Interview of Paul R. Klohr by Robert W. Butche
Creators:Klohr, Paul R.
Contributors:Butche, Robert W., 1936-
Subjects (LCSH):Ohio State University. College of Education -- History
Ohio State University. University High School -- History
Education -- Study and teaching -- History
Klohr, Paul R. -- Interviews
Ohio State University -- History -- Sources
Fawcett, Novice G. (Novice Gail), 1909-
Keywords:Ohio State University. University School
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Dr. Paul Klohr had a forty-year career at Ohio State from 1940 until 1979. He was Professor of Education for most of that time. He grew up poor during the Depression in the small town of Mattoon, Illinois, where his father ran a little grocery and bakery. Fortunately he received a scholarship to DePauw University. This allowed him to earn his B.A. in 1940. After a five-year enlistment in the Army during World War II, he earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1948. While a graduate student he was strongly influenced by Professors Boyd Bode, Harold Alberty, Earl Bowman, Laura Zirbes, and Gordon Hullfish. After graduation Klohr spent two years at Syracuse University, and in 1950 he started a two-year stint as Coordinator of Curriculum and In-Service Education in the Columbus Public Schools under Superintendent of Schools, Novice Fawcett. Klohr served from 1952 to 1957 as Director of University School with the rank of Full Professor. He worked closely with Donald Cottrell, Dean of the College of Education, and served as a member of the Dean’s Executive Committee. In later years, however, Klohr clashed with Cottrell over the controversial closing of University School, a decision that, according to Klohr, violated every rule and procedure of the AAUP, and completely bypassed “due process” both for the faculty of the school and the college faculty. According to Klohr, David Clark, Associate Dean of the College of Education, and Egon Guba of the Bureau of Education Research, set up a “phony committee” composed entirely of critics of University School. John Ramseyer, Klohr’s predecessor as Director, and at the time Head of the School Community Center, worked hard to counter their scheme, but tragically he died of a heart attack, and the School was closed. Klohr believed, however, that Dean Cottrell, who acquiesced in the closing of University School, had unfortunately been caught in a “terrible trap.” Fawcett had never liked Cottrell, in large part because, as Dean, he had refused to waive the one-year residency requirement so that Fawcett could earn his Ph.D. Furthermore, later on Cottrell got caught up in the disintegration of his College as, for example, the School of Art and the School of Music, being moved to different units. Dr. Klohr recalled details about the administrations at University School of John Ramseyer and Alexander Frazier. Klohr said that of all of the people he had known in Education he would rank Ramseyer at or near the top. He was an outstanding Head of University School, and many years later, long after the School had closed, the building where it had once been housed, was named “Ramseyer Hall” in his honor. In 1952 Ramseyer, reluctantly resigned from the School to head up a Kellogg grant for the study of “school community;” this created an opening at University School for Klohr. His successor after five years was Frazier, a “remarkable,” and uncommonly literate man. Frazier created the Center for School Experimentation, a partnership between University School and some 33 school systems in Ohio for cooperation in the fields of curriculum and administration. He wrote numerous books and dozens of articles, and served as President in 1970 of the American Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Dr. Klohr had had an unusually close contact with Novice Fawcett, both in the Columbus Public Schools and at OSU. He remembered Fawcett as “an easy man to work with,” but one who was not “an intellectual in any sense,” and one of the most politicized people he had ever met. According to Klohr, Fawcett got both his job as Superintendent of Columbus Public Schools and as President of OSU through “strings being pulled with political forces,” and in neither case was any nationwide search ever made. While still Superintendent of Schools for Columbus Novice Fawcett made clear his opposition to, and contempt for, University School which Klohr headed for five years. Once Fawcett became President of Ohio State he seemed determined to close University School, and finally achieved this goal. The social and political climate in the last years of University School was a time when many people, including Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin, warned of a “communist under every bed.” In these circles there was a deep distrust of anything “liberal,” and the Kent State shootings reinforced their concerns. Since, according to Klohr, Fawcett was “fully controlled by people who didn’t want anything to get out of hand,” and given the liberal bent of too many faculty at the College of Education and University School, or so Fawcett believed, neither was fully trusted, and as reported here and elsewhere, University School was closed following the appointment by Fawcett of a “rigged committee.” Klohr made a futile, last-ditch plea to Senator John Bricker, the controlling force of the Board of Trustees, and friend of Novice Fawcett, to save