Report on the Annual Conference
of the Henry George Schools

Robert Clancy

[A report on the conference proceedings, Asilomar, California, 14-18 July, 1965]

Another Annual Conference has come and gone. …Each conference takes on its own personality, impossible to determine in advance, but staying with us as a memory, as though it was supposed to turn but just the way it did.

Why have a conference every year? Does it not tend to be a rehash? What good are they, if definite plans do not emerge which can be put into practice during the year?

These questions have been asked over the years -- but still we meet every year -- we do hear a lot of rehash, and very few definite plans emerge. Yet we have been hearing the objections less frequently in recent years. It must be that the conferences give some satisfaction, and justify their existence in some way. Perhaps there is a persistent hope that this time the Grand Plan will emerge? Apart from that, there is the pleasure of meeting old friends and making new ones -- a satisfaction not to be underrated. We exchange views, we hear a lot of things over again, but we also hear some new things. And there are always some new people around who have not heard the old things.

We ha[ve] directors who are still relatively new, or just getting started, and the "rehash" may [be] good news for them. Here are a couple of comments:

  • "I always have better classes and fewer dropouts after attending a conference, and I do not feel as though I am working alone."
  • "After hearing results of class publicity in other extensions, I can see why we must do more advertising. Actually our percentage was very good for the number of cards placed."

The Conference is reported in the August Henry George News, and more will appear in the September issue. The School directors' sessions were as follows: a pre-conference session on various subjects, including education and politics; conference sessions on Attracting Students, Effective Teaching, Involving Graduates, and Turning Graduates into Contributors, and a final Evaluation session, at which Goals were also discussed Perhaps we heard some rehash at the sessions on Attracting Students and Involving Graduates -- although we always pick up something from the exchange of views and experiences -- and don't forget the new directors.

We heard some new and interesting contributions at the Effective Teaching session… [One director] gave several good pointers on establishing a personal rapport between teacher and students, and he stressed the importance of a "star opening" -- something striking at the beginning of each session to hold attention. [Another director] presented some suggestions on being an effective leader, including the following: "Most important and most difficult item is to be open-minded yourself. …Each group you lead should be a learning experience. …Develop a sense of friendship and fellowship among members of the group. …Encourage participation. …Welcome opposition. …If a discussion seems to be going against your opinion, let it go on. …If you will let them 'thrash it out' themselves, they will come through to the right answer, and it will be more convincing. …Watch to see if apparent differences of opinion among members of the group is because they are using the same word with different meanings. If so, discuss the meaning of the term."

At the Contributors' session, an interesting note was introduced when donors to [one extension] were called upon to tell why they contributed. In all cases, it was because they had become inspired by the new knowledge they gained through the Henry George School, and they wanted to pass it on to others.

At the pre-conference session, various recent developments in the political field were mentioned, and the School's role discussed. There was general agreement that the School must steer clear of politics, but there was a little disagreement as to what this involved. One disagreement was whether School personnel might enter the political arena. Some thought it would be all right since the School itself was not involved. However, caution was advised in this respect, since the School will be judged publicly in terms of what its individual members do. The School can perform its proper role as an educational institution, and still assist those in the political field by giving information, performing research, offering advice, etc. But the stress should be on work of an educational nature.

At the final Evaluation session, there was general agreement that this had been a good constructive conference -- and more than one person said it Was "the best conference yet". At this session there was also a discussion on "Goals", introduced at last year's conference. At that conference, extensions were invited to make up a schedule of their goals for the coming year -- number of basic and advanced classes and graduates, number of meetings, number of contributors, amount of contributions, etc. -- and at the end of the year compare their achievements with their goals. Some extensions did submit goals, and at this conference the participating directors reported on their achievements, which in several cases came close to the goals. The participating directors said they found it helpful, and agreed to set goals again for the coming School year.

Some directors [chose] not [to take] part in the "goals" program. One director expressed his reservations this way: "Setting goals would cause me to want to show off, to do things that are not perhaps the sound things to do, just for the record's sake." Another director said:

"Our goals are big and far-reaching, and cannot be reduced to statistics. Henry George said, 'Will it at length prevail? Ultimately, yes. But in our time, or in times of which any memory of us remains, who shall say?' I am suspicious of statistics. If I plan as a goal to get 10 students, and get "the 10, that is a 100% accomplishment. But if I plan to get 20 and only get 15, that is a 75% accomplishment. Which is better? Shouldn't our goal be to get as many students as possible, as cheaply as possible, as soon as possible, and to get them to get as many students as possible, and so on?"

The "goals" program is on a voluntary basis, and it is up to each extension to decide.