Title Black Mountain College Bulletin, 1945
Identifier http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/periodicals/black_mountain_college/default_black_mountain_college.htm
Creator Black Mountain College
Alt. Creator Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center
Alt. Creator D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections
Subject Keyword Black Mountain College; Black Mountain, NC ; education ; photography ; Appalachia ; art ; painting ; dance ; music ; National Historical Register ; architecture ; farms ; farming ; craft ; poetry ; architecture ; textiles ; weaving ; ceramics ; medicine ; Jargon Press ; schools ; sociology ; Christian ; religion ; Baptist ; Methodist ; settlement schools ; Museo Nacional Centro de Art Reina Sofía of Madrid, Spain ; Fannie Hillsmith ;
Subject LCSH Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.)
Arts -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- North Carolina -- Black Mountain
Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.) -- Exhibitions
Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.) -- History Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.). Museum and Arts Center
Arts -- Periodicals
Education -- Appalachian Region
Artists -- United States -- Biography
Hillsmith, Fannie
Rice, John Andrew
Straus, Erwin
Rural schools -- Appalachian Region,  Southern
Schools -- Appalachian Region
"A Place to Learn and Live

If you are interested in the world you live in and the way men think and act; if you are interested in finding a purpose in your own working and learning, Black Mountain will attract you.

If you are interested in an education which asks the best you have to give; if you are willing to give yourself to education all day every day; if you can put aside preconceived notions of the world and of yourself, you will like Black Mountain.

Here you will find a college whose faculty consists of a distinguished group of scholars and artists from America and abroad; whose students represent an economic and geographic cross-section of this country, with several coming from foreign lands; a college whose students are characterized by unusual vigor, curiosity and self-reliance.

Admission to Black Mountain does not depend upon financial well-being, or on the results of examinations. It depends upon you: upon what you can give to the community and what you can get from it, upon your potentialities as a constructive person., upon your desire for a better world. While admission requirements are flexible they are based upon ability to carry college work. At present applications from qualified high school juniors will be considered.

Fees are adjusted according to ability to pay and vary from $450 to $1200 a year. Those who can are expected to assume the full cost of their education. Where this is impossible, one may apply in confidence for a reduced fee scholarship.

Black Mountain is situated in the heart of the Great Craggy Mountains of Western North Carolina, 15 miles from Asheville, a section noted for its climate and scenery. Altitude 2,400 feet.

For more information about Black Mountain, or an application blank, write to the Registrar, Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, North Carolina."

This description of the college captures the essence of the place and many of the values that were at the core of the programs in the college.

Date 2008-10-28
Publisher UNC Asheville, Special Collections ; Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center
Type Source type: brochures
Format Collection ; Image ; Document ;
Source Pine Mountain Settlement School archive  [Used with permission of PMSS and Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center]
Language English
Rights Any display, publication, or public use must credit University of North Carolina Asheville, Special Collections and Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center.  Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Donor Various
Acquisition Various dates and ongoing.
Processed by Special Collections staff, 2008-10-11 HW ; 2009-08-08
Last updated 2009-08-07

black mountain college

**Background notes

Martin Duberman. Black Mountain College, An Exploration in Community. E.P. Dutton, 1972. A study of the college as an experimental educational community.

Mary Emma Harris. The Arts at Black Mountain College. The MIT Press, 1987. An illustrated history of the arts programs at Black Mountain College, described within the context of the college’s general history and educational ideals. Extensive bibliography.

Vincent Katz, ed. Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art. Essays by Vincent Katz, Martin Brody, Robert Creeley and Kevin Power. The MIT Press, 2002.

Caroline Collier and Michael Harrison, curators. Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College 1933-67. Essays by Mary Emma Harris, Christopher Benfey, Eva Diaz, Edmund de Waal, Jed Perl. Bristol: Arnolfini and Cmabridge: Kettle's Yard, 2005.

Memoirs, Autobiography

Mervin Lane, editor. Black Mountain College, Sprouted Seeds, An Anthology of Personal Accounts. University of Tennessee Press, 1990. Memoirs and biographies of Black Mountain College students and faculty.

Fielding Dawson. The Black Mountain Book. E.P. Dutton,1970. Expanded and revised edition: North Carolina Wesleyan College Press, 1991. A personal memoir of Dawson’s experience as a student at Black Mountain College.

John Andrew Rice. I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century.  New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1942.  The last two chapters describe Rollins College and Black Mountain College. Later editions omit these chapters.

Michael Rumaker. Black Mountain Days. Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, 2003.

Robert Sunley. Student Experience in Experimental Education in the Early Years (1933-43). Online publication, Black Mountain College Project.

Emil Willimetz. Gringo: The Making of a Rebel. Peter E. Randall, Publisher, 2003.