University School. It became clear from this meeting that “nothing was going to change.” In 1957 Klohr left University School to become Assistant Dean of the College of Education in charge of Instruction and Curriculum; he was succeeded by Alexander Frazier, the last Director of University School before it closed. Ross Mooney became Assistant Dean of Research, and John (Jack) Corbally was hired to head up Service. All three men were “terribly busy” since the first major federal support for education was just becoming available through the National Defense Education Act. Some 33 proposals were submitted at the time. Corbally, who went on to a distinguished career as President of the University of Illinois and Head of the McArthur Foundation, is remembered fondly by Klohr as one of the “finest” and “brightest” people he ever worked with. Klohr’s specialty within Education was Curriculum, and over time he taught several different courses exclusively for graduate students, especially doctoral candidates, in that area. He wrote an ongoing column entitled “Curriculum Comments” for the journal, Educational Leadership, and was active for many years in the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). He had so many doctoral students that at times in June he would have four doctoral exams in one day. Many of these students became professors in various universities; perhaps the best known was William Pinar who started a curriculum development theory movement at the university of Rochester. Others included Craig Kridel, Robert Bullough, Bill Butterfield, Leigh Chiarlott, and Paul Shaker. Since his retirement Klohr has seen many changes in the field of education. The whole field of theory has moved into a post-modern era. Once common terms such as “foundations of education” and “philosophy of education” are no longer used. Studies in anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and history are now loosely bundled under a generic, fragmented survey of “cultural studies.” Instead the focus in education has become women’s studies, gender studies, and ethnic studies. Education has become highly politicized at all levels, especially at the federal level. Locally education is controlled by big publishing houses and political interests. For these and other reasons it is difficult to say that the College of Education is measuring up as well as it did in prior decades. Dr. Klohr reminisced further about his five-year stint as Head of University School. The School had a national and international reach and entertained thousands of foreign visitors every year. It was centrally involved in the famous Eight Year Study of 30 schools around the country. Many of its graduates, including Paul Dietrich, Bill Van Til, Harold Fawcett, Eugene Smith, and Robert Havighurst, went forward to distinguished careers. Although the mission of the school was refined from time to time, the original bedrock philosophical positions of the school did not. It remained until the end fundamentally committed to the core idea of a “democratic community” with students and faculty working together to define what they were up to and enough freedom to achieve it. Klohr felt that University School had been a major success; typically its graduates had no trouble at all getting into major universities. Two unique elements of the School were its early use of language laboratories, and the emphasis on art and music through grades K through twelve. Klohr reflected sadly on changes within the field of Education in recent years. In his own day there had been a strong sense of collegiality. By 2000 this attitude had largely vanished. Fewer faculty seem to care much about their colleagues, or even their Colleges. “I don’t owe them anything, they don’t owe me anything.” It’s “every man and woman for himself or herself and to hell with the others.” During his long tenure at Ohio State Klohr felt he had never been adequately compensated, nor indeed had been Dean Cottrell. Nonetheless, in large part because Klohr’s wife, Mildred, also worked, the two-income Klohr family, which included one daughter, Amy, “got by all right.” In summary he believed his long career at Ohio State had been “a very rewarding experience.” In retirement Klohr has continued in close touch with most of his doctoral students. He also devotes much time to volunteering, reading, and consulting.
Boyd Bode: Professor of Philosophy (pp. 6, 16, 28, 37) -- Harold Alberty: Professor of Education (pp. 7-8, 28, 37, 48) -- Gordon Hullfish: Professor of Education (pp. 6, 16, 28) -- Laura Zirbes: Head of the Department of Elementary Education (pp. 6-7, 48) -- Donald Cottrell: Dean of the College of Education (pp. 11-16, 24, 39) -- John Ramseyer: Director of University School (pp. 10, 16-20, 32, 36) -- John Corbally (pp. 15, 26) -- Ross Mooney (pp. 10, 16-17, 48) -- Alexander Frazier: Director of University School (pp. 16-18) -- Egon Guba: Bureau of Educational Research, and advocate of closing University School -- David Clark: Associate Dean of College of Education; led effort to close University School -- Novice Fawcett: President of OSU (pp. 9, 22-27) -- John Bricker: Senator, Member of Board of Trustees (p. 25) -- William Pinar, well published author, and doctoral student of Klohr (pp. 30-31) -- Paul Shaker: national leader in field of education and doctoral student of Klohr (p. 31)
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