Environments for Conversation:
As we emerge from the dust of the year that was 2010 and head into the hope that is 2011, let us take a moment to consider the root of learning, of education, and the purpose of its existence in society. In my imagination, my creative spaces, my own personal world, my visualization for the future of education is viewed through my hope for its eventual transformation, which is described below. It combines ideas of, specifically of the enlightenment era, and ideas of new, the implementation of technological advancements for example. This, I know, is my own personal molding of the clay, but, to me, it epitomizes everything that is necessary in order to critically learn, and is the antithesis of everything else that gets in the way.
In every conceivable way, it is my hope that education, both nationally and internationally transforms into Environments for Conversation. What is exactly is, “Environments for Conversation,” well, in actuality, environments for conversation is really, environments for learning, specifically critical learning, using the process or art, of conversation. This is not said, to limit all learning within the environment to conversation, but rather, to emphasize the process of conversation, as a central focus, that brings many other elements, styles, types of learning, into the conversation. Let me first recognize, that conversation is not always an easy way to learn or desirable way for learning, for all individuals, but these environments, allow for the expansion of key distinctive characteristics for learning, using the conversation piece as a central way to bring all elements together.
These environments will be in open spaces, spaces that emphasizes natural beauty, that allow for the expansion of thought, for the freedom of exploration, both using the physical/natural and the intellectual realms as interconnected beings, co-dependent upon one another to progress and advance. The American university system has some environments like this, and yet, they are bogged down by authoritative, walled off, counter environments that work in direct contrast to that of the expanding natural environment, in which the creative, innovative, and self-disciplined learning excels so effortlessly. The absence of buildings is not the objective goal, but rather, the association of such buildings with the structured, manufactured, factorial learning. If we are to rid ourselves of that type of learning, it must begin with the spaces of the environment.
The spaces are only the beginning; however, as the Environments of Conversation speak to the idea that a conversation is the possible, are the relationships and the experiences. In this manner, it becomes a place of safety, of openness of thought, of a democratically driven, equally shared space. The conversation is what drives the relationship, the experience and most importantly, the democracy that is so desperately needed in learning. Once we share with one another, we become inextricably closer with the other individual(s), we become a collective. For better or for worse, this becomes the reality. No longer is the learning, only within the self (that is, not to diminish the learning within self), but rather to expand learning to others, putting one’s heart, one’s own mind, on display, ready to be judged, evaluated, accepted, encouraged, or whatever may happen as a result.
There is no limit to what discipline is studied, or in what manner that it takes place, the only contingent is that all are welcomed to share in its happening and dialogue through discourse, of so choose.
The Environments of Conversation would be autonomous, localized with a concentration or remembrance on the worldwide community of learners. Both locally connected one to another and outlining environments, but continually, progressively dreaming globally. All individuals are professors, all individuals are learners, and all individuals work both independently and collectively. The course of study is dictated by all members, either through individual purpose or through group collaboration, through the use of only democratic teaching, or specifically designated instructor, voted on by the group.
Each Environment of Conversation would give the option for on-stay residency or off-campus residency, and the emphasizing of the usage of technology in all realms of study is highly recommended. If individuals choose to stay on campus, they are encouraged to get off campus, to explore outside of the Environments. If they are off-campus residency, individuals are encouraged to participate in as many on campus activities as possible. The well-rounded, well-balanced individual, continually evolving, transforming and progressing, to help enhance and learn from the world is the mission and goal of each community. Always in a state of being. Always in a state of learning. Always in a state of doing.
Finally, the Environments of Conversation emphasize learning itself, as a primary objective. The goal of the enjoyment of learning, either through a natural, organic unfolding, or through a more outlined approach, the fact that learning happens, in all spheres and all realms and is truly, one of the most enjoyable things when not impeded is highly concentrated upon. Finding solutions to increase the awareness and happiness associated with the result of learning. Regardless of philosophical points of it being from within or from without; only associating the journey as the joy, with a destination already in place, waiting and ready.
In this New Year, in 2011, let’s make it our goal, to hold onto dreams such as the Environments of Conversation. Let us change the educational world, both through internal and external methods, working together, to stand up for the roots of learning, its grounding and beginnings, undeterred by detractors and passionately driven to be the change, we wish to hear, feel, taste, sense, be, and see.
-Casey K. Caronna