    State Archives. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Division of Archives and History. Raleigh, North Carolina. 
  • The Black Mountain College Papers.  When the college closed, Charles Olson first put the college papers in storage. To accommodate students who needed transcripts, Olson deposited the papers with the State Archive on the condition that the archive service transcripts. The papers include faculty and Board of Fellows meeting minutes; general files (correspondence, course lists and descriptions, summer session files, college publications, publicity files, etc.); faculty files; financial files; student files; student course cards; and hundreds of photographs.
  • The Black Mountain College Research Project Papers.  A collection of documents collected by the Black Mountain College Research Project (1970-72), sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art, supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mary Emma Harris, Research Director. The papers include hundreds of photographs and slides; files on objects created at the college; taped interviews and transcripts; and general files.
  • Private Collections of scholars and of former faculty and students.  The collection includes Martin Duberman's Black Mountain Papers.
    North Carolina Wesleyan College. Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Elizabeth Braswell Pearsall Library. Black Mountain Collection. North Carolina Wesleyn College holds papers of the College as they were the recipient of many of the books and papers of the College when it closed.
    University of Connecticut at Storrs. Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University Libraries. American and English Literature Collection. Papers of Charles Olson, Fielding Dawson, Edward Dorn, Joel Oppenheimer, Michael Rumaker, Oyez Press and Beat Poets.
    The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
    John Andrew Rice Papers at Appalachian State University, Carol G. Belk Library.
  See below.
  bmc_001 BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE BULLETIN  1945 bmc_001.jpg (236222 bytes)

1945 Bulletin

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Black Mountain College is a small cosmopolitan community of students and teachers living together an education stressing democratic co-operation. Through participation in the life of the community, through study and discussion of the past and present, through the discipline of the studio, the laboratory, and a comprehensive campus work-experience program, it is preparing citizens with the understanding and the maturity to play a constructive part in the world at war and in the post-war world.

Black Mountain differs in many respects from traditional liberal education. It rejects the required curriculum, the report card, the board of trustees. It finds that intensive and independent work under faculty guidance, discussion classes, continual contact with teachers, are more conducive to learning than the syllabus and the weekly quiz. It finds that participation in the operation and maintenance of the College and its community are better guides to a democratic way of life than fraternity politics or organized athletics. It finds that eager students living, studying, working with interesting people in a stimulating community, discover themselves and the world as they never could through the academic formality of a more traditional college.

This booklet is intended to show you something of the way in which Black Mountain people live and work; what they believe in, and what they do.

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  bmc_004 College means study and study at Black Mountain means hard work. It means extensive reading and considerable reflection. It means the experience of creating and the adventure of discovery. It means hours in a study behind a "do not disturb" sign, and it means discussions and conversations from breakfast to bedtime. It means that a student works intensivelv in

a chosen field, but it means also that he takes courses in the social sciences, the physical sciences, the arts, language and literature. Above all, it means finding things out for himself, coming to his own conclusions about them, fitting past and present ideas and events into his conception of the world.

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  bmc_005 bmc_005.jpg (228309 bytes)
  bmc_006 Academic life at Black Mountain takes the form of private reading, small classes and individual tutorials. Intimacy between students and teachers has particularly happy results in the study of languages. For not only can students become familiar with foreign culture through foreign literature; they can also learn to speak any of the chief western languages through conversation. The shared experiences of community life vivify the study of the social sciences, philosophy, psychology, and literature, which is considered as an expression of the inner life of mankind. Through discussion and reading the motives, desires and experiences of men are seen in universal perspective. Serious writing is encouraged. Students write and produce plays, and each year are responsible for a series of radio broadcasts which originate from class materials. bmc_006.jpg (243241 bytes)
  bmc_007 In social science the fundamentals of social analysis are studied both as theory and in their application to the history of civilization. The more recent past is examined with emphasis on both America and international relations. Students and teachers reflect different currents of political thought, and while a scholarly approach is insisted upon, controversy is encouraged. For the social scientist today u not merely an inquirer, he has to take a stand against fascism in the war and beyond.

Graduation is based upon achievement rather than on credit hours or length of residence. Rigorous comprehensive examinations are personally given by an authority from outside the College when a student is fully prepared. The examiners are from the country's leading universities.

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  bmc_008 To discover and to experience is to know as one can never know through a texthook [textbook] or a lecture alone. The use of a microscope, a scalpel, an analytical balance, is more than a training in precision and accuracy. It is an introduction to the more abstract concepts of chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics; concepts which are fundamental to an understanding of the world and its people.

Black Mountain supplements the laboratory with its seven hundred acres of lake and mountain country containing forests of pine and hardwood, varied minerals, prolific vegetation, swift streams, and native wild-life. Likewise, dairy cattle, and cornfields, small farms and neighborhood industries become factors in education.

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  bmc_010 The problems of architecture are the problems of shelter for millions of people. The low cost home of today and the planned community of tomorrow, a more complete use of new materials and new processes, a way of building centered around a way of living: these are architecture's concern, in its plans for a decently housed world.

