Thoreau College: Holistic & Intergenerational Learning Education | Voices with Vervaeke | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Thoreau College: Holistic & Intergenerational Learning Education | Voices with Vervaeke".


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Introduction (00:00)

Welcome everyone to another Voices with Raveki. I'm very happy to be here with Jacob Hunt. I've had a discussion already with Jacob on his channel, but I invited him to come on Voices with Raveki so that more people could become aware of his excellent work. So welcome, Jacob. Please tell us a bit about yourself. >> Thank you. Thank you, Don. Thank you so much for having me on. I really enjoyed learning about your work and just really admiring your persistence and the message that you're spreading and just the voices you're bringing together. So thank you for your work. >> Thank you. >> So my name is Jacob Hunt. I am based in rural southwestern Wisconsin in the United States, about a half an hour away from the Mississippi River. This is the area where I've grown up. This is farm country, one of the places where the greatest concentration of organic farms. Also, a pretty healthy rural community. A lot of rural communities across the world are really losing people, are suffering a lot of ways. This is a place that has a lot of healthy small farms and a lot of also interesting cultural work, education, medicine, the arts as well. So it's a special place in many ways, ecologically, culturally. So the project that I am the leader of, founder up here is called Thoreau College.

Thoreau College Curriculum And Philosophy

Concept, mission, and idea of a "micro-college." (01:23)

We call ourselves a micro college. And this, by which we mean the definition of micro college that we are working with is a place that is humanly scaled. So our programs are in the range of 12 to 15 students, young adults who are here for periods of between, we've done some three-week programs, but mostly these are semester programs of five or six months. So humanly scaled, place based, we're really rooted in our community here. Students engage with a natural environment, with the local culture, with the other institutions and groups in our community. And the cycles of the year, we bring people into a place which has a degree of rootedness that is not familiar to many people today. And we bring them here for a curriculum which is really attempting to address the whole person, the whole human being. So that includes an academic component, really basically great books, seminar, discussions of world classics, east, west, Native American wisdom, as well as engagement with ecology and ecological science.

Five pillars of Thoreau College's curriculum. (02:15)

We have a special emphasis on nature writing, of course, people like Henry David Thoreau, who's our namesake, but also a regional figure, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Robin Wall-Kimmer, some of the great thinkers about the relationship between humans and nature, important part of our curriculum. So there's an academic component, there's also a physical labor component. We run a little farm, we have a flock of sheep and a vineyard, a greenhouse. We do work on maintaining and buildings, cooking food, really practical hands-on work, as incorporated basically into every day. We also engage students in community. That means self-governance. So students are involved in making decisions, important decisions about the school, about admissions, about rules and just our life together as a community, as well as celebrating as a community. Meals together, recognizing changes at the season, just life together as a community. We also engage students in nature. So throughout our programs, we do expeditions up from individual solos overnight, up to week-long canoeing and hiking trips in all seasons.

Engaging students in nature. (03:37)

We also introduce people to local plants, plant identification, foraging, working with local materials from the natural world, wood, plant materials, plant medicines, things like that. And then the final part of our curriculum is the arts. So all of our programs are including creative writing, drawing, performance art, and a lot of singing. So we think of our curriculum as having five pillars, academics, labor, community, nature, and art.

Importance of arts in the curriculum. (04:10)

And I think that the fourth aspect of a micro-college really gets to your work, John, which is it's meaning-centered. We bring students into this great mix of activities, into this rooted place, and explore with them questions of meaning, and that has to do with context, with conversation, with relationship between people and between the land. And so that, you can think of that as spiritual, as meaning-centered, as really asking the big questions and the questions of inner development. So that's what we do here at Thoreau College. And we're also, we are in the context of a larger movement, the podcast that John, that you came on, was called Micro-College. And there's a number of other projects like ours around North America. One of our inspirations is Deep Springs College, which has been around for 100 years, similar size and scope. And there's a few projects that are inspired by Deep Springs. We are also inspired by the Scandinavian Folk High School movement, which you've also explored on voices of Berveke. So yeah, there's some other precedents, some really important historical examples. But I think we believe that this is an important model of education for this time, for the time of the meaning crisis, for also the breakdown in our civic institutions, that there's a real hunger among young people, and for all people for this type of education community. That was fantastic, Jacob. And thank you for making explicit the connection to my work. That's very helpful. What's the age range of the students who attend? And do students often attend for more than one semester? Or is there any chance of them attending sequentially? Absolutely. Yeah. So we're a young program. We've been offering programs of some kind for about four years now. So the age range, we really have interest from all adults of all ages. But say our core age range is 18 years old to maybe 22 or 23. This spring, we've got an incoming student body that has a median age, I would say about 21, 20 to 22. So maybe a little bit older than a traditional college cohort, but in that kind of general phase of life. We also have some programs that are open for older people, a fellowship program that essentially is a guided internship within the local community. And then we also have a residency program for people who are working on dissertations or on books and things like that to be part of the community. So wow. Yeah, a couple of people every year of doing that kind of thing. But yeah, the lengths of our programs, after some experimentation with really short programs, I think we are going to be doing some more of those in the summer. But our core programs are semester length. And yes, people are encouraged and often would do them sequentially. So two or perhaps more than that. People definitely, many people have stayed for longer than this one program. So I mean, it sounds, as you said, very similar to the Buildung movement. And both of those, and especially what you recently described, it sounds very similar in a lot of ways to a medieval monastery. Is that coincidental or is it deliberate? And if it is deliberate, what's the thinking behind that? I think that it's a convergent sort of response to needs in the world. I mean, I think that if you look at the origins, where the medieval monasteries arose, really in a period of great cultural and social disruption. And insecurities of various kinds, spiritual and practical.

