By Hugh Iglarsh
Let’s face it, philosophy is an odd beast: It is Reason contemplatively munching on its own tail. As a process, it dissolves innocent beliefs that had been minding their own business into a vertigo of nested questions and pregnant uncertainty. In our pragmatic society, philosophy is often seen as a respectable pastime for tenured navel-gazers, but about as relevant to virtual modern life as the Gnostic Gospels in the original Aramaic.
And yet… among the swarm of adult ed offerings that promise some combination of knowledge, power, success, libidinal satisfaction, affirmation and expertise to a paying clientele, there is one local enterprise that has somehow found a niche for itself selling only gnawing doubt. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Paul and Sarah Press/Photo: Drew Bly
By Caylie Sadin
When people think of learning, they usually think of a teacher and some students—maybe in a classroom, possibly in an art studio, a computer lab or the outdoors. And sadly, after primary education, people usually can’t also help thinking of those massive tuition checks—or student debt. But Sarah Press and Ben Paul, friends from grade-school and the co-founders of CommuniTeach don’t like that there is a price tag on learning.
Press and Paul founded CommuniTeach (CommuniTeach.com), a website for people who want to freely learn and teach those in their community. Founded in 2010, the website serves people in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston, but they want to expand. The company is built around their personal learning philosophy of peers sharing knowledge. “The world is better when people come together to freely share their skills together,” Press says. Read the rest of this entry »
I’d explored various academic paths as a college undergraduate, including English and film production, but I was continually frustrated by the lack of critical analysis of popular media; English tended toward more classic and literary novels, while film production focused on the methods of storytelling. But in cinema studies—especially of film and television centered around horror archetypes like vampires and zombies—I found the combination of critical theory and popular media for which I’d been searching.
I enrolled for a class at DePaul called “Monsters in Popular Culture.” Taught by assistant professor Paul Booth, the course used material ranging from short stories by Neil Gaiman to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Friday the 13th.”
I’ve always refused to believe that the movies I grew up watching and the current fare that I count among my favorites are nothing more than pure entertainment. Luckily, I’m not the only one. Read the rest of this entry »
At fourteen I wanted to be a novelist.
At sixty, I thought I’d better get to it.
“Do what you love doing,” my Buddhist son encouraged. So I cashed out of my commercial writing agency—which had improbably propelled me, a son of unschooled immigrants, to the 1%—invested our nest egg, and enrolled in a fiction-writing program.
After two years I had a compelling concept for a novel but remained clueless as to how to implement it. I quit school, engaged a writing coach and made some progress, but feared I was running out of time and money. On a long shot I applied to the nation’s top writers’ workshops. Read the rest of this entry »
By Kristen Micek
Who hasn’t heard the tales of Arthurian knights or watched “Lord of the Rings” and had a fleeting desire to learn how to wield a blade? The Chicago Swordplay Guild has taken it upon itself to preserve the history and culture of centuries-old Italian sword fighting by teaching it to others.
The guild offers eleven-week courses on either the Medieval Longsword or the Renaissance Rapier that teach students the historical background and how to use the weapon, with dagger combat and grappling thrown in. “From day one, it’s not just a matter of it being a martial art,” says Gregory Mele, co-founder and curriculum director of the CSG (chicagoswordplayguild.com). “We ground it in the history of the tradition.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Francesca Thompson
During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I was convinced that after graduation, I was moving to Botswana.
Well, maybe not to Botswana specifically, but I was determined to go abroad with the Peace Corps after earning my bachelor’s degree in creative writing. I wanted to experience the world. Plus, I was fairly certain that a degree in creative writing would get me a really nice cardboard box or a lifelong place in my parents’ basement. There seem to be two paths for continuing education after undergrad: keep treading the theoretical education path and pursue a graduate degree, or make my own education through worldly experience. Read the rest of this entry »
We turn the page on a new year, resolved once again to change our lives. Laugh, perhaps at the cyclical folly of this endeavor, but you cannot deny its basic truth: we are driven to be better today than yesterday. And while some seek it through denial (diet, smoking cessation) and others through sacrifice (volunteerism), education not only serves as a portal to a transformed life, either big (a new graduate degree!) or small (I know how to hand-make pasta!), but the very act of learning is, in fact, irreversible change.
