An obituary in Monday's editions of The Washington Post about Dr. Carl F. Hansen, 77, a retired D.C. school superintendent, gave incorrect percentages for white and black students in the District when the public schools were desegregated in 1954. At that time, about 39 percent of the students were white and 61 percent were black. The obituary also gave the wrong university at which Dr. Hansen earned his doctorate. It was the University of Southern California.
Dr. Carl F. Hansen, 77, who played an important role in the desegregation of Washington's public schools in 1954 and who was D.C. school superintendent from 1958 to 1967, died at Sibley Memorial Hospital Saturday following a heart attack.
Dr. Hansen resigned as superintendent following court rulings on whether black children were being treated fairly by the school system.
A widely recognized advocate of "basic" education, he joined the District's public school system in 1947 as an assistant to the superintendent. Later that year, he became assistant superintendent for elementary schools serving white children and curriculum planning in all schools. In 1955, he was named assistant superintendent for high schools and remained in that position until he was elected superintendent by the school board.
He thus held responsible positions during two periods of major change in the school system. The first was desegregation, which followed the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Dr. Hansen supported the ruling and later described the process here as "a miracle of social adjustment unprecedented." His attitude won high praise from important groups in the city, black as well as white. At the time, 25 percent of the students were white and 75 percent were black.
The second change was the decision of Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1967 in a case brought by Julius Hobson, a civil rights leader and community activist. By that time, 92 percent of all students in the school system were black. Hobson contended there was a link between poor school facilities and low-income neighborhoods--that black children, in short, were not receiving a fair share of the educational budget.
Judge Wright agreed. He ordered that spending be equalized throughout the system and that children be bused from crowded black schools to uncrowded white schools as part of the equalization process. He also found that the "track system," under which bright students were prepared for college while less able ones were prepared for vocational careers, discriminated against blacks.
Dr. Hansen opposed these measures. The "track system" was a hallmark of his educational philosophy. He opposed busing on the grounds that children should be able to go to neighborhood schools. During the trial, he testified that "real integration . . . would have to be based on parents' realizing that biracial schooling is beneficial for whites as well as Negroes. This cannot be forced."
He resigned when the school board refused to let him appeal the Wright ruling to higher courts.
Many of those who had supported Dr. Hansen in the 1950s felt that he had been unable to keep abreast of the social, economic and political changes in the city in the 1960s. Others remained supporters. In a letter published in The Washington Post on July 11, 1967, Charles Martin, headmaster of the private St. Alban's School for Boys, said:
"The policies of integration and of education which Dr. Hansen instituted and which he has sought to operate are sound. Where they have failed, they have failed because the schools of this community are caught in the vortex of the civil rights struggle of this Nation, in the confusions and complexities of congressional administration, and in social problems beyond that of any city in this country."
Carl Francis Hansen was born on Jan. 18, 1906, in Wolbach, Neb. He graduated from the University of Nebraska and later took a master's degree there. He took a doctorate at the University of California at Los Angeles. He began his teaching career in his hometown and later was a principal and teacher in Grand Island and Omaha, Neb.
An article in The Saturday Review in 1961 described him as "a man with a strong academic bent and a low tolerance for permissive education." His "basic" approach included academic training for all students at all levels. He rejected the idea of some educators that some subjects should be "postponed" until students were "ready" for them and that schools should reflect "life." He believed that the curricula of elementary schools should be broadened.
In Washington, he established the Amidon Elementary School, where children in kindergarten were taught to read by "sounding out words." This was a departure from the "look-say" method, in which children are taught to recognize whole words and pronounce them. Proponents of the "look-say" technique hold that it should not be taught to children before the age of 6. He also experimented with educational television in the schools.
After he retired as superintendent here, Dr. Hansen worked for the California State Department of Education for three years until 1972.
Dr. Hansen's many publications include articles on desegregation and a book, "The Amidon Elementary School."
He received honors from the Washington Council of Churches, B'nai B'rith, the American Legion, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the League of Women Voters and other groups. He received honorary doctorates from Bucknell and Morgan State universities.
Dr. Hansen, who lived in Bethesda, was a member of the Cosmos Club and an elder of the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church.
Survivors include his wife, Ruth W. of Bethesda; two children, Richard Williams of Calverton, Md., and Karen Hansen Bourdon of Rockville; a brother, Norman J. of Gordon, Neb.; four sisters, Victoria Hansen and Margartet Banks, both of Grand Island, Alice Kasselder of Ericson, Neb. and Doris Wooley of Omaha; and two grandsons.