EDUCATIONrnHarkness RoadrnHigh Schoolrnby Isabel LymanrnHillary Clinton would love Amherst,rnMassachusetts, a town aptlyrnnicknamed “The People’s Republicrnof Amherst.” A stroll down Main Streetrnquickly reveals that Birkenstocksrnand Volvos dominate the landscape.rnAmherst’s legislative body, the TownrnMeeting, often votes on the kind of citizenrnpetitions that call on the communityrn(population 35,000) to join the AFLCIO’srn”union cities” movement or tornblock off a busy street so spotted salamandersrncan make their annual trekrnto breeding ponds without becomingrnroadkill.rnAmherst, situated in the picturesquernPioneer Valley, is the quintessential collegerntown. Once home to Robert Frostrnand Emily Dickinson, it now insulatesrnold hippies and left-wing scholars fromrnthe traditional values of ordinary Americans.rnThe town’s public schools are, ofrncourse, fertile ground for the country’srnmost ambitious social engineers. Inrn1996, the town’s four elementary schoolsrndisplayed a gay and lesbian family photornexhibit with accompanying text. Thisrnwinter, the Fort River ElementaryrnSchool principal hosted a blacks-onlyrnbreakfast for staff and families.rnThe problem with Amherst educatorsrnindoctrinating their charges is that theyrnsometimes succeed in unexpected ways.rnThis winter, junior and senior high studentsrnskipped class to join University ofrnMassachusetts/Amherst students whornhad occupied an administration buildingrnto demand an increase in minorityrnenrollment. Most of the hme, however,rnthe kids are bored by the propaganda ofrntheir elders. And bored kids, particularlyrnadolescents, tend to behave badly. Recently,rnthe junior high school had to bernevacuated because four students hadrnstashed homemade bombs in a locker.rnTo combat this situation, in this Meccarnof “value-free” education, Wid Lyman,rnmy husband, decided to start a private,rnalternative school, the HarknessrnRoad High School (HRHS). Wid is suitedrnto teaching and molding teenagers.rnHe’s well-educated (Ph.D. in civil engineering),rnathletic, lively, goal-oriented,rnand a strict disciplinarian. However, tornassume there are any similarities to arnNew England headmaster who reads thernNew Yorker and sips cognac is laughable.rnThe son of working-class parents fromrnMassachusetts, Wid’s educational philosophyrnis a combinahon of the three R’srnand three C’s—conservatism, constitutionalism,rnand Christianity. Amherst’srnworst nightmare.rnHarkness Road High School, a coedrnday school, was launched ten years agornin what was formerly a retail poultry businessrnsituated on a small, five-acre farm.rnAnimals are raised in a backyard barnrnwhich abuts conservation land. HRHSrneducates students in grades sevenrnthrough 12, utilizing a mere 2,400rnsquare feet (four rooms) of class space. Itrnis charter-school small —no more thanrn20 students attend each year.rnThe academic program is a back-tobasicsrncurriculum with some interestingrntwists. Each week vocabulary lists of 50rnwords are handed out for memorization,rnand students are required to takernsemester-long courses such as World Ceography,rnU.S. Presidents, and Crammarrnbefore graduation. In literature classes,rnthe current high school fare of AlicernWalker and J.D. Salinger is eschewed forrnCharles Dickens and Frank Peretti.rnElectives have ranged from ConstitutionalrnLaw, Wars of the United States,rnand Practical Etiquette, to CommunistrnChina and Russia.rnDubious practices like Outcome-rnBased Education and feel-good multiculturalismrnare considered heresy. Or,rnas Doug Bandow recently editorializedrnabout HRHS in the Washington Times,rnour students are likely to be “refugeesrnfrom political correctness.”rnWhile HRHS students good-naturedlyrncomplain (sometimes whine) aboutrnassignments, they appreciate the personalizedrnatmosphere and tough academicrnstandards —standards which are notrnfor the shiftless. Students in grades 9rnthrough 12 must earn at least a B to passrneach class. If not, the course has to be repeated.rnThe concept barkens to the oldfashionedrnnotion that learning involvesrnhard work, not just a superficial acquaintancernwith the material.rnWid is the full-hme teacher and is assistedrnby three part-time instructors. Likerna schoolmarm of yesteryear, he shuttlesrnbetween Latin, calculus, and the Bible.rnHe also assumes the burden of suspendingrnunruly students. Fortunately, therernare few behavior problems because thernschool simply is not alluring to potentialrnjuvenile delinquents.rnDennis Petrides is Wid’s Man Friday,rna pal from his own schooldays. Blessedrnwith a gentle manner, he teaches thernyounger students and gets voted “nicestrnteacher” in informal polls. At breakrntime, Denny and Wid challenge willingrnstudents to pitch games.rnI am also a part-time teacher. MyrnSpanish class recently wrote, starred in,rnand videotaped a program for children,rn”Espanol Para Nznos,” which we hope tornair on a local cable station. One day arnweek I drop the Marva Collins personarnand imitate June Cleaver when I servernthe students a hot lunch.rnKen Robinson, our newest addition, isrnan attorney and the father of one of ourrnstudents. He teaches honors U.S. Historyrnand uses a book authored by Southernrnapologist Clarence B. Carson. Ken’s syllabusrnto his students reveals a blunt attitudernto modern education: “This is not arn’dumbed-down’ high school text for publicrnschool cretins; it would challengernmost college freshman. But don’t let thatrnfrighten you, most college freshmen arerncretins, and their texts are written accordingly.”rnA vocational component, built intornthe school year, allows students to participaternin the work world for five weeks inrnMay and June, as they volunteer at nursingrnhomes, business offices, farms, newspapers,rnand elementary schools. Onernstudent’s 500 hours of vocational workrnfor the U.S. Veterans Affairs MedicalrnCenter made him eligible for a collegernscholarship. Another student’s involvementrnwith the Advocate, an alternativernnewspaper, led to a full-time job with therncompany after graduation.rnIn general, tlie school’s decentialized,rntask-oriented approach works. The dressrncode is casual but neat, and the atmospherernis orderly but not oppressive. Tuitionrnis priced at a relatively low $3,500rnper year in order to retain the workingclass,rnoften nonreligious families whichrnthe school attracts. Even Amherst’s municipalrnemployees—the town assessor,rnthe assistant fire chief, and an elected selectrnboard member—have enrolled theirrnchildren in the school, which has helpedrnour status with the local superintendentrnand regional school board that approvernthe school’s curriculum every few yearsrnand then leave us be.rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn