest in education and, most of all, I had Cremin’s framework of the many institutions that educate as a source of ideas about what we need to include in this new department.
So I was in the process of moving in this direction and, therefore, teaching courses on families, although at first I never felt very comfortable with them. In the early days, I didn’t. I love the course I do now. But I’m jumping ahead a little bit chronologically. Still, I always have mixed feelings about teaching on families because they are everybody’s domain. Everybody knows the family. It’s hard to say something that doesn’t seem obvious of something that other people don’t think they know better than you do from their own experience. There isn’t really a lot of definite knowledge. If you can go back historically, families look different and that may give a new angle. But people still think they know the real story. There are some fields where most people don’t have everyday experience. This is jumping ahead with an example. My youngest son is a marine biologist and oceanographer, and he can talk to people about diving in the Antarctic under the ice and that’s not everybody’s everyday experience. Even if he says something that’s descriptive and not quantitative, it still seems scientific. It’s different from the trouble of talking about families in your own society.
In any case, at that time I had the opportunity to develop a program where we were trying to have an intellectual look at how families educate and bringing in various disciplines, including drawing on the historians who were here. The book that I edited, The Family as Educator came out of that period, and Families and Communities was a sequel to it.
The possibility for actually doing things in the community was also a big political issue. During that time, I became involved with Audrey Cohen and originally the Women’s Talent Corps, which later became the College of Human Services. You start off your paper with—
I: Yeah.
R: talking about the people there. I could easily have been one of these women who had a degree and had a child and didn’t luck into a job. I was just very lucky that I ended up with a job. And I came to Teachers College with a book that was already published. And I got tenure fairly quickly.
But I might very well have been in the position of the people like Audrey Cohen, who were saying, well, there’s this talent out there. There are these people who have education and they’re basically these middle-class women or professional women who aren’t working. And we should do something for them. And what’s the need? Well, the need is to do something to train a new category of professionals to work in communities. So that made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t come out saying: well, you know, they should stay at home. I came at it feeling I could very well, as I was trying to say, have been one of these women who were going to teach the people who came to the College of Human Services. So I became involved with Audrey Cohen. Part of the ethos of the time was the idea that there was great advantage to lived experience and to people who know how to work with the community because they are part of it.
I don’t think the vocabulary was quite what it is today. You know more because you’ve looked at the documents. In my mind, I get the vocabulary at the time mushed with the more recent vocabularies. We weren’t talking about equity in quite the way it’s being discussed today at Teachers College, where equity is one of the big mandates. The words were slightly different. But the idea was we’ve had a society that was segregated and people haven’t had a chance. There are all these problems—economic problems and educational problems. I guess some of the roots of these ideas go back to the early history of Teachers College. And Teachers College in terms of immigration and settlement and training women too, maybe as servants for the wealthy, but still giving new arrivals to the country a chance. This is early history of Teachers College in still an earlier era. But at the time of the Women’s Talent Corps, we were committed to the notion of trying to involve people from the community and give them opportunities.
These are things that are going on simultaneously and not like neat chronological order, but kind of back and forth. I was doing the work in the community mental health program and still working with the clinical psychologists and teaching courses on families. And then working a little bit with Audrey Cohen, at least in the think tank stages of that project. And then developing the newly defined Department of Family and Community Education. Some of our graduate students did go and work in the College of Human Services eventually.
I: Oh. Wow.
R: Yeah. There was someone named Bruce Buglione. He has passed away now. But one of my doctoral students, Vera Hammad, eventually Vera Hammad Buglione, ended up marrying Bruce. Divorcing someone else (laughing) who was a graduate student and marrying him. You know, graduate school.
I: (heh, heh)
R: So we had connections with the developing project of the College of Human Services through graduate students and through my keeping up with Audrey Cohen and periodically being asked to come in and advise on this or that—
I: Yeah.
R: —set of issues.
I: Your name actually comes up twice in their archives that I’ve found. Or-, a few times in two separate places.
R: What, what, what am I saying” [laughing while talking: Tell me what I don’t remember.]
I: Oh, no, this is-. So one is-. There’s a report noting that you were working with a graduate student named Edward Storey on something that was sort of a report for them or an evaluation of them.
R: That’s right. Oh, now. Edward Storey. I think somewhere in my files I would have a letter about that. Did you see any letter I wrote for him?
I: It was just a mention of the report. It didn’t actually have the report itself. So I should—
R: Huh.
I: I should look further. But that was-, it was just kind of one line in a larger report about what was going on at the time.
R: He was a graduate student. Yeah. I think I wrote a-. I would have-. And I, I-. It would take some digging but I could see if I can find anything I had written. I think I probably at some point wrote-, not only wrote a report, I might be able to find that. I had forgotten about that particular connection. And I do remember that somewhere in the files of letters of recommendation I’ve written, which are voluminous over the years, I’m pretty sure I could find a letter of recommendation for him. And whether or not there’d be mention in that of what he did, I don’t know. I try to write specifics, not just adjectives in letters of recommendation. So I don’t know. But I can look that up if that’s any help.
I: Sure. Yeah. I thought I-
R: I can’t do it now because I-
I: No. No.
R: It would take-
I: That’s quite all right. (heh, heh)
R: [laughing while talking: Layers of archeological digging.]
I: (laughter) No.
R: But, and how else was I mentioned?
I: So they-, when they interviewed Audrey Cohen, and they did a few times over the course of um-, the last several years of her life.
R: Right. Right.
I: Be-, as part of the college archive. She mentions you. And she talks briefly about going out—. So there was Part-Time Research Associates—
R: Right.
I: —I think, which brings in middle-class women. And then it, the Women’s Talent Corps, her idea of being to connect these women to the women in the communities.
R: That’s right.
I: And going out to uh-, meetings, community meetings around the city as part of this. And she says that you were with her, and the part-. I wrote a quote down, she particularly says that you were listening at the meetings and helping to define the jobs more effectively. And that was a line about Hope Leichter.
R: I was listening at the meetings and what, what was I doing?
I: And helping to define the jobs more effectively. So thinking about the role-. I think she means thinking about the roles for community women in institutions like social work and—
R: Hm-
I: —schools.
R: That’s interesting.
I: And I can, I can send you-. Actually, I have an image of this document.
R: Wow. That’s interesting because in the descriptions that I was writing for the graduate training for the department, I have a statement somewhere. This is not the jobs for the paraprofessionals. This is the jobs for the people who are coming from Teachers College training paraprofessionals. There is something I wrote in one of the old catalogs.
I: Mmm.
R: That I wrote with the advice of Lawrence Arthur Cremin. He was president of the College and he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, but he made his point to edit every word (laughing) in the catalog. And so I think he might have made some modifications or corrections or suggestions. Say that again. Helping to define the-
I: Jobs more effectively.
R: Jobs more effectively. Well-
I: And I will. I can look up and send you these uh-, these documents.
R: That would be interesting because I, as I say, I was writing catalog copy for the program, for the department, it wasn’t a program then. For the Department of Family and Community Education at the time. Trying to define what might be potential jobs for graduates of the program and what I think-. The big argument was—and I still think it applies, I think it applies even more today than then—but the argument was that what we are basically trying to help people develop the skills to do is to define their own jobs because it’s a time of great change. You can’t say there are X number of slots and we’re training them to fill these slots, for example, go through dental school and we know exactly what their skills will need to be for the existing jobs. But we need to train people to think and criticize and imagine new possibilities, visualize and define new jobs. [laughing while talking: So that’s interesting.] Hm. I can look up that catalog if that’s of any interest.
I: Sure. Sure. Well, that’s-. I mean, this is all very interesting. I suppose it’s a good place to shift and just ask more broadly about your, your experience with and your impressions of the Women’s Talent Corps. And the, particularly these, these paraprofessional programs that began to develop.
R: They’re somewhat separate in my mind in terms of-
I: Sure.
R: —um, my view-, I would say my view of the Women’s Talent Corps is that it was-, Audrey Cohen was incredibly effective. Incredibly effective. And she made things happen. And she made things happen basically by starting a new institution. And so she didn’t have to do the gradualism and the bureaucratic negotiations that she might have had to do if she was [laughing while taking: trying to do it within Teachers College or Columbia.] And so I think she was very effective.
I think that, as you bring up in your paper, the fact that the unions played into the creation of not just an idea of jobs, but jobs that were central to the institutional structure at the time meant that there was a real set of positions, um-, more, more solidly defined positions than there would have otherwise been. And so to use a cliché, she was in the right place at the right time. But that’s not quite right. She had the skills to define the place the way it needed to be at the right time, at the time when there was an opening for that. She had a broad network of connections and she was, I think, very skillful in terms of all the different people. All the different people she contacted and her network was incredibly large and she was very effective. From my point of view, it was good because we could send students to teach at the College of Human Services. And so it gave her teachers and it gave us students from our department. And it also gave a reality to some of the things we were trying to do here in terms of the idea that we are going to train people to create jobs, to define jobs. I say that today and it’s a time of decline in some things, radical shifts and new kinds of technological development. I always feel somewhat awkward when I sit here in a tenured position, advising students, and say: What do you want to do? We’re going to help you think of possibilities and give you the skills to define jobs. Now there probably are fewer possibilities. But at that time, it wasn’t unreal because there was federal funding.
I: Mmm.
R: It was the era of the Great Society and these weren’t empty words. Someone could go out and have an idea for how to create a more egalitarian society, create opportunities for those who wouldn’t have had them. It wasn’t just abstract. “We’re going to work for equity and we’re going to have benchmarks for equity.” I’m not saying it was all totally sincere or ever is, but I’m saying it wasn’t unreal.
And I think the fact that Audrey was able to move from this little idea we talked about in her kitchen to creating a college that had a faculty and had students and had students placed in positions is astonishing. And it gave me courage that what we were arguing for, for example, creating positions for coordinators of paraprofessional programs for the students from our department was not unreal. At that time, they were almost all doctoral students. We had very few Master’s students. Now it’s largely a Master’s institution. Just in the last three or four or five years, Teachers College has shifted drastically.
I: Right. Right.
R: I think that’s not good entirely, but that’s another issue. That’s a different timeframe. But um-, I think uh-. Like Bruce Buglione, who’s the one that was a student in our department and married another student, um-. I think he, he had a job there at the College of Human Services. You might look him up. Bruce Buglione, do you have that name in there?
I: I do. Yeah. And I think I’ve seen his name in some of the records. I need to go back and double-. You know-
R: Well, he was there for quite a long time. He, he became ill and died much, much too young, let’s say. But he had a longstanding job there. I’m not sure the number of years of anything, but I do know he was there quite a while. And I think Vera, Vera Hammad, I think she kept her name from her previous marriage, Andy Hammad. I don’t think he was involved. Look up Vera Hammad.
I: I will. Yeah.
R: I think she, she never got a regular faculty position and I don’t know how they worked out whether they had tenure of the faculty in the end or just were very god about reappointing people who did well. I’m not sure how that ended up working out. I was too concerned at that point with things going on inside Teachers College. I would say it’s a quintessential example of a time when someone can make a difference. And by really going outside-. I mean, it’s within the usual institutional models, but starting something quite new, quite new. And it was possible because of federal funding. It’s like a lot of the WPA things, a latter-day version of some of that, where things actually were started that had a lasting influence and became institutions that continued. And I think that it probably did. I don’t know the outcomes in terms of their graduates. I’m talking about the general ideas and the outcomes for students who were graduates of this department to go and work there.
I: And, but these things connect in important ways.
R: Oh, they do.
I: Yeah. Thank you.
R: They absolute do.
I: And …
R: It’s all part of the ethos of the time. You see? And it’s also part of the federal funding. And the fact that it is, as I was trying to say before, it wasn’t just empty thoughts. It wasn’t just hollow notions of: “Let’s have equity.” And I’m not saying what we’re doing now in terms of equity is wrong, but we’re talking about equity in terms of more positions on the faculty, more people graduating from high school, and all that. But this was starting a new institution. This was really starting a whole new institution. And I think I happened to be looking at some of that. You know that Ric Burns film on the history of New York—
I: Yeah.
R: —series? I happened to be looking at a couple of segments of that with my son who was in town on sabbatical. And we got to that section where Robert Moses is taking over and the World’s Fair and all these models of cars. And then along comes Jane Jacobs, this housewife. (heh, heh) She and her other activist women are taking on this great big demagogue. Now in my childhood, he did great things because he did beaches and stuff that we went to, but at a later point, he was from some points of view, he was really wrecking the communities in the city. I’m not saying Audrey Cohen was quite like a Jane Jacobs. But in a way, it was, you know, someone saying: Well, I guess if we father the right people, we’ll do it. And she did it.
I: That’s amazing. And the WPA point you made reminded me also that she even had some people who had connections to the era. A woman named—
R: I-
I: —Ann Cronin in particular.
R: Right. Right. I think that while the Great Society was in a way harking back to some of those ideas. And it was, I think, locally, too, because some of the things that were done in Harlem were started during the WPA era. That was also a model. I keep thinking that I would like to go back to that more now than I have. It would have to play out differently now. But it was a model for doing things in communities and creating jobs. Not just creating jobs, but also trying to deal with real needs. Now you can argue from today’s ecological perspectives, some of the things that were done during the WPA, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, were too big, the dams were too big and they hurt local communities by flooding and removing them in the interests of rural electrification. There were some things that one might do very differently now from an engineering/ ecological point of view. But it was a time when there was a sense that it was possible to pull us out of disasters and crises and problems through government action, in that case the federal government mostly, but with all kinds of involvement of local groups. And you could redefine things and you could think of things that hadn’t been done.
And I think that was part of the—I can’t say the impulse for the Parent Teacher Teams here, but it was part of the ethos of the time in which that project developed here.
I: That’s a great segue into the Parent Teacher Teams then.
R: Right. Right. And the Parent Teacher Teams I was involved as the one who was directing the training program. But Fritz Ianni—you must have his name somewhere. Is he all over the place?
I: Yeah. Just let me-. I don’t know, I don’t know much about him. I know the name because it’s on the various documents that are associated with the-
R: He was an anthropologist, very flamboyant. He wore very smart Italian suits and he was Italian American. He studied the Mafia and made a point that he did. He drove fancy cars and had [laughing while talking: his office in the trunk of his car.] And he kept moving offices around Teachers College, when he would get tired of one and move to another. And he was one of the Division Directors. At that point, the College was divided into divisions. (That went out in a subsequent reorganization.) There was the Division of Philosophy, the Social Sciences, and Education. There was the Division of Psychology and Education. There was the Division of Educational Institutions and Programs, the Division of Instruction, and the Division of health Services, Sciences, and Education. There are people who have never gotten over the demise of the grand old Philosophy and the Social Sciences Division.
There will be a memorial next Tuesday for Professor George Bond. He was one of the long-time faculty members, an anthropologist in the Division of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Lawrence Arthur Cremin was very involved in the ideas supporting this Division. There were similarities with the Russell Sage Foundation idea of making the social sciences available to the practicing professions. The idea was that Teachers College was not just a normal school and not just a school where we had the practical arts of teaching, but where we truly needed to incorporate intellectual frameworks from the social sciences and humanities. This meant incorporating these foundations on the TC faculty, not just by drawing from the departments at Columbia University. As I see it, this was a different version of what the Russell Sage Foundation was doing. Both were trying to use scholarly knowledge to teach people who were going to be in the various educating professions so they could think themselves and figure out how to do the practical tasks in classrooms. The education of those in the educating professions in this view was not just the more practical training of how to discipline students when you walk into the classroom or how you will write on the chalkboard.
I may be simplifying it, mocking stereotypes and critiques of the more practical views. But that was very much part of the ethos that Cremin and others were setting forth at that time at Teachers College. That was one of the struggles. And there were critics, for example, Harry Judge, who wrote one critical report. Do you have his name anywhere?
I: Hm-. [rustling papers] No.
R: He was a professor from Oxford University. He was on the adjunct group of the National Academy of Education (clears throat) which I was privileged to be voted into way back. Cremin was one of the founding leaders. Harry Judge wrote a report based on interviews with a number of faculty, oral history interviews, but not extensive interviews. Those interviewed were social scientists on the TC faculty to see whether they were like the real deal, real social scientists, and what they thought they were doing in a school of education.
This led to some very controversial discussions about whether social scientists should be on the Teachers College faculty or the School of Education should draw on the graduate faculties in the disciplines. And whether faculty in a school of education have come out of actual work in schools. Does anyone who was looking at the history of education or who was looking at the sociology of families or the anthropology of kinship structures, do they really have a place in education? Or is that too remote?
And Cremin was arguing, partly because things were changing rapidly, that we need the disciplines. And they’re fundamental. And others were saying no, that’s putting down the practice and we need to emphasize the practice. That was a debate this morning-
I: Mmm.
R: —in another guise—
I: Yeah.
R: —in the faculty meeting. In any case, the Parent Teacher Teams were supported in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation for work in the practicing professions that also included some anthropological studies in schools. I was very young and very new and maybe very timid, and glad to have any chance to do something that looked important. And this looked important.
We had in the course of the larger grant done some work in studying schools on the Lower East Side. Somewhere there should be a report on that. This offered background for the Parent Teacher Teams. In studying schools, I was going with Fritz Ianni and others to a school on the Lower East Side and trying to get a view of the everyday life of urban schools. As social scientists, we actually studied in and looked at schools. Even if we were teaching in schools, we also studied in and looked at schools. I can remember one fascinating thing we observed. I didn’t tell you about this, did I?
Kids would be sitting on the sidewalk outside the school. We would go in and try to be anthropologists and ask what is this? What are the kids sitting on the sidewalk? They were right outside the principal’s office. It seemed you could sort of smell a little bit of questionable smoke in the air. (laughter) And it turned out there was a grating and a heating vent, so that it was a warm comfortable place to sit. When you’re doing field observations, you’re not going in with a questionnaire. You are going to look at the school and try to figure out what’s going on. But what did we find? We found kids sitting on the sidewalk outside the principal’s office. With a little whiff of very familiar smoke at that time everywhere. (heh, heh)
I: (heh, heh)
R: [laughing while talking: But whiff of something unmentionable. Legalized unmentionable now. But—
I: Right.
R: —not then.] (laughter) But then we found out, by digging around and going in and talking with people that the funding for the school was dependent on attendance. This was generally know, but we didn’t know how it played out in this particular school. The funding that schools received was based on attendance. If the attendance was low, the school funding would go down. There wasn’t all the high-stakes testing there is now. But the principals were very concerned with keeping the attendance up because their funded depended on it.
On the other hand, the kids were very determined not to go to school any more than they had to. Because why would you, for heaven’s sake, get in a stuffy classroom where people are telling you things that you don’t want to know? Where are you going to do? You can’t go just anywhere. But outside there’s this nice warm place because the heat is coming up from the vent. It happens to be underneath the window of the principal’s office. But are you going to get rounded up and brought back to school?
Somehow or other, it seemed as if the kids went in and checked in, so they had checked in as present. Then there was a tacit agreement, and I’m not saying this was openly known, but there was a tacit agreement that no one was going to reprimand them for [laughing while talking: sitting and smoking in front of the principal’s office on the heated sidewalk if they kept the attendance up.]
I: This is a, this is a middle school?
R: What’s that?
I: This is a middle school?
R: It was a middle school. Yeah.
I: That’s incredible.
R: Yeah. So that’s what fieldworkers saw [laughing while talking: in those days. And that was an example of the kinds of projects that Fritz Ianni was involved in.]
At this time, the Parent Teacher Teams became a possibility. And since I had done fieldwork in schools and I was doing families and had taught community mental health through the Clinical Psychology program, and had written on families and kinship, I had by then accepted the idea that I needed to do family studies. I was working on families and television, and had a grant from the Spencer Foundation. Later I received a Guggenheim to study family memories. And by then I found research on families really interesting, that is after I started working on family memories. But that’s a later saga.
I: Yeah.
R: In any case, the paraprofessional training program came to us with funding from Ford. It seemed to be a great thing to do because clearly out views of the schools that we got showed that all kinds of things were going on in schools and that some sort of school reform was needed. I don’t know that it was so terrible that the kids were [laughing while talking: enjoying themselves outside the principal’s office and nothing was going to happen to them because of this.] At that time, there wasn’t the amount of test prep there is today. And it was attendance rather than test scores that was the big budgetary consideration. Maybe it wasn’t a terrible thing.
But it clearly alerted us, or alerted me. I can’t really speak for others to the idea that it would be a very good thing if people of the community who understood a little more about what’s going on in the community were involved in the schools. Probably the people in the schools were pretty savvy about what the kids wanted and maybe this was an unnecessary argument. But the argument I bought and a lot of people did was that it would be really good for the school if there were more people from the community involved. You just start off your paper with that idea. There is a great virtue of this woman who was of the community, had the experience, was a good mother, and knew what was really going on.
At the same time, there was all this wonderful notion of the community. There was a lot of sense that Columbia is that institution on the hill and you walk down the other side to Harlem and Columbia is up above. This image meant that it was arrogant and exclusive. I think it’s much more so now in many ways because it’s not so selective. This year, they had 33,000 undergraduate [laughing while talking: applications and rejected 31,000.] It’s—
I: True.
R: —it’s exclusive in different ways. But it was very much the notion that if you want to work in the community, you’ve got to get into the community. And the people on the faculty, unless they happen to be of the community—and what that meant exactly wasn’t clear. It didn’t just mean race. It meant maybe class. Maybe background. In order to have the proper understanding of the community, you had to have people of the community.
