I will be very interested in following Antioch's fortunes over the next
10 years. A small liberal arts college that I attended was written up
in the Saturday Evending Post (remember them?) as the "drug mecca of the
midwest" (a rural distribution point for the Chicago area). The
publicity occurred about 1967 and proved disasterous - enrollment was
down 40% in two years and Shimer College went bankrupt in 1977. I'm sure
lots of high school seniors were eager to attend - and lots of parents
with checkbooks quickly found grounds to prefer the U of [state].
I personally considered the situation a real loss. Shimer College
offered something rather unique in American education - a degree based
exclusively on reading of "great" western original works. No textbooks,
no seminars on poetry by indigenous peoples who can count to three - only
one criteria - it must endure ctitical examination.
Recently Antioch is identified in the popular press as at the extreme of
a social trend. I refer, of course, to the Newsweek articles on "sexual
correctness". I wonder if Antioch may not be subject to a dynamic
similar to that which destroyed my first alma mater.
During my senior year in high school, I was dying to go
to Shimer, since there was no way on earth I would get
to Harvard or MIT: I could have been admitted scholastically
(then, not now), but the costs were simply prohibitive and
there were virtually no financial aid programs in those days.
And the only checkbook involved was my own, a fact I rather
resented at the time.
It was a very exciting idea, I thought. The only thing
even remotely like it was the College at the University
of Chicago, Robert Maynard Hutchins then still being the
major force he was.
But Shimer too was not to be, largely for financial reasons.
This was 1953, long before the 60s drug things. I ended up
at that prairie blight, Urbana, where I got a decent education
for the three years I was there, had a couple fabu boyfriends,
gave up the ambition to be a concert pianist, studied the
harpsichord for the first time, and began my career in computing.
God, I was miserable there. Only much later did I realize the
many ways it had been a boon to me. I think about Shimer every
once in a while, the idle "what might have been" thoughts.