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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notable autodidacts.

(Stolen from a Wikipedia article).

Occasionally, individuals have sought to excel in subjects outside the mainstream of conventional education:

* Socrates, Avicenna, Benjamin Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, Feodor Chaliapin, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Alva Edison and many others were autodidacts. Karl Popper never took courses in philosophy and he did his initial work in the philosophy of science during the late 1920s and early 1930s while he was teaching science and math in high school. He then turned to the social sciences and attempted to transform them as well, again without any formal training or official mentoring. The best source for this story is Malachi Hacohen’s book “Karl Popper: The Formative Years, 1902-1945″.

* The cognitive scientist Walter Pitts from the MIT was an autodidact. He taught himself mathematical logic, psychology and neuroscience. He was one of the scientists who laid the foundations of cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence and cybernetics.

* Forensic facial reconstruction artist Frank Bender is self-taught. His well-known forensic career started off with a day trip to a morgue, asked to try to put a face on the deceased, brought measurements home, created a successful facial reconstruction that led to his first (of many) IDs. He only took one semester of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

* Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan and Newton’s contemporary Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz were largely self-taught in mathematics, as was Oliver Heaviside. Ramanujan is notable as an autodidact for having developed thousands of new mathematical theorems despite having no formal education in mathematics.

* A number of famous British scientists in the nineteenth century taught themselves. The chemist and physicist Michael Faraday, the natural historians Alfred Russel Wallace (co-discoverer of natural selection) and Henry Walter Bates, “Darwin’s Bulldog” Thomas Henry Huxley, the social philosopher Herbert Spencer.

* Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea depicts an autodidact who is a self-deluding dilettante.

* Physicist and Judo expert Moshe Feldenkrais developed an autodidactic method of self-improvement based on his own experience with self-directed learning in physiology and neurology. He was motivated by his own crippling knee injury.

* Gerda Alexander, Heinrich Jacoby, and a number of other 20th century European innovators worked out methods of self-development which stressed intelligent sensitivity and awareness.

* John Boyd, fighter pilot and military strategist, was an accomplished autodidact who not only revolutionized fighter aircraft design, but also developed new theories on learning and creativity.

* Mythologist Joseph Campbell exemplified the autodidactic method. Following completion of his masters degree, Campbell decided not to go forward with his plans to earn a doctorate, and he went into the woods in upstate New York, reading deeply for five years. According to poet and author Robert Bly, a friend of Campbell’s, Campbell developed a systematic program of reading nine hours a day.

* The musician Frank Zappa is noted for his exhortation, “Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.”

* Mark Twain is known to have said: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

* Playwright August Wilson dropped out of school in the ninth grade but continued to educate himself by spending long hours reading at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library.

* Arnold Schoenberg called himself an ‘autodidact’ in an interview.[1] Other largely self-taught composers include notably Joachim Raff, Georg Philipp Telemann and Edward Elgar.

* Several notable people considered to have an inspirational religious message have been autodidacts: for instance John Bunyan, George Fox and Rodney “Gypsy” Smith.

* Many successful filmmakers did not attend college or dropped out. These include Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston and Steven Soderbergh.

* Penn Jillette, a member of the comedy and magic duo Penn & Teller, declared both he and his partner Teller to be autodidacts in an episode of their television series, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!.[2]

* Comedian Drew Carey claims that he learned comedy through reading books on the subject.

* Modern Pashto poet Ameer Hamza Shinwari though not educated in the regular manner, was able to establish his career through self-education.

* Robert Lewis Shayon, early radio producer, author, television critic for Christian Science Monitor and The Saturday Review, and Ivy League professor, never had a college education.

* David Bowie, Singer, Musician, Multi-instrumentalist, Actor and Painter. Has never trained in any of these fields and only received a few singing lessons in the 60’s (as reported by his ex manager Ken Pitt) and as a teenager he took some lessons on Saxophone by Ronnie Ross. All other instruments (including Piano, Keyboards/Synths, Rhythm/Electric/Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica, Koto, limited Bass and Percussion), he taught himself. His paintings and sculptures were created (and exhibited) without any formal artschool training. He took a few lessons in Movement and Dance with Lindsey Kemps Dance company but trained himself in Mime

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Five days in.

Gah, I am SO tired. We’ve been getting up at 5 am all week.

Tired, but happy. People love us! No complaints, lots of compliments on the food and coffee. And our place is already getting “regulars” who come by every morning for coffee, and sit and chat with us and each other. I’ve got some art on the wall from a local teenager who is an aspiring painter, AND my own black and white photos of a local historic cemetary have gotten a couple of “Are these for sale?”s. The guy who runs the local theater group asked me today if he could have month poetry readings at the shop. (Of course he can!) We are passing the break-even point in sales every day, and I only foresee it getting better. The locals are super supportive, and I’ve heard “I’m SO glad you’re open!” so many times I stopped counting.

My good friend, Sam, came on our opening day. I hadn’t seen her since Halloween. She found me next door at a wine tasting. Heh. I was tired AND tipsy. I was so glad to see her, I just wanted to squeeze her.