Origins of monastic communities and their holistic approach. (08:02)

So I think that what the monasteries did, the Benedictine and other monasteries, they incorporated these different aspects of our humanity, from sort of prayer and study, seeing life in community and practical physical labor in many ways. And it's a model of a holistic way of being and also a model of a coherent and rhythmic sense of time. I think that's one of the really striking things about reading the rule of Saint Benedict or looking into how people would actually and do live in monastic communities. It's a very structured sense of time.

Rhythmic sense of time in monastic communities. (08:45)

And here we are on the Zoom and that our sense of time is totally broken down. That's very disorienting. So in the course of the day, but also in the course of the year, I think a really important part of our curriculum is the cycle of the seasons. Here in Wisconsin, as in Canada, we have four seasons of the year and the difference between June and January is dramatic. And so we build our curriculum around those changes so that we notice them and we connect them with cultural celebrations, whether they are Native American or Christian or Celtic.

Connecting curriculum to the cycle of seasons and cultural traditions. (09:12)

There are different ways of marking time that are cultural, but also just practical. There's times when you plant, there's times when you slaughter, there's times when you are harvesting. And those are things to notice and to engage into the curriculum. Excellent. That's very, very profound. The way you are weaving people back into that sort of pre-axial sense of time. So you, I mean, your college is named after an American Transcendentalist and you've invoked the Transcendent in some fashion, but I also hear that there's a pluralism to that invocation. And so, I take it that some of your students are coming from a religious background, some are coming from secular backgrounds.

Pluralism of religious and secular backgrounds among students. (10:04)

How does that not become a cacophony? How does it work in concert at the college? Yeah, I mean, our culture is a cacophony, right? That's the modern world. First of all, we've had a very small number of students overall. This is a young program. But I would say I would characterize most of the most people who are, which fit into the category that you've talked about, the spiritual but not religious. Right. Right. But with a more explicit interest in the spiritual, that because of what's in our literature connections with the Transcendentalists, with the Riddle Steiner's work, with also sort of nature or spirituality of various kinds. So again, I would point back to these real concrete rhythms of the natural year and of the agricultural year. Right. That's that is the common piece.

Role of the natural world, classical tradition, and Eastern classics in the curriculum. (11:02)

And then if you can connect those two cultural strands, again, whether they're Native American or they are Christian or they are other kind of world traditions, those are all there. I think you can experience a wholeness in kind of a sense, but it's grounded in concrete sort of phenomenological experience of the year, the weather, the harvest, that sort of thing. And I think you know, Thoreau, Henry David Thoreau and the American Transcendentalists are important for us. So if you read Walden, you read the other writings of Thoreau especially, you have, I think, a person who is a very early forerunner of the kind of consciousness that you're seeing more in our time. He's a person who is kind of how they need to totally distance himself from tradition of the church, the world that he was brought up in, but who is definitely has a spiritual impulse, a strong spiritual impulse. And to feed that he's drawing on, above all the natural world, right, direct observations of the animals and the plants, the weather and deep meditation on that. But also on the classical tradition, right, especially the Latin and Greek kind of classical world. And on the Eastern classics, the Bhagavad Gita, Confucius, Lao Tzu, things like this are continually quoted in his work. So and that's some of the very first moments that that cultural stream enters into the American culture. And so that's, I think, Thoreau just as a figure is very important, I think, for our culture as a forerunner of many things. Yeah, he's an astonishing person. Do you find that? I mean, you said a lot of students are coming in, but spiritual but not religious. And you know, and I have some criticisms of that category. Right. I knowledge it and I acknowledge why it exists, but I also have some criticisms of it. Do you feel that your students are finding something that was missing in so far as they were spiritual, but not religious in the sense that they weren't participating so much in community and shared ritual in shared metaphor and myth. Do you feel that the college is addressing the more religious side of spirituality? If I can put it that in a somewhat contentious passion, do you feel that that? Do they express that to you in any way? I think, you know, our programs are remain relatively short, right? So it's a space for questions and really rich conversations. In our the academic curriculum, I'm always, you know, structuring that around a really broad representation of different traditions. So we do read sections from the Bible. We do read, especially love other like, you know, creation stories from different cultures and putting those side by side. I think there's a way that we have has yet to be done to create a really complete world canon, essentially, of the great texts. And that's a great challenge because there are a lot of really long texts in a condensed way.

