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Let The Public Speak

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno


vol. III no. 4

April 1974

First published in 1974. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1974-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-274-9 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555

We asked a number of our friends if they would contribute an article to this issue and we are pleased to print the five we have received so far. We are grateful to the writers for sharing their thoughts with us and our readers. They appear in the order we received them. The first is by an educator who was in turn an elementary school teacher, principal and assistant superintendent of a semi-rural school district in New England; the second, is by a principal of an inner city school, the third, by a Sister in Louisiana who serves more than just the students in her parochial school district. The fourth article was written by two women teachers in an alternative high school in Connecticut, and the fifth by a parent who is also a volunteer in a school near Boston. The issue is completed by including reviews of two new books and of the voluminous report produced by the City University of New York on the first year of the Twin Parks School, as well as some news items.

Table of Contents

From A District Administrator ............................................. 1 From A Principal Of An Inner City School, C. S. 129, Bronx, N. Y. ........................................................... 5 From A Parochial School Administrator............................... 9 From Two High School Teachers ........................................ 13 From A Parent Volunteer ....................................................17 Book Reviews ..................................................................... 21 Cuny’s Report On The Twin Parks School ........................... 27 News Item .......................................................................... 31

From A District Administrator

It was in the Spring of 1960, that I finally got around to visiting Helen Sanderson’s first grade class. The distance was about three miles. I had heard stories about advanced math going on in her first grade class, but I had become very skeptical of such stories. Furthermore, it was my first year as an elementary principal and I found little time for any visiting. Helen had sent away for Gattegno’s Book 1-6, a teacher’s manual and some rods. She had spent the previous summer instructing herself and then took off in the Fall. Helen was quick to admit that she was grasping but she also knew she was on to something and so did I as soon as I saw her class. While the most advanced group of children in my school was still working on 7+8= , there were four youngsters in Helen’s class who were reading and solving problems like: “If a tractor tracks at a speed of 18 mph, and goes for 3 hours, how far will it go?” In June of that year, I went to New York to take part in a seminar conducted by Dr. Caleb Gattegno which lasted for one week. What he had set for me was a new standard of what was possible, first in mathematics and later in reading. It was no more possible for me to go back to what I had known before, as it was for any miler to be satisfied with anything other than a sub 4 minute mile (when Roger Bannister demonstrated that 4 minutes was no longer a barrier). I could no longer be satisfied with my performance.


Let The Public Speak

Throughout the following thirteen years that demonstration, reinforced by others, became the touchstone for my conviction that the subordination of teaching to learning offered an approach to teaching that respected both the students and the teachers. For me it was an awareness of what was possible, i.e. of the capability of children. Once aware of this much higher standard, I felt it was my responsibility as a teacher to develop my own talents to the point where I could help children reach the same levels of achievement as I saw in the demonstrations. At first, I thought it was a need to master the subject matter, but I came to realize that teaching is not telling. What is required is, indeed, the Subordination Of Teaching To Learning. I have seen many people react as favorably as I did to a demonstration lesson but few persist in the follow-through. To answer this puzzle I would like to propose that if one’s major focus is on the teacher then the effect of the demonstration is short-lived, but if one’s major focus is on the effect on the children then the demonstration has a lasting effect. In the first case, it is easy to say that the demonstration teacher is either a genius or a charlatan, “because when I tried to teach the ‘same lesson’ to my own children they did not respond in the ‘same’ way, and therefore the method is not a good one; it doesn’t even give me as good results as my own tried and true methods.” On the other hand a focus on the children makes it much harder to give up the quest. Alan White (As an assistant superintendent of a semi-rural school district near Boston, Alan White worked hard to open a public school which could be a demonstration school where his vision could be made plain to all. The McCarthy Towne Elementary School in Acton Boxborough (Mass.), now finishing its third year, is a good approximation of what happens when a group of intelligent and dedicated people attempt to


From A District Administrator

base education on subordinating teaching to learning. Alan White is no longer with the district, but his inspirational work is there for all to see. A school frequently visited; hundreds of children not stopped in their learning and growth; a score of teachers working with their eyes open, and parents keen to enroll their children, make this alternate school worth looking into. Editor)


From A Principal Of An Inner City School, C. S. 129, Bronx, N. Y.

