Monthly Archives: March 2008

March 31

Conference Call Information

AEPL going to need to schedule next week’s call at a different time. I have only 6-8:30 Eastern free on Sunday, but can also do anytime ending before 7 Eastern Monday or Tuesday if that works better for folks. Send feedback as to your preference as soon as possible.

Also, April 20th is the second night of Passover, so let’s try to reschedule that call, too, if possible. The primary consideration there will be our speaker Larry Inchausti’s schedule.

Post preference with a comment or email


Call Cost Information

The call info is 218-936-6666, code 9936250#. If your charges are high for these calls, consider getting an account at The cost is only .03/minute.

Upcoming Conference Calls


We now have a schedule for the calls for the next six weeks after Easter. March 30 and April 6, we will finish the Armstrong. I’ll copy and send a few passages out and we’ll read and discuss them over the phone.

On April 13, featured conference speaker Michael Nagler, founder of the UC Berkeley Peace Studies Program and award winning author, will be talking to us. You might want to prepare by reading his The Search for a Nonviolent Future and/or Our Spiritual Crisis: Recovering Human Wisdom in a Time of Violence.

Following that, on April 20, will be featured speaker Robert Inchausti, who will talk about Thomas Merton, perhaps the most important American figure in the reclaiming of the wisdom tradition we’ve been exploring in Jaspers and Armstrong. For that you might want to read Merton’s classic The Seven Story Mountain or Inchausti’s great book on Merton, Thomas Merton’s American Prophecy.

Our last five calls will turn from exploring the wisdom tradition in general to issues in education, and our speakers will be people who are unable to attend the conference. On April 27, we will hear from Svi Shapiro, education columnist for Tikkun Magazine and its Network of Spiritual Progressives, the education wing of which has several members coming to our conference. Svi’s most recent book is Losing Heart: The Moral and Spiritual Miseducation of America’s Children.

On May 4, the three founders of AEPL–Dick Graves, Alice Brand, and Charlie Suhor–will all join in conversation for the first time in many years, to talk about the founding of this organization and how it helped to answer the yearnings for a deeper understanding of education in the field of English, and helped to form a deeper kind of professional community than is commonly available.

March 16 Conference Call

Here are one person’s notes & thoughts from the March 16 Conference call.

I spent the first half of the call on a walk in the chill of an early spring evening in Utah’s mountains. As the sun set and the air grew colder I followed the readings in my book, whose numbering is a little different from yours but which I nevertheless found easily (having read the chapter already and underlined many of the passages you’d chosen), appreciating the opportunity to see and hear the words simultaneously and think about them in terms of teaching. When you asked for personal responses, I wanted to tell about an experience 20 years ago in an introductory creative nonfiction writing class where one woman wrote powerfully about her process of becoming independent after divorce. I was delighted with her self-discovery; it was an epiphany for me, too: if I can help people write this well about their life-changing experiences, I want to do it forever.

But things changed. Politics at the university…my own needs…a shift in my focus to hands-on energy work…all led me to fall away from teaching writing for some years; but when I needed a paycheck and benefits, I went back to the university–and could not find my feet again. In the past six years I have had to re-learn respect for the students; this kenosis is not yet complete.

So tonight’s discussion was very good for me to review my own teaching life and reconsider my trajectory.

Once I got back home and logged on to the computer, I took these notes:

Armstrong presents the progression kenosis (emptying out)…[self-]knowledge (the self exists and can be studied) …suffering (living with an awareness that all is not well)

Taking off the mask is not natural in our society any more…Kenosis for us must be the emptying out of the “dominator” worldview.

How to encourage public school students to experience kenosis? One participant says he felt like Yahweh, screaming at the students who wouldn’t listen, would kvetch and complain. (A great analogy, funny and poignant and true–I’ve felt that way too.)

Our story will get told, if not in writing or creative ways, then in acting out…students will project authority on teachers, so teachers must figure out ways to let them tell their stories…their developmental stage is important. (Many of the participants work with middle schoolers. I work with college undergrads. Significant differences, I think, in developmental stages AND in the purpose of the curriculum.)

Public ed has lost the wisdom of religiously-based education (says Bruce)

Armstrong’s phrase “knowledge was no longer simply notional; he knew . . . truths directly. They had become a part of his inner world” –think of this as an educational goal, says Bruce.

There’s something about letting a person get to know him/herself enough to come to understand what s/he really wants so s/he can then move forward to write authentically about externalities

Yoga yokes wildness to yielding…dominating the dominator spirit in yourself… Gurdjieff, Steiner

Bruce has his students write a drama working out a conflict in their teaching life—required to have a happy ending. I love this idea for myself (I’d like to do it), but now I need to think about how to work such a thing into a second-semester composition classroom, where research methods and argumentative writing are the focus of the curriculum. Or at least how to work an assignment that similarly invites students to disclose their real-life interests. One problem for me is that I don’t relate to the real-life interests of many of my students–small-town, rural, farmers/ranchers/hunters/rodeo queens. My own kenosis must be to develop genuine interest in their lives. That’s been hard.

