In 1967, Timothy Leary told us to turn on, tune in and drop out. In 1979, Pink Floyd told us we don’t need no education. Today, Lindsay Henwood revisits these sentiments, though presumably without the influence of LSD. In her essay, Wandering Education, she re-introduces us to the idea that there is so much that can be learned from exploring and interacting with the big world that exists just beyond the small worlds we tend to get stuck in. Through this monthly series, we’ll keep moving with her through Africa, China, Patagonia, France, California, Vietnam, and wherever else she manages to register for life lessons. Here is her syllabus for the next few months.
Practical and retainable education didn’t really happen for me until I packed up my bag and went traveling.
Africa inspired a raw and wide-angle perception of the world. Witnessing gratitude and complete genuine joy in children who had nothing but each other. Rwanda exposed a different light on humanity. I learned what raw happiness and compassionate forgiveness looks like after being stripped bare from civil war and Genocide. Kenya and Tanzania revealed significant beauty through landscape and wildlife. I learned my passion for travel, adventure, appreciation of sight and other senses, and the beauty that a simple night sky has to offer in the middle of the Serengeti. Patagonia taught humility, respect and awe of our natural environment. China enlightened a darker side of humanity. Vietnam shared the importance of family. Indonesia bore the simple beauty of living in the present and painted a vibrant and colorful landscape. California rippled great waves and inner challenges I hadn’t yet encountered. My current home in Tofino, British Columbia, taught complete acceptance and community.
These lessons have unmasked who I am, my passions, my purpose, and what is real. After having just returned from a solitary road trip in California, it is evident that my perception and what I feel comes from both my internal and external experiences, which are the foundation of my knowledge, and these experiences outline my ideas.*
Growing up, school was a big challenge for me. Conventional school taught me some multiplication and French grammar, but no one ever gave reason to why we were learning these tools. Naturally, this led to mental stagnation and disinterest. Finally and with an illuminating impact, I read on the purpose of mathematics from an easy-to-read book on physics that I paraphrase in this article (see below). Until then, I didn’t know how mathematics connected to my life. That it innovated modes of travel, influences my choice of surfboard, and even about my own inner-development. I just thought it was random numbers, problems, and formulas that we had to figure out as students and therefore I focused on systematic memorization and doing my best so I could get my B-, forget everything, and call it a year of “learning”. Tutorials, endless studying, and asking friends for help in the attempt to carelessly and temporarily memorize everything. At the time it seemed as though my life depended on it, now I feel as though I could have used my time in a more quality way.
There is so much learning potential in the conventional schooling system, but it highly depends on teachers who are passionate about what they were teaching. I’ll never forget my English-Literature teacher in my last year of secondary school. I hadn’t found a care for literature, until her class. She taught with so much enthusiasm and joy that I couldn’t help but learn and get just as stoked as she was on poetry and the classics. At the end she wrote an individual note to each student. My note said: “Lindsay, you breathe life like a normal person breaths air.” I will never forget it. And I will never forget her. Creating a legend in a child’s mind as a figure of education is a difficult task and a passion-induced art form. My English-literature teacher worked harder than any other teacher I had, but her impact on us students was unforgettable.
Experience opened my eyes and mind. On a linguistic note, I didn’t truly learn French in French Immersion until I moved myself to France and was immersed in it. Most of the biology I learned came from going to the beach and tide pooling, hiking in the forest every day after school with my dogs, and a family trip to the Arctic where I was exposed to a completely different culture. Social and cultural sciences didn’t make sense until I observed first-hand in different countries.
When you are exposed to the education that experience has to offer, the curtains come down and light shines on your vision and what you want to accomplish in your life. The quality of education relies on your hunger to learn, curiosity levels, and simply asking with childlike enthusiasm: “Why?”
* From the book, “The Universe Within”, by Neil Turok. To learn more go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/1770890173