As a teacher, I often wondered why one student could make another understand a concept in a few minutes when I had failed. And this after I had given several different explanations with little result. This phenomenon happened too often to be coincidental. As an administrator, I have often observed teachers “chalking and talking” to groups of bored, or inattentive, or silent “sleepers.” The results of these processes have been gross underachievement of children. From year to year the world’s best lessons have been “taught” while pupil achievement continued to decline. I had engaged in much rhetoric and soul-searching without any real insight, until the Summer of 1971, when I met Dr. Caleb Gattegno of Educational Solutions. It was he whom I credit with helping me to crystallize, internalize and gain the ability to express to others, my meaning of “subordination of teaching to learning.” I feel that it begins with a state of mind, a process, whereby the teacher’s role is that of a learner. i.e.

Principals attending seminars Parents attending seminars Paraprofessionals attending seminars


Let The Public Speak

The entire staff continuing to study as a group to acquire skills. Each experience is one to be studied, reviewed and revised for greater efficiency. i.e.

organizational changes attempting to match learning styles with teaching styles. organizational flexibility which allows children the option of working in different settings for varying periods of time.

The teacher wants and needs feedback on his/her performance from other learners, his peers or his students. i.e.

Peer observation and feedback sessions. Requested feedback sessions from children and teachers listening to children. Suggested ways of working so that each lesson is based on the feedback from the previous session. Settings when errors are understanding will prevail.




The obvious impact of this “new role” on the learning environment is that of making the “teacher” less verbal and more of a listener. It makes the learner (student) more involved (via interaction) and therefore more aware of himself. It makes the learner more responsible for his own growth. It makes the learner develop internal criteria for “correct” behavior. Perhaps a more far-reaching impact is that the entire organization begins to focus on “results” as opposed to “presentations;” successes as opposed to failures; individualization as opposed to norms; self-


From A Principal Of An Inner City School, C. S. 129, Bronx, N. Y.

awareness and self-assuredness as opposed to competitive “headpatting” behaviors. In short, the greatest impact of “subordination of teaching to learning” for me is that it has freed me and my staff from the role of cognitive giants and has placed us in the world of eternal learners.” To engage in the learning process with results will enable us to better provide a better learning environment. Walter Edge


From A Parochial School Administrator

Listen to the exemplary practitioners and constructive critics of education in times past and present. You will hear the recurring theme of “the subordination of teaching to learning.” Plato, Aquinas, Locke, Dewey, Holt, Illich, Brandwein, Drucker have all surfaced it in some way. To Dr. Gattegno’s expression of this concept in “What We Owe Children,” I would apply the line of Alexander Pope, “What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.” Look into the classroom where this concept is in effect. It is a classroom where learning takes place. Here children take credit for their successes, whereas in the typical teaching centered classroom of today credit for success is given the teacher while the child views himself as the cause of his failure. Stop to ponder. What could make the difference? What could make effective the much criticized classroom of today? We will assume Dr. Gattegno’s definition of a teacher as one who selected among many social openings the option of working with people in institutions so that these people learn to use their time to increase experience and to acquire the means and criteria to interpret experience. Teachers do seek progress. If this progress requires change, they wisely ask for evidence that it is for the better and that it is practical for them. New or renewed framework for our reflection, resolution, and action can be


Let The Public Speak

found in the experience-time-life equation that permeates much of Dr. Gattegno’s thoughts in this book and in other works. We hear from Dr. Gattegno, “Time is the stuff life is made of. .” “Time should be used to buy equivalent experience;” from J. F. Kennedy, “it is not enough to add new years to life; we must add new life to years;” and from The Great Teacher, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” Jn: 10-10 Reflection here will make any thoughtful teacher ask if the more than thousand hours spent by the teacher and each learner in a classroom each year cannot be enhanced, widened, deepened and made to reach further. Can the interminable cycle of repeat, correct, and review be broken ? Can we move from the tradition of seeing memory as the key faculty to one knowing that retention is the proof of awareness ? Can the teacher move from a purveyor of drills to one who thinks through opportunities that should be offered and ways to increase the chances of their being taken up? Is it practical to raise these questions for the ordinary teacher, in the ordinary sized classroom, with an ordinary class? Can the teacher be freed to teach? “Stop” may have been the answer to those questions a few decades ago. To take that learner in one layer of life with the experiences he has made sense of, be a guide through the experiences he is working on, and to help make real some experiences that are presently transcendental to him would seem to require the impossible — a teacher for each learner. Dr. Gattegno’s observations in “Toward a Visual Culture,” points to the instructional assistance that can free the teacher to teach. The impact of the visual as compared with print or audio media is expertly delineated in this volume. Even now it is available to us in ordinary television. In a short time the economics of this media will make it possible to produce, record, and have independent random access to the material we need at the time we need it. While we use the programming that is here and wait for the probable future, we have very available to us in a practical form expertly prepared audio


