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Posted: Mar 28, 2004 09:48

Out Of The Sixties

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By: Lon Woodbury

Those of us old enough to remember the 1960s will recall a decade of tremendous change, creativity and turmoil. It was a turning point decade, a time when many of the old attitudes were cast off and new directions taken. At least one national social critic has asserted that when you look at the things going wrong in this country today, they all came out of the 1960s. On the other hand, many of our most respected contemporary values were products of the 1960s.

In education and personal growth, a tremendous amount of creativity and new thinking began during the 1960s. Traditional public and private education thinking was widely challenged. The traditional interventions for emotional and behavioral problems of juvenile detention or hospitalization were criticized as harmful all too often.

Storefront schools and other experimental and experiential forms of education flourished, as they tried to break away from the traditional model of education founded on the concept of the factory in the early years of the 20th century. In personal growth, we saw est, lifespring, synanon, a variety of eastern mystic ideas brought to this country, and a host of other movements with new visions of how to increase human potential. In addition, the concept of individual therapy provided by credentialed therapists, rooted in at least the trappings of science and credentials, finally became accepted legally and culturally. This was marked by the legal acceptance of alcoholism as a disease in 1962, rather than the old view of it being only a moral problem. The 1960s was a cornucopia of new ideas and experimentation, starting a process of developing, interacting, and evolving to find better ways to educate and help young people.

The network of emotional growth/therapeutic schools and programs this newsletter focuses on evolved directly out of the experimentation going on in the 1960s. Part of this experimentation was to establish schools for at-risk adolescents as private alternatives, with parental choice driving enrollment decisions. These influences are still evident, it is these roots in the experimentation of the sixties that make this network unique from other education and mental health associations and networks. Many of the people and schools who started working with struggling teens during the creativity of the 1960s, are still around.

Larry Dean Olson, founder of Anasazi Foundation, discovered that students at Brigham Young University did better academically after going on one of his wilderness experiences in the late sixties, and Larry Wells, Founder of Wilderness Quest, found that taking young Idaho prisoners into the wilderness in the early 1970s reduced recidivism rates drastically. In addition, many of the programs in Montana were founded by people who had worked at, or been inspired by, Spring Creek Community School, a backwoods alternative school founded by Steve Cawdry in the late sixties or early 70s. Cawdry closed the school down several years ago, but its influence remains.

The late Mel Wasserman founded the CEDU School in 1967, and CEDU probably had the most widespread influence on this network. Originally, Wasserman saw how many of the young people he met around his hometown of Palm Springs, California in the mid-sixties were living in total chaos. They had real problems with drugs, relationships and parents, and from the standard institutions and interventions of the time, there was nothing available to effectively help them. He decided to go into the school business. He founded CEDU specifically as an alternative school, designed to provide what these confused young people desperately needed. His genius was in selecting from the currents of experimentation floating around the sixties, those elements that created a whole child education system by addressing their physical, mental and emotional growth. The term Emotional Growth education came out of the CEDU approach. CEDU became extremely successful in helping young people as an alternative to therapeutic institutions. CEDU expanded to establish several north Idaho schools by the 1990s and added the two schools currently in California. More importantly, many people who worked at CEDU left to establish their own schools, or took key positions in other schools, adding their own personal ideas to what they had learned at CEDU. A significant number of the schools in the Emotional Growth/Therapeutic schools and programs network were developed or strongly influenced by people who were originally inspired by their CEDU experience.

Another early school was Elan, in Poland Springs, Maine. Established in 1970, Elan was strongly influenced by the behavioral concepts prevalent at the time, developing into an extremely tightly structured behavioral modification school. Although Elan itself has not grown to beyond the one school, I have met several people elsewhere in the Northeast who had once worked at Elan. It seems Elanís approach differed from the norm, and it opened people up to the idea that there were ways beyond the traditional to construct a school or program for struggling teens, and they proceeded to act on that insight.

Provo Canyon School, in Provo Utah, was founded in 1971. Although a secure treatment center, they employed several new ideas, including thinking of themselves as a school, and referring to their residents as students instead of patients. Today, there are many schools and programs in Utah that were either founded by people who had once worked for Provo Canyon School, or learned the business from an ex-employee of Provo Canyon School.

Other important influences were Campbell Loughmiller, and his book Wilderness Road, published 1965, from his work with the Salesmanship Club near Dallas. This book, and the Salesmanship Club, found a kidís behavior gets better after camping out. Primarily influential in the Southeast, this concept of long term camping inspired the Three Springs programs and the Eckerd Programs, along with a number of other smaller programs.

So, what's my point? First, if you start tracing the history of influences on many of the schools in the network of Emotional Growth/ Therapeutic schools and programs, you usually wind up back to just a handful of early founders. Also, much of what is most successful and creative in the schools and programs in this network came directly out of the creative thinking and experimenting that occurred in the 1960s.

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