I’m back in college — Wenatchee Valley College! The last time I attended, teachers didn’t dress in shorts for class, students didn’t take notes and call up data on smart phones, and none had their faces pierced.
What’s seriously different then than now is the lesson we are receiving in “community.” It’s related to what we were protesting about in the 1970s: Relevance. Information that we receive in isolation is a poor education. But the class we are taking combines disciplines. One of our teachers is a biologist and the other a poet, so we are mixing biology with English composition.
On biology field trips, we observe plant and animal communities. We couldn’t understand our environment by looking at a single species — doesn’t that tree sparrow need a snag on the riverbank to nest in and a supply of flies to eat? What will happen to him if a beaver fells his cottonwood? Why does this grass grow only beneath pines? That’s a bigger picture. And we should be able to tell well what we’ve observed, how it affects us, and why it moves us.
We are a community of learners that is as diverse as the flora and fauna we study because we are drawn from a community that is also that diverse. We vary in age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ancestry, creed, ability, marital and parental status, social background, and more. During the eight weeks we spend in class observing birds and bees, all day two days per week, we will be getting, also, an education in appreciating our similarities and in respecting our differences.
My classmates might inspire me to try out my first smart phone, but I’m not likely to get my nose or eyebrows pierced.
Susan Sampson writes about the joys of discovering North Central Washington. She raised two sons and worked as a lawyer in Seattle before retiring with her husband to the valley. She can be reached at email@example.com