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Permaculture Practice, the PDC and the teacher qualification  RSS feed

 
Taylor Maxson
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My question is related to something that's been tugging at me for a while, really since I did the PDC in 2009. I have both an academic background (philosophy) and have also been a teacher for fifteen years. I've worked in experiential education, wilderness and adventure programming (Outward Bound et el.) and I've also taught college, high school, and middle school. I get why standards are important in curriculum, and that it is a human norm to put a "fence" around areas of thought and practice, i.e. Holmgren and Mollison's impetus to make permaculture a certification process, and to technically allow only those who've gone through it to call themselves permaculture designers. On the other hand, I think no one has intellectual (or other) rights to the natural patterns and principles underlying permaculture design. I am torn when permaculture-inclined folks press the need to do the certification. I know a number of intelligent, thoughtful, extremely capable people who are experimenting with permaculture who cannot afford to access the certification, and I believe they are legitimate carriers of the fire (so to speak) and that their involvement in permaculture (and the project of laying out a future where people's needs get met without violence and chaos) is vital. I watched Peter Bane recently, on video, talk about how the "professional class" of permaculture is rather hung up on this question of legitimacy. "The third graders should teach the second graders," he says. Those with more knowledge, who master a curriculum at one level, learn more and better when they teach what they've mastered to others.

My question, then, is do you think the PDC (or a PDC teacher certification) should be necessary conditions for the possibility of permaculture practice and/or teaching?








 
Tyler Ludens
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A PDC is not necessary to practice or teach permaculture. A certificate is only needed if one plans to teach the PDC, it is not needed to teach permaculture itself.

 
Aranya
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Hi Taylor,

That's a very good question and one that has no all-encompassing answer I feel, especially as the pathways of practice and teaching may mix and match in different proportions. My own pathway involved making gardens for seven years after my PDC and learning from growing and trying out the concepts in the landscape, both in the semi-wilds of south west Ireland & in home gardens in small towns and villages and on farms. While my PDC provided an important kick start to a new life direction, most of my learning came from the doing & making a whole bunch of mistakes. Having the British Diploma process to encourage me to observe, record & reflect made a big difference I think. Only after I completed my Diploma did I decide that I wanted to teach courses, rather than just give informal tours of gardens.

I've certainly learned a great deal more since from having to teach permaculture to others - both in needing to be able to explain the concepts and also from hearing about others own ideas and experiences. One thing I realised when I began shadowing other teachers was that I needed to model an iceberg - to have a whole lot more depth to my knowledge than I have time to share in the design course. I'm still working on developing that depth today after teaching nearly 50 PDCs; every question I can't answer is a key to a new understanding.

Bill Mollison is often quoted as saying that once people graduate from the design course they can go out & teach others. I'm not sure that he meant the whole design course & it was also at a time when the word needed spreading quickly. Having some quality assurance makes a lot of sense to me, but then again we learn from our mistakes and most of us have a good enough awareness of whether what we are doing is working to be able to self-regulate is we try something beyond our current capacity. Working that edge between comfort & stress is where we learn & improve most quickly.

Collaborating & sharing ideas is I believe key to us evolving what permaculture is about. Nothing in nature stands still and those who just want to teach only what's in the Designer's Manual are missing out on what we've learned in the last 20 years. Sure, those of us with more 'permaculture experience' certainly have a lot to share with those who are newer, but then we all have valuable skills to bring in to enhance the collective understanding. We should all find the humility to listen to each other so we can learn faster together.

Considering nature as model, life is always trying out new things, mutations, to see if they are better suited to the local conditions. Life fails a lot, but somewhere in those experiments life always succeeds too. It doesn't matter which of us finds the answers if we are part of a network where we can all access that information.

Reading books is perhaps the least effective way to learn, but at the same time they give us access to the lifetime's work of so many of our elders. What a gift that is. What I've tried to do with my own book is provide a guide for others to follow. Getting our heads around concepts are useful, but the act of trying things out in the real world is key to understanding how to do things well. A well-run permaculture land project is such an inspirational thing - it shows what is possible. Folks listen to someone who has co-created something beautiful with nature. In the garden is where we really learn.

A good teacher will I think attract people to them and word of mouth will be enough to keep folks coming.

I could carry on for a good while longer on this, but I'm going to go and answer some other posts now. Thanks for a great question.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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I needed to model an iceberg - to have a whole lot more depth to my knowledge than I have time to share in the design course


That is a super truth about teaching!
It is the best way to be able to have a general view of any question, and to approach the answer by any angle, any point of view.

Another option is to teach what you have just learned, as you still know the little steps of understanding.
Good for revising and checking knowledge.
It is done between children at school.
It is very rewarding to know that you know!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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most of my learning came from the doing & making a whole bunch of mistakes.


