U-32 1975



This reading, and the discussion questions below,

could be used in any social studies classroom.


In Autumn, 1975, alongside articles titled “Homage to Foliage,” “Down Country Roads,” and “A New Fashioned Barn Raising,” Vermont Life Magazine published a piece about our school: “Union 32’s Experiment in Learning.” 

The article gives a vivid snapshot of what U-32 was like 40 years ago, including a priceless description of one of our master teachers, Kathy Topping, at the start of her career.   

It’s also a glimpse of the mythical “old U-32” — the school that earned the “Zoo” nickname we still carry. Reading the piece it’s clear that our school has changed a lot in forty years.    

It can be interesting to consider complex cultural changes from a local point of view. In this case, our school can be considered as one small window into the shifting values and practices of our society at large.


Read the Article


For Discussion:

How have attitudes toward teaching and learning changed in our community  since 1975?  

What are the larger cultural changes behind the changes in our school?

Does U-32 more  accurately reflect the values of its community today than it did in 1975?    Explain.

Can a school benefit all its students equally?  Which kind of school seems more successful in this respect, the U-32 of 2016 or 1975?  Explain.

Is our move toward proficiency-based assessment taking us back toward the U-32 of 1975? Or farther away?  Explain.

52 thoughts on “U-32 1975”

  1. Reply to this comment to answer Question 5: Is our move toward proficiency-based assessment taking us back toward the U-32 of 1975? Or farther away? Explain.

    1. Representatives represent U-32’s resentful tuition, it represents the symbolic society that is representative of all representatives around the resentful world.

    2. As I said in my answer to the first question, yes, I do think that our new system is more relatable to U-32’s first vision.

  2. Reply to this comment to answer Question 4: Can a school benefit all its students equally? Which kind of school seems more successful in this respect, the U-32 of 2016 or 1975? Explain.

    1. The problem with schools is that not every student’s needs can be met to the full extent. Though some do a good job at doing that. I think the current U-32 can meet a student’s needs a lot better because they have many options and learning opportunities. With traditional classroom learning as the main part, they also provide students with more individualized approaches to learning. Though, these options are pretty restricted. They should make it much easier to get into these programs.

    2. A school will never benefit all of its students equally. There will always be students who fall through the cracks. This is due to the fact that every student will have their own ways of learning, and we will never find a way that caters to every person.

    3. I think that a school can benefit all the students equally. I think that in today’s school we can benefit all the students because we have the Pilot program which offers students to learn what they want how they want. But we also have the “traditional schooling” that some people still want.

    4. Today’s U-32 accomplishes its goals far better than it used to. Because less students would succeed if they were still initially given the choice to simply not attend, and get by without even going to class. Knowing the students of this age and assuming they haven’t changed all that much, I believe there would be a large population of the student body that is utterly detached.

    5. I think a school can benefit all student equally, its just up to the student. The U32 of 1975 students didn’t even have to try. They just were not obligated to try at all, which is one of the reasons the school had to change. So it was up to the kids who wanted to learn. They were the ones who benefit from the old U32. But today, everyone has to try. If you don’t try, you don’t pass and if you don’t pass your classes, you can’t graduate. Today’s U32 has found ways to encourage us to learn. They don’t give us the option to slack.

    6. The school can benefit all its students equally but it has a possible backlash. Each kid could be fitted throughout the day to have classes that fit their need but now with the nation-wide school system each kid has required classes. But the backlash could be that kids get what they want and not end up learning anything because some could abuse the system. The U-32 of 2016 is more successful in my opinion because students still can have a free band to get away from the chaos of school and focus on things that are important to them. But U-32 has structure now. KIds can”t leave class, walls have been put up, the town has been impressed with how the school was run and has increased funding. So I would say the U-32 of 2016 is more successful.

    7. There is only a few classes that allow students to do there own study. The classes are CBL and Pilot. It’s really hard to get into to pilot, you have to fill out this application thing and have an interview with someone who is already in pilot. But also all the classes are not going to benefit every student equally.

