Formal Teacher Designations

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Daniel M Ingram, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 4:08 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 4:08 PM

Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Forum: The Big Issues

A few of the more seasoned members here raises the issue of whether or not we (and who this "we" is could use discussion) should give some sort of formal designation of Teacher, Elder, or something like that to those who have met whatever formal or arbitrary criteria for this, vs the current system, which is basically that people are free to claim whatever, people post from their own perspective and experience as best they can, things are more informal, and hopefully the convergence of opinion ends up conveying something helpful rather than some formal role as teacher lending that note of authority and weight.

Some have raised the issue that formally designating some as Teachers, Elders, or something like that would give those just arriving a sense of who the community looked to as trusted sources of information. Others, such as myself, have largely fallen back on the notion that wisdom shines most of the time regardless of designation, and consensus of advice usually emerges rather than fixation on some attempt at consensus as to who should be accorded some formal title by the community or some ruling sub-segment of that community or some other method.

If there is some need for a more formal system of designation of who may have a clue about whatever, this is a place to let that need be known and to discuss issues surrounding this.
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Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 5:34 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 5:34 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: garyrh

With so much advice from every conceivable title in this information revolution, do not add another. With titles there will still exist claim and counter-claim.
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Vishal Lama, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 5:34 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 5:34 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 0 Join Date: 5/16/09 Recent Posts
Thanks, Daniel, for bringing this up!

My own opinion for what it's worth - and it meshes very well with your own views, it seems - is that the conferring, if you will, of designations/titles (Teacher, Elder, etc.) should NOT be encouraged or propagated on DhO. To echo your own thought on this, there is enough empirical evidence - alright, I admit it is only based on my own experience on DhO - to suggest that a gradual convergence of opinions leads to a transfer of a lot of fruitful/beneficial ideas in the long term. As a practitioner, I would rather receive feedback in an informal (but hardcore dharma-style manner, of course) on any point related to practice that I may be be stuck on rather than hear some weighty remarks delivered by a designated "Teacher." Maybe this has got more to do with an anarchist bent of mind that I have, but I am usually averse to the notion of formal titles. Wisdom, as you pointed out, has the remarkable quality of shining out, no matter what conventions people follow or adhere to.

Of course, I concede there is the issue related to confusion that may affect beginners who may not immediately know who really knows what and also may not be able to separate the grain from the chaff (read useful knowledge from chatter), but my feeling is that within a month or so such a beginner's working knowledge on actual practice can certainly be brought up to speed. It must be remembered that the average DhO member discovers this site through an incessant quest and that after reading several posts he/she is smart enough to determine what is useful from what is useless.

Finally, there is the question of a Dharma Wiki that I fervently believe should be addressed as soon as possible. I am aware you (along with Vince and others) are working on this and that by June/July we will have something to work on.
Ed clay vannoy, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 6:19 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 6:19 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
One way that this is already being done informally is with the 'Did you find this useful?" tab. People see that someone gets a lot of these and they start to pay more attention to that person's posts.

It could be made more formal if there was a "Moderator found this useful tab" on DhO 2.0. Or even a "Daniel found this useful tab". But that last puts a lot of pressure on you to read every post and so may not be feasible. If there were a way to tabulate that so that it appeared by a person"s user name the community and moderators would organically confer, if not a title, a clear sign that that member is respected by DhO as a whole. I have no idea what sort of technical challenges that would place on poor Vince!

Or, as monarch of DhO you could just hand out certificates. :-)

Ed
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Florian, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 9:06 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 9:06 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Important point!

I'm one of the more active contributors here, yet I don't have any retreats under my belt, my practice only just took off a year ago after discovering the DhO, and so I'm often a bit worried that my enthusiastic posting might be mistaken for speaking from an advanced Dharma perspective by newcomers to this site.

At other times, I see such worries on my part as overblown: there are plenty of highly skilled and realized people here who will call me on any nonsense I expound, even if Daniel didn't monitor the site at close intervals. And due to the focus on practice, personal experience, explicit descriptions instead of vague mumblings, DhO discussions often have an almost self-moderating quality to them.

Vishal's point that people who find the DhO are a pretty self-reliant bunch anyway is also worth considering. By introducing "quality labels" and easily recognized "brands", a small move towards mushroom culture seems inevitable, as it is more inviting of an attitude of uncritical adoption ("He/She's got a teacher's badge, after all") On the other hand, there's a danger of becoming elitist and self-congratulating and lacking compassion for not broadening the appeal of the Dharma Overground by making it easy for the newcomers.

All things considered, I'm happy with the benevolent Dharma oligarchy we've got here. But maybe a few paragraphs on the front page, describing this state of affairs for the newbies?

Cheers,
Florian
Ed clay vannoy, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 9:39 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 9:39 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Florian,

I don't think you need to worry about that. For one thing, you include 'disclaimers' in many of your posts. For another, your posts are very helpful to the people you respond to, I know because they say so.

