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Chapter 4


The studio system has relatives in the workshops and laboratories of other colleges, but it is carried out thoroughly and uniquely at the University. Each subject occupies its studio. Each student will join the studios of his subjects and there undertake whatever work may be needed to carry him to his goals.

The professors work in and direct the studio's activities. They are assisted by their student Members and by other faculty Members. They can call upon experts outside the University to lend their special knowledge to the inter-disciplinary solution of the problems of the field.

For instance, a physiologist will visit the Studio of Society and Personality to discuss organic aspects of mental illness, and the psychologist will sometimes reciprocate in the Life Studio. Or a historian of science from the Technology Studio will participate in discussions of the Studio of Group Violence to discuss the social effects of weaponry inventions.

The studio consists of an apartment for conference, consultation, and study, with pertinent books, audio-visual aids, and other equipment, together with auxiliary furnishings for the comfort of the studio group. The studio is the class. Students may enter and leave at will, from early morning till midnight, all through the year.

The "class" consists of those who make the studio their point of reference on the subject. Thus, students who are specializing in a subject mingle with students who specialize in other fields, who are doing less concentrated work in this one. The advanced students encounter beginners.


A couple of examples may be of help in understanding how programs of study are formed, changed, and completed. Suppose a student arrives in the month of June; she knows French moderately well and wishes to postpone advanced study in that language. Rather, she wishes to begin promptly learning to become a professional writer. Perhaps she has indicated in advance that she wishes to enroll in the Studios of Poetry and Fiction, Communication, Futuristics, and Ideology. She visits the Poetry and Fiction Studio, where she discusses with a professor what she might do. Observing that her interests tend toward science fiction, he suggests a program of readings and reviews in Utopias and classics of science fiction, to last for a period of three months, with weekly conferences. After that, they decide that she should begin to write a story of her own, over another period of time.

Next she visits the Studio on Communications, where it is discovered that her interest lies in story material about plants -- mushrooms, perhaps. The professor and she may conclude that the Communications Studio ought not occupy her at this time, but rather that she should use the Life Studio, where her biological preparation may be advanced. So she visits the Life Studio, and there arranges a program of readings, reviews, and conferences on plant physiology and the rapidly developing literature in botany and psychology on fungi.

Her choice of the Studio in Futuristics is deemed relevant, and she develops there a program dealing with agricultural trends and the variety of science fiction work about extraordinary plants. In the Ideology Studio she strikes the different "isms" that have associated themselves with sacred plants throughout history and even today.

In every case, she builds a timed and specific program, and there is as much coordination among the studios as possible. She is not torn and confused by compulsory, unrelated courses that follow the special bent of a given professor. This now is "liberal education" in fact. It is not known whether she will go on indefinitely along these lines. She may find that her original interest is evolving in science fiction into an interest in agricultural planning. And so she may shift her studies accordingly, focusing upon a particular culture, such as Spain, whereupon she learns Spanish and does field projects in Spain.

Not only that, but from time to time she discovers herself to be completely absorbed in one studio at the expense of her other programs. If this is the case, she simply writes a note to her professor

in the other studio, saying, for example, "I haven't been able to carry on my project because I've become heavily involved in the Poetry and Fiction Studio."

He will ordinarily acknowledge her note and put her project "on the shelf." Meanwhile, she will have written her story in a larger format or in a shorter time, and when it is completed, give a note to her fiction counsellor to the effect that "I accomplished a great deal more than I expected in our original plan, etc...," while he will respond in agreement, appraising the project.


The question has been raised: "How can a student be so free to pursue his program and yet take up a subject that requires straight progressive learning stages; won't he be walking into the middle of things and have to catch up?" Like many other questions about this highly innovative University, this one has a logical resolution that comes from the structure and system of the University. In the typical university, people are forced into classes, and it is taken for granted that the students must follow a given text or other staged sequences. Here, where each student's program is personal, he follows a tutorial system that lets him begin where he has to begin, and continue at the pace and with the materials that best help him to develop. Of course, if several students coincide on a certain problem -- say, a need to understand the newest theories of cell structure -- a set of group discussions would be arranged.

Two notable exceptions exist. Language training is typically conducted in small groups at a scheduled pace. Also, the Rapport Center's basic unit is a small group. In both cases, the group is itself an essential factor in the learning process.

In sum, the free flow of a Member's interests and development forms his personalized curriculum. He may complete his stay at the University after experiencing few or many studios. When he finishes an agreed-upon program in one studio, he may join another. If he wishes to cut his stay in order to go elsewhere to study or work, he may do so and return.