    8. U-32 is now a school that treats their students equality now sense the school has been developing because form the open classrooms which teachers would tell kids to quiet down because the other kids who were the students in the classroom were unable to work do to the working environment.

    9. You will never fully be able to meet every single students needs. Some kinds truly don’t care about school and even though they should, and it would benefit them for the better, there isn’t a lot you can do when someone just doesn’t want to try. I don’t think either school could do it alone, I think if we combined the ideas from both times together the school could be so much better. If we had the room and freewill, not the same amount from 1975 but more than we do now, I think that could change a lot of things, but I definitely think we will always need structure, no matter what.

    10. I don’t believe that it is possible for a school to benefit all students because all student are very different. Every person learns in different ways and they react differently to different ways of teaching. It is impossible for a school to benefit all students. I think that both schools struggled to benefit a lot of their students. I think that the 2016 version of U32 does a better job of benefiting all of their students. The 1975 version help a very small portion of students a lot. That version of U32 benefitted people that had a lot of motivation and ability to keep themselves on track. However, the majority of their students took advantage of their freedom. In the 2016 version of U32 they still struggle with benefiting all students but does a better job than the 1975 version.

  3. Reply to this comment to answer Question 3: Does U-32 more accurately reflect the values of its community today than it did in 1975? Explain.

    1. Today’s rules at U-32 leave the students with much less ‘wiggle room’. Every year it seems as though the school adds rules, making it much more strict. The values of the school say that the students are given much more responsibility and freedom than other schools yet we are now under constant supervision and are expected to meet tons of standards. I believe the community in 1975 better reflects the values of this school.

    2. I don’t think that we could say that it reflects the values of the community now versus then. Because in 1975 the school reflected what the community valued in terms of education and in today’s community the school reflects the values of the community. Today we allow some of the students to learn in their own way and we allow them to learn what they want to learn through the Pilot program, yet we also have “traditional schooling” because there are still some parents in the community who value “traditional schooling.” So I don’t think that during either of the two eras the school reflected to the communities values.

    3. I honestly couldn’t tell you. I feel like every family differs in its values towards education. My parents believe more in the standardized way of growing up, while I have friends whose parents believe in a looser environment. I feel like although this is virtually impossible, a learning environment fit to each student’s personality would be the best. Why can’t we have different schools fit for different ways the children learn? Some for the motivated, some for the ones who have talents outside of the core classes (like academies) and some for the unmotivated.

    4. I think that it represents it more realistically, today’s portrayal of the old ideals work in a way that still incorporates standard learning environments and required attendance. I believe this is a better way to do that, because it keeps students on the right path, but still gives them the reigns to direct it.

    5. U-32 students still acts what they were back then besides smoking in the cafeteria but they treat everyone equally and would be kind to their teachers, family, and friends. Some students would be aids to nurses so they can have some experience in the medic field. Some other kids would work at stores to sell shoes so they could make some money for school. U-32 students would treat everyone so kindly and would help their community by working during night and going to school in the day.

    6. U-32 does in fact reflect the values of the community. U-32 has gotten a more structured day and rules. Being built from scratch the school was able to mold how it was ran. It experimented with the school system and gave a chance to see how the students were doing grade wise. But it also heard the opinions of the towns and molded the school to fit their needs. For example kids cant just leave class whenever and not get in trouble for it. Also the students don’t have as much free time in the day.

    7. I believe it does simply because there are no parents(that I know of) that are unhappy with the way this school is ran. Back in 1975, there were students, teachers, and tax payers who were unhappy with the way the school was ran. Parents would pull their kids out of this school and put their kids in other public schools they hated this place so bad. But, that rarely happens to today’s U32. So I believe it does reflect the values of the community.

    8. Today’s rules at U-32 don’t give you much free time at all without being a full time student student. If you want to be a full time student but still want to have somewhat of free times I think you can only have like one or two free bands and back in 1975 you pretty much did your own study and you were going your own pace. I think personally school back in 1975 was a lot better then it is today.