Creating a world canon of great texts. (14:04)

But to have, you know, that's something we're trying to do in our curriculum is to is to address these kind of really profound questions of origin and meaning and sort of structure of time and space that are drawn from the world tradition. And put that again, alongside practical experience, right? That's something, again, that Thoreau represents, you can on Thoreau's nightstand, you have the Bhagavad Gita and we have the Iliad. And then most of the time he's spending outside growing beans, you know, observing the changes of the seasons and those actually flow together. And to ground again, in embodied practical experience is, I think, often what most is people are most missing, indeed, from their from their life. And we have students who come out of high school directly into this program with people who have come out, come after doing a bachelor's degree. We have people who have done a year or two in their conventional college.

Grounding curriculum in embodied practical experience. (14:59)

And all of them are sensing if there's something missing from their lives and their education that is met by this mixture of things, really. Right. That's what I was wondering. I was wondering if like, you know, laboring together and singing together and things like that are meeting an important dimension that's often not met in the smorgasbord of spirituality in sort of current culture. That's what I was trying to put my finger on, that sense of like, you do keep coming back to the practical and the phenomenological having an equal value to the intellectual and the conceptual. And I'm wondering if that meeting is particularly salient or rewarding to them.

Balancing practical and phenomenological approaches to education. (15:35)

Yeah, I think that that really rises at the top in a lot of, you know, essays that students write their interviews, why they want to come here. I don't know, you're asked about religion, I don't know that anyone has joined a new religion or picked up a new religious practice after being here. They've gotten interested in different philosophies, maybe some of them picked up a practice like yoga or meditation. We've introduced in ways here. I think one of the things that interests me really about your work is how we can work towards maybe a more coherent and regular sort of ecology of practices that include a template of work as well as embodied practices, which is certainly something that we've done, but maybe we've kind of done a bit of a grab bag before. Yeah, that'd be interesting. I'd like to talk to you about that. So what do you see the community doing? I don't mean your particular community, but the community of these micro colleges. Like, is it attempting to grow, to spread? What's its future? What's your plan of action, I guess, is one I'm asking you? Well, I think, you know, first of all, the story of the Scandinavian folk high schools is one that I really want to emphasize everyone should know about. Certainly everyone living in the United States, living in North America, living in western cultures in general, should know about because it is an amazing, important story, very hopeful story.

Inspiration And Vision For Micro-College Movement

Scandinavian folk high school story. (17:13)

Yeah. You've interviewed Lena Rachel Anderson, so people could scroll down and listen to her interview and to hear the full story. Her book, The Nordic Secret, really tells the story completely. And her little book, Buildunk, is also good. If you don't want to read the whole Nordic Secret, which is huge, you can read Buildunk, which is much smaller and more readily accessible. Yeah. And also, yeah, I interviewed her as well. She was on the Micro College podcast recently, too. So another, we had a great conversation. But just briefly, for people who haven't heard that, yet, you know, in the middle of the 19th century, or early 19th century, Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries were the poorest countries in Europe. And they were authoritarian monarchies.

History and transformative impact of the folk high school movement. (18:06)

There was huge differences between the peasants and the aristocracy. These were places that people were fleeing as refugees and coming to Wisconsin and to, you know, they were leaving for a reason because they were not like, you know, really, you could say, thriving societies in many ways. And then between the middle of the 19th century to the really beginning of the 20th century, you know, 40 or 50 years, there was this idea of the folk high school was launched and spread. And, you know, by the early, by the first decades of the 20th century, 20 to 25% of the people in Denmark were having participating in these in the course of their life. And these are essentially places a lot like Thoreau College, right? These are residential communities with, you know, numbers of students between 50 to maybe 150 people, young adults who lived together, you know, they were not receiving grades or credentials. There's no tests, but there was an academic content discussion of ideas. There was a lot of singing, there was a lot of eating and meals together, just a lot of conversation. And people would be there for, you know, four or five months at a time. And over the course of a few decades into the 20th century, these countries were transformed from what they were to what they are today, which is by all, by most measures, some of the best places to live in the world. Yes. Totally successful story. And so today in Denmark, Denmark is a country of five and a half million people about the same as the state of Wisconsin. There are 70 of these folk schools, folk high schools. And there's more of them in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and other few other places in the world as well. And so that to me is a really inspiring example, right? If you can have even a fraction of that success with the micro college movement, you know, a sprinkling of these across, across North America, I think we're going to, it's going to have really palpable and direct impacts on our society, and in ways that we really need it right now. And so that's, I think, that's the big picture. That's the, that's the, that's the big idea is that we're wanting to build our model here at Thoreau College, you know, hone it year after year, work with the students in our wider community to do that, articulate it through, through writing, through podcasts, conversations like this one, and then help to, to spread that idea and, you know, work in networking and supporting with other people who are doing similar things.

