The Ford Foundation and Education

Seyithan Ozer:

Classroom Corona Avenue School by Richard Neutra 1934-1935

Introduction: Philanthropy and Education

Philanthropy, derived from the Greek word meaning the ‘love to mankind’. Its current definition of the word is suggested in Cambridge Dictionaries as the “giving away of money, especially in large amounts, to organisations that help people”. e two definitions, the first’s subject referring to the gods and the second’s to the capital owners, would be the shortest way to understand how the meaning of philanthropy changed in the history, its connotation referring to a larger historical and socio-political relationships.

It is now a long time, the philanthropic organisations to be the most influential institutions in the sphere between the state and delivery and receipt of the public services. With the tax-exemption and tax-deduction laws which were developed gradually in the last century, the welfare state has become a multiple actor organisation which involves the state, private sector and the non-pro t sector. Non-pro t organisations that work for the public welfare can be regarded as the evolution of family/business philanthropies to organisations where the collective donations de- ducted from income-tax are collected. It can be seen as a win-win game. Although the state’s income is reduced by the taxes received by the non-profit organisations, state’s duty on the public services are also reduced. In turn, the non-profit organisations create subject-related organisations in order to solve the problems and deliver the public services. e areas that the non-pro t organization may act are under state control that and are clearly stated by the definitions of charitable areas the tax-deduction for individuals and tax-exemption for the organizations are applicable. e non-pro t organizations thus, are to have a proxy government status and become active in the political power to implement what they believe for the bene t of society.

Ground Floor Plan Crow Island Elementary School by Saarinen, and Perkins &Will 1939-1941 (left). Axonometric Belaire Elementary School by Caudill, Rowlett and Scott 1956 (centre). Top View, Model School by Walter Gropius/ e Architects Collaborative1954 (right)

Before the Ford Foundation’s relationships with the state to give the signals of such relationships, Andrew Carnegie recognized the political power of the philanthropy.

One of the tycoons of the late 19th century United States, Andrew Carnegie, donated his money for the construction of almost 2500 public libraries in the United States, as well as in the other countries and continents, and a university, research institutes, cultural centres and other funds. Furthermore, stating the best way to manage the philanthropy as his personal management, he claimed the active political power he personally could have on the community.

As his precedents who founded the prestigious higher education institutes, academies and the Library of Congress in the United States, Carnegie’s philanthropy focused on the establishment of institutions, and he introduced the free and public library as an institution for self-education. e institution-deterministic agenda targeted ‘those who will help themselves’ as the receiver of the endowments, while excluding the ‘drunk and unworthy’. e solution for segregating the two types of individuals of the society was found in the informal-educational institutions such as the library. They provided the means of education only for the people who would use such institutions, without Carnegie ‘doing it all’.

Ford Foundation came to the scene of the philanthropy in 1950’s upon the death
of Henry Ford and the company’s asset to be received by the foundation, becoming a number of times larger than the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations. While Carnegie and Rockefeller were able to establish the public institutions of the mod- ern United States such as museums, universities, public libraries etc., the money the Ford Foundation had, had more capabilities to establish new institutions and challenge the existing ones. e Ford Foundation, similarly to Carnegie’s philanthropy, targeted the institutions for the delivery of public services. Although the five action areas that the Ford Foundation was founded upon were broad enough to justify any action of the Ford Foundation, one of them directly targeted the education:

The Ford Foundation will support activities to strengthen, expand and improve educational facilities and methods to enable individuals more fully to realize their intellectual, civic and spiritual potentialities; to promote greater equality of educational opportunity; and to conserve and increase knowledge and enrich our culture. 1

Kevin Roche’s diagram for the Richard C. Lee High School, New Haven, CT

Claiming a community-building project in its basis, the Ford Foundation under- stood the school as the most influential place for the ‘moulding of whole persons’. School as a literal framework was perceived as a tool which could target the whole society, beyond aiming the dissemination of knowledge. e belief of an integrated society through effective citizenship was an individualism which comprise the personal, civic and social values and responsibilities.2 In other words, it reflects the agenda of fostering a society as individuals that are part of a community, active both in the production processes and the social processes.

Education, provided by the religious institutions, nation states, or private sector is an apparatus, a ‘framework’ for the society to form its children with the ideas, values and aims that are de ned through curriculums by the authoritative power. Hence, the architecture of the school shall embody these socio-political and productive diagrams that are wanted to be constructed. The survey on the school buildings that the Ford Foundation promoted recognises another actor besides the religious institutions, nation states and private sector in the formation of these ideas, values and aims that is the philanthropy: a proxy to the state, and an organisation similar to a corporation.

Education in the both cases of Carnegie and Ford – and the former and later philanthropists – was taken as primary consideration. While Carnegie saw the informal educational institutions as the solution for a selective means of the advancement of the Society, Ford Foundation radically focused on formal education, which can be regarded to be part of a socio-political project. e apotheosis of the two foundations’ social agenda was the library and the school. Compared to Carnegie’s social agenda based on the ‘artificial selection’ of the individuals through the library, the Ford Foundation’s focus on the school was a more radical one: transforming the each individual as a productive entity of the society.