It raises an important point. How much does attainment matter in deciding who gets a gold star next to their name? How much does skillfully guiding others while knowing their limitations? Anyone who has read my profile knows that I claim to be 'done'. And anyone who has read my profile knows that I was operating under very different maps than the ones used here and I am still learning Theravada/DhO maps and lingo and correlating them to my experience. And I try to include disclaimers to that effect in my posts. Who should get the teaching certificate? You, me, neither, both?

Ed

Ed
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tarin greco, modified 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 9:51 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/18/09 9:51 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
florian doesn't have any attainments but whenever he writes i pay rapt attention because just about everything i've read from him resonates with me in some way, and i sense an enormous amount of kindness and consideration motivating him to post, and the results are skillful. now, what kinda badge should he wear? a 'tarin thinks he's super!' badge? oh snap, he's wearing one already! if you check the profile page, you'll see the part where people can compliment each other and display them for public view. i used to think it was a silly and redundant function, but now i think it can be useful to let other people know that their contributions are, overall, generally valued (as opposed to the one-off 'this was helpful' that people can click on under each post). compliments are better than titles because 1- you know who compliments are coming from directly (as opposed to titles that are appointed by ... 'the board'), and because 2- they are only viewable if you look at a member's profile, so they don't get displayed to remind others of their status (like a title would) every single time someone posts.

so, if lee can find a way to include that, or similar, function into dh.o v2, it could be useful. but if not, probably no big loss.

yes on letting wisdom shine through on its own, no on designations.
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Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 4:30 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 4:30 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Adam_West

I'm of the view, like Dan, that wisdom is self-evident, as is its contrary in the presence of the former. Hands off, and nature will take its course, such is the Tao... ;-P

In my experience, those who have personal experience - rather than partial book knowledge - are usually discernible by their unique personal insights. Insights that are only available to them due to the crucible of personal experience. Often, they actually have something to say, yet feel no need to say it. By comparison, its contrary is usually just more of the same.

In kind regards,

Adam.
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John Finley, modified 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 6:22 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 6:22 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 11 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Bingo! I think everyone who posts here is wise enough to weigh any advice offered to see if it seems logical and fits well with what s/he has learned previously. If something doesn't sound right, ask questions...

Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges! :-)
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Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 6:36 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 6:36 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: SoManyThoughts

I really dislike the idea of handing out awards or rankings here. I've only been here a short time, but I think the wise elders are pretty easy to spot, based on their writings and profiles, and the response of others to their posts. I've recently come from another board where some elders were designated. What I saw happening there was that the elders felt an obligation to speak to every topic as "the expert", often based on a pretty cursory reading (perhaps out of a sense of obligation to reply to every single thread). Once the elder had spoken, the original conversation ended and it became a series of "wow you're so wise" compliments to the elder. Where conflicting points of view were presented, the group tended to assume the elder was right, and the other points of view were wrong. I hope folks here aren't so undiscriminating that the same thing would happen, but I'd hate to see things go even a little bit in that direction.
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Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 11:25 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 11:25 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Adam_West

Yeah, good points SoManyThoughts! I tend to see it the same way.

In kind regards,

Adam.
Ed clay vannoy, modified 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 12:21 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 12:21 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi SoManyThoughts,

That sounds really awful. Heaven forbid that it happen here.

Ed
Chuck Kasmire, modified 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 3:17 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/19/09 3:17 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 560 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Please no designated teachers. Let's just let them (teachers) come and go according to conditions.

-Chuck
Hokai Sobol, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 2:39 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 2:39 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Though having formal "teacher" designations here wouldn't work for a variety of reasons, informal designations are already in place anyway, and I find these equally problematic. (Not that "problematic" is unwholesome.) Designations and credentials of some sorts are unavoidable, it would seem, but choosing our place on this in/formal scale is mostly a matter of taste and political style. Egalitarian cop-outs will only take us so far. On the other hand, the "self-evidence" of wisdom is highly questionable to say the least, as it depends strongly on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the one claiming the evidence.
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Kenneth Folk, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 6:14 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 6:14 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Advantages:

1) "something like that would give those just arriving a sense of who the community looked to as trusted sources of information." -Daniel Ingram (playing devil's advocate)

2) The "wisdom shines" hypothesis is questionable. See the Wikipedia entry for Peter Popoff, a self-proclaimed faith healer who was exposed as a fraud on national television:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Popoff

Then see Peter Popoff's official website:

http://www.peterpopoff.org/

It appears that Peter Popoff is pretty popular, people.

Disadvantages:

1) The DhO core membership is a pretty self-directed bunch, in keeping with D. Ingram's "badass dharma cowboy" meme. They don't like being told what to think.

2) As pointed out by SoManyThoughts, threads can devolve into a "you're-so-wise" ego-stroke-athon if the "Elder" idea takes hold too firmly.

Ironies:

1) The way Daniel presented this question was shamelessly slanted toward his point of view.

