Teach PC!?

Skye skye at tortuga.com
Sat May 30 22:19:15 EDT 1998

Jenny - Congratulations on choosing such a topic!!!

Although I wonder at the concept behind "methods that have been proven
effective primarily in the United States and are slowly integrated in
other cultural regions".  My personal experience is that most of the
great work in this area was developed in "other cultural regions" and
are only now being integrated into the United States. For example, the
initial research and development of what is now called (and I beleive
the name is now owned by an American) "Accelerated Learning" was
actually  done by a Bulgarian. I also take a great deal of influence
from Paulo Friere - a Chilean (or was it Peru?).

Sorry to be so picky. But I am sure we are all aware of the thousands
(or more) examples of brilliant research and development carried out by
people in other countries, which then become the intellectual (and thus
legal) property of large, USA based coorporations. I am not blaming you
for these blantant acts of theft, - I guess I am just very sensitive
when I hear what sounds like the same mentality. Guess I hope that in PC
we could be a little more aware and sensitive to such issues. And
especially be aware of how subtle an influence our own paradigm can be.

To come back to teaching - within my Western paradigm (and as presumed
in all the PC books I have read) the normal PC approach is to keep
animals such as chickens caged. Thus we have the famous PC Chicken
Tractor now rolling over landscapes of all descriptions. After
explaining the wonders of the chicken tractor to a group of mayan
(Campeche, Mexico) people recently I became aware of a level of
discomfort within the group. Suddenly many of them had obviously
"switched off". Rather than continuing with even more brilliant PC
ideas, I stopped and tried to find out what was happening. I eventually
asked them what was their traditional ways of containing chickens. The
answer - they didn't!!! Within their culture animals should not be
caged, they must be permitted to roam free - it is a deep part of their
tradition (the few vegetables they traditionally do grow are in
"ka'an'chas" elevated platforms often 2m. off the ground!). After some
discussion about the characteristics and role of the chicken in their
food system, we can up with the InSide-Out Chicken Tractor. The vege
garden is put in the cage, and the chickens patrol the perimeter looking
for pests etc.

For me there are two points in this story. Firstly, be prepared to
change your own paradigm - the fact that every PC book on animals has a
chicken tractor doesn't mean it is appropriate everywhere. And secondly,
when working in another culture, take the time to try to comprehend
their ideas and rituals - often they will have strategies that are more
suited to their requirements - and you can always learn something new.

My other main contribution to this discussion at this stage is a book
list review. It is not my work. It was recently (only days ago!) sent to
me by Wolf White - a PC Designer and Teacher from the UK. I was
impressed by Wolf when I met him last year, and his comments and reviews
below continue to show the clarity and brilliane of his approach. (If
this list inspires you I suggest you contact Wolf directly -
wolfway at altavista.net)

So, it is long, but there it is

Review of reference materials for the broad based Permaculture Designer

A)  Teaching, Learning-To-Learn techniques, tools and processes 

Many of the following books come from the fields of Learning To Learn
(L2L) and Teaching English As A Foreign Language (TEFL). Their
techniques that can be easily adapted for teaching PC courses. Learning
a foreign cultural language is not so far removed from learning the
initially foreign language of PC. These days the modern TEFL books -
which teach the "Communicative Paradigm" -  are absolutely chock full of
active learning ploys specifically designed to get non English speakers
to engage in activities that help to embed their learning. This way of
teaching stresses the minimal but effective use of Teacher Talking Time.
The teacher sets up a series of graded strategies activities, models,
simulations and role-plays to ensure that most of the time is used by
the students engaged in their own active learning. If you’re looking for
"capacity building" techniques then TEFL has got it down to a very fine
art! And of course these techniques have been widely tested.

Here you will find all the ice-breakers, warm-ups, lesson planning
outlines and processes, energisers, thinking tools, multiple
intelligences etc. that you could ever wish for. All of these materials
are learner-centred and brain-centred that is they work with you not
against you!

The first mention in the list must undoubtedly go to Australian PC
Designers Skye and Robin Clayfield. They have already plundered a goodly
portion of the L2L, Mind Mapping, Thinking Tools, Multiple Intelligences
literature and applied it directly to the teaching of PC itself! Full of
exercises that you can pick up and run with. Though these are no
substitute for your own researches they do enable you to get some of
your unique PC insights across very effectively. But this list is not
just about teaching. It is about enabling your students to learn.