Architecture classes at Black Mountain do not spend their time discussing a Utopian future. Students design and construct: an addition to the kitchen or the library, a new dairy barn, quarters for the kitchen staff, a faculty home, a study building. They discover that architecture is hammering nails and pouring cement as well as drawing plans; that it means knowing what houses are and what they can be, what makes good housing and how it can be better. They find that architects must study ways of life as well as ways of building, that they must know, not only materials and their uses, but people and their needs.

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  bmc_011 Art at Black Mountain is based upon art as an active, appreciative and creative force permeating all activities of life. It attempts to aid the student to see in the widest sense; to open his eyes to his own living, being, doing; to understand the essential crafts, tools and materials. Art students learn that the experience of creating, constructing, and seeing is not a hobby or a pastime. Even the beginner can sense the exhilaration of creation and while thus giving form to personal ideas relate these ideas to the world in which he lives. Some students evolve art studies of interest to the entire community. Some design and create low-cost materials, furniture, and apparel. Some design and weave textiles suited to widespread industrial production, others evolve stage settings and costume techniques. Development of an understanding of the meaning of form extends to form in nature and human beings as well as to works of art. bmc_011.jpg (239139 bytes)
  bmc_012 Music at Black Mountain is not only a part of the curriculum but an essential element of community life. Students and teachers of every interest take part in the instrumental and vocal groups enjoying the experience and discipline that comes from functioning consciously as part of a whole. Their performances are a weekly occurrence. Music is studied as a language with its own innate logic and architecture. Designs in melody, harmony, counterpoint and rhythmics are practiced as elements of musical architecture and in their mutual interdependence. The history of music is conceived as an integral part of the culture of a period. The early music studied is sung and played before it is analyzed. A good music library facilitates the practical and theoretical work. Black Mountain believes that in a shaken world of ideas, music as a world of inner order can help toward developing that community for which we all toil. bmc_012.jpg (228283 bytes)
  bmc_013 Drama is primarily an art form. Yet outside of its literary and creative aspects are other educational values. An actor must live for a while another life; he must discover other ways of thinking and make those ways his own. He must put himself in another place, another time, another situation. From a written outline, he must create a living person.

There is rigid discipline in the necessary surrender of the personal and the peculiar, in the finding of fundamentals in movement and voice. The actor discovers that motion comes out of emotion; that within the character he assumes, are absolutes of rhythm, tempo, mood. He finds that a play, like a musical performance, is a carefully balanced whole, and that he must always be aware of himself as part of that whole. He realizes that his acting (or it may be his costume design, his scenery, his lighting) is good only in the degree to which it communicates the ideas of the play and its author, and the attitude of the performers towards those ideas.

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  bmc_014 Black Mountain's democracy is more than word or concept: it is a way of living. Owned and controlled by its faculty, the College bases this democracy in a unique charter, legally providing for student participation in all College affairs. Community problems are discussed in community meetings, and students annually agree among themselves on the few basic standards which seem necessary to govern their lives.

Fire-fighting instruction from Asheville Chief.

The community is particularly concerned with the relationship of individuality, community membership, and active citizenship. It finds in the problems of its democracy many of the problems of larger, more complex groups.

Life at Black Mountain demonstrates that for democracy rights and duties are inseparable; that the fundamentals to which ...

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  bmc_015 ... America asks allegiance can stand honest investigation and survive the acid test of experience.

Beyond administration or government, democracy means doing things together. It means living with teachers as well as studying with them, making them friends as well as advisors. It means eating together, dancing after dinner, dressing up on Saturday nights, listening to concerts and radio programs or playing in them. It means freedom in work and freedom in play, and at the same time it means continual community consciousness. It means discussing the problems of politics and philosophy with people of different opinions who have lived through wars and great social upheavals. It means leading a mature self-directed life prepared to face the threats and complexities of a critical age.

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  bmc_016 The democratic way of life means social equality. It means also equality of obligation and of work. Through the community work program Black Mountain asks of its students and teachers participation in a community citizenship which is far from theoretical. Community work is in no sense "made" work, contrived for educational purposes, nor is it a system in which some students become the servants of others. Instead, it is work necessary to the operation of the College, shared voluntarily by community members, and the responsibilities it imposes are real responsibilities. People at the College spend from ten to fifteen hours a week chopping wood, cutting corn, driving the tractor, working in the office. A student may manage the College store; he may report College news; he may dig a ditch. Most students do several such jobs. bmc_016.jpg (272331 bytes)
  bmc_017 Like Black Mountain's studying, this is hard work. But students find out important things about themselves and their world: the difference between group and individual projects, the importance of really finishing a job once started, the real excitement in the rhythm of an axe, the power of a truck, the building of a wall; the satisfaction of seeing stones and lumber and concrete and imagination become a place in which to live and to work. More than this, there is a discovery that the dignity of labor and of the laborer is more than a phrase, a discovery of causes instead of the casual relationship between theory and practice, of a social consciousness which, divorced from political by-words, finds it3 meaning in a consciousness of society as it is and an idea of how it might become better. bmc_017.jpg (226598 bytes)
  bmc_018 A Place to Learn and Live

If you are interested in the world you live in and the way men think and act; if you are interested in finding a purpose in your own working and learning, Black Mountain will attract you.