Big-picture plan for the micro-college movement in North America. (20:19)

And so that would be the other exciting thing there. This idea is arising in different places at the same moment. It really is a nominal, it's a phenomenon. There are, on our website at the Thoreau College website, there's a tab for the micro college movement, and we have, there's a dozen or so programs there that we have identified as having a similar impulse. A few of them are using the term micro college. Some of them are calling themselves gap your programs or just colleges or institutions or something like this. But, you know, really these, these four features that we've identified, humanly scaled, place-based, holistic curriculum and meaning centered, right? That's, I think that, that package is, is something that is emerging very, very vigorously in different places.

Four key features of the emerging micro-college movement. (21:22)

Well, I mean, I, I was, I was talking about this yesterday, I was talking about like this triangle of societal transformation. I think we need, I would, I would, I would suggest adding one more thing you might consider to your pillar, which is intergenerational, right? Which is a point made by Zack Stein. We have to go back to thinking of education as furthering the cultural ratcheting project. Like the building movement did, it was intergenerational, it was trying to do cultural ratcheting. As opposed to thinking of education as short-term preparation for the market. And I'm not saying we shouldn't train people with professional skills, but I think that should be secondary and in service to the intergenerational. But I was talking about this triangle of, and I was saying, you know, we need something like, you know, building. We need ecologies of practices and dialogical, dialogical super practices. And then we need to, you know, we, I think we need sort of electoral reform and democracy. A lot of that, we need to replace first-past the post with a lot of these really well-modeled and tested things that punish extremism and punish populism and actually reward people taking other multiple candidate perspectives, etc, etc. I think if we could put those three into place, we could, we could, we could, and each one of them, it has proof of concept behind it, each one of them. And so I think this is, well, it's one of the three, you know, one of the three vertices of that triangle of transformation that we need to be doing in our society. And so I think the work you're doing is really important. I think I interrupted you when you wanted to respond with my proposal about it being intergenerational as well. I just wanted to second that. That's a really, that is a really important part of what we do here, I mean, throughout the curriculum.

Importance of intergenerational learning. (23:21)

I mean, I think one of the virtues of being humanly scaled, right, being, you know, the size that we are, which is, you know, our programs have ranged. The very first edition was four students. You know, the biggest one we've run so far had 18 students. Our target is, you know, 12 to 15 at a time. But these other initiatives, they're ranged from that size. You know, some of these full high schools are maybe 100 or 150. But even at, so in that range, you have the ability of many forms of human to human interaction, right, that are not nearly instrumental. They're not merely, you know, you're the teacher, you're the student, you know, I'm the, you know, the client, I'm the service provider, right, that type of relationship. You have, you know, genuine interrelationships between indeed people at different different generations. And, you know, I think something that always disappointed me about university towns or communities for conventional higher education is how they are often generational ghettos. Like people are, they're all, you know, this one building of everyone in the same cage cohort. Yes. So much. And that's a very bizarre way of educating, you know, historically, right. So I think that that is a really important part of what we do throughout this, you know, everything that we do. The other thing that I think that we do, and several of these other micro college initiatives do, is embed a small number of students into an existing local community. So we, as I mentioned, that again, with we are in a place that has a lot of innovation, a lot of people thinking creatively about agriculture, about the arts, about health care, about just about social activism and ecology.

Embedding students in local communities. (24:55)

And when we bring, you know, five, 10, 15 young people here, I am able to connect those students with local people who are really at the cutting edge of what they're doing and are excited to work with one or two young people. And, you know, we've had a number of our program participants who decided to stay here, who started, you know, I don't know if we've connected people with new religions, we definitely connected with people with new professions and new, new vocations, I would say. And I guess that was the other thing what I wanted to say. I think that there is a false dichotomy that young people are presented with. When they think about, should I educate myself, my ideas, my development of character, or should I do I develop a job, a profession that I can be paid for? And that's a, maybe it's not a false dichotomy, it is the dichotomy that our society, and especially in the United States, this economic model of higher education forces people to make that decision. But I think ultimately that's just terribly destructive. I think you can't ask people that either you find a way to feed yourself and have an economically successful life, or you have an inner life, right? That's really not a viable way to run a civilization, I would say. And so my goal is that you really should find a way to do both.