And then there was the question of the need for more people in positions in the schools. And so the Parent Teacher Teams project seemed to be an ideal way to work forward. I certainly did not anticipate that paraprofessional positions would become institutionalized in the way they did when we started the Parent Teacher Teams project. At that time, these were marginal positions. But we had the notion that the people who were going to be these paraprofessionals—I think “paras” is a slightly later term.
I: Mm-, yeah, that’s probably right.
R: In any case, they had to have an educational level at least of the grade in which they were working. So if they were going to be assistants in fourth grade, they had to have a fourth grade literacy level. Whatever that meant and however you measured it. But they didn’t have to necessarily be high school graduates or have certainly no college or teaching credentials, obviously. And then there was this very strong feeling, I think in some ways romanticizing knowledge. And putting down, sort of like a guilt trip against academic knowledge as being Ivory Tower. (We had a similar discussion today in the faculty meeting about “professors of practice.”) If you come from a discipline, if you’re not a professor of practice, you can’t do the real deal. You don’t know the real thing.
But there was very much a sense that somehow the knowledge of those who have been disenfranchised, the knowledge of the minorities, the knowledge of the people in the community was more powerful, more relevant in many ways than the knowledge in the university. But then what are we doing? Well, we have some knowledge that those in the community don’t have or, you know, or do we just have the credentials? There were big debates about this. What knowledge is it that matters?
So there was a notion that the whole program would include a career ladder, which you mentioned. This should be, on the one hand, a way to build the knowledge of the community into the schools and into school programs. On the other hand, it should create job opportunities for those who were doing these jobs and that would mean a ladder of advancement. That would mean, first of all, some literacy skills that some of the Parent Teacher Team members didn’t have. If you’re going to be helping with teaching reading or helping with teaching writing, then you should have a certain level of fluency. The idea was that there would be a program of courses in education that would include literacy skills. And then eventually a chance to move up the career ladder to teaching. I don’t know what it was from the very beginning, but this was all being negotiated and worked out in many quarters, not just here at Teachers College, One idea was that the career ladder should include high school equivalency and should lead to college admission for those who qualify.
Eventually someone who came in from the community could get whatever level of literacy improvement was needed to be at the level of grade in which they were working. They were presumably at that level when they came in, although we didn’t really do any screening to be sure. And then they could do high school equivalency and they would have an equal opportunity to go to college. And the institution in which they were getting this training would open up the doors.
I: And so how did that all work? Or did it?
R: Let me take a quick break [laughing while talking: and come back and tell you that.]
I: Absolutely.
R: —next part of the saga.
I: Yeah. Let me find my, my pause button.
R: Yeah.
I: I’ll press stop.
R: Press pause.
[End of Part I Recording, Beginning of Part II]
I: And so this again is Nick Juravich back with Professor Hope Leichter at Teachers College on October 23, 2014.
R: All right. I'm happy to continue. This is, this is actually great—
I: Thank you so much.
R: --fun to-. It's fascinating to and fantastic to have someone interested in--, and I told you this last time, of the period that I lived through and people seem to think didn't happen. You know. So I think this is, it's recent enough history so that it's, there still are people who have [laughing while talking: done it and feel they ought to know about.] When we recapitulate it today.
But let me just tell you, you're saying it's helping to know something about the intellectual atmosphere at the college at the time—
I: Absolutely.
R: --and how this fit in with the intellectual frameworks. And I do recommend you look at Lawrence Arthur Cremin's--, I mean you probably have.
I: A little bit. Yeah. But—
R: Well—
I: --probably not as much as I should.
R: You more-, more, more and more. You can't read too much of Cremin. Um-. Uh-. And um-, he did push another program. He was very supportive of the Family and Community and also started a program on educating and the educating professions, which was to have people who would do rotations in various community organizations and um-. That's a whole other history but the social atmosphere at the time is, is, is just one little anecdote. (clears throat) Um-.
Not even an anecdote. A vignette rather. Um-. During part of this history, John Fisher--. Do you know? Have you? Has that name come up?
I: (flipping papers) Don't know it, I'm afraid.
R: John Fisher was president of Teachers College. He passed away I think a couple of years ago. He was a very proper and upright um-, former school principal, and I believe in the Baltimore schools, and had been involved successfully in desegregating schools. And he had-, and he's Johns Hopkins and he had a very lovely, lovely wife who was um-, very adept at the social graces of a-, sort of Southern social graces. And (clears throat) she would, they would give at the president's house which was in a building that's now a-. I don't even know what's in there now. But um-, Cremin, when he was president, never moved into the house cause he believed in keeping your own residence and not getting hooked on the perks of the job. And he had an apartment on the East side where he kept (___?). But this was used for, for receptions and things then. But, and he, he would give dinners there. But um-, John Fisher and his wife would give um-, dinners, Christmas dinners for the family. And (clears throat) with a little bit of a problem because there were, I think, at that point a couple of us who were--, and that the family would be--, the Teachers College family would be the Chairs, the department Chairs, and maybe the division directors, and the president and his wife. And then there would be-, it would be formal, black tie. Uh-, not white tie, but black tie. And the distinction was well known to [laughing while talking: those of Southern heritage and] um-, and you would go. And there was a little problem because two of us who were women department Chairs both has spouses and what do you do? Because after the dinner, you are supposed to retire and the ladies go to powder their noses and the men go to smoke cigars. And I mean, I-, I [laughing while talking: swear this is true.] (laughter)
I: I believe it. (laughter)
R: And but on the other hand, the cigar smoking is a time for the Chairs to get together and um-, you know, [speaks with a deep voice: informally talk about the big issues of the day] and so forth. And what are you going to do with these two uh-, women Chairs who clearly can't smoke cigars. I mean, first of all [laughing while talking: I don't smoke. But--] that wasn't even an option. We couldn't smoke cigars. We had to powder our noses because heaven knows, we had to powder our noses [laughing while talking: whatever that meant.]
I: (laughter)
R: Um--. And so it was of course divided as you could guess. The women Chairs went to powder their noses.
I: (heh, heh)
R: And (laughter) [laughing while talking: the spouses of the women Chairs went] to smoke cigars and um-, discuss the politics of the institution with the men. And Norma came--, the, the president's wife, came with us to powder our [laughing while talking: noses and John went] and we were, per John and Norma, if we were Chairs. (laughter) Others, I think, on the faculty had to call him Professor and Mrs. or whatever, but we were (___?) Chairs so we could, we could call him John.
I: Huh.
R: But um-. At a certain point--. This went on for a few years and I can't tell you how many. It seems like quite a few cause it was always a thing, I mean, what are you going to wear? Do you have a--, proper--. And, you know, I think [laughing while talking: most academics don't have—
I: [laughing while talking: Right.]
R: --and] um--. We happened to go to Vienna to some occasions the-, parenthetically, so I think my husband, at that point, had a tuxedo or he knew how to rent them. So that was OK. We, we managed to do that. But at a certain point, um-, Fritz Ianni, this is getting back to the paraprofessionals a little-, it's a little uh-, round about. But it's talking about the atmosphere at the time. Um-. That was, you know, very sort of hierarchical and proper in a sense that you were in your hierarchical position because of proper publications and uh-. And yet we were doing good. John Fisher was here out of the school system because he had desegregated schools. And yet, we-. I mean I don’t think that we had um-, I don't know who was waiting on table. But I don't know what their race was. (heh, heh) I--. [laughing while talking: I was too busy worrying about whether I was properly dressed.]
But I suspect, I suspect they were of the community, serving us at the dinner. Yeah. Actually, I do remember. They were.
I: Right.
R: By and large. But in any case, we had desegregated the schools and we were, we were doing this in our formal attire [laughing while talking: and--]. But, at a certain point, Ed Gordon, who was um-, head of IUME [the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College], Ernest Morrell's-, one of his predecessors, um-, professor here for many years. You, you must, he must be in records.
I: Yes. Yes.
R: And have you talked with him?
I: I haven't spoken with him personally yet. No.
R: Well, anyway, he was um-, very, very um-, fine psychologist, African American uh-, married to a white woman who was a physician. But um-, um-, he was African American. Uh-. The fact that his wife was white was, you know, one of these things that some people did [laughing while talking: but--] but um-, no, but they had a wonderful relationship. I don't mean in any way to say anything in anyway critical of them cause they had a longstanding relationship. And, and uh-, um-, but he was very for working with the community and so, and Fritz Ianni was, you know, studying the Mafia and very flamboyant. So one Christmas, Fritz Ianni [laughing while talking: arrives in a velvet tuxedo of some color.] Not like, you know, like this kind of bright colors.
I: (heh, heh)
R: And a velvet tuxedo. And Ed arrives in a dashiki. And (laughter), and they, they still-, I mean we have our name tags at the table and the formal setting and all the silverware in the right places and all. And um-, um-, we still retired and I think uh-, the women [laughing while talking: didn't have the benefit of any one in more, more--.] I mean, women get to dress up at an occasion like that. But segue a little bit forward, and I'm, you know, skipping all the details.
In any case, that was kind of a-, that represented--. The reason I tell you the story is cause it represented the tensions internal to the institution at that time of where we still--. And it comes up later in the Parent/Teacher Teams where we are a very renowned institution with all those formalized traditions and tenure and status and distinctions of rank. And, and yet we're-, our big mission is equity and redressing the balances of slavery, and, and the segregation of the schools. And the same kinds of things we're still talking about today. Um-, and, you know, we're still getting over the, the, the well, World War II got us out of the Depression if you want to have one interpretation. But in any case, we weren't dealing with the Depression mentality. But we were, we still knew that there were works projects that could get you, could make, could help you improve the economic system. But we weren't going to lose the formality.
So—
I: That's fascinating.
R: Segue a little bit forward. Larry Cremin becomes president. And his wife, Charlotte, have you talked with her?
I: I haven't. No.
R: Well, she doesn't--, she's very private. But she's now I think in California and one of their children died-
I: Mm-
R: --uh-, shortly after he passed away. And, and um-, um-, but she was a daughter of someone who was a faculty member at Columbia, Barnard, here maybe. And super, super smart math person. And she happens to be a crossword puzzle champion. And sort of like a real super brilliant, brilliant, brilliant person, but, but was happy to have two kids and, and uh-, do the wifely role. But she was not about to do the elegant Southern dinner. And Larry was a very fine pianist. Almost become, became a concert pianist rather than a professor of history. And so, we suddenly had parties at their house. And what was everyone doing? Well, we had to wear skirts that were long enough so that we could sit on the floor and not be uncomfortable. But everyone was sitting around, sitting on the floor.
I: (heh, heh)
R: [laughing while talking: And Larry was playing the piano brilliantly. And] then we were still talking some of the same issues. But there was so uh-, thing of the Chairs dividing up by [laughing while talking: gender and powdering their noses or smoking cigars.] We were sitting on the floor. And, and uh-, listening to Larry play or singing song and, and I don't think we danced. Dancing was maybe--. Somehow--, I don't know what it was about sitting on the floor. It was part of the sort of the [laughing while talking: liberation of the time.]
I: (heh, heh)
R: And, you know, I think if you want to understand a move of liberation of any kind, it's useful to have the, put it juxtapose it in images so you know what we were rebelling against.
I: Yeah.
R: Not that it was a big rebellion. But Charlotte also said um-, admirably, we are not going to serve a single meal at the president's house. And she was a housewife, except mainly she was doing math and crossword puzzles. But she was not working in, in a profession outside the home. But she loved to cook. And she wasn't going to have the people, the staff, doing all the work.
And I don't know whether that was an equity--, it partly was, I think. I don't know. She'd have to talk to that point. She'd probably come up with a completely different recollection. But in any case, she was going to cook part of every meal at the president's house.
I: Oh, wow.
R: And she was a very good cook. And so she would uh-, cook the food and she didn't cook the whole thing. She didn't cook all the courses. But every meal, I think she started out with that, but then it became a little too big. But every meal that there was a party at the president's house at that point, she would, if she was.-- I'm not saying he didn't have other parties that maybe were more work related, but the, the holiday celebrations and all, she would always cook a meal and serve it. And walk around and serve it.
So I think that little vignette maybe gives you a sense of these, these mixed messages that were going on. I mean, John Fisher was the great integrator of the schools. Of public schools. But the hierarchy, the formality, the sense that we are here because we know somehow more than other people was still there. And yet there was Fritz Ianni and his [laughing while talking: velvet tuxedo and Ed Gordon in a dashiki.] And then, Charlotte having us sit on the floor.
I: That is really--. That's quite a transition.
R: Well, it is and you see, I think it's representative of--, I, I think we're not sitting on the floor quite the same way now. But uh-. Although last, the year before last, there was a floor sitting episode. But that's another story. [laughing while talking: In any case--] Students sitting on the floor outside—
I: Right.
R: --and the faculty revolting on uh-, bonuses [laughing while talking: that the administration but--.] Another. That's outside the [laughing while talking: historic period we're talking about so I won't—
I: That's true.
R: --bring that in.] But I, I do think that to understand what we thought we were doing, one needs to think about the-, both the bodies of scholarship we were drawing on.
I: Yeah.
R: And then the kind of way it played out in the, the social relations within the institution. That said, um-, Fritz Ianni was, you know, he was um-, very flamboyantly idealistic. And he was an anthropologist in the sense that he went everywhere and papers would get lost in his car trunk. But then they could be found if you found out where he parked and [laughing while talking: got the key and went and got them and] and um-. But he believed in going into the community and being of the community and he also believed in kind of emphasizing the more informal side of relationships here. Although he was, he ran the division with an iron hand. I mean, he, we-, we did all the things you, you do in a meeting. You, you um-, you come at a time and uh-, and you meet and you have papers and you process them and you vote on things and, you know, that didn't change. We weren't doing a, a occupy [laughing while talking: movement at Teachers College] and sitting around without formal structural leadership. But what specifically about the Parent/Teacher Teams in this kind of context-. And I'm mixing some of the periods, but um-. There was this sense of possibility. And there was this sense that we had to play our part in working with the community, in helping the community, in making up for the past crimes. And I don't think the vocabulary then was that-, there's a lot of that today in certain quarters that you, you have to um-, recognize white privilege. And if you don't go through whatever training program it is to uh-, recognize that you're privileged or recognize, I don't know, male privilege. It's more talked about white privilege. But maybe recognize male privilege. But um-.
We had one of those mandatory--. What was it? What were we being mandated-, mandated to do? This is one of these like FRPA, new federal requirements. A year ago we had-. I think it was mandatory sexual harassment, which is a funny way to phrase it. But I think we had to-, somehow we had an outside consultants come in and that's a much more now than then. And we had to go through training where we recognized our white privilege and, and uh-. I don't know. Could it have been sexual harassment?
I: Yeah. That has been a big issue certainly—
R: I think maybe it was—
I: --for the university.
R: --It--. I think it was. But in any case, um-, one of the first issues that came up with the paraprofessional training pro-, program specifically was where do we hold-. I mentioned this last time.
I: Yeah. I know.
R: And in this context of on the one hand, you know, this is the school where we stand for desegregation. Um-. There was a very strong sense that we had to go to the community. And we had to set up storefront uh-, offices in various places. And I was doing that for the clinical psych program. I took the clinical psych students over on, on where was it? It was Lexington or somewhere and 117th Street to get to this community clinic at one point, and arrived - maybe I told you that last time -- and arrived and found that there'd been a couple of people shot—
I: Oh, you didn't tell me this. No.
R: Drug related things. And so the community was a real community. That was, you know, real community. Well, I was a little unnerved because I had all these like 15 or so, 20 uh-, clinical psych students. I was about, about the same age they were at that point. But in any case, I was, I had the professorial responsibility for their safety and we get to this place where we're supposed to see community um-, mental health program. And somebody's been shot in a drug-related act of violence, and, and uh-, um-.
But nevertheless, there was the sense that, that if you want to get over the um-, hostility that the community feels towards Columbia, the hatred of the institution on the hill, the sense that there's privilege there that we don't have, um-. If you want to get beyond that, you have to walk the walk so to speak. You have to go into the community. And I'd done a lot of that and that maybe was one of the reasons I was asked to do this. And it was also cause I was doing stuff on families and, and these were basically--. They were mostly women, but they were bringing-, it was the idea of bringing families into schools or family members into schools and, and therefore bringing the voice of the community.
But then what, where, where were we going to hold it? Well, we--. Related to that was the question of what kinds of knowledge did we have to impart or offer? And um-, there was all this: Well, you know, you want to be participatory and it was phrased a little differently from the way it is now. But you want to let people choose what they want and so forth. But we had a question of who's going to available to teach. And, and partly for scheduling reasons, if we wanted to have lectures and workshops, uh-, and take advantage of the faculty at the college, and take advantage of the scheduling issues of the people in the paraprofessional training program (coughs) we couldn't go running around to a lot of-. We couldn’t get enough people to run around on the right schedule. It's not that they wouldn't have been willing to do it. But we couldn’t have a whole program by going out into the community each time we did it.
And so we ended up--. And there was, it was very controversial. And I don't know whether it's in any of the reports or this may be something that um-. You know, it was very hard to pull off because it was so frowned on. It was seen like so politically incorrect to say we're going to-, we're not going to go into the community. We will offer courses at the college. Um-. But we did and I, as I say, it was partly for practical reasons. But then, I also--. I don't know whether I really knew in advance, but I also thought, and I’m not sure where Fritz Ianni was, cause he was always-. You could hardly ever find him. He was always somewhere. So he would have been anywhere but in one of his Ferraris or something. (heh, heh) But um-.
We decided uh-, that we would hold the training programs at TC. And we would have lecturers. And then--. And I don't think you could do this today, uh-, cause the whole financial structure's different. I don't think we had to--. As far as I know, and Fritz Ianni was handling the budgets of the project. And I don’t know, and I don't think there's anything in the files that I have that would talk to this point, but I don't think we paid the college for the use of rooms, which you would have to do now.
I: Right. Right.
R: And I don't think we had to--. We didn't have IDs. You didn't have to have IDs to get in the college at those points, that time. So we didn't have um-. Anyone could come in and so--. But they couldn't use the library. You had to have an ID to use the library. But not to-. Now you would use the ID to get in and then you can go right into the library. But um-. We did get permission for the members of the parapro-, Parent/Teacher Teams to use the library and to bring their children into the library. And we even got permission – and this, I think it's closed now anyway, but we got permission for the children, or the parents and their children to use the swimming pool.
And that, you know, that sounds like a trivial thing, but it was a big, big deal then to the people in the program. A lot of people really liked it, took advantage of it. And then they could go home and say, which was in a way only partly true, that they were going to Columbia. And, and that I didn't really anticipate, it was-. I sort of thought that would be the welcoming thing to do, but I also, it was-, as I say, partly pragmatic in terms of scheduling. But uh-.
So we did that and I don't think we could do that today here in the same way. I mean, the swimming pool doesn't exist. The children lib-, books and children's section of the library doesn't exist. And I don't think we'd get permission for bringing a, a group in. I was on the library committee to get permission for a group that's working at the Natural History Museum to come here and graduate students, not even of the community. I don't think we could pull it off. For an event, maybe, but not for a--. You know, they had passes. They could just come. They could come do their homework. They could come with siblings. And um-.
Anyway, that was one part--. Now what's the message in that? The message is that you do things and you don't always know all the implications as you're doing them. You don't quite know what's, what's going to unfold. But I think it was welcoming and democratic beyond what we in some ways would have consciously been able to plan. But it was held here. Our, our part of the training program was held here. We did go out into community areas and schools and stuff. But, but mostly what we did was here.
Then the second issue had to do with the curriculum. And that, I suspect in those files there may be some--. There may or may not be. But um-, there probably are records of who the lecturers were and what kinds of content. But it was, there was a lot of controversy because again, the idea was that we would um-, have the community involved in the decisions. The, the people in the program involved in the choices of subject matter. And in those days, it wasn't like today. Any time you turn on NPR, there's like half the program is people from the community calling in with their opinions and their stories and their reactions. That kind of wasn't part of the ethos then.
But it was very much the idea that, that because these people in the community had superior life experience – not just had life experience but had superior life experience cause they'd overcome the hardships of poverty and racial discrimination. So they had life experience that those in the college, some of the faculty had the same experience. But, but institutionally, we didn't know this story. So, so the belief was. Um-.
So we thought what was needed--. We being the people who were involved in, in planning the program, thought we needed to include things on the arts and music. So the broad gamut of a humanistic education. And uh-, I can remember some heady meetings with the, discussing with some of the community members who were, the para-, the team members, para-, paraprofessionals who were part of the group that was trying to make the decisions about what we would do. And they were saying: Well, you, you just want-. This is racist. You just want to-. You just want us to have art and music cause, you know, that's part of the stereotype that that's all we can do. Yeah. And, and--.
We were saying: Oh, you know (___?). No, this is (___?). (heh, heh) It's needed and, and uh-. Art and literature is, is part of reading. Well, we want to, we want to have-. You're, you're trying to block us from getting the basic skills. And—
I: That's fascinating.
R: Isn't that interesting? And it was, it was a-. I mean, I'm not saying it dominated the whole thing. But these were very um-. It was, it was high energy. Every, everything we did was high energy because it was always needing to be discussed. And it was a real thing. It wasn't like the, the kind of nervous energy to figure out whether you're wearing the right evening gown to John Fisher's Christmas party. That's a different [laughing while talking: kind of high energy. Where you're going to hold our wine glass and the proper form.] This was really--. I mean, we were negotiating real issues. And, and, and trying to decide whether where we stood morally and, and what was, what was right and what was wrong. These were real intense issues. And there were disagreements. It wasn't all like smooth and happy and everyone saying: Oh, isn't this wonderful? We're being asked to Columbia.
I mean, every single decision was, was a matter of either, either personal discussion and negotiation or it was a matter of personal angst and, you know, sleepless nights wondering are we doing the right thing or not. Or what are the issues here. But, we ended up--. I think I mentioned last time, we had, among other things, we had Leland Jacobs who was a professor of children's literature. Did I mention him before?
I: I don't know.
R: Well—
I: I'll write him down.
R: Leland Jacobs. He's passed away, retired and passed away a long time ago. But he was a incredible-. He's just one example. We, we said well, we'll-. We had to get who we could get. And there were a lot of people who were saying: Oh, isn't this wonderful. You're doing this community thing. And isn't it nice we have young people on the faculty who are doing such real important work in the community, like, you know, you're, you're too young to do [laughing while talking: the real scholarship, but isn't it nice that you're doing something.] [R: speaking here but out of range and the section that follows, she's having trouble with the microphone: (___?)]
