Ch.24 New Colleges Writers Room

Cat herding video on Youtube

In Chapter 24, The most natural way to compose a four-year college curriculum was to hire a room of Cultural Creative Writers.

Fall 2032, Spring 2033

Before hiring writers, the War Room spent a day, interviewing experienced textbook publishers and authors, one every 45 minutes. By the end of the day, the War Room was pretty sure based on past experience, what they wanted was three to five writers per core course. This was the most common effective team size for textbook writing.

The subject areas needing teams were:

- Sports (cooperative-collaborative games),

- Communication (psychology, sociology, English language arts, and composition, public speaking, teamwork),

- History (US and world history, sociology), and

- Philosophy of Science (Goethean Holistic Science, “living life as one experiment after another”)

Four courses meant 12 to 20 writers. Advertising and interviewing for writers began.

Out of 112 applicants, 36 writers got thru the first interview stage. These writers were carefully sorted into three groups of 12.

For the War Room, the questions, “What are colleges for?” and, “How do we measure success in re-making colleges?” became a simpler, more practical question, “What kind of graduate do we want to set loose on the world?”

With this question partly resolved and in mind, the second interview for writers was in groups of 12. The War Room wanted to gather observations about how candidates expressed in a group.

Each group was given the same question to discuss and debate: “At the end of four years, what kind of graduate does new Colleges produce?” Each group was asked, “What kind of graduate do we set loose on the world? What competencies, qualities and values do we want this young adult to go forward into the world, as our representative?”

These second interviews were again done in fish-bowl style, with the War Room present around the 12, to observe silently only and take notes.

Naturally this stimulated much conversation and discussion. Highlights:

- New College grads are our our best hope for a positive, sustainable future for SpaceShip Earth,

- What competencies, qualities and values do we want young adults to go forward into the world with?

- How do we transform the old, one-sided, adult male-oriented college paradigm to produce graduates capable of making Earth work better for the 99% of its crew; and, to increase quality of life for crew?

- Some new ideas came up. One writer mentioned the volumes of Growing Sustainable Children and Schools Worthy of Our Affection (2018). Chapter 62 of Vol5 is on “Who is our Ideal Graduate?”

- Ralph Nader was quoted, “If you have low standards for high school students, they will oblige you. If you have high standards for high school students, they will surprise you.”

After all three groups of 12 interviewed in this way the War Room was happy they had enuf good candidates to start offering positions. They would hire five probationally for each of four core subjects. If after six weeks, one or two candidates were weak they could be dropped.

The group for each subject needed a mix of bright leaders and knowledgable, experienced supporters. Making offers and hiring details were delegated to the Human Resources Committee set up by the War Room.

The next question for the War Room became, “What impulse can we give to the Writers Room to support them to arrange course content and teaching methods, to ‘grow emotionally intelligent, self-propelled, problem solvers?”

Writers Room Day One

For the first week at least, all 20 Writers would work with the War Room. Gradually, the war Room made clear the big mandates the Writers Room would be asked to respond to:

- To write a new college textbook for each of History, Communications, Philosophy of Science and Sports,

- To eliminate most Psychology and Sociology texts, replacing them with (1) interactive, experiential classroom, partner learning; and, (b) student-generated papers in the vein of, “My Theory of Interpersonal Competency”

- To work interactive, experiential classroom, partner exercises into History class to enliven crucial topics,

- To make Sports about teamwork, leadership and gamesmanship, not about baseball, football, tennis per se,

- To come up with a plan to re-make admin staff group process, faculty meetings and teaching methods.

The Writers were given a tour of their new offices. They were asked to decorate the walls in part with Leading Thoughts, on large posters, which 60% or more of all the hired Writers agreed with (a sneaky way to get them to compare and contrast values and assumptions with each other).

“Leading thoughts posted in Writers Room

Here are what the Writers came up with:

You can have concentrated wealth or you can have democracy. You can’t have both ~ Louis Brandeis

People’s actions are the picture book of their creeds and values ~ Emerson

Though we travel the world in search of beauty, we must develop it within or we find it not. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

- Education evolves from oral means, to written means, to psychology, and finally to live interactive sequences of partner exercises.

- Between 1850–2029 colleges were too often baby-sitting for rich kids, too often distorted into the conduit for young elites to take over power from their parents. Colleges were almost always co-opted for the agenda of elites, the 1%. Your job is to re-make colleges to be more workable for the 99%.

- Colleges can no longer be four years of passive vacation.

- How can you support learners to distinguish between healthy, constructive, appropriate competition; and, us-vs-them aggression and canceling?

