For a school based on the primacy of emotions, ideas are the lifeblood of Roeper. Hallways and classrooms full of lively discussion are the contemporary iteration of the ideas that have bubbled up since the 1920s in the Bondy schools in Germany. In this section you will find a collection of quotations by George and Annemarie and others; a collection of all the evolving versions of the Roeper Philosophy; documents describing the Roeper Education Model and its approach to Giftedness — which are two overlapping but distinct topics; and selections from the Roeper School Archives of George and Annemarie’s writings and presentations.
George and Annemarie Roeper’s observations about education, human nature, and how the world works have inspired many over the years. We have collected some of their most resonant thoughts in this section, as well as observations by others connected with the school.
My husband, George Roeper, used to have a saying that seems to put it all in a nutshell. He used to say, “If there is a problem, sit together on one side of the table and put the problem on the other side” and then try to understand each other. I think that that would be a very good model for Roeper School and the world.
The Roeper Philosophy
The Roeper Philosophy describes the intellectual and moral beliefs at the foundation of the school. A complex set of ideas about human nature, interdependence, morality, and justice, the Roeper Philosophy is based on George and Annemarie’s understanding of human psychology and a humanist philosophy. George and Annemarie spent days, weeks, probably even months over their lifetimes writing out “a philosophy of life.” This was done to create a shared understanding within the Roeper community. In particular, they wrote a new version each time they gave up some degree of control over their school, so that their ideas remained as operating principles. Over the years, the school has written new philosophy statements, but they are not intended to supersede earlier philosophies but to be contemporary summaries of the ideas at the heart of the school.
The Roeper Education Model
The Roeper educational approach is focused on the whole person, both the child standing there today and the adult that child will become. In Annemarie’s words, “The school tries to develop a person who will be able to cope with the modem world, enjoy as many facets of it as possible and to contribute to it actively, constructively and creatively. This requires a person who is emotionally secure, aware of his own abilities and his place in a large, complicated, and ever-changing world, a person who reacts in a flexible, broad-minded, and intelligent manner to the whole complexity of modern life, and who is able to communicate his thoughts and feelings.”
While the school is best known as a school for gifted students, this educational philosophy predates the school’s transition to gifted education. It came from George and Annemarie’s upbringing in the progressive German boarding school founded by Annemarie’s parents, Gertrud Bondy, a psychoanalyst, and Max Bondy, a social activist. In this section, we look at the aspects of the Roeper Education Model that are relevant to all children and all schools.
In the mid-1950s, George began to be interested in gifted children. The Cold War had heightened interest across the country in gifted children as policymakers saw them as key to ensuring the nation stayed ahead of the Russians. There was little research at the time into the emotional development of gifted children, which of course George and Annemarie believed was foundational to human well-being, so they were concerned that this lack of knowledge might damage gifted children. In 1956, they invited Dr. A Harry Passow, from Teachers College at Columbia University, to lead a symposium at Roeper to develop a program for gifted child education so the school could become a center for studying their emotional and intellectual needs. In September 1956, the school began operating as a school exclusively for gifted children, only the second in the nation after the public Hunter College Elementary School in New York City. (The Speyer School, Leta Stetter Hollingsworth’s ground-breaking school in New York City, had closed in 1941.) Today Roeper is the oldest independent school for the gifted in the United States.
George and Annemarie’s first impulse was always to share their insights and discoveries with others. They shared the proceedings of the symposium with other schools in the area and for years led professional development programs open to any educator or administrator. In 1978, they established the Roeper Review, a peer-reviewed professional journal in giftedness that is still published by the school.
In this section, we share documents from the school’s early shift to gifted child education, as well as other insights into gifted children as seen from the Roeper perspective.
George Roeper had a wide-ranging intellect and curiosity. In the words of former Roeper Head Chuck Webster, “George saw education as the defining act of what it means to be human. Educational theory for George was the theory of everything: psychology, philosophy, politics, history, and science were all drawn together in a vision of identity and relationships.”
During his 40 years at the school, George wrote on many topics: documenting the evolution of the school, exploring intellectual topics such the role of fantasy in child development, commenting on current events, writing essays about his philosophy, and producing his much-valued graduation speeches for each graduate.
In addition to the demands of leading his fast-growing school, George was a delegate with the Comparative Education Society (now the Comparative and International Education Society), visiting schools in Russia, Japan, Africa, Europe and Scandinavia and contributing observations. He was a visiting lecturer of gifted education at Eastern Michigan University, which granted him an honorary doctorate in education in 1978. (George had been on the verge of defending his doctoral dissertation in economics at the University of Greifswald in 1938 when he had to flee, forfeiting his degree.)
Publishing became a casualty of George’s active life. Very little of his writing was ever read outside the school community. In this section, we will be sharing from this trove of long-neglected work.
After 40 years leading The Roeper School with George, Annemarie had a long second career after they moved to California. She established a successful consultancy in giftedness and had a full schedule of writing and speaking commitments, advancing her understanding of the critical role emotional complexity plays in the identity of gifted children. Over her career, she published more than 100 articles and book chapters and five books. In 1999, Annemarie received the inaugural President’s Award from NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) for a lifetime of distinguished service to the field. She also developed the Annemarie Roeper Method of Qualitative Assessment to provide a more holistic understanding of a child’s abilities and personality (now the Columbus Group Method of Qualitative Assessment.
Despite Annemarie’s lengthy list of published works, there are many papers and presentations in The Roeper School Archives that have not been widely available. In this section, we will be sharing those valuable resources.