I: You've lost your lapel.
R: Oh, dear. No, that won't—
I: It's all right.
R: --do. I have--. (___?) words to say. You don't want to lose them.
I: Exactly. (heh, heh)
R: Um-. Um-. But we-, we--. (sighs) I can't say we were flying by the seat of our pants, but we're-, it was really--. We didn't know how it was going to come out. And we were doing something very new. And we had, we
had--. How am I going to get this on again?
I: The clip's kind of behind it.
R: What have I done? Did I twist it around?
I: Actually, I think you're OK. Yeah. If you pinch the clip there, it's sort of behind the mic.
R: Sure. I had it before. There. I should be able to get it again. Have I got it on now?
I: Perfect.
R: It's all right?
I: Yeah. I think it's, it's caught on your leg. That's why it—
R: Oh, well, I've been moving around.
I: That's quite all right. I've been doing the same. (heh, heh)
R: Moving around too much while talking. Um—
I: Don't worry about it.
R: But uh-. What were the principles that we were going on? One was that we needed a more egalitarian society. And education was key to that. But two, that education needed to include the broad gamut of the, the history and, and philosophy, and social science and, and the arts. And that that was all part of it. And not just the reading, writing, quantitative skills. Uh-.
And so it took discussion to try to get people in the, in the paraprofess-, paraprofessional team, Parent/Teacher Teams to, to see our rationale. But then Leland Jacobs managed to--. He was incredibly charismatic an incredible speaker. And he um-, could just get a whole audience--. He'd be reading, like reading a children's book in this incredible dramatic voice. And we'd have-, you know, like an auditorium filled with these um-, 99 women and one man. We had one man in the group. And um-, they would just be-, they were enthralled by him. And he would be just showing them the value of children's literature. And then he had one among many sayings that um-, his mother, I think somewhere in Minnesota, or somewhere in the Midwest, would say to him: Well, you know, if you don't know a word when you're reading, don't stop. Just say teakettle. And go on. And so he would [laughing while talking: read these, you know] very (___?) get into the whole language, phonics debate. There isn't--. We were debating that at the time. I mean, we were. That was being debated. But he was just saying, you know, let's be practical. Let's say that this is a great story. You're going to lose the thread of the story if you just don't keep moving. So teach the kids to just keep on and say teakettle and move on.
But he would do this. And then the room was-, it was like a, it was like a church. People were standing up and cheering and, and, and thoroughly engaged cause he was so utterly charismatic. And so, that kind of was, to me, one example. And then it was partly his personal style as much as the content. And you could very well have someone who would give a much less engaging lecture on how to use children's literature to teach kids.
But we, we managed to have um-, I think a series of lectures and workshops where people um-, from the college faculty who weren't ordinarily teaching um-, people with a fourth grade, fifth grade literacy, um-, could do it. And, and, and could reach the audience. And I'm not saying we always did. But then we had the issue of it being a, a career ladder.
I: Right.
R: And the question of um-, high school equivalency. And I think I did mention this last time, but you don't have it recorded, so I will tell that part of the saga again. Um-. We wanted to get people through the high school equivalency, and nobody on the faculty was really qualified to teach high school equivalency specifically. We had people doing math and doing literature and writing and so forth. But the, the specifics of the test were less known. And we happened to have a couple of people here. One was, one was named George Ganzel who was, happened to be the husband of uh-, a woman who unfortunately passed away, was a secretary, administrator in the, in the department of Family and Community Education. George Ganzel. And he-, he was like a math whiz and really good at, you know, acing exams. And so we hired him. And there was another person who was an adjunct professor here, Charlie Slack. He'd gotten a doctorate and Harvard and, and uh-, during the Timothy Leary era. And uh-, Harvard and Princeton and moved around and was very sort of, like one of these genius types, sort of like overall genius types, who can tackle any subject and has big ideas about everything. And his um-, he eventually--. Well, another clothing--. I seem to have too many clothing stories. I think I've told you this before, was a graduate student in the Department of Family and Community Education who was a nun in a long habit. And—
I: Oh.
R: And then she moved up and the skirts got shorter and then eventually she was wearing a mini skirt and then eventually she left the order, remained Catholic, and married Charlie Slack. So--. [laughing while talking: It seems like this was a--. Family and Community Education was a hot bed of romance--
I: (laughter)
R: --of unexpected kinds. But] in any case, he um-, Charlie Slack and George Ganzel were, took over the, the um-, uh-, high school equivalency training program. But they couldn't handle-, you need fairly small groups. And so we kind of--. And I can't remember whether it was Fritz Ianni might have been the one that helped with this, but I don't know for sure. I'd have to see if there are any records of that. Somehow or other, we managed to find out that one of the best rates of passing the high school equivalency was at Riker's Island, in the prison. And we were perhaps a trifle naïve. We didn't think that there might be [laughing while talking: special reasons why the, the rate of success] on the exam was high there. But um-. We got a couple of people from that program to come and, and work in the program.
And we had so few people who passed the high school equivalency. But it, you know, it's a, it's a long haul. And we didn't have the rates of high school um-, equivalency passing that Riker's Island did. But then, the people in Riker's Island apart from any other possible ways that the might have had an advantage uh-, were there. (laughter) And they—
I: Right.
R: --[laughing while talking: had time and they didn't have children and they weren't working in a school and they weren't commuting and uh--.] I subsequently worked with someone who was in prison for 20 years, but she, when she got out, or--. She's now on the School of Social Work faculty, but when she got out, she said--, I was working with her on her doctorate and teaching out there, and she said: Oh, we had so much time in prison to read. And, and, you know, that's [laughing while talking: not a reason to go to prison obviously, but in any case] uh-, we didn't have great um-, high school equivalency results. Um-.
I guess today in the high stakes testing, we might have been shut down for that. But, but that was not the only thing that we were supposed to be doing. That was supposed to be the career ladder by-product of the program.
Then, if, if you are doing it, and you know, some of this is not, not one step after the other. But you, we're anticipating we're going to have a lot of people, so we have to negotiate where are they going to go once they have the high school equivalency. And I think I mentioned this last time. But I will tell it again. So somehow it fell to me and I don't remember whether Fritz Ianni came along or not. I have a feeling he didn't uh-, cause he had a way of not being there [laughing while talking: when it was tough and being there when it was--]. No. That's unfair. But in any case, uh-, I don't know whether he came with me or not. But I have this recollection of going very unsupported and alone to one of the deans of General Studies and um-, arguing that um-, in addition to the high school equivalency if someone had life experience in the community and could do all the things you mention in your opening story of, of, you know, bringing the knowledge of the community and working with children and making them, acting like a teacher, being as good as a teacher. They surely qualified for um-, going to Columbia.
And it was a time when, you know, there was a lot of ferment in the air. But I was, was like: How dare you? I was not greeted with open arms. And uh-, it was well-, I mean I can't say that they quite said how dare you, but in essence, in a probably more flowery, more academic way, I was told that oh well, the qualifications require a, a lot more than just the high school equivalency. And the, you know, it's not the-. In those days, there weren't the 33,000 applicants, which is partly an artifact of people applying to so many schools, but there—
I: Right.
R: It wasn't like that at all. In fact, Columbia was not high on the desirable list because it was considered unsafe in the middle of Harlem and drug infested and, and not, not a, not on a--. It may be Ivy, but it wasn't an ideal place to go. The way it's seen now.
I: Right. Right.
R: But in any case, we did not have success getting um-, any idea of any sort of admissions advantage even to general studies for people--. But mostly, they didn't get that far anyway because, you know, it's a, as I say, it's a long haul if you have not just one child in school, but many children in school. And you may be an ideal teacher whether the training that we gave helped them in the schools in terms of the content, I don't know. I don't think you can really ever know or measure that exactly. Even though we have all sorts of supposed ways of measuring it today. But I think it gave them confidence. And I think part of the unwitting effect of--, this is opinion, not, not evidence based, but nevertheless, I think it gave confidence that they knew what real educators thought and said and how they talked and what they did and what they were striving for. And I gave-, I think it gave them personal confidence that they had, had the nerve to go into Columbia and to be here. And to bring their children in and to take them for swimming lessons or just swimming or--, and use the library here. And I think that may have been um-, as valuable as the particular content. And possibly it's true with uh-, you know, what do you get from Chicago or Oxford or Harvard? You get partly the confidence or lack of confidence [laughing while talking: that you've been there and you can—
I: (laughter)
R: --do it.] Um-. But I think it came to an end. We didn't get the funding. Um--. I think it was partly that we didn't, couldn't deliver on the career ladder. It's partly that part-, one of the funding models at that time and subsequently, was seed money. And that was very prevalent. And I can't tell you the details of how that worked out and, you know, whether that was really, you know, whether we were supposed to, for renewal, we had to bring in a certain amount of money or not. I can't tell you that. It may be in the files. But-. And I didn't do all the financial negotiations. But the model was seed, seed money.
And uh-, again, I think that's often with start up community projects, not just then, but subsequently. And if then there's some notion of a foundation or a government gives a grant, if it's really good, then somebody else is going to pick up the tab to continue it. And it doesn't happen that way. So it had a very-, it had very heady moments. Uh-, and very painful aspects to it. And for me, it was very hard because I failed. I managed to run a very exciting, good program, bring people here and have a lot of people just cheering and thrilled and happy and-. But I didn't get anywhere in terms of negotiating a career ladder or some sort of admissions preference to Columbia. And I was therefore considered a traitor. A failure.
I: By whom?
R: People in the program.
I: Hm-
R: You know, why-. Who are you? Are you, are you just taking the side of the institution? Why can't you do it? Or, you know. And it's, you know, at the time, well, what are you going to do? Barricade the streets? Are you going to have a sit down? Are you going to march? Are you--? And uh-. So it was very hard. It was very hard that we didn’t manage to continue it.
Now, at-, subsequently, it became much more institutionalized and then there were funding and I, I don't really know what happened through the City University. But-. And now we're doing another version of it. We have uh-, the department of Family and Community Education was closed and another round of negotiations, then Philosophy and the Social Science was closed in yet a later round under Arthur Levine of reorganizing the college. Now suddenly under Susan Fuhrman we have um-, EPSA, with Educational Policy, and Social Analysis. But culture is out of it. And the anthropologists are wandering around. And so a lot of institutional reorganization and a lot of change. Uh--. And it, it--. Some of the things that seemed that, seemed so important then, I think I mentioned that, that um-, I'm on the advisory board for the Teachers College Press. And I was told at a meeting someone was doing something--, you know, community thing. And I was saying how nice, but you ought to know the history. And they were saying, oh, well, that history was all corrupt. It was all corrupt. The community boards were corrupt. And money went-. Well, money goes, money goes in [laughing while talking: in, in the elite institutions, money goes in places that some might deem uh-, less than savory. I'm not going to say it in any other words for the moment cause this is being recorded even if I can delete it.] But—
I: Fair enough.
R: Yeah. There may have been money in some of the community school boards that um-, had accounting practices that would not pass muster and uh-, you know, maybe uh-, uh, the powers that be were occupying the community school boards and later they [laughing while talking: were occupying Wall Street. But uh--] it um-, was not a simple uh-, easy time and not a straightforward success. And yet I think um-, I think it-.
I really wish, I hope that you will be able to write something that the people who are doing another version of it now will be able to look at and understand um-, how, as you say, it's not a simple model for something today. But to understand the parameters, the special features of the social and economic situations at the time. And, it's not best practices or what worked or what didn’t work, cause you're not going to recapitulate those exact circumstances again. But to at least be aware of the fact that something has been tried. And I think the lesson of what was hardest and what was, was seemingly most enthusiastically greeted at the time is, is something to-, that people doing another version now should know. I mean we have big um-. One of the-. I don't know whether she's a provost. But in any case, we have a whole-, under Susan Fuhrman, we have a community, school, university community school involvement and uh-, that's sort of a separate entity. I have a graduate student, one of my advisees, working on it now. But some of the issues are, are not that dissimilar.
A few years later, uh-, I was involved in a project just a couple of years ago, like five years ago involved in a project with the Harlem Children's Zone and um-, again, different time, different cast of characters, different uh-, configuration. Ed Gordon was involved with the Harlem Children's Zone in the initial phases, but uh-, he wasn't wearing a dashiki anymore. (laughter) [laughing while talking: That was of the earlier period.] And Fritz Ianni, I think is long gone. And probably was wearing a velvet tuxedo to the end of his life. I would imagine. (laughter)
So I don't know. Is this helpful?
I: This is tremendously helpful. I wonder—
R: Well what questions do you have?
I: I have questions in all directions now, so—
R: Please. Please. You ask questions cause I'm just talking and sort of reminiscing and talking out loud. But I can probably tell you things that I haven't hit my mind in trying to tell a saga. That if you ask questions—
I: Well, there's--. A few different ones. Maybe one thing to start with is so did you--. I wanted to ask first if you taught some of the courses and the lectures and the actual content that some of these, these Parent/Teacher Teams participants came into. And sort of wondered if there were particular moments, you know, anecdotes, vignettes that stood out from these interactions, from, from working with the parents themselves.
R: Well, I was involved in a lot of the workshops. I didn't do the lectures specifically cause—
I: That's fine.
R: --the things I could have lectured on where families, and that was deemed the knowledge of the community members already.
I: Right. Right.
R: But I think the, the, the one anecdote I gave you of the Leland Jacobs—
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --was, was, you know, like an example of a breakthrough moment where something that was not what was wanted, was not what was deemed um-, uh-, the chosen-, it wasn't the first choice of, of if we could have all these--. I think we even ranked different, the possible subjects and people--. I don't think everybody, but some people in some sort of committee voted on what we would have. And then we did what we could do.
I: Right.
R: But uh-, I think there was, there was a-. You see, it was very mixed. I'm telling you the bitter end.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: But it was really very heady and very exciting. And, and uh-, I'd been-. And the reason I told you all the background of-, perhaps more than you need to know, but I had-, it's not as if I hadn't been doing the kind of sociological, anthropological work where I was going out into the community. I wasn't doing anthropology. I never, I never had malaria. I didn't go to New Guinea as my co-author did. And I, I haven't done overseas anthropology. But I did a lot of walking around in wherever it was I was studying. So that part wasn't um-, for me a new experience. But the idea of recognizing-. I came to see and I still do this in my courses, the, the notion that there is a lot of wisdom. But it's not just empty to the whole notion of life experience. Now I don't know that that translates into academically phrased knowledge. I think there is a translation issue. But I do know that I was very impressed by the um-, level of curiosity and interest and um-, you know, the abil-, juggling ability.
We had a study of literacy in homes later, sub-, sep-, separate. But the-, one of things the NAME Center did, but that, that was separate. But I think um-, the notion that you know there is everyday literacy. I mean that was part of-, again, another part of the academic atmosphere at the time. There were studies of literacy in community and studies of practical--. Like there's some study, I think it was in North Africa or somewhere, one of the-, Jean Lave or some one of the anthropologists that was um-, doing--. Michael Cole, Jean Lave studying um-, everyday math. And, you know, the notion that, that tailors in some-, I think it was North Africa, I can't-, I, I could find the reference and look it up for you. But there's a whole body of literature showing that everyday math is very uh-, the people know, people who can't do the math in school are actually doing it in everyday life. And, you know, tailors and, and the, the-. We did this, another, a separate study but it was not quite (___?) but, but also as I said, work (___?) the center. Where you, we were going into homes and looking at everyday skills, reading and writing and math and everyday literacies in the home. And the, the-, part of the math example was always tailors in the tailor shop in wherever it was, Egypt, North Africa, somewhere, were able to visualize and cut the patterns and, you know, not waste any cloth and know how to rotate it and, you know, the kinds of things you get on a, on an SAT or on a-, um-, an aptitude test. But they were doing it. And uh-.
I remember in, again not through the Parent para-, Parent/Teacher Teams Project, but I was predisposed to look for that from the work with the, with the women, the parents in the Parent/Teacher Team Project that we would-, we looked at patterns and sewing in the home. And partly out of a literature. But, you know, yes, indeed, we did find that um-, the everyday skills were cognitively sophisticated. And uh-, people who did sewing and had limited budget could indeed figure out how to maximize the amount of stuff you got out of a piece of cloth. And this is a mathematical skill. This is maybe a geometric skill. But it's definitely a cognitive skill. And uh-. I had-. I think that kind of, the-. That plus another aspect of the-. So the, the intellectual skills in the-, and this whole argument that, of the knowledge, the life experience knowledge.
Another thing was juggling. Call it time management. But it was like just juggling. Juggling things so you're keeping all sorts of things going at once. And we had someone who did a study of grandparents as educators with a little grant we got from the Ford Foundation. And she followed a grandmother through her daily life. Just ev-. One grandmother's day kind of thing. And followed her through her whole day. And she had all kinds of problems. She was taking care of the kids, grandchildren, and-. But the point is that her everyday skills, even though she had the children taken away from her because she had diabetes and they, they, the homemaker was, program was cut and so it was very, very, very sad story. But she had these intellectual skills, cognitive skills, management skills to be able to handle a son in a mental hospital and a daughter in a drug rehabilitation program and four grandchildren and going to all the different schools and social service agencies and getting there on time unless the previous one held her up.
But so incredible manage-, life management skills. And that I think I didn't know about in, in the way-. I mean, I saw vivid examples of that. And that was then made a rationale for needing to study that and make that a, an area of scholarship and something that you look for.
Another example in the literacy ski-, literacy in the home was, was coupon clipping. Coupon clipping and organizing coupons and, and people who, you know, had maybe fourth grade literacy, they could clip the coupons and they could organize them in little pock-, packages and, and um-, save a lot of money that way.
I: Yeah.
R: So there was a bringing together and the, the thing if it's not quite as simple as the way I'm saying it because some of the people on the faculty have similar backgrounds. But that’s not the discourse that's the predominant discourse of academics. But the, the notion-, I guess what I'm trying to say is this whole notion of live experience, if you look more closely at the life experience, it, it's-, I'm not sure you can or should necessarily give credit toward college admissions for life experience just in general. And certainly not just on the basis of being a minority or being a, either um-, racial minority or economic minority. But if you can indeed find out what the cognitive skills of everyday living are, they can be very real.
I: Yeah. That's a-. I mean, that's actually a go-, a great way to think about some of the language I have in the paper where I talk about uh-, the (___?), the Women's Talent Corps coming to realize this and Harlem's sophistication and that kind of thing. And that's a, that's a very vivid description of, of how to think about that.
R: Right. And again, you could tie that in with the academic literature from some of the—
I: Yeah.
R: --Jean Lave and the sort of cognition and situated cognition. It's called situated cognition. One version of it.
I: One thing I wanted to ask you about was sort of the, the, you know, thinking again about sort of a larger zeitgeist, the spirit of the times and what not. So this is happening in the late 1960s.
R: Right.
I: And it includes then people who are coming from Harlem during a period when there are really quite enormous fights over community control at I S 201, over decentralization. I mean, the sort of very much still thinking about both the Civil Rights movement and Black Power and these kinds of things as well as a sort of burgeoning Latino rights movement as well in parts of—
R: Right.
I: --Harlem-
R: Right.
I: --and East Harlem. So I wondered if and how these things played in.
R: Well, I think they played in from the perspective-. Probably in a variety of ways from the perspective of those in the college, they played in that the Civil Rights movement gave a rationale and gave an impetus and an idealism to it. Um-. It became tricky, though. Because in the versions of Civil Rights that were not the Martin Luther King more inclusive versions, in the Black Power um-, part of it, then and--. Yeah. Geoffrey Canada was, was reportedly did not want to have anything to do with Teachers College, in a much later version. Um-, but there was a sense of you can't-, it has to be done by the community. It's (___?), it's Black Power and then that's not going to be inclusive. It's going to be a revolution that leaves out the people who are-, and it's going to be taking over the university with, with another group in the extreme version.
So I think there's a-, well, much critiqued liberalism in the notion that we as a largely white institution were probably even less Hispanics or we're maybe bilingual stuff comes in there, so there--. Then the language issues are another matter. But that we are qualified to help and we're going to help out of goodwill. Um-, rather than being forced to help. And I think that's, that's a very difficult set of political questions to wrestle with. And I don't know that we-. I don't think-. I think a lot of my thinking on it came after the fact. It was just-, we were just too involved in doing it to uh-, uh-, think about it. But certainly the Black Power issues were right there.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: And uh-, you know, again that's part of the John Fisher story of the dinner party. I mean, that was-. Ed Gordon in a dashiki. I mean, he's a very, very mild-mannered uh-. This is not Black Power movement. That's like a decorative dashiki. It's not a [laughing while talking: Black Power statement and--]. I don't think he had an afro either. Uh-, maybe. But um-. It-. I think he still had enough hair then. But--. Anyway, I'm [laughing while talking: mixing time periods now.]
I: No. No it's—
R: But, but I think that it was perhaps a reason for some of the backing off.
I: That's interesting.
R: On the part-. I mean, I'm reading between the lines and I have no way of knowing cause I never got my foot in the door enough to find out what was in the minds of those in the, in General Studies, or the deans who did not see the value of life experience or, or, you know, those who--. They weren't saying we have to keep the, keep the college segregated. No. People weren't saying that. But an easy route in or an affirmative action route in, they may have voted for affirmative action and still said well, no, they're not going (get credit for?) life experiences. Not good enough. And I think the, the uh-, you know, it's all very well when you're still in the dominant role and you can parcel out a little bit of help. That's a very different feel to it. And a different kind of institutional welcome as compared with the Black Power movement, which was not about sharing power in the rhetoric.
I: Right.
R: You know, and that changed over time, too. But, but I think that maybe that was one of the, one of the stumbling blocks from the point of view of movement within the institution.
I: and that makes—
R: It was very present.
I: That makes sense. Well, and of course, there's an enormous uh-, Black Power inflected student strike at Columbia.
R: Oh, absolutely.
I: Right during--
R: Absolutely.
I: --this time.
R: Well, absolutely. And that was very much part of why on the one hand this was greeted as a heady success. Uh-, on the other hand, where it was, you know, you can only go so far.
I: Right. That's very important. And, you know, it-, when you, when you were talking about the experience of going to these G.S. deans, um-, it sounds like you were sort of out there on your own. I mean, it was, were you able at all to get any other faculty at TC, other deans here, or leaders to sort of put pressure on G.S.? Or was it really just—