If you are interested in an education which asks the best you have to give; if you are willing to give yourself to education all day every day; if you can put aside preconceived notions of the world and of yourself, you will like Black Mountain.

Here you will find a college whose faculty consists of a distinguished group of scholars and artists from America and abroad; whose students represent an economic and geographic cross-section of this country, with several coming from foreign lands; a college whose students are characterized by unusual vigor, curiosity and self-reliance.

Admission to Black Mountain does not depend upon financial well-being, or on the results of examinations. It depends upon you: upon what you can give to the community and what you can get from it, upon your potentialities as a constructive person., upon your desire for a better world. While admission requirements are flexible they are based upon ability to carry college work. At present applications from qualified high school juniors will be considered.

Fees are adjusted according to ability to pay and vary from $450 to $1200 a year. Those who can are expected to assume the full cost of their education. Where this is impossible, one may apply in confidence for a reduced fee scholarship.

Black Mountain is situated in the heart of the Great Craggy Mountains of Western North Carolina, 15 miles from Asheville, a section noted for its climate and scenery. Altitude 2,400 feet.

For more information about Black Mountain, or an application blank, write to the Registrar, Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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  bmc_019 Above----Chess game on sun deck in January.

Below—Swimming in Lake Eden in June.

Above—North Lodge. Twin dormitories are North (girls) and South (boys). Below—Assembly and Dining Hall.

Written and executed by students, former students and faculty, except for photographs of Student Study, Library, Board of Fellows, Concert, Farm and Logging, courtesy Click Magazine.

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Memorial Building - Designed, built and furnished by a former student.

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  BULLETIN 6 - The Building Project and Work Program (1940 ?)  





In September, 1940, Black Mountain College began construction, largely with student and faculty labor, on the first unit of a comprehensive building program on its own property. The cooperative building project—in 1940-41 of a seventy-five room modern building—not only assists in the solution of an economic problem but also constitutes, through the work program, an extension of one of the College's educational ideas.

The idea of some manual work for students is a corollary of the College's concept of general education. Voluntary practical activities, on different levels, have always been regarded as part of general education and as indispensable to the full development of the student. The participation by students in the present building project is, then, the fruition of a fundamental idea rather than an innovation or a change in ideology. Nevertheless, the project is of much greater scope than previous undertakings and plays a larger role in the community life.

The work program does not interfere with academic study but tends to enhance it through the general invigoration produced by intelligently varied activity. Students volunteer for three to nine hours of work a week, depending on their schedules and their strength. Once they have signed up to work on fixed days, they are expected to appear on those days unless illness prevents. Many members of the faculty and staff also participate in the project on the same basis. Thus it is a community enterprise and provides another area for free and informal contact as well as a point of common interest.

The buildings were designed with a modern construction appropriate to non-professional workers. The program includes all types of work that the erection of such buildings on a new site entails:

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    land clearing, road building, ditching, landscaping, digging of wall and pillar foundations, procuring of building stone, carpentry, masonry, and, at a later stage, wiring, plumbing, and other interior finishing. The designing of furniture and textiles is also contemplated.

Participation in the building program has shown itself to be valuable in many ways, the most obvious being the regular outdoor exercise that it provides. For all students it is a broadening experience. Most do manual labor for the first time. The majority, by doing the types of work that are the occupations and the means of livelihood of a large section of the country's population, increase to some degree their understanding of society, gain more respect for skilled workmanship, and adopt a less superficial and more sympathetic attitude toward necessary hard work and toward those who perform it. The work program also affords an opportunity for the development of resourcefulness, practical judgment, and the ability to cope with certain kinds of emergency. As they do in craft work, students may learn that materials have limitations and laws of their own and that working with them requires discipline and technique. Some students attain a fair degree of skill in one or more of the types of work involved; and for most students the first-hand acquaintance with modern architectural thought and materials is a valuable experience, particularly since housing is so vital a national concern. Finally, they can see how individuals' efforts combined into group activity can overcome difficult obstacles and change a plan into a reality.

The cooperative aspect of the program should be emphasized not only in regard to its educational benefits but also in regard to the material economy which it effects. By undertaking most of the labor itself, the community has helped solve a pressing financial problem and hopes to make it possible for the College to move to its own property in September, 1941. That this is so gives a seriousness and a reality to the work which no manufactured enterprise could give. One result is a strong morale, springing from a common purpose and from the satisfaction of concrete achievement.

The relation of the work program to the academic curriculum is contrapuntal rather than harmonic. There is, of course, a direct laboratory connection with Architecture, and in some degree with Art and Economics. But the main importance is in the opening of another area of activity and experience. A student's studies may be made less rarified; but the real point is that the student himself may be made less so.