From A Parochial School Administrator

materials along with inexpensive equipment for audio play-back and production. The teacher might say that this material would certainly free him to meet with individuals and small groups if the right media could be made available to the student at the right time. Putting this right material at the right time into the hands of the student would seem to require extra teachers in the classroom or excessive outside preparation on the part of the teacher. Along with the simplification of our electronics, systems have been developed which make a semiresearch approach practical for even the very young learner. This approach cross-references learning objectives with print, audio, and video media. I see that this is a way of making real the school as a design for the search for meaning and that once again an education will mean “an attempt by some people to offer others (or oneself) the means that will help the process of making sense of one’s relation to oneself and the various universes around one.” Sister Marie Claire


From Two High School Teachers

Ours is a public, alternative high school in New Haven, now in its fourth year of existence. Although the structure and organization of our school was intended, from its beginning, to be more democratic and student-centered than that of the regular high schools in the city; some of us realized during our first year that we had not given sufficient thought to finding more effective ways to work in the classroom with our students, especially those who needed to improve basic skills. It was while looking around for more effective ways to work that I first became aware of Words in Color as an approach to teaching reading and The Silent Way for teaching a second language. (I taught only French at the time, so that is where my immediate interest was triggered.) After attending several workshops during the Spring of 1971, I began to seriously work on the subordination of teaching to learning in my French classes the following year, and that same year, Ruth Emerson (who was working in a clinic at the time) volunteered to teach two classes of Words in Color. For me that first year was both exciting and frustrating. I found at first that I often became enmeshed in using a new method and new materials for teaching French and lost sight of the students. I still thought of each class as a performance which I wanted to be a success; so I was alternately frustrated with my students or with myself. Since then I have begun to learn to be at ease with my students’ mistakes and my own and to realize that these are the starting points


Let The Public Speak

for all further learning rather than an indication of failure. Knowing this allows me to relax, and I am able to think more clearly about what is happening in class while it is happening. Students feel this difference quickly. When they no longer feel pressure to work for my approval, they are free to work on the task at hand. They can meet larger challenges and I am more aware of what each individual student is doing. Even when results seem meager, I have much more patience and optimism because I’m confident that if they decide to give a small commitment of themselves, I will know how to meet them and how to continue. I can mention two students among many this year whose experiences have been especially powerful: Larry, in Words in Color, was most noticeable at the beginning of the year because he stuttered so badly it was difficult to understand what he was saying and because he reacted to any request with a firm “No, that’s impossible — I can’t do it.” I have tried to put challenges to him which he has the basis to meet and to allow him to get involved with the tasks rather than with me as a teacher. Four months later he reads comfortably, and “I can’t do it” has become a joke which he throws out only as a matter of form. Recently, when I was absent, the substitute teacher reported that Larry glanced at the array of charts and the phonic code and said to another student, “I can figure out any word there is !” Barbara began French three years ago and spent the first year coming only occasionally, storming in and out of class, and generally disrupting other students who wanted to work. Last year she began again and came for one month before dropping away. This year she and I had both grown — I felt ready to work with her and she was anxious to show that she could learn French. It has not always been easy, but the rewards have been great. On her most recent self-evaluation she wrote: “I have learned a whole new language. I learned self-discipline, meaning I learned to come to class, to detect what is missing, what is not missing when I talk, and how to say French with feeling so it doesn’t just drag.”


From Two High School Teachers

One other thing that I especially like about working on the subordination of teaching to learning is that it is an ongoing process which makes me grow and change. There are periods of time when I work to develop one aspect of my awareness and then suddenly, after a classroom experience, a conversation with other teachers, or a seminar at Educational Solutions, I can feel myself reaching a new level of understanding. Statements which were just words before take on meaning for me and I can begin to incorporate them into my teaching. Alice Mick Since my introduction to the subordination of teaching to learning — briefly some 14 years ago when I was a fourth grade classroom teacher and Dr. Gattegno visited our school one day to work with us in mathematics, and then more intensively during the past seven years while I have been using Words in Color in tutoring and teaching with students of many ages and working with Dr. Gattegno and his staff in many kinds of seminars at Schools for the Future and Educational Solutions — in the years since then, my ways of working with students have changed in so many ways that I can hardly begin to describe, or even to now recall, what all the changes have been. I do know that the changes have been enormous and have been in the direction of seeing my students and myself much more clearly and optimistically than I used to. I am, at the same time, more critical and more confident of both myself and my students. This way of working has enabled me, for the first time, to have the feeling that I really know what I and my students are doing, at least a lot of the time, and to see and begin to analyze some of my mistakes in ways that are helpful to both of us. In my early Words in Color work, with teenaged sixth grade “nonreaders,” I began to realize how absurdly I and my fellow teachers had held back our students by our underestimation of their abilities and our slow, repetitious, irrelevant ways of “educating” them. I have seen this proven again and again with my “emotionally disturbed” students of all ages and with my high school “poor achievers.”


Let The Public Speak

At High School in the Community, where we offer Words in Color classes for all of our poor readers and where most of the foreign language teachers now use the Silent Way, this way of working has forced us to look at what our students are really doing rather than relying on our “educational” preconceptions. We have the confidence to present the challenge of reading and writing to all students and to encourage any and every student to study a foreign language. I think of Susan, who began Words in Color in 11th grade. She was a “non-reader” who had been subjected to every kind of reading method that the school system and the area college special tutoring programs could provide and was embarrassed because she still could not read the labels on the cigarette machines. After a year (I was still a slow teacher!) of Words in Color class, the thing she found particularly amusing and enjoyable was to read articles from the New York Times. And I think of James and Wesley and Pam and Gary and others who had been persuaded that something was lacking in them because they had been through 9 or 10 or 11 years in school and had not mastered reading — and how confidently they changed their opinions of themselves as they worked with Words in Color. And I think of the first grade teachers I have worked with who, for the first time, have seen that all of their inner-city students could learn to read. Ruth Emerson At High School in the Community, inspired by our experiences with the subordination of teaching to learning, we continue to search for new ways of persuading students to begin to rely on their own judgment, in a public city high school, where, because granting of credits toward graduation is the name of the game, students have come to rely on pleasing their teachers instead of themselves. Now, after nearly three years of contact with Words in Color and the Silent Way, the germ of subordination of teaching to learning has begun to infect teachers and students in other courses at H. S. C., but we still have a long way to go because the changes demanded of teachers and administrators are so profound. At least we’re beginning to see that it really is contagious!


From A Parent Volunteer

So that my comments about “subordination of teaching to learning” may be put in the proper context, perhaps it is best to start with who I am. I am not an educator. It is in the capacity of parent (nine-year old boy, seven-year old girl), school volunteer, and active citizen in a small New England town that I have solidified certain thoughts about “subordination of teaching to learning.” Three years ago, my children were enrolled in an alternative public school which was dedicated to using the Gattegno curriculum. At that time, I thought of Words in Color and Algebricks as specific, straight forward learning tools for reading and math. They were attractive looking, fun to use, and they just seemed to make good sense to me. However, as I have become more familiar with them, I have come to realize that these are not just mechanical learning tools. Embodied in them and their use is a whole philosophy, a whole way of thinking about the learning process. That philosophy is stated in the phrase “subordination of teaching to learning.” Philosophically, this means that the whole logical process by which the human mind learns anything (walking, talking, reading, etc. ) is of primary importance; whereas, the process of teaching (giving out of information) is strictly subordinate to it. The main objective of the Gattegno tools is not to impart information (teaching), but rather make available certain tools of learning in such a logical and pleasant way as to entice the children to discover information (learning). In doing this,


