Local Currents

By David Vanderveen.

Advice for Students & Teachers From an Avant-garde Innovator

 “My dance classes were open to anybody, my only stipulation was that they had to come to the class every day.”  —Merce Cunningham

I’m writing this prior to Tuesday’s City Council meeting over the Social Host Ordinance (SHO), so I don’t know the outcome. What I do know is that we live in a small town committed to arts and creativity and a lifestyle that celebrates liberty. We need to stick to our core values when we generate local laws to govern ourselves.

When I was in high school and college, we had mandatory chapel every day. Kids did anything they could including paying off attendance takers to avoid going. The schools didn’t work very hard to make chapel interesting. They didn’t have to.

My older brother went to a college where chapel attendance was voluntary and it was packed. His school worked really hard to make chapel compelling and they couldn’t keep kids out.

I think we have the same issues with high school partying.

The book of wisdom says that stolen honey is the sweetest. Recently, over 100 U.S. university presidents have asked for the drinking age to be lowered to 18 because of the dangerous behaviors of underage drinkers on college campuses. They want to engage students and help them change behavior away from binge drinking and other problems. The legal drinking age needs to be 18 for them to do this.

In the mean time, we need adults to openly discuss the issue of underage drinking and not put more pressure on kids and parents to sweep drinking issues out of sight.

Merce Cunningham, founder of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, created a culture of innovation and creativity that changed dance. He was a transformative leader in the avant-gard movement for over 50 years.

Cunningham’s partner and fellow creator, composer John Cage, wrote these “Rules” that a friend recently posted on Facebook from a saved paper. They inform the culture that we should be fostering at our schools and with our kids:

“Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.

Rule 2: (General Duties as a Student) Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.

Rule 3: (General Duties as a Teacher) Pull everything out of your students.

Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment.

Rule 5: Be Self Disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.

Rule 6: Follow the leader. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.

Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things. You can fool the fans—but not the players.

Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.

Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.

Rule 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for “x” qualities.


Helpful Hints:

Always Be Around.

Come or go to everything.

Always go to classes.

Read everything you can get your hands on.

Look at movies carefully and often.

SAVE EVERYTHING. It may come in handy later.”

More force and coercion does not produce more compliance, it just produces more criminal behavior and more criminals. Good legislation supports cultural mores; it doesn’t lead it.

For the same reasons that compulsory chapel was something most kids avoided on principle at one school, many kids stopped everything else in their lives to get into a compelling voluntary chapel at another college.

If we will develop trust and authentic relationships, Laguna’s youth will lead the community to a solution.

David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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