Education: School of Hard Knocks

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"Andrew, do you realize that you're a gutless chameleon?" asked Teacher Jim Searles of the shy, withdrawn teen-ager who had come for an interview at the Hyde School in Bath, Me. Andrew was close to tears, but Searles was only following the sock-it-to-'em pedagogic philosophy of his boss, Hyde Founder Joseph Gauld, 50. Faced with a rebellious applicant, Gauld once shouted, "Listen, I'm telling you either change your attitude around me or I will jam it down your throat."

Although annual fees for tuition, board and room add up to a hefty $4,700, life at the small (enrollment: 175) coed boarding school is almost as rigorous as that of a Marine boot camp. Many of the students are troubled, and short-tempered Gauld treats them like a drill instructor faced with a platoon of left-footed recruits. He occasionally slaps and routinely humiliates the kids—with their parents' tacit consent—in a no-holds-barred effort to toughen them up and build their characters. "The rod is only wrong in the wrong hands," Gauld likes to say. When he finds that a student has what he considers a "bad attitude," Gauld may order him to wear a sign saying I ACT LIKE A BABY, or tell him to dig a 6-ft. by 6-ft. trench and then fill it up. He has even conducted a public paddling ceremony at Hyde.

As headmaster at Berwick Academy in South Berwick, Me., in the early '60s, Gauld (who has degrees from Bowdoin College and Boston University) grew discouraged with what he saw as the "coddling" of students, and an overemphasis on grades. With $100,000 borrowed from family and friends, Gauld bought an old mansion on the Maine coast and set up a school devoted to developing self-confidence and selfdiscipline. Novel and untested, Hyde could not hope to attract outstanding students; thus Gauld started by accepting teen-agers with a history of mental illness or drug problems. The student body now includes less disturbed youngsters. However, all of them, Gauld says, "have problems." He feels such pupils have a greater capacity for growth than conventional, "successful" children.

Character Grades. Success at Hyde is measured largely by "character growth" rather than academic excellence. Students are given two sets of grades: one for performance in a traditional curriculum laden with remedial courses; the other, which is considered more important, for overcoming personal problems such as being shy or cowardly, as shown in survival tests the school has copied from Outward Bound. The grades in character development are hammered out in a kind of encounter group, where classmates and teachers urge a student to confess his strengths and weaknesses. In similar sessions, teachers are evaluated publicly by the students.

So, in a way, are parents. As one alumnus puts it, "A family, not a kid, comes to Hyde." Parents are required to make a strong commitment to Hyde's philosophy. They participate in two encounter weekend seminars annually, at which everyone criticizes everyone else. One father, for example, may say to another: "Mr. Smith, I have to agree with Bill. You do seem more concerned with your own image than anything else."

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