Category Archives: Editorials and Opinions

General ramblings…

A bit of an editorial on at a distance learning …

The need for design thinking in small “at a distance” programs …

Lezlie Kinyon  (also published in  Pagans in HDSCN1672igher Education [Files]) ·

Over the past two years, I have been asked to teach basic psychology and systems design courses at four different “start-up” at-a-distance graduate programs. I have been asked to do this through professional contacts either through my graduate school, Saybrook, or through other organizations that I have affiliations for. Each time, the referral came through a trusted colleague, and that trust became the final portion of the agreement to accept the offer.  Save one, which I turned down flat out, and has no bearing on this conversation as it was/is a for-profit program.   The other three programs are the reason why I am writing this brief editorial in this blog.  (Please share your experiences in the comment area.)  In the spiritual “higher-ed” world, particularly as it attempts to cater to the needs of minority faith and indigenous peoples for training in pastoral needs, this issue is most relevant.  In the past decade various independent, small graduate programs have appeared at the Master’s level  looking to fill a perceived need within this population of scholars to staff, and to enroll as students, in programs offering “Goddess-oriented” and “Earth-centered” spirituality programs. Often attached to liberal seminaries and the smaller private, nonprofit, graduate programs that specialize in transpersonal psychology, these programs are also – very often – under funded and understaffed.  It will reward the potential student or faculty seeking these programs to undertake – first and foremost – a program of research about both the program in question, and the current models of successful at-a-distance learning in higher ed, before approaching these programs as anything like serious attempts at collegiate learning.

All of these programs suffered – categorically – from a model of distance learning that is both incomplete, and, in the long, run self-defeating.  While many of these conditions also exist for campus-based “brick & mortar” programs, they seem particularly relevant to discuss as the popularity of distance-learning models are adopted by small start-up programs and smaller departments in large universities as a means to cut costs. In brief, each program:

  • … offered payment to faculty that is so far below the accepted standard (even for adjunct teaching) that it is under the category of “volunteer work” for most qualified faculty
  • … so few students are enrolled in the program that no guarantee of enrollment in the course is offered, nor is the payment equal to the hours of prep work or actual student-faculty interactions.  Save for a tiny portion of professionals, this is neither cost nor time-effective.
  • … non-accreditation.  This may be problematical for start-up programs attached to a larger research oriented institution or for those who have developed a good reputation, for others it becomes a “minus” on the CV regarding future positions and research granting bodies. (It is certainly trouble for students enrolled who hope to continue on in higher ed as a career or in doctoral and post-doc programs.)
  • … little or no faculty support (no development or “in suit” training offered, no clerical support, no coverage of copyrighted material usage fees)
  • … the program offered no ombudsman nor any other method of resolving conflicts or disputes
  • … a non-collegial – and, in one instance hostile – working environment
  • …and, finally, (and most importantly) an incomplete model of distance learning that is – increasingly – reliant on unproven or cumbersome technological solutions as a substitution for face-to-face class time.

This last item, coupled with technical personnel who display that certain “techie arrogance” which creates failure within programs in all sectors of business and education in both visible and invisible ways. In one psych program I agreed to teach a course in (reluctantly, it must be admitted here: a “once burned twice shy” situation) the model had very little visible basis in design thinking, and resulting in a mid-term resignation because the “classroom time” solution provided by the institute did little more than get in the way of the actual teaching and left myself as well as at least one student nearly to tears in frustration in attempting to find “work a rounds” with no actual assistance from the program’s developers or technical staff.  When I found myself asked to find and pay for a solution on my own -and, did so, out of pocket –  the final decision was to cancel the course without further discussion.  This situation became so badly  addressed on every level, that seeing no recourse, and no alternatives with positive outcomes on any level, I immediately resigned.

This was not the worst of the programs, the first I had agreed to “fill in”  with a needed psychology class sent a syllabus that had no freedom for interpretation whatever, did not provide any prep time, and when the contract was sent finally, (after months of waiting) assigned no students to the course: faculty are, apparently, part of the “recruiting” mechanism for obtaining student enrollment in the program!  This method of recruitment is – although questionable at best – not unheard of and one that all potential faculty should thoroughly research before agreeing to anything. (Needless to say, I did not sign the contract.)

From a Human Systems perspective, all of these issues can (and, should) be addressed from a design perspective.  The people creating these programs are, very often, well-meaning, educated, and – to a fault – passionately working, even sacrificing personal life and professional goals, to create programs that are both academically interesting and meeting a perceived need.  The failure point, in each case, has been in the distance-learning model used by the program.  Until that is addressed, each of these programs will continue to struggle for acceptance, an adequate financial foundation to work from (faculty research grants, endowments, etc. etc.) qualified faculty, and student success in the world-beyond-graduate-school.