R: No. No. I-. Well, I didn't even know how to try, frankly. Um-, because for one thing, we weren't getting renewed funding. And you know, cause of the seed money issue and um-. And it-. Oh, Fritz Ianni would have. But he-. And I gave-. He may have gone with me. But I don't-. I have this feeling of being all alone. And I, I would, I'll have to check in and see whether in fact there's any record of, of the meetings I went to. I do know that I felt very alone in taking the brunt of the criticism for failure. And, you know, again it, it was-, they were heady times. And I think one of the reasons it was so painful because I didn't, wasn't sure in my own mind whether I was being--. I mean, the, the vocabulary again was different. But whether it was, I was being a privileged white liberal. I mean, people weren't saying: Oh, be aware of your privilege and give up your privilege in, in the way they are today. And whether it means anything today, I don't know either. But I didn't know for sure--.
There were moral choices that I didn't-, that I was struggling with all the time. And it wasn't just that, that we didn't succeed and we didn't meet a certain set of criteria. We failed on an exam. It was much more difficult, real moral choices. Ethical choices. And I wasn't sure how to think them out.
I: Sounds like a very—
R: And, you know, the things that I thought were my ideals were, were not quite working.
I: Sounds very challenging. (heh, heh)
R: Well, it was. And, and again, uh-, it was a time when, when nothing other than revolution was enough. And yet, we weren't real revolutionaries cause we wanted-, the revolution we wanted was opening up an institution. And keeping the institution there. (heh, heh)
I: Right.
R: And to go, again get back to the metaphor, the analogy, uh-, when Larry Cremin was the president and Charlotte was cooking the meals, or part of them at least, and we were sitting on the floor, we were still going to the president's house. You know.
I: Yeah.
R: So it, it's--. (heh, heh) It's a gentle revol-, it's a gentle modification. Gradualism, liberalism, if you want, rather than radical, more radical stance and uh-. I guess I was also, a personal part of it that, that my husband's father-, my husband was from Vienna. And his father was an Austro-Marxist scholar. Journalist and historian. And so, you know, there, there was that sort of-. And I don't know. I, I would never-. I know some German, but I, I would never, never-. I mean, you-,. Do you know German?
I: Not really.
R: Well,) to read any of that scholarship on, on the theory of Austro-Marxism and how Austro-Marxism was different from other Marxism, and you can't even get to the verb without going through three or four pages. And it's a very intricate-. But there was a sense of a Marxist revolution is what's necessary if you really want to make a change. And that was in part of my surround. And then that would mean the Black Power was more of a revolution than, than these gradual approaches.
On the other hand, you have to act where you are. And where we were was here. I—
I: Yeah. You know one other ism I wanted to ask about is, is the question of feminism. And also the fact that most of the folks coming into this program were women, women and mothers, often, as were you. I mean, what-. Was that something that was spoken about, acknowledged, or did-, were there inflections sort of along lines of gender solidarity in certain ways? I don't know quite how to phrase it, but—
R: Right. Um-. I don't know how to answer it except personally because I think there was certainly a feminist movement at the time.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: And there was very much a feeling of, of we need equality, we need another form of, of uh-, gender relationships and, and yet, and as I was saying, that's partly why I was telling you the story of, of, of Harvard not having women. I mean they actually did not. But, but—
I: Right. Right.
R: --I didn't feel-. I felt that because my grandmother was as suffragette and my mother was someone who danced with, you know, Isadora Duncan (___?) things at the University of Wisconsin and, and very, very disrespectful and, and so-. There were a lot of-, in my personal life, there were people who had fought versions of that and I sort of thought I wasn't an ardent feminist of the sort that had a family where, where when I [laughing while talking: didn't have their, their say, it was] quite the contrary.
I: Right. Right.
R: And so I didn't have that personal impetus that some of the people I know did have that, that sense that, you know, finally I'm going to have, I'm going to get to speak up in my family. And, and this is a real personal issue. For me it wasn't--. I was already liberated. But that didn't mean I had the, the jobs.
I mean, I might very well have not. It was just a fluke that I got a job here. It was just a fluke that I--. It wasn't just a fluke. I mean, I had a Harvard degree. I got a third of the salary. They, they didn't pay equal salaries. And they eventually equalized salaries, introduced a salary scale and equalized salaries. And they said the difference were great--. And there were a lot of nursing educators, but the differences were so great that the college would go broke if they equalized it in one year. And they took five years to equalize the men's and women's pay. And so, I—
And I remember another example of um-, being in a meeting. I think it was-, I don't know whether it was with Fritz Ianni, but some one of these administrative meetings, division meeting or something, and we had to meet every other week or something on something college--. Separate--. This is not Parent/Teacher Teams. (___?) talk about the atmosphere of the college, and uh-, I-, you know, if one of my kids was sick, I would never say-, and I had to rush to school to pick him up or take him to the pediatrician, I would never tell the truth about it. Never, never, never. It was not a legitimate excuse cause I would have been told: Well, you know, then you shouldn't be working. Um-
And I remember one time when a meeting had to be changed because one my male colleagues, who lived in one of the TC houses, had his turn at the laundry facilities in the basement during the time of our meeting. And I wouldn't have even dared to say I have to take a child to the pediatrician, can we reschedule? And he said: But, well, that's my time for doing the laundry. I'm doing the laundry. And I thought: What? He has the privilege of having the schedule reworked because he is doing the laundry? I mean, you know, [laughing while talking: like who are you kidding kind of thing?]
I: Right. Right.
R: But um-, yes, it was inflected with feminism. But it was uh-. And there were probably those who, who felt a lot, lot more intensely about the feminist side of it than I happened to because I had, as I say, I, I thought my grandmother was the feminist.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: And I'm sure there were, there were a lot of people for whom-. And my mother was a progressive educator. So, you know, I already--. Uh--. Some of those battles were fought in my family, but um-, it was an issue, but it, it did, it didn't uh-. I think it was, it wasn't a place where the women's rights were being discussed per se. I think that the um-. And the-, I think one of the people who was most successful was the one man in the program.
I: Interesting.
R: And um-. But I-. You know, it's an-, it's a complicated thing because you get the, the, um-, Civil Rights, which was in some ways some of the current more recent analysis says was, was, the leadership was male. And, and so the feminist, feminism within the Civil Rights movement was, was not there. And I think in a way the, going back to the Audrey Cohen and the College of Human Services, that was more of a feminist uh-, set of--. The, the discussion, the vo-, the terms, the way it was talked about was more feminist with Audrey Cohen and the white middle class women who were trying to use their talents. That was a more feminist set of ways of talking than about the Par-, Parent/Teacher Teams. Because for one thing, the, the poor, less economically privileged African American women, they didn't want the privilege of working outside the home. They were already doing it on several jobs and juggling the jobs and so, it was just a very-, insofar as it was feminist, it was a very different version.
And I think these two things, it's a-. I don't know whether in any of the documentation it's there, but in my memory of it, I would say it was-, that-, the, the College of Human Services, for at least the faculty, initially for the faculty, was more feminist than the Parent/Teacher Teams for the um-, participants.
I: That's great. I think that's, that's quite consonant with what I've seen, the sources.
R: Is it?
I: Um-. And, and it makes a lot of sense. One of the things that's come up when I've interviewed some paras is that there was a challenge for them once the opportunities to go to things like an all day training at TC, or, you know, or CUNY later on appeared, that it meant, of course, restructuring family time and that sometimes husbands, boyfriends, partners found this an imposition. Um-, and reacted to it poorly. Not all. Some, some were very supportive. But, but that was one, that was one of the challenges or impediments to sort of training, was that, you know, there's already so much time being taken up by all the work you mentioned they're already doing, plus now coming into schools—
R: Right.
I: --and then training on top felt like a bridge too far for some, particularly men in the family.
R: Right. Right. Right. Well, my, my own husband whose mother was um-, not just a, a socialist in Vienna, but a woman's leader, and very important in, in arguing for the rights of working women, and um-, he didn't like it if I brought students home. [laughing while talking: You know? He-] he liked some students. But if it was a student he didn't happen to like, he just didn't like the idea that my job would extend into, into the home.
And he cooked, only certain things. And [laughing while talking: he didn't do the dishes and uh--. You know. And I think these uh-, it's not a simple one,} a simple thing, and then you know, and really his mother was a leading feminist.
I: Mm-
R: But that's another generation.
I: Right. Well, the one other thing, and I-, we've been talking for a long time now, so thank you so much for all of this. One other thing I wanted to maybe do is just sort of play the name game. Cause there's some other names that come up in my paper and that were involved in this kind of world of, of thinking about paraprofessionals and community education. I wondered if you interacted with them or if they were people who you were reading or talking to.
So one of them is Preston Wilcox, who was involved with the Women's Talent Corps and was on the Columbia faculty and being very involved in community control.
R: Right. I knew of him and, and I'm sure I was at meetings with him, but I didn't know him personally well.
I: Yeah.
R: But he was a figure.
I: Right. Right.
R: He was definitely a figure.
I: A couple of other people were-, these were new careers thinkers, so Frank Riessman and Alan Gartner were people—
R: Oh, yes-
I: At NYU, and then later I think at CUNY.
R: I know of them both and that, that was again part of the intellectual apparatus of the time.
I: Right. Right.
R: And people at the Columbia School of Social Work, too.
I: Yeah. (___?) and Wilcox was at the School of Social Work for a bit as well.
R: Right. Right.
I: And then there were people at Bank Street College as well. This is another group—
R: Well, Bank Street's interesting. Bank Street's very interesting. Uh-, some of the-, in fact, some of the faculty at Bank Street went through the Department of Family and Community Education.
I: That's interesting.
R: Uh-, here. And then went there. And so I've had a lot of connections with Bank Street over the time. But I think, and, and um-, I was just-, with someone who's now at the American Museum of Natural History and Marissa McDonald, I don't know if you know her, but—
I: I don't know.
R: --she's involved in their education program. But she went to Bank Street. And I was with her the other night at a program here for science education. And she's been involved in Bank Street and they do museum stuff which is one of the things I do now. And um-, I think Bank Street, in certain eras, has been um-, they have kind of an ideology, which is sort of the uniform ideology, which Teachers College doesn't have in quite-, and they're smaller.
I: Right.
R: And they-, we don't have that uniformity of, of a worldview, and particularly now. But I think they're more interesting and radical in some ways than Teachers College. But that's, that I'm going to delete from the—(laughter)
I: (laughter) That's fair enough.
R: From the record.
I: When you were--. There were a couple of people there. Garda Bowman and Gordon Klopf were two people who did a lot of studies of paraprofessional programs.
R: Right. I know, know--, not personally, but know, know both.
I: I read some of their things.
R: Yeah.
I: And another name that comes up a lot um-, in the actual documents from TC, is Nelly Jones.
R: Yes.
I: Who was-, um-, I mean she seems to have-, she was sort of a coordinator and a—
R: She was, she was very involved. Very involved. Yeah.
I: I didn't get a great sense of who she actually was with respect to TC. Was she a professor?
R: Was Sonny, Sonny Jamison in there?
I: I don't know. I'll look.
R: Spencer, Spencer Jamison?
I: Well, Spencer Jamison sounds familiar.
R: Yes. Well, his nickname was Sonny.
I: Ah.
R: He was another one who was involved. He was, I think, close to Fritz Ianni.
I: And they were, they were faculty or—
R: They were adjuncts probably. I can-. You know what? Let me write the names down because if I get these names, I can look—
I: (___?)
R: If I get—
I: I can email these to you.
R: I mean if you want to come back another time and look through, if I can get into the files.
I: Yeah. Well, I'll-, I can email you these, too, so you don't have to write them down.
R: All right. Do that. Do that.
I: That'll be-. Um-
R: Email me the names and because I might, I can see-, I can tell you what I recollect now. Or, but I can also see if the names are in any of the files.
I: Sure. Yeah. That sounds great.
R: And they could be.
I: That'd be great. Yeah.
R: There could be. There could be reports that have specific names and, and we probably have, in those files if they're still there, I don't-, haven't even had a chance to go in check that the-, that the many people who use that locked office [laughing while talking: aren't, locked storage-]
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --room aren't-. Cause it goes right through the boiler.
I: Right. Right.
R: And I, I, I do need your help. And this is maybe for another discussion. But I do need your help figuring out how should I try to find a way to archive this.
I: Oh, I have spoken to a couple of people about that. So I can a little more about that.
R: Oh, good. Well, go on with your names and I will, and but, but tell me them now. But then if you can email them to me and then I-, when, if I get into the file before we manage to get together. And I can't promise that I will cause I've got—
I: That's fine.
R: I've got, you know, people who need to graduate and—
I: Yes.
R: --that kind of thing. (heh, heh)
I: Fair enough. (heh, heh) Well, the only--, the actually, the only name I'm looking at was um-, so-, Congressman James Scheuer was someone who spent a lot of time and effort in promoting these things at the legislative level. He was running-, the Sub professional Career Act, which attaches to the um-, Economic Opportunity Act, but then also, he meets with paras in New York. He gets involved sometimes at the local level in supporting these. He says some things about their um-, the teacher strike uh-, and the also, the um-, the paraprofessional contract fight. So I wondered if he was a name that came up or-
R: My husband happened to go to college, Swarthmore, with his brother and um-, Wally Scheuer, and uh-, and another person who ev-, married Wally. Marge Scheuer. And they were very close friends in college. I didn't, I, I wasn't there then. But—
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --they were close friends in college and then my husband, after he graduated from Swarthmore, came to Columbia to the School-, it was the, it's SIPA now, the School of International and Public Affairs.
I: Right.
R: But it was the School of International Affairs. It didn't have the P for Policy and he-, and Marge Scheuer, who was the sister-in-law of Jim Scheuer -- (heh, heh)
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --um-, studied um-, international affairs. Then my husband took extra time studying Russian because that was the language that you needed then for—
I: Right.
R: --international diplomatic work. And then he was overseas for a while. And then, then came back and went to law school here. But um-, that's the personal answer that's not an answer as to whether he was influencing what we were doing. He was in the newspapers.
I: Ah. Yeah.
R: I mean, I happened to know him personally, but—
I: Right. Right. Right.
R: --but not, not, not-. I would say--. It was a time when you-. There was a more hopeful [laughing while talking: view of (___?) officials than] there is today. There wasn't the sense that, you know, well, gee whiz, uh-, it's such a deadlock.
I: Right.
R: That, that nobody in Congress or the Senate's going to be able to anything anyway, so why bother talking to them? Uh-. It was a time when the atmosphere at the college, and in terms of programs of this sort, was that absolutely the publicity matters, and, and you would looking through the newspaper. And if somebody had something good to say about it or something bad to say about you, you need to worry about it, you need to take it seriously. You need to try to write letters of if you had any personal connections, get there and do something. But I never did in terms of anything with Jim Scheuer. And, and there were [laughing while talking: family uh-
I: Right. (heh, heh)
R: --uh-, I (___?) wasn't necessarily all the Scheuers—
I: (heh, heh)
R: --weren't, weren't of a piece.]
I: Right. Right.
R: I don't know how to put, how, how to put it otherwise.
I: No. That's quite fair. But his papers are at Swarthmore, so I've been down to look at those. Um-
R: Yeah. Yeah. You have?
I: Yeah. Yeah.
R: They have a very helpful library, don't they?
I: They do, yeah, they're great. They were very helpful.
R: They, they-, that's a—
I: It's a nice place.
R: It's a good school. My, my uh-, husband went there. Uh-, his brother went there. His brother's wife. Um-, my oldest son. His wife. And a grandson—
I: Oh?
R: --so it was—
I: That's really cool.
R: Very-. And grand daughter said no, I'm going to Carlton. (laughter)
I: (heh, heh) Fair enough. Back to Minnesota.
R: She-. Yeah.
I: My wife's from Minnesota.
R: Yeah.
I: Family up there. I'm looking-. I'm looking over my notes just very quickly, but we've covered a great deal of ground. Um-. I wonder if there was anything, anything more you wanted to add?
R: Well, my--. I would add again my wish that um-. And, and very, very--, not just do well with your dissertation kind of wish, but my wish is that you, of course, have a successful dissertation, which you clearly will. But that you find a way to publish it to communicate it. Um-. That people who are doing related projects today will somehow pay attention to—
I: Mmm.
R: --even though it's not as simple, you know, as you say very well—
I: Right.
R: --in there at some point that it's not, you can't exactly say there's a model of best practices that are going to apply from one era to another. But that somehow the issues that we need to be alert to from the time you're writing about. Um-. You know, why we need to study history. We don't have enough history at the college now. I mean we may-, we're going to move back to that. But why does this history matter to people who are doing it today? And I think my wish is then-, and as a social scientist, I haven't, I, I don't know. It was just too close. And as I say, it was too painful. And I wasn't--. I felt that, that we'd failed even though it was successful and a heady success and people were, were--. I didn't feel alone. I've got-. I-, I felt alone in terms of that one encounter with General Studies or, you know, that particular negotiation. But you know, people on the faculty would: Oh, how wonderful you're doing. You know, there was a lot of--. I don't think insincere, but a lot of sort of: Oh, now nice.
But how you get the story of that era with all the struggles and tensions and, and the, the particular time socio political climate of the time. And, and, and how you can--. How do you go about learning from that time something that's going to be uh-, something that will help us understand a different time now? With a different set of communication practices, for one thing. And a different set of political uh-, and economic circumstances. A very different time.
And yet, some of the rhetoric we, we're using is, is, is the same without know that it's had a history.
I: Yeah. See, I almost want to ask, are there any ways you'd recommend I do that? But I suppose that's—
R: Well, I recommend you come back and talk to me so I [laughing while talking: can try and get your, you know, you teach me—
I: (heh, heh)
R: --how you're doing it.]
I: We'll keep working on it.
R: Yeah. I really-. No, I really think it's, it's absolutely essential. And I don't know-, I mean there's awfully good writing in history. And some of the-, I think the writing that's most accessible from my perspective is people who do historical biographies. Cause there you're got people and you get the real people feel and um-. Uh-. That has a universality that you can latch onto in a way that some kinds of historic writing don't.
But I just think it's, it's-, I, I hope that we will return to a time when we're both in the schools and in the universities. We don't lose that. We did have this, this uh-, vote this morning in the faculty in terms of having um-, increasing from five to 15 professors of practice. And OK. That's fine. People are going to be doing their practical because those of us who made our careers in the academy don't know anything about the real world or we're in the Ivory Tower. I don't think we are. And I've always tried going back to the whole Russell Sage mandate to make the knowledge of the, of the uh-, uh-, social sciences of use to or available to or have some help or affect for the practicing professions. And I've always been very applied in that sense. And I believe that the academic and intellectual (___?) can come out of the practical situation. But I just think we're, we're, we're at risk of losing the intellectual foundations of a place like Teachers College in a new era of practical.
There's a-, I, I mean, I wish we were more activist. (heh, heh) I wish some of the, some of the ways of expressing activism of an earlier time. I don't want another Viet Nam war. Uh-. I don't, I think the Occupy movement is extremely interesting and I didn't go participate in it. The farthest I got was with a Socratic conversations here and uh-, Ron NAME who was down there and then one of these discussion in the library for the community. But I, I just think we, we, we're, we're too wimpy. (laughter)
And yet we can't just-. It's just a different time. And I, I wish we had--. I don't know whether I want revolutionary change. But I want a ch-, that sense of possibility. And I don't know. I remember years ago someone was taking--. I taught a course on families and television at that point, looking at how families mediated television, which was--. Then I got the Guggenheim to do family memories. And then I couldn't go back to the television because it, in a couple of years, I was doing the other and it had changed so much that I'd have to start all over. Uh-.
But I thought we were onto a very important set of issues of how do we-, how do families media-. It's part of the Cremin thing, of the many institutions that educate and more is going on there than in schools in some ways, more time and so forth. And but-, I taught a course on families and television, looking at the research we were doing for Spencer support then. And I remember one of the students in the class said: Well, but you don't understand. I'm of the generation that stopped the Viet Nam war with the use of television. And you don't have that on the agenda. (laughter) [laughing while talking: And I thought: Whoa. Yes, you know. You're right. I don't have it on the agenda.] But it's true there was this--. So--. Even the media were because the war was shown and was visible and things that weren't shown-, I mean the-, World War II [changes voice: (___?) now the Japs.]
I: Right.
R: Literally, the Japs [changes voice: who have done this and that and] still, you go down to the, the um-, the ship museum. The, the um-, Intrepid.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: They still have some of those old—
I: Oh. Yeah.
R: Have you seen those?
I: I-, years ago I saw them in coursework. But I haven't seen the Intrepid.
R: Well, they're, they're incredible. I mean, they still have those voices of, of, you know, righteous indignation over these savage tribes that are attacking us and then the--. But--, I-, that sense that you can do something. I think that's why I was so-, sort of--. I was very pleased when my son who's, who's not a social scientist. He's a scientist scientist. But he was so interested. He wanted the Jane Jacobs book and he wanted-, he was so interested to think: Well, you know, maybe--. That sense that you can make a change. You can do something. And, and um-.
I don't know what the version of that today is. I just don't know. But, but um-. This project had all that. But it also had the struggles and it had the failures in it. And it went on to succeed and it was partly just we didn't get to continue it. But I don't think it went on to be a major career ladder.
I: That was always the biggest sticking point. And it, it continues to be. I was speaking to paras last night at SUNY Empire State College, um-, where they have a paraprofessional training program for the UFT now, and they, they can get credit as they move up. And they can move up in salary increments. But to move from being paras to teachers, incredibly difficult.
R: Yeah. Well, you see—
I: And that's—
R: --that's so interesting because that's where I felt I was the biggest failure. I was really crushed by that and then, then some of the people who are working in the teaching started attacking me for failure. That, you know how could you? You're, what are you? Aren't you an activist enough to--. Why, why? You know. Then, then take some stronger means. And so, do you want us to go sit in at General Studies? Uh-.
And I didn't think that was going to help. And I'm not sure it would have been--. You know, maybe I wasn't enough of an activist. Maybe if I'd been more of a Jane Jacobs and sat in at General Studies--. I don't really think so. And it's interesting to me that it's still a sticking point. But that was-, in a way, that was the biggest sticking point. I think the most um-, enthusiastic moments of the project were the actual encounters here and the course and the discussions and this incredible sense that these people with amazing um-, knowledge and understanding and, and uh-, you know. I still uh, have that in the, the discovering the, the wisdom in families kind of thing.
I: Yeah. Yeah.
R: It's already there. Um-. I gave you a brochure for the center, didn't I?
I: I don't know. Uh-. I actually don't think you did.
R: I didn't. Uh-. Where would I be able to lay my hands--. (___?) Oh, I can't do it without—
I: (heh, heh)
R: --(___?)
I: Well, shall we wrap up? On the recording side?
R: We can wrap--.
I: (heh, heh)
R: Yeah. I think--. Well, it's it been a long time--
I: It has.
R: --that you've been listening.
I: No. This has been wonderful. And here, I'll, I'll hold this closer to say thank you. (heh, heh)
R: Oh, well—
I: But—
R: --thank you very much.
I: --(laughter)
R: I really, this was-. I-. Did you get my wishes? Was that recorded?
I: I-, that was indeed recorded. So this is still running.
R: All right. All right. This is still running. So I thank you. I think it's, it's been, it's been wonderful for me to have a chance to reflect again on these things.
I: Thank you so much.
R: They, they seem like ancient history. And I've kind of-, some much else has happened in between that I kind of put this out of mind. And doing other things. But related things.
I: Sure. Well, and—
R: I'm very eager to continue the discussion and if-, you were going to tell me--, and I don't know whether you-, you need it recorded or not. But you were going to tell me some, some thoughts on the archiving of the materials.
I: Oh. Yeah.
R: If they're there.
I: Oh-. There is some-. Yes. And it's-. Actually, let's stop the tape here and I'll talk to you about that. Because—
R: OK.
I: --I don’t' think we need to record that. And I can send you emails about this. We’rd signing off.
R: Right.
[end of recording]

