Friday, August 23, 2013

The School of Living and the Community

This is the third Green Revolution article about the life and work of Ralph Borsodi, and continues the series by examining the role the School of Living, an adult learning institute, plays in the formation of a community and the character of its people.

Ralph Borsodi was above all an educator.  Early in his career, in New York City, he taught people the rudiments of business finance.  He conducted seminars and workshops.  He provided his clients with painstakingly prepared financial analysis to help them run their businesses.  Like Benjamin Franklin he was trained in the art of printing and publishing.  He knew the power of the printed word.

When he moved to the country he invited friends from the city to the homestead to learn with him.  He and Myrtle Mae schooled their two sons at home.  He wrote books about the problems of industrial civilization.  By 1929 he was already formulating a new university-level curriculum to promote what he called quality mindedness (below); to train homesteaders to be leaders in a movement to build an alternative and humane society.

During the long years of World War II, after nearly two decades of experimentation with homesteading communities, Ralph Borsodi mulled the major problems of our lives.  In 1948 he published Education and Living, two volumes of his thoughts about education and its role in developing the person, the family and the community.  He had carefully studied what he considered barriers to the advancement of human civilization.  In this book he transformed the barriers into a program of personal and community development and laid the broad foundation of the School of Living.

This article will focus on Borsodi’s plan for the School of Living and how it is intended to shape an alternative community and economy.  In this article I will draw on Education and Living, on Borsodi’s other two major works on education, The Education of the Whole Man and Seventeen Problems of Man and Society and the forerunner of the vision, This Ugly Civilization.  The purpose of this article is to explore the subject matter Borsodi might suggest for a School of Living today – a curriculum – and begin to establish appropriate content for a New School of Living program for our day.

The Role of the School of Living

In two previous articles in Green Revolution I outlined two phases of Ralph Borsodi’s life and work.  The first article looked at the pioneering role Borsodi played in the back-to-the-land movement in the 1920’s and during the Great Depression 1930’s.  The second was about the history of the School of Living.  The purpose of this article is not just to make a historical note of Borsodi’s work on the School of Living but to serve as a further step on the road to re-establishing it as a learning institute in the twenty-first century.  Borsodi called the School of Living the center of the community.  This article will look at what he meant by that idea. 

Why is it important to re-establish Borsodi’s model of education?  The short answer is that then it was a response to a world in distress.  He started this work, in his early thirties, following the horrors of World War I, “The Great War” it was called, an industrial war fought by the first generation of weapons of mass destruction including machine guns, rapid firing artillery, aerial bombardment, submarines, tanks and poison gas.  It was a war of machines.  Millions of flesh and blood soldiers were slaughtered (bodies rarely recovered) for mere square miles of land taken and lost again, and millions of civilians perished of hunger, disease and collateral violence.  It was only the dress rehearsal for what was to come.

The war brought unprecedented centralization to government, industry, finance and education.  Following the war came a surge of risky economic speculation, a wild and hedonistic decade, then the greatest economic catastrophe of modern history and then an even greater world war.  That brought on even greater centralization and commercialization.

The Great War (WW I) was not the only sign of the ills of the age.  The Evangelicals got an amendment into to the US Constitution prohibiting the sale of alcohol.  The 18th Amendment affirmed their claim of human sinfulness and depravity.  Forty-six of 48 states ratified it.  Freud and friends firmly established a psychological theory that said our minds are dominated by a dark force, with an ominous name, the Id.  In Russia Marx’s dark and violent dream of history found its bloody champion in Joseph Stalin.  Darwin’s theory not only reduced human existence to an accident of nature but social interpretations of his doctrine of “survival of the fittest” became a popular justification for predatory behavior in business and government.  The cities were teeming with impoverished masses, loathsome slums and criminal gangs.  Factory workers performed long, grueling days of often dangerous labor for pitiful wages.  When injured or worn out by toil they were simply discarded.

Borsodi’s solution was that we had to abandon the cities, close the factories and return to an agrarian, self-reliant, form of life.  To do that would take an organized effort of community building and to do that would require a School of Living.

How does that relate to today?  Borsodi’s ugly civilization has become a global phenomenon.  Our economy recently went through a Great Recession and recovery is still more hope than reality.  A dark cloud of environmental, economic and political uncertainty hangs heavily over our heads.  There is a new reactionary movement:  In place of back-to-the-land, today the largest movement on the planet is sustainability.  Local foods and self-sufficiency are again the platform of the movement.  We need a method to catalyze this movement into a transformative force.  The School of Living was designed for just that purpose.

