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Title: Robert Coombs Interview
Narrator: Robert Coombs Andrews
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: SeaTac, Washington
Date: August 2, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-crobert-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, from some reading I've done on education history, my understanding is that there was quite a debate between the more traditionalist type teachers and the progressives at Stanford who really, it sounded like, had a new vision of teaching, and a new vision of school, what public education could become. And it sounded to me that one of the goals, or values of the progressive education people was that education in school could be more integrated with community life. And democratic ideals of community life would be somehow integrated, especially with the core curriculum. Have I got that idea right? Or maybe, perhaps you could tell more about that.

RC: I think there's one word that I would use, it was to "modernize" this group of people, to bring them into a new look at life that they were going to be leading. And I, I personally think that, that those young people (...) had that opportunity to be in core classes probably were helped in many ways, to meet the world after the war, because the country changed. Everybody was going in a different way. Life was going to be different. And it was, and it still is different. And the controversy about that, with the Idahoans, created, that's what created the problem with Dr. Light. It seemed that his name, with what he was trying to produce was "light." And he was raising his four sons with the idea that it was going to be a new world. And he prepared them for it, from a parent point of view. And (...) that's the way my wife and I raised our three children. She caught on after a while and she realized what was behind it, even though she had gotten tired of hearing the name Stanford. [Laughs] But, anyway.

AI: Well, when you say "a new world," and "modernizing," what were the hallmarks, some of the main goals of this approach?

RC: Change. Trying to get people to realize that you cannot continue to go the same old way. That all around you things will be changing. We were a radio world. What happened? We became television people. Then computers have come in. And so many people just grasped at those new things. Automobiles. The type of automobiles changed. Airplane life now, we fly all over the world, beautiful trains throughout the world. And our approach to taking care of ourselves and the way of eating and living and, and accepting people. All that was part of that wonderful change that took place. I know I'm not as I used to be. And yet, I, I recognized what I was being taught at Stanford, and I became part of it. And in raising our three children, both my wife and I were very open with them so that they could position themselves in a world and do the things that they wanted to do. And each went his or her way with our blessing, you see. And I grew up where, at a time -- although my mother was very open -- but I grew up in a time where a parent had a great deal of control over who you were, and why you were, and you're gonna do this. And that's gone.

AI: Well, and it seems like, at that time, at Minidoka, many of the parents of the families there, many of the Japanese parents very much had an attitude that they would control their children's future.

RC: And I think it created problems in their family life. Because their young people were listening to something different. It was something different for them. And I see these students that I had, and see how far they went after they left Minidoka. Those who left the service and survived, their lives were totally, are totally different than they probably expected them to be. Our congress, my congressman is Robert Matsui. He's an example, you see.

AI: So, in a sense, when you were, at the beginning of your work at Minidoka, you and Dr. Light and some of the others were really formulating a curriculum, as you mentioned in your writing, the scope and sequence for the teaching of students in a way that would be, that you would hope would prepare them for some unknown changes --

RC: Yes.

AI: -- to come.

RC: Yes.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.