Sunday, June 6, 2010

Post-Peak Education - A Grassroots Teaching Model

I am pleased to present another interview for this week's post. This past Friday, I had another opportunity to visit Holly Scholles, founder of Birthingway College of Midwifery in Portland, Oregon. We continued our discussion of what post-Peak health care might look like, and then we moved on to this week's main subject – a discussion of post-Peak education. Holly is uniquely qualified to discuss post-Peak education, due to her experiences in founding a college, and as a homeschooling parent.

We discussed both K-12 and post-secondary education and how traditional educational avenues, both public and private, are being imperiled by the shrinkage of revenues due to our ongoing economic collapse. A surprising fact surfaced, namely that Oregon public higher education tuition fees are now nearly equal to fees charged by some of the private colleges in Oregon. (For more on rising tuition fees, see FinAid | Saving for College | Tuition Inflation and College Tuition: Inflation or Hyperinflation?, for instance.) Why are college and university fees rising at such a rapid rate? Where is all that money going?

We didn't answer those questions in this interview, but we did discuss an alternative model: education that is relationship-based, small-scale, with reasonable fees charged by people who understand the concept of “enough.” Holly described an education system comprised of only four elements: motivated learners, able teachers (or coaches or facilitators), a good library and an environment conducive to learning. She stated that all these elements can be provided inexpensively.

She also described the organic process by which Birthingway started and by which it grew, and described how that process might happen for people in working-class neighborhoods who want to create local neighborhood classes and other learning opportunities for themselves and their children. We discussed a hypothetical example of a neighborhood whose members decide to start an urban farming class, and the process by which that class would grow – from gathering a library to attracting learners and other facilitators. From there we talked about the need for a revival of teaching of practical skills of the sort that have been lost due to reliance on technology and globalism.

We discussed many other things related to education, but these are the highlights. A recording of the interview can be downloaded from the Internet Archive at “Post-peak Education – A Grassroots Teaching Model.” As time permits, I hope to be able to post a transcript as well. (And I still owe you all a transcript of my last interview with Holly.) From the interview, it will be very obvious that a system that actually educates people is very different from what we have now, by and large, in the United States - a system whose purpose is mainly to institutionalize instead of educating.

I've got another interview coming up in the next few weeks. I can't say what it's about yet, but I think many of you will be very interested. Stay tuned...

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