[permaculture] teaching a permaculture design course

Robert Waldrop bwaldrop at cox.net
Mon Aug 28 18:52:39 EDT 2006


Thanks for an interesting discussion on the 
development of teacher training in permaculture.

Besides several years of teaching experience, I 
think it is probably helpful for permaculture 
instructors to have experience in doing designs. 
Those who would teach design should do design.

Your comment in the last paragraph about the 
system being "poorly organized" caused me some 
moments of thought.  I agree it appears 
disorganized, but I am not sure if "poorly 
organized" is the best choice of words.  Another 
way of describing the situation in permaculture 
training is that its present form is the result of 
"spontaneous order" or maybe "spontaneous 
development".  I think it is probably good that 
there isn't a permaculture pope with authority 
over the whole movement.  A more likely path to 
"success" (whatever we define permaculture success 
as) is to let a thousand flowers bloom.

Another traditional way to pass on human knowledge 
about work is "apprenticeship", with its 
three-fold division of "Apprentice", "Journeyman", 
and "Master".

But the one I like the best is biological, and is 
described by the term "rhizome".  I think about 
that as I work with the Bermuda grass that is so 
good at spreading via rhizomes.

Maybe I am an optimist, but I think the 
permaculture movement is doing better than we 
think.  I see a continually growing number of 
people who have taken formal permaculture 
training, and an even larger number of people who 
by personal study and attendance at weekend 
workshops and participation in online forums are 
working on becoming "barefoot permaculturists", so 
they can design their own living situations and 
make a positive contribution to encouraging 
permaculture in their local communities.

Consider, for example, the impact of the handful 
of Australian permaculturists that went to Cuba.

I consider the lack of a national or international 
permaculture organization to be a sign of wisdom 
in the movement.  Successful transformational 
movements grow from the ground up, not from the 
top down.  Once upon a time I was very involved 
with a third party in the US.  We had a national 
committee.  We had state committees and 
chairpersons.  But we didn't have any precinct 
organizations.  So we really weren't a political 
party, we were a political organization trying to 
organize something from the top down.  When the 
time is right, national and international 
organizations will come into being, and they will 
make sense and be productive because they are 
growing up from very solid roots in fertile soil.

Bob Waldrop
tadpole in training with the Barking Frogs 
Permaculture/Dan Hemenway permaculture lineage 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Toby Hemenway" <toby at patternliteracy.com>
> I've been mulling over what Keith and Phil wrote 
> about teacher
> qualifications, and will, once again, dive into 
> this subject, one that is a
> sticking point in permaculture.
> Keith can speak competently about the situation 
> in the eastern US; I'm
> familiar with the US West. Few that I know have 
> gone through the Mollisonian
> procedure of applying to Bill with a curriculum 
> for approval to become a
> registered teacher. I've heard from more than a 
> few people that if you just
> copy the table of contents from the Designer's 
> Manual and send it, and have
> no personal beefs with Bill, you'll get 
> approval. Take that with a grain of
> salt, though, since most that I've heard it from 
> are people who _have_ had
> beefs with Bill.
> The procedure in the US West for becoming a PDC 
> teacher, agreed on by just
> about all of the "old guard" instructors, is to 
> take a PDC and then teach
> with one or more experienced instructors for at 
> least two years or 5-6
> courses. One is not considered a full instructor 
> until one can teach the
> whole curriculum. In addition, now that teacher 
> trainings are regularly
> available, it is strongly suggested that you 
> take one. I never did, because
> they weren't available at the time I 
> apprenticed.  But I've taught at a few
> teacher trainings, so I suppose in some sense 
> I've taken one. I trained for
> five years, not two, before I really felt 
> qualified to lead a course, but
> then, I'm a slow learner. I had a fair amount of 
> other teaching experience,
> and in theory that should streamline the 
> process. But it took five years
> before I felt I had mastered the huge volume of 
> material, plus the
> facilitation and community-building skills 
> needed to be a decent teacher.
> Most instructors I know have helped one or more 
> people become teachers.
> Sometimes logistics can make that difficult. My 
> "break-in" session was a 30
> minute talk on graywater that I did at a PDC for 
> free. I gradually worked up
> to an hour, then a few modules, and, years 
> later, a whole course co-taught
> with others. A little digging will find someone 
> willing to work with you.
> You'll probably have to travel--I did. But if 
> you're serious, you'll do it,
> just as most grad students do. We particularly 
> need more teachers willing to
> branch into new formats, teach at universities, 
> and work with K-12 students.
> The 72-hour residential PDC format can't reach 
> as many people as
> permaculture needs to and we need new ways of 
> teaching the content.
> The lack of a national or functional 
> international Pc organization means
> there is no official method of training, and are 
> no real standards for
> teachers, but the informal network is good at 
> self-policing. Word gets
> around quickly when an unqualified person is 
> teaching, although it's a shame
> that a few victims get ripped off before the 
> news spreads. The system
> functions much the way tribal systems did, (and 
> how graduate school does, a
> bit), where new teachers come from a particular 
> lineage. Who you trained
> under reveals quite a bit. When I meet a new 
> teacher, I always ask who they
> trained with. You should, too. The value of a 
> certificate is in proportion
> to whose name is on it.
> Ditto with Keith that no one I know makes their 
> living from PDCs. You'd need
> to teach 10 or more a year to do so, and that is 
> too grueling for mere
> mortals. And ditto: we, and most others, give 
> discounts on tuition (not food
> and lodging) to returning students if there is 
> space in the course. I will
> mention that some of the biggest hassles we've 
> had have been from
> "auditing" students (that includes non-teacher 
> candidates). Not sure why;
> maybe they are stretching their wings, maybe 
> they are using their experience
> to manipulate the course, but I always gulp a 
> little when someone wants to
> audit.
> I'd like to see the whole system become a bit 
> more formalized, so that there
> are organized pathways one can take to become a 
> teacher or other advanced
> practitioner instead of needing to nose around 
> to find the way in. Some
> people think the Pc system is elitist; it's not, 
> it's just poorly organized
> so that it sometimes takes a lot of work to find 
> out how to be a part of it.
> Toby
> http://patternliteracy.com
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