Supervision of the work program is in expert hands. The organization and management of the volunteer work crews is handled by a

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    democratically chosen Work Committee of students and faculty; and from day to day straw bosses are made responsible for particular jobs. The well-known architect, Mr A Lawrence Kocher, who is Visiting Professor of Architecture at the College and Resident Artist sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation, designed the buildings and is superintending their erection. Mr Charles Godfrey, an experienced builder and contractor of Black Mountain, oversees all actual construction and helps instruct workers. The chairman of the Work Committee is Dr Richard Gothe, who was released by the National Youth Commission to join the College's faculty as Professor of Economics and to make a study, under the auspices of the General Education Board, of the place of a work program in a liberal arts college. Heading a steering committee to coordinate all phases of the work program and the building project is Mr. Theodore Dreier, Professor of Mathematics and Treasurer of the College since its founding.

The particular synthesis of the Black Mountain experiment differs in a number of respects from similar projects being tried and in use elsewhere. The College believes that the conclusions reached and the technique established may prove useful and applicable in other institutions which, on the one hand, acknowledge some truth in the contemporary cry for "practical education", but which, on the other hand, do not wish to sacrifice any of the values of a liberal arts education. The program also illustrates one manner in which an institution, without detriment to its primary educational function, may help itself economically, and thus decrease the financial assistance which it needs from outside sources.

The architect's sketch of the building begun in September, 1940, appears on the first page of this bulletin. Designed to make the best use of novice workers and of building materials on the property, it will cost less than half of what it would cost if built by a contractor. The ground floor, from the hillside to the terrace under the building, and the fire-tower, against the hillside, are of masonry in native stone. The greater part of the building is supported by concrete and steel columns in cantilever construction. The sheathing of the outer walls is of large corrugated sheets of Transite, an asbestos synthetic, the sections of which are easily screwed in place. The continuous steel-sash windows are of the projecting type and run almost the length of the two upper floors. The skeleton of the building is timber, with inner walls of plywood over an acoustical core. The roof is built of alternate layers of asphalt and heavy building paper, gravel-surfaced for walking and for fireproofing.

This building is the largest of the group of four shown in the plan on the back page, and contains sixty student studies, ten faculty studies, and studios for the Art Department. The group of buildings

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    is situated at the northwest edge of the lake, between the hillside and the water. When buildings and landscaping are completed, the two main wings of the group will roughly parallel the lakeshore, at a distance of about twenty-five yards. The three other units that the whole plan calls for—a second student studies building, a library, and a small building for offices—will be constructed as rapidly as finances and time permit. The first unit, together with the already existing buildings and some faculty houses to be erected, will provide sufficient space to house the College during 1941-42. As the other units are completed, the College can expand, and will be modestly quartered for a number of years. At a later date it is planned gradually to replace the old buildings (which are being remodeled for present use) by the buildings designed in 1939 by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. This plan for growth avoids waste, since the old buildings will be used as long as it is economical, and all new buildings will fit into a comprehensive building scheme.

Student Studies Building, Black Mountain College

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  BULLETIN 7 - Education in a Time of Crisis 1941  

[Address originally given on May 5, 1940, during the College's First Annual Visitors' Week.]


Only those who have known the years before the first World War can fully appreciate the magnitude of the crisis we are undergoing. During those years most people believed that in western civilization man had reached a more or less definitive state of historical development. In accordance with this attitude the past was interpreted in a somewhat peculiar way.

We had heard about wars, about persecution, about intolerance; we had heard about terrible ignorance and its dreadful consequences; we had heard about sinister superstitions, persecution of witches, social injustices, the pride and arrogance of the mighty, corrupt courts, torture, and whatnot. But we also had learned that since 1600, or somewhat earlier, when man's eyes were opened, there had been irresistible progress. We became infinitely tolerant. We were inclined to pardon even before we understood. The "Dark Ages", thank heaven, were gone!

There was general optimism and a feeling of security. And then suddenly that shocking disappointment to optimism and security! Suddenly history with all its good and bad passions was alive again. Suddenly everything which we thought gone forever was here again, and that progressive state which we expected to be the final and lasting one had disappeared.

Today the ominous symptoms of still greater changes are showing themselves. All the principles on which the social order of the nineteenth century were laid are challenged. They have become suspect; even the longing for security has itself become suspect. There is a dissolution of the old order, but only vague signs of the new one. It is a time of lasting and continuous crises.

The younger generation reacts in its own way. It is distrustful—the young people do not want to be betrayed by solemn words used by the church, the state, the social leaders, the universities. Did not Nietzsche and Freud teach us what is hidden behind such words? Should we not be aware of conscious or unconscious hypocrisy? Are these words not the weapons of the weak?

What can be done under these circumstances? What can the older generation do for the younger one? What can education in such a time of crisis mean and do?