Title

Hope Leichter Oral History

Description

The reminiscences of Dr. Hope Jensen Leichter, Elbenwood Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, with a focus on her work with the Parent-Teacher Teams Program.

Creator

Leichter, Hope

Date

2014-10-23

Contributor

Juravich, Nick

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Interviewer

Juravich, Nick

Interviewee

Leichter, Hope

Location

Professor Leichter's office, Teachers College, Columbia University.

Transcription

Participant: Hope Jensen Leichter, Elbenwood Professor of Education, Teachers College (“R”)
Interviewer: Nick Juravich, PhD Candidate, Department of History, Columbia University (“I”)

I: And we are recording—
R: And if I need to stop for water or anything, we can stop, right?
I: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So—
R: OK.
I: Uh, yeah, so to open this recording, this is Nick Juravich, uh-, recording for the Educating Harlem Project on October 23, 2014. I have the privilege of sitting with Professor Hope Leichter of Teachers College, uh-, who has been uh-, involved in many different aspects of uh-, paraprofessional training, family education, community education over her career. And thank you so much for sitting down with us.
R: Well, thank you for coming to me. I-, it’s an honor.
I: And so to start with, we should say first off that this recording is being made in accordance with uh-, what we consider to be oral history best practices, so before anything said on this cassette is made public, and it’s not a cassette—. I should—. This digital thing. Um-, you will have a chance to review the transcript, uh-, to strike as much of it or all of it from the record if you’d like. And also to make any edits to anything you’ve said. And then once that process happens, this will be archived for the Educating Harlem Project, and also uh-, I’ll use it as part of my dissertation.
R: That’s fine with me.
I: Wonderful. Another thing with respect to the interview today, if at any point you’d like to stop the tape, uh-, we certainly can. So for (___?), you don’t need to give a reason, for any reason at all, if you say you’d like to go off the record, stop the tape, take a break, anything like that, you stop it. And that’s that. And also if—
R: I—
I: —you’d like the interview to be over, too.
R: Well, we can—. Right. Right.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: Uh-
I: And we can always come back to it later as well.
R: And can you just tell me the Educating Harlem Project—. Who-, who are the people?
I: Ah. So uh-, Ernest Morrell and Ansley Erickson are the co-directors uh-. Professor Morrell with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, and Professor Erickson with uh-, the History and Education program. And now I guess the new Center for History of Education as well.
R: All right. Uh-. Well, I was with Professor Morrell earlier today [laughing while talking: at a search committee.]
I: Ah. Fantastic.
R: You know. (clears throat)
I: So I should also say that the topics that I was hoping to cover in the course of today’s interview—and we’ll get as far as we can—I would love to hear from you about uh-, the, um-, the programs you worked with that connected to particularly paraprofessionalism, but also to hear about your own story more broadly. How you came to do this work. How it fits into your larger uh-, work and the stuff, um-, that you’ve done both here at TC and, and more broadly. Um-. There’s a couple of uh-, institutions and organizations and programs I’m interested in specifically, one of which is the Women’s Talent Corps. Another of which is the Parent Teacher Teams Programs here at Teachers College. Uh-. And I’d also-, I’d love to hear you say more about the sort of-, the idea of both paraprofessionals but also community-based educators more broadly. Think about what was achieved, what proved challenging, and also as we talked about last time, what this might all offer us today.
R: Mm—
I: So those are-, those are the big themes, the big, the big questions. But um-, sometimes the best way to start this is to ask: Where should we begin? (heh, heh)
R: Well, um-, let me see. Um-. Chronologically, I guess, the first thing. I mean, I can tell you my, my background, where I came from educationally, and, and how I ended up doing family things here. But maybe that’s a longer story than you need for, for all of this.
I: No. I’d love to start there.
R: —Uh—. (clears throat)
I: That’d be great.
R: Well, uh-. I got my—and then perhaps we said this last time, but we’ll pretend I didn’t. OK? (heh, heh)
I: Quite all right. (heh, heh)
R: Uh-. (clears throat) I received my doctorate from Harvard University in the Department of Social Relations, which was sociology, anthropology, clinical and social psychology at the time. And I did not imagine that I would have a faculty position anywhere because at the time I was at Harvard, there were basically no full-time women faculty. So I thought I would be a researcher in various places. And I didn’t have the feminist consciousness to say I should be a professor. I just thought: Well, I’m lucky to be here. I’m lucky to have this opportunity. And long story, personal story, is I came to New York. My husband was going to law school here. So I ended up in New York and worked for a while with the Russell Sage Foundation. I had a grant from the Russell Safe Foundation later. I worked earlier than that on a study at Cornell Medical School on Chinese who were exiled in the United States. I did my dissertation using data from this project.
After the Cornell Project, I worked on research at the Jewish Family Service with funding from the Russell Sage Foundation. The Foundation’s mandate at that time included bringing social science theories and methods to bear on the “practicing professions.” The history of the Russell Sage Foundation is an interesting reflection of the times. In the book I did, Kinship and Casework with William E. Mitchell, there is a Foreword by Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr., one of the key members of the Foundation staff, that I think is relevant to the history of the time and why social scientists, who were working in this country at least, were working in ways where the connection with practice was considered one of the things that we ought to be doing. We shouldn’t just be theorizing about society and what’s going on. We ought to bring the things we do known from our profession to bear on the practicing professionals. These ideas made it seem legitimate for me to go from Cornell Medical School to work in a social work agency where we ended up doing a study of kinship and how social workers intervened in relationships with extended family networks. The casework agency was doing family therapy. Bill Mitchell and I had been very junior researchers on the Cornell Project. When that project ended, we moved to the project at the Jewish Family Service with support of the Russell Sage Foundation. We wanted to bring social science concepts to bear on the then understanding of families.
The agency wanted us to prove that family therapy in their particular version was the way to go. I think the term “evidence-based” was not the vocabulary at the time, but the agency wanted social science proof that family therapy was more valuable than individual therapy. We said: Oh, no, no, no. We’re social scientists and we’re trying to help you see things you wouldn’t otherwise see. And so what did we do?
Well, one of the things anthropologists do is look at family structures and kinship systems around the world. And there is such a thing as the extended family. The Jewish Family Service was an agency that was working on family relationships, bringing family groups together but mainly nuclear families or whatever pieces were intact. For example, husband, wife, and children. And doing therapy with them. But not necessarily thinking about kinship. And so a long series of negotiations, which I won’t go into at length—this is really background for the work on the College of Human Services and Paraprofessionals. Except that it’s background for why I felt it was OK to be working in a school of education on a practical program in Harlem that involved families. So just to finish up on the piece of the saga on the Kinship and Casework project (clears throat) which you might find interesting—
I: Hm-. Yeah.
R: We did some research and we went trudging around—. Your recorder is teeny (pointing to recorder) We went—
I: This thing?
R: We went trudging through the Bronx and to various homes of clients of the agency with big heavy tape recorders.
I: (heh, heh)
R: Heavy, heavy [laughing while talking: tape recorders and they—] I don’t know what the fidelity was but they didn’t screen out a lot of the background noises so there was an awful lot of background noise. But in any case, that’s [laughing while talking: it was an earlier time.]
I: Sure.
R: Families had the television on and we had traffic noises outside and the neighbors screaming and all that kind of thing. But we were in people’s homes and studying the families. And in the course of this, we’re trying to find out why they were going to the social work agency and what family therapy meant to them. In this preliminary pilot study, talking with people not as social workers but as researchers, we kept observing relatives come in and out. There was one cast I can remember where there was an extended family. They happened to be a Jewish family. Neither my colleague Bill Mitchell nor I were Jewish, although my late husband was. But he was not religious. That’s another story.
But in any case, we didn’t know the Jewish religion or beliefs or anything. But this, this mother-in-law or mother, mother-in-law, depending whether it was the husband or the wife’s point of view, was sharing the refrigerator. She lived next door or somewhere nearby. And they were sharing the refrigerator. And there was some degree of controversy over this because how can you be sure that everyone has the same degree of care with respect to what makes it kosher or not.
I: Mmm.
R: But it seemed to be a viable relationship in some ways. But people were dropping in all the time. Friends, neighbors, relatives. That’s just one example to try to make the point vivid. We kept thinking about this. Partly it was the distractions on the tape and then we were thinking things like: Maybe we should have had a way to screen out the sound or gone into a little room within the apartment to talk to one person. Then we realized we’re anthropologists. We’re seeing things that are interesting.
So fast forward. We ended up doing some interviews and surveys looking at the relationships with the extended family. And how social workers intervened in relationships with the extended family. We also got data from the social workers, for example, their goals for therapy. We didn’t know what the outcomes were, but we found that the social workers were much less kin-oriented than the clients. And the social workers often saw their goals as modifying relationships with the extended family. We have a whole section in the book that’s kind of neat on that point, showing that ways of talking about kin relationships were different. The social workers would use psychological phrasing and the clients would sometimes use rather (laughing) vernacular accusations, let’s say.
The general gist was that the clients often had conflicts and arguments and differences, but they didn’t necessarily want to cut off the ties with the extended family. And the social workers believed that a part of psychological therapy was to cut your ties with the extended family to “individuate” and “mature.” As anthropologists trained in looking at kinship systems around the world, this was intriguing. So we got data. We did interviews and questionnaires and so forth. It’s not a large sample or conclusive, but the ideas were, I think, very interesting. It was also a kind of neat example of really bringing the social sciences to the practicing professions because, frankly, I don’t think they wanted to hear what we had to say. I really don’t. We argued in an appendix to the book that while research doesn’t get applied to practice by being put in a book or put in a folder or put in a research file, you have to continue talking with people about it. Indeed, I think that’s what you do have to do.
Subsequently, there was a lot of talk in the social work field, and not necessarily referencing what we had done, but we did happen to do it first. Saying, oh, well, maybe the extended family is a resource and we should not be cutting people off from the extended family. That is one piece of the background I brought from very, very abstract Parsonian sociological theory at Harvard and social relations, bringing together these different fields and disciplines. It was a very exciting time.
Harvard was great because we thought we were at the pinnacle of the world, having all these intellectual breakthroughs. But I also didn’t know. You’d walk out in the Harvard Yard and say: I don’t know which is true. Are the trees true or is Parsons true? Then I got into this case where we were in fact trying to work with people. Then that project ended.
In the meantime I’d finished my dissertation while doing both the dissertation and the research project. And I had a son. But that’s all another story.
I: (heh, heh)
R: Then I had a chance to teach a course at Columbia School of Social Work because they were very impressed with the work we were doing for the project. Then I was asked to come to Teachers College. And because of my family background—my mother had been a teacher and my stepfather also taught for a while. My mother had actually gone to Teachers College for a while and studied in the heyday of the Deweyan emphasis here. I had a feeling that in education, you can make use of your social science background to make a difference in the world. You can do it with—how should I put it? More optimism if you do it through a school of education than if you do it in a school of social work.
Social work somehow seemed to me at the time more remedial. In education, you can start working with people who are going to be working with young kids. That’s background on some of the ideas that I brought with me when I first came to Teachers College. Do you have any questions on any of that? Or—
I: No. That’s great. Thank you so much. When did you come to TC?
R: Oh, dear, I can’t remember that. You’re [laughing while talking: you’re, you’re not supposed—
I: (laughter)
R: —you’re supposed to do history for dates.]
I: I’ll look that up.
R: No, you can, I can—I could tell you. But I actually uh-, that’s my standard answer.
I: Mmm.
R: Because if you’ve been here too long, you say uh-, you know what I say?
I: What?
R: Too long to remember. Then people don’t start saying: Oh. Why are (laughing while talking: you still here?—
I: (heh, heh)
R: —in any case. You can look up that secret.
I: Yeah. I will. (heh, heh)
R: I came here to teach a course in the Family Life Education Program and also in the Clinical Psychology Program to teach field courses for social psychologists on community mental health because I had the community background through trudging to the Bronx, (laughing while talking: looking at real families with these heavy tape recorders] that made me a community expert. That was an adjunct job of which there are increasing numbers today, but then a chance opened up for a full-time position.
I: Interesting.
R: Parenthetically, professors of practice was a controversial issue in the faculty meeting I attended today. But in any case, I wasn’t interested in families. I didn’t really want to work on families. You know why?
I: Why?
R: Oh, I thought they wanted me to do it because I was a woman.
I: Oh.
R: I wasn’t a strident feminist. My grandmother had fought for the vote. I thought the feminists in our family were my grandmother’s generation. And I didn’t need to be an active feminist. My mother was avant-garde in everything she did, so I thought those battled had been taken care of, even though as I was saying, I didn’t have any particular consciousness about why there weren’t jobs for women at Harvard on the regular faculty. There were a few part-time jobs. For example, one person, Johnny Whiting, who split his professorship with his wife.
I: Huh.
R: Basically, there is a woman president of Harvard. When I was there, that was unthinkable. In any case, I thought: you get what you can and you have to be glad. And I had a husband who was an attorney in New York, and I had a son. And so I thought: Well, you know, you’re lucky if you have any job. And that’s where the Women’s Talent Corps came in.
But I didn’t want to do family stuff because it didn’t have prestige. I mean, families are the lowest in the prestige hierarch within any university, in some ways. More recently, I’ve learned from being on the University Senate that everybody thinks they’re second class, (laughing) including the medical school that some say “we’re uptown and nobody’s paying attention to us.” And the law school, “We’re not part of the general graduate faculties and nobody’s paying attention to us.” And so on. But I think Teachers College, having originally become a part of Columbia as a women’s institution as a way to get women into Columbia, still is not treated with quite the respect that other parts of the university are. Some say, “You’re across the street.”
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: There is a less than glamorous sense of the intellectual caliber of the school of education. I was there and I wanted to be there. But I didn’t want to do families because I thought, you know, within this place (sighs) then I’m going to be still more out of the mainstream. And yet, that’s what I had been doing through the Russell Sage Foundation and the Jewish Family Service. Before that, I’d been interviewing for my dissertation through a project for Cornell Medical School in New York.
In any case, the course in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College seemed to be an opportunity. So I agreed to do both a family course and the clinical course and take psychology students around the city. I was going out into the so-called community and also teaching courses here in what was then the Department of Family Life Education and Home Economics.
During this period, Lawrence Arthur Cremin was a professor of history and director of the Division of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. At that time there were divisions, the Division of Philosophy and the Social Sciences and the Department of Philosophy and Social Science. It was a stellar department then. That’s been disbanded and Family and Community Education was disbanded. But he invited me to sit in on his classes on the history of American education, which I did.
Cremin was a kind of mentor, although I already had my degree and I’d already published a book, Kinship and Casework. But he was a close advisor to me as a junior faculty. I’ve always found history interesting, but too many battles and kings to memorize. So I was quite fascinated by his course on the history of American education.
One of his key concepts was that if you want to understand the history of education in the United States (it would no doubt apply elsewhere), you cannot look at the history of schooling alone. You have to look at the history of all the institutions that educate. And that includes families, communities, the media, the media of mass communication, as he liked to call it, which at that point meant radio and television and, of course at an earlier point, newspapers in terms of looking back historically.
Cremin was very persuasive that if we wanted to have Teachers College have a really rounded background, we should not just be doing Home Economics and Family Life Education that is training people to work with families in different capacities, planning their household management or helping them with therapeutic issues. We needed to have an intellectual agenda in studying how families educate. That, to me, already made more sense. Because I had done various community work or was in the process, I thought: that really does make sense.
So I was sort of coaxed into coming into a department. At that point, the Home Economics was being phased out because there was a sense that Home Economics was doing things that were going to go away, partly because it was gender specific, woman’s work. There were also all sorts of interdepartmental issues. At that point, we had a huge Nursing Education program, which is not as large now. And Nutrition Education, which was not as big as Nursing at the time. I think at an earlier point it had split off from the Home Economics. A Department of Family and Community Education grew out of the earlier Family Life Education and Home Economics Department. I was instrumental in redefining this department and eventually becoming chair of it. I was chair for 16 years of this renamed Department of Family and Community Education. So it was not family therapy. It wasn’t family life education. It was no longer Home Economics.
That’s a whole other saga for another time, another discussion, whether it was appropriate to close the Home Economics Program or not, or whether it was a wise decision. It was not my decision, but I had the opportunity to redefine a department and take it in new ways. A primary approach from my social science background in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard with sociology, anthropology, and social and clinical psychology was to create an interdisciplinary Department of Family and Community Education. And apart from that, I had the interest in education and, most of all, I had Cremin’s framework of the many institutions that educate as a source of ideas about what we need to include in this new department.
So I was in the process of moving in this direction and, therefore, teaching courses on families, although at first I never felt very comfortable with them. In the early days, I didn’t. I love the course I do now. But I’m jumping ahead a little bit chronologically. Still, I always have mixed feelings about teaching on families because they are everybody’s domain. Everybody knows the family. It’s hard to say something that doesn’t seem obvious of something that other people don’t think they know better than you do from their own experience. There isn’t really a lot of definite knowledge. If you can go back historically, families look different and that may give a new angle. But people still think they know the real story. There are some fields where most people don’t have everyday experience. This is jumping ahead with an example. My youngest son is a marine biologist and oceanographer, and he can talk to people about diving in the Antarctic under the ice and that’s not everybody’s everyday experience. Even if he says something that’s descriptive and not quantitative, it still seems scientific. It’s different from the trouble of talking about families in your own society.
In any case, at that time I had the opportunity to develop a program where we were trying to have an intellectual look at how families educate and bringing in various disciplines, including drawing on the historians who were here. The book that I edited, The Family as Educator came out of that period, and Families and Communities was a sequel to it.
The possibility for actually doing things in the community was also a big political issue. During that time, I became involved with Audrey Cohen and originally the Women’s Talent Corps, which later became the College of Human Services. You start off your paper with—
I: Yeah.
R: talking about the people there. I could easily have been one of these women who had a degree and had a child and didn’t luck into a job. I was just very lucky that I ended up with a job. And I came to Teachers College with a book that was already published. And I got tenure fairly quickly.
But I might very well have been in the position of the people like Audrey Cohen, who were saying, well, there’s this talent out there. There are these people who have education and they’re basically these middle-class women or professional women who aren’t working. And we should do something for them. And what’s the need? Well, the need is to do something to train a new category of professionals to work in communities. So that made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t come out saying: well, you know, they should stay at home. I came at it feeling I could very well, as I was trying to say, have been one of these women who were going to teach the people who came to the College of Human Services. So I became involved with Audrey Cohen. Part of the ethos of the time was the idea that there was great advantage to lived experience and to people who know how to work with the community because they are part of it.
I don’t think the vocabulary was quite what it is today. You know more because you’ve looked at the documents. In my mind, I get the vocabulary at the time mushed with the more recent vocabularies. We weren’t talking about equity in quite the way it’s being discussed today at Teachers College, where equity is one of the big mandates. The words were slightly different. But the idea was we’ve had a society that was segregated and people haven’t had a chance. There are all these problems—economic problems and educational problems. I guess some of the roots of these ideas go back to the early history of Teachers College. And Teachers College in terms of immigration and settlement and training women too, maybe as servants for the wealthy, but still giving new arrivals to the country a chance. This is early history of Teachers College in still an earlier era. But at the time of the Women’s Talent Corps, we were committed to the notion of trying to involve people from the community and give them opportunities.
These are things that are going on simultaneously and not like neat chronological order, but kind of back and forth. I was doing the work in the community mental health program and still working with the clinical psychologists and teaching courses on families. And then working a little bit with Audrey Cohen, at least in the think tank stages of that project. And then developing the newly defined Department of Family and Community Education. Some of our graduate students did go and work in the College of Human Services eventually.
I: Oh. Wow.
R: Yeah. There was someone named Bruce Buglione. He has passed away now. But one of my doctoral students, Vera Hammad, eventually Vera Hammad Buglione, ended up marrying Bruce. Divorcing someone else (laughing) who was a graduate student and marrying him. You know, graduate school.
I: (heh, heh)
R: So we had connections with the developing project of the College of Human Services through graduate students and through my keeping up with Audrey Cohen and periodically being asked to come in and advise on this or that—
I: Yeah.
R: —set of issues.
I: Your name actually comes up twice in their archives that I’ve found. Or-, a few times in two separate places.
R: What, what, what am I saying” [laughing while talking: Tell me what I don’t remember.]
I: Oh, no, this is-. So one is-. There’s a report noting that you were working with a graduate student named Edward Storey on something that was sort of a report for them or an evaluation of them.
R: That’s right. Oh, now. Edward Storey. I think somewhere in my files I would have a letter about that. Did you see any letter I wrote for him?
I: It was just a mention of the report. It didn’t actually have the report itself. So I should—
R: Huh.
I: I should look further. But that was-, it was just kind of one line in a larger report about what was going on at the time.
R: He was a graduate student. Yeah. I think I wrote a-. I would have-. And I, I-. It would take some digging but I could see if I can find anything I had written. I think I probably at some point wrote-, not only wrote a report, I might be able to find that. I had forgotten about that particular connection. And I do remember that somewhere in the files of letters of recommendation I’ve written, which are voluminous over the years, I’m pretty sure I could find a letter of recommendation for him. And whether or not there’d be mention in that of what he did, I don’t know. I try to write specifics, not just adjectives in letters of recommendation. So I don’t know. But I can look that up if that’s any help.
I: Sure. Yeah. I thought I-
R: I can’t do it now because I-
I: No. No.
R: It would take-
I: That’s quite all right. (heh, heh)
R: [laughing while talking: Layers of archeological digging.]
I: (laughter) No.
R: But, and how else was I mentioned?
I: So they-, when they interviewed Audrey Cohen, and they did a few times over the course of um-, the last several years of her life.
R: Right. Right.
I: Be-, as part of the college archive. She mentions you. And she talks briefly about going out—. So there was Part-Time Research Associates—
R: Right.
I: —I think, which brings in middle-class women. And then it, the Women’s Talent Corps, her idea of being to connect these women to the women in the communities.
R: That’s right.
I: And going out to uh-, meetings, community meetings around the city as part of this. And she says that you were with her, and the part-. I wrote a quote down, she particularly says that you were listening at the meetings and helping to define the jobs more effectively. And that was a line about Hope Leichter.
R: I was listening at the meetings and what, what was I doing?
I: And helping to define the jobs more effectively. So thinking about the role-. I think she means thinking about the roles for community women in institutions like social work and—
R: Hm-
I: —schools.
R: That’s interesting.
I: And I can, I can send you-. Actually, I have an image of this document.
R: Wow. That’s interesting because in the descriptions that I was writing for the graduate training for the department, I have a statement somewhere. This is not the jobs for the paraprofessionals. This is the jobs for the people who are coming from Teachers College training paraprofessionals. There is something I wrote in one of the old catalogs.
I: Mmm.
R: That I wrote with the advice of Lawrence Arthur Cremin. He was president of the College and he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, but he made his point to edit every word (laughing) in the catalog. And so I think he might have made some modifications or corrections or suggestions. Say that again. Helping to define the-
I: Jobs more effectively.
R: Jobs more effectively. Well-
I: And I will. I can look up and send you these uh-, these documents.
R: That would be interesting because I, as I say, I was writing catalog copy for the program, for the department, it wasn’t a program then. For the Department of Family and Community Education at the time. Trying to define what might be potential jobs for graduates of the program and what I think-. The big argument was—and I still think it applies, I think it applies even more today than then—but the argument was that what we are basically trying to help people develop the skills to do is to define their own jobs because it’s a time of great change. You can’t say there are X number of slots and we’re training them to fill these slots, for example, go through dental school and we know exactly what their skills will need to be for the existing jobs. But we need to train people to think and criticize and imagine new possibilities, visualize and define new jobs. [laughing while talking: So that’s interesting.] Hm. I can look up that catalog if that’s of any interest.
I: Sure. Sure. Well, that’s-. I mean, this is all very interesting. I suppose it’s a good place to shift and just ask more broadly about your, your experience with and your impressions of the Women’s Talent Corps. And the, particularly these, these paraprofessional programs that began to develop.
R: They’re somewhat separate in my mind in terms of-
I: Sure.
R: —um, my view-, I would say my view of the Women’s Talent Corps is that it was-, Audrey Cohen was incredibly effective. Incredibly effective. And she made things happen. And she made things happen basically by starting a new institution. And so she didn’t have to do the gradualism and the bureaucratic negotiations that she might have had to do if she was [laughing while taking: trying to do it within Teachers College or Columbia.] And so I think she was very effective.
I think that, as you bring up in your paper, the fact that the unions played into the creation of not just an idea of jobs, but jobs that were central to the institutional structure at the time meant that there was a real set of positions, um-, more, more solidly defined positions than there would have otherwise been. And so to use a cliché, she was in the right place at the right time. But that’s not quite right. She had the skills to define the place the way it needed to be at the right time, at the time when there was an opening for that. She had a broad network of connections and she was, I think, very skillful in terms of all the different people. All the different people she contacted and her network was incredibly large and she was very effective. From my point of view, it was good because we could send students to teach at the College of Human Services. And so it gave her teachers and it gave us students from our department. And it also gave a reality to some of the things we were trying to do here in terms of the idea that we are going to train people to create jobs, to define jobs. I say that today and it’s a time of decline in some things, radical shifts and new kinds of technological development. I always feel somewhat awkward when I sit here in a tenured position, advising students, and say: What do you want to do? We’re going to help you think of possibilities and give you the skills to define jobs. Now there probably are fewer possibilities. But at that time, it wasn’t unreal because there was federal funding.
I: Mmm.
R: It was the era of the Great Society and these weren’t empty words. Someone could go out and have an idea for how to create a more egalitarian society, create opportunities for those who wouldn’t have had them. It wasn’t just abstract. “We’re going to work for equity and we’re going to have benchmarks for equity.” I’m not saying it was all totally sincere or ever is, but I’m saying it wasn’t unreal.