Balancing Personal Development And Social Impact

Balancing personal and professional development. (26:20)

You should be able to really develop useful skills, business skills, manual skills, entrepreneurship skills, while also reading classic literature, discussing ideas, developing kind of inner practices. Both of those things need to be happening at the same time in higher education. That's well said Jacob. So Jacob in the original building movement, these people were going into these sort of secular monasteries, but then they were returning to socioeconomically distressed situations, and they were in that sense almost like missionaries of a new cultural way of being. Is that part of the mission also the microcolors, the people that come here? How would these microcolors do? Or I'm not saying you necessarily situate a microcollege in a very socioeconomically distressed area. Maybe you have considered that, I don't know.

Impact on socioeconomically distressed areas and addressing inclusivity and diversity. (27:22)

But what's the relationship? I can hear some people saying, I'll voice, I do not share this criticism, but I will voice it so that you can reply to it. But you know, this is ivory tower. These are probably white privileged people that are coming here. They can afford this. And well, how is that going to help Black communities in Alabama or something like that? And first of all, I want to say I'm not being dismissive of that. I'm also not dismissing you because of that. That's what I'm trying to steer between that skillet and karibdis in posing this question. How would you respond to that question? No, that's a serious question. I think whenever you do anything, I am experimental or alternative in education, even if it is completely free, right? And a lot of work is done to make it inclusive. It still is, it feels and is maybe a risky choice for a person who is in a disadvantaged community of any kind, right? And I think we see this deep springs college, which has been around for 100 years since students after two years there, off to the Ivy League and to really select schools is full scholarship. Everyone is totally go, those room and board tuition free. You still have experiences there where people who are, if they are say, an African American student or an immigrant family or someone from a background that would be traditionally disadvantaged, and they have the opportunity to go to a traditional elite institution, it's really hard to choose the strange option, right? So that's something that we as a startup kind of experiment in education will do face and are considering. But our actual students have been quite diverse in all the kind of ways we want to mention diversity, including socioeconomic, racial, and also political and cultural perspectives on the world. It's again a small group of people, but it's been interesting to see who is attracted to this and who takes the risk on doing it. But in terms of impact, I think the model of the Danish and the Scandinavian Folk High School is there should be schools like this all over, right? So in all types of places and communities, and I think that they do have the possibility to transform the communities in which they are located.

Envisioning a future with diverse educational opportunities. (29:53)

Many of the ones that are in operation now are in rural places, so there are places in rural Maine and in rural Alaska. And these are places, rural America is our places that that has, again, population loss, brain drain, economic challenges of a lot of different kinds, and having a vibrant and interesting academic educational institution that attracts thoughtful people is going to have a big impact on that place. And I know the same thing would be the case if you situated this in an urban community as well. We are here at the Royal College really actively working to build our relationships with our regional urban centers. So in the coming year, we are really excited to have a new partnership with the University of Illinois in Chicago. So the major public urban university through a professor who lives part time in our area and is on our board and is professor at UIC who's been working with urban and community gardens in Chicago. And so we're going to be bringing our students this spring for a week to Chicago, and then we'll be hosting a four week long UIC summer course program here with some of their students as well. So building those urban rural connections is something that we're thinking a lot about. And in some of our, we're working on, and also some of the other micro colleges have done a lot of work with building relationships with indigenous peoples of different places where they're located, teaching native languages. I would just mention Outer Coast College in Sitka, Alaska, very close kind of peer of ours who really made the indigenous languages of that region a core part of their curriculum and working with some of the different local bands. And I think that's part of place-based education, who are the original inhabitants and what is the language in which they spoke about and speak about the lands where they are and just thinking, talking about history in a really complete way. That was a good answer. I mean, it's clear that there's a lot of ongoing collective and individual reflective thought about that question that I close to you, which is good to hear. I just also, I mean, making this program, our programs, and I think this something shared with these other micro college initiatives, making them financially accessible to young people is a really important part of what we do. And that requires a lot of creativity, a lot of scrappiness, a lot of, you know, wearing a lot of hats, right? We have a very small staff, we raise our own food, we students are involved with a lot of things you'd hire someone to do, like cleaning and cooking and things like that. But it's really, really important that it be accessible to a young person, because if it's just a luxury good, if it's just an expensive kind of vacation with some kind of, you know, adventure or some-ness, it's not meeting its purpose.

