fresh hope for slow learning, 1926

A fresh hope is astir. From many quarters comes the call to a new kind of education with its initial assumption affirming that education is life – not merely preparation for an unknown kind of future living. Consequently all static concepts of education which relegate the learning process to the period of youth are abandoned. The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings. This new venture is called adult education not because it is confined to adults but because adulthood, maturity, defines its limits…

Secondly, education conceived as a process coterminous with life revolves about non-vocational ideals. In this world of specialists every one will of necessity learn to do his work, and if education of any variety can assist in this and in the further end of helping the worker to see the meaning of his labor, it will be education of a high order. But adult education more accurately defined begins where vocational education leaves off. Its purpose is to put meaning into the whole of life.

Thirdly, the approach to adult education will be via the route of situations, not subjects. Our academic system has grown in reverse order; subjects and teachers constitute the starting-point, students are secondary. In conventional education the student is required to adjust himself to an established curriculum; in adult education the curriculum is built around the student’s needs and interests. Every adult person finds himself in specific situations with respect to his work, his recreation, his family-life, his community-life et cetera – situations which call for adjustments. Adult education begins at this point. Subject matter is brought into the situation, is put to work, when needed. Texts and teachers play a new and secondary rôle in this type of education; they must give way to the primary importance of the learner… The situation-approach to education means that the learning process is at the outset given a setting of reality. Intelligence performs its functions in relation to actualities, not abstractions.

In the fourth place, the resource of highest value in adult education is the learner’s experience. If education is life, then life is also education. Too much of learning consists of vicarious substitution of some one else’s experience and knowledge. Psychology is teaching us, however, that we learn what we do, and that therefore all genuine education will keep doing and thinking together.

Authoritative teaching, examinations which preclude original thinking, rigid pedagogical formulae – all of these have no place in adult education. ‘Friends educating each other’ says Yeaxlee, and perhaps Walt Whitman saw accurately with his fervent democratic vision what the new educational experiment implied when he wrote: ‘learn from the simple – teach the wise’. Small groups of aspiring adults who desire to keep their minds fresh and vigorous; who begin to learn by confronting pertinent situations; who dig down into the reservoirs of their experience before resorting to texts and secondary facts; who are led in the discussion by teachers who are also searchers after wisdom and not oracles: this constitutes the setting for adult education, the modern quest for life’s meaning.

E. C. Lindeman, The Meaning of Adult Education, 1926

 

 

Dexter’s scary monster

This week I faced one of my greatest fears.

I sat on the couch and stared into the silent eye of an omnipotent monster who, with its unblinking eye of cold steel and glass, stared me down to size, then sucked this newly-diminished me whole into its darkness. I’ll never be the same again.

Coach and editor, Dexter Ico, generously offered to work with me on one of my greatest fears: speaking. And my greatest speaking fear? Public speaking. My greatest public speaking fear? Speaking in front of The Camera. Dexter is an acting coach who uses his professional-grade intuitive skills to nurture actors and to take them to new levels of artistry.

Some crazy part of me thought it would be kind of fun, in dare-devilish sort of way, to explore my fear. Besides, I was so impressed with Dexter’s work that I thought, why not? What could it hurt? I have this new book to promote, and I know that I’ll have to find new ways to present my writing other than just reading sentences in my normal monotone. I thought that Dexter might be able to offer a few tips that would instantly transform me from a dull and fearful speaker into an engaging and thrilling performer. Then I’d sell lots of books and everyone would be proud.

But Dexter didn’t do that.

He just sat me in front of the camera and he asked me what inspired me.

He asked me what was most important to me.

He asked me what I stood for.

He asked me what I believe in.

He asked me to tell a story.

 

So I talked.

 

Soon I learned I was right to be afraid. Horrors really do lie waiting within The Camera’s gaze.

The Camera with It’s unforgiving silence, stripped me down to my most bland and unimpressive core and mocked me. Each word that slowly emerged from my mouth sat dull and lifeless with me on the couch. In an effort to look good, I said many empty words, told lifeless stories of dead things, none of which spoke the truth to any one, not even me. I just wanted sound as if I could make sense. So the lies came tumbling out.

