ESSAY 4 – College
Great Books for Serious Readers
Two educators at the University of Chicago launched the Great Books Foundation in 1947. Robert Maynard Hutchins, then chancellor of the university, and professor Mortimer Adler shared a vision of book discussion groups in which passionate readers could meet and talk about enduring issues and ideas. From http://www.greatbooks.org/programs-for-all-ages/gb.html?PHPSESSID=5b0e1b31a0106f1c500521bbfee3dd45
Hutchins and Adler had the idea that it would be worthwhile for people to read classical books and discuss them together, exchanging ideas in a group. The groups were 15 or 20 people with a leader. The leader would ask questions (using the Socratic Method) and try to get each person in the group to see whatever the subject was in a completely different way. The goal of the leader was also to open people to develop their own ideas to the fullest. In other words, the Great Books leader was a facilitator of ideas within each participant and between the participants.
Mrs. Cockefair was pretty much in charge of all the Great Books Groups in the Kansas City area. For some reason she got me to lead some groups. I remember leading at least two groups at different times, but I think there were more. The groups met once a week, so there would be a new book each month.
Of course the first year and all the remaining years were the same for each group, so once you had read the book as a participant, and once you had read it once or twice as a leader, you were pretty familiar with the contents of each book. This made you more skillful as a leader. Of the two I remember, one was a group of people who were much older than I. My youthfulness, however did not seem to disturb the group. The other group was made up of adolescent children – people much nearer my own age.
When I returned from Stanford, I was casting around for things to do. Being in the Great Books Group was of course helpful, but Bill (Cadman) came up with the idea of working with the Child Guidance Clinic. During the 1940’s European ideas about psychoanalysis, Freudian psychology and working with children came to America. Of course, it spread to all age groups, but the idea of emotional disturbance and helping people with problems was much more acceptable when talking about children than it was when talking about adults. Child Guidance Clinics were far ahead of State Hospitals in understanding that people are influenced by emotions and early childhood experiences. So the idea of volunteering at a Child Guidance Clinic sounded like a worth while venture.
Bill arranged for me to meet with Miss Pritchard, a psychologist who was the Chief Psychologist at the Kansas City Child Guidance Clinic. They were both instructors at UKC and active in the Graduate School. The idea of an undergraduate with some experience with projectives and with psychotherapy was a foreign concept (and probably still is).
But Miss Pritchard (although most likely uncomfortable with the idea) met me, and thought it could work. However, we first had to meet with Dr. Vance Alexander, a psychiatrist and director of the Clinic. Dr. Alexander was also a woman. It was not unusual at that time to have women such as Dr. Alexander, in top executive positions in social agencies because there was a many fewer men employed in such agencies. I was told I could work (volunteer) in the clinic under the direct supervision of Miss Pritchard. I came there sometime in 1951, and remained there about 2 ½ years, until a little before I graduated with my Master of Arts degree.
Being allowed to be there – to work there - was just as extraordinary if not perhaps even more so than being allowed to work at St. Joseph. St. Joseph was less advanced in psychiatric treatment than the CGC (Child Guidance Clinic), so they were just sort of glad to have new live bodies show up to help however they could. But the CGC was not in such a desperate circumstance. Child Guidance Clinics were more at the leading edge of psychiatric knowledge in Missouri.
Miss Pritchard was “glad” that I knew about the Rorschach, but she let me know from the start that I would have to relearn everything the way she taught it at the University of Kansas City. So, I had test after test that she reviewed and went through many corrections of my scoring of the tests until she felt I had some competence. She had studied with Klopfler at some point, and Klopfler was THE AMERICAN AUTHORITY of the time when it came to understanding the Rorschach.
She was a sort of odd woman – very set in her ways. She was not a particularly attractive lady, and she did not impress me as being of great intellect, but I recall that she was a kind person who really loved children and had the sort of empathy and skill that it took to be an excellent therapist.
Miss Pritchard was just finishing her own personal analysis, a “thing” psychiatric personnel did in those days, and that may have been a help to her in her understanding of children. From wherever her skills came, I learned a great deal about children, psychological testing, diagnosis, and emotional development from her. From the start, my role involved being part of the diagnostic team and also involved participating in staff meetings with a status equal to the others. I also had a caseload of patients. I don’t remember whether I was there 1 or 2 or 3 days a week. I think I began to spend fewer days later in my stay than I did in the earlier times, but I do not have a clear recollection.
The CGC was located downtown. I think it was on the fourth floor of a building which was not too far from my parent’s office. Whatever floor, there were other offices there, one of which was the Mental Health Organization (MHO) on the 3rd floor (I think). One day I decided to find out what that organization was, so I visited them and talked with the woman who was the head of the group. Her name eludes me even though she and I had a long and cordial relationship.
I found out that this group spent most of their time going to clubs, organizations, Parent-teacher Associations, and other places, educating people. Their goal was to talk about what emotional problems were and to educate people about child rearing, and preventative and curative care. The organization was trying to improve the conditions in institutions such as the State Hospitals, and to generally raise the level of awareness in the general population about mental health.
We talked for a while, and I was offered the opportunity to work with them as a volunteer by going to meetings, particularly PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meetings to talk about various aspects of child development. A PTA education chairman might come up with a topic such as “How Do You Discipline Children” and I would be supposed to come talk for a period of time (somewhere around ½ hour). Then there would be a series of questions and answers, and the speech would be over. I worked with the MHO for quite a while. Eventually I came up with an idea to combine a couple of these activities in a project that turned out to be quite interesting. Perhaps that would be a good subject for some future essay.