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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Slow Down!

I am going to exercise my autonomy this week and post again on the topic of “what must we do in order to transform our schools into places of authentic and democratic learning.”

My last suggestion was one word-autonomy, my next one is two words-slow down.

Our culture is moving too fast towards one thing only – destruction. We experience tremendous anxiety and transfer it onto our children. We need to take a deep breath and slow down. This is in every sector of society, not just schools. Think about how much less natural resources we would use if we didn’t demand so much so fast. Imagine how learning could be enjoyed if we weren’t so worried about “just getting through it” so that “we can move on.”

I have heard that one of the major obstacles to project-based learning is the artificial time scales we have built into education including grading periods. But since we are doing away with grades then we can do away with the marking periods, and open up tons of time to have enjoyable, authentic, self-directed learning experiences.

I think I can comfortably say that if we slow down we can also do everything that my brilliant colleagues here at the Cooperative have mentioned thus far.


About Adam Burk

Adam aims to serve the greater good; alleviate unnecessary suffering; and create beautiful, sane human communities in concert with the living planet. Recently, he has helped to rebuild local food systems in Maine in large part through school food services, organized the TEDxDirigo conference, and is a digital organizer with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).


6 thoughts on “Slow Down!

  1. I agree so much. thank you adam!

    Posted by dloitz | May 20, 2010, 11:10 pm
  2. Adam, I would like to slow down, too. Your post reminds me of Aaron’s latest at Synthesizing Education and Kirsten’s review of Godin/Pink-thought. I appreciate our more long-form conversations here and the time we take to test things out in our works.

    What do you think about Kirsten’s observations of 60s-era reformers and their exits from public education? In our balanced approach to time and learning, and in our resistance to the insane pace of federal test-based #edreform, what should be the check that makes sure we don’t exit either?

    Is that a fair question, or do we leave if the system refuses treatment?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | May 21, 2010, 6:17 am
  3. Chad,

    I put Kirsten’s and Aaron’s posts together and come up with an intellectual party game. Take the chapter headings from Godin’s books and pull one out of hat and then have some discourse about it with your friends, family, or colleagues.

    I haven’t read Godin and am only familiar with Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,” so I can’t offer much of my own opinion on them. My sense is that they are as Kirsten describes them, thin and foamy.

    I suggest picking up some of Confucius’ work or Chu Hsi’s “Learning to be a Sage,” and reading them very slowly, there’s more depth in their lines than it sounds like are in Godin’s whole book. And if Eastern philosophy isn’t your taste, how about Thomas Merton, Teillard de Chardin, Martin Buber, or Howard Thurman. These thinkers truly have contributed to the world of thought, and taking time to digest their words will certainly improve you as a human being.

    With joy,

    Posted by Adam Burk | May 21, 2010, 6:40 am
  4. I will joyfully start with Thurman as I noted your reference to him in a previous post, and as one of my mentors and I had a long discussion about MLK, poverty, civil rights, and what you do when you hear THE voice and see THE line crossing in front of you.

    We could also play a game with combinations of our own blog titles – e.g. Slow Down March to Democracy or the North American House Hippo might Replace All the Windows 😉

    Thanks, Adam!

    Posted by Chad Sansing | May 21, 2010, 9:54 am
  5. I really love the idea of slow. For the last year and a half I have offered a workshop for school leaders called “Slow Leadership.” It is based on some of Adrian Savage’s ideas, Buddhist mindfulness practices, and executive management skills. Fundamentally we say in this workshop, leadership is too important not to do slow. The skills and attributes that have brought you to this position are also now going to make you dysfunctional in your job; this is one of the paradoxes of leadership.

    The only problem with the workshop is many leaders are too busy to take it.

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | May 21, 2010, 11:53 am
  6. Oh, this is such an important topic. There are just some things that can’t be rushed. I know, I know… we’re all supposed to be striving for “bigger, better, faster”, but “faster” at least can’t be accomplished without great sacrifice. I can turn up the heat on my Thanksgiving turkey, but that won’t get it done–at least not done right–any faster.

    Contemplation is like that. The revelations that arrive at the end of a good, unstructured, wander- in-the-park-to-sit -on-a-bench-and-think session of contemplation do not, by their very nature, come at the outset. Julia Cameron tells artists in her books (The Artist’s Way, etc.) to write for 30 minutes every morning. The only substantial thing that comes out of the 30 minutes is what arrives at minute 31; it takes time to warm up the engines.

    My school is a little obsessed with cramming stuff into the schedule. Besides classes, sports, and activities, we have so many fundraisers, I don’t pay attention to the causes anymore. That’s not good. It affects the students’ thinking. I’ve found my students are uncomfortable with silence and extremely uncomfortable with having to puzzle something over. They assume the answer is supposed to pop into their head. I teach a very problem-solving type of class (computer science) and you do really have to struggle to come up with solutions sometimes. I think next year I will (that should be a weekly topic soon, don’t you think?) force them to wallow in silence more often.

    I’m spending the summer at St. John’s College in Annapolis reading Great Books for two months. Some people in my life are freaked out by this. I’m the technology integration specialist! Why aren’t I going to Twitterpolooza this summer?

    I CAN’T WAIT to spend two-hour seminars, unplugged, parsing the intricacies of Aristotle and Rousseau. It’s going to be delicious.

    Posted by Laura Webber | May 24, 2010, 7:08 pm

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