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10 The Communal Child-Care Program the twin oaks communal child-care program is perhaps the area in which Skinner’s ideas failed most obviously to live up to the expectations of the communards. Kinkade summarized in 1994 that the community’s children “are well cared for, appropriately educated, and generally happy, but very little of this can be attributed to the purely communal aspects of the [childcare ] program. The fact is that the communal child rearing experiment, as originally conceived, has failed, and we are in the process of figuring out what to put in its place” (Utopia 146). The one aspect of the Walden Two communal child-care program that Skinner vastly underestimated was the emotional impact it would have on parents and children. In hindsight, Kinkade—who had been strongly in favor of trying communal child rearing, and who was perhaps unaware of the emotional stumbling blocks because she herself had no close emotional ties to her family—concludes that “[p]arents want to be with the kids, they are attracted to the little things, for some reason or other. They want to raise them. They want to influence them. They want to be there. I think that is perfectly natural. And I don’t think it can be interfered with much. There were things about our theories at the time, though, of early education that came directly out of Skinner. And when I say ‘our,’ maybe I mean ‘my.’ But I was completely fascinated, for example, with Skinner’s notion that you would design toys to build perseverance. What an idea! Because personally I don’t have much of a history of sticking to a task till it’s done or overcoming small difficulties, and I see lots of people who don’t” (interview with the author, April 10, 1995). Although Twin Oaks eventually gave in to the demands of parents to be in charge of the upbringing of their own children, the early history of the community’s child care marked a radical departure from the family concept. The history of child care and education at Twin Oaks can be divided into roughly three phases: during the first phase, spanning the early, more or less childless years of Twin Oaks (1967–72),a comprehensive educational program was nonexistent. An ideologically diverse, flexible, and workable child-care 03.79-132_Kuhl.indd 102 3/29/05 4:02:03 PM program prevailed for a period of twelve years (1972–84), while today the communards’ ideas on child rearing and education are in flux. The founders of Twin Oaks struggled for survival during the first several years of the community’s existence.4 Amidst economic instability,insufficient housing facilities, and high membership turnover, there was little room for theoretical discussions about children in utopia, especially since there were only one or two children,if any,living at Twin Oaks at any given point.These children came with their parents, stayed in the community for a while, and left again with their parents.Skinner’s educational program,starting at birth and concentrating on the first six years of a child’s life, could not possibly function because there simply were no children present from birth. Neither could a controlled, infection-free environment have been insured on a rundown farm where many of the communards had taken up temporary quarters in barn lofts.As a result of these circumstances,the community’s children remained mainly their parents’ responsibility.The communards did appoint a child manager, but this had little effect on the parents’ authority over their children.Whenever a dispute had to be settled regarding a child,usually over safety concerns on the part of the parents, the communards gave way. It was obvious that the parents would simply leave if they did not get their wish. The communards decided to try communal child care again as soon as children were born into the community. They hoped this would give them a reasonable chance to have a fresh start with children who would actually grow up at Twin Oaks. The mother of the first child to be born into the community in 1969, however, was reluctant to give up control over her baby. The mother had joined the community to be with her husband, an enthusiastic communard, but she was not really interested in the community’s goals herself . The demand of the communards that the child be raised communally was met with fervent resistance from the...


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