Friday, February 20, 2009
Location, Location, Location
My letter carrier delivered mine just the other day. Maybe you’ve received yours too. If so, I’d be interested to hear if yours is the same as mine or if they send out a variety. I’m talking about the periodic mailings that arrive offering the opportunity to purchase “Great Courses® taught by great professors.” These are so cool. I just love driving around listening to the sample c.d. that they send along with the catalogue. My latest one has a lecture about black holes and a lecture about Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: something for both the left and the right brain.
Understand that I never actually have purchased these, although I sometimes toy with the idea. According to the really enticing catalogue—nice stock, easy-to-read font, appealing layout complete with color illustrations and testimonials—it’s a terrifically good deal: a chance for lifelong-learning on the run. And, if the catalogue isn’t enough to convince you, pop the sample c.d. into your player. The stirring intro: Masterpiece-Theatre-like music followed by a man with an incredible, deep, resonant, radio-voice extolling the virtues of the product, leads right into the sample lectures. Listening in your car can make your vehicle the Discovery® channel on wheels. Sometimes I get so enthralled with the lecture that the traffic around me ceases to hold my attention, but that’s just a pesky, minor drawback.
These lecturer-guys, and they overwhelmingly are guys, only four of the 54 listed in this latest catalogue are women—(Don’t quite know what that says, but there it is. It is what it is, although even the fact that one of the four is named Jeanette doesn’t, in my mind, atone for the female underrepresentation.)—these lecturer-guys, by and large, teach at/went to, or both, what we average Midwesterners think of as hoity-toity universities: Dartmouth, the University of CA at Berkley, Johns Hopkins, or maybe Oxford. Make no mistake, there is a certain amount of snob appeal going on here—but the company is from far away.
For those wanting a lifelong-learning, interactive, classroom experience, another option, which recently was offered in a full-page advert in the New York Times Book Review, is the One Day University®. Choose that route and you travel to Boston, or New York or Los Angeles for the day, attend classes, and are offered “hearty snacks.” These too are far away.
Now, telling an NPR® listener that lifelong-learning is a good thing is carrying coals to Newcastle. The demographics show that you are smart and educated and a lifelong-learner. The value of lifelong-learning is not lost on you. My point is not the process, but the “process-server.” Several of my Michiana Chronicles cohorts are in the education business, as is my lifelong-love, Larry. These people are local and so are you. Lifelong-learning doesn’t have to come from the catalogue of a company in Virginia or at a lecture on the East or West Coast; it can be like tomatoes: homegrown is good.
Maybe you’ve noticed ShoLo™ signs on the doors of businesses around the area as you enter. ShoLo™ is shorthand for Shop Locally. The businesses displaying that sign are owned by Michiana neighbors, not by some far-away conglomerate. If you haven’t noticed the signs, look for them and support businesses that have them. Go off and look at the website, http://www.sholo.org/. It gives you a quick lifelong-learning lesson in why we all should be shopping locally and lists participating businesses.
The business of learning locally can happen too. Our community is gifted with institutions of learning. We also have libraries and locally owned booksellers. We have newspapers and an NPR® affiliate. Travel is broadening, experiences and ideas from outside the community are enriching, but the occasional dose of parochialism keeps the scales balanced.
So cue the stirring, Masterpiece-Theatre-like music that will be followed by Lee, our man with the incredible, deep, resonant, radio-voice, and remember what Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.”
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