There are many opinions and proposals held by different groups. Some of the more important of these may be outlined:

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  bmc_bul07_002 The first group—a large one—is comprised of people who believe that all of this unrest was caused by a few wicked individuals, whom they even call criminals and gangsters. According to their background, their education, their nationality, their economic conditions, their temperament, these people make this man or that man the scapegoat. By imposing all responsibility and guilt upon a single person, they obscure their vision of the fact that the causes and effects of this crisis are much more powerful; that the crisis is more widespread. There are no oceans between it and us. People belonging to this group believe that if only Stalin or Mussolini or Hitler or Roosevelt were made harmless, peace in the political world, peace in the social and economic world, and peace within their hearts would automatically return. Since they take political measures as the only remedy for the crisis, we may call them by a friendly name, "political critics," and by an unfriendly name, "the superficial." They can have no pedagogical theories of their own.

The second group—irritated, annoyed, and disgusted by the historical development just as the first one—has a completely negative attitude. People in this group consider the social and political order into which they were born as the only one; that is, the only just one and the only right one. Everything should remain as it has always been (by "always" they mean for the last fifty to one hundred years). They look at the past as the prologue to their own time. Now, as the historical development has been fulfilled, history should come to a standstill. The future should be but a repetition and a continuation of the present. They expect to overcome the threatening dangers by holding fast to old forms, by giving many and detailed prescriptions which can be easily enforced. They overlook the fact that the internal order and philosophy of life is the condition of the external order; that the external order becomes moribund if the internal one dies away. The struggle for freedom, and the political, religious, and scientific martyrs, prove that the policeman and even the hangman cannot guard against change. Because these people put all hope in tradition, one may call them, using a friendly name, "conservatives." And opponents may call them, "reactionaries." Their pedagogical theory calls for many and strict rules, for many examinations and requirements.

To the third group belong those who welcome the decline or breakdown of the old order as the breakdown of order as such. They believe that one has only to put aside the limitations and boundaries set up by state and society, and that then individuals, freed from silly forms—free and happy individuals—will walk the earth in innumerable specimens.

What a festival day it would be for man if suddenly all the boundaries erected by law and custom, state and society, collapsed! Just this is the meaning of many festival customs: to realize, at least momentarily, this fantasy; and by a kind of illusion to suspend for a while the established order or to turn it upside down! It was a custom of the Roman Saturnalia for the masters to serve their

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  bmc_bul07_003 slaves. In the chaotic carousal of carnival days, in anonymity, in masks, we enjoy the happiness of the moment. The scorning of authority and of customs belongs to such festival days. But even festival days have fixed dates and a prescribed duration. And even festival days need forms; we can only oppose forms by using other forms.

One step further and the hangover will follow the festival. Disgust will follow dissipation. In the dissolution of order, the longing for new order arises no less urgently. Since man wants both the happiness of the moment and a hold on strict order, he is contradictory in himself. The contradiction is most difficult to understand; therefore, it is easy to accept only one part and overlook or reject the other. The extremists of this third group are called by a friendly name, "individualists," and by an unfriendly name, "nihilists."

Their pedagogical theory refutes itself if it is strictly carried out. The norm may be as elastic as you like, the rule may have ever so many nuances—without the norm all shades lose their meaning. You may concede to the individual as many rights as you like: you cannot free him from limitations and claims.

As individuals we are born, and as individuals we die; as individuals we feel desire, pleasure, and pain. As individualities we are educated by others or else we form ourselves gradually. As individuals we belong to nature; as individualities we belong to a spiritual, objective order. As individuals we are marked by some peculiarity, such as the finger print; we become individualities in so far as we integrate objective orders and adapt ourselves to them. As individuals we are specimens of a zoological species, and we are restrained to the present in space and time. As individualities we are in a potential relation toward the whole of the world, to the past and to the future. Because we are all related to one and the same objective order, it may become the norm, the means and the object of education.

The fourth and last group can be described in fewer words. With them the idea prevails that superpersonal forces—economic, spiritual, instinctive—determine the course of human life. History will follow its course no matter what we try to do. It cannot help matters to offer any resistance. Our will is impotent. We think of action, but we are only the puppets of stronger impersonal forces. By a friendly name we call this group, "the fatalists," and by an unfriendly name, "the indolent." They cannot form a specific pedagogical theory of their own.

If the fatalists are right, we can do nothing but sigh because we are born in such a critical time, and sigh about the new epoch to which this crisis seems to lead.

But if the fatalists are not right, if history is not completely dictated by superpersonal forces, if the future is not finally determined

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  bmc_bul07_004 by the past, if there is space for our own action—then we have to investigate more carefully the motive forces of this crisis, to find what solutions seem to be possihle, which desirable, and which undesirable.

An analysis of this crisis can be made only by an oversimplification.

This present crisis seems to end an epoch which has lasted for about three hundred years. Let us call it the epoch of enlightenment. Historians usually label a somewhat shorter period as the time of enlightenment; but the motives of the enlightenment of the eighteenth century were effective from the beginning of modern time and retain their force to this day.

