Progressive Education in Lenox-Windsor Mountain School

Groton Place WM Berk Eagle 20140308__BondyObit09
Groton Place, Home of the Windsor Mountain School – from the Berkshire Eagle Heinz Bondy Obituary

With its emphasis on experiential learning and letting the learner define the pace and structure of learning, progressive education techniques were/are particularly appropriate for young people who had trouble learning in more traditional environments.  In the Berkshires there were three private boarding schools focused on progressive education techniques:  the Buxton School in Williamstown, the Stockbridge School in Stockbridge, and the Windsor Mountain School in Lenox.  Only the Buxton School is still operating as of this date.*

The Windsor Mountain School was also a magnet for left leaning parents – some famous – who wanted their children to have a good but liberal education.  Well-known Americans who sent their children to Windsor Mountain included Harry Belafonte, Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston and civil rights lawyer Clifford Durr. **

The school was founded by educational reformer Max Bondy and his wife Gertrud Bondy who had studied with Sigmond Freud.  Both their progressive orientation and their Jewish faith made them targets of Nazism.  They re-established their school in Switzerland in 1937, moved to the United States in 1939, and to Lenox in 1944.  **

They were able to purchase the former Winthrop estate on Old Stockbridge Road as a home for their school.  In his recently published book, The People of Windsor Mountain, alumnus Rick Goeld describes the family-like atmosphere when he attended with the gifted counseling of Gertrud Bondy and a small student body (no more than 50 in the early days.)  Some of the faculty were fellow European refugees that lent a unique atmosphere to the school.  In the early days, classical music was played at breakfast every day.*

When Max Bondy died in 1951, Max and Gertrud’s son Heinz took over as headmaster.  He continued his parents practice of sponsoring orphans and others who would not normally be able to attend a private boarding school.  To address the costs of maintaining the extensive building and grounds while maintaining scholarships and excellent teaching staff, he expanded the student body to 250.  Consistent with the political and educational philosophy of the school, a diverse student body was recruited and in 1970,  40 of the 250 students were African American.**

In his book and at his talk (9/25/14) at the Lenox Library, Rick Goeld commented that Lenox was quite conservative at the time and town residents criticized school attendees as “hippies,” and were very concerned about drug use and inter-racial dating…leading to a town/Windsor Mountain School meeting at Church on the Hill. He also noted the fun outings to Wendover for a burger (now Shear Design on Church St. ), Hagyard’s Drug Store, or, when parents were around to foot the bill, The Yellow Aster (now Mazeo’s).*

*People of Windsor Mountain,  by Rick Goeld, Published May 14, 2014 by GGFC Properties LLC

** Wikipedia, Windsor Mountain School, September 2014



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