Calgary School of Informal Education goes outside the conventional system

Thursday 01st, December 2016 / 11:55
By Colin Gallant
Community-based school based on the principles of “do-ocracy.” A system where “you just do it.” Photo: Colin Gallant

Community-based school based on the principles of “do-ocracy.” A system where “you just do it.”
Photo: Colin Gallant

CALGARY — Ever see a zine and think to yourself, “I’d like to do that?” Or maybe you’re considering a trip to Japan and feel nervous about the language barrier. Hell, maybe you just enjoy TED Talks and speaking engagements. The Calgary School of Informal Education (CSIE) wants to offer you all that and more – with no prerequisites, approvals or major costs required.

Founded by Liam O’Neil Gordon around a year ago and currently organized by a sprawling board, the easiest way to describe the School is as a “do-ocracy,” says Gordon. “You just do it.”

Things get a bit trickier when trying to identify the division of roles between the board – 11 people strong including Gordon. “Everyone is committed, but everyone just does a small little part,” he says. “Everyone’s so busy because they’re all keeners.” Members offer their various skills from other roles in the community and many teach individual classes.

Joining Gordon for the interview is Jade Carpenter, whose background includes an ACAD degree and experience with public programs at Stride Gallery. They’ll be teaching an entry-level knitting class in the near future and says informal education “takes the institution out of learning… It seems to make it less intimidating.” Accessibility and inclusivity is a major part of CSIE’s mission. Not just for those who feel intimidated by formal education, but also marginalized groups. Accordingly, their board is made up from people from different backgrounds in terms of gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Fittingly, their flagship recurring classes are Queer Zine Night, led by Bree Gardner, and Treaty 7 Filmmaker’s Collective, led by Danni Black.

Costs typically range $5-$10 because classes usually include materials used for a hands-on experience, and costs involved include rent and compensation for teachers (“we don’t want. That said, no one is refused due to lack of funds.

“Right now, we work with what we have… That’s a problem,” says Gordon of the space currently available to the school and its physical accessibility for those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aides. CSIE is currently looking for remedies.

Their current calendar includes classes on flower arranging, embroidery, wreath making and the aforementioned recurring clubs.

If you’re interested in attending a class or even teaching one – “you don’t need a PhD to teach a class, just lived experience,” says Gordon – you can find the CSIE on Facebook.

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