I would like to add some clarification and detail to the article on the life of Jack Hinger (July 28, 2013).
The clarification is about the nature of the Cinnaminson Alternative School and the detail is about Jack's involvement in it. The article stated, "In the early 1990s Jack Hinger helped launch the Cinnaminson Alternative School as a way to help special-needs students graduate high school. Funding for the school was dropped after three years."
What was special about these students was their desire to take responsibility for their own education. I had the good fortune to be present, with Jack, at the beginning of the Cinnaminson Alternative School and through to its end.
My name is John Blair and I was one of two full-time science teachers at the Cinnaminson Alternative School (1972-76). The Cinnaminson Alternative School was an open-enrollment, 10th - 12th grade learning community with approximately 170 students of all abilities, We always had more volunteer students than we were staffed for (10% of the high school's 10th - 12th grade students).
Three elements made this program unique. The students agreed to take responsibility for both their own education and their own behavior. Their parents accepted that we were an open campus and their children could come and go as they pleased. And the teachers agreed to assist the students in their individual efforts to pursue their own education.
Although that education generally included graduation from Cinnaminson High School (along with many other things), the program was not designed for that purpose nor was graduation ever an explicit program goal. In the fall of 1971, in the Cinnaminson High School faculty room, Jack's dedication to principled, democratic action permeated the first discussion about the possibility of a student-centered, democratically organized, learning community in our school district. As a senior English teacher, Jack Hinger's recognized integrity, forthright principled behavior, and diligent professional performance was a central reason that a program that assumed students could be trusted was ever approved for operation. For the next four years his honest, democratic, plain speaking was a constant in the daily life of the school.
Finally, in the late spring of 1976 (the last year of the school), his commitment to uncompromising principled behavior laid the foundation for a meeting. In that meeting the entire professional staff of ten part and full-time teachers agreed to refuse to implement a new Superintendent's order to fundamentally change the learner-centered philosophy, structure, governance and culture of the school. The Superintendent subsequently transferred almost the entire tenured staff, laid off the only non-tenured teacher (the other science teacher), and brought in mostly middle school teachers to implement his program. By the next February, since there was no longer any reason to be there, half the students had returned to the regular high school and the shell of the Cinnaminson Alternative School was officially closed.
And sadly, this unique learning experience went silent.
George Carlin said that "It's called the American Dream because you've got to be asleep to believe it." Unlike George Carlin, Jack Hinger believed the American Dream. He believed that individual people both can and should shape their own lives and participate in their own governance; and he believed that all people should always have the opportunity to do just that. Jack also believed that he personally should do whatever he could to keep that dream alive.
If we're going to be the land of the free, we must be the home of the brave. Jack Hinger was brave and he never, never, never gave up.
Jack was an inspiration, we need more like him.
John Blair Vashon, Washington email@example.com