Harvard New College: The Pursuit of Ecstasy
AN AWARENESS has been smoldering for several years: that there is something very wrong with the teaching process at Harvard and, particularly, that an experience which ought to be ecstatic has been rendered sterile. Exploration in reforms of the teaching process had had tentative beginnings in February and March, in the form of the Free University of Cambridge, the Conspiracy Against Harvard Education, and any number of other informal groups. The Strike gave these explorations a powerful added impetus.
On Friday, April 11, a group began to coalesce around Ted Coltman '69, David Lane 4G, and Rich Rabinowitz 3G, for the purpose of initiating concrete new directions in learning. The title, "HARVARD NEW COLLEGE" was agreed upon; about 40 persons worked through the weekend on the problems of defining and publicizing its existence and setting up "co-operative explorations."
The position taken on the Strike was that the New College would seek to strengthen the Harvard community's involvement in the Strike and in the intellectual issues bearing directly or indirectly upon it. It was felt that to bring about an "improved state of being" would be more effective than submitting demands for the restructuring of the old Harvard. Throughout these discussions, there was a strong feeling that something very desirable was happening to people's consciousness as a result of the Strike.
On Monday, Mike Grafton '71 presented the proposal of the New College at the Stadium. Announcement was made of the initial set of 15 gatherings, to occur on Tuesday. On Tuesday night, an additional 26 meetings for Wednesday were announced.
The feelings which have evolved from the group so far have taken three forms:
A consensus that for the majority of Harvard students, the bulk of classroom experience is barren of relevance to one's existence as an integrated personality and to one's political and social commitments.
An emerging sense that if classes are small enough so that teacher and learners could be empathetically aware of each other, and if a habit of awareness of the process of teaching and learning was maintained, then the learning situation could evolve under and umbrella of mutual trust.