Focus on accessibility and affordable education. (32:39)

It has to be accessible to people and it has to fit into a, you know, a course of education that is accessible to everyone. Well, that's a segue into my next question, which is like, I wanted to ask about sort of the economics and how is the school financed and what are their fees and how do people get access to the school? So like those, those logistic economic issues. Yeah, so we, first of all, I would say our model, our organizational model, our financial model is diversification, right? We have, you could say our core programs are these semester programs with young adults, the kind of micro college programs, but we are, that alone would not fund what we're doing.

Financial Structure And Diversification

Diversification as the financial model. (33:25)

So we also have the students to the college work at our business. We run a greenhouse business that runs a spring garden center, we raise flowers for the local cemetery, we have a little retail shop there, and so that is, that's part of the curriculum, but it's also part of the income stream that helps to support the project. We also run part of our organization is the Driftless Folk School, which is kind of a North American style craft and home setting skills, craft folk school that runs weekend classes basically in, you know, kinds of, you know, manual things and folk arts. And that's, you know, that brings in, you know, adults of all ages from all around the region. And that's another important income stream. Also, it's a place where students from the college can take those classes and many of those instructors also teach, you know, in our college-only kind of classes. So it really builds up our rich pool of, of instructors and supports these people in our local community. So those are two big additional income streams. We do shorter programs in the summer, which are also bringing income. So that's, that's diversification is really, I think, important that, thing that many, many other, I think, organizations that this size and type could benefit from. We also do a lot of fundraising from, you know, various supportive local community, a couple of pretty significant local donors who have helped us really get started and, and get the ball rolling, which, which really would not be able to be here without them, you know, really telling the story of what we're doing. And I think there, there, there are, have been generous people who wanted to support this work. And then, then, but it is an important part of our funding stream does come from the students. And so whenever a student applies, our application process is totally needs blind. People go all the way through the process before we talk about money in any way. And when the student is admitted, then we have a, have a financial pledge conversation where we share our budget. We share our, you know, our projection of what's going to cost to run this program, food, housing, you know, the, the staffing, all those things. And really think about that. It really is one of our first classes. This is part of the, the holistic, you know, you know, inclusion in the community. What does it actually cost to do this program? How much is coming from these other sources? How much is coming for donations? What does it really cost? And then we kind of encourage the student to do the same and talk about what their financial situation is. And then we come up with a pledge that they can cover that, you know, towards that. And what we find is that when you open up that process in that way, you really are transparent. People, people do all that they can to make that work. Yeah, yeah, I would, I would think so. I would think so. It's really, it's, I think we've heard a lot of appreciation for that as, and it's like, like I say, it's also part of the curriculum. So we do have people who are able to, yeah, sure, I can pay that whole cost and maybe even more. And some people, really, all I can cover is the cost of housing, basically, during that time. And that's fine. We want to really make it, you know, that's, that's the reality of our world. That's the situation of financial stratification. And it is very, very important to us to make it accessible. So, and now a related question, but a little bit different. Tell me about your faculty. How do you track them? What kind of people they are? How do you bet them? Do you, do you have certain academic standards that you're looking for, etc? Like, how do they come there? Why do they come there? And how do they stay there? Do they stay there? Well, that, that those kinds of questions. Yeah, I would say that that's not fully, like, settled it. We've had a lot of people teach here. I've been, you know, a common thread throughout these, and I generally, I've taught one of the core academic classes for each kind of edition of this, of, of, of Thoreau College. I'm also really involved with the farming work as well, because a lot of it happens on land that, that, that, where I live. But we also draw from a really rich local pool of short term and guest instructors, everything from creative writing in poetry teachers to people who teach foraging and spoon carving and singing and movement, disciplines, things like that. You know, it's, it's, it's a, it's a really rich kind of buffet of, of interesting people to draw from for a few weeks or a couple of hours a week, or, you know, for, for a dedicated kind of period of time. And then we've had a really regular stream of people who are doing visiting blocks of some kind. And they have really come from, from all over the map. They have people working on in the arts. And we also have people who worked on economics and, and kind of social kind of systems, guest speakers who come and give a lecture of some kind. And then the negas the other piece I've mentioned is our residency system. So we have, have had, you know, one or two people a year who are often, you know, they're working on their PhD dissertation or they're working in a book or something like that and join our faculty and teach, you know, what they are connected with. So the first year, if you go onto our website, you can see the story of, of our, of Evan Edwards, who was our first residency program person. He came and worked as, actually, he was our, he was a, our cook, he was our chef, because he was a, he was a teaching, he was cooking at a, at a fancy restaurant, while also working on his PhD dissertation. He was originally working on the transcendentalists and eventually ended