Independent Schoolmaster



Claude Moore Fuess
From a painting by R. S. Meryman

An Atlantic Monthly Press Book
Little, Brown and Company Boston





Uneasy lie the heads of all that rule,
He most of all whose kingdom is a school.
"The School-Boy,"


Now, there is no one more easy to trace than a schoolmaster.

Sherlock Holmes,
The Hound of the Baskervilles,




ASIDE from the ingrained propensity of all men to talk about themselves, the best excuse for this excursion into autobiography is that for more than forty years I was close to the center of things in the evolution of American secondary education. Because of my position at Phillips Academy and of my connection with the Headmasters Association, the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and the College Entrance Examination Board, as well as other educational groups, I was acquainted with what was going on and in many instances helped to make the decisions --- Pars Minima Fui. The period covered was one of startling change and changes, not merely in the everyday details of living but in basic philosophy. Not only the mores but even the fundamental concepts of adult men and women were altered, and it was inevitable that boys and girls should also modify their views and conduct. This development was due in part to the impact of two global wars, with consequent shifts in American political, economic, and cultural theory. But whatever the causes, the process of education at Andover in 1948 was very different from what it was when I went there in 1908. Indeed it may be asserted that the changes of the last half century in education as well as in scientific discovery have been more far-reaching than those of the preceding thousand years. And the movement is not yet finished!

If this is true, the comments, however casual, of one who saw and participated in these developments may be interesting not only to my fellow teachers but even to those citizens who watch education with a blending of fear and hope. This volume should reflect the growth --- if I may call it that! --of a schoolmaster who started in the conservative tradition and is ending with a passion for experimentation in the light of new knowledge. The longer I remained active as a teacher, the more convinced I became that all of us in the profession have much to learn and that the future of our confused communities depends largely on the capacity of our schools for adjustment to changed conditions. The powers which control education in this country must decide whether to remain resistant to progressive ideas or to work with new media and perhaps towards different objectives. Just what steps we should take to meet emergencies is not always clear, but from my viewpoint we have only one sound choice. Lowell's observation, "New occasions teach new duties," applies to education as well as to political crises. The inexcusable crime is to remain static.

Something of this gradually deepening conviction will doubtless come out unconsciously in what I have to say. I am not rash enough to predict what will happen in the next quarter century, but education for American young men will not be the same in 1977 as it is now. Daniel Webster once declaimed, "The past at least is secure," and at any rate we can do nothing about it. What we can do is to look forward with our minds open, our opinions flexible, and our faith unshaken. In this mood we can face the future with some confidence, realizing the inevitable fluctuations of human history.

I am very grateful to the people and the circumstances which have enabled me to pursue an occupation so important in our society. The schoolmaster, if he functions properly, should literally mold the characters of the young and thus determine the reactions of the middle-aged and the old. We should choose him, --- or her, --- carefully, give him the freedom under which he flourishes, reward him adequately, and encourage him with our confidence. Thus treated, he will be a primary factor in the creation of that Brave New World which we all in our heart of hearts desire.

Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts



I. Background
II. Small-Town Boyhood
III. "The Fairest College"
IV. Getting Ready
V. Finding My Niche
VI. Personalities and Policies
VII. Teaching English
VIII. War as a Phase of Education
IX. Widening Interests
X. Tom Cochran and the Golden Age
XI. Destiny Turns the Wheel
XII. Boys as Human Beings
XIII. Men of the Profession
XIV. Diverse Recreations
XV. Colonel Henry L. Stimson
XVI. English Interlude
XVII. Human Relations
XVIII. World of Words
XIX. Finishing the Course
XX. Progress or Retrogression?
XXI. "There Is Hope!"

Chapter One