George Roeper QOTD: Graduate School?

I went to a wonderful and strange, albeit imperfect, high school called The Roeper School. The school was founded by two Holocaust refugees, George and Annemarie Roeper. Roeper was one of the first schools exclusively aimed at teaching gifted kids, and was one of the first private schools (at least in the area) to integrate (in 1955). Roeper was founded on a philosophy of humanism, a humanism of the sort expressed well by Kurt Vonnegut (e.g. here), which emphasized respect for difference and the recognition of interdependence, and a sort of secular morality. The school itself was structured on that basis – students called teachers by their first names, had a lot of freedom to leave campus (starting in 8th grade), to choose their own courses, and so on. For many years, the school had no grades (though eventually they added them in along with more holistic assessments). And so on.

I think Roeper prepared me better for graduate school than anything I did in undergrad. Here’s a quote from George Roeper (from this pdf tribute) about his philosophy of education that perhaps speaks to why:

We must teach you new perspectives, to see things in new combinations, to foster an open-mindedness that permits easy detachments from existing concepts and yet requires a definite commitment to a deep need to understand something, to master a technique, to render a meaning.

I can’t think of a better description of graduate school, at least of the sort of work I do in Sociology. It requires that we be committed at once to mastering and abandoning existing knowledge, and to forging new understandings while always doubting what we think we have learned.

So, in short, thanks thanks George. We never crossed paths, but I think your influence is still felt on Roeper and its graduates. One more set of words from George:

Maybe these years have given you a sense of community with the school, a sense of having gotten values dear to you, a sense of having had meaningful relationships with friends. If that is so, I cannot see how we can ever forget each other.



  1. marcia ruff

     /  December 17, 2010

    Great post. I think you’ve written the best succinct description of the school I’ve ever seen. Thank you.

  2. Melissa

     /  January 20, 2011

    I completely agree–Roeper emphasized critical and compassionate thinking not just through classes, but through the culture of the place. That way of seeing the world ends up being particularly useful for graduate study–and something that typical undergraduate programs do not emphasize.

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