Why did civilization not collapse, as many believed it would, decades ago?  In large part because we found a cheap source of energy to drive it, oil.  The automobile, airplane, diesel locomotive, tractor-trailer, vast oceangoing tankers and container ships and transportation-dependent suburban metropolises are the product of cheap and abundant oil.  The so-called green revolution in agriculture in the developing world, and industrial agriculture in general, now penetrating every corner of the world, are also made possible by cheap oil.  A century ago a farm had to produce more calories than it consumed.  Today, each calorie of food on your plate contains 7-10 calories of energy, mostly oil.  We are beginning to run out of oil and it is no longer cheap.  The by-product of all that carbon fuel is global warming with its own set of perils.  We do not have anything like a systematic program to build a new economy.  Meanwhile global population continues to soar.

Our lives, that is, our industrial civilization, is unsustainable.  We are, short of some scientific miracle, on the verge of a global economic meltdown[1].  To secure our future we must adapt a new way of thinking, and a new type of school to teach us how to live, to work and to plan a safe and secure society. 

Ralph Borsodi spent his life on the problem of making our lives more secure but he is now largely forgotten.  I will argue that we need to again take up his model of learning how to live, to live sustainably and humanely, with renewed intensity.  We need to understand what he had to teach us.

First Glimmerings

During the Roaring Twenties Borsodi began his campaign against the mass hysteria of the new century.  He moved his family from New York City, the city he thought the icon of industrial depravity, to a country homestead.  There they learned to produce for themselves.  Borsodi begin writing books about the fallacies of the industrial era.  In 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, he published This Ugly Civilization.  It was not about just the old, ugly, society but also outlined a new and humane civilization. 

He was carrying the torch of social reform dating back over a quarter of a century.  That reform, an agrarian movement, was even then fading into history.  In This Ugly Civilization he wrote about the barriers industrial civilization erected against re-humanization, described his family’s homesteading experience and outlined a program for what was to become the School of Living. 
When Borsodi first formulated the idea of a School of Living he was, in part, dissatisfied with the quality of the local public schools so he and Myrtle Mae home-schooled their two sons.  Borsodi already had some very strong views on education in general.  He didn’t like school when he was a boy and spent much time in the public library learning what he needed; starting a life of broad and deep learning.  He knew there was a better way to learn how to live.

He and Myrtle Mae also taught visiting city friends the art of homesteading.  In 1933 he published the popular Flight From the City (republished in paperback in 1972), adapted from This Ugly Civilization, twice served as a handbook for the back-to-the-land movement. 

I wrote about how he went to Dayton, Ohio to try to help form homesteading communities in the wake of the Great Depression, in an earlier article.  That project was decimated by Federal centralization, choked by red tape.  He moved on to the first of several private homesteading projects, at Suffern, New York, in 1936.  There he established the first School of Living to help city-breed homesteading families learn the rudiments of self-sufficient living on the land.  There was more to this model than a vocational school (albeit practicality was always Borsodi’s goal).  He, like Jefferson, not only wanted to see a self-reliant agrarian community but one peopled by men and women of high character who would work to build a new, just, free and secure society.  That first School of Living was also a research center that explored how best to build an alternative educational system.

It doesn’t take much reading of history to realize that the idea of civilization is synonymous with agriculture.  Human civilization appeared only after the founding of agriculture.  From that time until the dawn of the industrial age, human life and values came largely from the land.  Although US Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson idolized the yeoman farmer, his political opponents, men with money and a mechanical vision of life, prevailed.

Politics has always been behind American industrialization.  In Jefferson’s day, there was a commerce-driven political movement, inspired by Adam Smith, whose prophet in American was Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton started the pro-business Federalist Party, what we would now call conservative Republicans, which sought to transform American (agrarian) life.  Federalism was not founded on the democratic ideal but rather on factories, big banks and global commerce[2].  Over the course of the nineteenth century American culture and values were transformed from the Jefferson’s vision of the quality life, lived close to the cycles of nature, to one of the factory, of wage labor, congested cities and life driven by the ticking of the clock.  The Hamiltonians championed an ugly, mechanical culture ruled by a very small wealthy minority.  Sound familiar?

