I think the older the department member, the more likely to reject experiential education. It’s not what we’re used to and it may be kind of old-fashioned to oppose it, and I do think now that experiential education has its virtues although I would perhaps confine it more often to the Winter Study period than to a regular semester. Well, that means exposing students to parts of the society that they would normally not encounter so that the Williams-in-India was an exposure of American suburban kids, Anglo-Saxon or otherwise, and the experience was not derived from study of texts. Again I was not in agreement with Bob. My disagreement I guess with the experimental courses towards India was that it was kind of outsiders looking in on a society and having a kind of privileged perch towards another civilization. I was of the old-fashioned view that the classroom is for studying, reading, discussing and that visiting foreign areas was important and useful but it needn’t receive special credit, special funding, special preparation of a limited group of students.

It was easy to be cynical about the actual experiences that these kids had but my objections were more formalistic in terms of how you organize it rather than the idea itself. And it was a little difficult to keep up with him because he was first a Straussian philosopher and then he discovered India and then he got into Williams-at-Home with the underclass of American cities. And it was exciting for him to have the opportunity to create his own course and his own enthusiasms and then his quote “students” were encouraged to believe in his approach and did. I would say on his behalf that anybody who’s being creative in curricular matters is going to run up against entrenched interests of people who are comfortable with what they’re doing.

MacAllister Brown,
Former Political Science Professor