Let The Public Speak

the children develop, at a very early stage, inner criteria upon which to base future decisions, judgments, and learning experiences. Practically, this means a change in classroom atmosphere and teacher role. Rarely is heard the usual “2+2=4.� The teacher gives out very little information. Instead, she asks the right questions, in the right sequence, to elicit responses from the children — responses which indicate that new knowledge is being discovered along the way. Her questions guide the child on the path of learning. And the child can see what the answer is for himself without being told the answer from an outside source and having to memorize it. The specific tools of Words in Color and Algebricks are cheerful and attractive, and are often presented in the form of games. When these qualities of cheerfulness, attractiveness, and playfulness pervade the whole atmosphere of a classroom or school, then the attitude of the children toward lessons and school in general is one of enjoyment and enthusiasm. My children, after being in a Gattegno classroom for about half a year, began asking me (and still do three years later) to prepare math and reading papers for them to do when they got home from school or when they were home sick. Need I say more about their enthusiasm of school work? This philosophy does not just work with reading and math, but can be applied to all phases and kinds of learning. Even beyond the academic world, it can also be applied to the way we learn social behavior, community responsibility, and problem solving of all kinds. This is where I, as a parent, get very excited about the idea. More and more I am learning how to use this method in solving family problems and helping my children become responsible individuals. One of the main problems with the Gattegno curriculum is that it is often used only as a mechanical tool, and the idea of subordinating teaching to learning is not grasped along with it. It is the philosophy on which the tools are based, and it is the philosophy which makes them work.


From A Parent Volunteer

Also, there seems to be a tendency to think that once a child has learned to read and knows simple math operations, there is no more need for this curriculum. It is a disappointment to me to see intermediate grade teachers casting aside both the tools and philosophy. Words in Color can be used to learn more than just how to read. It can be used with foreign language, poetry, creative writing, etc. Ditto Algebricks with respect to advanced math. But far more important is that subordinating teaching to learning maximizes the relationship between student and teacher to produce joy and quality in learning. Doesn’t it seem logical that a child who knows he can depend on himself has more self confidence than one who always needs to look to others for the “right” answer? Isn’t it these inner criteria that all human beings depend on for decision making and problem solving of all kinds? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the earlier our inner criteria are developed, the sooner we can call ourselves responsible citizens and the greater is our potential for future self-education? Doesn’t the idea of “subordination of teaching to learning” make plain good sense. Sally Dole


Book Reviews


Can you imagine a whole book written about the first ten minutes of our life in the world?

Normally such a short duration will get as much as a mere line in any book on early childhood. A mere mention that the baby leaves the womb and is among us. But Dr. Frederick Leboyer, a French obstetrician, asked the question, “Why do babies cry when they are being born?” and managed to get what may be considered a complete answer. The answer to the question both makes sense and represents a definite education for mankind as a whole — unless in our ignorance we have not noted that some tribe, somewhere, has known for a long time what Leboyer reveals to us. His story told in words and pictures, (in a book that “Le Seuil” a Paris publishing house, made available under the title: “Pour Une Naissance Sans Violence” in French, in January, 1974) is one of the most moving books I could ever dream of reading. It will affect for days any reader who is vulnerable to beauty, cruelty, violence and hope. For, indeed, having met the cause of the violence and cruelty in our ignorance his proposal fills us with hope as it shows us that there can be more beauty around. In a three-act play the author builds up his poetic-scientific approach to the drama of birth.


Let The Public Speak

Act one accumulates the horror, concentrating the searchlight on what happens “normally” to a baby born in the “normal” conditions. We believe that a baby must scream as soon as he is out of the womb and that we must cut the cord as soon as possible after that. It fails to touch us that he cries, because we all “know” that newly born babies do not see, do not hear, do not feel anything! But why then do they scream and howl so much? Act two, moves towards making the reality of birth known to us and to show what happens if we surround it with respect and the observance of its truth. If instead of blazing lights we use dim light; instead of shouting, whisper or even reduce words to silences; instead of cutting the cord keep it intact until it gives signs of its uselessness, i.e. stops pulsing, we are at the beginning of relating to birth. But what are we to do with a baby if we do not get hold of him, separate him from his source and place him squarely in his new world? Leboyer tells us what he did, and says it in words that make sense. He placed the baby as soon as he was fully born, the cord still beating and thus telling us it is still functional, on his mother’s stomach from which he came. He let the mother know him by touch, let him take his time to shift to breathing while his brain is still oxygenized by the same process it used until now. Once breathing is well established, the cord dries and either falls by itself or causes no traumatism if it is now cut. The obstetrician — who has developed a slow, careful way of handling the baby based on profound consideration of what the baby went through, is going through — places the baby in a bath of warm water and gives him an environment akin to the one he left a few minutes earlier, to work gently and thoroughly, lying on his back, so as to discover the pleasure of being free in a welcoming world. The scene has shifted from the horrors of Act 1, to the ineffable sweetness of a life integrated into the conscious living of those who care. And who care because they know. And know because they have made themselves vulnerable to the invisible reality of being born.