Even before Borsodi was born there was a popular revolt against the emerging commercial order.  It was called Populism.  Farmers fought long and hard in the US to retain the value system they knew was the soul of America.  Populism sought to preserve American agrarian values, to improve the quality of life of the farmers so that their children wouldn’t run away to the cities for jobs, and to preserve the best in the American soul.  Out of this movement came Henry George who influenced Borsodi’ father and shaped Ralph Borsodis world view.  Populism gave way to Progressivism (a compromise between land and factory) then to rampant industrialization at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Today only some one percent of our population works on the land, many of them as farm managers or laborers, practicing industrial agriculture.

Borsodi thought deeply about the influence of education on the mind of the day – a mind driven by quantitative concerns and not issues of quality of life; that is, of matters that make us human, which give meaning and purpose to our lives and above all allow us to live a civilized life.
We must go back to the land, said Borsodi.  He believed that the homestead, centered on the family that lived on it and produced the essentials of life for themselves, would restore the good life.  The homestead, he asserted, would raise food of superior nutritional quality, provide real physical work and health, develop manual and practical skills, strengthen familial bonds, become the first school for and improve the learning and character of children and serve as the building material of a robust community.

Education and Living

Education and Living (1948) has two basic themes.  First it explains why modern man failed to find the good life.  Then it explains how that good life can be achieved.  The failure is the result of mis-education, a system of education that molds us to work in the factory, to struggle for a wage rather than living the life of a human being.  The solution is re-education.  In between Borsodi goes to great lengths to explain what is wrong with our current system of enculturation and the principles underlying an education for living.

The major themes of Education and Living include:  Decentralization, Major Universal Problems, Normalization (Normal Human Beings), Quality-mindedness, Family, Community and the School of Living.  These two volumes are only a part of the evolution of Borsodi’s thinking about living the good life.  He worked for another twenty years to refine the model.

Borsodi was himself a scholar.  He was bookish, analytical, and intellectual.  He was not an academician.  He was not even college educated.  He was always a practical man.  He earned his living as an accountant, publisher and business consultant.  When he and his family pioneered back-to-the-land, they all worked to produce food and fiber and things needed to support life.  He was, nevertheless, a mental giant, indeed a genius.  Behind every page of published material are at least ten pages of carefully documented research.  At one time there was a School of Living library of 2,500 books, all likely thoughtfully read by him.

While he undoubtedly believed everyone should read and discuss good books, I do not think he believed everyone should conduct research as he did.  The fundamental thesis of Education and Living is that the community forms around teachers, men and women who do have that scholarly state of mind.  These teachers should be held in special esteem.  They are a natural leadership, not a leadership of authority but of education. 

Education is persuasion, reasoning, thoughtfulness, a deep conversation; consensus forming.  It is not about classroom teaching; it is about learning.  It is learning under the guidance of those esteemed for their experience of life, for their wisdom and judgment.  These are not ivory-tower intellectuals but people who live in the community, work, tend their gardens, raise children, go to picnics and public celebrations, sing and dance and are good neighbors.   There are no priest or politicians in this community; no elected, appointed or anointed authority.  They are not needed.

Decentralization is an incredibly important feature of Borsodi’s work.  It is intricately linked with an idea Borsodi calls the “Normal Human Being.”  He goes to some length to explain what he means by Normal and abnormal living.  Abnormality is the life of the industrial city.  It is detachment form the land and from nature.  It is a condition of dependence rather than self-reliance.  It is indoctrination into the various ideologies of control that makes industrial civilization possible at all[3].  Decentralization breaks that pattern of psychological conditioning.  The topic of decentralization will be in an upcoming article in this series in the Green Revolution.

Learning is a community activity.  Borsodi recognized nine stages (ages) in life.  Each has its own learning requirements.  Education begins at birth, with the family, and is continued in community schools (one-room schools) where the three r’s and skills for learning are acquired.  Vocational schooling provides skills (and a lot of this is apprenticeship and on-the-job learning).  All levels of community learning are housed in a single campus, a special place built with dignity and distinction.  Professional schools (that teach medicine and law and other demanding vocations) and small universities are located in regional towns but remain intimately connected to all the communities within that region.

The School of Living is for adult education.  It is something that happens every day in the community.  It is about building character, a deeper understanding of life and of history and of human nature.  It includes literature and art and science.  It encompasses a growing understanding of the subject matter of the major problems of life.  It is, above all, practical.  And it is enjoyable, rewarding, satisfying in its own right.