I understand the process of learning by doing, as I had to use it too.
In some cases, the price is too high.
Ok for annual plants, not so nice to perenials, worse for chooks, and cows... you do not want to make anyone suffer or die.
One cannot be a teacher without wanting to improve other's successes. I think teachers will agree with this mission...

When the mistake is done, ok, I agree with positiving to overcome the sadness or whatever emotion.

Permaculture is about efficient energy. So you cannot really agree with the idea of using mistakes as a normal tool. Better to use it when the mistake is done, yes, but it is better to learn with success! School failure is not the best way to learn either! A teacher also aims at diminishing mistakes because there will be anyway enough mistakes to be done! A teacher wants to help successes. And he also helps to overcome failures, and watch after the different level of discouragement tendency.

As I have learned the process of apprenticeship (and most examples come from animals, afterwards applied to humans as we function the same), I would like to share and precise why mistakes also help to learn, while absolutely not being a learning process by themselves! The reason is that, for learning, 100% success are not sufficient. Success is a reward (in the sense of a reward being what you want most right now), and you learn better if you have to care about the result, and that the result is not always what you expect.

Then, mistakes and failures are not important by themselves, they are just useful for another try to be successful. If you success all the time, the paradox is that you succeed less (less times)! But anyway failing all the time is worse. Success is the key. A child does not learn to walk because he falls. Falling just increases the number of successes!

Might be a nuance, but I feel it is important.
 
Paul Cereghino
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The business literature calls it 'boundary spanning'--when people who cross traditional borders between disciplines or professions, create innovation. If you want to know about forest ecology, learn from a forest ecologist, if you want to know about fruit production talk to an organic orchardist, if you want to know about soil biology, talk to an soil biologist, if you want to know about hand labor, get out of the developed world, if you want to raise animals talk to a vet, if you want to figure out how to fit it all together into something new, try permaculture and cross your fingers, AND respect the vast knowledge and dedicated specialists that surrounds us.
 
Aranya
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Hi Xisca,

Yes, I agree. That's why permaculture encourages small & slow solutions - going off course a bit is easy to correct, a type 1 error (as Bill would call it) like building a house in the wrong place is far more painful, but we still remember those lessons the most. Better though to learn from other's mistakes, but it seems we're not very good at that in general. Perhaps that's why fables are so powerful as they wrap up a lesson in a story and being pattern-based beings living in a pattern-drenched world, they suit our way of learning.

As you say though, mistakes are only gifts if we make different choices based on what we learn next time. Sadly, our schools tend to shame us for making them at all, which for many can make them afraid to try. I'd like to see us celebrate our mistakes, but more specifically what we have learned and by sharing we can all learn together (hey, just like we're doing here!). A story is so much more powerful if we know the person it happened to.

 
Xisca Nicolas
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I'd like to see us celebrate our mistakes


I'd like to see us celebrate our successes!

I guessed you (or s.o. else) were going to mention school... which is indeed a problem.
To celebrate mistakes is still in the same line as what school teaches: focus on mistake.
School did not teach everybody to focus on successes.

The problem with school and other relationship adult/child or teacher/learner is the right to observe.
A good point in permaculture! Observe.
What do children do when they are allowed to share adults' life? They look at them.
Who has seen his parents at work?
One who has seen someone doing something will do it right, mostly, the very first time.
Success!
Many little successes.

Then, with time and too much pride, lack of attention etc, mistakes will come anyway.
But they will not be a problem then.
Not only shame is a problem. The real problem is failure without enough successes before a failure.
There is a necessity of success for learning. We are focused on mistakes because school taught us to focus on mistakes.
(Of course we remember the big bad lessons most, and this is as touching the old wound one got in school.)

When I am afraid to try, I might want first to see people doing it, then I want to imagine I do it, I play in my mind, I try to remember etc, or I want to do it small etc. What do I do? How do I act? I do something I believe I will succeed to do. Or I do a first step in the process. And I celebrate the success.

It makes me remember that this is part of the process in TT (transition town), they also celebrate the success with the group, so that people want to go further.
It is just pretty unnatural because we did not learn this often.
I wish we learn to celebrate our successes...
I wish we learn in pleasure more.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Ok Paul, I had to look for the words!
I like boundary spanning and I have even always lived at boundaries, even now in a valley separating two neighbourhoods.
And I like bridges between knowledges. I could do a few creative things thanks to my lack of former experience : I used my experience from another field.

If I understand you well, when you want to learn, go and see a specialist.
Then when you want to create and do, mix all!

What I liked in permaculture was the smart thinking in acting.
My wound at school is different, as I did not fail too much nor did experience shame but once that I remember.
Mine was the stupid boundary that is made between manual work and intellect work!
This I wanted to span.
 