up writing about food. But while he was here in addition to cooking, he was also able to do a series of classes on phenomenologists on Husserl and Heidegger. And so like that kind of person is especially interesting to us, a person who can do something really high level with their hands and talk to us about philosophy. Yeah, I can imagine. So I hear a lot of the humanities and the arts and the crafts and what you're talking about. One of the arguments I've made is all of that has to be integrated with the scientific worldview and vice versa. If we're going to truly address the meaning crisis, how is science and the, and the scientific technological world showing up in your curriculum and showing up in your practices? Yeah, I would say that the scientific element is, is been, is primarily the environmental sciences. So there is definitely a lot of botany, right? Really hands on, you know, identifying the parts of the plant, thinking about the life cycles of the plant, as well as geology, we're living in an interesting geological area, unglatiated, driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, you know, lots of implications of that hydrology and groundwater and, and just in soil science, that sort of thing. And so, you know, again, Thoreau Henry David Thoreau is an example of this. You know, he is in Walden, you know, he is, he is writing poetry, he's writing philosophical reflections on the nature of society and the meaning of life. But he is also documenting the depth of the pond and the, the dates of the emergence of the different flowers there to the degree that his observations from his journals are still being used to document changes in climate and so forth. And so I think that the integration of scientific thinking, especially just empiricism, careful, precise measurements, observation of what's in front of you is a really important part of what we do. And if you're doing agriculture, you're doing, you know, you're working on ecology and environmental work, that's essential. Right, seeing what's in front of you describing it, giving, you know, learning the proper names of the organisms there. And, you know, our programs are not, again, they're only, you know, generally semester long, so people are not going to get a degree in this stuff. But it would be a great foundation for going off and studying environmental sciences somewhere else. Excellent, excellent. What about, like, what's the interaction between your students and your curriculum and social media, which is another big thing, and having a huge impact, I think, you know, on mostly for the worst, but in some areas for the better, on the meaning crisis, like, what are your students? Do they, do they fast from social media? I mean, some of these places I've talked to, that's what they do. Other places, there's a more, there's a, there's at least a discipline. I mean, this, this might be sort of the current analogy, an analogy to some of the things that were done in the ancient monasteries. So what, what, what's, what is your sort of official policy and practice around engagement with social media? Yeah, there's a real effort to, yeah, there's an intention of setting a very low tech environment, right? Not just social media, but also we're generally not assigning people to do internet research or, you know, watch videos and stuff like that as much as possible, we're embodied and in person and in nature and in conversation face-to-face. We, you know, in terms of, so certainly no, there's no tech, no actual phones or anything like that in the classroom, students go in expedition, those are total media fasts, you know, in our labor when we're working together in the field or in the greenhouse, things like that. These are, these are, you know, these basically no tech kind of environments. And outside of those formal periods of interaction, there's also an expectation of, you know, very discreet or, you know, limited, if not total fast kind of environment. And our students come in here generally with a real interest in very supportive of this. That's one of the reasons they come here and, you know, they're away from their family, they've got, you know, things going on in the world. So it's, it's, we've not been able to establish or really wanted to like a hundred percent kind of a, you know, tech sort of thing, but it is, I think, you know, it's been, it's very, you know, a much more limited part of people's lives when they're here. And it's, I think that's, that's really important part of being here. Well, do people, I don't know what kind of follow-up you do. Do they report a shock when they go back and they're sort of inundated again by social media? Well, yeah, I mean, just in general, like the transition out of a program like this is, that's an interesting like question, right? It is, you come into for a period of time this really special space of relationship, of the meaningful structure of time, of, you know, a sense of, of coherence, right? Some of the things that you talk about in your work, right? This is a place where things make sense, actually. So to step out of that, to reintegrate into the world, I do think that that's one of the things that we need to think about and work on some more, because that's, we're not a monastery where people are taking a vow for their whole life, right? It is, you know, they're here for a few months or up to a year maybe. And in the hope is that they can take some of what they've gathered here and, and that become a seed for a meaningful life over decades, right? And, and that that can, in one of the ways that these people are, are graduates or alumni are transforming the world is, is carrying some of that coherence out into the world. So I think the first step of that really is just talking about that reality and talking about, you know, I, I really, my background before this project, it was a high school teacher and worked with students on, on their post high school planning, college applications, things like that. And, you know, that is, you know, that's, that's the type of work that I really enjoy. And so, I mean, I find our former students are really in touch. They're very like communicative, they come back to visit. So that always shows me that they value their experience here. And, you know, they report what they experienced. And I do think that, you know, by and large, they go into, whether they're going into a conventional college or they're going to work or they're traveling. These are people who are already having a big impact on