The Manual For Teaching Permaculture Creatively: Robin Clayfield and
Skye (See above)

Super Teaching: E. Jensen. (Over 1,000 easy-to-use and practical

Pictures for Language Learning: Andrew Wright (Many ways of
manipulating, categorising, indexing and storing pictures to stimulate

Drama Techniques for Language Learning: a resource book of communication
activities: A. Maley and A. Duff

The Standby Book: S. Lindstromberg. (Ice-breakers, warm-ups, energisers,
reviews, fillers)

Games for Language Learning: A. Wright, D. Betteridge, M Buckly

Gamsters Handbook: D. Brandes, H. Phillips. (Used for years by youth and
community workers to engage people in learning, trusting, conversing,
listening etc)

Quantum Learning: B. DePorter and M. Hernacki. (By the inventors of
Super Camp. Specifically designed to fast track learning by learning to
learn how you learn best.....)

The Learning Revolution (a lifelong learning program for the world’s
finest computer: your amazing brain): G. Dryden and J. Vos. (Pure
inspiration! A survey of the "best practice"  teaching methods from
around the world. Aware of current global changes its stance is to equip
users for the 21st century)

Manual For Action (techniques to enable groups engaged in action for
change to increase their effectiveness): M. Jelfs

Ways of Training (Recipes for Teacher Training): Tessa Woodward. (This
is all about self-preparation and different ways of preparing lessons
and feedback - demonstrated in the format of bite-sized lessons!)

Five Minute Activities (A Resource Book Of Short Activities): Penny Ur
and Andrew Wright. (The title says it all - worth its weight in gold.)
For loosening up the creative thinking faculties of children (and
1) The Dog Exercising Machine: Edward De Bono
2) Children Solve problems: Edward De Bono
3) Teach Your Child How To Think: Edward De Bono
4) The Mind Pack: Edward De Bono

1) and 2) are full of childrens hand drawn solutions to real-world
design issues. They show, transparently, the mind of the young designer
at work. The drawings are full of insight, lateral thinking and wit.
In 3) there is a large collection of De Bono’s Thinking Tools and
processes aimed at adults for teaching their children. There are no
"right" or "wrong" answers. By using the simple tools alternatives are
fearlessly generated - thus broadening the mind. The "Newspaper Method"
teaches children how to sort out the wheat from the tabloid chaff. The
"Drawing Method" stimulates, as in 1) and 2) above, the direct design of
solutions by drawing.
4) Is a beautifully produced Dorling Kindersly box of non-threatening
games for expanding capacity from the centre of one’s experience
outwards. The user/player cannot help but build up their confidence and
a robust sense of themselves as a fluent thinker destined for stardom in
such wit and wisdom programs as "Have I Got News For You" and "What’s My
Line?" etc.

The Laughing Classroom (Everyone’s guide to teaching with humour and
play): D. Loomans and K. Kolberg  Lots of interesting activities to keep
children interested.

B)  Inter-disciplinary "systems thinking" input 

Permaculture Designers wishing to broaden their inter-disciplinary
design approach may benefit from consulting the inspiring, practical and
thoughtful works of designers like Victor Papanek and Christopher
Alexander. The sheer length and breadth of information detailing the
importance of not transgressing the Human Scale is masterfully provided
by Kirkpatrick Sale and also Robin Dunbar. And the art and science of
ecological organisation is handled in Stafford Beer’s "Diagnosing The
System For Organisations".

1) Design For The Real World (Human Ecology and Social Change): Victor
2) The Green Imperative (Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture):
Victor Papanek

Papanek, addressing himself to the social and human dimensions of
design, is a very wide-ranging inter-disciplinary Architect/Designer
pleading for responsibility and optimisation in all matters of design
and consumption. Among other things he studied the internal processes of
insects ("Biological Prototypes in Design") in order to understand
natural hydraulic systems. Design For The Real World has been completely
revised (1991) and makes a strong case for Design Education (up there
with Buckminster Fuller!). He lays his cards on the table in the very
first paragraph of his original Preface:  "There are professions more
harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And
possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in
persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t
have, in order to impress others who don’t care, is probably the
phoniest field in existence today..........."

