By Jim McCloskey
When I was a student, it generally upset me when a class came nowhere close to completing its agenda. This was especially true in college, but it even reached back into high school, when I’d feel almost cheated that the last five chapters of a 25-chapter textbook fell into some crack at the end of the year, never to be seen or heard from again.
I could rationalize it in humanities-type classes, where I perceived that the goal was learning to think critically about a period of literature or history or philosophy: In those cases, I knew that I could always double back to whatever it was we’d skipped and, without guidance, figure out why it would’ve been cool to discuss this or that novel or era or concept with my fellow students in a classroom setting.
But that was never true in science- or technically oriented courses, where falling 25 percent short of completing a text meant I was 25 percent short of being truly ready to move onto the next level. And the trouble with these subjects – and in that group I’d include technical education related to watershaping – is that they’re harder to pursue without expert, knowledgeable guidance.
All of this was running through my mind as we came to the end of the first day of “Construction 281: Major Renovations,” a Genesis University class I sat in on a couple weeks back. I wasn’t able to stick around for Day Two of the 16-hour course, but the pattern had been set in such a positive way that I have every confidence my impression would only have been reinforced had my schedule enabled me to stay.
I have been a careful, conscientious and all-too-frequent observer of water-related professional education for more than 30 years, and writing as someone who probably should have been an academic, I have to say I was impressed by Construction 281. To be sure, I have always been pleased by the level of education offered by Genesis: From the start nearly 20 years ago, its instructors offered something different, informative and interesting – a true change of pace and level from anything I’d observed before.
But as a renegade academic, I was often less than sold on what could best be described as a certain improvisational quality to the Genesis system. The instructors have always been top flight, no doubt about it, but there was a looseness to the approach, an inconsistency from class session to class session that made me want to crack a whip every once in a while.
This is part of the reason why I hadn’t sat in on a Genesis course for any extended period for many years now: I’ve stopped in to see what’s going on from time to time – and, as mentioned above, have invariably been impressed by the qualifications of the instructors and their capacity to impart valuable information. But sit through a whole day? Not something that appealed to me.
With Construction 281, however, it was about 3 pm on the first day that I truly regretted the fact I couldn’t hang around for the second. I was learning, and I wanted to know more. I also have the hopeful sense that the entire Genesis University system now operates with this same lofty set of organizational and structural principles.
It’s funny: When I sat down at my desk first thing in the morning, I leafed through the thick course text and idly considered how much would be left off toward the back of the sheaf to make the class end on time. By the time we wrapped up Day One, however, I had every confidence that the whole book would be covered – with time to spare for a healthy exchange of ideas, questions and answers.
I hadn’t intended to write anything at all about this class when I sat down that fine Tuesday morning, but as you can tell, I’m fired up. As I mentioned above, I’ve always thought Genesis offered something different, something valuable. Now I think they also offer something structured, something disciplined.
It makes me proud and happy that WaterShapes has been associated with Genesis for so long. It makes me even prouder and happier that a field to which I’ve devoted 30-plus years of my life now has access to education at this level.
If you’re a designer or builder who hasn’t gotten involved with Genesis yet, do give it a try. If a hard-bitten lug like me can rise to this level of endorsement, there’s something very good indeed about what’s happening here.