Book Reviews

Act 3, is rather a postlude. A free baby enjoying a world that is new but is as comfortable as the one left behind a few minutes ago. A few minutes, as extensive as the whole of one’s life in the world. Without the many photographs in the book the words would be meaningless. He who sees the difference in the faces and the gestures of the children born with violence and without, will never forget them. A landmark in my life dedicated to understanding ourselves in the world, this book is for every one of us. 2 Educational Solutions has just published a new book by Caleb Gattegno called “The Common Sense of Teaching Mathematics” (129 pages; $4.95). It is his first book devoted to mathematics teaching for over ten years. A staff member writes the following. Caleb Gattegno’s writing about the teaching of mathematics has a quality that decisively marks it off from the great majority of other writers in this field. Whereas most authors start from a position or a collection of assumptions which they barely examine and never reexamine, Dr. Gattegno begins further back and takes nothing or almost nothing, for granted. He is prepared to look again and again at the foundations of mathematical education, questioning anyone’s assumptions, including his own. The new book will bring substantially new insights even to readers who know his earlier writings well. It makes the clearest possible statements about what requirements mathematics makes on the learner, and about the powers that any learner can be expected to bring to his task. The book offers a clarification, and even, indeed, a simplification of the part of the teacher of mathematics who wants to put the essentials of elementary mathematics before his students and avoid distracting them with unnecessary and irrelevant demands. The first part of the book describes in detail for the first time a number of techniques that have been used in our workshops over the past five


Let The Public Speak

years. Some readers may be surprised at the extent of the mathematics that can be obtained from one’s set of fingers, but they will certainly be convinced that this is quite a new use of this convenient, portable instrument. It is at the furthest possible remove from “finger-counting” which has so often proved to be a heavy and indispensable crutch. By assimilating the work with the fingers into the overall strategy of using students’ powers to make transformations through actions, perceptions and speech, Dr. Gattegno develops all that is necessary to compute additions and subtractions of any complexity in any base of numeration. He demonstrates, in passing, how much can be achieved with numerals before the experience that will associate them with numbers need be introduced. But it is not possible to treat multiplication with the fingers without maintaining it at the level of repeated addition and consequently arresting the proper development of multiplication as an autonomous operation that exists alongside, but distinct from, addition. The Algebricks come into their own here, taking the operational development on through products and factors to powers, roots and logarithms, and providing the algebraic awarenesses that bind the strands of elementary arithmetic together. The last section of the book, “Teaching mathematics,” speaks directly to teachers, and particularly to those who may feel a lack of confidence in their own abilities as mathematicians. It shows how they can work on their own powers to gain enough insight and fluency in mathematics to be able to give their students what is required. Two appendices add a great deal to the value of the book — one is an account of the way in which it is possible to calculate the cost of learning some mathematics; the other is a schema which displays the alternative curricula that can be developed out of activities with the Algebricks. As one would expect from a teacher who believes in giving students only what they need, leaving the rest to them, in this book Dr. Gattegno offers teachers only what they need in order to make sense of the task of teaching elementary mathematics. The rest — the need to ponder, to re-read, to extend the approach to other topics, to work out some


Book Reviews

sections in more detail, to experiment, to practice, to become more alert and sensitive to students’ feedback, etc. — is left to them. Readers must, in fact, do what they alone can do if this book is to make an impact on the teaching of mathematics and make mathematics a more realistic and attainable endeavor for more students in our schools. The author has done all he can to start the ball rolling. David Wheeler


Cuny’s Report On The Twin Parks School

Last month we received from the Office of Teacher Education, City University of New York, a heavy parcel that contained the report (over 1, 200 pages in 3 volumes) for which we have been waiting for one year. In this Newsletter during 1972, we published notes keeping our readers informed about what was going on in the “Experimental School, as we then called the C.S. 129-C.S. 234 complex. Those who read them know that the United States Office of Education had funded the CUNY Research to report on the significance for teacher education of what went on in that school. A panel of thirty or so of its professors were to look at the school from a variety of viewpoints during the first school year. In April, 1973, we (Educational Solutions, the consulting firm), published our own report in the form of a book with the title “An Experimental School.” A year later we can now read what this group and its leaders found worthy of their attention. This report, like our own, is made of two parts: 1) a manageable volume of 267 pages which gives the salient points of what the editors think are the main lessons learned by the group of professors in all their activities, and, 2) a set of appendices in two volumes of about 500 pages where we find the actual documents summarized in Part 1.


