Monday, August 10, 2009

Sustainability I, II, III

He who gives himself entirely to his fellow man
appears to them useless and selfish, but he who
gives himself partially to them is considered a
benefactor and philanthropist. Thoreau: “Civil

Dear Jeff,

How many ways to skin our categories? I’d count them
if I could—but it’s beyond me. Not even top 5. But I
offer my own blue-sky stochasticsizing to stir the pot.
Redundantly, I admit it, and partially. Call me mere

The way we talk, our GEN ED program could end up
as a sampling of our non-gen-ed program: the stuff
of majors and minors and electives, packaged to
sound something like Sustainability Across the
, giving it thematic (thesis- driven)
legitimacy, dressing it up in emperors clothes
appropriate to these tumultuous and turbulent
times and probably gaining some accreditation-
credibility: seeming quality enhancement and
good PR.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

We might could have Sustainability Tenders to
monitor the quality of the Gen Ed offerings to
ensure Sustainability remained central.

And IT might depend on how we all shared a
sense of what SUSTAINABILTY is--sufficiently
recognizable so that we could be calling each other
OUT if we weren't operating our GE courses up to
sustainability snuff.

Intentional Communities of the 19th century
(Harmony, Brook Farm, Fruitlands. Oneida,
Amana, Twin Oaks….) that were sustainable
(lasted longer than all the others and there
were many) had 2 characteristics in common:

1. a clearly defined shared goal (making furniture,
maintaining chastity, self-sufficiency ...)

2. a system of Group Criticism, whereby the
success of tending the shared goal/value was
continually assessed.

You can see that for #2 to work, there had to
be a definite #1—and vice versa. A sustained
reciprocal complementary dynamic..

(Imagine all the talk that would have to go on:
probably forums and four o'clock meetings after
work, retreats, because they didn't have e-mail
then or texting or twittering, no networking, or
google-ability or Bing to collapse space & time &
optimize converse-action and community like
we have.'


I. THEORY (being Academic)

Borrowing a Distinction from Gary Hawkins
(The 2 Economies—which aims to separate
“composer” values from “consumer” values
in the business of teaching COMPOSITION
across the Curriculum), I would like to suggest
putting in play the notion of

The 2 Sustainabilities

We could call the normal action of the disciplines
—their instrumental and practical agenda (teaching
the ideas and skills and processes unique to each
way of talking and thinking and knowing):
Sustainability I.

SI are the skills that characterize the relationship
between us humans and the “out there” environment
we project—and represent. Sustaining this relationship
and these representations is crucial to homeostatus
quo and constitutes what we know.

.....................................B.. Ways we Talk about Hap
A. HAP ......................traditions, disciplines, common sense
what's actually..............(habits and habitats of humania)
happening (always
beyond which is to say
more than all our ways
of talk & thought &
knowing, true?

C. Ways we Talk about
............................................ways we talk about our
.............................................traditions, disciplines.
..............................................Common sense: habits
...............................................& habitats

The A & B ( Hap &Ways ) relationship constitutes
Sustainability I: our disciplines and traditions—
shared fictions to live by, so to speak, culture,
conventions that organize us: our conspiracies:
breathing together in manners of speaking.

C. represents what I mean by
and could constitute the essence of Gen Ed or if you
like Liberal ART (as opposed to the liberal arts of
Sustainability I): talking about the WAYS
discipline-disciples talk, think, and know
rather than simply talking like a
disciplinarian and attending to
disciplinary subject-object
matter, content and agenda.

It is important to make it known that participating
in Sustainability II events will feel appropriately
A.D.D to disciplinary protocol as we know it, but
Attention Efficient as far as the meta-discipline of C
(ways we talk about ways-we-talk) might be practiced.

It would be crucial & at least ideal to try to separate
and polarize and characterize these 2 curricular
agenda, or levels, so they don’t contaminate each
other: turning up their “hostility” and
“incommensurable-ness so that
THEN (as if this were a sequence
and chronological):

Sustainability III:
the complementary relationship between

(1) Sustainability I &
(2) Sustainability II

might generate ongoing Emerging Phenomena
& Values toward frontiers yet unknown.

The significant problems we face cannot be
solved by the same
level of thinking that
created them."
We can’t solve problems
by using the same kind of thinking we
used when we created them.

II. Work Programming IT
Some Practical Application. Devilish Details

Offerings in Gen Ed might be comprised of fulltime
faculty members offering ONE Sustainabilty II
“course” per year? (Or alternate years?)

I put “course” in quotes because we don’t have
the terminology to distinguish between the
Take-A-Course-ness that characterizes
Sustainability I (major & minor) offerings
and those kinds of activities that might
characterize Sustainability II offerings.

If SII merely extended the structures of SI,
“course-ness” it would contaminate the SII
possibilities for new levels and kinds of talk,
thought, and knowing. Like over-head projecting
shifted to Power Point , like inter- disciplinary
team-teaching merely carrying on the structures
and procedures of individual disciplinary teaching.
More of the same. No level-jump in kind that
Albert urges us to consider.

In SII events, step away from the SI agenda
& procedures. Preserve both in their
incommensurate integrity

Consider SII activity as properly anti-thetical,
“hostile” in values. My courses shift focus from
text to context & the inter-action of the “readers”:
the collaborative or non-collaborative stabs at
making some sense of our own, the incorporation
of “chaos” (an-archy demanding an ongoing
start-from-scratch, zero-basing reinvention of

“Grail-work” (emergent phenomenon & values)
is privileged, and the vis-à-vis (individual ego-
conscious purpose) is back-grounded.

Well, theoretically at least.
I can talk this stuff better & better as
I work at it—but I can’t claim much success
in bringing it off.

Actually this back-ground/figure reversal is
almost impossible to pull-off in the classroom
The dominant values of take-a-course major
& minor environ-mentalism is appropriately
hostile & resistant to this seemingly diabolical
shift from individual user/abuser-friendly
school-room traditions to collaborative group-
grope what the? what the hell? what the hell
are we doing
indeterminacy characteristic of
the process of composing and making shared

I don’t know what comparable or equivalent
moves might emerge as SII events in other
disciplines: but I suspect it might entail some
kind of antithesis to the standard operating
procedures of SI (major & minor ) ground-
covering, instrumental, clarity-celebrating,
determinate assess--mental, take the credit
and run procedures that sustain the status
quo appropriately and provide the base for
SII complementary opposition and the
possibility for the expectation and
appreciation of emergent properties
and values (SIII).

xxxooo Presbyter

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