Page 24 - Shared Vision

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My group was assigned at random and in the group,
I received one-third of those that I had chosen. We
designed our own space. Parts of our program included
a jukebox and Greek sculpture. Mary taught the verbal
studies classes, and Dave Miles took photographs and ran
the research segment of EFY.
We had people from all over the state, and quite a few
from Chicago. When I interviewed them, I asked about
their interest in any one thing. They had to do a sketch of
their bedroom at home and distinguish between a group
of workers’ tools. We blended visual and verbal language.
We started the semester by playing Twenty Questions
to show the students how to narrow down from a large
amount of information to a specific problem. I gave them
each a one-paragraph problem and told them to phone
anybody they needed to get answers. We used our budget
for phone calls instead of travel. It went further that way.
They had phones in their cardboard offices. David Miles
and Herb Meyer developed some visual-aid firsts. B. F.
Skinner and Bucky Fuller visited the program and spoke
to the students. They both believed people can learn, and
we tested [the students] and measured the results. At the
end, all students passed their English proficiency tests
with Mary’s verbal studies program without the aid of the
English department.
AG: So the Experimental Freshman Year was a success.
HLC: Absolutely, especially Group I. Ask Steven Poster,
who is now a Hollywood cinematographer, or William
Birmingham or Robert Gersen, who went on to become
design majors. One student had been suicidal before
coming to SIU, but eventually graduated and became a
doctor in genetics. One day I received a call from the vice
president complaining that one of our design students was
splashing in the fountain in front of the library. I grabbed
my grade book and reported that the student had no
classes scheduled and therefore was free to do whatever
other students did.
AG: You must have been disappointed when the
Experimental Freshman Year was not funded for
a second year.
HLC: I was livid, but not surprised. Things had begun
to go bad despite our successes in building the design
department: bringing Bucky, the domes, and industry
grants; work with the prisons; projects in nearby
communities and East St. Louis, where the EFY was
mentioned as a model for a new education center opening
in a former funeral home.
But our children were vilified in the University High
School. Mary endured insulting abuse by the English
department. She was once verbally attacked during a
lecture. This was more than anti-Semitism. Morris saw I
needed a break and advised me to take a sabbatical. So
Cohen lectures in EFY as Bucky listens (Photo by EFY Staff)
EFY Individual study space
EFY classroom