John Adams High School  John Adams High School, Portland, Oregon 1969 to 1981


From Howard Wilkinson October 22, 2012:

My stay at Adams was brief, and broken by expulsion... I graduated class of '74 using credits from PCC after beginning at Adams and being kicked out a year and a half later, at which time I began taking classes at PCC, achieving enough credits to graduate at the end of the summer of my sophomore year and continuing to University of Montana. I hitch hiked back for graduation with my class. I have been in Montana ever since.. as I always found the climate and population of the Portland area too much to bear.

I currently reside in Melville, Mt where I have been jestingly dubbed Mayor ... of a population of 7 (currently) up from 4. 20 miles north of Big Timber (1500), about 100 mi from either Billings or Bozeman. I've been in this area for over 30 Years. (Self employed... or "self unemployed" as I call, it the entire time). A beautiful ranching community where the plains meet the last outpost of the Rocky Mountains (The Crazy Mountains). The Crazies tower behind me, and the plains stretch off into infinity, broken by rimrocks, badlands, jack pine forests (breaks), with the wind moaning seemingly endlessly across them. A land of extremes... temps ranging from -30 (I recorded -48 once) to nearly 100 degrees, and frequently changing radically ... as much as 50 degrees in an hour or less. I love it here... where a "community is like a family, where we pitch in to help each other..... a lifestyle from the past.

I formed few friends in my time there, but remember a few folks well. I remember you and George, Paul Clare was someone I was close to at the time, Katie and Hillary Janes, Rachael and Alice Avolio, Alex Kraul, Dorie McDonald, and Gail Heinamen .... Those are all the names I remember from those days, Gail being the only one listed.  Perhaps I will contrive to attend a reunion someday.... but I doubt many folks will remember me.

Adams was largely a jumping off place for me in numerous independent projects. It allowed me an environment that liberated me to pursue whatever directions took my fancy, and could be construed as "education"..... but what isn't "education". I learned to pursue knowledge independent of direction, and when to seek direction, where to find it, and how to evaluate what came my way.... Needless to say this began early in life .... as it must, and was fostered by good parenting. I abused trusts, and made mistakes.... as we all do, I think, but The Adams / summer hill environment was right for me. I worked with Dr Donald W Stottler (PSU) on project while I was there, and still find his educational philosophy enlightened, far sighted, and progressive, as expressed in his book The Self Learning Society, a book well worth reading. It is tragic that progressive ideas in education have fallen out of favor. We were fortunate to have been a part of a great experiment, however most students were not prepared by primary education, and parenting to deal with the situation, and make the most of it. This was depressingly demonstrated in the craving for structure and direction that seemed to infect the majority of students. The theories are valid, the concept is good, but it will never work unless students are prepared from an early age.



From: Steve Glavan
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2001 3:43 PM
Subject: Adams High School
Hi, Tom!
I saw your posting on the Adams alumni site, and thought I would check in.

I am an Adams alum, class of 1974, with mixed memories about the "Adams Experience." I thoroughly enjoyed my years at Adams, largely because of the people and the wonderful experiences, but I look back with a sense of a failed system that often did little to prepare its students for the world beyond its doors - although it was promoted as doing that above and beyond anything in existence at the time. Hindsight is always 20-20 . . or, at least, seems more in focus than when we are in the midst of the event . . but I think now that Adams was a testament to the prevailing cultural issues of the '60s and '70s. We were living in a world that appeared to have lost its identity in the face of Viet Nam, racial tension, the killing of great American leaders and rising social discontent. Adams, and the so-called Adams Experiment, were supposed to be a way for students to establish that identity on their own, without the stifling constraints of the traditional educational framework so many blamed for the problems of that era. Instead, Adams left a gaping hole in that identity. In my humble opinion, knowing who we are and where we are going as individuals is part of a larger idea - who we are and where we are going as a society.

The Adams concept encouraged us to become the moral conscience of our culture by breaking away from the norms and creating our own world - another idea that was big in the '60s and '70s. Unfortunately, without a foundation on which to build that moral conscience, the structure is doomed to fail. There were certainly some individuals during my time at Adams who thrived in the "freehand" atmosphere of learning, although I think those same students would thrive anywhere, because they were just plain ready to make a difference. Ironically, the majority of students seemed to talk a lot about making change, but took little action. One of the running jokes while I was a student at Adams was to refer to ourselves as "John Apathy High School." Adams specifically - and perhaps the education system of that time as a whole - did not push personal accountability very much, if at all. That seems particularly strange to me now, given our negative attitudes toward "The Establishment" and their lack of integrity. I was not required to produce academically in order to "succeed" in school, and I basically slid by with minimal effort and pulled very decent grades. How terribly cheated I was by that. I was definitely ill prepared to face college, career and family responsibilities. While I never completed college, I have been extremely fortunate in the area of my career, but it took me awhile to develop the habits that would allow me to succeed in the workplace. As for family, I was fortunate that I married a woman who helped fill in the gaps in my own development, and we have been blessed with three wonderful kids - all of whom are now in high school, so I relive a lot vicariously through them!

Well, I have spouted off for a lengthy paragraph here, making it all sound very negative. I do, in fact, have many very positive memories of Adams, as I said at the outset.

Tom, I don't know if what I shared here is what you are looking for. If you would like any more information, specifics about the style of teaching, classroom settings, etc., let me know. I did not use drugs in high school, so still have all of my brain cells and a pretty good memory of those years!

Best wishes in your research.

Steve Glavan