I have been wrestling with the greater meaning of the SCA in my life for several months now, primarily because at work I’m surrounded by people who spend their free time doing Important Things. For example, two of my coworkers have been spending all their evenings and weekends working with a nonprofit that gets unused, discarded supplies to schools in Africa. Another works with missions in third-world countries and is going to Kenya for three weeks.
I play in the SCA. I research ancient cultures and dress up in “ancient” costume and hang out with my friends. I’ve been attempting to form a plan around teaching English to children in slums in Kolkata, but that’s nebulous and not likely to happen in the next couple of years.
See, this is what goes through my head when I compare my own free time to theirs. Even when I thrown in my teaching gig, which is admittedly good in that it helps new, aspiring designers become better at their craft thereby creating a potential future for them, I can’t quite put it in the same category as helping orphans in Kenya.
So we’re back to the SCA. What, exactly, does this mean in a larger social context? Does it mean anything?
Last week was the third of the Unboundary TEDx events, which was focused on education. I enjoyed it a great deal, since education and learning are such integral parts of what I value. So I paid close attention. And one of the speakers, Anya Kamenetz, brought about a revelation about my extracurriculars. She said that part of what is important in the future of education is a relationship that has been used for centuries – the master and the student. And that one of the most important parts of the learning process is teaching others even if you’ve just learned the thing you’re teaching.
The laurel/apprentice relationship is exactly like that. It’s based on the apprenticeship relationship of a master craftsman and his students, but it’s valid in today’s world, and with the mass-production of education, with larger classes and fewer teachers, it’s a model that needs nurturing.
Here’s how it works for me: I learn from my teacher/laurel. She pushes me to absorb as much as possible. She passes on what knowledge she has, one-on-one. She spends time with me. She encourages and facilitates exploration. And once I’ve gotten the concept just enough to understand it, she makes me tell it to someone else. (CG, I totally get why I’m teaching these beginning bookbinding classes, by the way.) And it grows from there.
So now I get why I’m doing this. I may not be making a sweeping social change, but I’m helping to preserve an ancient and rich teaching tradition.
The next step? Figure out how to get modern folks to use it. I think it’s possible.
[If you want to see the talks that got me thinking, go here: TEDxAtlanta. Videos will be posted each week until they’re all on the site.]