 

If I had told the truth, I would have said that nothing is true.

I would have said that nothing is more important than anything else.

I would have said that I’m not sure what I stand for and that I’m not sure what to believe.

And then I would have made up a story without a punch line that made no sense.

 

Dexter says the real learning will take place on the second of our sessions. I know it doesn’t make sense for me to look forward to it.

But I am.

101 in 1001

I’m a such a sucker for a bhag.

Now, before you get all excited, let me explain. I love taking on Big Hairy Audacious Goals that push me out of my comfort zone. Distance running, novel writing, unwieldy large-scale art projects involving low budgets and communities of people with wild ideas, helping to start up schools have had their turns with me. Simply setting the Big Hairy Audacious Goal gets my juices flowing. For years I’ve made lists of “One hundred things to do before I die.” (Simply writing a to-do list that long can be a bhag, itself.) Finding old lists I’ve created and checking things off often amazes me. Often goals I’ve forgotten seem to have happened on their own.

That’s why I’m taking on Day Zero’s 101 Things to do in 1001 days. The creators include links to communities, tips for creating your lists, and links to others’ lists. Part of the process is to post your own list of 101 things to do. So here goes.

1. Facilitate a nonverbal dialogue session
2. Grow a garden on my rooftop
3. Master use of the comma
4. Find someone in town who would like to learn English in exchange for teaching me Spanish
5. Take contact improvisation classes
6. Inspire and support a public participatory art installation
7. Bake bread
8. Have dinner parties with old friends
9. Run in the sand barefoot
10. Get up early in the morning without sacrificing my dream life
11. Make puppets
12. Run uphill in the woods
13. Make masks
14. Participate in poetry reading
15. Invent new cocktails
16. Make a recipe book of cocktails
17. Publish a zine about demons and saints
18. Take more classes from Gabrielle Roth
19. Design learning plans for other slow learners
20. Interview other slow learners
21. Write about my interviews a la Studs Terkel
22. Learn to walk on stilts
23. Revise one of my nanowrimo novels
24. Write a new one
25. Forgive me my trespassers
26. Give away books
27. Use public transportation
28. Learn how to get out of bed when the alarm clock goes off
29. Learn how to write longer sentences without fear
30. Find a dramatically new hairstyle that expresses my individuality and looks good even when sweaty
31. Connect with missing relatives
32. Read about humor therapy in bereavement groups
33. Laugh with people at a bereavement group meeting
34. Sell a record number of books for my publisher
35. Send mail art every week
36. Lift dance partners on my body without using my hands
37. Market my works of creativity to new markets via web and face-to-face communication
38. Market other people’s works of art and creativity
39. Host a personal growth retreat
40. Host art camp for adults
41. Establish permanent residency in Canada
42. Make puppets
43. Host a parade through the streets of Toronto
44. Make enough money to give generously to others
45. Give generously to others
46. Write about the experience of coming of age
47. Learn how to get up before sunrise
48. Make music with a mixing board
49. Go to Pittsburgh and hang out for a while
50. Attend artsy-fartsy conferences and participate
51. Attend new-agey conferences and participate
52. Learn about the magic of anaconda balls
53. Make political art big and bold and loud
54. Participate in paratheatrical experiments
55. Receive coaching for public performance
56. Host arts and crafts parties
57. Make cookies for new neighbors
58. Spend the day taking pictures of all the places that I plan to write about in Dayton
59. Make my own clothes
60. Run marathon in less than four hours
61. DJ a dance event in Toronto
62. Make enough money to sustain creative projects in Dayton with studio space

63. Write funny poetry
64. Perform funny poetry
65. Find another sport besides distance running that includes outrageous bhags
66. Make popcorn and top it off with brewers yeast and sneak it into a movie theatre and watch a movie in the middle of the day
67. Explore group mandala making with community in a workshop
68. Interview people from the permaculture community about magic
69. Paint what I see in dreams
70. Sell the house
71. Sell the car
72. Find homes for family heirlooms
73. Investegate enjoyable learning adventures with John
74. Swim in the ocean
75. Spa day with Liz using homemade, food-based products

