Thoughts and Essays on Education


I initially wanted to write about my experience teaching Permaculture. But after many years of working as an educator in so many different venues I did not wish to delimit the practice of teaching to one modality. If we can tap into the essence of what it means to educate, then we can teach anywhere, anytime, no matter the age group or the curriculum model. So, these essays morphed into a general tome about education, drawn from many a year’s distillation, refinement, contemplation and meditation on what this educational thing is.

I first entered the embrace of Permaculture in 1991. My buddy handed me a copy of Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison’s magnum opus, and, needless to say, I was taken aback and overawed by what I found from first to last page. I have read and reread the entire manual from cover to cover every year since. Permaculture addresses all of our needs in a profoundly systematic and simple, sustainable fashion. It applies to every landscape no matter the scale. Permaculture relies on observation and an understanding of patterning to help us delineate what is already indigenous to a site and what changes we might have to make to metamorphose the site into an ecologically balanced and vibrantly abundant land base.

As Permaculture would have it: comprehensive design (agriculture, the built environment, energy, the waste stream), functional relationships, stacking functions, utilizing biological intelligence.

Mollison states: “Cultures cannot survive without a sustainable agricultural base and land use ethic. Permaculture is about the relationships we can create between minerals, plants, animals and humans by the way we place them in the landscape. The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term.”

All of this has the general ring of how and why and what we just might do in the realm of educating people. Comprehensive, functional, relationship, biological intelligence, ethics, observation. Are not these the key words that an ideal of education would strive to fulfill in action? Can we, as educators, learn to read the actual patterns in the classroom and in the field, read the students as individuals and as a web of dynamic, energetic beings, as we would imagine a complete ecosystem to be? Can we really “see” what we are looking at?

So be it. What you are about to enter upon is my attempt to nail down in as few words as possible my take on this educational question, a question that is too near and dear to our hearts to be taken lightly. We have all been educated somewhere, someplace, sometime. So, whether it be Permaculture that you teach or a seventh grade life science class, it is my greatest wish that this small tome will inspire and confirm, test and push, inform and augment the yield.