Category Archives: AEPL Conference 2008

Sunday June 15, Conference Call, 9 pm

Hi everyone!

I’ve realized the only time I know I have for a call to debrief after the conference is that listed above. If you’d like to reconnect and share how it’s been for you coming down from the conference, give a call to the usual number: 218-936-6666, code 9936250#.

I’ll be sending more announcements regarding conference evaluations/followup in the next few days.

All the best to all of you!


Pre-Conference Call

1) Our call today was an extremely moving event for all of us. We shared our experience of the anxieties of the past week, the community that has formed that helped us all get through it, and the unexpected blessing of having our collective wisdom tested as a prelude to this conference. Of the many indelible memories from this call, I think the strongest one will be Grace’s hearing the distress of the birds whose homes and young were being destroyed in the background of the YouTube fire broadcast–showing the increased capacity for empathy that our new technology can bring, if we bring our own full awareness to it.

2) My own brief summation of what think I have learned about wisdom from this series of calls: Wisdom is grounded in the vast creative capacities of our brains (Rico) and the cultural conditions of partnership that powerfully flourished for thousands of years in the Neolithic Period after the agricultural revolution (Eisler, Mackey, Krieglstein). But it perhaps does not take fully shape as wisdom until it finds itself forced to swim upstream against the dehumanizing influences of dominator culture (Karen Armstrong). “The wisdom tradition” can be described as the collection of counter-cultural educational efforts during and since the Axial Age (in the First Millennium B.C.E.) to stem the prevailing dominator tide by cultivating moral and spiritual bulwarks against it: working with creative diligence to foster a source of compassionate partnership with and personal presence to others and the world within each individual, within empires that cultivate isolation and hierarchies of fear. The lifetimes of many of us seem to encapsulate this partnership to domination to wisdom story: coming from the 60s-70s “Age of Aquarius” mentality that seemed a sudden regeneration of partnership culture, through the resurgence of empire since the 80s that has encroached into our educational institutions in unprecedented ways in the name of economic progress, to today, in which our nations and economies and education systems are so visibly out of control in their efforts at total control (Svi Shapiro) that we may just have a chance to reclaim them in the name of wisdom, if we are able to encourage enough others to take heart and hope in these times, instead of losing it by simply succumbing to the forces that seek to control and threaten to engulf us. The only power that can confront the magnitude of the issues of our time is our own magnanimity, the greatness of the wisdom that can be cultivated in each of our souls, and the collective power of our collective wisdom. To cultivate that magnanimity to its fullest capacity we need to draw on the fullness of the wisdom tradition from both the deep (Armstrong, Jaspers) and the recent (Merton, Steiner, Palmer, Gulen, et. al.) past, and from our own personal stories and insights, as we have so richly shared in our calls, and will no doubt share far more fully and embodiedly (to coin a word) when we at last meet this week. So, may our coming together soon be an omen, and perhaps a catalyst, for a larger coming together of the world. And may the devastation our meeting site has narrowly escaped today, thanks to the courageous work of the firefighters, be an omen and serve as a symbol of our helping the world escape much greater forms of devastation in the future, thanks to our own and others’ courageous work.

OK, the details:
1) Again, don’t forget checks (or cash), towels, colored pens, and musical instruments if you can bring them. An alarm clock will also come in handy. Bring some relatively warm clothing/jackets, as some sessions will be held outside.
2) I’ve attached the bios and presentation summaries we’ve managed to collect, and the final program. Send any additions or changes ASAP–I’ll post what I have to the web tomorrow morning and revise and resend once more tomorrow night. We did not abbreviate anyone’s bio, so to be fair, we will accommodate any longer bio you would like to submit at this time.

Biographies of Conference Presenters and Participants

Biographies of Conference Presenters and Participants

Anne Adams:
Anne has designed and led seminars, workshops and educational programs for professional groups, individuals, corporations and educational institutions for more than 30 years.

She has been a teacher, school director, university instructor, a manager in an international educational corporation, and a business consultant to both large and small corporations. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Michigan in Clinical and Educational Psychology, and her PhD in Transformational Learning and Change from The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, California.