the places that they're going. And so guess taking that, that sense of, you know, purpose, meaning, and then like applying this to a new context, I think is, is, is one of the ways we change the world and impact the lives of these people. And, and I think having an experience like this, just seeing how something can work, a community can work, particular, you know, examples of people in our faculty and in our local community who are, have built meaningful lives is very important to have a template. Well, this has been really wonderful, Jacob. I'd like to give you and take quite a bit of time if you want, you know, the last word, like this, like, what, what do you want to, it doesn't have to be, it doesn't have to be summative or cumulative or anything, but what would be your last word, what, like, what would be your, you know, how you are presenting this, how you're calling people to it. What do you want to say? Well, I think, again, I would point people to the, to the examples of, of things that have, have, have, have worked in the past, the Danish Woke High School's Deep Springs College, I would say the Global Wilder School Movement has had this impact in a lot of places as well. The transcendentalists, right, these sources of inspiration are, are, are, are, are inspirations because they, they, they have had an impact on the world. But I would also think just about people who are, who are concerned about the state of the culture, concerned about the state of the world, concerned about the state of education to, to really step back and, and rethink, rethink things from really, from, from the first questions, from, from the, from the fundamental kind of assumptions. And I think there's questions of meaning, questions of the outcomes. I think Zach Stein's work about, you know, any, any, any, any type of education needs to have a, have an understanding, has to have an anthropology, right? Some sort of a meta theory of human nature. Yes. And I think my sense is that most organizations of, of, of higher education or of education in general just don't haven't made that explicit, right? There is some meta theory there, but it's, it's not been theorized, it's not been made explicit. And so I think that, that, you know, before you enter a school, before you get involved with starting a school, think about that. What is your theory of human nature and your theory of, you know, and what is, what is the nature of, you know, of, of life in some way? That should be grounded in, in, in the structuring of not just the curriculum, but also just the very form of, of the education. How big should it be? What should the mixture of activities be? What should the structure of time be? What should be the financial structure? All those things have implications for the, the bit your, your top level, metaphoretical understanding of, of human nature, of anthropology, of human nature. And so those are, that's, that's, that's an important beginning point for any work. And I guess, fundamentally, I guess the, the image that I'd like to, to, to leave everyone with is, we talk a lot here at Thoreau College about metamorphosis, as, as a goal, as a model. And, you know, we've used the kind of really archetypal image of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to the butterfly, as the image of what, what's, we're trying to cultivate here to create a space for. So if you can picture a caterpillar, caterpillar is this eating machine, right? It is consuming the world, bringing all of this experience into itself, just in a really kind of a rich way. And so that's, you know, an early part of an experience here is just, you know, people are reading things and they're learning to do things with their hands and they're meeting people and they're, they're kind of challenging themselves out in the natural world and in the social world. Like a wide, broad mixture of things. And at a certain point, that, intake, is reaches a saturation point. And that is the beginning of the chrysalis things, right? There's a moment, you know, of drawing inwards, a little bit of a, of a, of a boundary to the world. Here at Thoreau College, we do this through solo experiences, whether it's out in the woods, under a tarp or in a cabin or, you know, solitary experiences, writing supports that, just generally kind of turning inward. And that is, you know, it's also a moment of crisis, right? In the chrysalis, the butterfly turn, the caterpillar dissolves, right? The structures and boundaries dissolve. And, and then out of that comes a different beam, right? A higher beam, a metamorphosis occurs. And that is the, that's, that's something that could not have happened without that intake phase and without that kind of crisis phase of the chrysalis with the shell. So wherever, you know, wherever education happens, I think something like that has to happen, right? There's, there's, there's intake, there's a moment of crisis and transformation, and then there is a higher light. And, you know, this is an image that Thoreau works with the very end of, of Walden. There's this image of a, of a, a great and beautiful bug that is hatching out of the dry wood of a, of a table. And I think that that's, that really is a model of, of education, writ large that we're working with here. That was beautiful. How, how can people reach you? I mean, you'll send me some links to put into the video, how can they reach you in general? Yeah, I'd say the best way is just to visit our website Also check out the, the podcast MicroCollege, the MicroCollege podcast, which is on, on Spotify and, and never else you find podcasts. And, yeah, we're on, on the, on the podcast, we are, we're talking about ThoreauCollege, talking with thinkers and writers like, like you, John, but also, trying to interview as many as I can of the people who are founders and leaders of other MicroCollege initiatives. So really trying to, to spread this idea as a movement, not just our own institution. That, that's, that was great. So make sure you send me those links because I want people to, to reach out in whatever way they want to support or to join or to participate or teach. I mean, one of the goals I want of this video is just, you know, you just get more connected in ways that are beneficial to the excellent work you're doing. So I wanted to thank you very, very much for coming and on Voices with Riveki and talking about the, the amazing and important work you're doing. Thank you so much for having me.

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