The Calkins Saga -- A Second Chapter

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

In his Congressional testimony, which has become more frequently in the last year, Calkins has again stressed the problems that came out of the old PACE study. In 1967, he told the Senate subcommittee on education that inner-city schools could work if they had enough money and enough good teachers.

At that hearing, Robert Kennedy derided Calkins' request for school aid as "pouring money into the same old system when there's no sign it works." Calkins retorted that the city schools have failed only because they have been continually shortchanged.

In 1968, Calkins appeared before the education subcommittee again and urged them to send more money into the cities' vocational education programs. And less than six weeks ago, Calkins--serving as chairman of the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education--hit the same theme, saying that job training classes in schools would save the country millions of dollars that it now spends on remedial training for unemployable adults.


THESE CLEVELAND details are currently interesting only because they offer important clues to the way Calkins thinks about Harvard.


One undeniable mark of Calkins' school board record is his commitment to standard "liberal" causes. In his action on the school board, in his intricately-designed tax plans, and especially in is testimony before Congress, he has pleaded for more money to let the big cities meet their crying ghetto needs.

Calkins has urged private investors to put some of their money into black businesses in the ghetto. He made a speech last fall and suggested the creation of some national foundation to direct those philanthropic investments.

In the internal function of the Cleveland board, Calkins has also tried to make governmental procedures more accessible to the people they serve. Last year he fought with other board members in order to get the board's meetings moved to local schools, where parents who were being affected by integration plans could question the board members.

Two years ago, Calkins led another crusade. He headed a drive to repeal an 18-year-old loyalty oath that Cleveland had required of all its school employees.

There are many other examples of Calkins' allegiance to classic liberalism. In his school board campaigns, he received unprecedented backing from labor unions and the Americans for Democratic Action. He said at Harvard last month that he wants the U.S. to get out of Vietnam, and his opposition to the war was on record long before that. He has supported Civil Rights movements, in the South and in the cities.

But there is another clear strain in Calkins' thought that keeps this budding liberalism for veering over into ROTC-abolishing radicalism in his views on Harvard. Underlying his commitments to specific political and educational goals has been Calkins' unflagging devotion to pragmatism as a political philosophy.

Calkins is a man who likes to get things done--in the most immediately efficient way possible. He finds the vulnerable chink in the problem he wants to solve, and he begins his attack there. If the attack is fruitless he moves elsewhere. He does not ram his head into the wall.

If he wants to get ahead in life, he moves west to Cleveland.

If his school board needs money, Calkins finds the federal law that will let him get the money. If the suburban schools are too rich, he changes the tax law to send more money to the inner city. If there are too few teachers, he sets up a corps of teacher-auxiliaries. If all these plans cost money, he tells businessmen why the money is a good investment.

If a plan seems futile, it is dropped. If integrating the Cleveland schools seems less effective than improving all the schools, he leaves the schools imbalanced and tries to improve them all.