Let The Public Speak

This imposing document could not have seen the light of day if all the errors in it had to be corrected. There were too many people involved and the terms of reference for their participation had not been sufficiently well defined at the outset. The most unfortunate error can be seen in the title “The Utility of the Gattegno Technique For The Training of School And College Educational Personnel” which says that the focus was placed on a person and his proposals rather than on the school and what it could teach — which was the basis of the request for the grant and for the interest of the Officers at the U. S. O. E. Still, most errors only touch either teachings, ideas, suggestions of mine — which for me were not all that important — or facts without too much consequence. The report will be a valuable document, at least for those who were at the school when the writers were observing. It is always easy to point out what can be criticized, particularly if the errors can be proved. It is much harder to ignore them and to look for the value of such a contribution for the serious students of education. For me the report is a mine of information. And I learned a great deal while studying it. I learned much more than I can summarize here and that would interest our readers. Of what may be of general significance I shall single out the following. 1

It is very difficult to be an observer of a living phenomenon, particularly if one believes that people, like nails, can be treated statistically.

2 Our mind needs disciplines not learned in university courses, or even at doctoral research levels, in order to be impressed by human phenomena. 3 Any one lacking these disciplines sees only what meets his or her eyes.


Cuny’s Report On The Twin Parks School

4 Some of the professors managed to let what they looked at affect them personally, and therefore professionally. Their statements are moving. 5 Some did what they usually do: judge a priori, which is equivalent to contributing nothing. Their statements are a waste of space. 6 Some even distorted the facts they present to remain where they were before they looked at the school. Their statements do not make the report more valuable. 7 Considerable efforts were made by a few of the writers to make sense of what baffled them. Some were obviously generous in their appraisal of what was contrary to their beliefs. Some, though irritated by the whole thing, let the facts speak for themselves and became tolerant of a viewpoint that rubbed them the wrong way. 8 A real effort was made by the recorder of the Professorial Seminar to penetrate the mystery of these ill-fated Wednesday evening gatherings. Where so little was achieved when so much could have been. To read this part of the report can only create a deep respect for the recorder. The task was hard; the affective demands of being fair to all, the intellectual width required to cover so many questions, seem to have been well met. 9 Although at no moment did I claim to have a philosophy and always said of myself that I was a technician of education, it was felt necessary to hire specially a philosopher to assess my “philosophy.” His article, only comprehensible to me if I become a philosopher, seems an exercise in futility, ending by repeating that he cannot find a “theory” in my work, which all heard directly from myself more than once.


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10 One of the moving aspects of the report resides in the tension created by the half-hearted abandonment of one or all the scales of “measurement,” used esoterically by educational psychologists who try to “be objective,” and the half-hearted adoption of other evaluative criteria. Rather than be puzzled by the subjective final assessments shown by all the contributors, we may be heartened by the discovery that somehow the common sense that guides all researchers and most discoverers did the trick this time too. The human element emerges in quite a number of places in the report and revitalizes it for the benefit of the readers. 11 From their first visit to the school to their last the professors seemed to think that they were there to judge Gattegno. Since so many rooms at the Twin Parks School were either barren, or equipped with my materials (by decision of the school people), or only towards the end of the year given some other materials, the incredulous observers who are themselves used to getting much out of the school equipment, took a long time to note that education is of awareness and that this is invisible. When some managed it, they saw for the first time what it was to subordinate teaching to learning. And their inner complexion changed. Very few of the observers reached at the time of their writing any insight into why they had been invited to witness the phenomenon of the experimental school. Caleb Gattegno. P. S. The sheer size of the task given to Professor Carol Tittle and her assistants fills me with awe and admiration.