Here is Borsodi’s model of community education:

Quality Mindedness

What makes the ugly civilization so pathological is what Borsodi called “quantity mindedness.”  Quantity-mindedness is about money, not human values.  It is banking and factories and railroads and advertising.  It is about shaping the consumer mentality.  It is about conditioning people to work and die for men of power and wealth, for ideologies.  The result is squalid and unhealthy cities, poverty, crime, bigotry, inequality, wars and all the things that offend the humane sensibility.

Eric Hoffer, a contemporary of Borsodi’s, a longshoreman and philosopher, wrote a best seller about ideological fanaticism.  Hoffer, a German-American, was appalled by the influence of Nazism on his countrymen.  He became equally alarmed with the rise of fanatically communism during the early days of the Cold War.  Hoffer, in another book, found the root cause in the “ordeal of change” and explored the role of the ideologue in shaping the public mind; robbing us of our individuality, rationality and integrity.  Hoffer despised such intellectuals.  Borsodi found much the same influence in mass advertising.

Quality mindedness is about living the life of a human being.  I’ve quoted Borsodi elsewhere about this topic.  These bullets summarize those ideas: 
·      Quality mindedness springs out of life on the land, self-sufficiency:  Men and women free of dependency.  They can be indifferent to the pressures the working man or woman, the wage-slave, must submit to.
·      Quality mindedness is free of the ideological constraints imposed by plutocrats; the reckless drive for wasteful material accumulation.  It thus takes from the men of authority their coercive power.
·      Such a life enables us to refuse work that outrages our tastes; that prostitutes our creative talents.
·      It permits the type of free thinking that allows a humane society to be formed and perpetuated.
·      It provides the human race with a more intelligent social leadership, one based on education and persuasion, not power and coercion.
·      It enables us to truly pursue happiness.

Quality-minded people live a Normal Life.  They do so by studying and understanding the great ideas that have illumined the human path, by rejection of the ideals and values of a corrupted society, by returning to the land and achieving economic independence, by forming sound families and by living in community with others like themselves,.  Most of all they achieve a Normal Life by erecting, at the heart of the community, both figuratively and literally, a School of Living.

Normal Community

In Education and Living, Borsodi devoted 400 pages to the topic of Normal Living.  Major topics include:  The ideology of Normal Living, the implementation of Normal Living, the Normal Individual, the Normal Family and the Normal Community. 

Normal Living involves getting outside the dominant culture; breaking away.  Breaking away is not a sudden departure but a slow and steady egress.  It involves building a whole new lifestyle, a whole new set of behaviors and attitudes. 

Normality is not the anti-establishment chant of the Sixties Counterculture but does start with non-participation.  It is not one of competition or reform; there is nothing to compete against and there is no reform of the old order.  It is a whole new ideology; a whole new world-view.  Borsodi contrasts Normal Living with abnormal living because we often come to understanding what a thing is by what it is not.  Most important, to achieve Normality requires right-education.  To achieve that,
“All the knowledge and wisdom of mankind must be integrated to make more and more practicable the application of the general principles, not only to the daily problems of living, but to the specific and critical conditions with which modern man is confronted. Right-education, in principle and in practice, alone offers hope that all the labors of mankind and the sufferings individuals undergo in the course of life can be rendered significant, and dignified and justified.”

Borsodi put a lot of emphasis on the “integration” of knowledge.  It is first of all a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the human race, both East and West, and a full dose of science and the arts.  There is far less emphasis on accumulating new knowledge than on understanding the incredible record of human experience we already have.  Human beings have been working on the problems of living from the beginning.  It means not only learning but digesting that knowledge.  It means putting it to use in daily life.

We achieve normality only through our relationship with others.  We are a social species and our nature is cooperative rather than competitive.  That relationship begins with the family.  The family continues to be central to the life of the individual from birth until death; family, in Borsodi’s view, is multi-generational.  The family is the producer.  With the family comes the first basic understanding of social organization.  The family, however, can only achieve Normality within a healthy, Normal, Community.
Normalization involves working on three things simultaneously:  self, family and community.  To create the conditions of Normal Living is thus a very strenuous undertaking.  While all of these topics are vital to understanding the School of Living, this article will focus on the Normal Community[4].

School of Living

As Borsodi describes it, the School of Living is the central feature of the, and I’ll use the term more current, “sustainable” community.  I need to stress the term “community.”  The School of Living serves a society of people who enjoy a special quality of mind.  That quality of mind is found in communal association with other Normal people.