“Coreopsis” is coming back into publication

Hello colleagues, I am overjoyed to tell all of you that my peer review
journal, Coreopsis, is coming back into publication. The submission
period is open for 2013 – We go “live” on February 14 on our new site under
the academic wing of Concrescent Press in Berkeley, Ca. There will be two
issues in 2013: Spring/Summer published April 29 and Fall/Winter published
October 29.
  • Spring/Summer 2013: Musing upon Euterpe: Electric and Acoustic Music of Our Times. Deadline: Feb 29.
  • Fall/Winter 2013: Theme: Penny tae th’ Guisers: An examination of medieval performance before 1400. Deadline for submissions: July 1.
This page goes “live” on February 14:  There will be two issues in 2013: Spring/Summer published April 29 and Fall/Winter published October 29.   If you wish to become more directly involved in the journal in some additional or “hands on” capacity, please contact me at this address ( Spring/Summer 2013: Vol 2 # 4: Musing upon Euterpe: Electric and Acoustic Music of Our Times.  Suggested subjects include, but are not limited to, music of the ancients, music and mythology, music in myth and theater, Pagan and traditional music, and modern mythical topic within popular and folk music. Please submit drafts of between 3,000 and 10,000 words to: coreopsisjournalofmyththeatre_at_gmail(dot)com by February 25 (extended to Feb. 29). Publication date: April 29. Peer reviewers for this issue are also being sought.  Reba Wissner, Ph.D. will be guest editing this issue.CFP Fall/Winter 2013: Vol 2 # 4: Vol. 3; Number 4 Fall/Winter 2013. Deadline for submissions: July 1. (Announcements and reviews can a be a bit more flexible.) Theme: Penny tae th’ Guisers: An examination of medieval performance before 1400.  Suggested subjects include, but are not limited to, mummers and guisers; sagas, eddas, and lays: troubadours and trouveres, bards and the Bardic tradition; passion plays, folk plays  Of particular interest is the theatre of the Beguine mystics of the 12-13th centuries. As Example: Hildegard von Bingen Ordo Virtutum and Mechtild von Magdeburg Das fließende Licht der Gottheit, with some discussion of revivals and re-enactors.  Preference given to papers examining the areas of folk magic, magico-religious elements, and the sacred performance of monastic orders and/or Beguine traditions of the era. Peer reviewers for this issue are also being sought. Deadline for submission: August 15. Publication date: October 29.

Please prepare your submission as follows:

Queries and submissions: Editor(s) coreopsisjournalofmyththeatre@_at_gmail(dot)com

Announcements can be more flexible.
Open to younger scholars and working artists as well as
established academics.
Queries and submissions: Editor(s)
There is space for three more papers in the spring 2013 issue. Full CFP: “Coreopsis" is a
multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal dedicated to humanistic scholarship
in the arts of sacred performance in areas of interest that include – but,
are not limited to – ritual studies, liturgical considerations, musicology
and composition, dance, folklore, mythology, historical research, theatre
arts (including technical aspects), mythopoetics, ethnography and selected
areas of psychology, brain science, neuraesthetics, cybernetics and the
science of thought, shamanic studies, and consciousness.

Personal Statement: How I Got Here…

On a chilly afternoon …

The Path Forward…
6/21/12 – L. Kinyon – all rights reserved.