And I think the fact that Audrey was able to move from this little idea we talked about in her kitchen to creating a college that had a faculty and had students and had students placed in positions is astonishing. And it gave me courage that what we were arguing for, for example, creating positions for coordinators of paraprofessional programs for the students from our department was not unreal. At that time, they were almost all doctoral students. We had very few Master’s students. Now it’s largely a Master’s institution. Just in the last three or four or five years, Teachers College has shifted drastically.
I: Right. Right.
R: I think that’s not good entirely, but that’s another issue. That’s a different timeframe. But um-, I think uh-. Like Bruce Buglione, who’s the one that was a student in our department and married another student, um-. I think he, he had a job there at the College of Human Services. You might look him up. Bruce Buglione, do you have that name in there?
I: I do. Yeah. And I think I’ve seen his name in some of the records. I need to go back and double-. You know-
R: Well, he was there for quite a long time. He, he became ill and died much, much too young, let’s say. But he had a longstanding job there. I’m not sure the number of years of anything, but I do know he was there quite a while. And I think Vera, Vera Hammad, I think she kept her name from her previous marriage, Andy Hammad. I don’t think he was involved. Look up Vera Hammad.
I: I will. Yeah.
R: I think she, she never got a regular faculty position and I don’t know how they worked out whether they had tenure of the faculty in the end or just were very god about reappointing people who did well. I’m not sure how that ended up working out. I was too concerned at that point with things going on inside Teachers College. I would say it’s a quintessential example of a time when someone can make a difference. And by really going outside-. I mean, it’s within the usual institutional models, but starting something quite new, quite new. And it was possible because of federal funding. It’s like a lot of the WPA things, a latter-day version of some of that, where things actually were started that had a lasting influence and became institutions that continued. And I think that it probably did. I don’t know the outcomes in terms of their graduates. I’m talking about the general ideas and the outcomes for students who were graduates of this department to go and work there.
I: And, but these things connect in important ways.
R: Oh, they do.
I: Yeah. Thank you.
R: They absolute do.
I: And …
R: It’s all part of the ethos of the time. You see? And it’s also part of the federal funding. And the fact that it is, as I was trying to say before, it wasn’t just empty thoughts. It wasn’t just hollow notions of: “Let’s have equity.” And I’m not saying what we’re doing now in terms of equity is wrong, but we’re talking about equity in terms of more positions on the faculty, more people graduating from high school, and all that. But this was starting a new institution. This was really starting a whole new institution. And I think I happened to be looking at some of that. You know that Ric Burns film on the history of New York—
I: Yeah.
R: —series? I happened to be looking at a couple of segments of that with my son who was in town on sabbatical. And we got to that section where Robert Moses is taking over and the World’s Fair and all these models of cars. And then along comes Jane Jacobs, this housewife. (heh, heh) She and her other activist women are taking on this great big demagogue. Now in my childhood, he did great things because he did beaches and stuff that we went to, but at a later point, he was from some points of view, he was really wrecking the communities in the city. I’m not saying Audrey Cohen was quite like a Jane Jacobs. But in a way, it was, you know, someone saying: Well, I guess if we father the right people, we’ll do it. And she did it.
I: That’s amazing. And the WPA point you made reminded me also that she even had some people who had connections to the era. A woman named—
R: I-
I: —Ann Cronin in particular.
R: Right. Right. I think that while the Great Society was in a way harking back to some of those ideas. And it was, I think, locally, too, because some of the things that were done in Harlem were started during the WPA era. That was also a model. I keep thinking that I would like to go back to that more now than I have. It would have to play out differently now. But it was a model for doing things in communities and creating jobs. Not just creating jobs, but also trying to deal with real needs. Now you can argue from today’s ecological perspectives, some of the things that were done during the WPA, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, were too big, the dams were too big and they hurt local communities by flooding and removing them in the interests of rural electrification. There were some things that one might do very differently now from an engineering/ ecological point of view. But it was a time when there was a sense that it was possible to pull us out of disasters and crises and problems through government action, in that case the federal government mostly, but with all kinds of involvement of local groups. And you could redefine things and you could think of things that hadn’t been done.
And I think that was part of the—I can’t say the impulse for the Parent Teacher Teams here, but it was part of the ethos of the time in which that project developed here.
I: That’s a great segue into the Parent Teacher Teams then.
R: Right. Right. And the Parent Teacher Teams I was involved as the one who was directing the training program. But Fritz Ianni—you must have his name somewhere. Is he all over the place?
I: Yeah. Just let me-. I don’t know, I don’t know much about him. I know the name because it’s on the various documents that are associated with the-
R: He was an anthropologist, very flamboyant. He wore very smart Italian suits and he was Italian American. He studied the Mafia and made a point that he did. He drove fancy cars and had [laughing while talking: his office in the trunk of his car.] And he kept moving offices around Teachers College, when he would get tired of one and move to another. And he was one of the Division Directors. At that point, the College was divided into divisions. (That went out in a subsequent reorganization.) There was the Division of Philosophy, the Social Sciences, and Education. There was the Division of Psychology and Education. There was the Division of Educational Institutions and Programs, the Division of Instruction, and the Division of health Services, Sciences, and Education. There are people who have never gotten over the demise of the grand old Philosophy and the Social Sciences Division.
There will be a memorial next Tuesday for Professor George Bond. He was one of the long-time faculty members, an anthropologist in the Division of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Lawrence Arthur Cremin was very involved in the ideas supporting this Division. There were similarities with the Russell Sage Foundation idea of making the social sciences available to the practicing professions. The idea was that Teachers College was not just a normal school and not just a school where we had the practical arts of teaching, but where we truly needed to incorporate intellectual frameworks from the social sciences and humanities. This meant incorporating these foundations on the TC faculty, not just by drawing from the departments at Columbia University. As I see it, this was a different version of what the Russell Sage Foundation was doing. Both were trying to use scholarly knowledge to teach people who were going to be in the various educating professions so they could think themselves and figure out how to do the practical tasks in classrooms. The education of those in the educating professions in this view was not just the more practical training of how to discipline students when you walk into the classroom or how you will write on the chalkboard.
I may be simplifying it, mocking stereotypes and critiques of the more practical views. But that was very much part of the ethos that Cremin and others were setting forth at that time at Teachers College. That was one of the struggles. And there were critics, for example, Harry Judge, who wrote one critical report. Do you have his name anywhere?
I: Hm-. [rustling papers] No.
R: He was a professor from Oxford University. He was on the adjunct group of the National Academy of Education (clears throat) which I was privileged to be voted into way back. Cremin was one of the founding leaders. Harry Judge wrote a report based on interviews with a number of faculty, oral history interviews, but not extensive interviews. Those interviewed were social scientists on the TC faculty to see whether they were like the real deal, real social scientists, and what they thought they were doing in a school of education.
This led to some very controversial discussions about whether social scientists should be on the Teachers College faculty or the School of Education should draw on the graduate faculties in the disciplines. And whether faculty in a school of education have come out of actual work in schools. Does anyone who was looking at the history of education or who was looking at the sociology of families or the anthropology of kinship structures, do they really have a place in education? Or is that too remote?
And Cremin was arguing, partly because things were changing rapidly, that we need the disciplines. And they’re fundamental. And others were saying no, that’s putting down the practice and we need to emphasize the practice. That was a debate this morning-
I: Mmm.
R: —in another guise—
I: Yeah.
R: —in the faculty meeting. In any case, the Parent Teacher Teams were supported in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation for work in the practicing professions that also included some anthropological studies in schools. I was very young and very new and maybe very timid, and glad to have any chance to do something that looked important. And this looked important.
We had in the course of the larger grant done some work in studying schools on the Lower East Side. Somewhere there should be a report on that. This offered background for the Parent Teacher Teams. In studying schools, I was going with Fritz Ianni and others to a school on the Lower East Side and trying to get a view of the everyday life of urban schools. As social scientists, we actually studied in and looked at schools. Even if we were teaching in schools, we also studied in and looked at schools. I can remember one fascinating thing we observed. I didn’t tell you about this, did I?
Kids would be sitting on the sidewalk outside the school. We would go in and try to be anthropologists and ask what is this? What are the kids sitting on the sidewalk? They were right outside the principal’s office. It seemed you could sort of smell a little bit of questionable smoke in the air. (laughter) And it turned out there was a grating and a heating vent, so that it was a warm comfortable place to sit. When you’re doing field observations, you’re not going in with a questionnaire. You are going to look at the school and try to figure out what’s going on. But what did we find? We found kids sitting on the sidewalk outside the principal’s office. With a little whiff of very familiar smoke at that time everywhere. (heh, heh)
I: (heh, heh)
R: [laughing while talking: But whiff of something unmentionable. Legalized unmentionable now. But—
I: Right.
R: —not then.] (laughter) But then we found out, by digging around and going in and talking with people that the funding for the school was dependent on attendance. This was generally know, but we didn’t know how it played out in this particular school. The funding that schools received was based on attendance. If the attendance was low, the school funding would go down. There wasn’t all the high-stakes testing there is now. But the principals were very concerned with keeping the attendance up because their funded depended on it.
On the other hand, the kids were very determined not to go to school any more than they had to. Because why would you, for heaven’s sake, get in a stuffy classroom where people are telling you things that you don’t want to know? Where are you going to do? You can’t go just anywhere. But outside there’s this nice warm place because the heat is coming up from the vent. It happens to be underneath the window of the principal’s office. But are you going to get rounded up and brought back to school?
Somehow or other, it seemed as if the kids went in and checked in, so they had checked in as present. Then there was a tacit agreement, and I’m not saying this was openly known, but there was a tacit agreement that no one was going to reprimand them for [laughing while talking: sitting and smoking in front of the principal’s office on the heated sidewalk if they kept the attendance up.]
I: This is a, this is a middle school?
R: What’s that?
I: This is a middle school?
R: It was a middle school. Yeah.
I: That’s incredible.
R: Yeah. So that’s what fieldworkers saw [laughing while talking: in those days. And that was an example of the kinds of projects that Fritz Ianni was involved in.]
At this time, the Parent Teacher Teams became a possibility. And since I had done fieldwork in schools and I was doing families and had taught community mental health through the Clinical Psychology program, and had written on families and kinship, I had by then accepted the idea that I needed to do family studies. I was working on families and television, and had a grant from the Spencer Foundation. Later I received a Guggenheim to study family memories. And by then I found research on families really interesting, that is after I started working on family memories. But that’s a later saga.
I: Yeah.
R: In any case, the paraprofessional training program came to us with funding from Ford. It seemed to be a great thing to do because clearly out views of the schools that we got showed that all kinds of things were going on in schools and that some sort of school reform was needed. I don’t know that it was so terrible that the kids were [laughing while talking: enjoying themselves outside the principal’s office and nothing was going to happen to them because of this.] At that time, there wasn’t the amount of test prep there is today. And it was attendance rather than test scores that was the big budgetary consideration. Maybe it wasn’t a terrible thing.
But it clearly alerted us, or alerted me. I can’t really speak for others to the idea that it would be a very good thing if people of the community who understood a little more about what’s going on in the community were involved in the schools. Probably the people in the schools were pretty savvy about what the kids wanted and maybe this was an unnecessary argument. But the argument I bought and a lot of people did was that it would be really good for the school if there were more people from the community involved. You just start off your paper with that idea. There is a great virtue of this woman who was of the community, had the experience, was a good mother, and knew what was really going on.
At the same time, there was all this wonderful notion of the community. There was a lot of sense that Columbia is that institution on the hill and you walk down the other side to Harlem and Columbia is up above. This image meant that it was arrogant and exclusive. I think it’s much more so now in many ways because it’s not so selective. This year, they had 33,000 undergraduate [laughing while talking: applications and rejected 31,000.] It’s—
I: True.
R: —it’s exclusive in different ways. But it was very much the notion that if you want to work in the community, you’ve got to get into the community. And the people on the faculty, unless they happen to be of the community—and what that meant exactly wasn’t clear. It didn’t just mean race. It meant maybe class. Maybe background. In order to have the proper understanding of the community, you had to have people of the community.
And then there was the question of the need for more people in positions in the schools. And so the Parent Teacher Teams project seemed to be an ideal way to work forward. I certainly did not anticipate that paraprofessional positions would become institutionalized in the way they did when we started the Parent Teacher Teams project. At that time, these were marginal positions. But we had the notion that the people who were going to be these paraprofessionals—I think “paras” is a slightly later term.
I: Mm-, yeah, that’s probably right.
R: In any case, they had to have an educational level at least of the grade in which they were working. So if they were going to be assistants in fourth grade, they had to have a fourth grade literacy level. Whatever that meant and however you measured it. But they didn’t have to necessarily be high school graduates or have certainly no college or teaching credentials, obviously. And then there was this very strong feeling, I think in some ways romanticizing knowledge. And putting down, sort of like a guilt trip against academic knowledge as being Ivory Tower. (We had a similar discussion today in the faculty meeting about “professors of practice.”) If you come from a discipline, if you’re not a professor of practice, you can’t do the real deal. You don’t know the real thing.
But there was very much a sense that somehow the knowledge of those who have been disenfranchised, the knowledge of the minorities, the knowledge of the people in the community was more powerful, more relevant in many ways than the knowledge in the university. But then what are we doing? Well, we have some knowledge that those in the community don’t have or, you know, or do we just have the credentials? There were big debates about this. What knowledge is it that matters?
So there was a notion that the whole program would include a career ladder, which you mentioned. This should be, on the one hand, a way to build the knowledge of the community into the schools and into school programs. On the other hand, it should create job opportunities for those who were doing these jobs and that would mean a ladder of advancement. That would mean, first of all, some literacy skills that some of the Parent Teacher Team members didn’t have. If you’re going to be helping with teaching reading or helping with teaching writing, then you should have a certain level of fluency. The idea was that there would be a program of courses in education that would include literacy skills. And then eventually a chance to move up the career ladder to teaching. I don’t know what it was from the very beginning, but this was all being negotiated and worked out in many quarters, not just here at Teachers College, One idea was that the career ladder should include high school equivalency and should lead to college admission for those who qualify.
Eventually someone who came in from the community could get whatever level of literacy improvement was needed to be at the level of grade in which they were working. They were presumably at that level when they came in, although we didn’t really do any screening to be sure. And then they could do high school equivalency and they would have an equal opportunity to go to college. And the institution in which they were getting this training would open up the doors.
I: And so how did that all work? Or did it?
R: Let me take a quick break [laughing while talking: and come back and tell you that.]
I: Absolutely.
R: —next part of the saga.
I: Yeah. Let me find my, my pause button.
R: Yeah.
I: I’ll press stop.
R: Press pause.
[End of Part I Recording, Beginning of Part II]
I: And so this again is Nick Juravich back with Professor Hope Leichter at Teachers College on October 23, 2014.
R: All right. I'm happy to continue. This is, this is actually great—
I: Thank you so much.
R: --fun to-. It's fascinating to and fantastic to have someone interested in--, and I told you this last time, of the period that I lived through and people seem to think didn't happen. You know. So I think this is, it's recent enough history so that it's, there still are people who have [laughing while talking: done it and feel they ought to know about.] When we recapitulate it today.
But let me just tell you, you're saying it's helping to know something about the intellectual atmosphere at the college at the time—
I: Absolutely.
R: --and how this fit in with the intellectual frameworks. And I do recommend you look at Lawrence Arthur Cremin's--, I mean you probably have.
I: A little bit. Yeah. But—
R: Well—
I: --probably not as much as I should.
R: You more-, more, more and more. You can't read too much of Cremin. Um-. Uh-. And um-, he did push another program. He was very supportive of the Family and Community and also started a program on educating and the educating professions, which was to have people who would do rotations in various community organizations and um-. That's a whole other history but the social atmosphere at the time is, is, is just one little anecdote. (clears throat) Um-.
Not even an anecdote. A vignette rather. Um-. During part of this history, John Fisher--. Do you know? Have you? Has that name come up?
I: (flipping papers) Don't know it, I'm afraid.
R: John Fisher was president of Teachers College. He passed away I think a couple of years ago. He was a very proper and upright um-, former school principal, and I believe in the Baltimore schools, and had been involved successfully in desegregating schools. And he had-, and he's Johns Hopkins and he had a very lovely, lovely wife who was um-, very adept at the social graces of a-, sort of Southern social graces. And (clears throat) she would, they would give at the president's house which was in a building that's now a-. I don't even know what's in there now. But um-, Cremin, when he was president, never moved into the house cause he believed in keeping your own residence and not getting hooked on the perks of the job. And he had an apartment on the East side where he kept (___?). But this was used for, for receptions and things then. But, and he, he would give dinners there. But um-, John Fisher and his wife would give um-, dinners, Christmas dinners for the family. And (clears throat) with a little bit of a problem because there were, I think, at that point a couple of us who were--, and that the family would be--, the Teachers College family would be the Chairs, the department Chairs, and maybe the division directors, and the president and his wife. And then there would be-, it would be formal, black tie. Uh-, not white tie, but black tie. And the distinction was well known to [laughing while talking: those of Southern heritage and] um-, and you would go. And there was a little problem because two of us who were women department Chairs both has spouses and what do you do? Because after the dinner, you are supposed to retire and the ladies go to powder their noses and the men go to smoke cigars. And I mean, I-, I [laughing while talking: swear this is true.] (laughter)
I: I believe it. (laughter)
R: And but on the other hand, the cigar smoking is a time for the Chairs to get together and um-, you know, [speaks with a deep voice: informally talk about the big issues of the day] and so forth. And what are you going to do with these two uh-, women Chairs who clearly can't smoke cigars. I mean, first of all [laughing while talking: I don't smoke. But--] that wasn't even an option. We couldn't smoke cigars. We had to powder our noses because heaven knows, we had to powder our noses [laughing while talking: whatever that meant.]
I: (laughter)
R: Um--. And so it was of course divided as you could guess. The women Chairs went to powder their noses.
I: (heh, heh)
R: And (laughter) [laughing while talking: the spouses of the women Chairs went] to smoke cigars and um-, discuss the politics of the institution with the men. And Norma came--, the, the president's wife, came with us to powder our [laughing while talking: noses and John went] and we were, per John and Norma, if we were Chairs. (laughter) Others, I think, on the faculty had to call him Professor and Mrs. or whatever, but we were (___?) Chairs so we could, we could call him John.
I: Huh.
R: But um-. At a certain point--. This went on for a few years and I can't tell you how many. It seems like quite a few cause it was always a thing, I mean, what are you going to wear? Do you have a--, proper--. And, you know, I think [laughing while talking: most academics don't have—
I: [laughing while talking: Right.]
R: --and] um--. We happened to go to Vienna to some occasions the-, parenthetically, so I think my husband, at that point, had a tuxedo or he knew how to rent them. So that was OK. We, we managed to do that. But at a certain point, um-, Fritz Ianni, this is getting back to the paraprofessionals a little-, it's a little uh-, round about. But it's talking about the atmosphere at the time. Um-. That was, you know, very sort of hierarchical and proper in a sense that you were in your hierarchical position because of proper publications and uh-. And yet we were doing good. John Fisher was here out of the school system because he had desegregated schools. And yet, we-. I mean I don’t think that we had um-, I don't know who was waiting on table. But I don't know what their race was. (heh, heh) I--. [laughing while talking: I was too busy worrying about whether I was properly dressed.]
But I suspect, I suspect they were of the community, serving us at the dinner. Yeah. Actually, I do remember. They were.
I: Right.
R: By and large. But in any case, we had desegregated the schools and we were, we were doing this in our formal attire [laughing while talking: and--]. But, at a certain point, Ed Gordon, who was um-, head of IUME [the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College], Ernest Morrell's-, one of his predecessors, um-, professor here for many years. You, you must, he must be in records.
I: Yes. Yes.
R: And have you talked with him?
I: I haven't spoken with him personally yet. No.
R: Well, anyway, he was um-, very, very um-, fine psychologist, African American uh-, married to a white woman who was a physician. But um-, um-, he was African American. Uh-. The fact that his wife was white was, you know, one of these things that some people did [laughing while talking: but--] but um-, no, but they had a wonderful relationship. I don't mean in any way to say anything in anyway critical of them cause they had a longstanding relationship. And, and uh-, um-, but he was very for working with the community and so, and Fritz Ianni was, you know, studying the Mafia and very flamboyant. So one Christmas, Fritz Ianni [laughing while talking: arrives in a velvet tuxedo of some color.] Not like, you know, like this kind of bright colors.
I: (heh, heh)
R: And a velvet tuxedo. And Ed arrives in a dashiki. And (laughter), and they, they still-, I mean we have our name tags at the table and the formal setting and all the silverware in the right places and all. And um-, um-, we still retired and I think uh-, the women [laughing while talking: didn't have the benefit of any one in more, more--.] I mean, women get to dress up at an occasion like that. But segue a little bit forward, and I'm, you know, skipping all the details.
In any case, that was kind of a-, that represented--. The reason I tell you the story is cause it represented the tensions internal to the institution at that time of where we still--. And it comes up later in the Parent/Teacher Teams where we are a very renowned institution with all those formalized traditions and tenure and status and distinctions of rank. And, and yet we're-, our big mission is equity and redressing the balances of slavery, and, and the segregation of the schools. And the same kinds of things we're still talking about today. Um-, and, you know, we're still getting over the, the, the well, World War II got us out of the Depression if you want to have one interpretation. But in any case, we weren't dealing with the Depression mentality. But we were, we still knew that there were works projects that could get you, could make, could help you improve the economic system. But we weren't going to lose the formality.
So—
I: That's fascinating.
R: Segue a little bit forward. Larry Cremin becomes president. And his wife, Charlotte, have you talked with her?
I: I haven't. No.
R: Well, she doesn't--, she's very private. But she's now I think in California and one of their children died-
I: Mm-
R: --uh-, shortly after he passed away. And, and um-, um-, but she was a daughter of someone who was a faculty member at Columbia, Barnard, here maybe. And super, super smart math person. And she happens to be a crossword puzzle champion. And sort of like a real super brilliant, brilliant, brilliant person, but, but was happy to have two kids and, and uh-, do the wifely role. But she was not about to do the elegant Southern dinner. And Larry was a very fine pianist. Almost become, became a concert pianist rather than a professor of history. And so, we suddenly had parties at their house. And what was everyone doing? Well, we had to wear skirts that were long enough so that we could sit on the floor and not be uncomfortable. But everyone was sitting around, sitting on the floor.
I: (heh, heh)
R: [laughing while talking: And Larry was playing the piano brilliantly. And] then we were still talking some of the same issues. But there was so uh-, thing of the Chairs dividing up by [laughing while talking: gender and powdering their noses or smoking cigars.] We were sitting on the floor. And, and uh-, listening to Larry play or singing song and, and I don't think we danced. Dancing was maybe--. Somehow--, I don't know what it was about sitting on the floor. It was part of the sort of the [laughing while talking: liberation of the time.]
I: (heh, heh)
R: And, you know, I think if you want to understand a move of liberation of any kind, it's useful to have the, put it juxtapose it in images so you know what we were rebelling against.
I: Yeah.
R: Not that it was a big rebellion. But Charlotte also said um-, admirably, we are not going to serve a single meal at the president's house. And she was a housewife, except mainly she was doing math and crossword puzzles. But she was not working in, in a profession outside the home. But she loved to cook. And she wasn't going to have the people, the staff, doing all the work.
And I don't know whether that was an equity--, it partly was, I think. I don't know. She'd have to talk to that point. She'd probably come up with a completely different recollection. But in any case, she was going to cook part of every meal at the president's house.
I: Oh, wow.
R: And she was a very good cook. And so she would uh-, cook the food and she didn't cook the whole thing. She didn't cook all the courses. But every meal, I think she started out with that, but then it became a little too big. But every meal that there was a party at the president's house at that point, she would, if she was.-- I'm not saying he didn't have other parties that maybe were more work related, but the, the holiday celebrations and all, she would always cook a meal and serve it. And walk around and serve it.
So I think that little vignette maybe gives you a sense of these, these mixed messages that were going on. I mean, John Fisher was the great integrator of the schools. Of public schools. But the hierarchy, the formality, the sense that we are here because we know somehow more than other people was still there. And yet there was Fritz Ianni and his [laughing while talking: velvet tuxedo and Ed Gordon in a dashiki.] And then, Charlotte having us sit on the floor.
I: That is really--. That's quite a transition.
R: Well, it is and you see, I think it's representative of--, I, I think we're not sitting on the floor quite the same way now. But uh-. Although last, the year before last, there was a floor sitting episode. But that's another story. [laughing while talking: In any case--] Students sitting on the floor outside—
I: Right.
R: --and the faculty revolting on uh-, bonuses [laughing while talking: that the administration but--.] Another. That's outside the [laughing while talking: historic period we're talking about so I won't—
I: That's true.
R: --bring that in.] But I, I do think that to understand what we thought we were doing, one needs to think about the-, both the bodies of scholarship we were drawing on.
I: Yeah.
R: And then the kind of way it played out in the, the social relations within the institution. That said, um-, Fritz Ianni was, you know, he was um-, very flamboyantly idealistic. And he was an anthropologist in the sense that he went everywhere and papers would get lost in his car trunk. But then they could be found if you found out where he parked and [laughing while talking: got the key and went and got them and] and um-. But he believed in going into the community and being of the community and he also believed in kind of emphasizing the more informal side of relationships here. Although he was, he ran the division with an iron hand. I mean, he, we-, we did all the things you, you do in a meeting. You, you um-, you come at a time and uh-, and you meet and you have papers and you process them and you vote on things and, you know, that didn't change. We weren't doing a, a occupy [laughing while talking: movement at Teachers College] and sitting around without formal structural leadership. But what specifically about the Parent/Teacher Teams in this kind of context-. And I'm mixing some of the periods, but um-. There was this sense of possibility. And there was this sense that we had to play our part in working with the community, in helping the community, in making up for the past crimes. And I don't think the vocabulary then was that-, there's a lot of that today in certain quarters that you, you have to um-, recognize white privilege. And if you don't go through whatever training program it is to uh-, recognize that you're privileged or recognize, I don't know, male privilege. It's more talked about white privilege. But maybe recognize male privilege. But um-.