76. Burn the honeysuckle
77. Outerspace theme dance party
78. Contribute to dance therapy communities
79. Play with dogs
80. Make new business cards for new projects
81. Find cousins who want pictures I’ve been hoarding
82. Finish parody of self-help
83. Buy new homemade soap
84. Buy local food
85. Make artist trading cards that celebrate family members
86. Find an elder and help with their garden
87. Have a table at canzine
88. Surprise picnic with Peter
89. Take the trash out  DONE!
90. Celebrate Christmas with 100% homemade gifts
91. Make a habit of commenting on other people’s blogs
92. Visit a fitness coach for new bhag
93. Host reunion party for DECA
94. Have a slideshow
95. Use image processing programs without cussing
96. Write 100 thank you notes
97. Have a slumber party with my sister
98. Eat lobster with Liz DONE!
99. Go camping with Liz
100. Get tips from trail runners about running without falling
101. Tell my mother-in-law that I love, respect, and admire her

A place to call office

Today I visited the Toronto Writers’ Centre, a sanctuary of seclusion for serious writers. In exchange for a monthly fee, membership offers a haven where you can work without interruption, a hideaway where no one can find you, a cubicle so free from distraction you can’t even disturb yourself.
The Toronto Writers’ Centre quiet room allows for nothing extraneous. At all. The quiet, climate-controlled atmosphere resembles a sensory deprivation tank with no phone, no color, no smells, no kids, no pets, no spouses, no tv, no household chores, no comfy couches, and no espresso machines. There may be other writers there, but these dedicated professionals haven’t come to bother you. They’ve come to produce. And because you’ve done what it takes to make the necessary sacrifices in order to commit yourself to your writing vocation, you’re sure to produce, too.

TWC’s quiet room is ideal for easily distracted creative types, renaissance souls and other slow learners who find themselves distracted by the fascinating details the world has to offer. Cubicles have been arranged with care, offering the writers the greatest privacy and protection from sensory input. Quiet room rules protect against vibrating cell phones, food chomping, and loud headsets.

For those who seek community the lounge allows for “quiet discussion” and–I love this–a phone that permits outgoing calls only. TWC offers occasional writing workshops, readings, and is open 24/7. If you worked there non-stop without snoring, you could even live there.

What Tiggers Do Best

Yesterday I finished reading and working through exercises in the Renaissance Soul, by Margaret Lobenstine, a guide for “people with too many passions to pick just one.” Through self-reflection, planning, and goal setting, Lobenstine helps her readers see their multitude of passions as a sign of strength rather than as an indication of flakiness, loose morals, and lack of integrity.

As a slow learner writing fiction, starting writing groups, exploring dance and performance art, facilitating workshops, facilitating dialog groups, training for a marathon, painting, creating mandalas, living in two different cities, writing about slow learners, this book seemed to speak to me personally. I find myself desperately trying my best to focus, Focus, FOCUS on one interest (currently it’s writing), only to be distracted by whatever other interesting thing may come along (dance, paint, mail art, spinning records, extreme crafting, psychogeography, guerilla art). I wonder if I’ll ever accomplish anything serious if I continually allow myself to be teased away by the next new thing? Lobenstine assures me that I don’t have to FOCUS on just one passion in order to achieve in that area. Lobenstine guides us in narrowing our interests to four or five “Focal Points,” and offers a step-by-step approach for planning and goal setting.

I was astounded by how much her work sounded like my own parody of self-help books that I am currently drafting. To be fair, I can’t honestly say that I’m drafting my parody right now, since right now I’m working on another interest which is write about Slow Learning for my blog. And when I’m finished, I will actually do what I’ve planned to do with this time slot work on my own book. With help from the exercises in The Renaissance Soul I won’t spend the rest of the afternoon adding to the list of links on my blog. I will work  on my book. And I will FOCUS without feeling cheated, because I’ve already scheduled for The Next Big thing to come along.