[permaculture] the gardener's shadow falls both ways

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Sun Dec 13 17:35:23 EST 2009

I've terrifically enjoyed these threads, and keep finding that about 
anything I could think of saying (and then some!) is being said, and 
well. Thanks for such sensitive and intelligent words.

A couple of notes: Mitch's horror story about his PDC shows one of the 
big drawbacks to decentralized processes. Those "teachers" were not 
following the curriculum set down by Mollison in the PDC handbook. There 
is no "Zone 0" (personal psychology) in the curriculum. Nor flag 
painting. You don't teach seed saving on day 1. You don't synopsize 
people's books in class. I don't think these folks had the chops to 
teach a PDC, and were filling the days with crap to make up for their 
own incompetence. Fortunately, these teachers are the exception. There 
is an established procedure of training (2 years full-time work in 
design and teaching with experienced mentors, taking a teacher training, 
and more) and I doubt if those clowns followed it.

To those considering taking a PDC: do your homework, just like you would 
before spending money on a college, car, or doctor. You wouldn't go in 
blind to any of those, right? Get recommendations from their students, 
get a copy of their curriculum, and find out who they learned from and 
how, and how many courses they've taught and where. Most teachers are 
good, but there are some flakes out there, and there are also teachers 
with whom your learning style may not be compatible.

Since there is no credential process, the next best indicator, I think, 
is lineage: Who taught them, and who taught their teachers? To some 
extent, the fewer links between them and Mollison, the better. And some 
lineages have far more New Age practices, or circle dancing, or 
whatever, than others, and some are very urban, and some very 
scientific, and some consensus oriented, and others more autocratic in 
style. Ask around. Hell, ask me off list; I know a lot of teachers.

 And in reply to an earlier question, dance and song are excellent ways 
of learning, having been used to teach for millennia. But I'd be 
circumspect about what is being sung or danced. As we've seen here, 
spirituality in PDCs is a hot button. To me, a song about the mother 
goddess is no more appropriate for a PDC than is a song about our all 
being lambs of Jesus or children of Legba. Earth-centered spirituality 
is so much the water permies swim in that we can be blind to its 
presence. I've had evangelical Christians, Muslims, and hasidic Jews in 
my classes point out how excluding some of our language is. Some folks 
would be offended at being made to sing Christian hymns in a PDC; others 
at being asked to sing about Gaia. If we stick to stuff that works for 
everyone, we reach a lot more people. Lee made this point very nicely: 
You can pray to whoever you want or to no one, and a solar panel still 


Lee Flier wrote:
> fdnokes at hotmail.com wrote:
>> Interesting discussion...
>> Truly, community will move ahead or fall apart on lines of culture...
>> Yes, having courses that are free of it will offer something to 
>> everybody.
>> But, they will not create community.
> I disagree... at my PDC there was a wonderful sense of community, and
> there was no mention (by the instructors) of any specific spiritual
> directive.
>> Wouldn't it be a part of a course to have people introduce 
>> themselves, where
>> they're coming from, why they're in the course, etc.?
> Absolutely, and in my class, each person did just that. We even had a
> talent show at the end of the course, where each student or a group of
> students could put on a skit or play, or sing a song, do a comedy act,
> make a flint tool, any kind of talent of their choosing.
> We also had class hikes through the mountains, nightly campfires where
> we sat around talking and telling stories.
> None of this served to alienate anybody of any particular spiritual or
> religious belief, including atheists. And none of it contradicted any
> accepted science or observable reality. :)

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