Black Mountain College Project
 

 


STUDENT EXPERIENCE IN EXPERIMENTAL EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS
(1933-43)

Section 2: Teachers and Teaching: Introduction

       

INTRODUCTION TO THE SUNLEY PROJECT AND DOCUMENTS

Description of the Study by Robert Sunley
*   Letter to the Students
*   Guidelines
*   Brief Biographies of
    Contributors

*   Brief Biographies of
    Faculty Mentioned in
    the Memoirs
*

SECTION 1. ROLE OF THE ARTS

    Statement by Robert
    Sunley


The artistic process as
    a major goal.


*   Individual, active
    anticipation was
    fostered but not
    required.

*   Focus on really “seeing”
    and “thinking” for
    oneself, not on the
    production of art.


Self-direction, self-
    discipline, initiative,
    development of the
    whole person....

The arts were diffused
    throughout the
    education ....    

 

Introduction to Section 2 by Robert Sunley

Founded in the depths of the Great Depression, in 1933, Black Mountain College quickly gained national attention for an innovative, experimental liberal arts education. It stood in sharp contrast to the conventional system prevalent in American colleges and universities of the time. Among its prominent features was the concept of total education, blurring the distinction between formal curriculum and other activities and incorporating the total life of the student into the educational concept. It aimed for emotional and intellectual maturing of the individual student, rather than for the usual academic attainment of credits.

As a liberal arts college, BMC was not conceived as a new "Bauhaus," though incorporating some of its features. Nor was it an art school, aiming at producing artists and designers, though again it incorporated some aspects of the focus on the arts. Because the students and faculty lived and worked in the same large building and were perforce in closer contact with each other than in the usual college, some observers tended to see BMC as a "community" primarily. Yet it was throughout this early period clearly a liberal arts college, not an intentional community or commune.

The educational philosophy was embodied in a number of publications, the most famous of which was an article written by Louis Adamic, "Education on a Mountain," published in Harper’s in 1936. It brought national attention at once, and a reprinting of the article in the Readers' Digest resulted in even wider attention. Students applied from all over the U.S. and from other countries, some making their way to visit in person. Teachers likewise were attracted, and many sought to join the faculty, undeterred by the nominal salaries. Refugees from Europe and elsewhere found a haven at BMC, which could overlook their lack of American academic qualifications.

Former students who contributed recollections of their education at BMC reported for the most part an unusual experience, one contributing significantly to their later lives, giving them a breadth and depth they felt they would otherwise have lacked. Quite a few, as might be expected, found their life vocation. In classes, students found themselves mingling with new and established students as well as a faculty member or two and/or their spouses. There was no artificial division of students into Freshman, Sophomore, etc. Students interchanged with faculty on easy terms – though never unclear about their roles.

Selections from former student's recollections are grouped under the following topics:

        Formal Aspects of the Curriculum 
        Methods of Teaching
        Personalities of the Faculty
        Outside the Classroom. 

 

SECTION 2. TEACHERS AND TEACHING

Introduction

Formal Aspects of the
Curriculum 

   Class Size 
   Grades    
   Advisors 
   Junior Division  
   Senior Division  
   Graduation

Methods of Teaching
   General

   John Andrew Rice 
   Josef Albers 
   Erwin Straus 
   Robert Wunsch 
   Others


Personalities of Faculty
  
John Rice  
   Josef Albers 
   Robert
Wunsch 
   Heinrich
Jalowetz  
   Others 

Outside the Classroom
   In General  
   The Work Program 
   Visitors -
   Trips 
   Drama 
   Interlude  
   Lectures, Concerts 
   Informal Interchange