Saturday, January 07, 2012

A seraphic school seminar

Guardian angel

John Vasconcellos was a well-known figure around the State Capitol. A big teddy bear of a man, his rumpled figure had all the debonair flair of an unmade bed. He briefly achieved national fame when his “self-esteem” initiative drew mocking attention from the Doonesbury comic strip. John himself, however, was unfazed, even if his more substantive contributions to the state of California passed unremarked.

Anyone who serves in a California community college tends to associate the name of John Vasconcellos with his landmark education reform bill, AB 1725, which in 1988 rewrote the sections of the state education code dealing with our schools. One legacy of that legislation is a greater emphasis on professional development for faculty members. On most community college campuses, professional development opportunities are embodied in various seminars and training programs, especially on “flex days” when faculty assemble in the absence of students to rack up their required hours. The flex days, how ever many there are, are ordinarily scheduled at the beginning of each semester. We hear talks, participate in meetings, attend panel discussions, enroll in training sessions, or watch subject-specific demonstrations.

Some flex sessions are great. Most are okay. A few have been dreadful enough to be entertaining. (I recall one in which a colleague quipped—but was it a quip?—that he was thinking of killing himself and several people in the room offered to help. Now that is supportive!) In other words, flex is like any other activity, with its ups and downs, successes and failures. In general, though, we all give it the good old college try and make the most of it.

However, sometimes you run into professional development opportunities that strain credulity just a teensy-tiny little bit. In looking at the flex program books posted on various California community college websites, I have encountered seminars that strike me as, well, odd. Do teachers really need an introduction to “qigong breathing techniques”? I suppose it could be lumped in with those other activities involving movement and health activities, although yoga and various stretching routines seem to be more popular options. No doubt the “Happy Fanny” workshop announced at one school is one of those feel-good PE-type sessions—especially with that Middle Eastern dance component.

But qigong and fannies cannot compete with my favorite among all of the spring sessions I perused. The angel seminar wins it going away:
An Inquiry into the Existence of Angels

There are many who claim that any lingering belief in angels is merely the residue of imaginary wishful thinking. There are others who hold that angels (wings, halos, harps) literally exist. How is one to reconcile such contradictory beliefs? In this session, you will discover how C.G. Jung’s theory of synchronicity provides a vehicle for the exploration and possible reconciliation of this question. Rather than echoing the skeptic who says angels cannot exist or the religious enthusiast who affirms their immanence, this study asserts that by expanding our understanding of both synchronicity and angels, we might be able to resolve the conflict.
It may well be that you are having an uncharitable reaction to the description of this 90-minute program, indicating that you are one of those anti-angel skeptics. If so, how close-minded of you! Are you not open to the possibility of a synchronicitic reconciliation of (A) angels don't exist and (B) sure they do! (Synthesis: Angels maybe exist!)

I confess that I am one of those cynics who has been known to remark that a good course in probability is the best cure for folks who cannot stop seeing significance in random occurrences and coincidences. Still, I must admit that it behooves one to examine carefully the credentials of the seminar leader. Perhaps there might be some substance here:
The faciliator earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion from the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Program at California Institute for Integral Studies.
Whoa! “Cosmology”? (Of course, angels are indeed reputed to hang out in the heavens.) What exactly is this peculiar doctoral program? Here's the on-line description:
Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness (PCC) graduate programs in San Francisco are dedicated to re-imagining the human species as a mutually enhancing member of the Earth community.

They attract intellectually engaged individuals who are in varying degrees dismayed by what they see happening in industrial societies and who are striving to find meaningful ways to develop their gifts to serve the future of the world.

We support those called to meet the Earth community's unprecedented evolutionary challenge by offering students a challenging and supportive learning community in which to find their voice and vision as leaders.

Please return to the links on the upper left of the screen to explore the PCC mission, faculty, curriculum (including our Integral Ecology track), current students, alumni and community, as well as how to apply to the program.
Okay! That's clear enough, isn't it? Well, I don't know about you, but my doubts are completely assuaged. Perhaps I should write the angel-seminar school and suggest a topic for a follow-up seminar next year. I hear that business about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin is still outstanding.


Eamon Knight said...

I really, really hate seeing the noble word "cosmology" abused in such a manner.

Zeno said...

I had exactly the same reaction, Eamon.