You know how sometimes you find yourself in a situation, in a moment, where you stop and ask “how the hell did I get here?”

Today, I was in MY coffee shop, pulling a double shot of espresso for a local attorney (he comes in twice a day for the same)…Ani Difranco was playing in the background. My friend and employee (who is also an unschooling mom) was there with me, and the three of us were laughing about something.

All of a sudden, the last twenty years flashed before me, and I thought, “This is really freakin’ cool.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Photo of the day.

I was thinking while riding in the car today that I would start posting an occasional photo. Then again, maybe it will just be this one, and I’ll forget it. Anyway, I got a new camera last week, to replace my old Canon SD550. I got a Canon SD870IS. Still a point-and-shoot, but takes darn good pictures.

I was inspired to stop and take a picture of this tree today. I love oak trees, and I particularly love this one. I’ve passed by and admired it hundreds of times. In a few weeks, when it is full of new leaves, the profile won’t be the same. I like this one bare, against the sky like this, out in the middle of nowhere. I like the way the conifer to the right seems to be admiring it’s naked beauty. I caught this between rain showers, so the road is wet.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What are YOU passionate about?

For me…

1. Freedom! Of all kinds. No, I don’t mean the kind our troops are fighting for. I mean the kind that our government tries to steal from us every day. “He who is willing to sacrifice freedom for safety deserves neither freedom nor safety.” - Ben Franklin

2. Coffee. No, not that crap you buy from Starbucks, or the “gourmet” stuff from the grocery store. I mean the kind that I roast in my own kitchen and brew in a press pot.

3. Birth. Not the hospital variety, but birth the way Mother Nature intended.

4. Breastfeeding.

5. Attachment parenting…kinda goes along with #4. Babies aren’t meant to sleep alone in cribs, for example.

6. Self-sufficiency. Everyone should have it. It’s a bad position to be in, having to depend on the government or another person for your survival.

7. Feminism. The radical notion that women are people, you know.

8. Books and the Internet, which are an endless source of information. Learning is lifelong. I’ve learned more since I was 30 than I EVER did in school!

9. Freedom. It deserves to be mentioned again. Religious freedom. Sexual freedom. Freedom to do anything we damn well please, as long as it isn’t directly hurting someone.

10. Unschooling…which to me, is a mixture of several of the above. Learning in freedom, being self-sufficient, keeping the family together (attachment parenting), and thinking for ourselves! Unschooling just seems like the natural thing for us to do.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lisa Heyman.

I met Lisa Heyman last September at the Live and Learn Unschooling Conference in Black Mountain, NC. She walked up to me, grabbed my hand, and asked “Are you Seth’s mother?” When I answered in the affirmative, she pressed something into my palm and told me it was a gift to Seth from his secret pal.

It was the first night of the conference, and we were by the bonfire. I had been sitting alone, as usual, soaking in the free-spirited atmosphere and excitement of the gathering. Lisa sat with me for a few minutes, and we talked about her unschooling advocacy in upstate New York. I can’t remember all of our conversation, but I remember thinking “what a cool person”. I remember admiring her from afar thoughout our weekend at the conference…her cool pinkish hair, her vibrancy, her easy way with people. She was one of those people who my introverted inner self sometimes wishes I could be like.

I recently went no-mail on all of my unschooling lists except for one, the Radical Unschooling list on Yahoogroups, which I kept on daily digest. After my unread unschooling lists emails hit the 5,000 mark, I decided there was no way I was ever going to be as active in the lists as I wanted to be, and no way I was ever even going to read them all, so I did a major house-cleaning. Today, just before getting up to get ready for my shift tonight, I clicked open a daily digest from Radical Unschooling and learned of the passing of Lisa Heyman two days ago. I was stunned, and sat there for a minute, not knowing how to react. Then I began reading emails and blog posts from members of the unschooling community in rememberance of Lisa and in support of her family.

Anne Ohman wrote, (and I hope she doesn’t mind my quoting her here), “Last night, Sam came to me, tears in his eyes, and said, “I couldn’t, Mom. I couldn’t go on without you.” And I hugged him back so hard and so tight. Crying, I said, “But you could…you would learn how…and that’s the part that breaks our hearts…that’s the part that’s so so sad.”

And yet, that’s also the part that is so very wonderful about being *alive* on this earth. The learning. The growing. Sometimes it’s more painful than other times. But we do walk forward…as always…toward the Light from within our hearts.

Thank you, Lisa, for Your Light.”

A friend once told me that there was something truly cleansing about crying in the shower. That’s what I did. I cried for Lisa’s girls, and her husband Larry, because now they have to go on without her. I cried for the unschooling community in New York, because it has lost such a powerful advocate. Mostly I cried for myself, though. For the health that I take for granted. For the precious time that I have been too preoccupied to fully be present with my children. For not living my life to the fullest, 100% of the time. And for not getting to know Lisa, and so many others like her, while I had the chance.

I had decided that my family wouldn’t be attending Live and Learn this year, but I am now rethinking the matter. There are too many wonderful people that I have been shying away from.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Note from the Universe.

