This description of the Harmony School, taken from the novel, Society Changed, tells about it from the point of view of a student, Lizzie, the sister of one of the school’s founders.
Unlike the Social Tech School, which had grown slowly as its network formed, the Harmony Match School in Hanbury, Vermont began just after Labor Day, with a full complement of students. Twelve year old Lizzie Willis was far beyond mere excitement at the prospect.
Lizzie understood the underlying theory perfectly. Her beloved brother-in-law, Don Walker, had invented it then later gave an inspired presentation of the idea during the long meeting in which all the experimental schools had been discussed. Lizzie knew that her sister Helen had given a demonstration which contributed much to the general acceptance of the idea, but Helen was just her sister, while Don was her idol.
As she expected, Lizzie had two kinds of class, her viewpoint class and her discussion classes.
Most of the Grade 7 curriculum was not optional. Students worked together according to an alphanumeric class scheme. The students in the school were divided into eight clusters according to something loosely called viewpoint. Difference in religious upbringing and the politics of their parents helped sort the students into clusters, as did attitudes towards science and the arts. They had all filled out a very long questionnaire, then sophisticated cluster analysis algorithms were applied.
These clusters were labelled G through N. Lizzie was in viewpoint cluster H. Of the 31 other girls in her grade, her one best friend in the school was also in cluster H, and soon all of the students in the cluster would feel like friends.
About half of Lizzie’s classes were viewpoint classes with some of these friends. The other half of the classes were discussion groups, numbered 3 to 9. Each of these had one person from each viewpoint cluster. Though seating order was flexible, when school started, the students in each discussion group sat in cluster order. H being the second cluster, Lizzie sat in the second seat from the left in the lowest numbered discussion class, 3.
From the first, the discussion was as rich as you might expect from a group of people with eight different viewpoints. No matter what position Lizzie took on a topic, there was at least one person to argue the opposite one.
Despite the significant differences in the way they saw things, the class was a friendly one.
Lizzie’s homeroom teacher, Annelle Holland who conducted all of the non-optional classes and taught the language survey course as well explained:
“There are a great many ways of dividing people who disagree into classes. Suppose we had a girl named Alpha, who will be in the B cluster. Of all the people in the B viewpoint, the one he likes the most is Barbara and the one he like the least is Brenda. Which girl should we put in Alpha’s class?”
Everyone turned and looked at Lizzie, famous Lizzie, the girl from the brochures and posters.
“Trying to resolve 8 different points of view is hard enough without personality conflicts. I’d suggest putting Alpha and Barbara together in discussion group 1. Why isn’t there a discussion group 1, by the way?”
“I agree, Barbara. I think the answer to Lizzie’s question is pretty clever. It took even me a while to get it. Some student would go around with a swelled head because he or she was A1.”
Lizzie just loved her classes. Loved them. A viewpoint class full of potential friends, who saw life her way. A lively discussion class with people who enjoyed each others company.