by Carrie Kirk
Sometimes my youngest doesn't want to go to school. He'll express it by saying it in this funny way: “I can't do today!” It isn't so much that he doesn't like school because of a particular project or because of a certain teacher. It's more along the lines that he looks at the long haul of his academic future and thinks, “I can't do 12 more years!”
Anxiety is a crippling fact in our household and when it takes hold, watch out, world.
When my son bemoans the fact that he has years of structured and state-mandated learning ahead of him, I nod. At our kitchen counter, I push his cocoa and the plate with a warmed croissant toward him. It's a school day and it's breakfast time, and he's going to school But I get it.
We were all kids once, too, with shared experiences of assorted locker combinations, agenda books, and book report deadlines. Looking at the years of learning ahead sometimes struck us all as a long, arduous country road, right? But how do you explain to your kid that someday there will come a time when you – now all grown up, living an adult life with its multiple minutia that keeps your life and the lives of those you are caring for up and running – will clamor for an environment of learning?
You can tell him, but you have to show him too. I set out to do just that when I attended a class at the Trade School of Indianapolis ( http://tradeschool.coop/indianapolis/).
Trade School is a learning environment where teachers barter with students, exchanging knowledge and skills for ... well, perhaps knowledge and skills or a bar of dark chocolate or an invitation to simply take a look at your bucket list. No money is exchanged to attend a class of your choice.
This movement was first founded in New York City by a group of artists in 2009. It has spread globally, landing in Indianapolis in 2012. This past September, this self-organized learning space officially opened up off of E. Brookside Road inside of the Circle City Industrial Complex in Windsor Park.
The chapter is 100 percent supported by pay-what-you-can memberships and there are no paid staff running the show. It's an inclusive, member-based learning co-op with a goal to grow a solidarity economy in the Indianapolis community. It's all about organizing and providing accessible education where you don't have to invest a substantial sum of money (actually no money unless you join the co-op) or weeks of your minutia-filled life. It's your one-shot wonder to learning.
My friend Monica led me to my first class at the Trade School. We have discovered that we are both Francophiles, becoming giddy when we see a photo of a galettes or a charming home available to rent in the Provence region. Monica found this class on planning a trip to France and we registered online. She brought Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible to class and I some large chocolate bars, two items listed on the instructor's wish list. And then on a Wednesday evening from 6 to 7:30 p.m., we learned that France is about the size of the state of Texas; that French waiters will be somewhat shocked and disgusted if you don't order a coffee following your meal; and that the greeting “Bonjour” should be the first word out of your mouth when you are asking for either directions or help, less you run the risk of receiving the look of contempt from your new French friend.
I learned of a relatively new, local French restaurant that serves galettes (Cropichon et Bidibule on Mass Ave. at www.cropichonetbidibule.com) along with a nearby venue for French language classes for adults (Alliance Francaise at www.afindianapolis.org). Voila!
Other classes at the Trade School have included how to look at art and not feel dumb, creative writing, sewing and knitting, art therapy, mail art, photography and even how to listen to jazz. Along with delving into the arts and creative endeavors, you might also choose to learn about the First Amendment, what you could do in your “gap year” if you are (much) younger than I, or how to make easy, green smoothies.
It is a wealth of knowledge and information and skills all for the taking and offered in exchange for something as nominal as a local beer or homemade cookie, flower seeds or sheet music.
I would like to somehow explain to my son that the anxiety over learning never goes away, but it changes. The anxiety about that long, arduous country road becomes not about the prospective of years of learning but rather of not learning.
We live in a city where a group of citizens have created a physical and communal space so that you and I can learn something entirely new in the creative vein or other fields that is economically accessible. It shows our community and its children that the long country road of learning is worth traveling.