We had one of those mandatory--. What was it? What were we being mandated-, mandated to do? This is one of these like FRPA, new federal requirements. A year ago we had-. I think it was mandatory sexual harassment, which is a funny way to phrase it. But I think we had to-, somehow we had an outside consultants come in and that's a much more now than then. And we had to go through training where we recognized our white privilege and, and uh-. I don't know. Could it have been sexual harassment?
I: Yeah. That has been a big issue certainly—
R: I think maybe it was—
I: --for the university.
R: --It--. I think it was. But in any case, um-, one of the first issues that came up with the paraprofessional training pro-, program specifically was where do we hold-. I mentioned this last time.
I: Yeah. I know.
R: And in this context of on the one hand, you know, this is the school where we stand for desegregation. Um-. There was a very strong sense that we had to go to the community. And we had to set up storefront uh-, offices in various places. And I was doing that for the clinical psych program. I took the clinical psych students over on, on where was it? It was Lexington or somewhere and 117th Street to get to this community clinic at one point, and arrived - maybe I told you that last time -- and arrived and found that there'd been a couple of people shot—
I: Oh, you didn't tell me this. No.
R: Drug related things. And so the community was a real community. That was, you know, real community. Well, I was a little unnerved because I had all these like 15 or so, 20 uh-, clinical psych students. I was about, about the same age they were at that point. But in any case, I was, I had the professorial responsibility for their safety and we get to this place where we're supposed to see community um-, mental health program. And somebody's been shot in a drug-related act of violence, and, and uh-, um-.
But nevertheless, there was the sense that, that if you want to get over the um-, hostility that the community feels towards Columbia, the hatred of the institution on the hill, the sense that there's privilege there that we don't have, um-. If you want to get beyond that, you have to walk the walk so to speak. You have to go into the community. And I'd done a lot of that and that maybe was one of the reasons I was asked to do this. And it was also cause I was doing stuff on families and, and these were basically--. They were mostly women, but they were bringing-, it was the idea of bringing families into schools or family members into schools and, and therefore bringing the voice of the community.
But then what, where, where were we going to hold it? Well, we--. Related to that was the question of what kinds of knowledge did we have to impart or offer? And um-, there was all this: Well, you know, you want to be participatory and it was phrased a little differently from the way it is now. But you want to let people choose what they want and so forth. But we had a question of who's going to available to teach. And, and partly for scheduling reasons, if we wanted to have lectures and workshops, uh-, and take advantage of the faculty at the college, and take advantage of the scheduling issues of the people in the paraprofessional training program (coughs) we couldn't go running around to a lot of-. We couldn’t get enough people to run around on the right schedule. It's not that they wouldn't have been willing to do it. But we couldn’t have a whole program by going out into the community each time we did it.
And so we ended up--. And there was, it was very controversial. And I don't know whether it's in any of the reports or this may be something that um-. You know, it was very hard to pull off because it was so frowned on. It was seen like so politically incorrect to say we're going to-, we're not going to go into the community. We will offer courses at the college. Um-. But we did and I, as I say, it was partly for practical reasons. But then, I also--. I don't know whether I really knew in advance, but I also thought, and I’m not sure where Fritz Ianni was, cause he was always-. You could hardly ever find him. He was always somewhere. So he would have been anywhere but in one of his Ferraris or something. (heh, heh) But um-.
We decided uh-, that we would hold the training programs at TC. And we would have lecturers. And then--. And I don't think you could do this today, uh-, cause the whole financial structure's different. I don't think we had to--. As far as I know, and Fritz Ianni was handling the budgets of the project. And I don’t know, and I don't think there's anything in the files that I have that would talk to this point, but I don't think we paid the college for the use of rooms, which you would have to do now.
I: Right. Right.
R: And I don't think we had to--. We didn't have IDs. You didn't have to have IDs to get in the college at those points, that time. So we didn't have um-. Anyone could come in and so--. But they couldn't use the library. You had to have an ID to use the library. But not to-. Now you would use the ID to get in and then you can go right into the library. But um-. We did get permission for the members of the parapro-, Parent/Teacher Teams to use the library and to bring their children into the library. And we even got permission – and this, I think it's closed now anyway, but we got permission for the children, or the parents and their children to use the swimming pool.
And that, you know, that sounds like a trivial thing, but it was a big, big deal then to the people in the program. A lot of people really liked it, took advantage of it. And then they could go home and say, which was in a way only partly true, that they were going to Columbia. And, and that I didn't really anticipate, it was-. I sort of thought that would be the welcoming thing to do, but I also, it was-, as I say, partly pragmatic in terms of scheduling. But uh-.
So we did that and I don't think we could do that today here in the same way. I mean, the swimming pool doesn't exist. The children lib-, books and children's section of the library doesn't exist. And I don't think we'd get permission for bringing a, a group in. I was on the library committee to get permission for a group that's working at the Natural History Museum to come here and graduate students, not even of the community. I don't think we could pull it off. For an event, maybe, but not for a--. You know, they had passes. They could just come. They could come do their homework. They could come with siblings. And um-.
Anyway, that was one part--. Now what's the message in that? The message is that you do things and you don't always know all the implications as you're doing them. You don't quite know what's, what's going to unfold. But I think it was welcoming and democratic beyond what we in some ways would have consciously been able to plan. But it was held here. Our, our part of the training program was held here. We did go out into community areas and schools and stuff. But, but mostly what we did was here.
Then the second issue had to do with the curriculum. And that, I suspect in those files there may be some--. There may or may not be. But um-, there probably are records of who the lecturers were and what kinds of content. But it was, there was a lot of controversy because again, the idea was that we would um-, have the community involved in the decisions. The, the people in the program involved in the choices of subject matter. And in those days, it wasn't like today. Any time you turn on NPR, there's like half the program is people from the community calling in with their opinions and their stories and their reactions. That kind of wasn't part of the ethos then.
But it was very much the idea that, that because these people in the community had superior life experience – not just had life experience but had superior life experience cause they'd overcome the hardships of poverty and racial discrimination. So they had life experience that those in the college, some of the faculty had the same experience. But, but institutionally, we didn't know this story. So, so the belief was. Um-.
So we thought what was needed--. We being the people who were involved in, in planning the program, thought we needed to include things on the arts and music. So the broad gamut of a humanistic education. And uh-, I can remember some heady meetings with the, discussing with some of the community members who were, the para-, the team members, para-, paraprofessionals who were part of the group that was trying to make the decisions about what we would do. And they were saying: Well, you, you just want-. This is racist. You just want to-. You just want us to have art and music cause, you know, that's part of the stereotype that that's all we can do. Yeah. And, and--.
We were saying: Oh, you know (___?). No, this is (___?). (heh, heh) It's needed and, and uh-. Art and literature is, is part of reading. Well, we want to, we want to have-. You're, you're trying to block us from getting the basic skills. And—
I: That's fascinating.
R: Isn't that interesting? And it was, it was a-. I mean, I'm not saying it dominated the whole thing. But these were very um-. It was, it was high energy. Every, everything we did was high energy because it was always needing to be discussed. And it was a real thing. It wasn't like the, the kind of nervous energy to figure out whether you're wearing the right evening gown to John Fisher's Christmas party. That's a different [laughing while talking: kind of high energy. Where you're going to hold our wine glass and the proper form.] This was really--. I mean, we were negotiating real issues. And, and, and trying to decide whether where we stood morally and, and what was, what was right and what was wrong. These were real intense issues. And there were disagreements. It wasn't all like smooth and happy and everyone saying: Oh, isn't this wonderful? We're being asked to Columbia.
I mean, every single decision was, was a matter of either, either personal discussion and negotiation or it was a matter of personal angst and, you know, sleepless nights wondering are we doing the right thing or not. Or what are the issues here. But, we ended up--. I think I mentioned last time, we had, among other things, we had Leland Jacobs who was a professor of children's literature. Did I mention him before?
I: I don't know.
R: Well—
I: I'll write him down.
R: Leland Jacobs. He's passed away, retired and passed away a long time ago. But he was a incredible-. He's just one example. We, we said well, we'll-. We had to get who we could get. And there were a lot of people who were saying: Oh, isn't this wonderful. You're doing this community thing. And isn't it nice we have young people on the faculty who are doing such real important work in the community, like, you know, you're, you're too young to do [laughing while talking: the real scholarship, but isn't it nice that you're doing something.] [R: speaking here but out of range and the section that follows, she's having trouble with the microphone: (___?)]
I: You've lost your lapel.
R: Oh, dear. No, that won't—
I: It's all right.
R: --do. I have--. (___?) words to say. You don't want to lose them.
I: Exactly. (heh, heh)
R: Um-. Um-. But we-, we--. (sighs) I can't say we were flying by the seat of our pants, but we're-, it was really--. We didn't know how it was going to come out. And we were doing something very new. And we had, we
had--. How am I going to get this on again?
I: The clip's kind of behind it.
R: What have I done? Did I twist it around?
I: Actually, I think you're OK. Yeah. If you pinch the clip there, it's sort of behind the mic.
R: Sure. I had it before. There. I should be able to get it again. Have I got it on now?
I: Perfect.
R: It's all right?
I: Yeah. I think it's, it's caught on your leg. That's why it—
R: Oh, well, I've been moving around.
I: That's quite all right. I've been doing the same. (heh, heh)
R: Moving around too much while talking. Um—
I: Don't worry about it.
R: But uh-. What were the principles that we were going on? One was that we needed a more egalitarian society. And education was key to that. But two, that education needed to include the broad gamut of the, the history and, and philosophy, and social science and, and the arts. And that that was all part of it. And not just the reading, writing, quantitative skills. Uh-.
And so it took discussion to try to get people in the, in the paraprofess-, paraprofessional team, Parent/Teacher Teams to, to see our rationale. But then Leland Jacobs managed to--. He was incredibly charismatic an incredible speaker. And he um-, could just get a whole audience--. He'd be reading, like reading a children's book in this incredible dramatic voice. And we'd have-, you know, like an auditorium filled with these um-, 99 women and one man. We had one man in the group. And um-, they would just be-, they were enthralled by him. And he would be just showing them the value of children's literature. And then he had one among many sayings that um-, his mother, I think somewhere in Minnesota, or somewhere in the Midwest, would say to him: Well, you know, if you don't know a word when you're reading, don't stop. Just say teakettle. And go on. And so he would [laughing while talking: read these, you know] very (___?) get into the whole language, phonics debate. There isn't--. We were debating that at the time. I mean, we were. That was being debated. But he was just saying, you know, let's be practical. Let's say that this is a great story. You're going to lose the thread of the story if you just don't keep moving. So teach the kids to just keep on and say teakettle and move on.
But he would do this. And then the room was-, it was like a, it was like a church. People were standing up and cheering and, and, and thoroughly engaged cause he was so utterly charismatic. And so, that kind of was, to me, one example. And then it was partly his personal style as much as the content. And you could very well have someone who would give a much less engaging lecture on how to use children's literature to teach kids.
But we, we managed to have um-, I think a series of lectures and workshops where people um-, from the college faculty who weren't ordinarily teaching um-, people with a fourth grade, fifth grade literacy, um-, could do it. And, and, and could reach the audience. And I'm not saying we always did. But then we had the issue of it being a, a career ladder.
I: Right.
R: And the question of um-, high school equivalency. And I think I did mention this last time, but you don't have it recorded, so I will tell that part of the saga again. Um-. We wanted to get people through the high school equivalency, and nobody on the faculty was really qualified to teach high school equivalency specifically. We had people doing math and doing literature and writing and so forth. But the, the specifics of the test were less known. And we happened to have a couple of people here. One was, one was named George Ganzel who was, happened to be the husband of uh-, a woman who unfortunately passed away, was a secretary, administrator in the, in the department of Family and Community Education. George Ganzel. And he-, he was like a math whiz and really good at, you know, acing exams. And so we hired him. And there was another person who was an adjunct professor here, Charlie Slack. He'd gotten a doctorate and Harvard and, and uh-, during the Timothy Leary era. And uh-, Harvard and Princeton and moved around and was very sort of, like one of these genius types, sort of like overall genius types, who can tackle any subject and has big ideas about everything. And his um-, he eventually--. Well, another clothing--. I seem to have too many clothing stories. I think I've told you this before, was a graduate student in the Department of Family and Community Education who was a nun in a long habit. And—
I: Oh.
R: And then she moved up and the skirts got shorter and then eventually she was wearing a mini skirt and then eventually she left the order, remained Catholic, and married Charlie Slack. So--. [laughing while talking: It seems like this was a--. Family and Community Education was a hot bed of romance--
I: (laughter)
R: --of unexpected kinds. But] in any case, he um-, Charlie Slack and George Ganzel were, took over the, the um-, uh-, high school equivalency training program. But they couldn't handle-, you need fairly small groups. And so we kind of--. And I can't remember whether it was Fritz Ianni might have been the one that helped with this, but I don't know for sure. I'd have to see if there are any records of that. Somehow or other, we managed to find out that one of the best rates of passing the high school equivalency was at Riker's Island, in the prison. And we were perhaps a trifle naïve. We didn't think that there might be [laughing while talking: special reasons why the, the rate of success] on the exam was high there. But um-. We got a couple of people from that program to come and, and work in the program.
And we had so few people who passed the high school equivalency. But it, you know, it's a, it's a long haul. And we didn't have the rates of high school um-, equivalency passing that Riker's Island did. But then, the people in Riker's Island apart from any other possible ways that the might have had an advantage uh-, were there. (laughter) And they—
I: Right.
R: --[laughing while talking: had time and they didn't have children and they weren't working in a school and they weren't commuting and uh--.] I subsequently worked with someone who was in prison for 20 years, but she, when she got out, or--. She's now on the School of Social Work faculty, but when she got out, she said--, I was working with her on her doctorate and teaching out there, and she said: Oh, we had so much time in prison to read. And, and, you know, that's [laughing while talking: not a reason to go to prison obviously, but in any case] uh-, we didn't have great um-, high school equivalency results. Um-.
I guess today in the high stakes testing, we might have been shut down for that. But, but that was not the only thing that we were supposed to be doing. That was supposed to be the career ladder by-product of the program.
Then, if, if you are doing it, and you know, some of this is not, not one step after the other. But you, we're anticipating we're going to have a lot of people, so we have to negotiate where are they going to go once they have the high school equivalency. And I think I mentioned this last time. But I will tell it again. So somehow it fell to me and I don't remember whether Fritz Ianni came along or not. I have a feeling he didn't uh-, cause he had a way of not being there [laughing while talking: when it was tough and being there when it was--]. No. That's unfair. But in any case, uh-, I don't know whether he came with me or not. But I have this recollection of going very unsupported and alone to one of the deans of General Studies and um-, arguing that um-, in addition to the high school equivalency if someone had life experience in the community and could do all the things you mention in your opening story of, of, you know, bringing the knowledge of the community and working with children and making them, acting like a teacher, being as good as a teacher. They surely qualified for um-, going to Columbia.
And it was a time when, you know, there was a lot of ferment in the air. But I was, was like: How dare you? I was not greeted with open arms. And uh-, it was well-, I mean I can't say that they quite said how dare you, but in essence, in a probably more flowery, more academic way, I was told that oh well, the qualifications require a, a lot more than just the high school equivalency. And the, you know, it's not the-. In those days, there weren't the 33,000 applicants, which is partly an artifact of people applying to so many schools, but there—
I: Right.
R: It wasn't like that at all. In fact, Columbia was not high on the desirable list because it was considered unsafe in the middle of Harlem and drug infested and, and not, not a, not on a--. It may be Ivy, but it wasn't an ideal place to go. The way it's seen now.
I: Right. Right.
R: But in any case, we did not have success getting um-, any idea of any sort of admissions advantage even to general studies for people--. But mostly, they didn't get that far anyway because, you know, it's a, as I say, it's a long haul if you have not just one child in school, but many children in school. And you may be an ideal teacher whether the training that we gave helped them in the schools in terms of the content, I don't know. I don't think you can really ever know or measure that exactly. Even though we have all sorts of supposed ways of measuring it today. But I think it gave them confidence. And I think part of the unwitting effect of--, this is opinion, not, not evidence based, but nevertheless, I think it gave confidence that they knew what real educators thought and said and how they talked and what they did and what they were striving for. And I gave-, I think it gave them personal confidence that they had, had the nerve to go into Columbia and to be here. And to bring their children in and to take them for swimming lessons or just swimming or--, and use the library here. And I think that may have been um-, as valuable as the particular content. And possibly it's true with uh-, you know, what do you get from Chicago or Oxford or Harvard? You get partly the confidence or lack of confidence [laughing while talking: that you've been there and you can—
I: (laughter)
R: --do it.] Um-. But I think it came to an end. We didn't get the funding. Um--. I think it was partly that we didn't, couldn't deliver on the career ladder. It's partly that part-, one of the funding models at that time and subsequently, was seed money. And that was very prevalent. And I can't tell you the details of how that worked out and, you know, whether that was really, you know, whether we were supposed to, for renewal, we had to bring in a certain amount of money or not. I can't tell you that. It may be in the files. But-. And I didn't do all the financial negotiations. But the model was seed, seed money.
And uh-, again, I think that's often with start up community projects, not just then, but subsequently. And if then there's some notion of a foundation or a government gives a grant, if it's really good, then somebody else is going to pick up the tab to continue it. And it doesn't happen that way. So it had a very-, it had very heady moments. Uh-, and very painful aspects to it. And for me, it was very hard because I failed. I managed to run a very exciting, good program, bring people here and have a lot of people just cheering and thrilled and happy and-. But I didn't get anywhere in terms of negotiating a career ladder or some sort of admissions preference to Columbia. And I was therefore considered a traitor. A failure.
I: By whom?
R: People in the program.
I: Hm-
R: You know, why-. Who are you? Are you, are you just taking the side of the institution? Why can't you do it? Or, you know. And it's, you know, at the time, well, what are you going to do? Barricade the streets? Are you going to have a sit down? Are you going to march? Are you--? And uh-. So it was very hard. It was very hard that we didn’t manage to continue it.
Now, at-, subsequently, it became much more institutionalized and then there were funding and I, I don't really know what happened through the City University. But-. And now we're doing another version of it. We have uh-, the department of Family and Community Education was closed and another round of negotiations, then Philosophy and the Social Science was closed in yet a later round under Arthur Levine of reorganizing the college. Now suddenly under Susan Fuhrman we have um-, EPSA, with Educational Policy, and Social Analysis. But culture is out of it. And the anthropologists are wandering around. And so a lot of institutional reorganization and a lot of change. Uh--. And it, it--. Some of the things that seemed that, seemed so important then, I think I mentioned that, that um-, I'm on the advisory board for the Teachers College Press. And I was told at a meeting someone was doing something--, you know, community thing. And I was saying how nice, but you ought to know the history. And they were saying, oh, well, that history was all corrupt. It was all corrupt. The community boards were corrupt. And money went-. Well, money goes, money goes in [laughing while talking: in, in the elite institutions, money goes in places that some might deem uh-, less than savory. I'm not going to say it in any other words for the moment cause this is being recorded even if I can delete it.] But—
I: Fair enough.
R: Yeah. There may have been money in some of the community school boards that um-, had accounting practices that would not pass muster and uh-, you know, maybe uh-, uh, the powers that be were occupying the community school boards and later they [laughing while talking: were occupying Wall Street. But uh--] it um-, was not a simple uh-, easy time and not a straightforward success. And yet I think um-, I think it-.
I really wish, I hope that you will be able to write something that the people who are doing another version of it now will be able to look at and understand um-, how, as you say, it's not a simple model for something today. But to understand the parameters, the special features of the social and economic situations at the time. And, it's not best practices or what worked or what didn’t work, cause you're not going to recapitulate those exact circumstances again. But to at least be aware of the fact that something has been tried. And I think the lesson of what was hardest and what was, was seemingly most enthusiastically greeted at the time is, is something to-, that people doing another version now should know. I mean we have big um-. One of the-. I don't know whether she's a provost. But in any case, we have a whole-, under Susan Fuhrman, we have a community, school, university community school involvement and uh-, that's sort of a separate entity. I have a graduate student, one of my advisees, working on it now. But some of the issues are, are not that dissimilar.
A few years later, uh-, I was involved in a project just a couple of years ago, like five years ago involved in a project with the Harlem Children's Zone and um-, again, different time, different cast of characters, different uh-, configuration. Ed Gordon was involved with the Harlem Children's Zone in the initial phases, but uh-, he wasn't wearing a dashiki anymore. (laughter) [laughing while talking: That was of the earlier period.] And Fritz Ianni, I think is long gone. And probably was wearing a velvet tuxedo to the end of his life. I would imagine. (laughter)
So I don't know. Is this helpful?
I: This is tremendously helpful. I wonder—
R: Well what questions do you have?
I: I have questions in all directions now, so—
R: Please. Please. You ask questions cause I'm just talking and sort of reminiscing and talking out loud. But I can probably tell you things that I haven't hit my mind in trying to tell a saga. That if you ask questions—
I: Well, there's--. A few different ones. Maybe one thing to start with is so did you--. I wanted to ask first if you taught some of the courses and the lectures and the actual content that some of these, these Parent/Teacher Teams participants came into. And sort of wondered if there were particular moments, you know, anecdotes, vignettes that stood out from these interactions, from, from working with the parents themselves.
R: Well, I was involved in a lot of the workshops. I didn't do the lectures specifically cause—
I: That's fine.
R: --the things I could have lectured on where families, and that was deemed the knowledge of the community members already.
I: Right. Right.
R: But I think the, the, the one anecdote I gave you of the Leland Jacobs—
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --was, was, you know, like an example of a breakthrough moment where something that was not what was wanted, was not what was deemed um-, uh-, the chosen-, it wasn't the first choice of, of if we could have all these--. I think we even ranked different, the possible subjects and people--. I don't think everybody, but some people in some sort of committee voted on what we would have. And then we did what we could do.
I: Right.
R: But uh-, I think there was, there was a-. You see, it was very mixed. I'm telling you the bitter end.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: But it was really very heady and very exciting. And, and uh-, I'd been-. And the reason I told you all the background of-, perhaps more than you need to know, but I had-, it's not as if I hadn't been doing the kind of sociological, anthropological work where I was going out into the community. I wasn't doing anthropology. I never, I never had malaria. I didn't go to New Guinea as my co-author did. And I, I haven't done overseas anthropology. But I did a lot of walking around in wherever it was I was studying. So that part wasn't um-, for me a new experience. But the idea of recognizing-. I came to see and I still do this in my courses, the, the notion that there is a lot of wisdom. But it's not just empty to the whole notion of life experience. Now I don't know that that translates into academically phrased knowledge. I think there is a translation issue. But I do know that I was very impressed by the um-, level of curiosity and interest and um-, you know, the abil-, juggling ability.
We had a study of literacy in homes later, sub-, sep-, separate. But the-, one of things the NAME Center did, but that, that was separate. But I think um-, the notion that you know there is everyday literacy. I mean that was part of-, again, another part of the academic atmosphere at the time. There were studies of literacy in community and studies of practical--. Like there's some study, I think it was in North Africa or somewhere, one of the-, Jean Lave or some one of the anthropologists that was um-, doing--. Michael Cole, Jean Lave studying um-, everyday math. And, you know, the notion that, that tailors in some-, I think it was North Africa, I can't-, I, I could find the reference and look it up for you. But there's a whole body of literature showing that everyday math is very uh-, the people know, people who can't do the math in school are actually doing it in everyday life. And, you know, tailors and, and the, the-. We did this, another, a separate study but it was not quite (___?) but, but also as I said, work (___?) the center. Where you, we were going into homes and looking at everyday skills, reading and writing and math and everyday literacies in the home. And the, the-, part of the math example was always tailors in the tailor shop in wherever it was, Egypt, North Africa, somewhere, were able to visualize and cut the patterns and, you know, not waste any cloth and know how to rotate it and, you know, the kinds of things you get on a, on an SAT or on a-, um-, an aptitude test. But they were doing it. And uh-.
I remember in, again not through the Parent para-, Parent/Teacher Teams Project, but I was predisposed to look for that from the work with the, with the women, the parents in the Parent/Teacher Team Project that we would-, we looked at patterns and sewing in the home. And partly out of a literature. But, you know, yes, indeed, we did find that um-, the everyday skills were cognitively sophisticated. And uh-, people who did sewing and had limited budget could indeed figure out how to maximize the amount of stuff you got out of a piece of cloth. And this is a mathematical skill. This is maybe a geometric skill. But it's definitely a cognitive skill. And uh-. I had-. I think that kind of, the-. That plus another aspect of the-. So the, the intellectual skills in the-, and this whole argument that, of the knowledge, the life experience knowledge.
Another thing was juggling. Call it time management. But it was like just juggling. Juggling things so you're keeping all sorts of things going at once. And we had someone who did a study of grandparents as educators with a little grant we got from the Ford Foundation. And she followed a grandmother through her daily life. Just ev-. One grandmother's day kind of thing. And followed her through her whole day. And she had all kinds of problems. She was taking care of the kids, grandchildren, and-. But the point is that her everyday skills, even though she had the children taken away from her because she had diabetes and they, they, the homemaker was, program was cut and so it was very, very, very sad story. But she had these intellectual skills, cognitive skills, management skills to be able to handle a son in a mental hospital and a daughter in a drug rehabilitation program and four grandchildren and going to all the different schools and social service agencies and getting there on time unless the previous one held her up.
But so incredible manage-, life management skills. And that I think I didn't know about in, in the way-. I mean, I saw vivid examples of that. And that was then made a rationale for needing to study that and make that a, an area of scholarship and something that you look for.
Another example in the literacy ski-, literacy in the home was, was coupon clipping. Coupon clipping and organizing coupons and, and people who, you know, had maybe fourth grade literacy, they could clip the coupons and they could organize them in little pock-, packages and, and um-, save a lot of money that way.
I: Yeah.
R: So there was a bringing together and the, the thing if it's not quite as simple as the way I'm saying it because some of the people on the faculty have similar backgrounds. But that’s not the discourse that's the predominant discourse of academics. But the, the notion-, I guess what I'm trying to say is this whole notion of live experience, if you look more closely at the life experience, it, it's-, I'm not sure you can or should necessarily give credit toward college admissions for life experience just in general. And certainly not just on the basis of being a minority or being a, either um-, racial minority or economic minority. But if you can indeed find out what the cognitive skills of everyday living are, they can be very real.
