SDS Regional Newsletter

Palo Alto Free University

The following is the Preamble to the catalogue of courses of the Free University of Palo Alto. It is followed by brief notes by Alan Schmidt, an SDS member at Stanford and one of the organizations of the Free University.

The American educational establishment has proved incapable of meeting the needs of our society. The students are not encouraged to think, nor are they afforded meaningful training to help them understand the critical issues confronting manhind today. Bound to the existing power structure and handicapped by modes of thought fostered by big business, by the military establishment, by consensus politics, and by the media, it is unable to consider freely and objectively the cultural, economic and political forces so rapidly transforming the modern world. The present educational system, in fact, defends the status quo, perpetuating its evils and perils. The system is incapable of reform; it is no longer receptive to meaningful change. A revolution in American education is required to meet today's needs, and a new type of university—a free university—must provide the impetus for change.

The Association for a Free University of Palo Alto has been organized to meet this challange. It provides a center in which the people of this community can come together to discuss, to learn, and to communicate with one another, unencumbered by the restrictions found in conventional educational structures. Through courses and workshops offered on the basis of student demand, through discussion forums and meetings open to the public and through action programs and cooperative services developed in response to the interests of participants, it seeks to become a vitalising force in the community.

The doors of the Free University are open to all; its work is not limited to the customary university level. It has no prerequisites for admission, uses no system of grades or credits, and grants no degrees. It functions democratically and without administrative apparatus. Decisions will be arrived at jointly by teachers and students, who will at all times meet and work as equals.

Through this new approach to community education, the Free University seeks to develop in its participants a greater understanding of our time, enabling them to see it in its historical context, to evaluate its direction and to find ways to change it in terms of individual and social action. Should this be accomplished, the Free University will have attained its goal.

The Free University formally began on February 13 with its first weekly Forum held at the East Palo Alto Women's Club. This Forum consists of a lecture followed by a weekly news analysic. Felix Greene gave the first address entitled "On Being Informed." He stated that the essence of education is freedom—freedom being the ability to perceive reality. A general discussion on the Free University followed the Forum. A wide range of people took part in this opening meeting—Stanford, San Jose State, and Foot-hill students, high school students, teachers from various institutions, and community people from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and other mid-peninsula areas.

The following twenty-seven courses are offered: History and Social Theory; Problems of Organizing; Creative Writing; Protest Movements and Psychological Warfare; Methods of Self Study; Existential Phenomenology; Freedom and Responsibility; Capitalism, Keynes, and the American Economy; Non-violence and its Social Organization; The U.S. Economy and the Impact of Automation; Elementary Chinese; Chinese Revolution; American Youth in Revolt; Neo-African Literature; The Rise of the CIO; Dialectical Materialism; French Literature; 20th Century Revolt; Modern Dance; American Radical Movements; Beginning Russian; Satire for Political Change; Revolution: Cuban Style; Modern Poetry; Daniel Deleon—Social Architest; History of Mathematical Thought; Radical Approaches to Contemporary Education; Interior Decorating for the Layman: and Effective Functioning Within Groups.

March for the Maimed

The National Coordinating Committee is spondoring a nationwide "March for the Maimed" on Sunday, March 27 "to collect dollars and dimes... to alleviate as much as we can the agonies caused by our armed brothers" in Vietnam. The idea is to carry directly to the people their appeal for funds for medicines and medical equipment. Individuals or groups who wish more information or who are interested in participating should contact the NCC office in San Francisco, 1241-46th Venue or call 731-8697, or 752-7934, Area Code 415.

Camilo Torres Killed

Camilo Torres was recently killed when his guerrilla unit engaged a Colombian Army force. Torres, a priest and Colombia's leading sociologist, quit his university post to join the guerrilla fight for a revolution. Students and progressives in Colombia feel the same sense of loss as their U.S. brothers did when C. Wright Mills died. The fact that Torres was moved to give up his comfortable post as sociologist and critic should make us re-examine our own commitment to justic and social change.

— Saul Landau

About this text
Title: Mar. 8, 1966, Vol. 1, no. 8
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