Archive for June, 2008

I’m Leaving For Camp, or, They’ve Finally Sent Me to an Asylum

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
– C.S. Lewis

I’m getting ready to start my month long disconnection from the internet and cell service. I will be serving on the kitchen summer staff at a camp in NY and without the outside distractions I’ll have the whole month to focus on the task at hand. I’m very excited about this opportunity to meet new people and form a community around a vision shared by all those who are serving.

It will also be a time to mull over many ideas and work out problems that have needed closer analysis for some time. I suppose I will be journaling the old-fashion way too, where is that pen and paper?

At this moment I know something is not right and the forces of the universe are nudging me to listen closely for an answer. It is not that I am not happy, in fact I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time and I am learning to find that deep abiding joy – “satisfaction is a lowly thing, how pure a thing is joy” – and I have many of you to thank for that.

So what is this post about? Well to be honest, I haven’t a clue and I hope its not just me wanting to hear myself blather on into the vast expanses of the internet. I feel like there are questions I am supposed to be asking, but I don’t even know what they are and that makes it very difficult to find the answers. Maybe I am making an odyssey that will bring me right back to where I started and at the end of the journey Ithaka will hold a different meaning for me. Maybe I’m finally just starting to lose it. In any case I’m about to embark on a month long excursion mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Now comes for the random part of the post where I ask a possibly unreasonable response that may lead many of you to believe I am losing it (which again may be true). Below I am going to put my address at camp and if you feel so inclined you can send me something and I will send something back. And while a well written letter is always appreciated I think it would be more fun receive letters that are outside the ordinary. Send pictures, poems, articles, or leaves I don’t really care! Maybe I’ll send you something back that someone sent to me, share the love, ya know? Make it crazy, fun, and playful – I want to see what if anything will come out of this experiment.  Maybe it is stupid experiment, but I feel life needs to be more random and unpredictable.

“No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of the planets.

Nothing in them is not particular,
and planet is dissimilar to planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity,
obscurity is not uninteresting.”

Camp Address:
Shannon Hauser
Summer Staff
Young Life’s Lake Champion
247 Mohican Lake Road
Glen Spey, New York 12737


Student Syllabus

I thought of a question the other day, why don’t students have their own syllabus? Not necessarily a syllabus in terms of deadlines, but a student’s goals for the semester. Perhaps evaluating at the beginning of the semester what they expect to learn and other academic goals (ideas about what other goals?). This would make students actually take a look at the syllabus and encourage professors to explicate their own personal goals for the course outside the basic clichéd lines students see on every professor’s syllabus. This has the possibility of taking students from passive learners who attempt to fit into a mold of a class to active learners who grab a hold of the learning inside the classroom. And if Jeff McClurken’s Digital History class is any indication, students will often set the bar higher for themselves than a professor would expect.

I think this question stems from my frustration over finding relevancy in the classroom. As Jerome Bruner states in his book The Process of Education:

“The first object of any act of learning, over and beyond the pleasure it may give, is that it should serve us in the future. Learning should not only take us somewhere; it should allow us later to go further more easily.”

One of the most common complaints I hear from students (and myself) is the lack of relevancy of what is learned in the classroom. This does not necessarily mean what is being taught is not relevant, but more likely students are unable to see it. This attitude is especially prevalent in gen-ed classes where students are often in courses that they have little interest in. Now I’m not asking professors to make their class pop-culture relevant, although props to you if you can throw in a Simpsons reference, there is pretty much relevancy in everything if you know what you are looking for. Let me throw another Bruner quote at you:

“Grasping the structure of a subject is understanding it in a way that permits many other things to be related to it meaningfully. To learn structure, in short, is to learn how things are related.”

Often I find myself losing sight of this structure or I am unsure of what it even is, so the class becomes “simply the mastery of facts and techniques”. At this stage of the game obviously I have come to learn structure of several disciplines, but I am honestly not sure I could tell you what exactly those structures are. I still need the help from professors, the experts in the classroom, to guide me. All too often people assume that students, both good and bad, have mastery or understanding of the basic underlying structure of a subject.

I think students (and maybe even professors) are afraid to admit this late in the game that they are unsure of the answers to some of these seemingly basic questions. Maybe if we just put embarrassment and pride aside we could talk about these glaring issues with honesty and maybe even reach some answers. And almost as equally important as finding the answers is iterating it again, and again, and again, and again.

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