The Idea.

I've been obsessed with one particular question for about 7 or 8 years now. It's not something I think about every day, but from time to time it rolls off my tongue in a dreamy conversation with fellow dreamers.

If you could teach a class starting next week, what would it be?

One of my favorite answers is this: a class about the top ten books on the NY Times bestseller's list, as it stands on the first day of class. Reading material is those ten books, and we'd discuss each work itself, as well as what it means that each book made the list. How do they appeal to the general public? What's been the marketing behind them? And let's compare the list with one a year earlier, ten years earlier, twenty years earlier.

Fun, right? I like daydreaming about stuff like that. And my answer to this question never has much to do with what I'm qualified to teach. It's mostly a vehicle for figuring out what I'd like to learn about myself... and then explore that via academia with a roomful of other thoughtful minds.

Last night in the subway, I was vaguely thinking about this question and its surrounding implications. What topics have I been interested in lately? How have they overlapped? What events, lectures and opportunities exist in New York City to support those interests?

I think that my learning goes through a natural ebb and flow. While watching John Adams earlier this year, I was listening to History podcasts and reading the Declaration of Independence. On a visit to Boston around that time, I dragged myself along the Freedom Trail and got a kick out of hanging out in the spaces Mr. Adams and crew had been. My interests already follow some sort of logical trail.

But what if I created a syllabus? What if, for periods of 3 months at a time, I dedicated my time to learning about one specific theme? I could make a reading list (after asking you all to suggest must-read titles based on the subject), plan lunches with relevant friends who know about the subject, look up lectures or classes taking place in the city during that time. There's a way to be curious about everything- but maybe it's most productive to take things one at a time!

So here's the plan. On November 1, I'm going to kick off my first semester of Project Learn. In the meantime, I need to decide what the first theme will be, ask you all for recommendations, create a reading list and a syllabus. All along the way, I'll post thoughts as I learn things about the topic, synthesize what I'm reading and learning, plan relevant trips to inform my learnings. Doesn't this sound FUN? And here's where you guys come in!

I'm going to post the syllabus on this blog and if you happen to be interested in the topic too, you can read along! You too can spend 3 months learning about Dreaming or Japan or Ballet or Cheese!

Here are some initial ideas I have for syllabus stuff:
  • required readings
  • relevant events in the city
  • relevant locations to visit (i.e. Boston for American History)
  • relevant volunteer opportunities
  • opportunities to talk with family members about specific themes
  • related films
  • writing assignments (i.e. learn about marriage and submit something to APW)
Is it crazy to make a school for yourself? Maybe. But I'm such a willing student! And I know that you're all out there with me, ready to offer what support and guidance you can. Let's get smarter together, ok?

I have a ton (like... a TON) of ideas for the first Project Learn theme and I'll be announcing it in the next week or so while I'm working on the syllabus. But come November 1, school is in session.

I. Can't. Wait.


Kelley said...

This is an awesome idea. A perfect way to 'use' the internet for good! Might be cool at some point to do a food related 'class' either region of the world, type of cuisine etc. because there are so many hidden food gems in the city.

Also, if you haven't read 'The Happiness Project' you should. I have it--you can borrow it. Similar 'project' idea only she went month by month.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Looking forward to it!


LK said...

So excited Jen!! I'm going to throw up a link on my blog once you get started in case any of my readers want to take your 'classes' too.

Edith said...

amazing. can't wait to learn with you! seriously this is gonna be so interesting. i miss learning!(i.e i mean taking classes to learn as opposed to everyday learning).

Tara said...

wow, jen! i just stumbled across your blog (because i am procrastinating from reading) and i just love it. what a cool idea. saw in a more recent post that your topic is memory, and i'm hoping to find some time in the semester to follow along!