Education: Saber-Tooth Curriculum

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No U. S. citizens are fonder of praising democracy than the heads of that most authoritarian institution—the U. S. school. Last week 10,000 superintendents, principals and professors heard democracy discussed from every angle by 700-odd speakers at the annual convention of the American Association of School Administrators in Cleveland. All this oratory proved too much even for the superintendents. By week's end they had found something more amusing to talk about: a little book called The Saber-Tooth Curriculum-which, discovered on display in the exhibitors' hall, wowed the convention.

The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, a satire on educators, consists of a series of lectures on the history of paleolithic education, delivered by a fictitious Professor J. Abner Peddiwell while he drinks tequila daisies at a Tijuana bar. Professor Peddiwell reports that the three fundamentals taught to youngsters in this curriculum were: 1) fish - grabbing -with -the -bare -hands, 2) horse-clubbing, 3) saber-tooth-tiger-scaring-with-fire (see cut). When fish became too agile to catch with the bare hands and horses and tigers disappeared, schools nevertheless went on teaching the old fundamentals for their cultural value. Eventually progressives, insisting that "to learn tiger-scaring, it is quite helpful to have a real tiger," revolted against the traditional curriculum, found two surviving old tigers, put them in a cage, had children wave torches in their faces, started a Real-Tiger School.

Lionized by convention delegates was the supposed author of this spoofery, tousle-haired Harold Raymond Wayne Benjamin, Ph.D., director of the College of Education of University of Colorado, onetime cowboy, fisherman, soldier, who can roll two cigarets at once. Dr. Benjamin admitted writing a foreword to the book, of the rest would say only that "It was not written by [Columbia University President] Nicholas Murray Butler."

* McGraw-Hill ($1).