Grove City, Pa. — OK, education experts, test your mettle on this question: Which college has -- just since 1970 -- employed the following distinguished scholars and masters in their fields as tutors for both undergraduate and graduate programs:
Violinist Yehudi Menuhin; designer-philosopher Buckminster Fuller; poet Kenneth Rexroth; author Lawrence Durrell; documentary filmmaker Robert Snyder; dance instructor Anna S. Halprin; historian-philosopher Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn; educator Ivan Illich; musician Ravi Shankar; economist Hans Sennholz; and, before their passing, communications expert Marshall McLuhan; architect F. Lloyd Wright; and paleontologist Louis S. B. Leakey?
Is it Harvard? Oxford? The Sorbonne? No, the college with the faculty that reads like a page from "Who's Who" is tiny International College, based in Los Angeles.
International College (founded in 1970) lives up to its name quite literally. Originally called International Community College, it dropped the word "community" from its name because of the junior college connotation it bore, but it still viewed the world community as its classroom.
A sampling of current programs includes such varied offerings as archaeology or Middle Eastern affairs in Egypt, journalism in Spain, banking and finance in Singapore, tropical studies in Costa Rica, art history in Italy, ancient history in Israel, ecology in Norway, religion in Australia, environmental philosophy in Alaska, policy-oriented peace research in Washington, D.C., and Tel Aviv, comparative literature in Japan, or ocean ecology in Nova Scotia.
The majority of tutors (whose number has grown to more than 100) reside in California, but it is clear that wherever there is an outstanding figure in his or her field, there is a potential International College (IC) "classroom."
IC was founded by Dr. Linden G. Leavitt, who left his position as associate dean of the extension program in the University of California system to found a college based entirely on the venerable, proven tutorial method as a meaningful alternative to increasingly impersonal and mechanical higher education. The one-to-one tutorial approach dates back at least as far as Socrates, and is still employed at Oxford and Cambridge.
It isn't for the faint of heart. There's no hiding in a crowded lecture hall with 150 other students. Instead, one works out an individualized program of study with a person who is one of the top achievers in his or her field, then stands in uncamouflaged aloneness in judgment before the master's critical gaze.
It is an exciting challenge for the independent, self-motivated student who is truly dedicated.
My own first experience with the tutorial system was in 1974 when I had the opportunity to study literature at Oxford. There I found myself alone for an hour or so each week with a scholar who picked my thoughts as they had never been picked before. It was exhilarating! Having a tutor, who was so masterful in his specialization -- Milton -- that he was able to point out to me three errors in a newly published concordance to Milton's writings.
I didn't think I would ever enjoy the thrill and privilege of this special type of learning again until I found out about International College last summer.
Through IC, Hans Sennholz, himself a student of the late Ludwig von Mises, is now my tutor and mentor, guiding me through an intense program which is the most meaningful and challenging academic endeavor I have ever undertaken.
Dr. Leavitt, who is the dean as well as the founder of International College, and his fellow administrators at IC, appear to be uncompromising in their protection of the integrity of the tutor-student relationship.
Tutors, not the college administration, decide whom they will accept as students. The tutor also decides what each student must do in preparation for creating the "Work of Excellence" which will be submitted to a committee at the college as the culmination of the student's work under the t utor.