He is concerned to design for citizens of all (dis)-abilities. There are
creatively produced flow charts of the design process. In Chapter 7
"Rebel With A Cause: Invention and Innovation’  he explores 7 major
blockages to creative thinking: Perceptual, Emotional, Associational,
Cultural, Professional, Intellectual, Environmental spending the rest of
the chapter in demonstrating a plethora of thinking devices, tools and

The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture
kinda says it all. Always looking to enthuse, and engage, he illustrates
how the raw design ingenuity, heightened 3D perceptual faculties and
acute memories of the Inuit people enable them to thrive in what we
might consider to be inhospitable conditions(Chapter 11). Agenda 21
suggests that we have much to learn from indigenous people, here Papanek
opens a very instructive window. Pages 92-3, and the back cover, sport
full colour interior / exterior photos of an absolutely stunning chapel
set in the woods: "an example of the spiritual values in (Fay Jones’)

1) Pattern Language: Christopher Alexander
2) A Timeless Way of Building: Christopher Alexander

These are two in a series of 5 hefty in-depth books by this
Contractor-builder/Architect - he can draw and his hands have got
callouses! He has also worked in communities empowering them to build
their own houses. In Mexico he devised various formulae for square feet
of wall, floor etc. for various materials enabling impoverished people
to assess in advance how much they can afford to build. Pattern Language
is full of mouthwatering images of patterns in and around peoples’
living spaces researched by Alexander and a team of his students. In
bringing on board some anthropological evidence an attempt is made to
show that there are some invariant preferential patterns that human
beings have used the world over when fashioning their environments. It
has even inspired a recent book on computer software design. The only
complaints are that these books are too small - roughly A5 which makes
the excellent photos a bit of an eyestrain (these books NEED to be
coffee-table size!) - and expensive. 

The Power Of Limits (Proportional Harmonies In Nature, Art and
Architecture): G. Doczi. (The Golden Mean, Fibonacci’s Series and
Harmonic Proportion, illustrated with beautiful drawings, observed
within everything from the efficiently proportioned structure of living
systems to its intuitive use in the design of Mayan symbols, Buddhist
statues, temples, Japanese gardens, the Jumbo Jet and poetry!)

Human Scale: Kirkpatrick Sale
Grooming, Gossip and The Evolution Of Language: Robin Dunbar
Sale’s vast cross-disciplinary vista’s of the benefits of operating at
the "Human Scale" must be the must-read grand daddy of all tomes for
sustainability planners looking to dissolve problems of social design
before they can arise. Even though some of the financial and
sociological information is now dated (we are talking 1980 here) the
underlying effects of humans impacting on humans. Transgressing Human
Scale limits for the sake of "economies of scale" is not only very
expensive (all those layers of "management"/government need to be paid
for!) but shows that scant attention is paid to the bottom-line need for
a quality of life. Plenty of evidence of all kinds of  "diminishing
returns" - social and economic - is given for workplace scenarios intent
on milking labour - or "human resources" as it is so quaintly termed
these days - rather than benefiting from the huge multi-faceted
productivity, and synergy, that can be derived from smaller
self-regulating groups. If nothing else money is being thrown away.
Capitalism, efficient? Discuss. 
Shoring up the Human Scale from the cognitive, anthropological,
linguistic, ecological and neurological angles Dunbar’s immensely
readable and mercifully short "Gossip" .shows that group sizes do matter
very much indeed! Plenty of evidence is given from all walks of life
right down to the invariant congregation size of community churches. It
all has to do with our capacity to process the QUALITY OF OUR
RELATIONSHIPS. This appears to be a most inflexible attribute - if
quality of life for all is keenly desired! The stretching of
time-budgets between food-getting (or "work") and the need to play ones
part in servicing the on-going sustainability of the group (social
cohesion) together with the powerful yet limited cognitive processing
power of the individual brain as group sizes increase causes
communications stresses, uncertainties and problems of trust.
The breadth of evidence drawn upon by these two authors would suggest a
serious refocusing of social policy and social security initiatives at
the level of "the community" rather than "the family". When a community
is too small (e.g. the size of a family unit) it does not have the full
range of resources mentally, physically, spiritually and genetically to
survive. If the community grows too large (e.g. greater than 1000
members) it is barely possible to remember who they all are let alone
monitor on-going relationships and one’s own relationships to them! 
The Human Scale community has been shown to be the smallest and the
largest social aggregate capable of providing for the full range of
spontaneous needs expressed by its members without weakening of
communications. These days such a self-organising entity is said to
exhibit "Order For Free."  Issues such as trust, crime, freedom, abuse
etc. traditionally touted as "moral" issues can now be readily seen to
be directly related to issues of social structure and organisation
wherein individuals are either under supported - in a range of essential
needs that they define - or over stressed within communities far too
large and thereby unmanageable by them. It seems that local complexity
and chaos is controlled and prescribed by the optimal limit of groups no
larger than 150 people in size - the Human Scale. 