Enlightenment was based on confidence in the autonomy of the human mind. This confidence was united with the hope of understanding nature by rational methods, of thereby eventually dominating it, and of ultimately regulating and planning all human relations reasonably. Who would not be delighted at such a prospect? Was not everything to be gained and nothing to be lost? The sacrifice which this plan demanded of man i-emained hidden for a long time.

The autonomy of human reason can be preserved only if there is undoubted security in our knowledge. Security of this kind we find in mathematics. In so far as mathematics is competent there is certainty of knowledge. The autonomy of reason needs knowledge of a mathematical kind. But mathematics can be applied only to a nature having a mechanistic structure. Consequently all phenomena have to be explained and understood as mechanism. But in a world based on mechanism there can be no becoming and no history in a true sense. Thus the claim of autonomy of reason forces certain metaphysical interpretations of nature and of all being. Only what is comprehensible by mathematical methods really exists for it.

At first enlightenment intended to dominate only external nature; but very soon man, in so far as he belongs to nature, was included as an object of these same tendencies. To fight misery, want, disease, and death was the first task; thus the seventeenth century brought modern medicine into existence. But after the bonds which both limited and formed men began to be broken, a tendency toward negative freedom gradually extended to all human relations. They all became, one after the other, targets of historical criticism and decomposition. Man wanted to be free. He wanted no other master than himself, either in nature or in a cosmic order.

Thus enlightenment unifies two motives which at the first glance seem to be contradictory to one another—that of exact rationalistic methods and that of individualism almost anarchistic and nihilistic.

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  bmc_bul07_005 The second motive proved to be the stronger one. The skeptical attitude was directed against science itself, not, perhaps, in its obvious results but in the value of scientific reasoning as such.

Rousseau is a famous example of the mutual interference of these two tendencies of enlightenment. Since his time "irrationalism" lias steadily grown; today there is even a worshipping of anti-rational forces. As long as the struggle to free individuals from all bonds and boundaries continued, the struggle itself furnished some center of orientation; but thereafter man plunged into the void, the nothingness. Thereby he became ripe for totalitarianism, that strange mixture of rationalism and romanticism.

For a long time the teaching has prevailed that self-preservation is the true and only real goal of all human activity. But the present time proves again that man does not live by bread alone. Nobody will deny the power of economic needs, but besides these there is a metaphysical dread of the infinite, of the void, of the nothingness. Wealth may provide many means of intoxication and dissipation for the quieting of this dread; misery brings it to its climax, and reveals the true situation of man, confronting him with the infinite.

The totalitarian states have understood these needs of man. They have established an obligatory hierarchy of values in which the economic ones are not the highest or the decisive ones. They understand the role that imagination plays in man's psychical life. That they base the new order on the very questionable opinions of individuals, calling absolute these relative and limited views, must necessarily lead to a conflict with reality; this error transforms their constitvition into a cruel and merciless tyranny.

But we must not forget that the dictators rose to power because men were longing for new masters, for new gods. They asked for commandments even if they rejected those given on Mount Sinai. The totalitarian states arose from the crisis. They pretend to offer solutions for the crisis. Because we abhor a social order of slaves and their masters, we have to ask ourselves if this solution is the only possible one. Therefore our task in education is clear.

If all pain and labor, if all the immense expenditure of human thought and energy, is directed only toward self-preservation, then the right and only important thing for young people to do is to grasp as quickly as possible that knowledge and that skill which are necessary for jobs and for making money. But if this is not true, education must do far more.

First, the eternal questions—to use a solemn word—must become vital questions again; the central problems must become visible again, not as special problems for specialists, but as problems concerning all of us and ultimately giving to all our knowledge and skill their real meaning and importance.

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  bmc_bul07_006 Second, if "freedom" has not only a negative meaning—if it means not only to be free from something and to do whatever we want to do—then the individual must again experience himself as a part of a whole, as a part of a lasting, embracing order that he himself helps to form.

Third, if individuality is expressed by the proper relation of the individual to the central problems and by the way the individual lives as a part of the whole, then it becomes each individual's task to develop his individuality, to give to his own life a sensible, consistent meaning and shape.

These are the tasks. How are they to be accomplished? It is simple to formulate a program; everything depends upon how it is carried out:

Knowledge and skill certainly are indispensable; for self-preservation, although it is not everything, will always be an essential goal. Furthermore, we can only strive from the periphery to the center; we can only construct a whole from its parts. But the subject matter, important as it is, should not be the ultimate goal of our learning. To absorb knowledge, to prepare for examinations, or for jobs, should not be the only meaning of our studies. We should not acquire ready-made knowledge, but we should learn to ask questions. A student who leaves a college should not regard himself as finished, but he should have become a questioning person; he should never stop questioning, never stop striving from narrowness to breadth. A student enters college limited, like every young man, by a narrow horizon of prejudice; his standards are ephemeral. To open the narrow horizon, to give him standards of real greatness, to make him familiar with the complexity of problems—that is the main point.

