A Day Goddard and Other Tales

It is the first day of Passover. The rain is pounding outside my window, with an ominous wind whipping up, and I have been sitting here a while, trying to juice myself up with enough coffee, to formulate coherent thoughts.

We are basically on spring break now. My son sleeps in the other room as we were up late watching the film Whale Rider. I took the movie from the library, because it had an effect on me the first time I saw it, and I wanted to share this with my son. It is hard to filter media out of our home, though we do a noble effort of it by excluding network television. But we are very fond of our computer, and I am still amazed at all the things I can do with it. Mass media still finds its’ way in here,  so we struggle to choose what comes in. It is about control and choice.

I am not about to do a review, but I wanted to say that Whale Rider tells the story of a young girl who is a descendant of a long line of Maori chiefs. It is expected that in each generation, a son will be born to fill this space. But because the sons failed to accept that mantle, a kind of depression and dispersive element has entered into the life of this tribe. They no longer act as a unit, having forgotten, or strayed from the ancient customs. The chiefs’ oldest son has brought shame on him and the tribe, because he failed to give them a son. Instead, a daughter, Paikea has entered the chain of ancestors. This goes against the old man’s beliefs of what is supposed to be, and so he fails to recognize that his young grand daughter is indeed, quite gifted, and destined to be the mythical whale rider who will help reunite the tribe and bring back the their viral strength.

The fact that I am writing this on Passover as one who has strayed from ancient custom is not totally lost on me. But I am interested in the ancient custom of spirit, of force, of becoming aware of finer realities. Having my son watch this, was a simple way of my wish for him to know that such things exist in the world. And for him life is still a painting yet to be painted, and he can choose his own palette.

This past weekend we took a trip to Vermont. My wife is considering the program for Sustainable Business at Goddard College. As this blog’s central theme is Democratic education, Goddard exists as a kind of “free school college.” There is no curriculum. It is entirely student driven, and the college currently has no student body on campus. They became an adult college during the 90s as the population from the baby boom began to ebb. My sisiter and I visited Goddard in 1976 when they had a regular student body, and like most school’s, partying was a big factor. What I remember from that time, besides the very cool bicentennial 4th of July Parade in the local town, was the level of intelligence I found in many of the students I met there. At the time, they had built a hydroponic lab to study innovations in farming. As an artist, this is not my forte, but I was always appreciative of those who were exploring these subjects. I do like to eat.

Learning and research is done off campus, independently, with the support of Goddard professors. There an 8 day, once a semester, on campus intensive. This is intelligent because 1) it keeps the cost of tuition down 2) it places emphasis on self motivated learning and 3) it engenders conscience in how one uses that gained knowledge in the outside world. In my conversation with the assistant dean (a former Brooklynite) I learned that the university tends to work with what they have. They get very little endowment, so they depend mostly on enrollment to fund the school, and they carry NO DEBT. I dare anyone to, right now, glance at their bank statements and tell me they can claim the same.

Goddard College, Plainfield, VT

Vermont is pretty nice, although it was freaking cold the day we arrived. As spring is now beginning to appear in Brooklyn, getting out of the car in 20º F with a drop at night to 8º was a bit of shock. We had a nice hotel room, but I really wish I could get one WITHOUT a television. It is the visit to the occasional hotel room that reminds me every time why I hate television, and what a vacuous, mental wasteland it spews. There is practically NO substance between commercials. The advertising is becoming the substance and the shows are the station breaks. We begged Noah to turn it off, but for him it is a novelty, and better he comes to understand its’ uselessness to him on his own terms.

To close, I should mention that there are 12 students from BFS who are right now in Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania. The last I heard, they were heading towards Zanzibar where they will be undertaking a mural project with a local school They got on the plane on Saturday, and arrived Monday. It sounds like a real adventure for our schools’ first trip. We are getting spotty updates from facebook. I will try to post them if and when they come in. I have asked, but there is no guarantee. Until then, Gut Pesach, Happy Easter and for all us pagans, Spring has Sprung! My tired brain will not let me write another word.

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