Her company, ACS, provides consulting in organizational transformation to all people in companies and educational institutions, specializing in large-scale cultural transformation and change, communication skills, team collaboration, integral leadership development, coaching and individually designed programs.

Anne has worked with many Fortune 50 companies, nationally and internationally. Her commitment is to have people create exciting, compelling futures and together bring those futures into reality. ACS educates clients in what it takes to achieve breakthrough results.

Dave Arbogast:
Dave is an English Specialist for Loudoun County, Virginia Public Schools. He taught high school and college English for 26 years. He is a member of the Northern Virginia Writing Project and is a regular meditator.

Michele Blumberg:
Michele has been an educator and educational consultant for 30 years. She is currently on the faculty of Global Village School and also teaches in the MA in Contemplative Education program at Naropa University. She also serves as curriculum designer and consultant to Jewish Family Service, Parenting and Youth Services. She is one of the creators of StoryValues, a program of character education for schools.

Cristy Bruns:
Cristy’s twenty years of teaching has taken her from employment training for welfare recipients to college English courses, currently at Chapman University in Orange, CA. She recently completed a Ph. D. in English and education at UC-Santa Barbara under Sheridan Blau, with a dissertation entitled, Why Literature? The Value of Literary Reading and Its Implications for Pedagogy.

Lorraine Lum Calbow and
Lynn Ann Wojciechowicz:
Sharing Wisdom Through the Oral Tradition: The Storytelling Circle
Lorraine Lum Calbow—Counseling & Storytelling Faculty Emeritus of South Mountain Community College
LynnAnn Wojciechowicz—Storytelling & Humanities Faculty, Director of the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute

In a storytelling circle format, participants will share a story from their own lives, or a parable or folktale that captures the wisdom from within. After the stories are told, participants will discuss universal themes that apply to the following conference questions: How might the education of teachers, at all levels, be designed to evoke wisdom? How can the understanding of wise teaching and learning be extended beyond schooling?

Brent Cameron:
Brent is working on a Ph.D. in an attempt to explain the amazing discoveries in human learning in programs in Vancouver BC Canada over 25 years. The program he began for his daughter has grown to over 1000 learners and has won numerous national awards. It is recognized as a new paradigm for learning beyond schooling and is based on epistemology and love. The book SelfDesign: Nurturing Genius through Natural Learning was published 2006.

Epistemology of Wisdom

Returning to the place we never leave and knowing that place for the first time is the hero’s journey. It is a human journey in learning where everything learned takes us further from our truth. Unlearning is the second part of a journey in the rediscovery of the obvious, which is essential to our transformation into the fourth and final stage of human development. After 25 years working with children and families free to learn who we are and free to discover our purpose here as human beings, we have discovered some insights into the epistemology of being human.

Sally Carless:
Sally is the founding director of Global Village School, an international K-12 homeschool diploma program focused on peace, justice, diversity, and sustainability. Passionately committed to a vision of a more just and peaceful world, Sally believes that education is a key component of progressive social change.

Bradley Comann:
Bradley says: I have taught writing for over 25 years at community colleges, Penn State-Erie, and now at UC Santa Barbara. I have a pedagogical interest in the intersection of Buddhist philosophy, composition theory, and the art of the essay as found primarily in Creative Non-fiction. But, in addition, some recent insights from sports psychology have come to me as a source of wisdom in the classroom.

John Creger:
Soon to begin a 21st year observing his sophomores at American High School in Fremont CA, teacher-researcher John Creger believes they have helped him stumble on a model of learning that will guide the renewing of purpose in the American high school–from the demoralizing pursuit of industrial production targets to the satisfying cultivation of skilled souls.

James S. Davis
Born and raised in the southwest Missouri Ozark Mountains, Jim Davis began teaching high school English in 1966. Following graduate work at the University of Arkansas and at the University of Missouri, he joined a regional agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1973 as a Language Arts consultant. Co-founder and director of the Iowa Writing Project since 1978, he has also served as a school improvement consultant for the New Iowa Schools Development Corporation. Major professional involvements have included the Missouri Association and Iowa Council of Teachers of English; NCTE, specifically the Conference on English Education, the Commission on Composition, and the Russell Award Committee, among others; and numerous consultancies. He “retired” in 2003 to join the faculty in the English Department at the University of Northern Iowa, where IWP simultaneously relocated.

