Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why Is Grace Hall Important to Woodstock?

As time passes, I learn a little more each day about Grace Hall and the Todd School. Others here in Woodstock know far more than I, and I invite their participation here to educate Woodstock residents about the importance of both.

During a visit this afternoon with one Woodstock resident of more than ten years, I learned not just that Todd School was an early educational home to Orson Welles, but why the School was so important.

Just imagine a school that created a learning partnership between the faculty and the students. Imagine that students had not only responsibility, but also authority. And were taught to use it wisely.

Is that how it was at Todd School?

I invite Woodstock residents, and others around the country who might learn of this request, to comment.

How many teachers in Woodstock and McHenry County know the history of Todd School and Grace Hall?

What if the learning environment of that day spread to today's students? What if they didn't ask, "Who was Orsin Wells?" (His name was George Orson Welles.) Do Woodstock students today even know the significance of his 1938 broadcast of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds? Do they even know of it?

What if District 200 decided that beginning this year, and for the following years, it will educate students in ways that stimulate their curiosity and interest? Teach them to want to learn! Teach them how to learn!

Most have heard of No Child Left Behind. Well, let's make sure that NO child is left behind!


Kathleen said...

Roger Hill, teacher and then headmaster at Todd School, provided the most important influence on Welles's creativity throughout Welles's life. Even as a middleaged man, Welles said that he thought about Roger Hill every day.

Hill also educated many other young men (and some young women) by following the philosophy that giving responsibility and power to students motivates them to display responsibility and develop creativity. Given both responsibility and power, expected to attain a professional standard, Todd students were not subordinates but, instead, collaborators in their own education.

Roger Hill deserves wider appreciation of his accomplishment as an innovative educator of many young men, including Welles and Robert Wilson, the founder of Fermilab. As editor of the catalog "Todd: A
Community Devoted to Boys and their Interests," produced by the senior class in 1930-31, Welles explained, “The uniqueness of the school lies in the fact that boys do things here instead of just being told about them.”

Anyone who has ever hoped for more creativity and effectiveness in education would be fascinated by Roger Hill's achievements at the Todd School for Boys. His example should not be lost to time but preserved for emulation.

what the woodstock nuisance meant to say said...

It's a building, a place. The ideas and techniques are seperate. Classes haven't been held there for quite some time.

Kathleen said...

You could say the same about Independence Hall or Constitution Hall. It's been a while since the Federalist Papers!

DownByTheRiver said...

As I've said before many times, if Grace Hall and the Todd School needs preservation, then supporters need to find a way to pay to do so.

To expect the church that owns the property to voluntarily give up their ownership of their own property violates the Fifth Ammendment - "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Not that the Supreme Court or most citizens want to be troubled to know what is Constitutional or what is not.

IDEAS are of importance, more so than things. The method of teaching at Todd School is what is important. The United States and its Constitution are ideas. Ideas are powerful. If Independence Hall or Constitution Hall, or even Washington DC were obliterated - if in fact the original Constitution document were lost for all time, the ideas contained within the document itself would endure.

Perhaps the likely future loss of Grace Hall might spur interest in "new" teaching methods and be the catalyst for someone to create a symposium or seminar for interested educators?


Kathleen said...

I am glad to see we agree about the value of Roger Hill's innovative educational methods.

We disagree about the need for preservation of this historic building, associated with Orson Welles, Robert Wilson, Roger Hill, and (because of its association with Todd School) the original founder of the Todd Seminary for Boys, Richard Kimball Todd, the first superintendent of schools in McHenry County. In addition, it is a structurally sound Prairie School building, constructed in 1919-1920.

We share a devotion to great ideas. Your dismissal of historic preservation of buildings ignores the reality that for many, if not most, people, ideas are most compelling when associated with physical symbols and manifestations: Independence Hall, Constitution Hall, and (in its smaller way) Grace Hall.

We would not even be talking about the value of Roger Hill's ideas if this building were not threatened.

what the woodstock nuisance meant to say said...

So the ideas are not important enough to stand on their own? The building did the work? I'm confused.