Education Campaign Notebook

Heinz Favors School Over Election Trail

By Michelle R. Davis — October 08, 2004 3 min read
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As the candidates for president and vice president have barnstormed across the country, voters have gotten to see quite a bit of their children.

President Bush’s twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, have been stumping for their dad, as have the daughters of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Alexandra and Vanessa. The two youngest sons of the Democratic nominee’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, have also surfaced at political functions.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, has trotted out his two younger children, Emma Claire, 6, and Jack, 4, for photo ops. And Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary is working behind the scenes on her father’s re-election campaign.

But one person voters won’t see on the campaign trail is H. John Heinz IV, Mrs. Heinz Kerry’s limelight-avoiding eldest son, who founded a private school in Bucks County, Pa.

Mr. Heinz’s father was Sen. H. John Heinz III of Pennsylvania, who died in a 1991 plane crash. Mr. Heinz has stayed away from his stepfather’s campaign, shunning public appearances and eluding reporters searching for clues to his psyche.

The 37-year-old martial arts aficionado works as a blacksmith, according to a profile in The Washington Post earlier this year. He is also the founder and headmaster of Tinicum Art and Science School in Ottsville, Pa., a private school that applies Buddhist principles to its teaching methods. The school’s Web site describes it as a “small, intensive high school with a classic liberal arts curriculum” reaching out to troubled students. An Associated Press story earlier this year estimated the school has fewer than 20 students.

School officials declined to comment on Mr. Heinz’s connection to the school or discuss the institution. Peter Ryan, who the Associated Press has reported is a co-founder of the school with Mr. Heinz, would not discuss Mr. Heinz’s relationship with the school or the school itself. “No comment,” he said when reached by phone.

According to the school’s Web site, some Tinicum students’ backgrounds include chaotic home lives, drug and alcohol problems, and chronic failure in school. The school’s teachers seek to “establish trust, to develop a sense of community, and to extend a student’s intellectual and emotional frame of reference,” the site says.

Class sizes vary from three to 12 students, and the school year is arranged into three 12-week terms. Courses offered range from the more traditional algebra and poetry to the more unusual paleontology and entomology or Shim Gum Do, a Korean martial arts form that involves spiritual study. According to The Washington Post’s story, Mr. Heinz is an expert and active in the Shim Gum Do community in the United States.

A student must earn a C or above to get credit for a class.

The school also emphasizes what the Web site calls “precepts” (from Zen Buddhism) to guide the school community. They include abstention from “taking life,” which translates into vegetarianism, among other practices, and a prohibition on “intoxicants.” Other precepts include abstention from lying and “misconduct done in lust,” which refers “not simply to sex, but to greed as well, and unrestrained desire for control, attention, and material things in general,” the Web site says.

The staff is an eclectic mix. It includes musicians, former mental-health counselors and therapists, an art museum director, and one teacher who describes himself as a “rabid environmentalist.”

In his spare time, according to the Post’s profile, Mr. Heinz uses his blacksmithing skills to make metallic objects such as medieval helmets, swords, and nails, the way blacksmiths of those times did. A Web site touting his wares says most of the objects are made for 18th-century homes.

Teresa Heinz Kerry has told reporters that her eldest son is “a very serious person who does not like his privacy meddled with.”

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