How did an artist and poet, and a leader in my spiritual community, a former “back to the land” advocate and environmental activist become a scholar in the systems sciences? It’s not an easy knot to unravel, but, herein, I will try. The genesis may have been an abiding interest in a broadly based and integrative understanding of inquiry in the social sciences as well as work experience in the arts and humanities.
When I entered graduate studies, I had a few “burning questions” (born of grassroots environmental activism) concerning the nature of society and how we will – collectively – go from here. As I researched graduate programs and encountered the “systems world”, it was because of – or, perhaps, despite – the prospect of finding a wholistic means to broaden and deepen the tools of gaining understanding (in the sense of Weber) that led me into this strange – and, perilous – county of systems thinking. The methods implied were both exciting and more than a little bit challenging. One important thread in my academic orientation has been in humanistic studies. Since the 1970s at Johnston College (now center) located on the University of Redlands campus in Southern California, I have had the unique opportunity to study with some the founding members of the “third force” in psychology: Rogers, Kubler-Ross, May, Z. Moreno, at the height of the movement and, more recently, Stanley Krippner at Saybrook Graduate School in California. As years went by, I continued within this intellectual tradition into professional work and, later, both in my dissertation research and into the “real world” designing programs in education and working in the arts.
I was ready to study the traditional determinist approach taught in most social science research methods courses, but kept seeking something more systemic in nature. After completing my MA thesis I found that I needed to back up a bit and rethink. This meant leaving graduate studies for a time to recoup and to focus on creative work and the work of social transformation. Meant to be a temporary leave of absence, this “recouping” became three years that included joining AmeriCorps, developing an inner-city literacy program in Oakland, CA, while also continuing to write and create new art. This led, in turn, to reviewing experiential learning paradigms. Because I had participated in experiential learning (on the model of A. S. Neill’s Summerhill) in a high school honors program and as an undergraduate at (then) Johnston College in Southern California, I had some practical knowledge with which to begin this inquiry.
All of this led to profoundly rethinking my graduate research goals.
While sitting on a beach in Western Sonoma county, at a particularly low moment in my quest, I cam back to this: I am an artist. As van Manen (1990) suggested, a research must, at times, discover or invent a methodological approach sufficient to the subject under research in order to create an energetic response. By happy circumstance, Stan Krippner, my thesis advisor at Saybrook, had sent a paper to me that explored the idea of “art-informed inquiry”. As I read through this paper, I became excited and, importantly, ready to begin again! Arts-informed inquiry is interdisciplinary and integrative and coupled with a systems approach, arts-informed inquiry has the potential to create a rich corollary to the Aristotelian episteme in the humanities and in human science research. It incorporates the questions of validity, legitimacy, and significance of traditional approaches as well as the questions of meaning and function that an artist asks in approaching work.
During I time as an AmeriCorps member working with students in the inner city schools I was confronted by the startling poverty of spirit experienced not only by my young charges, but also by fellow Corps members. Through this experience, I began to look at master’s work along with the dominant American educational bias, and the uses of arts-informed inquiry with different eyes. The AmeriCorps team “tried out” a quilt making project at a public middle school. The results were involved students engaged in inquiry! Arts-informed inquiry allows researchers to tackle elusive subjects such as the search for wisdom, our roles as thinking and aware beings within nature’s complex web or, as the students discovered, examining basic belief system underlying an educational program. It allows for the disciplined process of inquiry to be foremost in subjects of a personal nature such as gender identity or dreams and consciousness.
A second “thread” that is reflected both within academic and in creative work is spirituality in the form of an abiding interest in mystical literature. Specifically, the idea of amor as it has progressed through the centuries – from the works of the troubadour era and Mechtild von Magdeburg, through W. B Yeats and into modern lyric poetry – this led to my master’s work, Conversations with the Beloved: Art, Poetry, Spirituality and Systems Thinking. Within context of this thesis, I discovered that this research would benefit from a deeper and richer model of inquiry. Calling upon my background in the arts and in humanistic scholarship, I began developing methods using the tools of the arts research called “arts-informed inquiry” (Richardson, Cole, Knowles, Neilson, Luciani) in action research and experiential learning (e.g.: Rogers, A.S. Neill, Pangaro). This line of reasoning led to considering what such an approach might mean for disciplined inquiries into elusive and complex areas of human experience. I had found both my reason to return to graduate work and my dissertation topic. This work incorporates both academic interests and creative life as a writer, poet, and sculptor; the result is entitled The Elegant Solution: Toward Formulation of a Theory of Aesthetic Inquiry for the Human Sciences.

As I have continue in the arts throughout all these changes and intellectual questing, I will close with a short wrap-up of what I am doing currently. The use of arts-informed inquiry seemed to have “real world” potential beyond the traditional academic classroom and in using systems thinking in the development of projects and collaborations. I currently work within a collaboration of artists exploring experimental forms of theatre in Berkeley, California, publish a journal, Coreopsis, A Journal of Myth and Theatre, and edit Saybrook’s alumi newsletter. In my research interests, I am exploring an extended project concerning the challenges facing the emerging idea of the “independent scholar” who works outside the traditional university department or governmental agency.

