Yesterday I praised the preschool/elementary/ middle school where I have worked for their attention to social justice both as a daily practice for young children in the community and a larger study to prepare tomorrow’s citizens. Today I want to shout out to Antioch College, that remarkable place I attended between 1969 and 1973.
At the time, it was simply known as “the hippy school” and that suited me just fine. I got P.E. credit for canoeing, physical science credit for wine-tasting in France and birdwatching, work/study credit for hitchhiking in California and our only intercollegiate athletic endeavor was our Yo-yo team. (I didn’t make the cut.) In freshman orientation, there was a staged debate between a long-haired yoga type and short-haired political activist, one claiming you could only change the world by changing yourself and the other by dismantling oppressive systems “by any means necessary.” The tension between those two apparently opposing views stayed with me my whole life (see E.B. White quote in the “About Me” section of this Home Page).
There was—and still is—a monument to Horace Mann, Antioch’s founder, in front of the main building that reads: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind.” The bar was set high and in a different place than, “Get good grades so you can get a good job and earn lots of money.” While Antioch was big in heart, it was troubled in keeping afloat and some 10 plus years ago, after a steady decline in enrollment, announced it was closing just as an Alum Reunion was scheduled. The Reunion happened and instead of people sitting around moping, they roused their “can-do” political spirit and decided to re-birth the college through their own efforts. Which they—or I should say we—did. While enrollment is still small and the college is working hard to grow, this message sent recently by the current president affirms that its commitment to justice has never wavered (did I mention that Coretta Scott King and Eleanor Holmes Norton are alums?). I offer it as another model of educational vision that the country would be wise to follow.