Don’t you think it should work like this:

You have a desire, you dwell upon it, move with it, and presto, it manifests?

Or, you fall in love at the right time, with the right person, they fall in love, the timing is perfect, and bingo, the earth moves.

Or, you have a huge question, you turn it over to me, forget about it, and ta-da, you just know.

Me, too. Which, actually, is exactly how it does work, Jennifer, in the absence of fear.

Cool, huh?
The Universe

This is from the daily email I get from Tut’s Adventurer’s Club, which is the website of Mike Dooley. Mike was one of the stars of The Secret and author of Notes from the Universe: New Perspectives from an Old Friend.

I get these every morning, and sometimes they are right on target. Such was todays “note”. Last night my husband and I toured a local coffee shop that is for sale. Owning a cafe is one of those dreams that both of us have held in the back of our psyches for a long time. Michael loves food, it is his passion, and he has always wanted to make his living with food in some way. I love food too, but I am passionate about coffee. I roast my own beans at home in small batches, sometimes sharing them with my family and friends. I have said many times that I would love to own a coffee shop/ bookstore here in the gorgeous downtown area of our town. I suppose nursing is a dignified profession, but I am a dreamer and a free spirit, and punching a timeclock just ain’t my bag.

Anyway, we had the desire, we’ve both dwelled upon from time to time, and when we heard the place was for sale, we talked about it, dwelling upon it some more. Finally, we picked up the phone and called (moving with it). The ball is rolling now, with the biggest obstacle that we can see being financing. Our family will continue visualizing, and we will see!

Notes from the Universe.
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Monday, February 18, 2008

Got Milk? MilkSucks.com

While surfing the ‘net tonight, I came across a website called Milksucks.com. I’ve been hearing about the cons of dairy products for a couple of years now. I’ve even bought soy milk from time to time. (I enjoy it, but my family doesn’t.) As the mother of young boys, I’ve had a hard time getting on the anti-dairy bandwagon. My boys are picky eaters, and try as I might to get them to eat better, they just enjoy processed crap more. One of the few supposedly healthy things I can get them to eat are dairy products…milk, cheese, and most recently, yogurt. If I don’t give them dairy products, where will they get their calcium and vitamins?

The boys were breastfed (the youngest for four years), and I understand the detrimental effects of giving cow’s milk to a baby. After all, human milk is for baby humans, cow’s milk is for baby cows. But am I supposed to lactate forever? Would it be better for my 10-year-old to put “mommy milk” on his Fruit Loops? Well, I’m sure it would be…but I digress. Do my kids really need dairy products?

According to the website, “Dairy products are linked to allergies, constipation, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.”

“They are contaminated with cow’s blood and pus and are frequently contaminated with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.” Well, what about organic dairy products? Surely they would solve some of these issues.

On the website, Milksucks.com, the ill effects of dairy products on humans, animals, and the environment are spelled out, along with information on adopting a dairy-free diet. I’m all for giving this a try, but my concerns are:

1. How will I get my children to eat soy products? And will that be bad for them too? I’ve also read not-so-nice things about soy.

2. How will this way of eating affect my food budget? It’s a damn shame that in this country, good food is more expensive than bad food. No wonder the poor have more health problems than the rich (not that I’m either, I just don’t want to have to spend half my income on healthy food). The closest health food store is 20 miles from my house, and I haven’t even been there. There is no food co-op here either (which is another topic for another post). Not only is healthy, natural food expensive, it is almost inaccessible.

The more I delve into this (food) subject, the more horrified I become. You know that food pyramid that you learned about in health class? Here’s one that is representative of the ACTUAL way that Americans eat.

Edit: After further research, I have come to the conclusion that people do not need dairy, nor do they need to replace it with soy (which is also highly processed and may cause it's own set of health problems, such as hypothyroidism). Think about this: Not only does no other species on earth drink the milk of another species, no other species on earth drinks milk after infancy either. What makes humans any different? And what makes cow's milk the milk of choice? I say it is just programming. Would you be opposed to drinking gorilla milk? Probably so, but gorillas are more like us than cows are. Think about it.

Now if only cheese didn't taste so damn good.

Note: Milksucks.com is brought to you by PETA. Not a good thing, not a bad thing…just know that their point of view may not be impartial.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why public schooling is better than homeschooling.

(Obviously tongue-in-cheek)

1. Most parents were educated in the under funded public school system, and so are not smart enough to homeschool their own children.

2. Children who receive one-on-one homeschooling will learn more than others, giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. This is undemocratic.

3. How can children learn to defend themselves unless they have to fight off bullies on a daily basis?

4. Ridicule from other children is important to the socialization process.

5. Children in public schools can get more practice “Just Saying No” to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

6. Fluorescent lighting may have significant health benefits.

7. Publicly asking permission to go to the bathroom teaches young people their place in society.

8. The fashion industry depends upon the peer pressure that only public schools can generate.

9. Public schools foster cultural literacy, passing on important traditions like the singing of “Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg…”

10. Homeschooled children may not learn important office career skills, like how to sit still for six hours straight.