Out Of Control (The New Biology Of Machines): Kevin Kelly
(Ever been a rodeo cowboy? This comes from the editor of "Wired" the
in-your-face we’re-constructing-the-new-Paradigm internet magazine. He
understands the technology and the issues, at least from an american
perspective. "Control" covers the ground from ecological successions to
cybernetics taking careering detours via e-commerce, hive computing,
prediction machinery, "Order For Free", encryption and privacy issues on
the Net and something the author calls the "Nine Laws Of God", some of
which are uncannily similar to PC principles. Enjoy. Sharpen your spurs
and hang on in there. Oh yes, and sharpen up yer thinking tools

Women, Fire And Dangerous Things: George Lakoff
(Our "common" sense may save us yet! A truly ear opening treatise on how
human beings use linguistic metaphors to understand and categorise their
worlds. The first half of the work leaves in tatters nearly every major
linguistic theory in sight in favour of "folk taxonomies" of local
common sense. Lakoff proceeds to show that what we know about ourselves
and our environment is quite literally wrapped up in our everyday
utterances. For example among metaphors for "anger" are "the vessel (the
body) is a container under pressure" which gives rise to utterances like
"he got a bit hot under the collar there, eh" and "she almost blew her
stack". Physiological tests show that when people get angry their blood
pressure does rise and they do get hot around the neck! Elsewhere he
demonstrates the "argument is war" metaphor by outlining the phrases
that we actually use during an argument e.g. we talk about "defending" 
the "positions" of our arguments against our "opponent’s" the "line" of
"attack". About 20% of the book is devoted to unearthing just how
unconsciously astute we actually are. It is simply unbelievable that we
are so inherently and incredibly intelligent yet we allow ourselves to
be distracted by superficial and unsatisfactory layers of "spin". There
is a brilliant chapter on the Native Australian Dyrbil language. One
researcher has observed that it appears to be contained within 4
distinct categories. If you never thought that linguistics had anything
to do with Permaculture think again. This is about the embedded richness
of your world stored within you as language and is a clear demonstration
of "Pattern Language". Listening to what people say in meetings will
never be the same again.

C) Dissolving complexity: the understanding and designing of
self-regulating organisations

In the last instance does nature actually need that much of a hand from
PC designers? (Okay, okay. I’m sorry.) (Let’s try another angle.) With
due, and deep, respect to all designers out there - may reorganising the
green stuff be the soft underbelly of one of the singularly most
important issues at hand regarding our sustainability - the wholesale
changing of our (ouch!) current ways of behaving and consuming? For
years, veteran activists of self-managing cooperatives, special interest
groups and other voluntary associations have spent countless hours, nay
half a lifetime(!) driven by a vision in, frankly, often unsatisfactory
meetings getting unsatisfactory results. Many issues seem to get
re-cycled (now there’s a word!) but not quite re-solved. It is often
among our friends and partners that we are able to articulate our
frustrations with these processes, but, for fear of rocking the boat, it
is a rare and brave person who will tackle this where it needs dealing
with most - within our own selves and within the setting of our
meetings. The crazy thing is that we all come every time with the best
of intentions wanting to solve common problems and move on, with a sense
of accomplishment. As far as I am aware there are no generally accepted
guidelines within any of the PC designers publications and I know from
experience that within the various official Cooperative Rule Books
(Articles of Association no less!) carry no guidelines in HOW to
cooperate operationally, actually guaranteeing cooperation every single
I have a dream. My dream is that one day we will each simultaneously
experience our own individual, and joint, input towards a
larger-than-life collaborative synergy for common sustainable strategies
as an association. That is worth working for to experience even once.
The ultimate co-design: 900 PC brains working on the same agreed upon
strategy! And it is with this less than very humble intention that I
respectfully submit for your investigation a handful of hands-on
meetings and network self-organisation design manuals with teeth to
complement Chapter 14 of Mollinson’s Permaculture Designer’s Manual. 