    9. No U32 doesn’t reflect the values the commmunity because the community is more free then U32. The kidds want to go home not wanting to be at school do bad in school. The community is more of a varieity of people and they are more of free spiritied people then the people that run U32. I belileve that in 1975 the rules then left the kids not wanting to go home.

    10. The 1975 U32 did not reflect the values of the community of that time. The current U32 does not reflect the values of the community right now. However, I would argue that the current U32 reflects more of the current values than the 1975 U32 did the values of that time. Because it was so new and so radical, the 1975 U32 not only didn’t reflect people’s values, it in fact made them angry. It made them so angry in fact that they felt the need to vocally and through policies and budget cuts fight against it. Now, people are more silently disapproving of the education system. There are less, if any, people trying to shut the school down. They are more just complaining to their friends about how the system hurts the student more than it helps. This leads me to believe one of two things. Either the people in 1975 were a lot more outspoken about their feelings or that the current U32 more accurately reflects the need and values of the society, even if not perfectly. I would suspect that the latter is true.

    11. U-32 now has a lot less freedom than the U-32 in 1975. In no way does it reflect values of our community in fact it has taken many amazing values away. The U-32 I know gives us little freedom and little space. We have extremely long classes that make it especially difficult for students to learn in because after a certain period of time everybody’s brain needs a break from all the data that’s being pushed into it for an hour and 15 minutes. Teachers are more strict and teach in ways that might only be making students fall back because they do not understand. The only upside of the schools change is the smoke room removal. Smoking is bad for you and causes several health problems. The only question I have is what has made U-32 what it is today?

  4. Reply to this comment to answer Question 2: What are the larger cultural changes behind the changes in our school?

    1. The largest cultural change in our school would have to be that it went from totally free will learning to forced to learn and have all of the classes. There is way more structure, some might even say too much, now then there has ever been.

    2. I think that the larger cultural changes are that the community has made a shift from being conservative to a more liberal or progressive way of thinking. In 1975, the community was quite conservative in their thinking and were not open to a change in the way that their children are taught. But in today’s community there is a major presence of liberal/progressive thinking and people are more open to new, innovative ways of teaching students.

    3. The larger culture in society within Vermont influenced U32 and its society in several different and positive ways. Our society has become a very racially different place compared to that of the society 30+ years ago.

    4. Our culture here at U-32 has seen plenty of changes, influenced by the increase in cultural backgrounds we see in students and exchange students from all over the world. Culturally, our horizons have been broadened, and we have become one large accepting community of any culture.

    5. Our schools culture in 1975 was more open and students felt more free. They felt like they could be more independent and still have the respect that their teachers had given them. The space that was provided for each and every individual gave the opportunity for everyone to get to know each other. Students got to make more decisions as to whether they would go to class or stay home and there was even a smoke room.

    6. The larger culture changes in the U-32 community are from the towns, teachers, and students. The community changed the way the school ran. By cutting the budget by $40,000, the school had to change to make the taxpayers happy and keep funding the school. The teachers helped change the way the classes ran. They were having issues with how few teachers were in the school compared to how many students went. They also had a issue with kids not showing up to class. Some students also asked for a more structured day. Over the course of 41 years the U-32 school have met the requirements of the town, teachers, and students.

    7. The teachers here now teach completely different compared to when it was 1975. You have to learn with the class. You can’t learn at your own pace. If you’re falling behind in classes you have to schedule your own callback and catch up on your own time. Your grades will slowly start going downhill really quickly if you don’t catch back up on work. Test are also different now as well.

    8. The larger cultural changes in our community are that people aren’t that nice to let people take there tax money to build a scoll for there kids and other peoples kids. When people started to find out how layed back school was they were starting to take there kids out of U32. They were also starting to take back there tax money that was helping builging U32. They would rather pay $1,500 to send there kid to a neighboring school then send there kid to U32.