Michael S. Katz:
Michael S. Katz, a Professor of Philosophy and Education at San Jose State University, teaches courses in moral issues and philosophy of education; currently past President of the North American Philosophy of Education Society,he does scholarly work on the “ethics of teaching.” He received his B.A. in English literature from Amherst College (1966) and his Ph.D. from Stanford University (1974)

Theo Koffler:
In 2007, Theo Koffler founded Bewteen4Eyes, a San Francisco-based non-profit that brings practical mindfulness techniques to human service providers (and the populations they serve) in conflict and post-conflict communities in Africa and the Middle East. Between Four Eyes is based on the premise that one of the best ways to break cycles of mutual hatred, anger and fear is to create a domain where mastery of one’s emotions and behavior is reclaimed in order that cultural biases dissolve, and hearts and minds flourish. Our workshops offer processed-based curriculum that addresses skills to nurture one’s wholeness, while exploring how to care for oneself and others with compassion. Its innovative educational strategy is secular and draws on tested approaches and theories, including social and emotional intelligence, human and cognitive behavior, social psychology and attention training.

Contact information:
Theo Koffler
415 488-7155

Mary Leonard:
Mary is a literacy coach at Ulster County Boces in New Paltz, New York where she tries to foster teaching from the heart, soul, mind and body. She has published two chapbooks of poetry: Twenty-first Century Flint and A Girl.

David Marshak:
Education for the Evolution of Consciousness: The Evolution of Integral Consciousness

The spiral dynamics developmental model, created by Clare Graves and carried forward by Don Beck, Christopher Cowan, Ken Wilber, Steve McIntosh, and others, helps us to understand the global challenges of our time and gives us insight about how education can embrace integral consciousness as its outcome goal for young adults.

The insights of Rudolf Steiner, Sri Aurobindo, and Hazrat Inayat Khan along with Maria Montessori, James Hillman, and others inform us about how we can promote the development of integral consciousness by young adults through an education founded on each soul’s own expression, defined behaviorally as appropriate freedom within appropriate boundaries.

Integral consciousness is wisdom. It’s not so much “reclaiming” though as the potential for democratizing access to wisdom for the first time in known human history and making it available not only to special “wise men/women” but to hundreds of thousands or even millions of young people all over the planet.

Activities: Two short presentations; small group conversations; and a whole group discussion in Socratic seminar format

Address the conference theme: I don’t agree with the description of history stated in the conference theme. Public education did not exist prior to the Enlightenment, so it has never manifested “the evocation of wisdom in the human person” as its central aim. Public education—better to call it “schooling”—is a modernist form, so inevitably it furthers modernist ambitions.

Prior to the Enlightenment very few people were educated by institutional functions, and those who were so engaged mostly were in the service of a particular church. So I don’t see any eclipse. Rather it never was. The task is not “reclaiming the wisdom tradition;” rather it is claiming wisdom—or to use my preferred phrase, integral consciousness—as the purpose of education.

This is a brand new idea. It’s not that we did not have wise people in the past, but rather that wisdom for the most part did not result from education provided by an institution.

In working on this task, we need to use the many powerful tools of post-modern consciousness to deconstruct schooling and the fertile and powerful tools of integral consciousness to replace the broke-down mess with new, far more organic, and developmentally-aligned (or, as I’d say, aligned with unfoldment) forms of education.

So I address the conference theme by engaging it in a lovely argument.

Carlo Monsanto:
Carlo is from the Caribbean Integral Institute (Curacao, Netherlands Antilles)
Carlo’s presentation: Awaken YourSelf: Dis-cover the dynamics of ‘Inner Response Dialogue’ for Integral Awareness.

