As I prepared my application for the Kenan Fellowship at Lincoln Center Institute and went in for my interview, I felt confident and comfortable with the notion of experiential education, having myself grown up being home-schooled and attending small schools focused on learning through hands-on experience. I knew that the educational philosophies of John Dewey and Maxine Greene and LCI’s emphasis on aesthetic education was a logical continuation for me as both a growing artist and future teacher.
These beliefs hold true. More than anything I am tremendously excited as I realize just how little I know. A host of new resources and fresh presentations have already in the first few days shown me that I am at just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more out there and I can and will keep growing. Yes, I was raised in a free-thinking, encouraging and supportive community and have been involved in making music and art for most of my short life, and yet still I have spent so much time learning what “is.” As both Dewey and Green encourage, I want to imagine what could be.
Despite my background, I still shut myself down. Being asked our first day in a workshop to experience a work of art through questions, I realized for the first time just how difficult that has become for me. I say that it has become difficult because I am sure that, as a child, I had no qualms about asking a continual stream of questions, but now there is something that holds me back. There is an unfortunate stigma in our classrooms and culture as a whole that if you ask questions you are not intelligent. As Socrates showed with his method centuries ago, asking questions is an effective way to explore an idea. What have our teachers and peers done to us? What is the media telling us? What has happened to us that we are so afraid of having and expressing our own thoughts and ideas? Will we ever be as free as our five-year-old counterparts? Doubtful, but I believe we can unearth a new freedom, where despite years of being told that this is the world: this how it is and will be, we can and will imagine what else could be.
In these first few days as a Kenan Fellow I am already inspired by the attitude and philosophy at LCI. We have already been grappling with these questions as we begin to read excerpts from Maxine Greene’s Variations On A Blue Guitar, from works by John Dewey, and from LCI Executive Director Scott Noppe-Brandon and Eric Liu’s Imagination First. And as I said, realizing how much there is for me to learn has brought my excitement (and yes, my anxiety) about the fellowship to a new level, as my attentions are pushed in new and enticing directions.