The idea of an extraordinary community organized around an exemplary learning institution goes back to at least Pythagoras.  It is found in the ancient Jewish Rabbinic tradition.  It is found in the medieval cathedral schools and in monastic societies around the world.  It is found in Confucius.  Emerson described the quality mind as a product of scholarship.  Froebel, Pestalozzi, Montessori and others dreamed of such schools.  Hoffer also championed a new school for the working people he admired, a school with aims very similar to Borsodi’s vision.  Many of these schools place less emphasis on community organization than Borsodi but they all sought to improve the overall quality of life.

Borsodi spent decades developing the ideal way to educate a healthy, psychologically sound, integral, Normal, human being.  With Education and Living that model starts to unfold.  He undertook more educational projects in the US and India.  Right down to the end of his long and productive life he worked to clarify his vision, his model and his method.  That is why he is worth studying.  That he was forgotten is because he was, as they say, “ahead of his time.”  More accurately we could say that he was swamped by the wave of cheap energy that continued to drive a mindless plunge towards something called “progress.”  Yes, the times were against him.  Now we are again in crisis.  He gave us something very solid to build on. And yes, another several decades have brought us new and useful insights.


In the introduction to Flight from the City, Borsodi listed four purposes of the School of Living:
1.     To associate a selected group of artists, craftsman and teachers in a demonstration of the contribution which decentralized, self-sufficient living in the country may make to redress the economic and psychological insecurity of our industrialized civilization:
2.     To study and develop the possibilities of the home and homestead as a productive and creative institution
3.     To furnish to men and women the opportunity to follow a carefully developed plan of learning and experiences in living securely, comfortably and richly and in leading others to live equally well;
4.     To offer those who may be able to come for short visits only, a place to see and study the relationship of homesteading and domestic produce.
a.     To the past, present and future;
b.     To our present industrialized, centralized, organized, political society; and
c.     To make life more meaningful to themselves here and now.

Borsodi planned the School of Living as what he called an “enterprise” level of organization.  Organization was always high on the list of Borsodi’s priorities.  That has, however, becoming an increasingly problematic subject[5].  Sensitive people these days have, largely as a response to the unending trauma of the dark side of modern society, withdrawn so far into themselves that they actually abhor the very idea of an organized activity.  One study of Boomer generation back-to-the-landers showed a strong anti-communitarian attitude. 

Associate, perhaps, but organize, no.  Even “association” is weakening by the spread of the latest wave of industrialization:  information technology.  Our rapidly emerging social networking technology has driven more wedges between relationships.  It encourages chat over engagement, texting over contact.  Even the best and brightest of use are more interested in polite and reasonably eloquent expression of opinion rather than the nitty-gritty, hard work, of organization and achievement.

Borsodi clearly documented that advertising was the chief agent of education in his day.  It was (and is) the most powerful force in mis-education.  In his day the newspapers, magazines and radio were the media of advertising.  Then came the television, the personal computer and now the smart phone and tablet.  Ours is a consumer society.  Nine of ten jobs are in services; not production but providing support for consumers.  Cell phones, text messaging, social networking, web browsers, services to download music and videos and now a growing host of downloadable applications, increasingly define our lives.  Even when you pay for a service, it is a medium of advertising.  

These services are powerfully organized enterprises.  To counter them takes far more than just slipping away (with cell phone in pocket and laptop or tablet in backpack).  To counter them will require a counter-organization.  That counter-organization is the Normal Community.  There are several features it must have:
1.     A name – a symbol which makes it possible to apprehend its existence, to think about it, to feel about it, and to act about it.
2.     Members – not just residents but persons who both feel that they are members and feel that they owe fealty to it.
3.     Land – it must have boundaries which define the commonwealth and the area over which it is sovereign, an area within a reasonable commuting distance.
4.     A center – for its institutes and a place to which people come and in which they meet to transact their business and social affairs.
5.     Body of customs – which are commonly accepted and observed.
6.     Leaders – not like those in the larger society but to whom community members are drawn because of their learning and practical experience in life.
7.     All institutions – for self governance, educational, economic, recreational.
8.     All group functions – to enable its people to live like genuinely civilized human beings.

