© 2009 Lynsey

055 – Chautauqua

Chautauqua (sha-TAW-kwa) was an adult education movement in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Until very recently (last week) there was something similar here in New Zealand with adult and community education, which, like Chautauqua, brought education, entertainment, and culture to the whole community. It’s a sad loss.

Over the years I’ve been a big fan of ‘night school’. I started by pretending to have a permanent job so I could enrol in the pottery classes – as a high school student you weren’t supposed to enrol in night school. I took classes in law, business English, small business, New Zealand architecture, counselling, the history of English furniture, interior design, bar tending, botanical illustration, German, Mandarin, graphic design, desktop publishing, computer programming, visual diaries, soft sculpture, and teaching adult reading and learning.

Some of the learning was for fun – it’s helped me to become a more rounded person – education, entertainment, and culture – things not easy to come by in rural New Zealand. Some of the learning was life changing – I learned enough that it changed the direction of my employment – quite apart from my capacity to be employed in the first instance. As a result of attending the small business classes I launched a business in partnership with my sister. As a result of the teaching classes I went on to teach. In both instances I needed (and gained) further study, however the seeds were planted in the night school classes. I worked as a bar tender for a number of years, again, as a result of the learning from night school. I have given back to the process as well – I have taught classes in night school – how to start up a small business, how to write web pages, and how to get the best out of your video camera.

After the unfortunate demise of New Zealand’s Adult and Community Education, I hope that people will join the resistance, and once again re-engage in radical acts of teaching and learning. People sharing what they know. Practical knowledge and skills, bundled with a wealth of informal learning and valuable attitudes will be passed on in homes and workshops across the country. The war on ignorance continues. Once more into the kitchen table trenches!

04. Every day is an opportunity to cultivate the promise of the future.
09. Every day learn something new.
47. Every day you are responsible.