Black Mountain College Project
STUDENT EXPERIENCE IN
EXPERIMENTAL EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS
Section 2: Teachers and Teaching: Methods of Teaching
INTRODUCTION TO THE SUNLEY PROJECT AND DOCUMENTS
Will Hamlin: Much teaching at Black Mountain was, as at Goddard, traditionally "progressive".... Dr. Straus's Psychology of the Human World course (he was the only faculty member not called by a nickname or first name) was different: there was no required reading or writing, nor did he lecture, though he might bring in copies of a paragraph from Plato or an excerpt from a talk given by a visiting scholar as center for the day's discussion. He did expect us to take notes, opening each class session with "Cynthia, will you tell us where we were last time?" and Cynthia or I, or whoever else he might have decided to call on had better have notes full enough to make a meaningful reconstruction.
Lucian Marquis: Erwin Straus with whom I studied Ancient Philosophy ... was not a very good teacher in the classroom, because his formula was one of putting a question and expecting an answer ... in the one-on-one situation of a Senior Division Tutorial he was able to convey, through a haze of cigar smoke, the intensity of his feelings about Plato, the passion of his analysis and the discipline of his close reading.
John Swackhamer: Dr. Straus in his "Nicomanichaen Ethics" met the three of us who signed up for the course and proceeded to pass out the texts, all in Greek. We protested that we did not read Greek, whereupon he passed out Lexicons and said "Translate," which I did (as I remember the others rapidly defected) and still do today, occasionally.
Mary Brett Daniels: Never before or since have I been in a community where there was so much excitement about ideas. I took classes, yes, Psychology of the Human World with Erwin Straus – three times ... we never got past Descartes. Once I asked him about psychology in the 20th century. His disinterested response – "just read through any text book you want, it's all there." But the thinking was mysterious and strenuous, serious, and totally new to me.
Emil Willimetz: Erwin Straus taught psychology and philosophy. With all the high-powered Germans that came to the college, the Strauses were my least favorite ... to me they were serious, humorless and on the extreme conservative side.