To belong as a part to a whole is also easier said than done. "The whole" is a name easily misused and easily misunderstood. Does not a soldier also belong to a whole? Surely, but in quite another way. In a campaign the plan of the whole is necessarily secret. Only the general and a few others know it. The soldier serves the whole, but he neither knows nor understands it, nor can he influence the formation of the plan. Unconditional obedience and courage are asked of him. Here the relation of the individual to the whole is an abstract one, a passive one, a relation that excludes responsibility. It is not such an integration that we have in mind; it is an antithetical one. By a "whole" we mean a community which the individual helps to build, a community in which the weal and woe of the whole depend on the actions of the individuals, one in which the consequences of the individual's actions fall back on him, one in which his actions are not hidden by clouds of anonymity. In the future only a state which is constituted as an organic whole can be truly democratic.

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  bmc_bul07_007 The democracies of the western hemisphere and of Europe preserved for a long time the principles belonging to their origin in the English and French revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the protection of the independence of the individual against the power of the state, and the protection of the rights of the middle-class against those of the classes privileged in the old regime. But this epoch has definitely passed.

Respect for the dignity of the human personality was the moral basis for democracy. This conviction gave it strength in its fight against feudalism. It armed the citizens and disarmed the members of the upper classes before they even started their defense. Is this conviction still alive? What has modern psychology to say about human dignity and freedom? You may open a textbook of psychology and find that the first chapter deals with the question, "What is man?" You may be surprised or you may not be surprised by the answer given there. The answer is: "Man is a mass of protoplasm." Therefore, human life and the human world have to be explained in the last instance as reactions of protoplasm. This interpretation leaves no room for freedom or dignity, because the reactions of protoplasm demand only mechanical, impersonal schemes, and they can best be controlled by political organizations which do not waste their time with such trifles as dignity. It is not too difficult to prove the mistakes and basic errors of the philosophy represented by this kind of modern psychology. The frightening fact is that in spite of its obvious weakness and queerness, this psychology is accepted almost everywhere throughout the country and is taught with minor variations at almost all universities. There is no doubt that the ground out of which democracy has grown has completely changed—but democracy can exist only in a special kind of ground. The fate of democracy will not be decided on the battlefields alone. It is also threatened from within, not only by its open or secret enemies, but still more so by those who praise it, unaware that they themselves have already cut it from its roots. The fate of democracy will ultimately be decided by the convictions and philosophy of the citizens of the democratic countries.

We cannot turn backward; history will not repeat itself. A new ground will be prepared. Democratic freedom will survive only if there is a complete change in the attitude of the individual towards the state and the whole: a change from claims to duties. Solidarity and respect for the rights of others cannot be based on emotions and instincts, but can only be understood as the obligation of one part of the whole to another part. Because this relation is not a natural instinct it has to be developed, taught and learned. The enormous dimensions of modern states have made it difficult for many people to understand their own true function and their own role as parts of such an abstract whole. This relationship can best be learned within a community of small dimensions where the single person can understand the needs of the whole, where he may help to satisfy these needs, and where he remains visible in all his actions.

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  bmc_bul07_008 But we must be careful not to interpret "community" sentimentally ; that is, not as a group of people whose aim is merely to make life comfortable and pleasant for each other, appeasing the inevitable tensions. A true community, like an organism, is based upon the variety of its members and upon the difference of their functions. An organism unifies and binds its separate parts into a whole without destroying the difference between the parts. In a whole the individual becomes unexchangeable and irreplaceable. Only within a community, therefore, can one exist as an individuality.

A community may be considered in three ways. First, it is never a completed structure, the life of the whole depends upon the life of its parts, it must constantly be formed anew. Thus, a community is a task. Second, as a whole, it subordinates all its parts in one general order. Out of a community, therefore, laws and obligations arise. And finally, a community is a place where, in spiritual confrontation with others, it is possible for a person to realize himself.

Education can help us acquire new knowledge and understanding only if previously a purgation from old errors and mistakes has taken place. It must, therefore, be one of our main tasks to erase the erroneous idea that individuality is equivalent to eccentric peculiarity. Those problems which vexed the great men, thinkers and artists, statesmen and saints, must become our own concern, whatever our natural talents may be. We need to cultivate them, not in a snobbish manner separated from our daily life, but at its center. It is certainly not legitimate to expect education to breed geniuses; but it certainly is its function to establish or perhaps to re-establish the right relation between every-day life and the eternal problems. That is, the great problems should penetrate and mold daily life; yet preoccupation with them should not prevent and excuse us from proving true in the small affairs of every day.

April, 1941 Erwin Straus  [See: Phenomenological psychology] 

This Bulletin is taken from an address originally given on May 5, 1940, during the College's First Annual Visitors' Week.

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