Going Down the Rabbit Hole of Learning

Alexis SellersUncategorized

View from behind of a jack rabbit in a field, ears on alert

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When I describe the Learning Cooperatives as a self-directed education center, it’s not uncommon for people to need more of an explanation. Truthfully though, it’s as simple as it sounds. We are a center that encourages self-direction in education. But what does that look like?

I’ve been attending some of the Black Lives Matter protests, where we are asked to educate ourselves about African American history and the systematic oppression that has tainted our society. So that’s what I did. I started following people and organizations on Facebook and Instagram and read the things they posted. I learned about upcoming events. I saw that there was a protest at the MOVE monument in West Philadelphia. I knew a little about the MOVE bombing but hey, why not learn more. So I watched the documentary that was linked on the event page and attended the rally. Afterwards, I shared the documentary with my housemates. In return, one told me to check out the 1619 podcast and the other sent me an article on the racist biases that had caused the tragic and unjustified killing of Ahmaud Arbery. I downloaded the podcast and would listen on my way to work. While eating breakfast one morning, instead of looking at the back of the cereal box, I read the suggested article. I would come across things that I wanted to know more about, so I typed them into my search engine. This whole thing has turned into a rabbit hole of learning and even though what I have learnt thus far has brought on an overwhelming amount of anger and sorrow, the process of collecting all this information and gaining new insight has been downright wonderful.

There is so much information out there, and living in the 21st century, so much of it is at our fingertips. All it takes is the desire to know more and just like that, you can. This is what is special about the Learning Cooperatives: we give teens the freedom to follow their interests—the space to go down that rabbit hole. We as humans are learning all the time. It is a natural process. It seems downright crazy to me that we think the best approach for education is to force kids to learn the subjects someone else has chosen for them. Learn what interests you. Learn what excites you. These things will drive a person in their journey of learning. And if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s okay. Because eventually it will come to you. A friend might tell you about a book they read and you might ask to borrow it. Eileen Smyth from Bucks Learning Cooperative might tell you about her time living in Korea and before you know it, you can’t stop asking questions about Korean culture and customs. Scott Gallagher from Raritan Learning Cooperative might ask you to join in on a trip to the skatepark and so you try skateboarding for the first time. Maybe you don’t like it, but perhaps you have your phone on you and someone asks you to take some action shots of them skateboarding. The pictures turn out awesome! You want to print them. During your weekly mentoring meeting, you tell your mentor about your photographs. They suggest you join the Photography and Experimental Printing class going on right now at Bucks Learning Cooperative. You join the class mid-semester and just like that, you took a step on your own path of learning something you are interested in. Who knows, by next year you might be taking a service trip to Korea and taking action photos there. Learning is natural when it excites you. This is what we aim for at the Learning Cooperatives. This is what we get excited about when we mentor teens.  

Learning can be a wonderful journey. While you learn more about a subject matter, you also find out more about yourself. You start learning your interests. You start learning about your passions. You can create goals and start laying out a path that leads to a future that energizes you. This is why we need to treat learning and education in a way that promotes and encourages an individual’s journey. Not one that follows someone else’s path. Not one that can make the learning process unpleasant. 

For me and my ignited interest in antiracism studies, I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned. By no means am I an expert, but I’ve grown passionate about this subject and feel an obligation to pass along the things I learned to help build an anti-racist America. So for the fall semester I am facilitating a class called BLM & Antiracisim. And what does this call for? More listening to people, more experiencing, and more learning. So excuse me now while I dive head first back down the rabbit hole. 

[Photo Credit: Don McCullough , Always, CC BY 2.0