Miles Flansburg
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To answer the original post. I don't think you need the PDC. I have known, and learned from, a lot of folks who had very little education. My father was a master at figuring out mechanical things, he had no college. At one point in his life someone saw his work and asked him to be a consultant, He accepted and then they turned him down because he did not have a degree. I think a lot of knowlege gets lost in this way. We discriminate against those who have knowlege but no piece of paper to prove it.

I was once very good at facilitation and self directed, team based management concepts and implementation in the business world. I too was once asked to consult because a presentation I gave at a national convention got some attention. They assumed that because I could speak with some intelegence on the subject , that I had a degree. When they found out I only had two years of college they walked away! I actually had a person move from a spot setting next to me after we had had a nice lunch time conversation on the subject. When he found out that I was at a lower level on "the scale of life" , it freaked him out so badly that he got up and moved to another table !
I understand that for insurance or liability issues one may have to have some sort of verifiable education level, But I have worked with many engineers who do not have a clue.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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No big company can hope to sell efficiently a consultancy without giving the prospect client the CV of the teacher...

Sometimes it is by law...
I did teach in a school... fortunately I had the minimum degree they required!
But you know what?
This degree was absolutely NOT in the field I taught for them!!!

No-one would need degrees to prove anything for people who know them personnaly.
The problem comes from not knowing the person, usually because of a distance.
So every teacher makes a long list of degrees and experiences.

1) As long as there is no official university diploma in the field that one teaches, as long as it is not an official school from the ministry of education, there is no need of any diploma.

2) Then, come back to the prospect client and what he needs for trusting...
The best financial income in permaculture is NOT cultivating but teaching... So you need the permacultural courses for this...

3) A question, is there an official "bureau of permaculture" that will forbid the use of the WORD "permaculture" and will bring to court any person teaching permaculture without following any of their courses?
 
Aranya
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As I understand it, Bill Mollison has the term 'permaculture' trademarked and says that only those who have done a design course can use the term to promote their services. Makes sense though really. And it doesn't stop anyone else doing it, just not selling their services under the name.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Aranya wrote:As I understand it, Bill Mollison has the term 'permaculture' trademarked and says that only those who have done a design course can use the term to promote their services. Makes sense though really. And it doesn't stop anyone else doing it, just not selling their services under the name.


There is no trademark or copyright on the word "permaculture."
 
Aranya
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Found this on Wikipaedia:

"Trademark and copyright issues

There has been contention over who if anyone controls the legal rights to the word "Permaculture", meaning is it trademarked or copyrighted, and if so, who holds the legal rights to the use of the word. For a long time Bill Mollison claimed to have copyrighted the word permaculture, and his books reflected that on the copyright page, saying "The contents of this book and the word PERMACULTURE are copyright." These statements were largely accepted at face-value within the permaculture community. However, copyright law does not protect names, ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something; it only protects the expression or the description of an idea, not the idea itself. Eventually Mollison acknowledged that he was mistaken and that no copyright protection existed for the word "permaculture".[30]

In 2000 Mollison's US based Permaculture Institute sought a service mark (a form of trademark) for the word permaculture when used in educational services such as conducting classes, seminars, or workshops.[31] The service mark would have allowed Mollison and his two Permaculture Institutes (one in the US and one in Australia) to set enforceable guidelines as to how permaculture could be taught and who could teach it, particularly with relation to the PDC. The service mark failed and was abandoned in 2001. Also in 2001 Mollison applied for trademarks in Australia for the terms "permaculture design course"[32] and "Permaculture Design".[33] These applications were both withdrawn in 2003. In 2009 he sought a trademark for "Permaculture: A Designers' Manual"[34] and "Introduction to Permaculture",[35] the names of two of his books. These applications were withdrawn in 2011. There has never been a trademark for the word Permaculture in Australia.[36]"
 
Ben Stallings
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For what it's worth, my experience has been that a PDC was worth far more than it cost. I was initially reluctant to take a PDC because of the cost and attended various free or inexpensive classes instead, read books, etc. You can buy a lot of books and DVDs for $1500! But you miss out on the immersive experience of the class, which is transformational.

If you compare the cost of a PDC to books and DVDs and free classes and videos, yes, it's expensive. But compare it to the cost of professional training in virtually any other field and it's a tremendous bargain. My wife is a university professor, and her students graduate thousands of dollars in debt with a degree that is not recognized in our state! So they have to either move to another state or work in a different field for years to pay off their debt. I used to be a Web developer; my competition graduated thousands of dollars in debt with professional degrees that were worthless in 6 months, while I picked up their clients using only my portfolio, making them look like fools. Meanwhile permaculture has only one recognized degree and it costs only $1500, give or take, and two weeks of your time. That's a bargain even though it doesn't guarantee you a living. So my advice is to stop complaining and questioning the motives of good people.
 
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