Sunday, 4 February 2007


Ran Prieur wrote a post last year on John Gatto and the “six lesson school teacher” **, it struck a chord with me and I wrote most of the following to ROEOZ during a rote V autonomous learning discussion, it’s as good an introduction as any...

...My own experience is a case in point (cue violins), six years of primary schooling at five different schools saw me constantly catching up academically and socially, leaving me unprepared for three years at an indifferent technical school where I volunteered for yard duty rather than attend classes that I couldn't comprehend, reckon I learned more from the Readers Digest “wordpower” page than I ever got from that place. Lots of tutoring and the Marist Brothers Christian College saw me scrape though year 10 (and no, I wasn't molested there; was I not pretty enough? was my heart too broken?)
Primary and secondary school was a miserable and mostly useless experience that could have been condensed into 50 hours with no great loss, life teaches so much more.

Several years in street gangs, two attempts at marriage AKA the suburban dream and 20 years in suburbia saw me develop appropriate skills for these situations.
Taught myself to fix cars and developed a thriving backyard business, taught myself to convert them to LPG and opened a successful shop, several years ago I had an existential crisis, closed the shop and became a student of sustainability.
Took a Cert IV in renewable energy and found “Permaculture, a designers manual” in the TAFE library (it made perfect sense, a real turning point) taught myself the basics of permaculture by reading it cover to cover several times before going on to take the design course and have since taken other courses in eco-village design and various aspects of sustainability, culminating in a graduate certificate in regional community development from Monash Uni.

I'm not after bouquets or brickbats here, just making the point that in each case I've identified a need and sought to fill it.
Yes there are gaps in my knowledge but for the most part it doesn't matter, whenever I've wanted to learn something I've read everything I could find about it (for and against) and sought out a mentor.

No one person is an island; mentors, guilds and apprenticeships within a functioning community beats any institution hands down, especially if that community does not lock away it's young and old (they need each other most of all)...

Post Script
So now things have come full circle, I’ve recently leased (and am living in) the same factory that I previously worked out of, though it is now a part time business more concerned with research and development on woodgas producers and alternative fuels, allowing some free time for various community development projects and the occasional permaculture consultancy gig.

** The Six Lesson School Teacher
The first lesson I teach is: Stay in the class where you belong.
Second lesson: Turn on and off like a light switch.
Third lesson: Surrender your will to a predestined chain of command.
Fourth lesson: Only I determine what curriculum you will study.
Fifth lesson: Your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched.

See also
A Pattern Language #18 Network of Learning

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