Borsodi provided the following graphic illustration of the community, organized around the School of Living.  Immediately surrounding the School of Living are placed other institutions such as:  Library and Museum, Common and High School, Vocational School, Auditorium, Churches, Hotel, Bank, Market-place, Shops and Factories, Post Office, Bus Terminal, Town Hall, Men’s Club, Women’s Club, Young Men’s Club, Young Women’s Club: Then plots for subsistence homestead, plots for family farmsteads, common pasture, town forest and forest belt.

Obviously the community is a very well organized small society.  It contains all the functions necessary to achieve self sufficiency.  Around this core community could readily be added other clusters of home/farmsteads (he provides an illustration, done by friend Shirley Miles, of a township of some 30,000 people – an actual proposal).  The community has its By-laws (“By” is Danish for “Town.”).  Beyond the community is a region, an area defined by an easy commute, and within that region would be a town, a larger built environment, which would include the university, professional schools, hospital and other institutions, facilities and services that are needed to support civil life.  There are no nations in this plan.  In Borsodi’s grand view, the world is made up of communities, regions and some type of planetary body that gives the human race a collective identity.

Borsodi went to some length to describe membership in a Normal Community.  In short a member is someone who lives there permanently and who accepts responsibility for all of the community’s vital activities.  It has occurred to me that a community is for a settled agrarian population what a tribe is for a nomadic hunter-gathering population.  It is unlikely that a Normal Community would include more than a few hundred adults.

Some of the features Borsodi outlined, as a focus of community, were: 
1.     Perpetual Community Survey
2.     Perpetual Community Plan
3.     Instructional Activities
4.     Festival and Commemorative Activities
5.     Inspirational Activities


In the final part of Education and Living are three chapters on Re-education: 
1.     The Normalization of Man,
2.     The Organization of Re-Education, and
3.     Education and Leadership:  The Challenge to the Teachers of Mankind.

The School of Living is for adults.  It is not about providing the education we didn’t get in school but about learning to live as mature individuals.  It’s about all aspects of life and living.  It concerns personal and individual topics and social and gregational topics.  Learning ends only in death. 
The School of Living is a social institution; it is about fellowship.  That is more than what occurs in a “congregation,” which is by definition merely the gathering of a crowd of people.  It is about living in human community.

How the community functions is found in the seventeen (then 13) major problems of man and society.  These are the major departments of learning.  How these problems are addressed includes:
1.     An attitude of taking decisive action
2.     Preparing ourselves to solve problems
3.     Attracting and holding attention – the emotions
4.     Rouse and hold interest
5.     Creating a desire to live like Normal human beings
6.     Move people to action


In This Ugly Civilization, Borsodi outlined, in considerable detail, what he then called the barriers to living:
1.     Moral Barriers
2.     Psychological Barriers
3.     Educational Barriers
4.     Individual Barrier

He wrote about the subject matter needed to overcome them:  “We need for everyday living: (1) economic polices, (2) physiological, (3) social, (4) biological, (5) psychological habits; and (6) religious, (7) moral, (8) political (9) education, (10) individual values.”  To that list of subjects he added history – past, present and future, and the arts and sciences.  These subjects are learned not in separate compartments but as different facets of the whole of living our lives.  They are approached not in the abstract but in terms of their use in life.

In Education and Living Borsodi gave a long list of “resource leaders,” fields that suggest areas of study, including:

Psychologist and Psychiatrist
Sociologist and Social Worker
Cultural Anthropologist
Educational Scientist
Public Relations Counselor
Musician and Dance Master
Painter and Sculptor
Industrial Designer
Nutritionist and Bio-Chemist
Sexual and Eugenic Scientist
Population Scientist
Political Scientist
Jurist and Attorney
Criminologist and Penologist
Police and Military Scientist
Political Economist
Home Economist
Agriculture and Forestry Scientist
Financier and Banker
Accountant (C. P. A.)
Architect and Landscape Architect
Business Management Specialist
Insurance and Investment Counselor

Borsodi admired St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  Its founders, Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan, set up a new curriculum based on the Great Books of the Western World in 1936.  This curriculum was derived from the Great Books project at the University of Chicago under Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler[6]

The St John’s curriculum consists solely of the study of these great books.  There are no lectures, only seminars.  The program introduces students to the entire scope of western culture.  It also includes arts, music and lab work, often repeating landmark original experiments in science.  Borsodi included the wisdom of the East. 

This type of education nurtures quality mindedness.  It teaches critical thinking.  St. Johns bestowed a master’s degree, the highest degree it confers, on Borsodi for his work in education[7].  Borsodi retained affection for St. John’s to the end of his life. 

