II. Talk on the Common Course (1952)
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[This talk is continued from the "Introduction to the
Common Course." Both were typed together contiguously and bound
in the same volume. The "Talk" is really more of an outline
of class topics at first. The points gradually become longer until
they start to read more like lectures than talking points.]
1. Why are we here? -- Why are you here? -- What do you want to
achieve and how? Questioning analysis of the answers: Is that all
you want to achieve? -- What could be achieved and how? -- What
did you bring with you? -- what did you learn and why? Break down
the answers into categories (possibly on black board), Establish
differences and relations between Interests and aims.
What does it mean to enter higher education? -- What was unsatisfactory
to you in your former education? (Perhaps that you felt submitted
to a process of instruction.) -- Procedure of development as distinguished
from the process of instruction. Relation between teacher and student
in higher education: Collaboration which will ultimately make the
guide superfluous. Why did you come to Bard College? -- Analysis
of the answers. Possibilities of free choice.
Why is this a required course? -- Evaluation of previous answers
by students and doubt that their ability to make a choice is sufficiently
developed. Mention of costly mistakes in one's decisions. Those
who are decided need qualification; those who are undecided need
clarification. How can one come to a decision and how can one make
sure of a decision? The possibilities of higher education in this
respect. What role does education play in life? What is education?
2. First hour. Lecture: What is education? All sections together.
Second hour. Discussion of the lecture in different sections. Possible
reference books: Greek education -- Plato, Aristotle, Homer. Medieval
education -- Thomas Aquinas, Dante. Renaissance education -- Lionardo,
Castiglione, Luther, Erasmus. Enlightenment -- Voltaire, Rousseau,
Kant. Humanist-academic education -- Humboldt, Schelling, Werner
Jaeger's Paideia. Progressive education -- Dewey; totalitarianism.
3. Introduction to the principle of communicative education. If
no higher metaphysical knowledge is given or revealed to us, if
we do not have a system presenting the whole of human endeavors,
the whole of the world and the universe in which we may feel ourselves
as a whole, why then do we take this task upon ourselves at all?
Why do we not accept the role of a part, instead of being a partner?
Why do we not become specialists and forget everything else?
What is specialization, one-sidedness, partialization? Why can
specialists so easily be won to totalitarianism? -- Because they
lost their freedom, feel isolated in their specialty and long for
unification. Specialization is productive if it is understood as
concentration on one particular field of endeavor around which as
many relations as possible are established to all other fields.
The use of only one creative capability results in sterility; each
ability must feed on all others and penetrate into them.
The purpose of the course is the study of the living interpenetration
of creative capabilities and fields of human endeavor. The core
is everybody, every free personality, and every single field of
creative endeavor. The establishment of mutual relations between
these cores and their mutual communication is the community in building.
But how are we free? -- Can we be free? -- How can we establish
meaningful relations? -- How do we proceed to build a free and open
world by a free and open mind, if no foundations are given? -- The
foundations are the founding qualities of our mind itself, which
can establish meaningful mutual relationships. The human mind is
either free or enslaved, creative or operative, functional or intentional,
projective or reflective, conditioned (and then easily enslaved
by the rulers) or conditioned-conditioning and thereby self-conditioning.
The natural inquisitiveness of the mind: as it is suppressed by
totalitarian education which tends to transform man into an altogether
conditioned being; as it must be strengthened by our own education.
The non- inquiring mind is processed by authoritative answers; inquiring
mind proceeds by questions. The teacher asks questions only in order
to initiate the procedure of questioning. We have to question everything
and everybody, and most of all ourselves; thus we put questions
to our mind in order to discover our capabilities.
What kind of activities have you engaged in? -- What kind of experiences
have you had? -- Break down the answers into categories and relate
them; explain that our material here consists of our own experiences
and our own activities.
Assignment of a short paper: Enumerate your experiences and activities,
try to find out which relations exist between them. Describe shortly
and give reasons for: a) Your most satisfying and most disappointing
experience; b) your most successful and your most unsuccessful activity.
4. What and who made it possible for you to come here? -- How many
people get higher education in this country? How many elsewhere?
Higher education for all increases responsibilities. Higher education
means leading a higher life. This formerly was the privilege of
the few, therefore not all had the same duties and responsibilities.
Higher and lower life. Lower life means to make a living, to provide
only for means of subsistence. Higher life means to make a life;
to create life. The aim of higher education is to show how to make
a life. Higher education formerly meant that those who were "higher
up" educated the others, and took the responsibility for the "lower
classes." We now have to educate ourselves; no superhuman principle
from "higher up" is imposed upon us. We make our stand and approach
the community into which we have been born anyhow.
Who makes a living for you? -- Does anybody also try to make a
life for you? -- Why were you sent here? -- Parents, family, relations
we are born into-- How do they develop? -- How are mutual relations
established? -- How do you carry on communication? -- Where do you
come from? -- What kind of people are there? -- Whom do you know?
-- What relations have you established? -- Break down the answers
into categories; love; friendship; companionship; respect for fellow
citizens and for elders; consideration; manners and conventions.
Possible references: Plato on Eros, Aristotle on friendship, Declaration
of Independence on respect, the favored love poems of students and
teacher. Accepting the whole of a human being from within love;
accepting a whole personality from without: friendship; accepting
an independent person: political relationship; accepting an individual
as member of society; accepting strangers as co-workers.
Communicative mutual relationships. How to avoid dependence by
establishing interdependence. Loosing independence by making others
depend on you: children, old people. The feeling of being independent
and the possibilities of becoming independent.
Interdependence. What made it possible for you to go to college?
-- Where does your father's money come from? -- What people are
required to make his profession possible? -- The whole world and
the whole development of humanity seems to have been needed to bring
you here in addition to your own free decision to come. These are
the human relations in which you are involved.
Did you establish any relations to nature? -- You drive an automobile,
etc. What are you doing in these activities? -- We are related to
nature by our body and we develop this given relationship into an
interdependence through our mind.
So we find ourselves in the middle of a world, in full motion,
involved in endless processes of a natural and a social kind, related
to almost everything and everybody on earth. Into this world we
were thrown and have to swim with it. In it we are determined by
causes unknown to us and are conditioned and re-conditioned until
we lose ourselves. The more we do to stay alive and make ourselves
felt in this world, the more we get involved in this process, We
acquire knowledge and gain intellectual power, but this conditions
us only better for becoming mere agents of power, mere efficient
contractors of energy, mere exponents of a will unknown to us. We
are forced to become something that is estimated for its efficiency,
whatever this efficiency may be, and we gradually lose our possibility
of becoming somebody. We and our mind become operative. We learn
how to do things and what to aim at, but we never learn what for
and why we act and live. The better we learn how to do and to perform,
the more we forget what to make and how to create. Yet this whole
world process is the result of man's doing. But, how far is it also
the result of man's making? While the rule of metaphysics made up
the minds of men for them, it still made it up for higher and partly
creative aims. Today we are threatened to have our minds made up
for us by almost everything and everybody, except ourselves. To
make up one's own mind is our only chance not to lose our personality.
To make up one's mind is the fundamental creative capability of
man. By this, every individual begins to make himself into a free
personality. This we call self-determination. Is It possible?
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