I: Yeah. That's a-. I mean, that's actually a go-, a great way to think about some of the language I have in the paper where I talk about uh-, the (___?), the Women's Talent Corps coming to realize this and Harlem's sophistication and that kind of thing. And that's a, that's a very vivid description of, of how to think about that.
R: Right. And again, you could tie that in with the academic literature from some of the—
I: Yeah.
R: --Jean Lave and the sort of cognition and situated cognition. It's called situated cognition. One version of it.
I: One thing I wanted to ask you about was sort of the, the, you know, thinking again about sort of a larger zeitgeist, the spirit of the times and what not. So this is happening in the late 1960s.
R: Right.
I: And it includes then people who are coming from Harlem during a period when there are really quite enormous fights over community control at I S 201, over decentralization. I mean, the sort of very much still thinking about both the Civil Rights movement and Black Power and these kinds of things as well as a sort of burgeoning Latino rights movement as well in parts of—
R: Right.
I: --Harlem-
R: Right.
I: --and East Harlem. So I wondered if and how these things played in.
R: Well, I think they played in from the perspective-. Probably in a variety of ways from the perspective of those in the college, they played in that the Civil Rights movement gave a rationale and gave an impetus and an idealism to it. Um-. It became tricky, though. Because in the versions of Civil Rights that were not the Martin Luther King more inclusive versions, in the Black Power um-, part of it, then and--. Yeah. Geoffrey Canada was, was reportedly did not want to have anything to do with Teachers College, in a much later version. Um-, but there was a sense of you can't-, it has to be done by the community. It's (___?), it's Black Power and then that's not going to be inclusive. It's going to be a revolution that leaves out the people who are-, and it's going to be taking over the university with, with another group in the extreme version.
So I think there's a-, well, much critiqued liberalism in the notion that we as a largely white institution were probably even less Hispanics or we're maybe bilingual stuff comes in there, so there--. Then the language issues are another matter. But that we are qualified to help and we're going to help out of goodwill. Um-, rather than being forced to help. And I think that's, that's a very difficult set of political questions to wrestle with. And I don't know that we-. I don't think-. I think a lot of my thinking on it came after the fact. It was just-, we were just too involved in doing it to uh-, uh-, think about it. But certainly the Black Power issues were right there.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: And uh-, you know, again that's part of the John Fisher story of the dinner party. I mean, that was-. Ed Gordon in a dashiki. I mean, he's a very, very mild-mannered uh-. This is not Black Power movement. That's like a decorative dashiki. It's not a [laughing while talking: Black Power statement and--]. I don't think he had an afro either. Uh-, maybe. But um-. It-. I think he still had enough hair then. But--. Anyway, I'm [laughing while talking: mixing time periods now.]
I: No. No it's—
R: But, but I think that it was perhaps a reason for some of the backing off.
I: That's interesting.
R: On the part-. I mean, I'm reading between the lines and I have no way of knowing cause I never got my foot in the door enough to find out what was in the minds of those in the, in General Studies, or the deans who did not see the value of life experience or, or, you know, those who--. They weren't saying we have to keep the, keep the college segregated. No. People weren't saying that. But an easy route in or an affirmative action route in, they may have voted for affirmative action and still said well, no, they're not going (get credit for?) life experiences. Not good enough. And I think the, the uh-, you know, it's all very well when you're still in the dominant role and you can parcel out a little bit of help. That's a very different feel to it. And a different kind of institutional welcome as compared with the Black Power movement, which was not about sharing power in the rhetoric.
I: Right.
R: You know, and that changed over time, too. But, but I think that maybe that was one of the, one of the stumbling blocks from the point of view of movement within the institution.
I: and that makes—
R: It was very present.
I: That makes sense. Well, and of course, there's an enormous uh-, Black Power inflected student strike at Columbia.
R: Oh, absolutely.
I: Right during--
R: Absolutely.
I: --this time.
R: Well, absolutely. And that was very much part of why on the one hand this was greeted as a heady success. Uh-, on the other hand, where it was, you know, you can only go so far.
I: Right. That's very important. And, you know, it-, when you, when you were talking about the experience of going to these G.S. deans, um-, it sounds like you were sort of out there on your own. I mean, it was, were you able at all to get any other faculty at TC, other deans here, or leaders to sort of put pressure on G.S.? Or was it really just—
R: No. No. I-. Well, I didn't even know how to try, frankly. Um-, because for one thing, we weren't getting renewed funding. And you know, cause of the seed money issue and um-. And it-. Oh, Fritz Ianni would have. But he-. And I gave-. He may have gone with me. But I don't-. I have this feeling of being all alone. And I, I would, I'll have to check in and see whether in fact there's any record of, of the meetings I went to. I do know that I felt very alone in taking the brunt of the criticism for failure. And, you know, again it, it was-, they were heady times. And I think one of the reasons it was so painful because I didn't, wasn't sure in my own mind whether I was being--. I mean, the, the vocabulary again was different. But whether it was, I was being a privileged white liberal. I mean, people weren't saying: Oh, be aware of your privilege and give up your privilege in, in the way they are today. And whether it means anything today, I don't know either. But I didn't know for sure--.
There were moral choices that I didn't-, that I was struggling with all the time. And it wasn't just that, that we didn't succeed and we didn't meet a certain set of criteria. We failed on an exam. It was much more difficult, real moral choices. Ethical choices. And I wasn't sure how to think them out.
I: Sounds like a very—
R: And, you know, the things that I thought were my ideals were, were not quite working.
I: Sounds very challenging. (heh, heh)
R: Well, it was. And, and again, uh-, it was a time when, when nothing other than revolution was enough. And yet, we weren't real revolutionaries cause we wanted-, the revolution we wanted was opening up an institution. And keeping the institution there. (heh, heh)
I: Right.
R: And to go, again get back to the metaphor, the analogy, uh-, when Larry Cremin was the president and Charlotte was cooking the meals, or part of them at least, and we were sitting on the floor, we were still going to the president's house. You know.
I: Yeah.
R: So it, it's--. (heh, heh) It's a gentle revol-, it's a gentle modification. Gradualism, liberalism, if you want, rather than radical, more radical stance and uh-. I guess I was also, a personal part of it that, that my husband's father-, my husband was from Vienna. And his father was an Austro-Marxist scholar. Journalist and historian. And so, you know, there, there was that sort of-. And I don't know. I, I would never-. I know some German, but I, I would never, never-. I mean, you-,. Do you know German?
I: Not really.
R: Well,) to read any of that scholarship on, on the theory of Austro-Marxism and how Austro-Marxism was different from other Marxism, and you can't even get to the verb without going through three or four pages. And it's a very intricate-. But there was a sense of a Marxist revolution is what's necessary if you really want to make a change. And that was in part of my surround. And then that would mean the Black Power was more of a revolution than, than these gradual approaches.
On the other hand, you have to act where you are. And where we were was here. I—
I: Yeah. You know one other ism I wanted to ask about is, is the question of feminism. And also the fact that most of the folks coming into this program were women, women and mothers, often, as were you. I mean, what-. Was that something that was spoken about, acknowledged, or did-, were there inflections sort of along lines of gender solidarity in certain ways? I don't know quite how to phrase it, but—
R: Right. Um-. I don't know how to answer it except personally because I think there was certainly a feminist movement at the time.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: And there was very much a feeling of, of we need equality, we need another form of, of uh-, gender relationships and, and yet, and as I was saying, that's partly why I was telling you the story of, of, of Harvard not having women. I mean they actually did not. But, but—
I: Right. Right.
R: --I didn't feel-. I felt that because my grandmother was as suffragette and my mother was someone who danced with, you know, Isadora Duncan (___?) things at the University of Wisconsin and, and very, very disrespectful and, and so-. There were a lot of-, in my personal life, there were people who had fought versions of that and I sort of thought I wasn't an ardent feminist of the sort that had a family where, where when I [laughing while talking: didn't have their, their say, it was] quite the contrary.
I: Right. Right.
R: And so I didn't have that personal impetus that some of the people I know did have that, that sense that, you know, finally I'm going to have, I'm going to get to speak up in my family. And, and this is a real personal issue. For me it wasn't--. I was already liberated. But that didn't mean I had the, the jobs.
I mean, I might very well have not. It was just a fluke that I got a job here. It was just a fluke that I--. It wasn't just a fluke. I mean, I had a Harvard degree. I got a third of the salary. They, they didn't pay equal salaries. And they eventually equalized salaries, introduced a salary scale and equalized salaries. And they said the difference were great--. And there were a lot of nursing educators, but the differences were so great that the college would go broke if they equalized it in one year. And they took five years to equalize the men's and women's pay. And so, I—
And I remember another example of um-, being in a meeting. I think it was-, I don't know whether it was with Fritz Ianni, but some one of these administrative meetings, division meeting or something, and we had to meet every other week or something on something college--. Separate--. This is not Parent/Teacher Teams. (___?) talk about the atmosphere of the college, and uh-, I-, you know, if one of my kids was sick, I would never say-, and I had to rush to school to pick him up or take him to the pediatrician, I would never tell the truth about it. Never, never, never. It was not a legitimate excuse cause I would have been told: Well, you know, then you shouldn't be working. Um-
And I remember one time when a meeting had to be changed because one my male colleagues, who lived in one of the TC houses, had his turn at the laundry facilities in the basement during the time of our meeting. And I wouldn't have even dared to say I have to take a child to the pediatrician, can we reschedule? And he said: But, well, that's my time for doing the laundry. I'm doing the laundry. And I thought: What? He has the privilege of having the schedule reworked because he is doing the laundry? I mean, you know, [laughing while talking: like who are you kidding kind of thing?]
I: Right. Right.
R: But um-, yes, it was inflected with feminism. But it was uh-. And there were probably those who, who felt a lot, lot more intensely about the feminist side of it than I happened to because I had, as I say, I, I thought my grandmother was the feminist.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: And I'm sure there were, there were a lot of people for whom-. And my mother was a progressive educator. So, you know, I already--. Uh--. Some of those battles were fought in my family, but um-, it was an issue, but it, it did, it didn't uh-. I think it was, it wasn't a place where the women's rights were being discussed per se. I think that the um-. And the-, I think one of the people who was most successful was the one man in the program.
I: Interesting.
R: And um-. But I-. You know, it's an-, it's a complicated thing because you get the, the, um-, Civil Rights, which was in some ways some of the current more recent analysis says was, was, the leadership was male. And, and so the feminist, feminism within the Civil Rights movement was, was not there. And I think in a way the, going back to the Audrey Cohen and the College of Human Services, that was more of a feminist uh-, set of--. The, the discussion, the vo-, the terms, the way it was talked about was more feminist with Audrey Cohen and the white middle class women who were trying to use their talents. That was a more feminist set of ways of talking than about the Par-, Parent/Teacher Teams. Because for one thing, the, the poor, less economically privileged African American women, they didn't want the privilege of working outside the home. They were already doing it on several jobs and juggling the jobs and so, it was just a very-, insofar as it was feminist, it was a very different version.
And I think these two things, it's a-. I don't know whether in any of the documentation it's there, but in my memory of it, I would say it was-, that-, the, the College of Human Services, for at least the faculty, initially for the faculty, was more feminist than the Parent/Teacher Teams for the um-, participants.
I: That's great. I think that's, that's quite consonant with what I've seen, the sources.
R: Is it?
I: Um-. And, and it makes a lot of sense. One of the things that's come up when I've interviewed some paras is that there was a challenge for them once the opportunities to go to things like an all day training at TC, or, you know, or CUNY later on appeared, that it meant, of course, restructuring family time and that sometimes husbands, boyfriends, partners found this an imposition. Um-, and reacted to it poorly. Not all. Some, some were very supportive. But, but that was one, that was one of the challenges or impediments to sort of training, was that, you know, there's already so much time being taken up by all the work you mentioned they're already doing, plus now coming into schools—
R: Right.
I: --and then training on top felt like a bridge too far for some, particularly men in the family.
R: Right. Right. Right. Well, my, my own husband whose mother was um-, not just a, a socialist in Vienna, but a woman's leader, and very important in, in arguing for the rights of working women, and um-, he didn't like it if I brought students home. [laughing while talking: You know? He-] he liked some students. But if it was a student he didn't happen to like, he just didn't like the idea that my job would extend into, into the home.
And he cooked, only certain things. And [laughing while talking: he didn't do the dishes and uh--. You know. And I think these uh-, it's not a simple one,} a simple thing, and then you know, and really his mother was a leading feminist.
I: Mm-
R: But that's another generation.
I: Right. Well, the one other thing, and I-, we've been talking for a long time now, so thank you so much for all of this. One other thing I wanted to maybe do is just sort of play the name game. Cause there's some other names that come up in my paper and that were involved in this kind of world of, of thinking about paraprofessionals and community education. I wondered if you interacted with them or if they were people who you were reading or talking to.
So one of them is Preston Wilcox, who was involved with the Women's Talent Corps and was on the Columbia faculty and being very involved in community control.
R: Right. I knew of him and, and I'm sure I was at meetings with him, but I didn't know him personally well.
I: Yeah.
R: But he was a figure.
I: Right. Right.
R: He was definitely a figure.
I: A couple of other people were-, these were new careers thinkers, so Frank Riessman and Alan Gartner were people—
R: Oh, yes-
I: At NYU, and then later I think at CUNY.
R: I know of them both and that, that was again part of the intellectual apparatus of the time.
I: Right. Right.
R: And people at the Columbia School of Social Work, too.
I: Yeah. (___?) and Wilcox was at the School of Social Work for a bit as well.
R: Right. Right.
I: And then there were people at Bank Street College as well. This is another group—
R: Well, Bank Street's interesting. Bank Street's very interesting. Uh-, some of the-, in fact, some of the faculty at Bank Street went through the Department of Family and Community Education.
I: That's interesting.
R: Uh-, here. And then went there. And so I've had a lot of connections with Bank Street over the time. But I think, and, and um-, I was just-, with someone who's now at the American Museum of Natural History and Marissa McDonald, I don't know if you know her, but—
I: I don't know.
R: --she's involved in their education program. But she went to Bank Street. And I was with her the other night at a program here for science education. And she's been involved in Bank Street and they do museum stuff which is one of the things I do now. And um-, I think Bank Street, in certain eras, has been um-, they have kind of an ideology, which is sort of the uniform ideology, which Teachers College doesn't have in quite-, and they're smaller.
I: Right.
R: And they-, we don't have that uniformity of, of a worldview, and particularly now. But I think they're more interesting and radical in some ways than Teachers College. But that's, that I'm going to delete from the—(laughter)
I: (laughter) That's fair enough.
R: From the record.
I: When you were--. There were a couple of people there. Garda Bowman and Gordon Klopf were two people who did a lot of studies of paraprofessional programs.
R: Right. I know, know--, not personally, but know, know both.
I: I read some of their things.
R: Yeah.
I: And another name that comes up a lot um-, in the actual documents from TC, is Nelly Jones.
R: Yes.
I: Who was-, um-, I mean she seems to have-, she was sort of a coordinator and a—
R: She was, she was very involved. Very involved. Yeah.
I: I didn't get a great sense of who she actually was with respect to TC. Was she a professor?
R: Was Sonny, Sonny Jamison in there?
I: I don't know. I'll look.
R: Spencer, Spencer Jamison?
I: Well, Spencer Jamison sounds familiar.
R: Yes. Well, his nickname was Sonny.
I: Ah.
R: He was another one who was involved. He was, I think, close to Fritz Ianni.
I: And they were, they were faculty or—
R: They were adjuncts probably. I can-. You know what? Let me write the names down because if I get these names, I can look—
I: (___?)
R: If I get—
I: I can email these to you.
R: I mean if you want to come back another time and look through, if I can get into the files.
I: Yeah. Well, I'll-, I can email you these, too, so you don't have to write them down.
R: All right. Do that. Do that.
I: That'll be-. Um-
R: Email me the names and because I might, I can see-, I can tell you what I recollect now. Or, but I can also see if the names are in any of the files.
I: Sure. Yeah. That sounds great.
R: And they could be.
I: That'd be great. Yeah.
R: There could be. There could be reports that have specific names and, and we probably have, in those files if they're still there, I don't-, haven't even had a chance to go in check that the-, that the many people who use that locked office [laughing while talking: aren't, locked storage-]
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --room aren't-. Cause it goes right through the boiler.
I: Right. Right.
R: And I, I, I do need your help. And this is maybe for another discussion. But I do need your help figuring out how should I try to find a way to archive this.
I: Oh, I have spoken to a couple of people about that. So I can a little more about that.
R: Oh, good. Well, go on with your names and I will, and but, but tell me them now. But then if you can email them to me and then I-, when, if I get into the file before we manage to get together. And I can't promise that I will cause I've got—
I: That's fine.
R: I've got, you know, people who need to graduate and—
I: Yes.
R: --that kind of thing. (heh, heh)
I: Fair enough. (heh, heh) Well, the only--, the actually, the only name I'm looking at was um-, so-, Congressman James Scheuer was someone who spent a lot of time and effort in promoting these things at the legislative level. He was running-, the Sub professional Career Act, which attaches to the um-, Economic Opportunity Act, but then also, he meets with paras in New York. He gets involved sometimes at the local level in supporting these. He says some things about their um-, the teacher strike uh-, and the also, the um-, the paraprofessional contract fight. So I wondered if he was a name that came up or-
R: My husband happened to go to college, Swarthmore, with his brother and um-, Wally Scheuer, and uh-, and another person who ev-, married Wally. Marge Scheuer. And they were very close friends in college. I didn't, I, I wasn't there then. But—
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --they were close friends in college and then my husband, after he graduated from Swarthmore, came to Columbia to the School-, it was the, it's SIPA now, the School of International and Public Affairs.
I: Right.
R: But it was the School of International Affairs. It didn't have the P for Policy and he-, and Marge Scheuer, who was the sister-in-law of Jim Scheuer -- (heh, heh)
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: --um-, studied um-, international affairs. Then my husband took extra time studying Russian because that was the language that you needed then for—
I: Right.
R: --international diplomatic work. And then he was overseas for a while. And then, then came back and went to law school here. But um-, that's the personal answer that's not an answer as to whether he was influencing what we were doing. He was in the newspapers.
I: Ah. Yeah.
R: I mean, I happened to know him personally, but—
I: Right. Right. Right.
R: --but not, not, not-. I would say--. It was a time when you-. There was a more hopeful [laughing while talking: view of (___?) officials than] there is today. There wasn't the sense that, you know, well, gee whiz, uh-, it's such a deadlock.
I: Right.
R: That, that nobody in Congress or the Senate's going to be able to anything anyway, so why bother talking to them? Uh-. It was a time when the atmosphere at the college, and in terms of programs of this sort, was that absolutely the publicity matters, and, and you would looking through the newspaper. And if somebody had something good to say about it or something bad to say about you, you need to worry about it, you need to take it seriously. You need to try to write letters of if you had any personal connections, get there and do something. But I never did in terms of anything with Jim Scheuer. And, and there were [laughing while talking: family uh-
I: Right. (heh, heh)
R: --uh-, I (___?) wasn't necessarily all the Scheuers—
I: (heh, heh)
R: --weren't, weren't of a piece.]
I: Right. Right.
R: I don't know how to put, how, how to put it otherwise.
I: No. That's quite fair. But his papers are at Swarthmore, so I've been down to look at those. Um-
R: Yeah. Yeah. You have?
I: Yeah. Yeah.
R: They have a very helpful library, don't they?
I: They do, yeah, they're great. They were very helpful.
R: They, they-, that's a—
I: It's a nice place.
R: It's a good school. My, my uh-, husband went there. Uh-, his brother went there. His brother's wife. Um-, my oldest son. His wife. And a grandson—
I: Oh?
R: --so it was—
I: That's really cool.
R: Very-. And grand daughter said no, I'm going to Carlton. (laughter)
I: (heh, heh) Fair enough. Back to Minnesota.
R: She-. Yeah.
I: My wife's from Minnesota.
R: Yeah.
I: Family up there. I'm looking-. I'm looking over my notes just very quickly, but we've covered a great deal of ground. Um-. I wonder if there was anything, anything more you wanted to add?
R: Well, my--. I would add again my wish that um-. And, and very, very--, not just do well with your dissertation kind of wish, but my wish is that you, of course, have a successful dissertation, which you clearly will. But that you find a way to publish it to communicate it. Um-. That people who are doing related projects today will somehow pay attention to—
I: Mmm.
R: --even though it's not as simple, you know, as you say very well—
I: Right.
R: --in there at some point that it's not, you can't exactly say there's a model of best practices that are going to apply from one era to another. But that somehow the issues that we need to be alert to from the time you're writing about. Um-. You know, why we need to study history. We don't have enough history at the college now. I mean we may-, we're going to move back to that. But why does this history matter to people who are doing it today? And I think my wish is then-, and as a social scientist, I haven't, I, I don't know. It was just too close. And as I say, it was too painful. And I wasn't--. I felt that, that we'd failed even though it was successful and a heady success and people were, were--. I didn't feel alone. I've got-. I-, I felt alone in terms of that one encounter with General Studies or, you know, that particular negotiation. But you know, people on the faculty would: Oh, how wonderful you're doing. You know, there was a lot of--. I don't think insincere, but a lot of sort of: Oh, now nice.
But how you get the story of that era with all the struggles and tensions and, and the, the particular time socio political climate of the time. And, and, and how you can--. How do you go about learning from that time something that's going to be uh-, something that will help us understand a different time now? With a different set of communication practices, for one thing. And a different set of political uh-, and economic circumstances. A very different time.
And yet, some of the rhetoric we, we're using is, is, is the same without know that it's had a history.
I: Yeah. See, I almost want to ask, are there any ways you'd recommend I do that? But I suppose that's—
R: Well, I recommend you come back and talk to me so I [laughing while talking: can try and get your, you know, you teach me—
I: (heh, heh)
R: --how you're doing it.]
I: We'll keep working on it.
R: Yeah. I really-. No, I really think it's, it's absolutely essential. And I don't know-, I mean there's awfully good writing in history. And some of the-, I think the writing that's most accessible from my perspective is people who do historical biographies. Cause there you're got people and you get the real people feel and um-. Uh-. That has a universality that you can latch onto in a way that some kinds of historic writing don't.
But I just think it's, it's-, I, I hope that we will return to a time when we're both in the schools and in the universities. We don't lose that. We did have this, this uh-, vote this morning in the faculty in terms of having um-, increasing from five to 15 professors of practice. And OK. That's fine. People are going to be doing their practical because those of us who made our careers in the academy don't know anything about the real world or we're in the Ivory Tower. I don't think we are. And I've always tried going back to the whole Russell Sage mandate to make the knowledge of the, of the uh-, uh-, social sciences of use to or available to or have some help or affect for the practicing professions. And I've always been very applied in that sense. And I believe that the academic and intellectual (___?) can come out of the practical situation. But I just think we're, we're, we're at risk of losing the intellectual foundations of a place like Teachers College in a new era of practical.
There's a-, I, I mean, I wish we were more activist. (heh, heh) I wish some of the, some of the ways of expressing activism of an earlier time. I don't want another Viet Nam war. Uh-. I don't, I think the Occupy movement is extremely interesting and I didn't go participate in it. The farthest I got was with a Socratic conversations here and uh-, Ron NAME who was down there and then one of these discussion in the library for the community. But I, I just think we, we, we're, we're too wimpy. (laughter)
And yet we can't just-. It's just a different time. And I, I wish we had--. I don't know whether I want revolutionary change. But I want a ch-, that sense of possibility. And I don't know. I remember years ago someone was taking--. I taught a course on families and television at that point, looking at how families mediated television, which was--. Then I got the Guggenheim to do family memories. And then I couldn't go back to the television because it, in a couple of years, I was doing the other and it had changed so much that I'd have to start all over. Uh-.
But I thought we were onto a very important set of issues of how do we-, how do families media-. It's part of the Cremin thing, of the many institutions that educate and more is going on there than in schools in some ways, more time and so forth. And but-, I taught a course on families and television, looking at the research we were doing for Spencer support then. And I remember one of the students in the class said: Well, but you don't understand. I'm of the generation that stopped the Viet Nam war with the use of television. And you don't have that on the agenda. (laughter) [laughing while talking: And I thought: Whoa. Yes, you know. You're right. I don't have it on the agenda.] But it's true there was this--. So--. Even the media were because the war was shown and was visible and things that weren't shown-, I mean the-, World War II [changes voice: (___?) now the Japs.]
I: Right.
R: Literally, the Japs [changes voice: who have done this and that and] still, you go down to the, the um-, the ship museum. The, the um-, Intrepid.
I: Mmm-hmm.
R: They still have some of those old—
I: Oh. Yeah.
R: Have you seen those?
I: I-, years ago I saw them in coursework. But I haven't seen the Intrepid.
R: Well, they're, they're incredible. I mean, they still have those voices of, of, you know, righteous indignation over these savage tribes that are attacking us and then the--. But--, I-, that sense that you can do something. I think that's why I was so-, sort of--. I was very pleased when my son who's, who's not a social scientist. He's a scientist scientist. But he was so interested. He wanted the Jane Jacobs book and he wanted-, he was so interested to think: Well, you know, maybe--. That sense that you can make a change. You can do something. And, and um-.
I don't know what the version of that today is. I just don't know. But, but um-. This project had all that. But it also had the struggles and it had the failures in it. And it went on to succeed and it was partly just we didn't get to continue it. But I don't think it went on to be a major career ladder.
I: That was always the biggest sticking point. And it, it continues to be. I was speaking to paras last night at SUNY Empire State College, um-, where they have a paraprofessional training program for the UFT now, and they, they can get credit as they move up. And they can move up in salary increments. But to move from being paras to teachers, incredibly difficult.
R: Yeah. Well, you see—
I: And that's—
R: --that's so interesting because that's where I felt I was the biggest failure. I was really crushed by that and then, then some of the people who are working in the teaching started attacking me for failure. That, you know how could you? You're, what are you? Aren't you an activist enough to--. Why, why? You know. Then, then take some stronger means. And so, do you want us to go sit in at General Studies? Uh-.
And I didn't think that was going to help. And I'm not sure it would have been--. You know, maybe I wasn't enough of an activist. Maybe if I'd been more of a Jane Jacobs and sat in at General Studies--. I don't really think so. And it's interesting to me that it's still a sticking point. But that was-, in a way, that was the biggest sticking point. I think the most um-, enthusiastic moments of the project were the actual encounters here and the course and the discussions and this incredible sense that these people with amazing um-, knowledge and understanding and, and uh-, you know. I still uh, have that in the, the discovering the, the wisdom in families kind of thing.
I: Yeah. Yeah.
R: It's already there. Um-. I gave you a brochure for the center, didn't I?
I: I don't know. Uh-. I actually don't think you did.
R: I didn't. Uh-. Where would I be able to lay my hands--. (___?) Oh, I can't do it without—
I: (heh, heh)
R: --(___?)
I: Well, shall we wrap up? On the recording side?
R: We can wrap--.
I: (heh, heh)
R: Yeah. I think--. Well, it's it been a long time--
I: It has.
R: --that you've been listening.
I: No. This has been wonderful. And here, I'll, I'll hold this closer to say thank you. (heh, heh)
R: Oh, well—
I: But—
R: --thank you very much.
I: --(laughter)
R: I really, this was-. I-. Did you get my wishes? Was that recorded?
I: I-, that was indeed recorded. So this is still running.
R: All right. All right. This is still running. So I thank you. I think it's, it's been, it's been wonderful for me to have a chance to reflect again on these things.
I: Thank you so much.
R: They, they seem like ancient history. And I've kind of-, some much else has happened in between that I kind of put this out of mind. And doing other things. But related things.
I: Sure. Well, and—
R: I'm very eager to continue the discussion and if-, you were going to tell me--, and I don't know whether you-, you need it recorded or not. But you were going to tell me some, some thoughts on the archiving of the materials.
I: Oh. Yeah.
R: If they're there.
I: Oh-. There is some-. Yes. And it's-. Actually, let's stop the tape here and I'll talk to you about that. Because—
R: OK.
I: --I don’t' think we need to record that. And I can send you emails about this. We’rd signing off.
R: Right.
[end of recording]

Added by

Juravich, Nick

Date added

2016-04-05