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Black Mountain College Bulletin
Series 1, No. 1

"Black Mountain College, Extract from a letter by a member of the Staff."


PAGE 1

 

BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE

 

Extract from a letter by a member of the Staff:

 

"You may remember that in one of our talks last summer

About the college, you pointed out that in such a small

and intimate community, we might suffer from boredom, and

that this would almost certainly happen if we hadn't enough

to do; others also anticipated this danger.

 

We might have saved ourselves anxiety, for now the

cry is coming from every quarter that nobody has time enough

to do anything. This, as you might well believe, is a slight

exaggeration, but we are faced with the necessity of pro-

portioning more carefully our time, which is most difficult

in that it is hard to differentiate between what is usually

called "curricular" and "extra-curricular" activity. For

instance, I have  just come from a rehearsal of a play where

the question was raised as to how much time we could afford

for this. Anyone who did not understand what we are trying

to do would answer the question quite readily, because in

most academic circles, dramatics is quite firmly put in its

place as extra-curricular but the question is not so simple

as that because this particular play, Congreve's "Way of the

World," is an integral part of a course we are giving in the

Eighteenth Century.

 

You will recall that in another conversation, we agreed

that as far as possible, everything we did should fit into the

main theme, and that Music, Art and Dramatics should no longer

have a precarious existence on the fringes of the curriculum,

but that so far from leading such a frippery existence, they

should be at the very center of things. In this case, our

agreement is entirely justified, because by taking the whole

class, faculty and students, and putting them in the action

of the play, the social Iife of the period has become much

more real than could have happened if we had been content to

sit in our chairs and read ever so many plays, and books  

about plays.

 

This course in the Eighteenth Century is one of three

in which we are trying something quite in the way of an experi-

ment. Each of these is conducted by four members of the

faculty, all of whom attend every session of the class, and

serve as checks and balances to each other.We are trying

as far as possible to pick as instructors in these courses

those who have a general and particular competence in the field.

 

In the Eighteenth Century course, for instance, one

of us is principally responsible for the literary history of

the period; another for the political and social history;

another for the fine arts, and another for the classical

background.

 

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We are terribly handicapped by lack of books --

our library is made up almost entirely of the private

collections of students and faculty, as I think I have

told you -- but we are not enveloped in "inspissated

gloom," as old Dr. Johnson used to say, because, up to

the present, the students have actually benefited by the

scarcity of books, in that they see how very useful

a book can be, and how necessary it is for them to take

the initiative in getting the information that they want;

but you can see that there will be a limit to this.

 

The other two courses conducted under this plan of

having several faculty members are one that bears the

somewhat ambitious title of Philosophies of Social

Reconstruction, dealing principally with contemporary

philosophies, and another in writing. In the latter the

presence of more than one instructor is proving particu-

larly good, because the students are compelled to get out

of the habit of trying to "please the teacher." There is

no requirement as to who shall write, or what is being

written, but at each session there is a call for volunteers

from faculty or students, and after the reading of a story

or essay or anything else, the crowd cheerfully pitches

in, and the result is sometimes considerable warmth in the

room. One night last week the class spent three hours

over one story, and after we left the room the argument

continued among some of them until after mid-night, only

to break out again the next morning at breakfast.

 

Most of the classes meet at intervals of an hour,

from eight-thirty to twelve-thirty in the morning, and

between four and six in the afternoon, allowing a good

long interval for getting out of doors. Most of the

experimental classes are held at eight o'clock at night

so as to allow plenty of time for them to continue as long

as there is something worth talking about

 

You can see from this why we are not likely to got

on each others nerves from not having enough to do."

 

November

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Bulletin No. 1