News Item


We now have prints of the first 30 minutes of Absolute Visual Reading, the film we have made for teaching reading to the deaf.

These 30 minutes are divided into about 19 segments of different lengths for teachers to use in cassettes to organize their curriculum. This will eventually cover all that is required for fluent sight reading and comprehension of the English language. The present segments cover around six months of classroom work. With Mr. N. J. Leigh, we are working on a number of aspects of the challenges that still remain to produce the complete answer we think we have for teaching reading to the deaf. 2 During the week of April 15-19, in New York City we had our second training workshop for teachers of the deaf. (We have already reported on the one in September and the one-day conference in January.) The participants came from far and near. Canada was represented by three teachers from Montreal. Switzerland by one from Geneva, the United Kingdom by one from Scotland. The United States was represented by people who came from California and Oregon, Florida and Virginia, New York and Connecticut.


Let The Public Speak

The workshop was intense, profound and comprehensive. The participants were charged and felt prepared to present what they had learned to their colleagues and the public back home. Clearly the film was the central item in the workshop since it solves so neatly so many of the difficult problems of teaching the deaf. Because the segments were separated and shown in turn, it was possible to examine their content in depth and link it with teacher activities in the classroom. Because the participants had experienced so many of the difficulties the film resolved, they were happy to engage in positive discussions and to examine very closely why the solutions suggested would work. The study of the initial proposal — that we can teach reading and writing while teaching language silently — took the form of a demonstration lesson in which the participants became adept at using a pointer and charts of Chinese Mandarin characters to give instructions without speech. This technique of the Silent Way is so effective that it can be used with the deaf at any stage, beginning or remedial and in any language, provided the charts are available and known to the teacher. Convinced by the demonstration that they could learn to read and write an unknown language, the participants asked for a sequence of steps for beginners. This is what the film provides in the English language. In order to understand the rationale of the first five minutes of the Absolute Visual Reading film, which shows a word machine, we needed to study the generation of language. This was given as a perceptual system of arbitrary but consistent designs associated with a system of perceptions which provide what we all call meanings. At least two meanings of “meaning” are required to make sense of the generation of language. Because perception is our birthright, each of us uses it to reach reality and its dynamics. We not only perceive objects. We perceive distances,


News Item

movements, changes, transformations, relationships, appearances and realities. So long as there is a system that associates designs to that which is now perceived we can expect that all (seeing) people will simultaneously evoke the two perceptions; and this is language. We therefore introduce students to the word machine that any one can manipulate and teach them that things called “words” exist —as legitimately as a macaroni machine justifies the existence of macaroni. In the case of words, the objects that are produced are arrangements of existing elements. Hence the students can accept that if we are given certain units we can generate new entities involving combinations and permutations of these units. Once these entities (words) exist in their own right we can simultaneously present one or more of them with recognizable designs — animated drawings in the film. This represents a breakthrough since we can show that as things happen to the animated figures, other things happen to the words which accompany them. And language is generated. To retain the story at the two levels of perception — that of the figurines and that of the words - provides reading and comprehension simultaneously. Since we have a number of examples in the film we can show how our concept of association of words and situations transcends the labeling, of objects by nouns that is used universally. But which also universally creates problems for students and teachers alike. Very quickly we reach plurals and clusters of words that are inflected by the perception and so establish the behavior of language. Even if no rhyme or reason justifies what happens to words, the consistency of the changes can be made visible and can be retained and recalled. When this can be reproduced on paper it shows a capacity to write that can be controlled by a capacity to read. The film shows several examples of a quick and unambiguous introduction to grammatical categories and their referents. Pronouns,


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adverbs of time or space, tenses and negations are all met in all their complexity in these 30 minutes. Of special interest is a five-minute segment that teaches numeration in the common base (i.e. where 10-1 is called 9). Such a short film has the advantage of being a silent introduction to the reading and writing of these adjectives. These will be used to tell time, to organize the calendar, important dates, addresses, etc. A big chunk of applied language. The participants were introduced to many instruments that are capable of solving difficult problems. They were appreciative of what was offered and affected as persons because of the access the workshop gave them to approach their students as powerful rather than handicapped people. For 19 74-75, two such workshops will be offered when we hope to have more to share with those who teach the deaf.


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

Let The Public Speak  

Newsletter, Vol. III No. 4, April 1974

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