[permaculture] Thoughts on PDCs - Was US National Permaculture Conference (lengthy post)

Ben Martin Horst ben.martinhorst at gmail.com
Fri Dec 11 16:54:59 EST 2009

Lest those who haven't done a PDC be frightened by Mitch's description of
his, I'd like to mention that I cannot speak praise enough for the teachers
of the one I took (Jude Hobbs, Toby Hemenway, and Tom Ward). I had read all
the permaculture literature then available, subscribed to this and other
lists, etc, but nothing made permaculture "click" as a comprehensive systems
practice and pedagogy the way that PDC did. Frankly, my only problem with
the course was that so much was packed into 72ish hours ... I easily learned
more in that one course than I did in four years of college, and I'd love to
have had more of a chance to explore some of the topics more fully with the
instructors and fellow students. Having lurked on this list for several
years, I've seen people's bad experiences with PDCs or poor instructors do
come up occasionally, but I'm convinced that this is the exception rather
than the norm.

If the "permaculture movement," for lack of a better term, was more
centralized, we'd likely have more obvious ways of dealing with poor
instructors, though I'd never advocate for that. Mollison and Tagari have
tried to keep some control over pedagogy and qualifications, but it would
surprise me if even a majority of the permaculture instructors in the US
were Tagari-certified, and, frankly, I wouldn't necessarily trust that to
make a whole lot of difference. Essentially what we've been left with is
word of mouth: "My instructor was great!" or "That PDC was a huge waste of
money." It would be interesting to think about how, as a community dedicated
to permaculture, we can better ensure that the most people possible get the
most value from their PDC.

As a brainstormed example, in the Pacific Northwest / Cascadia (where I
live) I could envision a regional permaculture body that would evaluate the
credentials of instructors practicing in the region. One requirement might
be that new instructors apprentice to a seasoned, respected instructor for
the duration of one or two 72-hour courses before being "accredited." Of
course, at this point at least, there would be nothing legally significant
about such accreditation, but if implemented effectively, prospective
students might look for "Cascadia Permaculture Guild Certified" on an
instructor's curriculum vitae. Such regional bodies, ideally with similar
certification criteria, could exist throughout the world. One side benefit
of such regional certification bodies might be that it would be more likely
for students and instructors to belong to the same bioregion, and the 72
hours of standard PDC could be supplemented with learning on strategies
specific to a given climate and region (as some already are, of course).
These thoughts are just off the top of my head, and I'm sure actual
instructors and folks more involved on regional levels would have better,
more realistic ideas.


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