Louis Adamic on Black Mountain College

All quotes from Harper’s Monthly Magazine, “Education on a Mountain”

“They [the students] swim in intellgience and the desire to improve themselves.  Then uncertainty steals upon them, and they sink again into depression.  Not that the process ends here. They are continuous waves” (524)

“Men suffer most from unacknowledged self-contempt… He tries to act in such a way that he will be respected by others, and he becomes confused into thinking finally that this assumed self-respect he has pawned off on others is a reality. But underneath he knows or feels that it is all a lie.  Behind the front he offers to the world he is a disorderly person.  He never knows when he walks into a room but that the enemy is waiting for him, ready to show him up for the liar he is.  And yet, unconsciously, he longs for this very thing to happen to him.  But at the first onslaught of the real enemy he will fight as if he were a real enemy instead of a friend.  He has constructed and elaborately decorated the superficial self that he is to present to society.  It is as if he wore a carefully designed [pasteboard] mask, to the making of which he ha s given the most tender care, and behind this lives the real man, growing increasingly chaotic, miserable, and unhappy, longing for his deliverer but ready to receive him as an enemy.  The task of the college is to be his enemy-friend [frenemy]: the bitter enemy of the superficial self, the friend of the real self.   But the real one is starved, emaciated.  It must be fed back to life, while the superficial one must be attacked without mercy.” [524]

“[John Andrew Rice says] A good teacher is always more a learner than teacher, making the demand of everyone to be taught something….A man who never asks himself any questions had better not try asking others….A teacher must have something of humor, a deeply laid irony, and not be a cynic.  In the center of his being should be a calm, quiet, tough. [“But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.”] He must have in him the principle of growth; like the student, a sense of justice and a great capacity for dejection.
Teachers in a place like this, where education is taken seriously, should always bear in mind that they are the central problem; that we would provide the students with a liberal education if we merely gave them the privilege of looking on while we educated ourselves.  Also, that it’s wrong for us to want others to be like ourselves; that we must want to attend to being the sort of people that others ought to be like.” (526)

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