Contemplative teaching allows you to let go of bad days.


Dear Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning members:

Below is a list of 5 of our upcoming activities, followed by descriptions of each:

1) Graves, Brand, Suhor reunion, May 4

2) JAEPL editorship opening

3) our SIG at CCCC in New Orleans April 3

4) a related mini-conference at AERA in New York March 23-24

5) our workshop on reflection in New Orleans, April 2 (if you received notice of this earlier, we apologize for the repetition)

One further note: Rooms at Mount Madonna Center for the summer conference will almost definitely sell out (though there will still be plenty of space both for campers onsite and for commuters staying at the foot of the mountain). You can find the brochure and registration form for “Reclaiming the Wisdom Tradition for Education” at


Bruce Novak, Conference Co-Chair

When Wisdom Was Natural–February 17, 2008–Call Notes

Click here to read the notes from the conference call on February 17, When Wisdom Was Natural.

AEPL at CCCC in New Orleans

For AEPL members attending CCCC in New Orleans. The pre-conference workshop on Wednesday this year is entitled Reflection as Rhetorical Art. It features as keynote presenters Lois Agnew and Kathleen Yancey, as well as 6 mini-workshop opportunities duing the day. The day will provide a multi-facted look at the role reflection has played in the history of our discipline, in our professional lives, in our writing, in our teaching, and in our personal lives. Currently, we have planned to give each participant a CD with ideas and syllabi which incorporates reflection into our pedagogy. From the history of reflection to the creative functions of reflection, from women’s humor to service learning–don’t miss this opportunity to explore the infusion of reflection into your life.

March 9–Wisdom Conference Call–The Great Transformation

This Sunday, March 9, we’ll start our reading of Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation: The Origin of Our Religious Traditions, which I anticipate will take four weeks. I think the book divides roughly among four sections: Chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 3-85), Chapters 3-5 (pp. 86-201), Chapters 6-8 (pp. 202-330), and Chapters 9-10 (pp. 331-400). I’ll introduce the context a little by talking about Jasper’s notion of the “axial age” in his 1949 book The Origin and Goal of History. Perhaps we could start our discussion by connecting Armstrong’s book to our earlier discussions: How might the “axial age” be considered as an attempt to refound partnership culture within empires of domination? And how might it be considered as drawing in new ways on the connection of the “feeling” and “governing” brains in each individual? Do come with your own questions. And feel free to participate in the call even if you don’t have time to read or to get the book.
(It’s available on Amazon for around $10.)

To enter the call, simply dial 218-936-6666 and follow the prompts. Our code
is 9936250#.

AEPL Conference 2008 Length

The bulk of the conference will take place between Thursday evening and Sunday morning. You will not miss any of the keynote speeches if you are only able to come for that length of time. However, we have planned activities for late Thursday afternoon and early Sunday afternoon at this point–a get-to-know-you collective wisdom activity and a set of longer participant-led workshops–and we may eventually extend the conference to as early as Thursday morning and to as late as Sunday evening, depending on the number of interesting proposals we get in the next few months. We want to encourage you to arrive on Wednesday the 28th and to leave on Monday the 2nd, if you are able to. This will allow you ample time to enjoy the magnificent site and facilities of Mount Madonna Center without missing any of the conference activities–as well as providing a precious opportunity to relax and focus before the conference and to decompress after it. And it will allow us to schedule additional sessions, knowing that there will be an audience for them. If you would like to reserve extra nights, just write to Registration Co-Chair Louise Smith ( with your arrival and departure dates. She will add the appropriate charges for room and board to your final bill (with no additional registration charge). Prices for the various types of accommodation can be found at:


Air: The closest major airport is San Jose. Southwest Air has reasonably priced flights from most major American cities–with frequent sales you can register to be notified about by email. Prices tend to be lowest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Car: Driving directions can be found at:
Van/Bus: Mount Madonna Center has vans and buses that can pick people up from San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose Airports, at rates determined by the number of people riding. We hope to schedule buses that will make ground transportation costs minimal for those arriving at San Jose at peak times.

Conference Registration Co-Chair Irene Papoulis will be co-ordinating transportation arrangements. If you send her your arrival and departure times (including airport and flight numbers), and whether you plan to rent a car or be driven to the conference site, she will either link you to other participants with whom you can drive or arrange bus and van arrangements with drivers from Mount Madonna Center. Please write to Irene at after you make your travel arrangements. She will co-ordinate car rides as they become available and van/bus rides with Mount Madonna Center in early May.