Schumacher College Opens Its Doors

"A school of ecological and spiritual studies,"
Schumacher College courses focus on
a new vision needed to sustain the Earth

One of the articles in The Learning Revolution (IC#27)
Originally published in Winter 1991 on page 6
Copyright (c)1991, 1996 by Context Institute

Waking early, I hear rain drumming down. The scent of old stone and wood, which have stood here for over six hundred years, has become familiar. Often I think of those who have come before me over the centuries – silent companions. I splash my face with cold water, pull on some clothes and a raincoat, my footsteps echoing in the high-ceilinged hall with the others’ as we assemble to begin our day with a period of silence.

The studies are intensive and rich; there are plenty of opportunities to interact with students, staff, faculty as we do chores and recreational things outside of instruction time. The bonds that are forming have the potential to be deep and long-lasting. I feel the power in the shared sense of purpose permeating the whole environment. It feels like learning in this way is really meaningful, and I cherish this opportunity to live these values, to embody our studies … this is how education ought to be!!

– from the imagined diary of Kari Berger as a Schumacher College student.

Society is in urgent need of fresh educational models; Schumacher College is just such a one: a radical blueprint for a new kind of learning respecting not only intellectual understanding but the earth and a sense of the sacred.

– Satish Kumar, Director

Located on part of an 800-acre estate in South Devon, England, stands a building called the Old Postern, built in 1380. Nearby are woodlands, a fourteenth century courtyard, and landscaped gardens of Dartington Hall – venerable surroundings for a radical experiment.

Schumacher College, "a school of ecological and spiritual studies," will open in January, 1991 – 611 years after the Old Postern building came into being. Its purpose is to make widely accessible an education in touch with the profound changes taking place in our culture. It is a place where people of all nationalities and backgrounds can enjoy a period of intensive study, practical activity, and contemplation.

The College is named for E. F. Schumacher, best known for Small Is Beautiful, a book whose title has passed into the language as a charm against all that is dehumanizing in industrial societies. Schumacher also promoted the idea of "intermediate technology" as a remedy for the inappropriate application of advanced Western technology in the Third World.

Schumacher was convinced that the Western way of life would be destroyed by its inherent contradictions. Suspicious of panaceas, he sought to develop modest initiatives based on what he called the human-scale, conjoining the spiritual and the practical. The College that now bears his name seeks to promote those human values in which Schumacher so passionately believed; it is a tribute to his achievement.

The curriculum is made up of three parts – the Main Course, the Foundation Studies, and the enactment of the academic work in the daily routine of life at the college. Students and core faculty (resident staff) alike are responsible for gardening, cleaning and cooking, which contributes to the meditative spirit in which the College is founded.

Students reside on the grounds to attend intensive main courses for two to five weeks at a time. A course is led by the Scholar-in-Residence who gives a series of seminars in her or his interest area. The scholars are people chosen for the significance and originality of their work, and for their accomplishment as communicators.

Resident staff and visiting lecturers support each course with foundation studies, on topics which provide a context for the main course themes.

Part of the student’s work is producing "some tangible evidence of their inquiry," usually developed in consultation with a personal tutor. This project may take a variety of forms, and it may be a group or collaborative effort. Assessment comes at the request of the student. Certificates of Attendance are given upon completion of a course.

Because the issues raised during courses are of great importance and can seldom be separated from questions of personal transformation, students must expect to find the work emotionally as well as intellectually demanding. It should be understood that there is no particular system of belief put forth by the College, nor is it a counseling center; it encourages open inquiry and a high level of mutual support.

The twin convictions that underpin Schumacher College are these: that the rational and scientific view of the world that has so dominated Western civilization is incomplete, and that new vision is needed to sustain the Earth. Accordingly, it represents a pioneering attempt to establish a center in which the conceptual, social and moral dimensions of new world-views can be put to the test.

Only 40 students participate in each course. Those who will find "active retreat" time at Schumacher College especially valuable are people who:

  • would like to contribute to a long-term inquiry into the condition of contemporary society
  • want to understand what lies behind economic, social and political attempts to create a more sustainable society
  • are already engaged in work that has an impact on the shape of society and the behavior of people in the community
  • believe that the dynamics of personal, social and cultural change are inextricably bound together.

The Program for 1991 includes James Lovelock on The Health of Gaia; Helena Norberg-Hodge on Ancient Wisdom – The Relevance Of Traditional Culture in the Post-Industrial Age; Hazel Henderson on Life Beyond Economics; Rupert Sheldrake on The Rebirth Of Nature; Victor Papanek on Design for the Real World; Theodore Roszak on Earth, Soul and the Imagination; and others sure to be familiar to readers of this magazine.

The College’s founder and director is Satish Kumar, the founding editor of Resurgence, a British elder cousin to IN CONTEXT with a strong focus on sustainability and ecologically humane values. Satish was raised in the Jain tradition of non-violence and was also deeply influenced by the teachings of Gandhi. Nearly three decades ago, with a companion, he walked for two and a half years over thousands of miles to carry the message of peace from people he met to top government officials in Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union and the United States. They travelled with no money, relying on the kindness of strangers as an act of mutual trust (see "Walking the World for Peace," IC #17).

For full prospectus and detailed College program, write to:

Anne Phillips
Schumacher College
Totnes, Devon
England TQ9 6EA
Fax: 01803-866899

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