Education for What is Real #1 (the book itself)

Posted on December 16, 2012


Ten-ish years ago, and after an extensive search, I bought a copy of Education for What is Real by Earl C. Kelley. I can’t remember the precise circumstances that prompted me to look for it, but I’m almost certain it’s mentioned in John Dewey’s Experience and Education. Originally published in 1947, and featuring a brief forward by Dewey, this book has almost certainly slipped out of print. Which is a shame, because it has some good ideas elegantly and forcefully expressed. It’s not especially original, but that’s because the book aims at clarifying and developing ideas already in wide circulation, not at breaking new ground. Although written by an academic–Kelley was a Professor of Secondary Education at Wayne University in Detroit–the book is brief, accessible, nearly devoid of academic jargon, and almost radical in its critique of the culture and aims of American education. And , most surprising, the book feels as if its author meant to produce something useful, rather than something designed to promote a particular critical perspective or research agenda. It’s a pretty good book about education, if you happen to be a fan of that sort of thing, and happen to be looking for one.

But more about the contents in a later post. For now, I’d like to talk about the book itself–this particular copy of Education for What Is Real that I happen to own, because it’s pretty sweet. Every book–especially a library discard–has a story, but it’s rare that we can ever trace it. This book has a number of unique details and clues that illuminate a bit of this particular book’s backstory.

First of all, it’s a library discard and it therefore has the word DISCARD stamped irrevocably on the flyleaf. On discharge, someone went through the book and marked over the name of the library with thick black magic marker. And they did a pretty good job, but left one instance of the name Titusville High School Library (on page 64) unredacted. Give it a search and you’ll find that there are two prominent Titusvilles in the States–one in Pennsylvania, and another in Florida. Which one is the right Titusville? Good fortune: my copy of the book also came complete with its circulation card (in near-mint condition), on which I found the following Titusville names: Alza Matz, K. (or K.L.) Wheeler, Kay Smoch (or Smock or Snock or Snroch or a number of other variants), A. More (?), J. Taylor, Eugene, Luke Skywalker, and Nigerman.

The circulation card is itself a rich document.

The circulation card is itself a rich document.

As you can see from the photo, the names are not entirely legible–they aren’t totally sloppy, but for the most part they look more like signatures than names. Also clear is that Eugene, Luke Skywalker, and Nigerman were written in (and likely by) the same sophomoric hand, probably during the last days of this book’s residence at Titusville High, when he also saw fit to add the word “NOTHING” to the title at the card’s top edge. What’s real? Nothing. Good one, dude: profound. That must have been at least in the late 70s, a good decade after the book was last officially checked out from the library.

So while most of the names are unhelpful clues to this book’s precise origin, at the top of the card sits the name Alza Matz in bright blue ballpoint. The cursive lowercase Z is unmistakable, unfancy. After all these years–more than 50–her name is unsmudged, and it’s a searchable name if I’ve ever seen one. Combine “Alza Matz” with “Titusville” in a search engine and you find this (courtesy of the University of Florida Digital Collections):

Alza Matz apparently lived here, in one of these houses.

Alza Matz apparently lived here, in one of these houses.

Titusville Star-Advocate. Wednesday, January 8, 1964.

From a section called “Jess Parrish Hospital List” we learn that a woman named Alza Matz, who lived at 1544 Lilac Circle in a modest ranch, was discharged from Jess Parrish Hospital on January 8, 1964. The discharge notice does not specify that hers was a modest ranch; that information I gleaned from Google Maps.

A bit more digging in the same year (1964), and I found a little more information about Matz:

Titusville Star-Advocate. Monday, Jan 20, 1964

The Women's Page features the announcement of Mrs. Matz's speaking engagement.

The Women’s Page features the announcement of Mrs. Matz’s speaking engagement.

Mrs. Matz Is Speaker at AAUW Meeting.

Mrs. Alza Matz, teacher of Radiation Biology at Titusville High School, will speak to the Titusville Branch of the American Association of University Women at their meeting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, at the home of Mrs. Helga Clark, 2737 Pine Ridge Dr. Whispering Hills.

Mrs. Matz will introduce the group to the field of radiation biology and tell something of what the classes are doing. She will use a motion picture to help illustrate her material.

Mrs. Matz is a graduate of Marshall University, Huntington, W. Va., and the University of Texas in Austin. During the past summer she studied Radiation Biology at Texas Women’s Univ., which is connected with the Atomic Energy Commission.

During the business meeting Jane Wherry will report on the progress of her committee in setting up a community parliamentary procedure workshop and progrom [sic] booklets will be distributed. Women interested in the Association are invited to attend.

And also this, from the “Church News of the Week” section of the Titusville Star-Advocate, Friday, Feb 14, 1964:

THS Science Instructors to Attend Seminar

Star-Advocate's "Church News of the Week" section for

Star-Advocate’s “Church News of the Week” section for

Two Biological Science instructors from Titusville High School will attend the Biological Science Curriculum Study Seminar at Edgewater High School, Orlando, Saturday.

Mrs. Alza Matz and Frank B. Maiteen will attend the Seminar.

The meeting is attended by Central Florida Biology teachers, supervisors, principals and department heads.

Program for this meeting will cover Philosophy and Estimate of the B.S.C.S. by Dr. Walter Auffenberg; Experience of area teachers using B.S.C.S. material under various conditions; and Textbook adaption [sic] presented by Dr. Robert Binger, State Science Supervisor of Dept of Education.

Titusville High has been using the B.S.C.S. material for the past two years and, according to science instructors, the program has been very rewarding.

That’s right: Alza Matz–Jess Parrish Hospital admittant, Marshall grad, member of the Thundering Herd, later Longhorn, teacher, public speaker, user of motion pictures, radiobiology evangelist, seminar attendee–this was the first person to officially check out my copy of Education for What is Real from the Titusville High School Library. She held it in her hands. She at least leafed through it. That much is clear from the evidence. (Why news of the biology seminar appears in the Church News of the Week section of the Star-Advocate, however, remains mysterious.)

Maybe it’s foolish to think this way, but I find it sort of inspiring that Alza Matz and I entertained the same ideas, in exactly the same language, from the exact same book, at a half-century remove from one another. We both not only voluntarily sought out the same title, but we looked at the same ink, turned the same pages, smelled the same paper. I suppose with any book in my home library is somewhat like this–Blue Highways, Hiroshima, Let us Now Praise Famous Men, The Elements of Style, whatever–each of these have been considered by millions of people scattered across time and geography, but it’s more abstract than the connection between me and Alza Matz; she and I not only shared the same ideas, but also the exact same physical object.

The only margin note in the book before I got it: a small R in Chapter 3.

The only margin note in the book before I got it: a small R in Chapter 3.

Inside the book, I found only a single margin note–a graceful capital R penciled in the space atop the third chapter. Did Alza write that R? (Maybe she’d let me call her Alza.) R for Read This. R for Research. Who knows. Or maybe the note was left by one of the other readers. But I like to think it was Alza.