On January 19, 2009, the French publication Le Figaro published an article about Deep Springs College. I ran it through the Froogle automatic translator to turn it into English. Here’s the result: pretty funny, I think. My favorite line: “Hence the two basic rules, never called into question since 1917: prohibition of alcohol and mixed impossible.”
FAR WEST ACADEMY
This institution is most unlikely that is, mid-mid-school ranch. Located in the desert in California, Deep Springs College hosts the best students in the country. Students in the morning, cowboys in the afternoon, they will be tomorrow at Harvard or Oxford.
For six hours we have left Los Angeles and its skyscrapers. Along the Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada. In fact full of dusty towns qu’ennuyeuses all. A pass to cross in the mountains peeled, and we débouchons on a geological depression in eastern California, nestled at 1 600 meters, as large as the bowl of Dien Bien Phu, but the hair … and more calm.
Here, 50 kilometers from the first village a little human, that is Deep Springs College, “one of the most selective colleges and most innovative in the world” (The New York Times says). A venerable institution that recently celebrated its 91 spring. And that looks more like a ranch than a school. Aged 17 to 23 years, his twenty-six students, long hair and beards drues, filthy overalls and Timberland feet, going about their occupations, that repairing a fence, which includes cows. For it is one of the features of the facility: the day begins at 4 h 30; study work in the morning and the afternoon (minimum of twenty hours per week, depending on the tasks carried out). Three times a day, 6 to 30 h, 12 h 30 h 30 and 18, a bell invites them to the canteen for a snack robori, but diet, mitonnée students affected by the cooking.
On the tables, not Coca-Cola, but the milk (of cows) or water (from source). No burgers, but my vegetables (garden) and steak house (ultimate delivery of cattle and calves, reared and slaughtered by the students). No television (banned), but books lying around everywhere, Thus Spake Zarathustra Nietzsche côtoie The Banquet of Plato or the works of Jane Austen. The anti-American in appearance. It pinched: was the starry banner which floats in the courtyard, it’s like being in a phalanstery Fourierist or one of Icari Etienne Cabet these collectivist and socialist utopias of the nineteenth century. Women less: to Deep Springs, it accepts only men.
David Neidorf, the president of the college, we illico mistake: “This is not a socialist experiment. Nothing to do with communities of 60 years or the new left. Moreover, Deep Springs was founded much earlier. “In 1917, exactly. “A year that saw the birth of two utopias jokes David Neidorf: Communism and our college. Only the latter survived. “Surely the inventor of this unique educational, Lucien L. Nunn (1853-1925), was not exactly a Bolshevik. On the contrary. An icon of the conquest of the West.
The idea of a self-made man, the icon of the West
This is in Colorado that has built its fortune in the years 1880-1890: in turn minor, then a banker, he finally hit the jackpot by building hydroelectric power stations (including Niagara) and demonstrating that the current alternative could be transported via son over long distances in the West.
At its businesses, the self-made man realized that he needed young men, intellectually operational (engineers, if possible), but also capable of physically and morally spartan living conditions. The pioneering spirit. One day, he sold his assets, toured America, sank into the desert and bought the field of Deep Springs.
The isolation of the scene was the main advantage. Convinced that “the desert has a voice” (leading to wisdom), he wanted his future elite is formed far from the miasma of the city and its corrosive temptations.
Hence the two basic rules, never called into question since 1917: prohibition of alcohol and mixed impossible.
The three “pillars” of the school, the foundations of philosophy nunnienne have not changed: quality education, labor and self-management. Just a list of past courses conducted by three professors surdiplômés (in social and political sciences, humanities, mathematics and science) and the shelves of the library (25 000 volumes) to understand that cancres are not welcome. A laboratory intellectuals. On étudie jumble Herodotus, Heidegger, the Copernican revolution or linear algebra. At the end of their course of two years (with a single vacation - three weeks - in the middle), these bright subjects incorporate best universities: Harvard, Chicago, Columbia, Stanford or Oxford in Great Britain. It is no coincidence that a survey has classified Deep Springs in the third rank of American excellence, behind Princeton and Yale.
But, according to the students, there is not the major attraction of Deep Springs. The “more” is the manual work. Every two or four months, it gives them a job: caring for 10 horses and 300 head of cattle, fields of alfalfa, the garden of the Fleet (a dozen pick-up truck and that old they have), supply (a journey “in town” per week), catering (kitchen, service, cleaning). Sam Allen, 20-year-old from Massachusetts, who milked the cows every morning at 4 am 30, summarizes the general opinion: “It’s unique, very rewarding. Six months ago, I was responsible for the slaughter and rendering of animals. Tomorrow, I’ll be a cowboy and I’ll take care of a calf is born. And everything we do is useful. Deep Springs to live. That is why the studies are free, which is rare in the USA (annual cost estimated at $ 50 000, ed). ”
Last but not least, the self-preparation by students. The President told us his role is essentially to manage the college (funded by donations from alumni and foundations). For the rest, everything is decided by the students, who meet weekly to discuss and vote. A kind of agora where everything is discussed and adopted at the majority of the possibility of having a pet in the recruitment of teachers and students (200 candidates each year, selected on 40 records and written tests, 12 selected after a course of three days on site), through the choice of programs.
Surprising? Certainly. But do not repeat to anyone, because Deep Springs College do not like advertising.