I had the privilege once of interviewing the then editor of the New York based magazine Dance Pages. This amazing man had worked his way up from dancing on the streets to dancing in some of New York's finest companies. Although he had much to say about dance and the phrasing of movement my defining moment came after the interview proper when I asked in my usual subtle manner "What's a nice Jewish boy like you doing tap dancing on the streets begging for pennies when your parents expected you to go into business?" Smiling, amused by the bluntness of my question, Joe responded, "They couldn't stop me. When you have passion, when you have to dance more than anything in the world, there is nothing that can stop you. Young dancers ask me all the time if they should come to New York and dance. I always say no. If they have to ask then they don't have what it takes. They won't make it. When you have passion nothing in the world can prevent you from dancing."
Mine has never been a passion for dance. A love, but never passion. My passion is and has always been education, most especially experiential education. From the day I decided to teach, something in my heart has relentlessly pulled me to teach better, to teach differently, not because different is good but because I knew in my heart that so much potential is wasted and so many students fall by the wayside because, however they were being taught, they were not learning.
Many of us have as our passion, not so much sailing or mountain climbing or white water rafting, but simply education. There is a depth of humanity that is reached when you push yourself, and a joy beyond any other in watching a student find that depth. Conferences are littered with young, fit individuals looking for the perfect job that will allow you to be paid for doing what you love and what you're good at. But how much better will this world be if we each take it upon ourselves to create our own experiential education programs. They don't have to look like schools. They don't have to look like Outward Bound. Or Station Maine. They should each have the unique stamp of their own character. And they should each serve.
I want to suggest that the most appropriate use of the passion we each feel is to create hundreds of thousands of experiential education programs. After school, holiday, maybe even academic schools that incorporate experiential education as a component. There is a richness to adventure in the physical world that cannot be matched elsewhere. That education is going away. Where, in all our passion, is the passion to set right this situation?
I congratulate the lucky few percent who find jobs living your passion in a shrinking market. For the rest of us I feel it becomes more and more imperative to create jobs and programs. It is a significantly more difficult challenge. And so, ask yourself where your passion truly lies. Do you only want to get paid for doing what you love? Or is your passion to offer an education that will change the world? To build something that will make a difference.
I dont think everyone should build a non-profit any more than Joe believed that every dancer should come to New York. But we are few and the need is great. Everyone whose passion lies in education at its core should at least consider creating an organization that will truly make a difference in education. One by one we can change the world.