The Calkins Saga -- A Second Chapter

Explaining Why Cleveland's Schools Affect Harvard And Why Calkins Is Not the New Kennedy Part II

(This is the second in a two-part series on Hugh D. Calkins '45, Fellow of the Harvard Corporation.)


ONE OF the best ways to understand some of the things Hugh Calkins has said at Harvard in the last month is to see what he has been saying in Cleveland for the last ten years.

Calkins has made his public reputation largely on his record as a school-reformer in Cleveland. Many of the criticisms and proposals he has made there have obvious applications to his views on how Harvard should be run.

After his service on the President's Commission on National Goals ended in 1961, Calkins went back to Ohio. His nominal purpose was to resume his interrupted law practice, and to work on his specialty, tax problems of small businesses.


But Calkins also began to rise in Cleveland educational circles. In 1961, he told the city's Adult Education Council that it needed to put some enthusiasm into its commitment to educational excellence. In late 1962, he gave a much-publicized speech at the Ohio School Board convention in Columbus.

That speech seems to have been one of the turning points in Calkins' public career. Newspapers throughout the state reported his indictments of Ohio schools. Calkins said that the elementary schools were producing students who could not read, and he suggested competitive examinations of graduates of various schools of find out just which school systems were failing.

Another panelist the convention told Calkins that educational muckraking was not enough. The man said that if Calkins really wanted to help the illiterate elementary school graduates, he should suggest some concrete remedies.

Calkins apparently had that idea in mind already. Eight days later he was named chairman of a 22-member citizens' committee in Cleveland. The committee, called PACE (Plan for Action by Citizens in Education), said its purpose was to investigates Cleveland's educational woes and suggest ways in which local citizens could help solve the problems.

In April, 1963, the PACE report was ready. The report presented a depressing picture of Cleveland's schools, and it blamed public apathy for many of the problems. The school system was "steadily deteriorating," the report said, and the solution was more community support -- and much more community money.

The report said that rich suburban school districts were siphoning away the Cleveland system's tax base, and that Cleveland's scanty teacher force could barely man the classrooms. It said that the city needed a better "vocational-education" system, since only 30 per cent of its high school graduates even went to college. Using the jargon of the early sixties, it said that schools in "culturally-deprived" areas needed special help, since the "culturally-deprived" homes in Cleveland's ghettoes were "not able to do their vital part" in educating children.

The formulas PACE prescribed for repairing Cleveland schools were hard for Clevelanders to take. At a time when the city's annual school budget was about $130 million, PACE estimated that all its proposed reforms would cost another $56 million--almost 45 per cent of the total school budget.

Since the rural-dominated Ohio legislature was not likely to send the money to Cleveland, PACE flatly told the city's taxpayers that they would have to come up with the $56 million themselves to save their schools.


LARGELY because of this expense problem, the PACE report had little immediate impact in Cleveland. But five months after the report came out, some of its supporters formed a new group. They called it the PACE Association, and they elected Calkins as its president.