Lloyd S. Michael talks reluctantly about his personal background--his Mt. Vernon, Ohio birthplace, and the chronology of his rise to the superintendency of Illinois' Evanston Township High School. But, when the conversation turns to the present problems of education, Michael slowly smooths his white hair and speaks with great deliberation, pondering aloud the complexities of educational policy.
His course at the summer school, Education S-A-5, "The American School: Contemporary Issues in American Education," reflects his deep interest. Michael's focus, however, is slightly different than most educational debate of the present day. While the problems of America's big city school systems fascinate him, what naturally receives the greatest attention are the problems faced by suburban schools such as Evanston.
Of particular pride to Michael is Evanston's program for Educable Mentally Handicapped (EMH) students. He recounts with considerable relish how a CBS television show came to Evanston "to see our program for the talented but was so impressed by our EMH program" that the TV network fimled a report on it instead. "We're just as proud of this aspect of our program as we are of the other tracks."
The discussion of Evanston's EMH program prompted a short discursion of Michael's general philosophy of educational administration. "In education, it's excellence for all, in whatever they do," Michael says with quiet conviction. He rejects the concept of an honor school, although he believes strongly in "a very heavily tracked curriculum in all subject areas on the basis of 'ability groups.'"
Evanston has not escaped the population explosion, and, Michael is faced with a future enrollment of 6000. At present, Evanston has approximately 4300 students. He reviewed the many alternatives open to a suburban community high school faced with a burgeoning enrollment, discussing each one at length. "We are now on 65 acres of land at the geographic center of our township. There are obviously many alternatives, and it's been a real struggle to reach a decision. A student body of 6000 is obviously too large for one high school." He noted, however, that building another, separate school inevitably raises the problem of comparable facilities, of location, and of endless other minor problems.
Michael produces his solution with obvious satisfaction. "We have now decided to expand on our own campus, to have four semi-independent high schools. We maintain you can have four high schools on one campus, just as well as if they were in different parts of town." Such a plan enables the big expensive facilities--library, gymnasium and swimming pool, lunchroom--to be utilized by all schools, and still to have administrations and student bodies small enough to function effectively.
Michael is genuinely excited about the possibilities such a plan offers in every aspect from architecture to educational opportunities. Such problems are relatively far removed from the challenges confronting American education in the large cities. The task of educating the "culturally deprived" is "tremendous ... just tremendous. I have great admiration for the job that is being done," he said. "But we constantly talk about our great commitment to education for all, and yet our schools are essentially middle class. It is not clear how to get at the problem of educating the disadvantaged with the same type of education. Yet they don't want a different education; to give them only vocational education is clearly not education for change."
He frowns upon many of the present "easy" solutions to problems. "Today we're in a hurry; we want to solve matters by geography--without regard to curriculum or anything else. The problems are really no more complex than they've always been. We just feel more deeply about them today."