Soon the cicadas and grasshoppers will fill the night.
The grasses will plume out.
And soon after that, students will return.
The signs are everywhere:
In the invitations for department meetings, requests to join new committees, reminders about new policies.
In the emails about lectures and concerts.
In the calendar that will turn, tomorrow morning, to August.
So it is time to move my course design from my subconscious, where it has lurked all summer, to the bright center of consciousness.
Aiming for democratic pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, radical anarchist pedagogy--pedagogies that include respect for students and a conviction that my goal should be fostering deep and meaningful engagement rather than judgment and control--and armed with ideas about how people learn in and out of school, I'm moving my own revolution a step forward.
In one of my classes, I'm having the students design a good portion of the syllabus.
The course is "The Culture of College" and I have deliberately sought students at every level, or, as my students say, of every "age." The idea is to embody diversity of background, goal, knowledge right from the start. Everybody knows something. Everybody wants to learn something. The "learning outcomes" should be different for everyone, despite the audit culture that has created a climate of manufactured uniformity.
I will "scaffold" their learning by asking them to interview some people, to become curious. We will read some material together, watch films, watch TV series.
We will discuss, generate questions, read more, ask more.
Periodically I will ask them to articulate what they want to learn. Why they want to learn it. How they think they want to convey their learning, and to whom. And why. This should be transformed as we move our way through the semester.
There will be many blank spaces in the syllabus, where they have to figure out what needs more depth, what less depth, what activities would deepen their learning.
At the end of the semester, we will produce something. They can decide if it is a big class product--maybe a conference, or a film, or a presentation--or if it is a series of smaller items.
They will figure out how to be held accountable. They will decide what is an appropriate workload.
And we will all learn as much as we can.
If all goes well, it should be comfortable, exhilarating. It should remind these young folks that they are capable and that their own interests matter.
I'll post along the way, hoping to find nibbles of milkweed to fuel my journey.