    9. Our culture has changed quite a bit in the last 40 to 50 years. The wants and needs of the people in our society has been on a roller coaster ride. We have been constantly pushing the limits and eventually pushing too far causing a backlash and a return to the previous views of society. For example, in the 1960’s and 70’s there was a very large movement against the government and against the “man”. Coming off the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement, this period in our country was full of people pushing the limits and testing the boundaries. A perfect example of this is the U-32 formed in 1972. However, like most extreme moments in our history there was a backlash. The people didn’t like how fast and how drastically the country and the society was changing so they fought back. For many years our country has been converting back to the most conservative ways of the 1950’s. It is only in over recent years that the Black Lives Matter movement and the Gay Marriage movements have been rising. The changes in our school since the 1970’s reflects the countries change back to a more conservative society. Our school has gotten rid of most of the ideology that made it so unique.

    10. One cultural changes is not being able to do what you want whenever. you have to be at a certain place at a certain time and some of what you want to learn is mandatory. Also there are no smoke lounges any more you are not able to smoke on school property at all. and if you do you get suspended

    11. In 1975 students at u-32 were allowed to smoke in the school. There was a section for kids to smoke in the cafeteria where kids were allowed to smoke sense other students couldn’t stand the smell of cigarettes and smoke being blew in their face. Now that smoking is illegal to smoke in any schools U-32 has change a big part of itself.

    12. I think the biggest cultural change is the discipline and the free will the students had before. At the beginning the students were free to almost anything they wanted to do, they had complete control over everything, what classes they took, whether they went to class that day etc. Now it’s either you go to class or you fall behind and fail it. Before the students didn’t get disciplined for skipping class and what not because there wasn’t many rules regarding that, but now if you were to do that you would get in a good amount of trouble. If you play sports and you get a detention or loft, you can’t play in your game, sometimes your parents get called as well.

  5. Reply to this comment to answer Question 1: How have attitudes toward teaching and learning changed in our community since 1975?

    1. The attitudes towards the way things are taught and learned has changed. I think U-32 went back to a more traditional school but with some different values. Currently, the idea that a lot of students cannot learn as well in a traditional school setting has become more popular. The most common argument behind that would probably be a students cannot be forced to learn, that all learning is voluntary. Though a lot of students need the structure.

    2. I believe that as a school we have changed a lot. Back in 1975, we were trying to innovate a curriculum without any supporting evidence as to why it would work. As years moved on, we made a transition back to regular schooling, with a few exceptions. Now we are trying the proficiency based grading. Although it will most likely never effect my highschool career, I do see it as either a hit or miss for those either moving to it or being brought into highschool with it.

    3. I believe that what our school has become is very much the same as far as the ideals it’s creators had envisioned. We are still very much free to choose what it is that we learn about and specifically what path each student wants to take. One thing that has changed is the concept of choosing one’s own attendance without repercussions. If that were still allowed as much as it used to be, there would be plenty more students that wouldn’t get far academically. However I do think that the new proficiency based grading system is a step in that direction.

    4. The attitudes toward teaching and learning have certainly changed in our community since 1975. In ’75 the school was attempting to be forward thinking in how they were teaching the students, but many of the parents in the community were against that idea, claiming that “it only taught students how to be lazy.” The school heard the voices of the parents who were against the innovative teaching methods and went back to what the community referred to as “traditional schooling.” But in today’s community the parents are much more progressive in how they view school, and students are now allowed to learn what they want to in ways that they see fit. Students are allowed to create their own lesson plans and are able to choose a field of study. But we wouldn’t have seen that after the shift back to “traditional schooling” in 1975, but now we do and that is how the attitude towards teaching and learning have changed.

