"Notes Toward an Ideal College" (first published 1973)
The Centering Core Program
All good education teaches people to be increasingly self-educating.
Educational--and personal--maturity is a process of increasing
inner-direction and decreasing dependence on external authority.
By the time most students reach college, they have had many
years of learning to be clean and neat and write their names
in the upper right hand corner, last name first, followed by
the date, and so on and on. This is not bad in itself. But by
itself, this kind of education undermines an individual's ability
to reach the relative freedom of mature interdependence.
As more blocks are removed and as more authentic experiences
emerge, students will find themselves more fully alive, more
interested in explorations, and less in need of orders.
I suspect that active, growing, exploring students, expanding
from their felt centers, will seek knowledge much more actively
than traditional students who read because they are told to.
A well-centered student could risk liking something out of the
ordinary because he could test it against his own needs and experiences.
Such a student could also risk liking the classics without feeling
Institutions do not spring from a deity, nor do they come
to us with a perfect wisdom from the past. They are human creations.
They are designed to meet human needs. People live in them and
through them. Some of our basic institutions are now undergoing
rapid and radical change (education and marriage).
And if that life is whole enough, students will seek the teacher out, in order to learn how to live better. And even one lost in the wilderness can be good at teaching survival skills.
A good education is grounded in
--And College could cultivate old and new approaches to enriching life.
|The goal is not to study Great Books
for their own sake, but in order to re-activate those levels
of human creativity from which the Great Books sprang. More than
the past, we need a renewed capacity for generating our own Great
Books and great solutions.
Great Books programs traditionally suffer from teaching too much respect. They tend to cow students. They produce critics rather than creators. They focus too much on the recorded experience of another person, not enough on the student's own.
Any program, including Great Books, Humanities, Sciences, Art, Social Sciences, or even professional training, is good if it can be used to discover and strengthen the student's center, his capacity for experience, and his creative living.
An ideal college would be full of alternative ways of growth. At one time, the church or a professional program might have been enough. A liberal-arts curriculum might have been enough. But no longer. Now we need active, well-grounded explorers in all areas:
Some remarkable individuals, such as Emily Dickenson, have
lived rich lives within a seemingly narrow range of experience.
Most of us, however, would be better off to seek a certain nutritional
variety in our experiences. What we are and what we think is
largely determined by what we do. Students should have available
a wide range of vital life experiences, human beings, and modes
of living. Much that there is to learn cannot be learned from
|All premises and processes in this paper are hypotheses. Any or all of them could be wrong. Their value lies in how much can be learned from thinking them through and testing them.|
[End of article.]