I recently listened to an interview with Dave Jacke (One of the co-authors of the amazing two volume series Edible Forest Gardens) and Cliff Davis (Director of Spiral Ridge Permaculture Gardens) via the C-realm podcast (Episode number 278: Functional Interconnections available at http://c-realmpodcast.podomatic.com/ if you care to check it out - I'd highly recommend it). Dave and Cliff offer permaculture courses at the Farm in Tennessee and during the interview they discussed, among many other very interesting topics, the purpose/utility of a PDC. Specifically, they called into question the information dense nature of most PDC courses and suggested that it might be more beneficial to future designers to learn how design concepts relate to their specific locale. In addition, they emphasized the importance of the PDC as being more of a paradigm shifting exercise which breaks down pre-conceived notions and opens one up to new methods of seeing the world (these are not their exact words, but I feel that it is the gist of their argument). As a result the course would be less information dense and they argue that this would be acceptable because of the nature of the information age we now find ourselves in.
I know that most PDCs are not location specific and tend to be very information dense so what these guys are suggesting seems to be somewhat different than what is normally offered. Any thoughts/opinions on this approach? I do think that it would take a really good teacher to facilitate this approach so many PDC teachers might not have the ability to do this. Also, I don't think this is an either/or question but it would be nice to know others peoples opinions (especially Geoff) on what a PDC should be - which would you prefer? I have yet to take a course and I am hoping that Dave and Cliff will still be offering courses down the road as I will be living in the area and am really keen on their approach. For people like myself, who have read a lot of the literature, the kind of course they are suggesting might be more beneficial.
I should note that although I have yet to take a PDC I have watched the PDC DVD series available from tagari.com. While it is information dense it is not 100% information. The most valuable thing I got from the course were the stories and real world examples that were not part of the Big Black Book. Some reviewers have criticized the series because Bill tends to go on long winded tangents, but I think that many of the stories he tells help the students to do exactly what Dave and Cliff are aiming to do.
I think after taking a pdc you should be able to think global and act locally as well as think locally and act globally and not just be able to help yourself but anyone, world wide by infecting them with this design science. Because a PDC is a transformational event that should infect you with permaculture and a good teacher should create students that are terminally infected.
I'm in the process of planning to teach my first PDC. The concepts are global, but since most of my students are looking for how to improve their situations and not necessarily teach, it only makes sense to have as many locally-applicable examples as I can and not to dwell on tropic or dryland examples. That doesn't mean that I won't mention things that are not useful here in the Ozarks, but I'll try not to spend too much time on them.
I think Geoff made a good point that through taking a PDC students should be "terminally infected" with permaculture - that being the main objective of a PDC - forever thereafter seeing the world through a permaculture lens. Maybe specific information is not as important as learning how to be a permaculturalist. Even though students may be seeking (and getting) location specific solutions through a PDC they are also (hopefully) going through a deeply meaningful paradigm shift and learning how to solve problems with a new system of thinking. Perhaps the old saying "give a person a fish (location specific solution) and they'll be ok today, but teach a person to fish (permaculture infection) and they'll be able to feed themselves (anywhere on earth) forever" is apt here. Maybe that isn't the best analogy, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that, to me, the real essence of permaculture is not the solutions themselves but the process of getting to those solutions.
Paddy spent all of his days in the O'Furniture back yard with this tiny ad: