Jan, yes of course you are right. But also, One would imagine that down the track there would be more than one college/training program for secular buddhist but you've got to start somehwere and you can't let possible problems stop you from starting.
Also it would be nice to think that although teachers could ideally go through a high level training college like this - (which i would hope would be open to anyone and not just those with the highest grades - because of various factors including other elements of a students personality which are not taken into account by grades and also because of the location of origin of students and where they might be likely to set up course - eg it would be dreadful if all teachers came from one large city in america wouldn't it? )
I can see there are potentially so many difficulties about getting this right but then if you accept at the outset that you aren't going to get it perfect right off the bat, then its got a better chance to become something great.
Because a small start up college might not be able to accommodate as many people as would want to do the training, perhaps one might consider an online version of training (like open universities) in addition to a fulltime training program on the ground. In the online version, you could make it that the student is affiliated with some other existing buddhist centre and has some sort of mentor person available for person to person exchanges - unless you had them hooked up to various well qualified teachers around the world to which they could communicate by skype periodically while they do some on the ground thing too.
When i write about this, i am thinking of how already some courses in other non religious subjects have these different levels of studies combining with practice and all tied in with actural organisations and people. If that's clear enough.
I can see how this could do your head in just thinking about it all Ted. I hope you won't ever let it overwhelm you, us banging on about the possibilties. I am sure there will be some sensible people around out there (such as the batchelors) who'd be only too thrilled to make sure you get hte right assistance.
I'm not sure that you picked up on what i really meant by my comment/suggestion about interviewing people about their training. I am suggesting a wide variety of other teachers, not just a chosen handful of our favourite secular types. I think anyone who is open to having stephen batchelor give a talk or retreat in their organisation might also be open to talking with you about their training and ideas about training eg Roshi joan from upaya, Ajahn Brahm who trained with the forest monks in thailand or his student (to be a bit irreverant) Sujato who now has his own monastery and (gosh i'm rude i still haven't figured out what his name is properly - it would help if people kept their own) who had a public debate with Stephen recently. Not to mention many others in American and the UK and who knows where else. I am sure the more input you can get on this the better it will be what you come up with.
I'd love to do interviews like that myself even. Though i've only ever done one interview and i didn't have a clue what i was doing. Maybe on this topic, i'd be better.
All that stuff about neurology, blah blah is a given. Its not what i think will be the most challenging part of putting together any buddhist curriculum. The reason being that these things are already taught in a western university tradition. Its finding a way to transpose teaching buddhism from a monastery eastern context to a more secular context and making sure that the rigour of mediation practice is part of the training so that the student actually also has enough practical experience and not merely well versed in all the book stuff. Also there is such a lot of pali canon and sutras to know. It would be a shame if students only got a tiny bit and never went near them again in their life.
legitimating bodies are also a method of social control by which certain people can control the degree to which those seeking legitimacy stay with in the boundaries of the status quo.
My idea about that would be that after a student has graduated, they are independent and responsible for themselves and are not beholden to the school that taught in the way that it seems that existing monasteries keep hold of their ex students/monks. It may be reasonable perhaps for teachers and college directors to comment on what becomes of their students but not reasonable for them to dictate what they do. But maybe It would be best if any such college would take a hands off approach and let the world of buddhist centres work itself out.
We've got an interesting recent situation in Australia Jan, that i think pertains to the sort of thing you are talking about. Ajahn Brahm trained with Ajahn chah in Thailand at the forest monks monastery. He's turned out ot be a gifted and popular teacher with quite a reputation and now his own monastery in perth Western Australia. And his students are setting up their own forest monasteries (and i'm making plans to spend some time in one at the end of this year). I think it was last year that Ajahn Brahm ordained some nuns. There seems to have been a problem with ordaining nuns in thailand and perhaps other theravada countries in this tradition ( i am not sure of the full story) and anyhow its caused a huge rift between buddhist communities over there in Thailand and Ajahn Brahm. The thing is AB has is supporters and it seems he will survive the whole episode, though at the same time, certainly some enmity has developed between what were once affiliates. As AB is in Australia he is serving the Australian community and they support what he's done here so this is more important i think than protecting the links with his spiritual mother country Thailand.
So you see there are risks but if you are sure you are doing the right thing, you have to go ahead and do it even if the risks are great. I think so long as all the buddhist centres that emerge from any secular buddhist training college, stick within the law, don't try to brainwash people and exploit them, keep to the moral high ground, all should be well unless someone's ego is invovled. When we can there's an ego, you have to be prepared to walk away who ever it belongs to - in this case the ego is situated in Thailand with the big chiefs over there.
Just have "faith", or trust if you prefer that word, that things will work out all right. I have found this concept faith-in-what -I'm-doing very very strengthening when i am starting out on a big new venture. You can't let the fear of things going badly stop you from going forward. If you know what you are doing is the right thing, you will advance and you will win out. And whatever happens will be ok. All hurdles and obstacles will be overcome. Never let a potential problem stop you in your tracks. There's a solution to every problem. I know this from experience. And so do many many others.