Unschooling, Hogwarts, and Hippies at Goddard College
Back when I still purpled my prose with adverbs, I attended Goddard College out in Plainfield, Vermont for my BFA with their low-residency program.
Imagine condensing a whole semester's worth of partying, lectures, and writing workshops into eight days, and that should give you the gist of my experience. Much of the magic of Goddard emanated from the people, of course—but not all of it.
The dormitories were refashioned from old farmhouses. Names such as Giles, Froelicker, Doolin, and Kilpatrick designated the dormitories. I stayed in Doolin.
The Music Building
Anarchy and decentralization in practice. We, the students, held the responsibility for maintaining the Music Building—a whole building specifically designated as a party house. Each night during residency, we congregated here with handfuls of beer and bowls packed to the brim. Goddard held no shortage of hippies.
We sat encircled, shoulder to shoulder, around the fire pit each night. Playing "Wagon Wheel" and singing along is a Goddard fire pit tradition. I flashback to those frigid nights in Vermont whenever I hear that song, and I'm back as an overachieving writing student where novel ideas and good conversation sat right next to me.
The most notable aspect of "low-res" programs like Goddard consists of its emphasis on self-directed study. In grade school and most colleges, the gatekeepers tell you information; whereby, they grade you according to how well you regurgitate it back to them. These gatekeepers call this education when in fact it's simply memorization.
Self-directed study offers each individual the liberty to study what interests them. Consider how much more passion you'd put into your education when you create the content and syllabi.
Goddard works in packets; where, in the fifteen-week semester, you're expected to submit five packets—one every three weeks. Included in these packets are critiques of the books you've read, polished writing content, and a cover letter addressing your own content and what you're working on for the next packet. Goddardites aptly call this "packet work."
Another Goddardism: trust the process. Anytime the work you've set for yourself appears like too much: trust the process. When your advisor bashes the entirety of your work for a packet: trust the process. Part of me wants to strangle the mantra; yet, I refuse for the simple fact that to trust the process is to trust yourself. The process is you. To further emphasize this notion, I give you my favorite piece of graffiti written in the Music Building.
A fellow student and friend went to Goddard years prior to our enrollment. The school shut down during his last semester. As this became his second attempt to graduate from the same college, he told me some stories.
At the time of this writing, Goddard's admission rate equates to 99%+. We used to joke about who in the world was so outrageous that a small school like Goddard, who accepted everybody, would say no.
In the Doolin dormitory, the very same dorm I resided in, a couple of strung-out students turned the dorm into a heroin house. Around one of the holes in the wall, a student drew a toilet seat with a permanent marker. The drug-addled students treated this toilet drawing not as a metaphor or as art but as a repository.
Another interesting tidbit: the students of the 100% admission era made a formal proposal for funding a concert with an amazing musician with a positive message regarding acceptance, social diversity, and the PC like. Without any vetting, Goddard's administration green-lighted and funded the Wesley Willis concert. Some of his hit tracks include "My Mother Smokes Crack Rock," "Fuck You," "I Wupped Batman's Ass," and "Suck a Camel's Poody Hole." I can only speculate that Goddard's administration did not love the concert.
Perhaps, you can gather why Goddard's admission rate dropped from 100% to 99%.
Places to Go in Plainfield, VT
Should you find yourself in this rural farm town, be sure to stop by Positive Pie. This pizza joint offers an intimate bar with many New England beers on tap. While the pizza lacks the character of NY/NJ, it provides a worthy alternative to the vegan-centricities and kale-infused edibles that mostly populate this area of New England.
A lovely woman once wrote that you can tell a lot about someone by how they eat chicken wings. Some use a fork and knife, taking care that they don't stain their shirt. Others grab those saucy wings and devour, stains be damned! Their lack of care sticks to their faces with a smile.
Book lovers, you may appreciate The Country Bookshop. Its antiquated charm reels you in and delights your nose upon entering with the unmistakable and ubiquitous old book smell.
*As a quick aside, the reason old books smell so good comes from volatile organic compounds that those books give off over time. Through blinded studies, many compared the smell to that of chocolate and coffee. Read more about the study here.
I experienced a lifetime's worth of experiences in those eight-day residencies. From the daunting research and mountainous work to drunken antics and falling in love, Goddard College, A.K.A. the college of Hogwarts, irrevocably changed me. Though it's an institution that loosely follows the standard collegiate expectations, Goddard's model allows for much more individualism—an ideology perpetually dwindling.
You may consider that since this is a self-directed study, why oh why would you pay for this? I can only point to the penultimate paragraph and ask this question: what makes life worth living? Find the answer to one and, in turn, you have the other.
Thank you for reading!
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