Thoughts About Education at Manumit

College admissions is often used as one measure of school “academic” success. The following is from a list prepared in 1957 as part of the effort to fend off the PA move to close Manumit. It may not include all graduates between 1951 and the 1957 closing. I don’t know how accurate it is and, of course, it does not include information on either those who “dropped out” of college or who attended college later. Finally, it does not include students who either left before they graduated or all

those who left after tenth grade, which was the highest grade at Manumit until full high school was introduced in the1950-51 year. Mike Speer

Gartrelle (1951)– U. of Connecticut

Dowd (1951) — U of Connecticut

Pancoast (1951) — Gaddard

Morehead (1951) — Brooklyn College

Scharf (1952) — Wesleyan

Wylan (1952) — Clark

Fearing (1953) — Harvard

Sullavan (1953) — Grinell

Chen (1953) — Univ. of Buffalo

Muhlfelder (1953) — Gaddard

Peake (1953) — Gaddard

Kreiner (1953) — Brooklyn College

Burrows (1953) — Brooklyn College

Feldman (1953) — Art Students League

Scrulman (1953) — McGill

Lourie (1954) — New Hampshire

Martenet (1954) — New Hampshire

Marlis (1954) — Brooklyn School of Art

Whittlesey (1955) — Bard College

Bourgeois (1955) — New York Univ.

Crowther (1955) — N.B.C. Sch. for TV & Radio Tech.

Stern (1955) — U of Wisconsin

Silber (1955) — Princeton

Sherman (1956) — Bard

Wolf (1956) — Colby Jr. College

Yee (1956) — Goddard

Wiesen (1956) — New York Univ.

Kramer (1957) — Bucknell

Poncet (1957) — Bard

Harold (1957) — Wisconsin

Wallis (1957) — Pembroke

A. McCarthy (1957) — Art Students League

Kroiz (1957) — Maryland


Dear All – For what it’s worth, I dimly recall Robert. He was either a year (group) ahead of me or one of those legends you hear referred to often. I arrived in the summer of ’39. I don’t recall him there the following year. His nick name was Beans. Klaus might recall him. Catha, too.

If the subject here is education, has everyone read Catha’s entry? The academic learning process at Manumit was pretty painless. And the emphasis, as we all know, was on many things in addition to and integrated into academics. I’ve always complained that I didn’t learn to spell there – and ditto for rules of English. But I think it would have been true for me anywhere. Integrated studies, the decompartmentalization (wow -22 letters!) of learning was, to my mind, the great academic achievement at Manumit.

In my first year all our studies were put within meaningful contexts: The Farmers group , the Publishers, The Bankers – math, history, science, current events, writing, reading – were meaningfully and practically incorporated into everything they did – and also summarized in a play or two created by them. Then the whole school saw the play – Like a very large one room school house.

Later, for more latitude I imagine, our group names were changed to Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta. But the same integrated approach was used – learning was emphasized, competition minimized: we had to cooperate to put those plays together. When I entered my first year of college I was amused that Integrated Studies was offered as an new and advanced concept of education.

I would say most students in my class were able to move along in their education after Manumit – some with make up to do – like those of us who went to the Cambridge School in Weston MA, a progressive prep, school. Many of us were given a face-saving post-graduate year to allow us to make it to the college level. Others didn’t need it.

Beyond academics, what I got from Manumit was the reality of the farm, of community; a political and social awareness, a deep love of music and the arts and nature; to look for the good in others – as well as how to express myself, and a positive attitude toward learning. And not just exposed to these things, but taught them. And not in compartments, but as part of my whole, real life.

The Socialist Labor Party + Quakerism + the progressive education movement = Manumit ( to emancipate). They aimed to liberate us from what they saw as a deadening academic environment and to teach us what they saw as a true awareness of the world and our part in it. And we all are the proof of the pudding. I don’t know how you’d tally it; it worked for some and not for others. I guess it didn’t work for Beans. I don’t feel the same connection to any of the other schools I attended later. For me it was what one of the teachers, Steve Stevenson, once said – Manumit was an amazing almost mystical moment.

Also nurture and love were there.

Sorry – this is pretty preachy, though actually I’m sorting it out as I write it.

Barbara Dutton Dretzin


Hi, All:

Barbara, I really liked your summary of what education at Manumit was about. You focus on some very important stuff when you talk about the integrative and non-competitive emphasis. And I agree with Mike Speer that more of us ought to try to write down our sense of what we learned – how we learned – that this crucial part of Manumit needs to be thought about and preserved.

In terms of my personal learning, I remember three things:

There was a strong attempt to adjust the learning to the student. Like you, Barbara, I enjoyed writing (though I didn’t know that at first) but didn’t take to formal grammar lessons. Peg Hundertmark figured out that she could encourage me by digging up used copies of books that I barely understood at the time but somehow responded to deeply. I remember her bringing me a used copy of Joseph Conrad’s Victory. I hardly knew what he was writing about (idealism and betrayal) on a conscious level, but the prose fascinated and stuck inside me, and I wound up doing work on Conrad in grad school. Uncle Billy turned me on to astronomy by taking a bunch of us out on the baseball field and finding the constellations – almost singing his own sense of the poetry of the sky.

This memory leads to the second thing. All the Manumit teachers I had communicated their personal passion for the material they were teaching. They allowed us to see and be with them as caring and committed and thoughtful people. This supports Martin Buber’s point that all learning is really relationship and Parker J. Palmer’s somewhat similar point that good teaching is a process of the teacher sharing with the students his of her own relationship to the material. To illustrate, this means that if I’m teaching literature, I try to pass on my sense that the reason I love working with Conrad, Eliot, Camus – whoever – is partly that their work acknowledges ambiguity, complexity, uncertain. As a kid – pre and post-Manumit, I was encouraged so much to be a trained intellectual seal – to have the right answers – that it was liberating for me to realize that literature was often about not having them. I love an old Jewish joke: “I have the answer. Now, for God’s sake, will someone please give me the question.” I think my sense of some of this started at Manumit – from seeing the teachers working as people, and from being so deeply accepted and encouraged by them.

A specific kind of sharing leads to the third thing. I remember John Lindlof in a Social Studies class telling us how he’d been really disturbed during the Depression – seeing potatoes dumped in the Hudson River to keep the prices up while people were going hungry. Manumit’s teaching was socially conscious, and John’s example has stayed with me all these years.

Theoretically, I think Manumit’s teaching came from some of the permissive education theories of people like Paul Goodman and A.S. Neill – and I think Manumit needs to be written up as part of that whole historical movement. But in practice, I think Manumit added something that Goodman and Neill didn’t emphasize – the idea that personal relationship – the

”realness” of the teacher and student as persons – was probably more important to learning than permissiveness. This idea was developed later, in the work of people like Carl Rogers and Parker J. Palmer. (I’ve heard about Paul Goodman at Manumit, but I’m not talking about that kind of thing.)

I know I remember so many of my Manumit teachers as people so vividly; and when I see the caricatures of traditional authoritarian teachers by people like Fellini in Amarcord, I want to say, as much as I love Fellini’s brilliant humor, “Hey, mine weren’t like that.” And then I wish I could go back and thank them for being who they were.

All the best,



recall building the study hall Of using it, nothing at all


Posted in: Memories

Leave a Comment (0) ↓