Paul Goodman Changed My Life

‘Paul Goodman Changed My Life’ pays tribute to a man — poet, teacher, social critic, guru without portfolio — whose name was once a household word and whose books were talismans of intellectual seriousness and social concern. His current obscurity is something this documentary, directed by Jonathan Lee and including eloquent testimony from friends, family and admirers, is determined to overcome. ‘I want it to come back,’ says Jerl Surratt, who attended Goodman’s memorial service in 1972, despite never having met him. He is referring to the style and substance of Goodman’s remarkably eclectic body of work, and underscoring a point implicit in the rest of Mr. Lee’s film. The time is surely right for a Goodman revival. There are aspects of contemporary life that he anticipated and influenced — the gay rights movement, most notably — and others that are sorely in need of his wisdom. At a time when the discussion of education is locked into sterile, strident and instrumental debates about ‘reform,’ his radical humanism, at once romantic and commonsensical, would be more than welcome. His most famous book, ‘Growing Up Absurd,’ originally commissioned as a study of juvenile delinquency and later a bible of the 1960s student rebellion, remains essential and troubling reading for anyone who cares about the problems of the young, which were hardly solved by the baby boomers. Libertarians and anarchists of the left and the right could learn a lot from this Jeffersonian pacifist’s ideas about freedom. And those drawn to the recent renewal of interest in artisanal and agrarian practices as a sustainable alternative to consumerism will find instruction and inspiration in ‘Communitas,’ a 1947 blueprint for utopia that Mr. Goodman wrote with his brother, Percival. It is true that Paul Goodman’s brand of romantic, polymathic thinking is not much in fashion these days, but perhaps that should change too. … Goodman, born in 1911, belonged to a generation of Jewish intellectuals who made their way from the margins to the center of American cultural life. Educated in the argumentative pressure cooker of City College in the ’30s, he avoided the lures of ideological sectarianism. A writer of varied interests and talents — his poetry stands up particularly well — he followed a zigzagging career path. He was a founder of Gestalt therapy and a member of the faculty of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a midcentury hotbed of the homegrown avant-garde. …”
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YouTube: Paul Goodman Changed My Life ~ Documentary Trailer, Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.: Are Public Schools Necessary? 48:30

11 May 1970, Flushing, Queens, New York, New York, USA — Writer Paul Goodman Meeting Students

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