Every-year Apprentice

What skills do we need to apprentice on? As soon as I began a list, I saw that the answer was many. There are many skills that we might wish we had developed before we needed them, to avoid getting into a crisis or being overwhelmed when the need arose. This led me to imagine a society in which we make time as part of everyday, every-week, every-year life to be an apprentice, and to serve as the guide to apprentices.
Each year we could move to a new apprenticeship. This last idea borrows from a close friend who decided, when she turned 30, that she would take up a new learning goal each year. For example, she would learn to swim properly. She would learn to dance on ice skates. As a by-product, she noted, she would always be in touch with the unsettling experience of being a new learner.

It feels quite exciting to imagine a society when doing this is as much a part of our expectations as it is that we have to go shopping, fill up the car with gas, have dental appointments, and so on.
Here is my list to date–I welcome additions:

  • driving a car
    driving defensively and getting out of skids
    completing tax returns
    leaving education to the workforce
    career transitions
    retiring
    preparing for succession in the workplace
    being head of an academic department
    caring for someone who is sick
    caring for someone who is dying
    being sick
    dying
    resisting fascism and authoritarianism (as in 1934 Germany)
    cultivating collaborate
    raising a child with Down Syndrome
    forming political alliances in times of crisis
    self-defense on a personal level
    self-defense on a community level
    evacuation
    parenthood
    ….

(This post arose from my inquiry on the current case for the course Design for Living Complexities, a case that concerns well-managed learning.)

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

4 Responses to Every-year Apprentice

  1. CPR
    making friends
    planning a vegetable and flower garden
    …..

  2. What does it mean to be an apprentice and guide (to avoid the traditional term “master”)?
    My first thoughts are that whatever system is established to connect people in apprentice-guide pairs also has someone who curates a blog consisting of “guide-lines,” that is, an ordered check-list of knowledge and experience to gain in a year. Based on how things develop, pairs then add comments to the blog posts that the curator, from time to time, weaves into a revised blog post entry. (Comments would be moderated to prevent the irritable and flaming that goes on so often in public comment boards.)
    To draft the initial posts, the curator could visit sites such as the subreddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/IWantToLearn/ or simply google “What do I need to learn to be good at xx” (where xx might be any item from the list), e.g., http://bit.ly/2aMGAZA
    However, unlike the subreddit or the items on the google search, there would be a real person as a guide to any apprentice. Googling “How to find a reliable teacher in xx” could head you in the right direction, but my proposal is that every-year apprenticing be not for money, but a case of paying it forward (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_it_forward) or good karma.

  3. A tension is between the concreteness of apprenticing and my abstract exploration of scaffolding (including a game I created a few years ago, which led to would-be participants asking for more instructions, see https://plus.google.com/communities/117195386276367159905 and https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Tvhcfgzq8B8KL9gnyRL-JXOhgZJQPDIiSz4WXGjvVCA/edit).

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