Ted C. Fishman’s seminal new book “Shock of Gray” paints the rapidly aging world in vivid colors and he points out that as we age, our cumulative knowledge is our greatest asset in life’s losing battle against eventual obsolescense. Fishman’s prescription for us all is to keep learning, “pumping yourself full of knowledge as you go along.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bob Dylan with Joan Baez
By Dina Elenbogen
I have a bust of Honest Abe that my father brought back from a trip he’d taken to Washington D.C. when I was a child. I keep him on my desk because he was honest and forthright as legend had it, and helped abolish slavery. He is also a gift my father gave me. As Abe traveled with me from desk to desk, in college and beyond, I had my father, who also represented “the truth” and endless knowledge, with me as well.
I hadn’t thought for a long time about Abe Lincoln, Bob Dylan, the poet Yehuda Amichai or others who had once been my idols until my Ethics teacher Chava asked us the seemingly simple question, “Who are our sages?” in response to a quote by the twelfth-century philosopher, rabbi and doctor, Moses Maimonides. I drew a blank. The ten students in our adult education class were uncharacteristically silent as well. We returned to the text with Maimonides’ sage advice: “Eat and drink with your sages, live as they do.” As I took in these words, I realized that I have lost sages from living too close to them and discovering discrepancies between what they say and how they live their lives. Read the rest of this entry »
The muses: Charna and Del
By Jack Helbig
“When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.” That’s what it says in the I Ching, and that’s how it has worked in my life.
I was certainly ready for a teacher—and a new direction—when I began taking classes with Del Close at the ImprovOlympic in the summer before I turned 27. I had dropped out of graduate school and returned to Chicago the previous January, broke and broken, all my belongings (books mostly) packed into six boxes and stored in a friend’s basement in Lincoln Park.
I was utterly lost. So for six months I did as little as possible. I worked when I had to, as a temp downtown, and otherwise I read, wrote in my journal, and road the El endlessly, watching the city slide by.
Then I saw the ad in the paper. A small ad announcing that Del Close was teaching classes in improv. At the time I knew only three things about Del Close—he was famous, he used to direct at Second City, and he was somehow connected to (and important to) a whole bunch of comic actors I idolized, among them John Belushi, Bill Murray and Betty Thomas. Read the rest of this entry »
By David Wicik
Anyone who has seen the ultra-sleek heist sequel “Ocean’s Twelve” will no doubt remember the flamboyant scene when Vincent Cassel’s character, the Night Fox, dances his way through a blue-laser security grid—as if the standard red laser just wasn’t hip enough for the Ocean’s palette. What you might not know, however, is that Cassel’s moves weren’t gleaned from watching the “Step Up” series like a Billy Blanks training video, but that the performance was actually an exhibition of the actor’s own training in Capoeira, a centuries-old Brazilian martial arts style. And while Capoeira might not be able to teach you how to dodge lasers (then again, maybe it could), the practice carries the potential to enrich your life in many ways.
But before you start googling “Capoeira gym,” you should understand that Capoeira is not like any other martial art form, in fact, calling it a martial art is kind of like saying that Chinese culture is fried rice and dim sum. Instructor Bambu, whose real name is Steven Kolhouse, of Grupo Axé Capoeira explains that Capoeira includes certain martial elements, but that this aspect is part of a much larger cultural fabric which also comprises acrobatics, music and dance. As Kolhouse points out, “we teach a full art form, a full culture,” which is echoed by the saying of one great mestre (master) of the art, that “Capoeira is everything the mouth eats.” Read the rest of this entry »