Schools analysis: Classrooms and building types relationship
School analysis: Classroom aggregation strategies
Schools comparative analysis: Spatial distribution of pedagogies and subjects

Schools comparative analysis: Common areas analysis

The Ford Foundation’s agenda on community construction and increase of the efficiency of education became concrete in the school building, their actions consisting of a range from a school construction system development to a school typology, and from the integration of school program and the community to the urban renewal projects in the United States. Besides, the Ford Foundation carried an agenda of education outside the United States, mainly in the Middle East and South Asia, with different intentions, always utilising the school as a tool for its agenda. (pp.54-57)

Education of an Individual Background of School Building

The notion of education and, consequently, the school building has been trans- formed since the first civilizations. Existed in the temple, and later in the church, remained under the authority of religious institutions, existed in the relationship of master and slave, and, master and apprentice, the education in the way it is under- stood today was first secularized, and later extended from the availability only for the aristocracy. Education and the school building has been in close relationship with the authorities: the religion, the aristocracy, the nation state and the welfare state. e modern school education was founded in the beginning of the 19th century and has been modified, changed and challenged since then.

Ford Foundation and the School Typology

In 1951, one year after the reestablishment of the Ford Foundation as an inter- national and large philanthropic organisation, it established the Fund for the Advancement of Education and the Fund for the Adult Education, and in 1958 Educational Facilities Laboratories with an endowment of 52.8 million dollars. The education to be a priority for the Foundation is visible in their immediate efforts as a philanthropic organisation. Richard Magat, a former president of the Ford Foundation mentions in his book which covers the first years of the Ford Foundation that the establishment of separate organizations (referring to the above-mentioned funds and the Fund for the Republic and the East European Fund) was for the political sensitivity of the subjects and the intention to have more reliable trustees of the subjects than the trustees of the Ford Foundation themselves. 4

Schools at the beginning of the XX century: Desk work in a classroom and Office work in the Larkins Building by Frank Lloyd Wright, Bu alo, NY, 1906
Schools in mid XX century: individual working spaces and Action Office, developed by Bob Propst and George Nelson, 1964-1968
Office space  in the late XX century: informal working spaces, Axel Springer O ce Building by OMA, 2014-ongoing
The contemporary school space: informal learning spaces. Vittra School by Rosan Bosch, 2012

School as a Social Transformation Infrastructure

e idea of social reconstruction through education and the creation of new subjectivities through social behaviourism was extended to cover not only the students, but also adults with the concepts of full-time school and community school. e school facilities included spaces such as gym, pool, auditorium and open areas were intended to be used by the community. (p. 26) However, this concept of sharing the school space in shifting time schedules was developed through time, merged with the grand-project of urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, and the idea of social reconstruction became more powerful.

School as infrastructure

A Conclusion

The survey and analysis on the educational facilities that the Ford Foundation and its organizations financed, commissioned, promoted and designed, is an attempt to reveal the subjectivities constructed through education- from policy level, to construction details of the school buildings. e schools are utilized to construct these in various scales: individual, neighbourhood, community and nation.

School buildings: 1. Are places where knowledge transfer and education take place with a specific curriculum and pedagogical approach, 2. Are where the local, communal, national or private ambitions are represented, 3. Are the spaces and organizations where both curricular and pedagogical ideals and ambitions of the power are spatialized.

So the formative diagrams of the school is an explicit or implicit curriculum. e Ford Foundations e orts was to create an ideal community based upon individualism in the United States in the post-war years when the population boomed, a big immigration from the southern United States and Europe to northern large cities, and the construction of suburban life emerged. All these created a racial and economic segregation within the city. e individualism of the Ford Foundation was based on the integration and inclusion of every individual to the labour power and the market. e schools that the Ford Foundation promoted, reflected a certain typology based on the individual instruction.

Today, however, the economy does not demands a physical manpower primarily, but the knowledge, interdisciplinary approach, collaboration and flexibility for knowhow and creative start-ups. The lifestyle demands the media-literacy, mobility, and fashion. e school is not the only educational space, as the instruction is not the only way to learn. e schools must encompass more than only the instruction, understanding the material not only books or instruction but the peers, sensory and mobile experiences. The extension of formal education to free-time may be also found in the proliferation of the market driven leisure-education attractions.

Design of a High School model for 250 students:

The aim of the school is to promote the mobility of the students, peer to peer and informal learning, as well as the formal instruction. Instead of furniture and spaces with the flexibility and mobility, the school promotes the flexibility and mobility of the students. Most importantly, rather than the knowledge in subjects, the spatial organization promotes the understanding of the relationships of different subjects and to promote the creativity in interdisciplinary areas.

Matrix of possible classroom’s furniture layout

This model takes into account the UK’s national curriculum for secondary education which includes courses of English, Math’s, Science, Art and Design, Citizen- ship, Computing, Design and Technology, Geography, History, Languages, Music and Physical Studies. It is assumed that the most of the group work will be in groups of 8-12. Besides, spaces for groups of 25 and 50, and a large hall for 100 students are required. There is no grading, the course content and grouping are based on the interest and skills of the students which will be decided by teacher, parents and students.

Design Diagrams

The final design proposes an enfilade of interconnected rooms to create a balance between the specificity of the subject and the place together with openness and possibility of encounters. is was achieved through the juxtaposition of specific rooms and small classrooms, and the distribution of the specific rooms in the building to increase the transfer between subjects.

The design of the classroom has been always based on the social diagrams that the furniture construct. After an analysis of the possible furniture schemes that are used in the schools, the furniture layouts that eliminate the student-teacher status and promote the student-student learning are used for the design.


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