Sunday, September 26, 2010

Personal Experience As Teacher

So far, after 5 issues, we haven't heard too much from Carl. All we've seen so far in the publication are his book reviews. But now, in Issue 6, we get our first real look at Carl Watner.

In this issue, Wendy interviews Carl about his personal non-cooperation with the state that he began way before The Voluntaryist began. So, as far as the relationship his actions have on The Voluntaryists as an organization, Carl says this:
"As an organization, The Voluntaryists has nothing to do with this. My non-cooperation with the IRS goes back many years-long before George and Wendy and I conceived of the organization. While George and Wendy have expressed their individual support, we all consider it a personal matter. That is, none of us advocate going to jail as a strategy; it is more a matter of personal conscience. Our attitude is similar to how we approached Paul Jacob's resistance to draft registration. It is one of many strategies and we do not advocate it as something everyone should do. Not everyone could do it because of personal circumstances and mental outlook. Not everyone can be a Paul Jacob. How far one can oppose the government is a matter of conscience and circumstance. In short, neither I nor The Voluntaryists can decide this issue for anyone."
Carl calls his actions an "Experiment with Truth". He wanted to personally discover exactly how far the individuals working on behalf of the government were willing to go in order to get compliance from another individual who refuses to comply.

Carl says he did a lot of research before deciding to do his experiment so he knew what he was up against and what others had done in the past. The specifics of what happened at the time of this interview are in the issue and you can read about it yourself.

For this post, I just wanted to discuss some thoughts I had on the idea of personal experience as a method of learning and teaching. These thoughts came up because in the interview, Carl mentions a point Thoreau makes in his essay, On Civil Disobedience. Thoreau says that a person can more effectively and eloquently combat injustice if he has actually experienced it his or her self.

This Thoreau quote started me thinking about personal experience as a teacher. I think most would agree that to truly understand many concepts nothing can really replace actual personal experience for real insight and learning.

But the question I've been wondering about lately is how much one person's experience can help teach others. Does personal experience extend out to others or not?

Certainly an experience teaches the person who lives through it lots of lessons. But I'm not clear on how effective it can be in teaching others. I think that if personal experience does appear to do so then it's only because that person can directly relate it to their own personal experience.

Which means I've circled back to the core idea that personal experience is the key.

So if this is true, then doesn't that mean the best way to communicate and introduce an idea is to find and use a personal experience that will help another individual relate to the concept you are trying to convey?

1 comment:

Joe said...

Although it's not exactly the question you're asking, I have found that preparing to teach (or explain) something, i.e., having to understand it sufficiently well to impart that knowledge to others, enhances my comprehension of the subject. So I can read something and say to myself "OK, I understand that", but if I explain it to somebody else, I'm much more confident about my knowledge. If you experience something, and then you have to teach that, you have to think about the experience, unless you're just telling it like a story.