i) Synergy and creativity in meetings  

The Mind Map Book: Tony Buzan (Simply by Mind Mapping an aircraft design
manual Boeing Aircraft Corp. saved $11M at a single stroke. They
continue to use this simple capacity-building methodology to generate
$Ms every year in revenues. Such results provide their own direct
feedback - supporting behavioural changes of so obvious a benefit to all
- which ensures that this method completely overrides the previous and
less effective adversarial/argument/debate "I’m right, you’re wrong"
methods! And this is exactly what Buckminster Fuller had in mind.) 

Six Thinking Hats: Edward De Bono (IBM have measured not only the
regular saving of 75% of meetings time (work out the savings generated
at corporate level salaries....) but also the increased creativity of
the participants. This incredibly simple method does guarantee
cooperation every time whilst each person’s integrity is automatically
protected! Such results provide their own direct feedback - supporting
behavioural changes of so obvious a benefit to all - which ensures that
this method completely overrides the previous and less effective
adversarial/argument/debate "I’m right, you’re wrong" methods! All HSDI
recommends is that we use Mind Mapping and Thinking Tools as a
combination. Not only is that an unbeatable synergy of tools for meeting
management and collaborations but, here’s the rub, would it make PC
Designers an unbeatable combination also?)

The Mind Pack: Edward De Bono(Have fun "playing" with some of these
capacity enhancing games and tools. We have used the cards to great
effect to explore Multiple Intelligences on a PC course)

ii) The design of synergy in organisations 

Systems, Management and Change (a graphic guide): R. Carter, B. Mayblin,
M. Munday (A very small and very friendly visual guide to organisational
design. A highly recommended starting point on this subject.)

Diagnosing The System For Organisations: Stafford Beer(One of a number
of books and papers on Beer’s Viable (= "sustainable"!) Systems Model
(VSM). This is a DIY "cookbook" taking you through a step by step
process of design for sustainable organisations. The language takes some
getting used to but the book is wall to wall graphics anyway which is a
great help.  Why this model?
(a)  Because the VSM is modelled on the human body, brain and nervous
system which are self-evidently sustainable! 
(b)  Because the VSM is the only WHOLISTIC management tool currently in
existence that incorporates the environment as an essential component of
the model.  
(c)  It has been used to design and implement the first and only
national level real-time economy in the world. 
(d)  It seeks to dissolve complexity by taking on board the views of all
participants in the network to generate plans and strategies whilst
supporting local autonomy in implementing those strategies. The VSM
seeks to continually balance local and creative autonomies with the need
for network level cohesion to amplify joint aims, goals and visions.
Knowing that the whole network is essentially engaged in the same
strategy means that support and best practice is easier to generate,
find, support and pass on. 
(e)  The model is organic and fractal based on generating healthy and
sustainable relationships and partnerships which it sees as essential to
nurture and support.)

Living Systems:  James G. Miller(A truly massive volume of thirty years
of personal, medical and collated research from elsewhere into Living
Systems at different levels of complexity (And it’s  just come out in
paperback). Miller’s initial training as a doctor led him on a quest  to
seek  the essential characteristics of life forms. He recognised that
there are only  20 essential subsystems that any Living System must have
if it is to survive and thrive - whether it is a bacterium or a
government. If you want to know about "information overload" or
"Indicators" at any level you need look no further. His approach is also
fractal and organic. The design of the  table of contents - in two
different formats - is exemplary, he wants us to benefit as quickly as
possible from this knowledge and has made access to it as easy as
possible. He has made difficult scientific concepts easy to grasp. If
you were just curious as to what systems scientists study then this will
satisfy some of your curiosity. This makes the design of information
systems a doddle! You could read this for the rest of your life and
probably never exhaust it.)

Word Power: Edward De Bono(With characteristic clarity and witty
cartoons De Bono takes us through most of the "systems thinking"
language that we’ll ever need.)

Skye - Apdo # 391,  Patzcuaro, Michoacan, CP. 61600 México. 
fax  52 01 (434) 23395
Profesor y diseñador en Permacultura
Director del Instituto de Permacultura de México A.C.
Talleres de desarrollo humano, planeación participativa y 
economía comunitaria.

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