Monday, May 25, 2009

101/145 - Education

Sunday off.
Monday 4:30 pm with Janna

For Memorial Day, it was more crowded than I would have thought.  Janna led a solid, workmanlike class.  In keeping with the recent meditatons, I focused more on quieting the struggle, and keeping my breathing nice and even.  For the most part, this worked really well, and I had stretches of the class that seemed to glide along, even though I was working really hard.  It's still hard for me to think of not struggling in the back strengthening series, and that's where I most lost my composure today.

I also noticed today that I'm at an interesting point in Standing Head to Knee.  If I resolve to stay with a bent knee and a locked leg, I'm almost certain that I can hold the pose for the full length.  But kicking out can totally throw me still.  Sometimes I can kick out, and it feels totally right, and other times I just completely lose my balance.  Given the alternatives, I sometimes don't know what I should do.  I'm pretty sure that how well I can kick out depends on how much I've sucked in the stomach, and therefore how much support I have for the lower back.  But often I don't feel this difference until I lose the pose.  It's something I notice in the breach.  And I also know that I could still stand to develop some strength in the locked knee, especially on the standing right leg.  And this puts me into another situation where I'm basically winging things, and don't really know what I should be doing.   I need to remember this so I can ask Lenette in my next class with her.

The day 143 meditation talks about education, and basically laments that none of the spiritual lessons that Gates learned later in life even get mentioned during a conventional education.  I see his point, but I think it would not make much difference if a standard education did offer this "information."

If I were to start a school, I'd totally change the curriculum.  Right now, education is too focused on information and data.  And the higher you go in education, it seems, the more it rewards cramming and short term retention memory.  In Law School, for example, I'm certain that I could have done well in any course without going to any class.  All I would need was a decent outline from any other student, and 3-4 days to study.   And most of what I would "learn" would be gone in a few weeks.  That process strikes me as almost completely pointless. 

My school, instead of focusing on information and regurgitation, would focus on practices and skills.  I would concentrate on Reading, Writing, Speaking, Art and Performing Art, Experimentation, Calculations, and Athletics.  In a school like this, I could see making great progress by having students do yoga, and thus perhaps learn the spiritual lessons that Gates talks about.   But they would learn it as something they do.  The "information," as a result, might take hold.


thedancingj said...

Oooh.. got a GREAT NYTimes article for you: Dunno if you'll have to register to view it, but it is awesome. A bit long, but worth it. I read it on Friday and am still thinking about it today.

Bosco said...

Duffy -

I have the same dilemma with Standing Head to Knee. I can usually hold it if I don't kick out (and "get all the benefits") but I want to be able to kick out - and sometimes I can hold it kicked out pretty well but only for, say, 10 seconds, and sometimes it's just a bust. I have no methodology for how to approach this each time; I just kind of go with the flow.

I love the concept of your school. That's something I'd like to discuss with you more.

Duffy Pratt said...

Reading that article, I somehow get the feeling that the current educational system is actually perfect for the kind of white collar job he described. And, yes, learning how to do things like basic repairs, and learning how to cook would be a much bigger part of my school.

Duffy Pratt said...

Sherie gets people into Standing Head to Knee differently than our other teachers. She has us first lift the bent leg to get the thigh parallel with the floor. Then you round the back and reach over to grab the foot. This gets the back stretch going very early. I've found it much harder to get the first part of the pose when going into it this way. But once this approach works, kick out seems to become almost effortless and actually feels sort of natural.

I would take this approach more often, but I've had teachers remark that you should just follow the dialogue, and if different teachers have different set-ups, you should respect the teacher that is leading the class. I think that's true, so I haven't gotten to play with Sherie's set-up for a little while.

Anonymous said...

The concept of your school has been done - it's called "a liberal arts education".

Duffy Pratt said...


That may once have been what lay beneath a liberal arts education. But that's not what passes for a liberal arts education anymore, at least in my experience.

For one thing, there is precious little focus on writing at any level of education. I had a sixth grade teachers who would give us weekly writing assignments, and then make us rewrite the same assignment several times. I hated it at the time, but I learned something. This teacher was unique.

The next time I had any class that really focused on writing was in college. That class required a one page essay for each day of the semester. It was easily the best class I ever had. There were weekly meetings with a tutor. One other class in college stood out -- it was a philosophy seminar where everyone had to write a short paper each week and distribute the paper to each of the other students. At class we discussed the content of the papers.

By contrast, most classes involved going to lectures, and then spitting back what you heard either in a long paper due at some point, or worse, on a final exam that seemed mostly to check whether you had attended class in the first place.