In our ACM Living Awareness programme the process of learning is described from the growing awareness of the learner, his/her individual capacity of dynamic self-organization and self-learning and how this can be seriously limited by the so-called ‘Inner Response Dialog’ or IRD. The ‘Inner Response Dialog’ is defined as a filter that consists of patterns of traumas and called-up pathogenic responses that mostly act from subconscious levels of experience. By making the IRD visible and transparent through ACM Dia-Gnosis, in time the barriers imposed by these subconscious responses disappear.
The learner is firstly assisted in an awakening to his/her own capacity of dynamic self-organization and inner navigation; and alignment with his/her true inner purpose that is connected with the emergent Self. Based on the aforementioned the learner then starts creating new states of integrated awareness. Apart from this holistic diagnosis the ACM Living Awareness programme offers a wisdom tradition based (nonlinear dynamic) theoretical framework that assists learners in seeing an interconnected reality. At the same time learners are offered a series of health and contemplative practices to make this growing integrated awareness essentially continuous.

Julie Nichols:
Julie is currently assistant professor of English at Utah Valley
University (Orem, Utah), taught creative writing and writing-as-therapy
1975-1995. From 1996-2002 she studied and co-authored two books about Integrated Awareness (TM), a hands-on healing modality, with founder Lansing Gresham. She and husband Jeff have four children and five grandchildren

Michael Olin-Hitt:
Michael is Professor of English at Mount Union College—a liberal-arts college in Alliance, Oho—where he teaches Fiction Writing, American Literature, Native American Literature and Wisdom Literature. He has recently published the spiritual memoir, The Word of God Upon My Lips: A Christian’s Journey into Prophecy. In this book, Michael reveals that the mystical awareness usually understood as deep-trance channeling has been known since the dawn of human consciousness by shamans, oracles, prophets and other mystics. For him, the most fitting way to understand his trance state is in the Judo-Christian tradition of wisdom prophecy.

Helen Papoulis:
Helen teaches kindergarten in a bilingual (Spanish/English) classroom in San Francisco. She is also a practicing acupuncturist.

Mary Papoulis:
Mary plays violin in the Cascade Quartet in Great Falls, Montana. She also plays in the Great Falls Symphony Orchestra, and works with private students.

Nan Phifer
Author, Memoirs of the Soul
Oregon Writing Project
University of Oregon

Gabriele Rico:
Author of the best-selling Writing the Natural Way and Creating Re-Creations: Inspiration from the Source, co-author of textbooks, including Discovering Literature. On Advisory Board of New Moon’s website to provide creative activities for girls 8-12 years. Her translations of contemporary poems, entitled The Root Hunger for Angels, bring her back to her first language.;

Unutterable invisible
alternate realities
dot our inner landscape. Rainer Maria Rilke

The essence of Wisdom is knowing and not knowing simultaneously. Wisdom requires activation of empathy, altruism, intentionality, all of which, new research shows, are generated in the pre-frontal cortex behind our foreheads (the third eye). The PFC leads to a bridging between material and spiritual realms This part of the human brain, which has doubled in size over the last million years, is the last to mature, the first to be compromised in dementia. We will explore role of the PFC’s time-awareness in assessing the consequences of our actions as well as the negatives in intensified future-consciousness at the expense of wisdom traditions. And perhaps we will have time for an intuitive, creative writing activity to tap into the “inner landscape” Rilke speaks of.

Shani Robins:
Saturday: Wisdom Therapy: Learning, Integrating, and Applying Mindfulness Meditation, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and Humility Training.

Wisdom Therapy is an integrated training that aims to facilitate the multiple Western and Eastern dimensions of wisdom, including the cognitive, behavioral, physiological, social, environmental, and spiritual dimensions and to do so with lightness and humor. Wisdom Therapy includes mindfulness meditation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Humility training. It aims to facilitate the development of wisdom that tends to develop over the longer periods of the lifespan. This workshop will include Mindfulness Meditation, short humility inducing visual illusions, videos on the grand scale of events, and experiential Cognitive-Behavioral role playing

Sunday: Wisdom Therapy Applied: Reducing the Cognitive Distortions, Fear, and Anger of the Ego While Transcending that Ego

Wisdom Therapy applies Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Meditation, and Humility in an effort to decrease anger, fear, and self-centeredness and increase well-being, mindfulness, humility, and compassion. This workshop will review the conceptual constructs of Wisdom Therapy but will emphasize it’s applications to anger and anxiety in everyday life, work, and clinical settings.