The School of Living curriculum is also firmly founded on Borsodi’s Seventeen Problems of Man and Society[8].  Following is an outline of those topics:

Part I, Noetics:  Four Basic Intellectual Problems.
Problem I:  Antrhopoic:  The riddle of human nature, the problem of the nature of man’s own nature.
Problem II:  Ontoic:  The riddle of the universe, the problem of the nature of the world in which man finds himself.
Problem III:  Etiologic:  The riddle of historiography, the causes of the events which constitute the history of the world and the individual experiences constituting every biography.
Problem IV:  Epistemic:  The riddle of communication, the problem of distinguishing between truth and error and of verifying and validating and communicating what is true.

Part II, Axiology:  Four Basic Problems in Values.
Problem V:  Telic values:  Convictions and prejudices about ends and means, about the really important purposes of mankind.
Problem VI:  Ethical values:  The problem of good and evil.
Problem VII:  Esthetic values:  The problem of beauty and ugliness.
Problem VIII:  Economic or Utilitarian values:  The problem of distinguishing between wealth (and well-being) and Illth (the opposite of wealth and well-being).

Part III, Praxiology:  Nine Basic Practical Problems.
Problem IX:  Psycho-Physiological Problem:  Mental and physical health, realize highest potentialities.
Problem X:  Occupational Problem:  How we spend our time.
Problem XI:  Possessional Problem:  Owning and holding things.
Problem XII:  Organizational Problem:  The science (principles) or organizing all sorts of enterprises needed to live rationally and humanely.
Problem XIII:  Production Problem:  The science (principles) or organizing all sorts of production of goods and services needed to support a rational and humane life.
Problem XIV:  Distribution Problem:  The science (principles) or organizing all sorts of distribution of goods and services needed to support a rational and humane life.
Problem XV:  Political Problem:  Elimination not of differences of opinion but violence.
Problem XVI:  Institutional Problem:  Conservation and Reformation.  To retain or change institutions.
Problem XVII:  Educational Problem:  Man cannot rely upon his instincts.  We need a new educational model to develop that which is truly human in us.

Each of these problems is carefully outlined and each comes with a bibliography of books to read in order to understand and resolve the problem.  Obviously there are more books that can be added to that list today. 

We have begun seminars on Borsodi’s seventeen problems at Ahimsa Village[9].

New School of Living

It can not be overemphasized that the community forms around the School of Living.  How does one form such a School?  The first step is a study group of concerned men and women who devote time to study of the major problems of living.  This group, it only takes a handful of dedicated people, formally organize the School of Living in their community.  The size and form of the school must fit the community.  Borsodi said that each School of Living, when the time came, should have its own “expressive and impressive building” at the geographic center of the community.  It should have certain distinct features:  “A dignified meeting room, a number of seminar or committee rooms, a research library, office rooms, and perhaps a homestead for the occupancy of the staff.”  In the latter instance there should be kitchen and work shop, out-buildings, and a model of the productive home.

As we form a New School of Living, a program of study, a curriculum, suitable to the needs of the community, will have to be established.  So will a library, updated by a half-century of new resources and understanding, organized around the major problems of life.  As community members progress in their re-education they will establish the infrastructure of the new community.  That has got to be one of the greatest adventures we can undertake in this century. 

Last year, 2011, saw the revitalization of the idea of a new Schools of Living.  This year, be it resolved, we will make firm progress by forming study groups, bringing back Borsodi’s books, and creating a strong association of champions for this project.

[1] Economic meltdown will likely come decades before irreversible climate change.  Building a new energy economy now (which includes everything that depends on energy) could prevent both catastrophes.
[2] Hamilton, himself a Founding Father, in fact despised democracy.  After the new US democracy was formed, he turned his interest to banking and industrial development.
[3] Is it not curious that schools look like factories, and increasingly, prisons.
[4] The individual is an important study in its own right.  Too much of what we call individuality today is actually coping with alienation, not actualizing beingness.  This will be another future Green Revolution article.
[5] Organization is one of his “major problems.”
[6] You can find The Great Books in just about any library.  Encyclopedia Britannica mass marketed tens of thousands of 54 volume sets.
[7] The University of New Hampshire later conferred a doctorate on Borsodi.
[8] Soon to be back in print.
[9] A School of Living affiliate, Julian, Pennsylvania

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