The University occupies the old theatre of Sion. For centuries it was used by the town for dramatic presentations and concerts, but as the town grew, a new theatre was built in the modern center of Sion. The University can arrange the Old Theatre for dramatic and musical presentations or any similar events.

The Performing Arts Studio will have several sub-studios as membership expands. At present two trends of interest dominate. One tends toward the reworking and representation of ancient Greek theatre in English, the other, towards experimental, even futuristic theatre. There are already many lavishly supported state theatres that put on moderns like Pirandello and Brecht, and so the studio does not wish to enter this field. And Shakespearan and French Classical drama are also well established elsewhere. But the studio believes that state theatres in East and West Germany, Czechoslovakia the Italian cities, and so forth, are not doing enough experimental multi-media drama. In fact, apart from historical representations, much contemporary theatre lacks popular meaning and cannot support itself without heavy subsidy. To "revive" drama, for today and tomorrow, means total reconstruction -- the search for new themes and new media of expression. This requires exposing minds 360 around, exploring all the possibilities of today's new media and techniques and to the social facts of life today. Dance, music, and light are to be tied into new concepts of theatre. What may emerge would be forms having little resemblance to the theatre of times past.


Many will notice the absence of history as such among the list of studios. The University believes that the study of history is important, but that it should be conducted by each studio or by a combination of studios, and be appropriate to the historical topic. Each studio has its own historical problems. The history of militarism is part of the Studio on Group Violence; the history of antibiotics is part of the work of the Life Studio; the history of free verse forms material for the Poetry and Fiction Studio.

The technique of historiography, like that of microscopy, or of sample surveys, or of personality analysis should be learned from experts, whatever their studio. For example, if a Member of the Studio on the Rich and Poor wishes to investigate how Swiss rural villages maintain a decent standard of living on small resources, he may contact a professor from another studio who can guide him in the materials of Swiss history; or a sample survey expert in the Communications Studio who can show him how to select and interview persons dwelling in the village; he might also enlist an experienced skier from the Sports Studio to accompany him to remote areas.

The Studio on Sports shows some of the innovative and applied features of the University's approach to man and society. A release about it, prepared by Professor Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi can be quoted at length.


Members can work in one or more of four areas. A person concentrating his work in this studio would probably become involved in all of them.


Active participation in a variety of sports and games. Three kinds of physical activities are stressed: a) Organic physical activities that involve the whole body in a systematic relationship with cognitive and emotional processes: Natural gymnastics (sometimes called "Hebertisme" or "natural gymnastics"); Yoga (especially Kundalini yoga); Judo or Zen archery. b) Individual physical exercise Mountain climbing, rock climbing skiing, etc. -- for all of which training is provided in situ. c) Team sports: Football, soccer, etc. Outcomes: Teachers, performers health.


Participants should become familiar with: a) The general history of sports and games; b) The specific development of one sport or game; c) Psychological, sociological, and anthropological theories about the origin and function of sports and games will be mastered, both from a synchronic and a diachronic perspective (i.e., from the point of view of the development of the game, and from the point of view of the individual's development). Outcomes: Teachers, scholars, planners, writers.


A substantial research effort from individual, paired, and group research is involved. Methodology might involve an etiological, psychological, sociological, or anthropological approach. An empirical contribution is expected: either a laboratory, observational, interview, or census-type collection of data and its systematic analysis (e.g., ski-team survey of remote alpine villages on the depopulation of rural Switzerland). Outcomes: Scholars, planners.


Chances to provide opportunities to the rest of the University community for pursuing sports and other autotelic (self-sparking) activities. Chess tournaments, ski trips, etc., will be organized by the Studio, to gain experience in the application of autotelic processes. It is to be hoped that new ideas and institutions will be conceived and developed within the Studio, for example, an "outward bound" type of movement that would involve urban children in meaningful activities, or to take an opposite example, construction of a New World board game. Outcomes: Teachers, organizers, designers, communicators.


It should be clear that the University is moving ahead on a very broad front of creativity, innovation and applications. It is not enough to try out a handful of new rules and call it an educational revolution. How things are learned is inseparable from what emerges from the new learning. To capture the spirit of the University and its aims, one should recall the American and French Revolutions of the late eighteenth century, in which every aspect of education and society were critically re-examined and social and physical inventions abounded. We are ready for another complete experience of this type today.


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