Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Aaron is Enlightening

Today's post isn't action packed or full of emotion. It's dedicated to the remarkable work Aaron is doing in making the education around the compound truly comprehensive.

As a preface, I will say that I have always had some serious misgivings about how the educational system in the US has operated. Not the basic stuff, of course, like reading and the foundations of mathematics, but pretty much anything after grade school turned out to be repetitive and less than stimulating. I agree with Robert Pirsig's idea that people tend to learn at peak efficiency when they choose what to learn, and learn at least efficiency when forced to study things that are of no interest to them at all. The other problem I have had with my education at least is the total isolation of subjects. Subject A is taught as an independent entity from subject B, and any correlation between the two is for the student to discover.

I have always thought that teaching one thing should inherently include other subjects. This teaches logic and comprehensive understanding while grounding the student in a broad number of subjects, creating a good generalist thinker. Good generalists can become good specialists, but rarely is there a good specialist without the ability to think with a wide scope.

Aaron agrees.

His lessons for the younger people are great to watch. This morning he started teaching basic botany, using the local plants and trees. He did what you would expect, naming the various species and their uses, but he added so much more into the lesson. Aaron made the students take note of which types of trees produced the best wood for building and for fires, which ones burned quickly and slowly. Which had useful saps and produced edible nuts. He even pointed out which ones would provide the best windbreaks because of foliage density and total area, and what types of roots would make farming difficult. Mind you, I am just writing what I can remember as an observer. But I can tell you, not one of those kids looked bored.

He is teaching adults as well. Aaron is putting in a lot of time learning skills and even more time teaching himself how to apply principles to them and how to derive principles from them. He is learning the smattering of Aikido, Judo, and Iaido that I and a few others teach, and is teaching some folks how to apply the body mechanics of those marital arts to everyday life, including work. I saw him showing someone how to use a basic Aikido stance as a base for learning a perfect hammer stroke to drive a nail, all the while explaining the physics of what he was teaching in understandable terms. The equations and formulas for force and work are so much easier to understand when you have real world experiences and examples to learn them with. I had to leave during that particular demonstration, but he was moving on to anatomy and physiology when I left, going on about the properties of the bones, tendons and muscles doing the swinging of the hammer, how the brain and nerves conduct those signals...

I know it seems like a lot of stuff to read it here, but the greater part of what impresses me here is that Aaron manages to make people understand and retain without overloading them. He is incredibly talented as getting people excited about what he is teaching by how he is teaching it. And that flash of energetic understanding in a student that is the hallmark of all truly awesome teachers like my sister? His students have it. Not once in a while or once a day, but often throughout a given class. It's like watching the audience of a movie with a lot of strange plot twists, constant surprise and flashes of an new understanding of the whole.

In this way he is giving our young and old alike an amazing ability to comprehend the whole of something, and to apply knowledge from one area to something seemingly unrelated. He is gaining popularity quickly, though I can't be sure he's entirely comfortable with it.

I think we might have lucked out into a resource we can't afford to risk in Aaron. So maybe we need to talk to him about avoiding going out of the compound. I think he can make us stronger in ways not many of us could have grasped a few weeks ago, and I don't want to lose that chance to some random zombie catching him off guard.

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