Shani Robins, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, in Palo Alto, California, and an Instructor at Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley. He completed his B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from UCLA in 1989, his M.A. and Ph.D. in Cognitive Experimental Psychology from U.C. Santa Barbara in 1996. He is a licensed psychologist, the author of numerous scientific journal articles and book chapters and pioneered the field of Wisdom Therapy (

Jody Swilky:
Jody is a Professor of English at Drake University who specializes in the teaching of writing and courses concerned with multicultural studies. He has published articles on issues pertinent to multicultural education, the teaching of writing, and the politics of schooling. For the past two years he has worked on imagining, writing and revising the documentary, A Little Salsa of the Prairie: The Changing Character of Perry, Iowa.

Theodore Timpson
President, Young Spirit Foundation

Theodore (M.S., Bank Street College of Education) has taught at many grade levels in alternative educational settings that specifically address the whole child. Young Spirit Foundation is bringing together parents, teachers, and faith leaders to recognize, understand, and support the inner experience of children in schools.

Nichola Torbett:
Nichola has been writing and thinking about the intersection of love, meaning, and politics for almost twenty years. Helping to coordinate Representative Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign in 2004 convinced her that 1) so many Americans want a more compassionate culture rooted in open-heartedness rather than domination, and 2) many of those Americans are afraid to stand up for that “unrealistic” desire in the absence of evidence that there are many others who want the same thing. She is committed to building networks in education, law, and other professions as a powerful way for Americans to demonstrate to each other that they are interested in more than looking out for themselves and that they are willing to challenge cultural messages aimed at generating fear and instead develop practices within their professions to foster compassion, kindness, empathy, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation.

Nichola has degrees from the University of Toledo and Indiana University at Bloomington. She got her professional start in educational publishing, trying to use textbooks and educational materials as a mechanism for inspiring compassion. She has read widely in cultural studies, theology, and psychology and brings the insights from that reading to her organizing efforts.

Nichola Torbett
Director of National Programs
Network of Spiritual Progressives

Joonna Smitherman Trapp:
Joonna says: I’m a native of Texas, West Texas, which has its own version of wisdom, a kind of gritty folk wisdom that moves slowly and unevenly like a sidewider snake in the sand. I teach at a small college in Iowa with religious ties, and surprisingly, wisdom doesn’t come up as a topic much except for prayer for individual wisdom, which I take to mean “discernment.” I’m currently heading up my college’s reevaluation of general education, and I think wisdom needs to be a part of that discussion–I’m hoping this conference will move us in that direction. I’m a historian of rhetoric and a 19th century Americanist. I also teach spiritual writing and film. My research specialities most often find expression in oratory as literature and the American gothic tradition. I’ve been a part of AEPL for two years now.

Lynn Ann Wojciechowicz: See Lorraine Calbow

May 18 Conference Call

Hello once again!

Thanks to Svi Shapiro for engaging us deeply last week in critical hope! For those of you not attending the conference, but interested in it, a preliminary version of the program will be posted on the web in the next several days. We may have one or two more speakers representing movements for global peace education. Our final call before the conference will take place on the morning of Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, at noon Eastern, 9am Pacific–the topic is listed below, as well. Hope many of you can join us! If there is interest, we will continue these calls after the conference, though most likely on a less frequent basis.

The procedure is simply to dial 218-936-6666, follow the prompts, and then enter the code 9936250#. The call will last about 90 minutes, if we can contain the enthusiasm to that!


May 11 Conference Call

Next week, May 11, will feature conference participant Tom Gage, who is an Islamist as well as a teacher of teachers of English, along with Yetkin Yildirim of the Gulen Foundation which works, as I understand it, to advance spiritual, nonviolent education in the Islamic world. We may have other speakers as well to participate in this cosmopolitan conversation about the substantial large-scale forces already working in the world to bring about wholesale educational transformation toward wisdom.

The procedure is simply to dial 218-936-6666, follow the prompts, and then enter the code 9936250#. The call will last about 90 minutes, if we can contain the enthusiasm to that!

