Devon Case

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Devon School

Clear River, despite its prosaic name, is a bustling manufacturing and mill community of about 65,000 people. As the only large population center in Tonley County, it also serves as the hub of financial, transportation, and governmental services. On the outskirts of Clear River are smaller suburbs. Devon, known locally as “Nob Hill”, is one of them. As its nickname implies, it is the most affluent of these suburbs and is the home of many of the area’s business and civic leaders.

Devon also attracts professional people, who choose to live in the community because of its beauty, reputation, and higher quality public services. The town is not all middle and upper middle class, however; there is a sizable minority of tradesmen and service people. Although less well off financially than the rest of the town, this group is able to exert some influence in local politics and community affairs. The township manager and three- fourths of the town council are Republicans; indeed, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one.

The following item appeared in the August 15th issue of the Clear River Examiner.

NEW SCHOOL OPENS IN SEPTEMBER- DEVON. The recently completed Devon Middle High School will open for classes Tuesday, September 6th. The school, under construction for the past 16 months, will represent a radical departure, both architecturally and educationally from the traditional junior and senior high schools. It is the first of its kind in this area.

Mr. Arthur Magnason of Devon has been appointed principal of the new school. A native of New England with a master’s degree in education from the University of Vermont, Magnason has 18 years of experience in teaching and administrative duties in the school systems of Tonley County. He leaves Clear River Central High after fours years as its principal.

In discussing the new school, Magnason said, “This is clearly a case where form follows function. The school has been designed and built with the express purpose of using an ‘open classroom’ concept of teaching and learning. Under this system, small ‘learning groups’ meet in a large common area and in an environment in which students and teachers are much freer to pursue alternative learning concepts than in traditional programs. The curriculum is also more flexible and students are sometimes allowed to move from one learning group to another to undertake a new subject of interest to them.

“The upper and middle schools are housed under separate roofs, but a central walkway connects the two both physically and, I think, symbolically.”

Enthusiasm for the new school is not confined to its faculty. Mr. Harold Fowles of Devon, president of the Greater Clear River School Committee, said recently, “This new school is a concrete example of the committee’s determination to give the young people of this community the most up-to-date and best education possible. The school will embody all the latest innovations in learning and has been thoroughly equipped to meet the needs of all students whether they plan to go on to college or into a trade after graduation.

“We have brought some excellent teachers to Devon from other schools in the district,” Fowles continued, “and have hired only the very best new teachers available.

Designed to serve some 600 students in grades 5-12, the school is indeed an impressive example of a community’s dedication to the education of its youth.

Not everyone in the town shared Magnason’s and Fowles’s enthusiasm, however, due to the unstructured and highly experimental nature of the new school. Some members of the school committee had been outvoted by those members whose views reflected the more active and liberal elements in the community. Some parents also had objected to the new school on the grounds that their children might not learn enough to get into top-rated universities, while other parents worried that the new school would encourage permissiveness. However,...
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