    5. In 1975 there were a lot of people that disapproved of the new U-32. The disliked the kind of free spirited learning that it encouraged and they thought their children weren’t learning respect and discipline. Many people in the central vermont community at the time were very conservative when it comes to learning and teaching styles. They thought that if it was good enough for them than it was good enough for their children. It was because of their fight for a more normal education that the school is more conservative now. Since then the population of people in central vermont has changed a lot since then. People in the five towns that feed into U32 are now becoming less conservative and starting the think our current education system doesn’t cater to the average highschool student. This is not just a central vermont issue but a national issue. Across the country people are speaking out about how our education system is stunting creativity and trying to fit different people all into the same box. It is almost as if the 1975 U32 reflects the needs of society today and the current U32 reflect the needs of society in the 1970’s. Both population of people have negative attitudes towards their education systems but for opposite reasons. It is really quite the juxtaposition.

    6. Since 1975, the U-32 community outside the school has dramatically changed their attitudes and views of how teaching and the way kids learn. They used to see kids that could just leave the classroom whenever they wanted and just hang out all day as a joke and as a result cut funding by $40,000 one year because they saw it as a waste of taxpayer money. Now after 41 years, the community sees the school as a success. The school has changed in terms of having walls and a structured day. Everybody has classes that they are required to go to, but we also have some free time to take a break from all the learning and chaos.

    7. Since 1975 attitudes about teaching and learning have changed a lot. In 1975 they were more free. Now we aew madw to sit each class and made to da homework. Teachers aren’t as fun as back then. Having no walls on a classrppm were you can wear everything gives you more structure. Say if your in a math class and there is a history class next to you some kids that have a learning disability might have a harder time learning that way with no walls then someone say that doesn’t have a learning disability. Or someone that has ADHD or ADD.

    8. Teachers are more strict now. if you skip class then you would get into trouble and go to loft or even worse get a detention. There also used to be a smoking lounge but there isn’t anymore. If you get caught smoking in school anywhere you will get expelled from school or something like that. We also now have walls between classes so we aren’t supposed to hear other teachers teaching but we can actually still hear them.

      1. You cant just let kids do what they want you have to be more direct. You cant skip class when ever you want or you’ll fall behind or get in trouble. You cant smoke in school now and if you do you will get suspended. Teachers didn’t force you to learn anything it was all up to you.

    9. I believe the U32 we know today is better for benefiting all student equally, compared to the U32 of 1975. I say that because of multiple things. Today we are required to put effort into school. We can’t skip class with little to know consequences. If we skip class in today’s U32 you will get a loft. That encourages us not to skip class. Also, if a student has a bad grade teachers can more easily help the student get caught up. That’s because we have call back, and longer classes. In the U32 of 1975 had student behind in school, it was up to them to get caught up.They would have to use their free time to catch up which isn’t fun. But today’s U32 made that a lot easier. With callback, we don’t have to rely on our little free time to do even more school work. That makes us more motivated to learn which makes teachers happier because they don’t have to work as hard to get us caught up.

    10. It has become a lot more structured. When U32 first opened up, everything was extremely laid back. They wanted to move away from the traditional way of teaching and school. They wanted to prepare the kids attending for life after graduating, they wanted to teach them responsibility which is why they didn’t have bells that said when class ended, they also didn’t have teachers going after you if your assignment is missing or if you skipped class that day. They believed you had to want to learn, nobody can force you to learn. A lot of parents disagreed with the way u32 was teaching, they didn’t believe they had enough structure and didn’t motivate the kids enough. U32 now is completely different, It’s definitely more strict. There’s no skipping class, and when you do, and you get caught skipping there is always a consequence. If you do it multiple times they do end up contacting your parents as well. there is a lot more structure. There’s certain classes you need to take to graduate, your teachers talking to you when you are falling behind or they notice you’re not doing well in a class, whereas in 1975 I don’t think it was necessarily that the teachers didn’t care if the students were learning or not, they were just trying to teach them responsibility something everyone needs to learn even long before your high-school career ends. Having more structure is important because there will always be kids that need the extra push to finish an assignment or to go to class.

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