The mission of the Borsodi Community University is to provide a program of lifelong learning to assist individuals to develop effective and fulfilling lives in this unprecedented and challenging time; a fellowship of men and women who are prepared and motivated to lead, to educate, and to facilitate social and economic development to promote the progress and well-being of those they serve.
The Borsodi Community University is a self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-governing institute at the center of each community that develops its capacity to adapt to the challenges of this unfolding century.
The Borsodi Community University is based on the life and work, and further development, of a comprehensive educational program developed by Ralph Borsodi at the depth of the Great Depression. In 1934, he founded his School of Living.
Borsodi’s credo is expressed in two short statements (1940):
Believing that the full development of each human being is the supreme value, the School of Living has as its primary purpose to assist adults in their study and use of the accumulated wisdom of mankind.
Believing that such study and use of wisdom is best facilitated by being related to the universal and perpetual living experience of human beings, the School of Living aims to assist adults in becoming aware of and the defining the major problems of living common to all people.
Today, we require individuals who have the capacity to act as effective agents in understanding the nature of this time, of communicating the urgency, of organizing, planning, and achieving objectives to not only mitigate the effects but to build a lasting resilience on both the personal and collective levels.
The program is radically innovative. The goal of the community university is transformational. BCU is not intended to be accredited but to serve its own community.
Ralph Borsodi was an established leader in addressing the problems of his time. Following World War I, during a time of lethal pandemic and deep recession, he moved his family to a homestead outside of New York City, where he was a well-regarded economic consultant, to seek a life of greater independence and to address the issues of his day, He begin a series of books and programs that developed over the course of his life.
Borsodi, realizing that an educational program was mandated to prepare people for the exigencies of his day. He first proposed this in This Ugly Civilization. He addressed the subject format to cope with what he defined as ten barriers to quality life.
Borsodi was subsequently affiliated with St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland. He prepared a proposal for them for greater self-sufficiency modeled on his School of Living for which they honored him with a master’s degree.
He admired the liberal arts seminar program at St. John’s College. He approved of St. John’s curriculum of great books with the exception that they should cover the entire world and not just the west. The foundation of his system was the collective wisdom of humankind.
In his Education and Living (1948), in which he introduced his problem-centered approach to education, Borsodi propose “a new type of university,” a “community university.” He proposed that such institutions should be established at the geographic, cultural, and civic center of each community to provide its needs for knowledge, skills, and leadership.
Borsodi developed an experimental university program in Florida and then continued this work in Indian.
In India, Borsodi worked closely with a Gandhi-inspired university to further develop a comprehensive problem-centered curriculum. There he completed the manuscript for his The Education of the Whole Man. It was clear that he intended a holistic curriculum. He was a forerunner in integral education, life-long education and learning for living. He put a lot of emphasis on teachers with a generalist background (non-specialized) who served as tutors and mentors. His educational objective placed an emphasis on the objective of education and training of a cadre of teachers to serve the community.
He later had affiliations with the University of New Hampshire which awarded him an honorary doctorate for his work.
He went to great lengths to develop a taxonomy of the great ideas that have come out of human experience since the dawn of history. This was published as his last book: Seventeen Problems of Man and Society.
The books mentioned are now available in digital format and can be downloaded at no cost. This Ugly Civilization is available in a 2019 print edition with a new introduction.
This leadership style the twenty-first century is integral, holistic and comprehensive. It involves the capacity to see the big picture, the dynamics of a social ecosystem, and to organize the fragmented chaos of daily experience into an orderly framework. It involves the capacity to research, to organize vast arrays of information, to find the patters, to formulate strategy, plan, organize, lead, and manage adaptive responses.
Borsodi’s work has been extended with further research, a sequence of projects over recent years. It was given the name the Cove Institute project.
The Cove Institute project sought to develop a comprehensive and holistic curriculum. Like Borsodi, we were looking for a program to develop change agents to help us adapt to a world in a far from equilibrium state. There was considerable attention given to the content of a curriculum. There was also considerable thought given to digitalizing this program; something that would make it responsive to the growing demand for distant learning.
We have known for decades that we need a systems approach to learning and leadership. We know that we must make an integral connection between learning and action. Specialization may be a powerful tool, but it leads to compartmentalization.
The community university is not for everyone, but it is open to anyone who wishes to attend. It develops the capacity to learn, to read and comprehend, to think critically, to express thoughts clearly verbally and in writing, and to engage in productive dialog. It should be noted that this is a lifelong educational commitment.
It is intended to introduce students to the full range of human knowledge. It brings all the social sciences, art, and literate into a common framework: the accumulated knowledge of humankind. It requires a working knowledge of science, of chemistry and physics, of mathematics, of the life sciences and of engineering, industrial arts, and technology. It develops an understanding of the dynamics of modern society and economics. Philosophy, the arts, and literature are interwoven into the program. It involves studio and laboratory and workshop.
The program is not about memorizing – filling the brain with facts and figures – but rather in seeking understanding. It is built on a seminar program employing the Socratic method. It is guided by tutors. Each student develops according to his or her interests.
The Borsodi Community University is a product of Transition Centre Rural Resilient Hub.