Sunday, June 24, 2012

About the New School of Living

The New School of Living is a project to create a life-long learning institute to support self-reliant, sustainable communities.

The NSoL program is founded on the educational principles of back-to-the-land pioneer Ralph Borsodi.  Borsodi founded the first school of living during the Great Depression.  Those were times of severe economic and social distress; much as we are again experiencing in the US and around the world today.

A thriving community requires an educational enterprise designed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, skills and psychological preparation (motivation and attitude) necessary to develop and maintain a sustainable economy and community.

The primary goal of the New School of Living is to develop the human resources necessary for forming a viable local economy and community.  By viable we mean a local economy that is self-sustaining.  By self-sustaining we mean that the local economy provides for increasingly larger shares of the community’s needs for material, energy and information.  The goal is to prepare homesteaders to achieve a degree of self-reliance and to form communities of such economically independent families into a viable community.

This approach drives a strong local economy that creates wealth through productive enterprises such as high quality local foods, local manufacturing and local services.  The local economy re-circulates wealth as investment capital to drive a rising spiral of local economic growth and security.  

By sustainable we stipulate that the community has a plan in place to understand what its needs are, how those needs are met, where resources come from and how sustainable these sources are, what resources it consumes and how it does so, what waste products are produced and how they are progressively eliminated, and what products and services are created that can be exchange with other communities.

Such communities are human scaled:  they represent a scope of involvement with the world that is meaningful, manageable and provides a sense of place, of home, where people want to live, raise their families and leave a lasting legacy.

The New School of Living is intended as a catalyst of the local economy.  As such it becomes one of if not the central institution of the local community.  Like the community it supports, it is self-sustaining, earning what it needs to sustain its own activities, beholding to none but its own community.

The New School of Living project is supported by Transition Centre.  The core objective of TC is to form the first NSoL, to create its curriculum, learning materials, a library, print and digital publishing, conduct research and develop a viable architecture of a sustainable community, build a pilot community, expand that pilot into a viable village environment, train people to set up their own communities and provide the resources for them to establish their own programs.  

Each of these communities, it should be noted, will be independent and self-determining.

A brief account of how the New School of Living began.

Ralph Borsodi was a successful New York City financial consultant and advisor.  During the 1920s he moved his family to a homestead near the city where they worked to meet their basic needs.  His book, Flight from the City (available for download on most e-book readers), gained him recognition as a founder of the back-to-the-land movement.  As a response to growing economic uncertain, after working to create a public homesteading project near Dayton, Ohio during the Great Depression, Borsodi established several homesteading communities built around a learning institute he planned to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for unemployed city dwellers to meet many of their own needs on a few acres of land.

Borsodi established a university in Florida, worked with Ghandian activists in India devoted to developing local economies and wrote four books about education and living.  He was honored for his work with a doctorate from the University of New Hampshire where his papers are now archived.  The School of Living has continued to the present as a not-for-profit land trust organization.  Borsodi’s books went out of print (now being restored).  The learning institute model was largely abandoned and is now also being restored.

Borsodi coined (and Schumacher borrowed) the term appropriate technology.  The New SoL format is entirely capable of embracing both traditional and emerging technology, of working with local colleges and universities, the business community and other institutions necessary to form a stronger local economic system.  Reinvestment of local wealth insures the formation of other enterprises to produce goods, provide services and create revenues for public services.  In that regard, Borsodi also developed and got approval from the U. S. Department of Treasury for the first US local currency.

The School of Living is a life-long learning program to promote general education, a model that consults the collective wisdom of the human race, preparation of citizens who are well informed participants in local democracy, formation of strong character, promotion of a strong culture and development of local institutions that are capable both of sustaining the community and adapting to inevitable change and challenges.

New School of Living goals.

The New School of Living proposes:
1.      To establish a learning institute to provide the knowledge, skills and preparation to support establishment of small agricultural enterprises and their supporting infrastructure.
2.      Create an experimental farm enterprise to house and support the NSoL.
3.      Develop and deliver an experiential curriculum to train small agricultural business owners to sustainably produce food, manage assets, develop businesses and participate in local self-governance.
4.      Support a land trust management model for the acquisition and development of homesteading properties and acquire new land for sustainable community development.
5.      Extend the curriculum to include supply and distribution chain components of the local food enterprise model.
6.      Promote financial models for development of local, sustainable small businesses.
7.      Achieve the object of producing ten percent of food consumed locally as an initial objective.
8.      Work with small distressed cities to establish a foundation for viable local, sustainable economies.
9.      Provide leadership training and development for sustainable community developers.
10.  Provide for ongoing general education of the community.