The initial Sage of Petaluma II blog was posted on 9-18-09, and then … nothing more happened. My apologies for not “tuning in” sooner. Today’s post was composed last September and meant to be a follow-up to the new blog theme. It wasn’t published because the content was too “self-centered.” Nevertheless, here it is because some readers have asked, “Who was the original Sage of Petaluma?” The personal references help tell the story; so, better late than never.
As the Sage of Petaluma II, my desire is to seek ways to enhance the quality of life in our historic river town by “incubating” innovative community projects, as well as continuing to blog about “this & that.” The creation of this new site with The Sage of Petaluma II as its title could not come at a better time. Last September, the President of the United State talked about the need for educational reform; just like the original Sage of Petaluma did in 1939 with the publication of The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, a satirical commentary on schooling and school reform. (For the record, this amateur journalist composed a few earlier blogs for the Argus-Courier in 2006, under the heading – The Saber-Tooth Curriculum.” They are listed in the archives section, to the right.))
As a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s Institute for Child Study in the 1950s, I recall reading this “humorous” book (The Saber-Tooth Curriculum) authored by a professor at “Petaluma State College” named J. Abner Peddiwell, Ph.D. (As most readers know, there isn’t now and never was such an institution. But that’s another story and ties in with why I sometimes think I was predestined to eventually live in Petaluma.)
The basic theme of Dr. Peddiwell’s book, which was based on the history of “Paleolithic Education,” was summarized in the introduction to the 1972 memorial edition written by R. Lee Hornbake, Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the University of Maryland. He believed that the author was distressed by the wide discrepancy between a society in disrepair and what it might have been through better education. Dr. Hornbake states that the author held to the theory that, “…as long as a society fails to bring its educational efforts – all of its behavior – changing ways – into focus with its goals and purposes, that society postpones its golden age. And if that discrepancy becomes too great or too prolonged, a society will destroy itself.”
Haven’t we been hearing similar messages, expressed by professional educators and researchers for decades; particularly ever since the beginning of the 21st Century? Our basic question still remains; who was the original Sage of Petaluma? If you search the Internet, several sources will identify H.R.W. Benjamin (1893-1969), a professor of education, whose written work spoke to educational policy concerns, as the “real” name of Dr. J. Abner Peddiwell. Using this pseudonym, Dr. Benjamin’s classic publication in 1939 gained him a national and international reputation and is still being used by history of education professors today.
Although I do not remember the exact month (I believe it was sometime during the Fall Semester, 1951); while visiting the College Park Campus of the University of Maryland, seeking an adviser for my next degree, I met Dean Benjamin in the hallway of the College of Education. I was looking for the department office for the Institute of Child Study in order to apply for entrance into their graduate Human Growth & Development program. (At the time, I was completing my senior year at Maryland State Teachers College at Towson.)
By the time I graduated from Towson in 1952 and was accepted by the Institute, Dr. Benjamin had moved on to George Peabody College for Teachers in Tennessee. It was during my doctoral study days (1955-58) that I read his now famous, The Saber-Tooth Curriculum. I didn’t discover his fictitious autobiography written in 1965, The Sage of Petaluma, until after I had move west and was teaching at San Francisco State College as an Assistant Professor of Education.
It wasn’t until after I retired from SFSU and moved to Petaluma in 1993 that I began to think that I was predestined to live in our famous river town; the home of Petaluma State College and its renowned Professor J. Abner Peddiwell. (Now you know why I used the “piled higher and deeper” interpretation for his Ph.D. degree in my last blog.)
I’ll make my case for predestination in another blog at another time; however, after starting the Sages of Petaluma conversation group at the Senior Center, and promoting greater use of information and communication technology in the schools of greater Petaluma over the past 15 years, I now plan to add the Sage of Petaluma II, as another category for my list of blog topics.