Cole, A. L., Neilsen, L., Knowles, J.G, & Luciani, L. (2005). Provoked by art: Theorizing arts-informed research. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Backalong Books.
Neill, A. S. (1960). Summerhill school: A new view of childhood. Great Britian: Penguin Books.
Neilson, L., Cole, A. L., Knowles, G. J. (2001). The art of writing inquiry. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Backalong Books.
Magdeburg von, M. (1991). Mechthild von Magdeburg: Flowing light of the divinity. (C. M. Galvani, Trans.) S. Clark, (Ed.). (Vol. 72, series B, Garland library of medieval literature). New York: Garland. (original work published c. 1250)
Manen van, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. London: Althouse Press.
Pangaro, P. (2002). Cybernetics and conversation. Patterns, ASCD Systems Thinking and Chaos Theory Network Newsletter. January, 2002
Richardson, L. (1994). Writing: A method of inquiry. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 516-517). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

More Music, This Time for The Harvest

As time has continued ever on (as it always does) and the summer Handfasting season has drawn to a close.  We begin to look forward to the Harvest season, I thought I’d post a couple songs for the season that have become favorites with my sacred performance circle in our annual Lughnasadh (first harvest) celebration. In o particular order – enjoy!

“Witches’ Rune” (SJ Tucker): (you can download this from here.)

“Fields of Gold” (Eva Cassidy, Sting) (with some lyric changes by my circle-mate, Lauren)

“Navigatio” (Jeff Johnson – with some lyric changes by my circle-mate, Lauren, to suit the holiday – we changed “sins” to something more PaganImage)

“Lughnasadh Dance” (Gwydion Pendderwen)

Lughnasadh” (Damh the Bard”)

“Blue Boat Home” (Meyer & Prichard)

“Dancin’ in the Moonlight” (King Harvest)

Suggested for this year to evoke the God: Hymm to Pan – it streams from this site: & you can download a copy (free) by “liking” Faerieworlds FB “events” page:

Handfasting Gown

Handfasting Gown!

The gown St Celcilia is wearing in this painting has inspired me: It would make a beautiful wedding/handfasting gown. I am prepared to create it for any bride who contacts me & will give me a year for the handwork. I will do the corresponding bridesmaids gowns as well – (so long as there are fewer than 4). Warning! It won’t be a “budget dress” – but – you will look glorious!

Birth Control – we won that battle a long time ago …

I need to write a bit of a rant, here. It is time to remind the GOP & the Demos (especially those in Congress) that 69% of all American women and a slightly smaller percentage of men (the actual number is harder to come by) have used Planned Parenthood for health services. What for? Cancer screening, STDs- prevention, treatment & referral, birth control including vasectomies, ligation, the pill – and condoms. Lots and lots of condoms. The stats for 2009 – alone – are:  Planned Parenthood provided 4,009,549 contraceptive services (35% of total), 3,955,926 sexually transmitted disease services (35% of total), 1,830,811 cancer related services (16% of total), 1,178,369 pregnancy/prenatal/midlife services (10% of total), 332,278 abortion services (3% of total), and 76,977 other services (1% of total), for a total of 11,383,900 services. The organization also said its doctors and nurses annually conduct 1 million screenings for cervical cancer and 830,000 breast exams. (From: Planned Parenthood, annual report, 2009/10)

 Call to Action:

Congress funds this incredibly popular service at 10% – largely because of “religious objections”. These figures may actually be larger, as not all people who use these services (especially the free condoms) fill out forms in the offices. It certainly does not include the dissemination of information regarding STDs and sex education throughout the country. We all vote. I move that we all flood the GOP with these stats & (graphic) photos of what advanced syphilis, gonorrhea, AIDS, chlamydia, untreated genital & breast cancer (of both genders), botched abortions, women worn out with too many pregnancies, and ignorant youth actually looks like.

It is time to stand up for the freedom to control our bodies, to choose what our families will look like, to have or not to have children, and our heath care choices. To let our elected officials know, in no uncertain terms, that it is not the time to end funding or limit our choices because of a loud minority, but to expand these services. To say, once again, “Birth Control: Free, confidential, and on demand for all Americans!”

“Celebrations of Winter: Occupy the Holidays”

As I have done in the past, I am “reprinting” my editorial for Saybrook’s Alumni Newsletter, the “Home Page” here for all to see…

January 3, 2011

Me, outstanding is a field...

Editorial: “Celebrations of Winter: Occupy the Holidays”

It’s January already, and while, for some traditions, the final celebrations of Twelfth Night and, for our British and Irish colleagues, the venerable day of Wren Hunting are still to be looked forward to: for the most part the boxes of tinsel and holiday fru-fru are returning to the basement and attics, the colorful paper put away, and the CDs of holiday music back on the shelf.  There is still time, for a few words about the month just passed.

I have always hated the “vanilla-flavored” Midwinter Holiday season.  The general : “go out and buy stuff” atmosphere, the TV ads that parody the jazz and rock catalog for “catchy” tunes to sell cars and refrigerators, the traffic, everywhere: a frantic need to “celebrate”.  I especially object to the “multi – generational” liberal protestant services the Sundays before and after Christmas itself wherein the minister says a few not-to-offend-anyone words about inclusion and honoring all the traditions of Midwinter.  Mentioning Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Winter Solstice in passing and launching into “Silent Night” (with or without the folk-y guitar) with the congregants.

It just gets worse and worse every year, doesn’t?  I ask myself every year about this time: how can we change this?  Not on the personal level (we all do that, anyway) but on the cultural level?   Truthfully, I don’t know. If you do, write a letter and I’ll print it in the next Home Page.

Sure, I curl up with popcorn and – yet another – PBS holiday special. I call on the neighbors, attend a couple of favorite holiday events, send cards to friends and relatives, and search for The Tree under which are a few packages (bought in July) of items for beloved family and friends.  It’s the rest of it I object to.   It was the disingenuous obligatory visits to relations I don’t know (or never liked, anyway) that made the whole “holiday-thing” a nightmare for me as a child. This annual pilgrimage made the holidays something to be mostly dreaded rather than celebrated.  (It still makes me shudder.)  So, this year – and, every year since sometime in the 1970s, I stopped celebrating the same holiday the media carves up and serves to us wholesale on an “on sale today only!”-red-and-green-holly-bedecked platter.  I began to look at the symbols of the season: the rich history and folklore behind all those sprigs of mistletoe; the oldest versions of the carols we all mumble through; and why we drag greenery into the house at mid-winter every year.  The tale is rich, many-layered with cultural symbols and myth both sacred and … well… occasionally, naughty.  (Such as that mistletoe mentioned above.)

There is of course, the beautiful sacred traditions of the world’s religions, be it the Christian Advent, the Birth of Sol Invictus as the Sun Child from darkness, or the tale of the Lamp in Temple burning on with only enough oil for one night, or the crossing of the sun across the equator: these traditions create a place in our hearts by observing and understanding their meanings with conscious intent.  It is important to remember, when greeting one’s friends at this time of year, or planning that “multi – generational liberal service” that these stories passed to us over the centuries are not the same story.   The unifying myth in the Northern Hemisphere is the return of the light and the hope of spring. Scratch the surface of even one of the stories, and you find very different meanings – and, layers of meanings – celebrated by the peoples who also mark mid-winter with a day of celebration.  Otherwise one ends up with that aforementioned vanilla-flavored hash that does disservice to everyone across the board.  Even more tragically,  a moment for insight is lost.

Alongside these stand the folk traditions of mid-winter: for thousands of years, we humans gathered at the darkest time of the year around a feast table and danced certain dances, sang special songs, feasted on carefully prepared food saved for just this night, and warmed each others hearts (and, hearths) with the stories of who we are as a people, as a family, as an individual.

Long ago, the celebration would last a month or so, until the weather allowed for safe travel and no one knew if it would be the last winter for our elders or the very young.  So we wished one another year of good harvest, peace, health, long life, and joy for the new year. We gazed into the dark winter sky, and if we lived far enough north, we gazed in awe at the dancing lights of the north and created a story about them passed on each year to ourselves and to our children.  If we live in the warmer climes of the world, we made other stories and told them to our children.  These are the stories that tell us who we are.  We forget them at our peril.  It often seems that we modern American have forgotten or misplaced so much in the head-long rush to create our Modern World.  Therefore, in 2012 and beyond Occupy the Holidays.  All of them, from Wren Hunting on St. Stephan’s Day  through “the progressions of the Equinoxes” (and Solstices) and on into next harvest season. There is an ineffable quality of wonder and a sense of seeing into the vastness of time and culture in mindfully participating in the sacred and folk traditions of the seasons.  As many have discovered, there is also a real danger that these traditions are being forgotten except by a few odd antiquarians such as myself, replaced by the tinsel and consumerism of “mall culture”.  Whatever your tradition and heritage, I invite you to look to the meaning and the cultural wealth (literally) at our fingertips and discover, or re-discover, our holidays in a different light.

In this spirit, I will trek up to Muir Woods on Winter Solstice with friends who share my spiritual path and witness one of the oldest traditions of  Midwinter: a performance of the Abbott’s Bromely Horn Dance.   Afterwards, we’ll walk in the forest and remember why we celebrate the season.  (To see a video of this dance performed by the Lord Conyers Morris Men in South Yorkshire go here:

And this I wish for you, as I write a small brace of days before another Solstice: May you find joy and good health in this holiday season and may your loved ones be with you.