People tend to go all fish-eyed when you use the words “Burning Man” and “education” in the same sentence, but even a quick look at this year’s What Where When (WWW) guide should convince the skeptics that there’s going to be a whole lot of learning going on Out There. Or to use the technical term, “edjumication.”
Though it’s not specifically addressed in the Ten Principles, ours has always been a culture of teaching and learning. It’s the glue that holds us together, the DNA that links the generations of our oddball family. Small wonder when you consider that our people are freakishly well-schooled in the default world – 64 percent listed a bachelor’s degree or higher in the 2012 Black Rock City census. And while no one can say for certain how many are educators by trade, it’s clearly in the many-to-hella range. So many, in fact, that a pack of education-themed theme camps are joining forces this year to create the Aspire Village, with a projected population of 1,800.
Aspire Village will play host to the Black Rock Educator’s Consortium (Tuesday through Thursday), the Burning Nerds Global Unconference (Friday), and a series of TEDx talks (Thursday), capped off by a high-stepping, clothing-optional sing-along to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” Okay, I made that last one up, but the rest is all legit, and promises a lot of useful cogitation around the notion of burnifying the academic world (and vice-versa).
But what if academia’s not your cup of tea? Do ivory towers give you nosebleeds? Rest easy, friend – there will be hundreds of other courses and workshops catering to your every Burner-learner whim, from the ridiculously practical to the sublimely surreal. Want to learn some new dance moves? Take your pick of belly, break, butoh, capoeira, Polynesian, swing, or tango. Does yoga matter to you? Practice your usual practice or pick up a new style at about a hundred pop-up studios. And of course there will be no shortage of sex ed – male, female, solo, couples, fetish, and other, including something called “dildo fencing,” which frankly frightens me.
Speaking of dildo fencing (and how often do you get to write that twice in a day?), there will be no shortage of “only on the playa” quirky classes of every imaginable persuasion. Seriously, there are dozens of these in the WWW guide, but I’ve applied my own idiosyncratic lens to the list and pulled out a personal top ten:
How to Start Your own Religion (Fractal Camp). Don’t tell Larry H. I’m going to this one, he might get nervous.
DIY Flying: What to do if the pilot is dead (DIY Camp). You mean, other than wet my pants and cry like a baby? Color me curious.
Geology of the Black Rock Desert (Earth Guardians) and Drunken Geology of the Black Rock Desert (Camp DDI). Hmmm, if I could only attend one of these, which would it be?
Postapocalyptic Brewing (Camp DIY). Zombies and beer? And biodiesel?! You had me at beer.
DIY Straight Blade Shaving (DIY Camp). Learn how to “regain the manly art of shaving.” And as a bonus, how to stick it to Bic and Schick.
Neurobiology of Hallucination (Camp DDI). Whoa. I mean, whoa.
MaTHgic Confabulation (Center Camp). Not sure what MaTHgic is, but they promise to teach me how to build a frabjous, and I’ve always wanted one of those. Bronze medal for best course title.
You Have Died of Dysentery (Camp DDI). Billed as an “old-timey history tour of the Black Rock Desert.” Which is cool. But the course title is where the money is – hand over the silver.
Books and Boobs (Camp Beaverton). Yes I am ready to “explore the gender binary in apocalyptic fiction and cargo cult.” Because I love books, that’s why. Gold medal winner for best course title.
If you want to build your own on-playa edjumication schedule (and I know you do), look for the little atomic symbol next to event write-ups in the WWW guide. And bring some extra sunblock for that big forehead of yours, because you’re going to come back a lot smarter than you left.
Stuart Mangrum is an old-timey Burner and Publisher Emeritus of the Black Rock Gazette. He’s currently working on global education initiatives for the Burning Man Project.