Tag Archives: Appalachian Trail

Rails and Trails: The Duality of Learning

IMG_2082The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance.  While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground.  Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems.  At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn.  Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world.  I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains.  The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form.  Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.

RailsIntuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken.  Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity.  There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same.  The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.

The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails.  Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain.  The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own.  In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure.  Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.

At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance.  A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”.  Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.

So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy.  Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel.  Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight.  Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!

Learn today to be better tomorrow.



The Path Is Broken

Appalachian TrailEach year my brother and I go for a hike on the Appalachian Trail.  It is one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s an awe-inspiring thing.  The trail is only a few feet wide but it is over two thousand miles long.  The path is usually easy enough to follow because lots of people hike it each year.  This past spring we hiked our normal section in reverse.  Due to an overflowing stream, we ended up on the wrong trail for a while.  Eventually we were able to get back to the AT but first we had to get our bearings and hiked some new ground with new sites.  Hiking the AT is a great experience that I’ve enjoyed a lot.  It’s not the only path and it’s not the path for everyone.

While hiking the AT is great, it is a horrible path to be on if you’re trying to get to Ohio.  As I prepare for another year in the classroom, I wonder how many of our paths are broken.  We have constructed so many procedures, social norms and belief systems.  It seems as though many of them are broken or breaking.  The 20th Century American Human had a pretty clear cut set of guidelines for his or her “success”.  Money, fame, power, and possessions were indicators of “success”.  Perhaps they still are but I don’t know that the old paths still lead to those desired ends.  The fact that we have been going down these paths for generations will be little consolation to the young people who end up lost on “the right path”.

Perhaps what we need now is a compass and a machete rather than a path.  The future is an uncertain thing.  Following the well-worn path may still get you to its historical end but it may help more to question the path.  Is this the right path for you?  At bare minimum the question and the decision to follow or not puts your life into your own hands.  In the end that’s where it should be anyway.  If you follow in everyone else’s footsteps and don’t like where you end up, then you made the mistake, not the path.

Find your True North and follow it this week.