- The easiest way to make sure you are not talking down to students is to employ interactive exercise sequences during classroom time.

- How does your course address multiple learning styles?

- How will teacher-facilitators assess students who need remedial options?

- What local community service projects have natural synergy with your course?

- How can your students be more engaged, locally beneficial; and, productive, in local community around each New College?

- Rudolf Steiner paraphrase: Always direct youth creativity OUT and AWAY from passive learning and into LIVE PERFORMANCE: skits, debates, class meetings, service projects.

- Poster in all Freshman classrooms: “Supporting myself and others to make healthy choices.”

- To heal Male Mafia Mentality, what does ANTI-Mafia college education look like? How do we inoculate students against Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good”?

- How can Team Human values for SpaceShip Earth course-correct hyper-individualism and over-isolation in students?

- What BIG IDEAS are missing here you can add? An easel station with empty pads of Giant Post-It notes and markers was stood ready for new ideas to be written and put up.

Writers Room: Week Two

Week Two, the Writers moved into their own offices and began work and getting to know each other.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the current chair of Women In Congress, requested to meet the Writers in Week Two. her remarks:

“We’re here to re-make mainstream culture into something better, something more workable for the 99%, not just the 1%. I don’t need to recite, the pattern of failure of male-dominator-culture. When they conceived of “power” as “power over,” they stepped OUT of self-connection, out of relationship and out of group process, trying to be above it, so they could control it. It didn’t work too well did it? (laughter).

Cultural Creative women — and a few men — in your position, can not afford to repeat the lazy failures of men. Where men could live for centuries, dissociated, in denial of their failed relationships, we cannot.

“New Colleges Project is to give guidelines, encouragement and direction for high school seniors and others, to learn about and hopefully embrace, a more two-sided, a more multi-sided culture, where diversity is the norm, unique individual contributions are celebrated; and, healthy group norms of speech and behavior are openly discussed and re-evaluated as needed.

“Most of us here are women. We take strength from our natural greater internal balance. Most males had so little inner balance. Women can connect, cooperate, and collaborate to manifest big projects. You were hired for the experiment to see if a more whole, more life-sustaining version of the liberal arts college experience is possible. Let’s demonstrate to the world this can be done.

Re-making colleges is the task of the moment. There will be many challenges along the way. More challenges come once the pilot colleges open. If we can pull this off — brothers and sisters, we can do anything (cheering, applause).”

Historians in 2120 say women in the 2030s were the first generation within recorded history — to rise to a challenge of deliberately, systematically, conceiving, cognizing and forging a new culture, honoring both humankind and Nature equally, honoring both the Inner and Outer Games of Life, equally.

Herding cats video

After AOC spoke, the famous, one-minute, Youtube video of cowboys cat-herders “cat-herding” was shown on a pull-down classroom screen. Afterwards, AOC reminded Writers to complete their Blueprint of WE exercises with their co-authors on the same subject.

She then invited all attendees to get with the person in the room they knew least well and sit facing in chairs. The talk was to share for five minutes what they thought and felt about “cat herding” as it applied to the Writers Room. Then for another five minutes, write down any good ideas they had about how group process among Writers could be made to work more smoothly.

In the following large group debrief, one idea emerged over and over again. The Writers Room would be a failure if power was distributed too widely and diffusely. With cats, every exception tends to become a rule. To connect, cooperate and collaborate across academic domains, this was going to require both commitment to your subject; and, detachment about your subject, how it’s impacted by other core courses.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez closed this topic this way, “The War Room believes the best advice we can give the Writers Room is this. Keep in mind; and, keep asking, “Who has power? How is power shared? Who needs more power? Who has too much?” Be deliberate and CONSCIOUS about power and how it is growing, declining and shifting, talk about this openly.”

Biography sharing

The afternoon of the first day of Orientation was devoted to biography sharing. Attendees formed triads. The instructions were for person A to voice their story. Person B receives the story and can make supportive remarks. Person C is neutral observer. Person A has four minutes to share their biography relevant to being hired into the Writers Room. After all three share their story, there is five minutes of open sharing and feedback.

The instructions concluded with this. “One way to reduce unnecessary cat-herding is to be emotionally transparent. Don’t hide how you feel about your story. Our partners can feel how we feel whether we show our feeling or not. So within appropriate boundaries, DO share how you feel. You’ll find this will bring you closer to your co-workers — always.

Two rounds of triads were done in the afternoon of Day One.

As we know from later interviews and memoirs, many new and lasting friendships were begun this way.

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Bruce Dickson

Bruce Dickson

Health Intuitive, author in Los Angeles, CA