George was particularly interested in the differences between intelligence and creativity – how they overlapped, how they differed, and how they could be cultivated. As someone whose primary interest was finding ways to make the world a better place, he believed that divergent, creative thinkers were key to finding new solutions to old problems. In this 1962 presentation to the school community, he discussed his thinking on the subject, which ranged from the findings of new research into creativity to the challenges divergent thinkers present to teachers in the classroom.
In June 1969, the year of the school’s first senior class graduation, the school put up its first flagpole. The American flag that was raised was one that had flown over the US Capitol and had been given to the school by Sen. Philip Hart, a longtime friend of the school who had spoken at the dedication of the Middle Building in 1960. Parents and students had requested the flagpole and raised the funds for it. George, wary of unthinking nationalism after his experience in Nazi Germany, acquiesced to the community’s desire but expressed his ambivalence and hopes in his dedication speech.
When Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968, George and Annemarie were on vacation in Mexico since it was the school’s spring break. George had been out of the country as well when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and felt bereft to be away from his country at these times of collective national trauma. When school resumed, there was an assembly to discuss the tragic events and this is the speech George gave at the assembly.
One of the core tenets of the Roeper Philosophy is that children must be allowed to participate in shaping their own destiny to the degree that they are able. One of the most visible elements of this approach at the school is the freedom students have to choose their own courses, which allows them to make choices based on their interests and goals and provides an opportunity to strengthen their decision-making skills. In this paper, written soon after the school had graduated its first senior class in 1969, George discusses why this freedom is necessary, but also why it imposes a moral responsibility on the student to fulfill his or her commitments.
The Class of 1981 asked George, who had retired in 1979, to speak to them at their Junior-Senior Dinner, which is an important part of Commencement weekend. The Class of 1981 was the first class to have graduated after the Upper School moved to the Birmingham campus in September 1980, at the start of their senior year. George was pleased to be asked and responded with a talk on his core philosophy, humanism.
The Gifted Child Institute, held at Roeper June 18-22, 1956, led to a plan that encompassed the identification of gifted children, a discussion of the meaning of learning, and the organizing principles of the curriculum. The participants were interesting in developing motivation (how to nurture a love of learning) and self-awareness (how to have a healthy emotional balance). The curriculum was summarized overall as a study of “people and their problems.” It was a broad approach, studying cultures around the world through their myths, technology, and aesthetics using writing, experimentation, critical thinking, and hands-on projects. The explicit goal was to understand the complexity of the world and to find a means of contributing to its betterment. Attention was paid to heightening awareness of gifted girls and expanding their social and professional options, as well as ensuring that students of all races and ethnicities would be identified and admitted to the school.
After the Institute, the Proceedings were collected and printed, thanks to the generous assistance of the Birmingham (MI) Public School district, and made available to anyone who was interested.
In March 1957, George published an update on the changes that had been made at the school to begin to incorporate the recommendations of the Gifted Child Institute.
Those who encounter George and Annemarie’s ideas about education have always been challenged to understand the meaning and implications of their philosophy. In 1963, the school faculty asked George to lead a seminar on the subject and, fortunately, he recorded it. In it, George, with his German phrasing, acknowledged that even though visitors to the school sense that it is a different kind of place, “we have difficulty to formulate it.”
George doesn’t provide a point-by-point explanation of the Philosophy here — or anywhere, actually — but this recording provides a unique opportunity to be part of a conversation with George, who died in 1992, and gain insight into the way he thought. George’s frame of view was always the future and how to educate children to meet an unknown future with flexibility, insight and tolerance. Note that the catalog George refers to is the document that eventually became the 1965 Statement of Policies.
Recording of the 1963 seminar
Partial transcript of the 1963 seminar
Citation: Roeper, G. (1963). “Seminar with Faculty,” The Roeper School Archives, Bloomfield Hills, MI.
Top photo by Carlos Goodman ’80
In the 1960s, George and Annemarie began working on a statement to reflect the school’s philosophy. The core principle of this statement was that the purpose of the school is to educate children to become “true members of modern world society.” To do this, the school needed to have a student body that reflected the diversity of the world, with a robust scholarship program to ensure that everyone who could benefit from the program, regardless of their economic status, could attend. George and Annemarie also specified a rigorous, well-rounded curriculum that supported each child’s psychological growth with an emphasis on critical thinking and creativity. This statement was adopted by the Board of Advisors in 1965.