Experiential education to him meant the importance of experience, but not raw experience. The importance of consciously, thoughtfully imbibed experience for a person’s intellectual development. Let me explain the qualifications. Experience can be anything. You know, you go out and play football, it’s an experience. Or you go out and shovel your sidewalk. Experience is simply living. The question is what do you do with it? How does it become an educational device? How does it enrich you as an intellectual or enrich you as a person? And the difference between any old experience and this level of enrichment, which to him was the only important part about it, was the self-consciousness. The capacity and the need of the person experiencing to think about what he is experiencing, to put it into perspective, to make it a conscious part of his life.

There was no tradition for experiential education at Williams particularly, nor was it–I don’t know whether it was well known anywhere in the United States at the time. But he thought that human beings are self-indulgent and the kind of self-education that he insisted on was not pleasant. He felt that unless learning was uncomfortable, unless you butted up against a major kind of barrier, which made you stop and may even cause pain and so on, unless that happened, there was not really any genuine education going on at all. [Article: Gaudino on India and Experience]

Kurt Tauber,
Former Political Science Professor