Thursday, July 31, 2014

All learning is local

A slug creeping outside our back stoop.

I suspect that Spinoza was not in love with his God-Nature but rather with his own system of ideas, which, whether true, false, or somewhere in between (as in all systems), seem to be the product of the mind and the library, not of living engagement with persons, places, things, events, all the infinite variety and particularity of the world we actually know.
Edward Abbey, Postcards From Ed

I'd make a lousy teacher in July, not an issue so long as we have summers off. (Yes, folks, we do!) I can fool myself into believing that kids are investing their time wisely sitting under the hum of fluorescence in mid-February, but there is too much light to fool myself now in mid-summer.

I just came in from the edge of the bay--the osprey and the tern diving into the bay even after the sun settled below the horizon reminds me the days are shortening now. (In June, the birds are full by sunset.)

A mid-winter's sunset over the bay.

All living is local.  We can talk to folks many miles away, but when we do, we are talking into a machine that is right here, now. It works because we convince ourselves that that voice, that face, are real. Most of the time, it seems to be enough.

All learning is local. We can talk of alps and oceanic trenches and kookaburras and what once was Rhodesia, but the kids figure out quickly that none of that is more real than the hum of those same fluorescent lights.

I can teach better with a horseshoe crab's tail and a patch of sand than I can with a Smart Board. While part of that reflects my obstinacy, much of it reflects a larger truth. 

A very old clam rake--it still works.

I loved Spinoza back when I studied him, and I love the trappings of systems during our cold winters when the world feels dead outside--but I no longer know what it means to be learned. If I had to give up either my esoteric knowledge of philosophical systems or my ability to rake clams on a misty mudflat, I'd give up Spinoza.

What are we asking the kids to give up?

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