I found a very cool site about the solar panels installed on Synergy House at Stanford. I was (am?) a member of the cooperative group but lived in a different building, one which was razed after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. The tradition of exploring alternative lifestyles … environmental, vocational, intellectual … lives on!
Archive for the Methods Category
Before I heard the term “call to greatness” in coaching and new age circles, I had the good fortune to have an eighth grade teacher who was a master practitioner of the call to greatness. Part of his personal myth (probably true) was that his father had worked with Albert Einstein and that his childhood conversations with “the smartest man who ever lived” had served as part of his inspiration to become a math teacher.
He introduced to his honors algebra class an exercise he called the Test-a-Day-Experiment, “TADE” for short. Every class begun with a short test. Sometimes it was a mundane pop quiz on material covered the previous week. Other times, he would pick a topic in mathematics that would not be covered until several months later. We were pushed to deduce our way to answers as a foundation for deep understanding when the material was presented in the future. Then there were the days when Mr. Paige got creative, and the test would consist of a single question such as, “Which is warmer, love or a blanket?”
Every day that we entered that cozy room, which was washed in sunlight and smelled of the old wooden cabinets, we left “school” and joined timeless community of intellectual playmates whose members included the legendary Einstein.
With teachers like that, is it any wonder that I never developed a particular focus on grades?!
I found a fascinating autobiographical essay on Edgar Shein’s site at MIT. If you aren’t familiar with Shein, he is the author of a concept he has labeled career anchors. He says that in each of us, one of eight motivators predominates in our career choices.
For example, the autonomy anchor drives the field sales person who rejects a lucrative move into managing the team. The lifestyle anchor moves executives (these days, male and female ones) onto what has been called “the mommy track.” The technical compentence anchor may have been the one that led Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates to change his role to that of Chief Technical Officer.
In “The Academic as Artist: Personal and Professional Roots,” which can be downloaded in .pdf at his official site at MIT, Dr. Shein shares the academic and professional journey that has included studying brainwashing in POW camps and the indoctrination of corporate managers. He attributes his interest in this territory to his personal history as a refugee and immigrant.
What interests me in this essay is an underlying premise that I share with Dr. Shein — that there is an inherent tension between dependence and autonomy, between every individual’s desire to be free and any organization’s need (even legitimate need) to impose structure.
I have come to terms with the idea that it is growthful, and probably necessary to my life’s work, to have some involvement with institutions. (As I said, I’ve let go of the idea of living off the grid, literally or figuratively!) However, I still feel viscerally threatened by organizations. It is not yet the sort of dance Shein seems to have found as a professor.
What comes to mind when you think “Stanford University”? Hewlett & Packard? Google & Yahoo? Chelsea Clinton? I think of my two blissful years waking to crowing roosters, cultivating a compost bin, and harvesting fresh vegetables from my own garden. Now when I’m feeling nostalgic, I can visit the virtual homestead of the folks at Dancing Rabbit, an ecovillage in rural Missouri. Many of the founders are alumni of Stanford and of the co-op where I lived, Synergy House.
I have given up the fantasy of living communally and off-the-grid myself. The idea still resonates with me aesthetically, but I think my calling is more nomadic and worldly. More Rachel Carson than Scott and Helen Nearing.
What I most admire in the Dancing Rabbits is their commitment to vision over convention, image-making, and stereotype. To advance the dream, the residents operate Web-based businesses and navigate the alphabet soup of corporate structures that can accomodate their infrastructure. They use 21st century communications methods. They write columns in mainstream newspapers. This enables them to keep the dream going day to day.