ESSAY 6 – College  


Students at the University of Kansas City were allowed to take graduate courses while in the senior year of undergraduate school, so I signed up to take the first course in Rorschach and Projective Tests.  But because I had already learned and given a large number of these tests, I applied to take the course by examination.  This was a valid but perhaps little used procedure that allowed the student to pay for the course, and then take the final examination, if the student had the permission of the teacher.  Since Miss Prichard was the instructor of that class, and I had worked with her for quite a while at the Child Guidance Clinic, she gave me permission to take the course by examination.  I received an A for that class.  However for reasons that were never clear, Miss Prichard would not allow me to take the second course in Rorschach and Projective Tests by examination.  Instead I had to attend the lectures and take all the examinations during the semester I was in the class.  I never understood her logic, but she was sort of different from most people.


I continued with Great Books both as a member of a group and as a leader of other groups.  And, I continued with my volunteer work with the Mental Health Organization.  Because of this type of work and because of my class room work, and probably just because I like to wonder about things at times, I wrestled long and hard with the question of what psychological techniques change peoples behavior and emotion.  Some people at that time thought that giving patients material to read about depression or anxiety or such would change their feelings and relieve them of their malady.  I saw this as an attempt to change emotion strictly using intellectual processes.  Others thought treatment could only be helpful if you directly changed the affect in the patient by giving them emotional insight into their problems.  I agreed more with the latter than the former argument.


The work that I did with the mental health organization was (for me at that time) seen to be strictly for education, and not as a technique for helping groups of people reach a better adjustment to life.  The whole question of how much one can change using only intellectual techniques is a question on which I have spent some time over the years.


On the whole, my deliberations on this matter have been a waste of time, and have borne no fruit.  However, I think that line of thought led me to see that Great Books and Mental Health could be combined.  Great Books was geared toward stimulating thought, and to developing of intellectual skill.  It used intellectual material such as Hamlet, or the Constitution, or the teachings of Lao Tse or Confucius.  What would be the result, I thought of changing two things: the reading material; and, the type of questions. 


The reasoning about literature went like this.  The material in Great Books was all geared to the intellectual side of people.  There is also good literature that is much more emotional in nature – that is literature written to appeal to the emotions of people.  What would be the effect of using this type of material to replace material on the Bill of Rights or something like that.


But merely changing the material would be insufficient.  One could try to analyze the thought process involved in an emotion-filled short story, but that would appear even on the surface as a step in the wrong direction if one’s goal is to improve the emotional condition of someone else.


So, it became evident that the nature of the questions would have to change.  Instead of asking people to think about something, the Socratic method would have to be geared to opening up their emotional selves.  The questions would have to be directed to helping people see how they felt about various emotional issues.  A short story might have sibling rivalry as its central concern, for example, so the questions would be directed toward getting the person to see how those feelings might have impacted their own lives and with helping them find ways of improving their handling of those feelings.


I talked this over with the director of the Mental Health Organization, and she was impressed with the idea.  For some reason, at about this same time, the director was approached by representatives of the local garment workers union in Kansas City (ILGWU).  They wanted to develop a sort of course for their members and had wondered if she had any ideas about what would be worthwhile for their members to study.   For those who do not know about the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the following provides some background.  For those who do not know about the ILGWU, the following is a synopsis of the group.


International Ladies Garment Workers Union

International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), former U.S. labor union formed in 1900 by the amalgamation of seven local unions. At the turn of the century most of the workers in the garment industry were Jewish immigrants, whose attempts at organization were hampered by clashes between anarchists and socialists; this heritage of strife was carried over into the ILGWU, and in its early years many members were sympathetic to various radical movements. Despite these conflicts the union grew rapidly in its first years. However, the depression of 1903 and the open-shop campaign launched by the newly formed National Association of Manufacturers wiped out many hard-won gains. By 1908 it appeared as if the union might be merged with the United Garment Workers, then the American Federation of Labor (AFL) union of men's tailors. At that point the union launched two spectacular and successful mass strikes (1909–11) in the garment district of New York City. As a result of the strikes, the dress manufacturers agreed to deal with the ILGWU and its affiliates. That settlement also embodied the famous Protocol of Peace, which was proposed by Louis D. Brandeis and was based on the concept of perpetual economic peace in the union. Although that concept was in sharp contrast to the radical trade-union philosophy then prevailing among garment workers, it served as a model of cooperation between labor and management. The Communists' drive for control of the union during the 1920s was defeated by moderates under the leadership of David Dubinsky. Although the struggle seriously hurt the ILGWU, the union benefited by the labor policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and membership rose to 300,000 in 1942. In 1937 the ILGWU briefly joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO); it then temporarily became an independent union and finally rejoined the AFL in 1940. Under the presidency of David Dubinsky, the ILGWU grew into one of the nation's most powerful and progressive unions, with a wide range of member benefits. The ILGWU gained the respect of the manufacturers by its willingness to assist employers in the industry with loans and technical assistance. Dubinsky retired in 1966. The following year a $1 million Dubinsky Foundation was established, with the goal of making grants to causes and institutions in line with ILGWU objectives. From 1968 to the early 1990s the union lost more than 300,000 workers as a result of low cost imports and the transfer of factories overseas. In 1995 the 125,000-member ILGWU merged with the 175,000-member Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union to form the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). UNITE merged in 2004 with HERE (the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union) to UNITE HERE. The combined union has more than 440,000 active members.


Somehow (the details are really foggy in my mind), but I think it was the director who began to think that I should get college course credit for all my volunteer work.  So some arrangements were made with the University, and I began to receive credit for special services or some other silly title.  At the same time, the director had suggested this type “course” I had been thinking of to the Garment Union, and they wanted to try doing it.  I was to pick out short stories, pamphlets, or whatever as reading material and lead the group.


Now, the University learned of the course, and thought that was a great idea.  It was decided by the University that it was such a good idea that they should offer a course in the school about how to lead such a group.  And as the wise people in Universities most frequently do, they came up with a plan that does not make much sense.  They appointed a social psychologist with no clinical experience who had never been in Great Books and who had no connection with the Mental Health Organization to teach the course on how to lead a group such as the one I had designed.  It was also decided that I should take the course in how to lead these groups.  I did, and the instructor frequently looked to me for answers to student’s questions, answers which did not flow freely.


Such is life in a University setting.  The University has a lot of ideas about how things should be taught, but very poor ideas regarding how to teach them.  I don’t think the class lasted a long time after I graduated, but I am not sure.  For me, the fun was in seeing possibilities, and running an experiment to see if they would work.  I was not interested in monuments to me, so I did not care one way or another whether it lasted as a permanent class.  This was the first class I had designed for a University – although I did not actually design it for the school but rather to try out my ideas regarding individuals’ emotional changes in a discussion group.  I thought the group was worthwhile.