During my first year in the Social Practice MFA program I have focused on the development of a project titled Build Something Together. The project is way for me to offer my handyman skills to people who are trying to build something that they do not know how to do alone. By inviting people to propose projects to me I am able to understand their vision and work with them to create it. This project stems from a desire to meet new people through the act of manual labor, and to understand different approaches of education.
When I was interviewed for the graduate program I was asked why I wanted to attend this program and my response was that I wanted to learn how to teach. The first book Harrell Fletcher recommended to me was We Make the Road By Walking by Miles Horton and Paulo Freire. The book is a conversation between two educators who were able to listen to communities and respond to them through activating an education model that was specific to each place. After reading this book I realized that teaching was not something I could not learn from going to graduate school, but it was something I would have to be actively doing in order to understand it.
Build Something Together has completed a handful of projects in the Portland Area, including a Raft Museum, a rooftop garden, and fixing a girls bed from squeaking. Build Something Together was also invited to be part of a show in Kansas City where I created a two-week residency to help individuals and families from surrounding areas. The residency was an intensive 10-hour a day process that resulted in 14 projects and multiple interviews.
In Deschooling Society Ivan Illich says that in order to move beyond the monopolized school education we must eliminate all schools and begin to learn from each other in self-directed ways. This model of education in our daily lives is one I relate to, and one that I believe is being developed through the model of Build Something Together. People’s nature is to learn, and by placing students in a school all day they are not able to put any of what they are being told into a context they can relate to, and therefore are not learning anything that can be used outside of those walls.
So how can educational models such as Build Something Together sustain themselves while not having a direct relationship to the institutions they are critiquing? My concern comes at a time where it is obvious that the capitalist society in which we live has many repercussions that are not sustainable and are leading us into a deep depression. I believe people will start to see the lasting value of sustaining our desire to learn by enacting creative ways of education throughout our daily lives, and in doing so are creating communities based on sustainable relationships to each other.
In my second year I want to continue practicing with Build Something Together and begin to understand how this kind of a model can continue to function beyond graduation. In the act of Deschooling it is important to recognize the downfalls of public education and not get trapped by the monopoly. I want to understand this more, and I will only be able to understand it once it is put into action.