Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Over-Educating the Community???

Race Bannon recently posted an interesting opinion about ways our education efforts in the kink community are backfiring.  It definitely gave me something to think about.  My home group (CAPEX) is primarily an education group, and I have served as the Education Director – as has my Owner, and now her wife is E.D.… so we’re keeping it in the family.  Shdwkitten and I have, ourselves, presented classes at various clubs and cons in the Southeast.  In two weeks we’re teaching at Charlotte TNG.  So I have always been serious about the education side of the BDSM community – I think it’s always been where my focus has resided.  So Bannon’s challenge has really got me thinking.  I will quote part of his post here:

The educational model that’s been adopted is also becoming an outdated one. The typical kinky class uses the standard industrial model of pushing out “education” in the form of lecture and demonstration. Education research has consistently shown this is a lousy way to learn most things. Informal learning, mentored learning, project-based learning… and other more innovative and effective ways of teaching should be employed if the goal is actually to educate kinksters rather than simply give them yet another voyeuristic opportunity to view a type of play many of them will never bother exploring anyway.

“We’ve wholeheartedly adopted the standard business conference model for many of our educational events… What we do is not always so easily presented in such a format. What we do is more about interpersonal connection than it is about information and skills… Why not create learning play parties with an interactive and mentored approach? Why not foster socializing settings where kinksters feel empowered to share knowledge, insights and experiences with each other as learning and growth mechanisms.

I agree w/ Bannon in part.  But I think there is a place for lecture-style classes – if they are done well (and I’ll come back to that)… but I also think that they need to be supplemented w/ a mix of other approaches.  That’s the model we’ve been using at CAPEX for a number of years… and it’s helped make us (in my not unbiased opinion) one of the best education groups in the region.

  • CAPEX offers a monthly 2-hour class by a feature presenter.
  • CAPEX has a monthly dungeon party which includes a BDSM 101 class (usually a hands-on mini-workshop that doubles as an icebreaker).
  • CAPEX offers a monthly Gateway meeting: a discussion-only munch group for people who are brand, spanking new to the scene.
  • CAPEX used to offer a number of monthly SIGs (special interest groups).  These have all fallen by the wayside now… mostly due to the expansion of the scene in and around Charlotte since CAPEX started 12 years ago.  Charlotte now has two rope groups, a monthly polyamory discussion group, a Fem-dom group, a TNG group, an interrogation play group…  Since these have all sprung-up there’s really no longer a need for the CAPEX SIGs that used to fill those niches.

 If we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning (pictured above), we get the idea that a mix of different teaching techniques are appropriate depending on what level of learning you are seeking to achieve.  Our monthly 2-hour feature class is usually very lecture/demo based… but for introducing new information (the bottom part of Bloom’s) that’s sufficient.

Higher levels of learning can be reached through other avenues that CAPEX and the other (specialized) groups offer… including the opportunities to link-up w/ individual mentors.  So, from a 2 hour interrogation play class at CAPEX, you may gain access to the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  But if you then decide to start attending the meetings of NCInterogators, then you will have the opportunity to grow towards the top of Bloom’s pyramid.

It’s true that, as Bannon says, the lecture format is one of the least effective ways to teach… On the other hand, it does have its place.  If you want to communicate some basic (introductory) information to a lot of people really quickly, it’s a good way to do it – provided that the speaker is a good speaker!  Which brings me to another one of Bannon’s points:

Instructors at events are rarely vetted at all. Often they are invited to teach based entirely on their longevity in the scene, their star status or some other criteria other than demonstrating the ability to teach (not everyone can), their knowledge, the solidity of their reputation, and so on. I have far too often seen people schedule an instructor simply because they have a time slot to fill rather than because the instructor rises to the level of providing true value to those in attendance.

Amen to that!  Having been around the scene for a decade, I can tell you of a number of “big name” presenters and title holders who SUCKED.  Some were boring.  Some were incoherent.

Since the 1-2 hour lecture/demo presentation only access the lower 2-3 levels of Bloom’s anyway, then the presenter doesn’t really have to be a grand master.  They just have to be competent at it.  It’s much more important that they be an engaging and cogent speaker.  Generally, at CAPEX, we try to get recommendations from people who have actually seen this person teach before we even approach them.  If they can’t teach, then we don’t book them, no matter what kind of a “draw” their name might be.

What’s the big draw at Charlotte TNG this month?  We are doing two classes (I think):
Avoiding the Kink Ghetto (How to Say No and still be Kinky)
And  Puppy Play


  1. Spring in the South had some great examples for classes.

    Master Dan presented two classes (I know it's not fair to use an ex-teacher as an example), and both were roughly the same. Him stating that he didn't want to talk for more than 5 minutes, and then him physically showing us how to do something. At his rope class, we partnered up and learned a few basic things. At his "Creativity" class, we walked over to equipment, and were asked to do creative things, which worked out quit well. Both of these topics would not have worked without practicing the skill during, it would have been quite stagnant.

    Pup Nitro also had a great class format. He was teaching the "Lifestyle for Boys" class. It was a small round table discussion, were the students did a lot of the talking as well. When you know the talking stick is coming around the room, you feel like you quickly (or at least I always do) need to process and apply the topic to your own situation. That was a format that needed to be open discussion. Pup Nitro can only talk about himself for so long.

    Sir Loki's pup play lecture seems like the perfect lecture to do a lecture for. From my understanding, a lot of people are new and curious to it, and from my experience, it's just difficult to go "Okay, we're doing puppy play. *bark bark*".

    So the key to my ranting is that the topic should dictate the class style.

    Hope you're doing great!

  2. I think you have made some excellent points here. As someone that has taught a few different classes, I do think that there is a place for classroom style learning of kink. However, I agree that just because someone holds a title it doesn't mean that they can teach. Just because someone is very good at what they can do, doesn't mean that they can teach.

    I've taught whip classes here and yon, and I'm sure I'll do a few more-I love to teach whip. However, one of my favorite "classes" I ever did was moderate a Switches Panel Discussion at DOMCON. The panel/open discussion concept of "classes" is far underused, IMHOP.

    I'd love to do more than that and I've got a great class plan set up for teaching Negotiations in a fun and interactive way. However, we can also only teach what people are interested in in at least a superficial "gotcha" way.