The Bernie DeKoven School o’Fun

by Bernie DeKoven on January 27, 2011

Let’s start with something like a nursery school – a place of learning where, as far as the students are concerned, you spend all day having fun. I would have suggested that we start with a kindergarten, but, sadly, the fun part is not so true any more.

Let’s imagine that this something-like-a-nursery-school is a high school, or a college, or an elementary school. All for fun, and fun for all. Taught by people who are having fun teaching. Attended by people who are having fun learning.

This place that we’re imagining probably has no grades – there’s no K-12, freshman to post-graduate, there’s no A-F, failing or magna cum summa. Kids, students of all ages can be found together, talking, painting, building, reading, writing, experimenting, playing, even. There aren’t any teachers – but rather people who have found deep, profound fun in doing whatever it is that they do: artists, scientists, mathematicians,  healers, thinkers, each brought to their station in life by the fun they find in their work.

Let’s dare to imagine that the whole school isn’t even about learning, but about fun. Not even about games or play or art. And if there’s a learning component to it all, it’s about having fun, finding fun, creating fun, discovering fun. About discovering what is really fun for you – really, really fun. And then discovering what is really fun for other people. And then about discovering what is really fun for you and the people around you.

Suppose that the closest equivalent you can find to a math class is a conversation you have between you and someone who loves math, who spends as much time as she can find playing with numbers and theories of numbers and, OK, so maybe she does have a Nobel Prize in, what, topology? But she’s in it for the fun, entirely. And when you talk with her about math, she talks with you about the fun of it all.

And the people you do art with, and read literature with, and explore dance with, and science with, and politics, and, well, you get the picture. All for fun.

I think this would be a place where a lot of learning would happen. A lot more than the learning that supposedly happens in our accredited institutions of learning. I think this kind of learning would be far more profound than the actual topics or disciplines that people play with together. I think the learning would be about our selves as much as it would be about the world, about each other as much as about a field of study. I think it would be a place where a lot of inventing would be happening – inventing of new fields of study, of new ways of teaching and learning and sharing, of new paths to play, new definitions for what it means to become a fully functioning human being.

I think that the people who graduate this School o’Fun would achieve new levels of awareness and compassion, happiness and devotion. That for them fun would be a spiritual thing, a guide to greater consciousness, deeper humanity. It’s not that they would transcend fun, but that they would realize fun, in themselves, in their friendships, in their community. Fun in its fullness.

It’s difficult to imagine. Primarily because we don’t have fun like this. Not as adults. We had it for a few years, maybe, if we were lucky enough to be loved and cared for and well fed. And then we graduated nursery school. And then, day by day, year by year, fun became something else. Just as learning became something other than play. And art became something other. And work became something very much other.

It’s worth imaging though. Even if it’s just for pretend. Because if we imagine hard enough we just might get a glimpse of what fun can become, of what we can become, being fun.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Ralens January 27, 2011 at 3:52 am

I like your article. It’s a bit like watching kids in a park. Everybody
plays together regardless of age. To give you an example, in Japan, it’s
rare to see parents teaching their kids how to ride a bicycle. The little
ones pick it up from the older ones. Sometimes you see little kids on
their parent’s bikes, unable to sit down because otherwise their legs
would be unable to reach the pedals. On the playground though it’s totally
different. Everyone wears a uniform with their name and grade on it and
children play only within their group. It’s really unnatural.

Currently, the school system is a lot like the tax system in that the
government doesn’t trust people to make good decisions on their own so it
takes money or directs people on what’s important. Now compare that with
someone driven by their interests. A boy who wants to build a box car for
example, will pick up math, simply because in the process of building the
car, measurements will have to be take, same for someone who wants to be a
baker.

The other thing I like about the article is this idea, that you’re already
an artist,or a scientist, or a mathematician etc., from the start because
that’s the way your interests are bent. The current view is that you have
to complete something to become something. My daughter (she’s 7) for
example, says she wants to be a writer and an artist when she grows up.
Currently, she makes picture books for her and her friends to enjoy. I
told her, you already are an artist and writer. She also has a domain and
website under construction. The point is we are what we are but ability
varies.

I’d like to see someplace like what you imagine, someday.
Bill

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Kristina Nyzell January 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm

The FUN space is for me a space inside all of us, maybe more so than a physical space. It is the FUN and the playfulness that we carry with us all the time from space to place, growing in richness and depth with each new encounter, every new question and each and every new beginning. The FUN space is the present – hear and now.

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chris saeger January 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Bernie,
I struggle with my own one track “learning” mind around this topic. I remember interviewing you some years ago about fun and me always wanting to insert “learning” in the sense of. “It cant just be fun! it has to have a purpose (like learning).”

Your post reminds me of the wonderful work of Alan Watts, in the Tao of Philosophy, in The chapter, “The Sense of Nonsense He talks about when the the angels in heaven were calling out alleluia they meant basically “whoopie”

On a more venal plane, meaning I am adding “Purpose” to the fun. I read an interesting article about the value of a Montessori education. Forgive me, Bernie for I confess that I have purposed. http://bit.ly/hXkq8U

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Laura Grace Weldon October 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

This is how we’re really learn! Sometimes that fun becomes deep absorption, the state when identity merges with what we’re doing. Sometimes it’s exploration and challenge and mistakes. Sometimes it’s making connections with people and nature, all slung together with a sense of being well beyond the reach of words like “education.”

Yes, yes, yes! Sharing this on FB.

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