29 February 2008

Segregation and other wrongs

"Our youth activities coordinators put on many, many educational activities these last few years, that are almost all period-related."

The SCA itself is one huge educational activity. Removing children from it has always seemed wrong to me, for many reasons.

"Almost all period-related" isn't good enough. "Period-related" isn't good enough. It's a violation of the purpose of the club, of the basis of the requirements for attendance. Furthermore, real children did things in period. They played games, played with toys. They didn't color worksheets. They watched puppet shows and sang songs. "Almost all period-related" is not good.

It's not about the officers. It's about the segregation by age, and the perpetration of the idea that learning happens in classroom-style settings.

"...asking our A&S teachers to let our youth know that they are welcome in their A&S classes."

Workshops should be provided, or run, or organized, but not "taught."
If there were no separate youth activities, the assumption would clearly be that participants of any age would be welcome to participate in anything other than holding certain offices, entering certain tournaments, and fighting if they weren't yet old enough. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I bristle some at "our" being used of A&S teachers and of youth. To whom does someone belong, who chooses to demonstrate a skill or to impart knowledge? To whom do my children belong? Themselves, first. To Gunwaldt and to me, in a way. To the barony as residents and participants. To the kingdom as statistics, or when serving on a retinue, as Bardolf has. They don't belong to all adults in the kingdom.

It's true things aren't as they once were, and many things are worse. And it was not and is not inevitable. I warned that having children's activities and officers opened the SCA up to liability issues, when I was a corporate officer and the board was asked a couple of times to approve children's activities officers SCA-wide. It wasn't a good idea. It doesn't strengthen the Society, to treat it as a school.

Too many people see the world through school-colored glasses. The SCA was and should have continued to be a haven from that. There was a lawsuit in the 1980's brought by a former board member (whose lawyer friend wanted to have his name on a case). It was never tried, and part of the reason it was given up on was I pointed out that the assertion that we would be more "educational" if people were sitting in desks taking notes was absurd and defeated the entire wonderful basis of the Society, which was learning by preparing for and putting on and attending and participating in feasts and tournaments.

Do I keep quiet just because my own children are grown? I didn't even plan to have children when I first objected.
Do I roll over and die? Someday I will, but I haven't yet.

15 February 2008

How I am with students, Part 1

Part 1 might also be the last part, but it seems unfinished.

I have never made a list of students. It wouldn't be impossible, it's just that I've told some that if it didn't work out, I'd never make a deal of it, it would just fade away quietly. So I don't even have a list, because lists don't fade.

Once when I was naming them off, I forgot Liobsynde, in Dragonsspine, but it's partly because she never asked to my student, and I never asked to be her teacher. Someone else wanted to be her teacher, and asked me to be a co-teacher, a partner, because Liobsynde and I were both musicians. I was not nearby, and Liobsynde was a Laurel before too long. I did take donations to put toward a nice wooden music stand for her, but I wasn't around near enough to be much of a mentor.

With others more local, though, I've had mixed experiences. My lack of patience shows sometimes. My eagerness to help sometimes trips them up when what they really wanted was an excuse not to do something, and if I fix the problem and the excuse is gone, I haven't really shown them the kind of slack understanding they wanted. When I see the slack understanding some other people give to their folk (Artan with his squires, and Martino with his sometimes), I think they're doing much better than I am.

Likely, though, one of the major differences between squire-to-Knight and student/protege to Pelican is that part of the business of service is doing what needs to be done in an efficient and energetic manner. Reliability and sacrifice are not unreasonable expectations.

I praise my students and I like to do that, and when one slips from being praiseworthy, it's very noticeable to me. If I were a stoic non-mushy kind of person, it might not matter.

Some of my students have been more toward the Laurel end of the spectrum. If anyone reads this from a kingdom in which one person might be a squire and and apprentice and a protege to three different people, this will seem an oddity. Here, though, in the Outlands, and in my life for sure, any student of mine is likely to be expected to do all that he or she can do in any field in which there's interest. And a few have been combat-involved, too, and just as I've helped their squires, Gunwaldt and Artan have helped my students.

Back to the Laurel-apprentice types, though, with them my concern is that they move toward knowing and caring what's period. I would much rather a student do a period song, cook a period dish, or make a period garment in a fair way than to do a BANG-up, stunning technical job on something out of period. Not everyone agrees with that stance. I would rather people do what's good and right than to settle for the minimum of what they have to do. Some haven't liked my expectations, and some have left.

I have let some students go, and it's never been a sweet moment in either of our lives. When I've thought the behavior of someone was risking harm to others around her (children, in most cases) or when there was dishonesty or cruelty involved, they can either change or they can leave. I've not found a way around that.

Artan used a phrase once of someone who asked to be my student, and seemed to have questionable motives. Sometimes questionable motives can be overcome, but Artan said "She just wants to be baptized in the river AElflaed."

It's been years, but I saw what he meant and I've since seen it in other people in various combinations of situations (not all involving me). Some people can't or don't want to change, but they think if they associate themselves with a reputation for morality and integrity, that they will be assumed to be moral and mindful by being part of that group or household.

In at least one case there seemed an element of "AElflaed is a stickler for truthfulness, and I'm her student; therefore I must be truthful." That's fine in the cases of people who are truthful.

One student left because of pressure from my critics. I had suspected as much, and a few years later she confirmed it. Other students have received insult and criticism in hopes that a wedge would be driven between them and me, or that they would come to doubt me. I regret that it has happened, and new students are always warned.

I've had many temporary or kind-of students—no oath, no long-term commitment, but a situational arrangement, or a "Can you talk to my squire, please?" daylong or weekend or month-long deal. I always enjoy those.

I'm not methodical. There's not an outline or a notebook or a checklist. There's living life where I can watch and assist, and there's sometimes helping me with things I never knew were going to come up. Some people like that, and for some it seems awful.

The best learning, from my point of view, is when someone hears something I say or reads something I wrote just at the moment he needed that piece of his own life's puzzle and it fit easily and quickly and became the catalyst for growth and more awareness. I don't even need to meet the people for whom that has happened. Sometimes I hear about it, and probably more often I don't. Sometimes it's close and in person and sometimes it's thousands of miles or tens of years away.

06 February 2008

Sometimes it's just food

On Wednesday nights in the winter, for the second year, I'm meeting with a small group each week for a discussion.

Last year the theme was virtues, and we usually met in a restaurant meeting room. By the time everyone bought food and I bought food for two of my kids and maybe another guest and me, and tipped the set-up team for the meeting room, it was expensive. It was distracting.

This year we're discussing various topics concerning history (some SCA, some medieval Europe/England/literature). We meet at my house and I'm furnishing the food. Sometimes it's just food. Sometimes it's used to make a point. Tonight I'm doing "early al-Barranian foods." On bread trenchers, I'm going to serve egredouce, "hedgehogs," baked apples (slices, not whole) and cheese.

I called Viscountess Lore, who was involved in the preparation of some of those things, to check a couple of details.

This project would be more fun with other people, but it's Wednesday, and those who come to the discussions work during the day, so I'm cooking on my own. It's nice to be with my thoughts, though, and my mind been turning mostly to my memories of my first few SCA-meal experiences, and to those people for whom I'm preparing the food today. I'm sure cooks have had such thoughts always—of the first time they had the food they're making, remembering where they were and with whom, seeing and hearing in their heads those they learned from, what others have said of such preparations, and thinking of those who will eat the batch at hand.

Sometimes it's not just food.