Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning


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Delete a Post?

It was recommended that I delete my previous post because people want to support a winner, and the previous post looks a bit desperate. Ok, I understand that. But I also must impress upon people that I’m not accustomed to having things I set out to do not be successful. I have a habit of accomplishing some rather difficult things. Simply put, I’m going to stay with Sphere College until it is a self-sustaining entity (and beyond). So don’t hesistate. Go ahead and get behind us now!

Also, upon reflection, the thought of deleting a post leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. To my mind, one of the greatest ills of our society lies in the belief that everything must be ‘spun’ in order to be successful. It’s almost as though we have a collective dysfunctional hysteria that says ‘Don’t tell me about the reality, just make me feel good.’ And I’ve been seeing businesses go under lately that apparently believed they needed to act publicly as though things were fine. Trying to look like a winner didn’t help them. So I’m going to leave the post and move forward.

Perhaps it’s my software engineering training, but if a software engineer is unwilling to think about what could go wrong, talk about it with other people and protect against it to the best of their abilities, then they’re not much of a software engineer.

Furthermore, I must also consider the fact that we’re setting a precedent for how we at Sphere College will conduct ourselves in the future. It is important to me to foster an environment in which it is normal to speak honestly and publicly about difficult situations, as long as appropriate individual privacy is protected.

So here it is, folks. We live in hard times. We need your help. A donation to a project I’m hosting at RocketHub will not only benefit a group of deserving youths in need, but it will also provide me with a bit of financial freedom to continue focusing on establishing Sphere College. And I’ll be able to purchase the PDF rights to reprint and distribute the article in Chronicle of Higher Education. It won’t take much on your part. A contribution of the cost of lunch or movie tickets will be significant and appreciated.

The project is doing well, too. So far there are 18 contributors and $900 has been raised! We’ve got two more days. Let’s see how well we can do. It’s easy. Click here, read about the project and contribute a small amount. Please know that contributing $10 IS very helpful. And please take a moment to help spread the word!


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A Pound of Flesh

On the heels of the first anniversary celebration on Tuesday night last week we had a fantastic class on Thursday night. The discussion was about Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Why are we reading/discussing Shakespeare? Well, for several reasons. My former students at Ursinus College have been doing book drives collecting texts that Sphere College students can use. In fact, I have stacks of texts in my kitchen waiting to be handed out: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Galileo, Genesis, The Qur’an, The Bhagavad-Gita and more. In Sphere College we go in the direction students choose to go given our interests and the resources at hand. I had a stack of Merchant, and a number of the students thought that it would be a good experience to approach Shakespeare, so there we go.

Shakespeare proves to be a very rich source of material for exploring ‘Self and Other’. Our discussion included gender similarities and differences, the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law, the nature of bargains, morality questions related to charging interest for loans, what the implications are for an economy based on loans for growth, how social norms in one society can affect social attitudes in seemingly remote societies, and other topics.

We’ll be continuing with Merchant this Thursday night, then move on to something brought in by one of the students.

In the meantime, I continue working to build the infrastructure of the College during a time of economic difficulty. But hey, I do love a challenge—particularly one that will have such a huge payoff in its affect on our society: a practical program of education for adults that allows them to go through the transformation they wish to go through. Frankly, I’ve wracked my brain and I can’t think of anything at all that would have greater positive influence. Stay tuned! Help out!

And as always we welcome your financial support. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount—any amount will help. Just visit the DONATE! page and make a small, tax-deductable contribution. It will help us pay for the people who are making this possible (right now that’s me, Michael and Virginia), it will help defray costs for creating and printing brochures and mailing materials, for purchasing supplies, and it will pay for our memberships—we belong to the Phoenixville Area Time Bank, and we very recently joined the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia!


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Letz Put Those Social Networkz to Work!

It’s tomorrow night! What??? You don’t know about the Sphere College First Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday, April 20 at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville?! You don’t know about the reception at 6pm, the presentation at 7pm, the Sphere College Short Film Contest screening at 7:30, and the fantastic feature film, Living in Oblivion, a self-referential comedy with excellent acting about independent filmmaking, at 8pm?! Well, now you do, so please join us in the celebration! And let’s all do what we can to make this a big, fun event. Use your social networkz to contact everyone on the planet and bring them out to celebrate with us. Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, texting, whatever. Yes, I mean it… do it right now before you forget! Ok, I’ll say it… pretty please?

Oh yeah, although this is primarily a celebration, we’ll also be raising funds to help the college move into a space and build the infrastructure of people who can handle the myriad tasks associated with providing a FREE education that WORKS to the huge population of adults who desire and deserve to learn! So stop by the ATM on your way so you can purchase some raffle tickets. There is a variety of items and you just may want to try to go home one of them.

FYI, here’s the press release. We look forward to seeing you there!


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Keeping the Balance

What a fantastic class we had Thursday night! Melissa Miles, Organizer of the Eastern Pennsylvania Permaculture Guild, gave an introduction to permaculture—systems-type thinking applied to eco- and cultural-systems. The positive energy she brought to the group was quite evident in the lively discussion we had about effecting change in our community that is respectful of the individual and incorporates sustainable practices. We are currently working with Melissa to see how we can best integrate her with Sphere College.

So it seems now we’re making excellent progress on the faculty side. And we’re also making progress on the administrative side, with Virginia assisting me in my work, and Sue doing project work on behalf of the College. There’s also a very solid core group of students who have been participating in nearly every class for nearly a year. And to demonstrate how dedicated they are, Dudley Carl opted to attend the Sphere class even though there were two competing lectures in areas of great interest to him; thank you, Dudley! The College would simply not succeed without this kind of student participation.

We have, however, seen a wane in the number of students who attend class meetings. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, but I think they can all be summed up as demonstrating that the College needs to reach a position in which it can support a variety of student learning styles. Weekly classes of two hours each does not provide the range of learning environments we need to provide, and now that we have more faculty members we are ready to expand so that we can add more students. To do so, however, simply takes funding. We must pay the faculty and staff, and acquire space so we can expand the class offerings. The funding will happen in three phases: I) direct contributions II) grants III) alumni support. Right now we need direct contributions to be able to continue.

So keeping the balance now means raising funds. Make no mistake: we’re at a critical point in the history of Sphere College. It’s either going to succeed or fail. So, if you would like to see Sphere College grow and expand, and that offering free, high-quality education is a worthwhile strategy for bringing about positive change to our society, then do the following:

* take a moment to click on the “DONATE!” tab and donate some small amount
* take a moment to encourage others to do so, either via direct email or via some social media like facebook

Keep in mind that the Obama campaign raised around $250M and the McCain campaign raised around $63M in donations below $200 (source: http://www.fec.gov). If you can help us find 10,000 people to donate in the $10-$100 range, then we can really take the College to the next level. Please take action right now!