Conference Call May 4

Hi, everyone!

We resume our calls tomorrow with a very exciting reunion: the first time the three founders of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning of the National Council of Teachers of English (the sponsoring organization of the conference) have been in vocal touch for over a decade. Dick Graves, Alice Brand, and Charlie Suhor (the last of whom many of you have gotten to know through these calls) will talk about how this organization came to be and the place it has served in the lives of many over the years. I hope you’ll come to see that we have served as a kind of mobile, professional ashram, a vehicle and sacred space for wisdom much like those of the traditions we studied in Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. I hope we can get a great number of you on the call.

The procedure is simply to dial 218-936-6666, follow the prompts, and then enter the code 9936250#. The call will last about 90 minutes, if we can contain the enthusiasm to that!

Next week will feature conference participant Tom Gage, who is an Islamist as well as a teacher of teachers of English, along with Yetkin Yildirim of the Gulen Foundation which works, as I understand it, to advance spiritual, nonviolent education in the Islamic world. We may have other speakers as well to participate in this cosmopolitan conversation about the substantial large-scale forces already working in the world to bring about wholesale educational transformation toward wisdom.

We’ll also try to reschedule the call with Svi Shapiro, if he’s better by now.
I thought the last call before the conference, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, should be given over simply to a conversation among the conference participants as to their responses to these calls as a whole and their hopes for the upcoming conference. I hope you can think about taking a little time out of your holiday weekend for that.


Sunday Conference Calls–April 13, 20, & 27

Hi all,

Next week’s call will be moderated by Conference Co-Chair Stan Scott and will feature conference speaker Michael Nagler. I just got and read Michael’s recent book Our Spiritual Crisis: Recovering Human Wisdom in a Time of Violence, and must say there is a remarkable confluence between it and the thinking of this conference, from the use of the phrase “the wisdom tradition” (which I learned comes from Huston Smith) to the emphasis on “the sacred individual whose depth connects with the reality of all others” as the ultimate means to uproot the violence in today’s world. Michael can also talk with us about his work with Educators for Nonviolence. I will be joining the call late, as it overlaps with a conference session I’ll be attending in Boston. It will take place at the usual time of 9pm Eastern, 6 Pacific, Sunday the 13th. The call-in info is just below this message.
The following week’s call will be in the at noon Eastern, 9AM Pacific on the 20th, so folks can celebrate the second night of Passover in the evening. It will feature Robert Larry Inchausti, and will focus on the life and thought of Thomas Merton, which were seminal in provoking a revival of spiritual thinking in the last century, being particularly influential for the thought of Parker Palmer and others. If you can, read Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and/or Larry’s Thomas Merton’s American Prophecy.
The call on the 27th will feature Tikkun Magazine education writer Svi Shapiro. You can access Svi’s many articles over the years for just $10 at Or get his recent, powerful book Losing Heart: The Moral and Spiritual Miseducation of America’s Children. It will take place at the usual time of 9pm Eastern.
Just today, I asked for more rooms at Mount Madonna Center. We have only a few left at this writing. Please send in outstanding registrations as soon as possible, so we can accommodate you! (There will definitely be space offsite, but down a small mountain.)
We are also getting in quite a number of terrific proposals. To accommodate them, we will most likely need to begin the conference on Thursday morning and end on Sunday evening. If you can arrive early and/or stay late, notify Louise Smith to reserve space for you for Wednesday and/or Sunday night. There will be no additional registration fees, other than what we are charged by Mount Madonna for the additional nights.
Stan and I will be putting the program together at the end of the month. Please send any additional proposals by the 20th, so we can consider them!
Looking forward to attaching names and voices to faces very soon!


April 6 Conference Call–Axial Age

Hi all!

Back for a few days. My schedule tomorrow is very tight, so we are having the call a little earlier. We’ll be talking about the last three chapters of Armstrong, particularly the final one on the import of the Axial Age for today. Other topics that I think may be of interest are the conflict between spirituality and orthodoxy and the special importance of choosing wise leaders that are themes throughout these final chapters.

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

Talk to you tomorrow!


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.