Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mission Impossible

Dear Colleagues,

“Your job is to teach us How to Think.”

Said one of 2 students assigned to our Task
Force for Reviewing Curriculum back in the
mid-80’s, after a dean and a president had
been released due to irreconcilable differences
and we were beginning again under new
management— a brief period of assessment
that ended up listing things we celebrated.

John Casey may be the only
one other than me here now
who participated in that review.

I quit the committee close to the

(discussing it with Casey, the
2 of us sitting in the car up North
Lane, having given him a ride home
after one of the sessions)

—me: extending a series of drop-outs
& dismissals that have punctuated my
“career” in hire education soon after
acquiring Ph.degreed and teaching
briefly at N.C. State before arriving
in Swannanoa.

“I don’t think this is going anywhere,

(A few of us on the committee
wanted to reflect and analyze how it
happened that we eliminated a dean
and a president within 3 months.
Financial exigency? Sure.
I understand. )

In the early 80’s Dean Allen Holt (biologist),
identified with the college’s work & service
components, arriving with a strong mission to
make this place known as a “peace” college
and would play us tapes of Gordon Cosby
(founder of the Church of the Savior in DC)
as preface to faculty meetings.

[Staff and faculty meetings opened with some
kind of prayer or meditation, reflecting the 1894
mission orientation of Farm School, & then,
in the 40’s a Jr. college and by late 60’s:
“a fully
accredited liberal arts institution.”

I remember being asked to open soon after I arrived,
reading a quote from Thoreau: “How can a man be a
philosopher and not maintain his vital heat by better
methods than other men”—and see: now we’re a
“cool” college!

Actually, I read: “If you stand right fronting and
face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on
both its surfaces, and feel it’s sweet edge
dividing you through the heart and
marrow and so you will happily
conclude your mortal career.

Be it life or death, we crave only reality.
If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle
in our throats and feel cold in the extremities;
if we are alive let us go about our business.”

This is just some transcendentalism kind of
talk. Not bottom line: makes no common sense.
Glossolalia. I read it righteously as substitute to

President John Carey arrived 3 or 4 years
after Holt, when President Ben Holden retired
after 15 years here, and 20 years at Yale
(Secretary of the University). Carey’s given
mission: to whip the place into shape,


Right there: the basis for a
DIFFERENCE that Makes a Difference
reconcilable or irreconcilable
always up for grabs.

ACADEMICS on the one hand;
WORK’N SERVICE on the other hand.
2 (probably 3 ) distinct and radically
incommensurate value-sets .

And the question always is: how do they Just Get Along?
What’s the real difference among them?
(which is the basis for)

In the mid-80’s they did not get along: the two officials
who represented (embodied, manifested) these conflicting
values were set-up face-to-face and both went down. A
systemic agon and expurgation.

No one needed to take it personally, but of course we did:
much more interesting that way—blame this myn, blame
that myn, choose sides and miss the point altogether so
that when President Orr arrived, assigning his task force
to smoke the whole deal over, we were also instructed to
move on: train’s leaving the station, no time to wallow
and so: a list of things we celebrated was the end result of
our Reflection.

Your Job is To Teach Us How To Think.

That’s what I got out of the deal—before dropping out
and tuning in. Needed and wanted to learn-how my own
self. It’s hard: how-to. It’s not obvious, me: already
swimming in OPP (Other People’s Product).

I ask students in my class: “How many here don’t
know how to think and want to learn: raise your

No one ever does.
I’m not lying.

Pretty sure I can’t learn it on my own—unilaterally.
And have been just asking for it ever since, or
what’s a college for?

xxxooo, Sam

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