A Woman Wonders

My husband and I pursued master degrees while working and raising two children under twelve. Yeah. That was fun. It could have been more stressful. We could have been in the same program. Jim went for American Studies. I went for English Literature. We both have undergraduate degrees in Philosophy. He is a Platonist, I am an Aristotlelian. That makes for some interesting conversations. I was still searching for answers after my MA, and obtained a Master of Public Administration. My focus is always the same: Who are we as individuals? What do we do with that? How do we organize as collectives around those ideas?

Where do I fit in this world?

The current conversation around education in American society is a debased one. There is a difference between 'goal' and 'purpose.' This distinction has either been lost, or intentionally shifted in our public discourse on 'quality education.' There is one answer to the question, "What is the goal of education?" and another to the question, "What is the purpose of education?" To answer the first, we enter the deep end of our collective intellectual pool. The conversation requires us to look at where we came from, where we are, and where we want to go. This question has been discussed through the millennia across philosophy, religion, and the fine arts. To answer the second, we enter the physiological. We need to learn as much as we need water and food.

In our current culture, pursuing knowledge in three different areas can be viewed as indulgent, irresponsible. Outside of the upper socio-economic sphere. Then one is simply 'cultured.'

"What were you expecting to accomplish? What did you hope to gain?" Expectation and hope are different. I was expecting to read things I would not come across on my own, to engage in dialogue, and to have my perspective expanded. I was hoping to gain understanding of who and what we are, I am; to be employed in a position where I could effect positive change, to be useful, to be of service. I was hoping to find my place.

I did not earn three degrees because of a paycheck promise by any institution or instructor. A paycheck is a justification, a potential card up my sleeve to be laid on the table as proof of my 'maturity' and 'responsibility' in thought. A paycheck is merely the extrinsic value of education. I earned three degrees because of an internal drive to learn. I earned three degrees because of an insatiable curiosity. Why does a passion for education need a justification? Trick question. It does not. It is intimately connected to the intrinsic value of education, which, by definition, needs no justification. The discipline of study, the process of learning, motivates me. That proves problematic in our current culture. That is not just my opinion.

The current conversation around education has been wrapped up and restricted to accountability and job training, with the operations of institutions focused on their business model. It is the same conversation from pre-school through higher education. Too much overhead, declining enrollment, not enough accountability. We have to get lean and focused to compete in the global economy. Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Weird, isn't it, how those are the same things multi-national corporations and warmongers need for expanding operations?

This focus abandons the goal of education, and the value of knowledge. The Humanities are abused, and people in power openly refer to educators as 'teaching machines.' The ability of a college educated person to get a job is not the responsibility of institutions of education. The ability of a college educated person to get a job speaks to broader issues of social structure and community development. Program development and course offerings, subject matter and assessment tools should not be aligned merely with corporate interests. We Makers are not Machines. We are Humans. We live, and breath, and think, and wonder. We change the world.

I collected gold rings in higher education because I am obsessed with the distance between the idea and the reality of our species. Humans are fascinating, what we are as individuals, what we do with that, and how we organize ourselves as collective communities. Other species live within boundaries. Humans actively destroy the ones established by Nature, while instituting maladaptive ones upon our self created social ones. Why? Simply because we can? Because it is Human Nature? Those are insufficient answers. 

I have questions and want answers, and relish the work of deconstructing and reassembling knowledge to create a new strand of thought or strengthen an established one. I have been trained as a systems thinker by all of my teachers in every field. My personal drive brought me to people who helped me become a better person than I was before we engaged one another. Isn't that the goal of education? 

I had my first two formal cooking classes with Chef Allan of Kreeky Tree Farm. Chris and Allan raise goats, several different breeds of chickens, and now, peacocks. They make cookies, cheese and chili sauce, in addition to the eggs and chickens that they sell. Everything is done on site. Kreeky Tree is located up in the woods of Slatington, PA, and is a most beautiful farm.

I was taught to break down a chicken and fry it in my first class. It was great! I have always been afraid of frying. That whole "burning down the house" thing is great as a motivational cry, but not so much as an actual event. Chef Allan was thorough with his instructions on knife work and visual markers in the break down, and I learned so many little things watching him fry a bird. I am no longer afraid to fry.

I was taught the essential differences between two types of dough in my second class. Subtle differences in temperature and fats changes being. I also took away recipes for two cookies, as well as custard for quiche that that came out of Allan's personal culinary bible. I swear light shone out when Allan opened the black cover on the thick binder. He took a small index card with hand written instructions in pencil out of a sealed holder and placed it in my hands. That was the custard recipe. I feel honored to be trusted with it. 

You will not find any of the recipes below. You will have to attend one of Chef Allan's classes to get yer paws on 'em. I am going to ask if I may share the Crunch Dough and custard recipe with my mother. It's a long way from the Luberon to Berks County. Go and meet and learn from some remarkable humans at Kreeky Tree Farm. You will be a better person for it.