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The recording of this interview was found at Talking History (The Stelton Modern School)

Leonard Rico was a former student of the Stelton Modern School, and speaks on his educational experience.

Leonard Rico:
Well one of I think the unique features was the relationship between students and teachers. And I think since there were no classes or grades, you didn't change teachers either so that there was a long association and I have very good memories of several teachers that I am particularly fond of because of their kindnesses and their understanding of me and one of the things is a sort of a personal kind of association with teachers that was very positive and reinforcing. It was a community where I really wasn't aware of ethnic differences or of economic differences in a way that although we were extremely, extremely poor that I never really felt extremely poor. It was a community where no one locked their doors, there was very little confrontation or violence, even among kids. So in a way there were qualities here that I feel very positive about and experiences. Although from the broader, you know there was always the other side. It was somewhat of a sealed community so I, whether for economic reasons or just the way we were organized, I really knew very little of the outside world. Didn't have opportunity to visit other places, or, I had a very under-nourished sort of generally cultural, uh, exposure. Even to different kinds of people who might have been more violent or more competitive. So these are things that it wasn't until I was thirteen and went out into the public school system that I became more aware of those influences. And to some extent, I suppose my upbringing didn't protect, uh, provide an orientation to protect myself from those kinds of influences in the broader culture. To some extent I still am sort of an inward oriented person. I'm not particularly outgoing or social, I still like the interior life, the intellectual. I still like to putter around the house and fix things and do things. So thats sort of a reflection of you know this upbringing and especially being in a very small school where I had very few people of my own age, or no one really at the end game, at my own age and this has undoubtedly affected the sorts of questions of sociability and so on. About two weeks after I joined the seventh grade, when I left the school, one very memorable experience is that I was chosen to be Abe Lincoln and deliver the Gettysburg address to this school of six, seven hundred people. I still have the notes of writing it from the encyclopedia or someplace and you know I don't think a third grader would, the writing would have, it looked like someone had, you know, that's my first observation. The second was how utterly terrified, and how I was chosen I'll never know, to stand up you know before this group and deliver it but there were these sort of social dimensions or size dimensions, challenges and clearly they were there but I seem to have been able to meet those with a little less trepidation or memory than of the academic challenges which seem to be much more formidable.


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