If Paul Cummins isn’t one of Santa Monica’s busiest polymaths, he is unquestionably its most passionate.
In 1970, he co-founded and was the first headmaster of Crossroads School, which was located in a gaggle of old buildings in Santa Monica’s industrial district. For some years, it has resided in the top rank of American college preparatory schools.
In 1995, Cummins co-founded New Roads School, and is currently Executive Director of the New Visions Foundation.
A widely published poet, he has also written a biography of Herbert Zipper, and a series of books on education and society, and has been a Santa Monica Mirror contributing writer, doing a column every other week since the paper’s founding in June, 1999. Recently, he began sharing his column with Anna Cummins, one of his four daughters.
Two new books by Cummins have been published this year. Real Moral Values: Justice, Equity, Sustainability, which includes some of his Mirror essays, was issued earlier this year, and Proceed With Passion: Engaging Students in Meaningful Education, which he co-wrote with daughters Anna and Emily (pictured below), has just come out.
Columnist Arianna Huffington said Proceed with Passion is “filled with bold approaches to giving students the ingredients they most lack in their schooling: a sense of purpose, a reason for wanting to learn and, ultimately, a passion to help others.”
Eminent historian Howard Zinn said, “Our educational system badly needs some bold thinking. Paul Cummins’ vision of what American education could be is imaginative and inspiring.”
A native of Chicago, Cummins grew up in Los Angeles, and got off to a fast start. After taking his BA at Stanford in 1959, his master’s at Harvard a year later and his doctorate at USC in 1967, he taught English at Harvard School and the Oakwood School as well as at UCLA, and, in 1970, he became the Headmaster of St. Augustine’s Elementary School in Santa Monica and co-founded Crossroads.
Cummins serves on the board of trustees of the American Poetry Review, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, ExEd, the Sam Francis Foundation, the Gabriella Axelrad Foundation, New Roads School, and the New Visions Foundation, and is currently overseeing the development of the New Roads Educational Village in Santa Monica, which will incorporate architecturally all of his ideas about teaching and learning. His wife, Mary Ann, is a celebrated musician and teacher at Crossroads.