"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

05 April 2010

Who are you?

Walking On Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution, by Derrick Jenson is an amazing book. I am being transformed and legitimized in reading this book. Jenson challenges the status quo of education by questioning the distribution of grades, the purpose of education, and the methods by which we currently are "taught."

"Taught" ... hmmm ... not the right word ... I prefer "learn."

There is a difference and the difference manifests itself uniquely in the ownership and application of what the learners (the "teacher" and the "students") are taught. Learning takes place in an engaged, individually nurturing, cooperatively-created environment. Learners respond to inspiration. As a learner, my goal is to inspire my students to want to go deeper, asking more of themselves and their learning. Learning must be focused on the needs, backgrounds, and interests of the student.

I was fortunate to have been deeply inspired by the man who led the first education class I ever took. Dr. Hedrick instilled in us the importance of care and genuine love. Not just a love of the "job" of teaching, but also sincerely caring for and loving our students ("if you can't care for and love your students, you shouldn't become a teacher").

Dr. Hedrick's mantra in that amazing immersion into the culture of learning was, "Just love 'em." Love the opportunities for growth and change. Love the challenges. Love the process of growth and learning. He also reminded us to love ourselves.

Jenson's argument in Walk On Water is that in the current climate of educational standardization, meaningful, long-lasting learning isn't possible because a true understanding of the learner (as an individual) is never attained. Students' interests and methods of learning must be at the heart of the curriculum and the methods used. As John Dewey said 100 years ago, only a student-centered curriculum will facilitate enduring inquiry.

So the important question for any learner is ... "who am I?"

What are my strengths and weaknesses? My fears? My experience? My dreams? How will these guide my learning? What will I do about this? How will I choose to let this influence and direct me?

Jensen ...
There's really only one question in life, and only one lesson. This question is whispered endlessly to us from all directions. The moon asks it each night, as do the stars. It's asked by drops of rain that cling to the soft ends of cedar branches, and by teardrops that cluster at the fold of your nose or the edge of your mouth. Frogs, flowers, stones, pieces of broken plastic, all ask this of each other, of themselves, and of you. The question: Who are you? The lesson: We're born or sprouted or hatched or congealed or we fall from the sky, we live, and then we die or are worn away or broken or disperse into a river, lake, sea, ripples flowing outward to bounce back from the far shore. And in the meantime, in that middle, what are you going to do? How are you going to find, and be, who you are? Who are you and what are you going to do about it?

If modern industrial education -- and more broadly industrial civilization -- requires "the subsumption of the individual," that is, the conversion of vibrant human beings into "automata," that is, into a pliant workforce, the the most revolutionary thing we can do ids follow our hearts, to manifest who we really are. And we are in desperate need of revolution, on all scales, and in all ways, from the most personal to the most global, from the most serene to the most wrenching ...

And still our neighbors -- hummingbirds, craneflies, huckleberries, the sharp crackling report of the earthquake that shakes you awake in your bed --- ask us, who are you, who are you in relation to each of us, and to yourself?

Our current system divorces us from our hearts and bodies and neighbors, from humanity and animality and embeddedness in the world we inhabit, from decency and even the most rudimentary intelligence ... I've heard defenders of this system say that following one's heart is not a good enough moral compass ... The truth is that it only through the most courageous violations of our hearts and minds and bodies that we are inculcated into a system where it can be made to make sense to some part of our twisted and torn psyches to perpetuate a way of being based on the exploitation, immiseration, and elimination of everyone and everything we can get our hands on.

Within this concept, the question the whole world asks at every moment cannot help but also be the most dangerous: Who are you? Who are you, really? Beneath the trappings and traumas that clutter and characterize our lives, who are you, and what do you want to do with the so-short life you've been given? We could not live the way we do unless we avoided that question, trained ourselves and others to avoid that question, forced others to avoid placing the question in front of us, and in fact attempted to destroy those who do.

As we see.

I struggle with this question ... "Tell us a little about yourself, Rob."

"A little?"

"About what part of me?"

"Do you really want to know? ... "Beneath the trappings and traumas that clutter and characterize ... ?"

Learners, innocents, seekers, gypsies, wanderers, explorers, kids, dreamers ... do any of them know? I ask because I identify with these groups.

I'm not sure I know that "me" well enough to talk about him. But I believe it is paramount to vigorously attempt to achieve that understanding. To learn. This fundamental question may never be answered for me. I need to remember (remind me) ... control is an illusion. An illusion based in fear. To surrender is to grow.

I'm learning.

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