img.latex_eq { padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; }

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Culture and Community

I had my first education class yesterday, CPI211I: Culture and Community. I thought you'd like to hear about it.

Let's begin the story by explaining that my university has two campuses, 8 miles apart. I think they began as separate colleges that merged at some point. I typically attend classes here in Portland, which is within walking distance from my apartment. But the EDU department is on the other campus in Gorham, ME. Being the eco-friendly fellow that I am, I decided to take the bus that the university offers between campuses, especially since I help fund that bus as part of my student fees.

I hopped on the bus along with 40-50 other people. Every seat was filled and the aisle jammed full of late arrivals. The subsequent 8 mile ride set the tone for the rest of the day. It took 40 minutes to make the trip, which was compounded by the miserably sweltering heat. As I felt my internal temp rising far above comfort level, I read with eyes squinting away the sting of sweat pouring down my forehead, a sign that proclaimed the bus a WiFi Zone. You see, at USM, we have the technology to allow students to receive wireless internet while rolling down the highway at 60mph, but lack that required to build a bus with functioning windows.

I arrived with minutes to spare at took one of the remaining seats in the classroom, which regrettably, was just barely cooler than the bus. It is not hyperbole to say that knowing how that class went, I would have preferred to remain on the bus for that 3 hours.

Almost immediately, we were asked to leave our seats and form a mosh pit in the center of the room. We would spend the next 2 hours performing various getting-to-know-you tasks, beginning with the "human atom." We were asked to move about the room as though orbiting a fictional atomic nucleus. At random intervals, a call to "freeze" was given and further instruction given. At each stopping point we were to grab a new partner and perform a task. The first time, we were to join elbows with someone and introduce ourselves. Next time, it was the knees. The next time, we were to invent a three-part secret handshake. Next, find a common letter between your names and think of three ways to form that letter with your body.

It went on, and on, and on.

At the end, we formed a "truth circle," where we commented on how we felt. People stepped forward to proclaim how relaxed they were and how great it was not to be confined to desks. I stepped up and announced that I was far more tense than I had been before we started.

First impressions are important, and my impression of this class is that it is a complete waste of my time and money. It isn't that I don't get the point of these exercises. In fact, I may have been the only one in the classroom that did. The point was to make connections. Before we can teach someone or learn from someone, we must first establish a connection. That connection will be based on mutual experience or memory or goals or history or whatever. That kernel will provide the foundation for the relationship that will allow for learning to occur. Many of those relationships form a community. This kernel need not be some huge thing; it only has to be real.

Nothing about these artificial activities serve that purpose.

No comments: