Pin It
Favorite

Wisdom in a Bottle 

To get grown-ups learning, meet them where they are: at the bar

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH
  • Caleb Walsh

For many adults in our society, learning intentionally is left behind after education's formal end. Almost a quarter of Americans did not read a book in the past year. Americans also rank near the bottom in problem-solving among 20 other industrialized nations. Despite our widespread access to technology and information, we also fare poorly in math, literacy and general knowledge. We engage in heated debate and experimentation when it comes to educating children, but seldom consider the role of learning for adults — the very people who maintain our society's systems and cultural values.

click to enlarge weech.jpg

The need for intelligent and creative adults to drive positive change was part of what drove Kenny Barney to study adult learning in his Master of Education program at Eastern Washington University.

"Once adults get involved in a profession, and they feel that they have accomplished enough or have studied enough to handle that position, they feel they don't need to learn any more," Barney says. He decided to complete the program and go into teaching as a community college professor: "When I started learning about how people learn, I felt like it was right up my alley, something that I wanted to do."

While completing school, Barney has worked with Patty Tully, owner of the Baby Bar, to design a recurring event called "Pub Science" where bar patrons can learn in the self-driven, collaborative way that is most useful for adult brains, while simultaneously drinking with friends. Alcohol can add fuel to any debate, for better or worse, but in this case the bar location is meant to add atmosphere as well as inebriation.

"Having a few beers and talking about important topics sometimes elevates the conversation to a point where it's annoying, or we need to stop," says Barney. "A lot of times, though, truth comes out, and truth comes out in a way that never would [without] the atmosphere."

The first Pub Science at the beginning of May drew about a dozen participants who gathered to learn about learning. A high density of smartphones in the room aided groups in researching different didactic methods, and then each team shared what they were learning with the rest in the room. In the spirit of student-driven learning, technology was again employed to gather the topics that interest people, using a program that collected phrases via a text line. Climate change, music theory, propaganda, pastries, Spokane as utopia, sexism, feminism and other subjects soon popped up on the screen.

"There are some controversial topic ideas," Barney says, "but that's what people are interested in."

In an aggressively meaningless media landscape, many American adults are not equipped with the cognitive skill and sharpness honed through intentional learning that they need to become reaquainted with objective reality, truth and analysis. Perhaps one place to start addressing this pressing issue is where people already gather: the neighborhood watering hole. ♦

Taylor Weech, who hosts the weekly public affairs program Praxis on KYRS-FM, is a Spokane writer and activist. She's advocated, among other things, for environmental sustainability and all-ages access to the arts.

  • Pin It

Speaking of Commentators

Latest in Comment

  • A Win for Everyone
  • A Win for Everyone

    The water protectors at Standing Rock achieve an important victory
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • My Dinner with Fidel
  • My Dinner with Fidel

    Looking back nearly 20 years, when three Americans sat down with the Western Hemisphere's most notorious communist
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • 'No' to Sessions
  • 'No' to Sessions

    Trail Mix: Murray opposes AG pick Sessions, McMorris Rodgers' future
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Winter Glow Spectacular

Winter Glow Spectacular @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Dec. 9-11, Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-30

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Taylor Weech

  • Spark of Change
  • Spark of Change

    Why Chris Hedges thinks we're ripe for revolution
    • Mar 4, 2015
  • Listening Season
  • Listening Season

    How can we argue without deepening our divides?
    • Dec 23, 2014
  • Size Matters
  • Size Matters

    Class size isn't a silver bullet, but it will help
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Unfinished Business

    Isaiah Wall wants to get his life on track. But first, he's gotta buy drugs for the police
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Fake-News Nightmare

    The social media dream of the 2000s is fading, but we can reset the system by sticking up for the truth
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Comment


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Grit and Will
  • Grit and Will

    How we move beyond the Rachel Dolezal sideshow
    • Jul 8, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation