Black Mountain College Project
||Eric Bentley' class. Left to Right: Ruth O'Neill Burnett, Marilyn Bauer Greenwald, Unidentified student, Eric Bentley, Unidentified student. Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives, Black Mountain College Papers, 17.2.||
STUDENT EXPERIENCE IN
EXPERIMENTAL EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS
Section 2: Teachers and Teaching: Formal Aspects of the Curriculum
INTRODUCTION TO THE SUNLEY PROJECT AND DOCUMENTS
Claude Stoller: I took the Senior Division Exam twice. The first time it seemed a grueling experience (I'm sure I wasn't ready), and the second time actually enjoyable.
Gisela Kronenberg Herwitz: My final, third year at BMC was spent preparing for graduation. I passed my Senior Division exams in February of 1942.
Sue Spayth Riley: I worked hard on my plan to get into the Senior Division and was pleased with myself for doing it.... After two years of general study I applied for and got into the Senior Division.
John Swackhamer: I took the exams for passage from the Junior to the Senior Division at the end of my second year, and I was not passed—not on any substantive grounds (i.e., I was told that I had a sufficiently wide liberal arts background and that my `general question' answers were passing), but on the ground that I was emotionally immature. In retrospect, this seems a fairly accurate observation, but I was certainly pissed off at the time. I passed them at the end of the third year.
Leonard Billing: I matured slowly, and my first attempt to progress to the Senior Division was not successful. I think I did get in my third of fourth year.
Ruth O'Neill Burnett: I remember that Eric Bentley expressed surprise that I had been able to pass the Senior Divisions. I guess he thought I wasn't quite bright enough. I felt so complimented when Ted Dreier said that he knew I could have done better.
Mary Brett Daniels: Not until I had to focus to pass the Junior Division did I try to formulate a "major" in the academic sense and my goal was something as inclusive as possible. I did write these exams and "pass"—the only formal hurdle the system presented.
Will Hamlin: At BMC, the demonstration of readiness was through two days of "Senior Division Examinations" prepared by faculty and different every semester. To find out what they were like and gauge when we might be ready to take them, we were allowed to take them once "for practice." One of the two days, the first when I took the exams, we were given four or five major "integrating" questions – of such a nature that answering them would require information and ideas from a variety of fields – all of which we must answer during the day (I think it was 9 AM to 6 PM punctuated by a sandwich lunch). I remember this as the "open-book" part of the Senior Division process, with faculty (who as a group graded the exams pass or fail) interested in what books we'd opened in preparing our answers. The second day we were presented with close to a hundred subject-matter questions, each faculty member having submitted a few drawn from his or her fields of expertise, and we were asked to choose which, and how many, we'd answer. These were NOT open-book questions, and we weren't allowed to look anything up; it was our "general information" that was being tested. Faculty were interested in which questions we chose as well as in our answers: our choices suggested how broad or narrow were our knowledge, interests and concerns.