Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

Classes Continue

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We had another very interesting class on Thursday night. We had planned to discuss the first chapter of Looking for Spinoza, but we never got around to it. Usually when something like that happens, it’s a very good class. Instead, we ended up using the entire time discussing two primary things: our transition to a new structure for Phase I: Self and Other, and use of the phrase “free or pay-if-you-can college”.

The new structure comes about for multiple reasons:

  • The College has not yet attained a state in which income exceeds expenses.
  • Michael is in the process of developing his business and writing a book.
  • Richard must seek income in order to continue to support himself and the College.
  • With feedback from class discussions, the Steering Committee has adopted a structure that will provide us with a more tangible entity that gives us all more of a feeling of direction.

The new form of the College will be as follows:

  • Marking the transition there will be no class on Thursday, July 29. Instead we will have a Reflection and Recognition Potluck Dinner at Michael’s home on July 31.
  • We will move to quarters of 12 weeks with 10 classes, leaving time to breathe and prepare for the next quarter. The first class of the first quarter will meet on Thursday, August 5. Plans are to continue in the Colonial Theatre, but they will soon need us to begin paying for the space so we may be hunting for another location.
  • Topics treated in the next quarter will be determined ahead of time. The subject matter will emerge from both the class facilitator—most likely, me (Richard)—and from suggestions from students.
  • As always, we are soliciting feedback from the students about how this new form of the College is working for them and we will work to incorporate their suggestions.

The discussion about use of the phrase “free or pay-if-you-can” was a very open, honest discussion emphasizing the importance of language and thinking clearly and as thoroughly as possible about the implications of a move like this. Instead of trying to recapture all the positions and nuances of the discussion here I’ll just mention that we really felt as though we were getting into important concepts. For example, we began to come to grips with what our ideals really are, and what we do when they come into conflict. I also felt as though we were actively putting into practice the material we recently discussed in the classes, Crucial Conversations, which made me feel quite proud. And as we discovered great differences in how people reacted to the phrase under discussion we were also learning a great deal about Self and Other, which is part of the point of what we’re doing. This, too, made me feel proud. So to my mind the College is working, albeit not exactly as I had envisioned. But things never really turn out exactly as one expects, do they?

Meanwhile, since I appear not to have learned enough about how to raise funds for such a forward-thinking insitution as Sphere College (I really thought it would be a lot easier—I mean, it seems to me that people are ready for real change that can only be brought about through a more compassionate, thoughtful population!), I’m putting myself on the market for a software management position that can help me support my education habit. So if you know of anything in the Phoenixville area, please do let me know.

By the way, we didn’t come to a conclusion in the class about the phrase “free or pay-if-you-can”, but we do have a great deal more to discuss in the next Steering Committee meeting. And this week we’re taking a break from the class since the Colonial Theatre needs the space for their biggest event of the year: Blobfest!


Author: Richard Liston

Musician, computer scientist, educator. I'm creating a new educational environment for adults.

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