"Good polls are an honest and unbiased attempt to explore the public’s view, scientifically, and even if the pollsters are surprised or dismayed by the results, they publish them truthfully. The worst polls try to confirm the biases of the organization or politician who’s paying for them, and seek to manipulate the public and engineer consent for their pet policies or to sell their products."

http://www.cdi.org/polling/spot-spin-ch2-good-poll.cfm

2) We already have a popularity-based hierarchy. Unfortunately, while this hierarchy is known to regulars, it is often opaque to newcomers. And popularity, as pointed out above in the case of Popoff, is not an accurate indicator of wisdom. As one of the popularati here, I ask you: How do you know I'm not just blowing smoke?

Kenneth
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Vishal Lama, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 12:04 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 12:04 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 0 Join Date: 5/16/09 Recent Posts
Kenneth,

What makes you think people take you way too seriously except when they get stuck on some practice-related point and then might ask you for some guidance or help? Do you really think people (DhO members) care a lot about your attainments? Your attainments are great and your wisdom profound ONLY to the extent that they help me somehow in my practice. Otherwise, you might well be blowing smoke!
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Kenneth Folk, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 12:46 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 12:46 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hear ye, hear ye!

Well spoken, sir.
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Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 1:24 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 1:24 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: ccasey

I look for the wisdom. And, even if I see something stupid, it can be of help in a weird, backwards way. It still works, if you work it. Learn from everything. Putting formal teacher labels on certain folks may impede the everyday wisdom that is shared here.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 1:51 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 1:51 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 560 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
This site allows people to come forward and seek advice and also to contribute advice where they feel they are able to. This is what I meant by my statement “let them (teachers) come and go according to conditions”. The ability to assist others and to share these experiences is not often found in teacher led groups. If might be messy at times (I think Daniel predicted that somewhere) but it is a great opportunity to hone these skills. So far, I think it has worked quite well.

It all depends on what people want. If we want DhO to be more of a reputable teaching center then some structure is needed. For me, what is most interesting is what kinds of relationships/projects/approaches/styles may come out of this stew – so I am more interested in keeping things fluid and open.

Kenneth: “The "wisdom shines" hypothesis is questionable. See the Wikipedia entry for Peter Popoff, a self-proclaimed faith healer who was exposed as a fraud on national television”

-I took a look at his site. He doesn't seem to give anyone the ability to offer opposing views (where is the forum?). As the second part of Daniels “wisdom shines” statement that you quote was “and consensus of advice usually emerges“ I don't see how the Peter Popoff situation applies – as there is no place for differing views to exist in the first place.

Kenneth: “We already have a popularity-based hierarchy. Unfortunately, while this hierarchy is known to regulars, it is often opaque to newcomers“

Care to cite your sources? My sense is that people are pretty savvy regarding forum sites like this and unlikely to just jump in and believe what anyone says.

-Chuck
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Kenneth Folk, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 3:30 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 3:30 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Chuck,

No, I was just speculating. Maybe people are savvy. May it be so.

Most importantly, the fact that you aren't taking my unsupported claims at face value makes me happy. If everyone is as discerning as you we won't have any trouble.

By the way, do you have any evidence to support the claim that people are savvy? :-)
Ed clay vannoy, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:03 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:03 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I certainly hope so! It is his site after all.

Actually, I think he is being very reserved here. I have heard interviews and read some of his posts and most of MCTB and slipping things under the radar isn't his usual style. Encouraging the clear presentation of ideas and debate certainly is and he invited us to do that.

Ed
Chuck Kasmire, modified 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:57 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 5/20/09 5:57 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 560 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Not a bit. Projecting like a mad man as usual.
beta wave, modified 15 Years ago at 6/7/09 12:13 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/7/09 12:13 AM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
As far as designations go, I see a value in folks stating what they can teach if they want to teach. Maybe the profile section is the best place to do that. In other words, in the profile it can say, I feel comfortable describing/helping/trouble-shooting x, y, and z -- and maybe a "because l, m, and n" statement. Then when someone says something in the post, the profile can be inspected for a little more context.

Another idea is "a guide to the guides" type of list which would say: person/practioner/teacher Q can help trouble-shoot P. This would probably have to be caveated so that people don't get the impression that just by bugging that person they will obtain that attainment. But there does seem to be specialties on this board, based on practice experiences.

Hope that helps!
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Mark E Defrates, modified 15 Years ago at 6/7/09 12:25 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/7/09 12:25 PM

RE: Formal Teacher Designations

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
I'll join the overwhelming consensus that formal teacher designations are a bad idea. The hierarchical structure of Theravedic attainments are difficult enough for me (but I'm trying, I swear, not to let my anarchic sensibilities overcome my wish to see if Theraveda meditation technologies will create results that other forms have not). I also don't understand how these designations would be conferred - acclaimed lucidity of posts? length of friendship with the founder? number of posts? length of time on DhO? certificates? As a republican Englishman I am afraid I would be calling for storming the barricades (toot sweet). And then, with the hierarchy of elders in place what do the other elders do when one of them starts spouting arrant nonsense resulting from a bad day on the cushion or an argument with the wife or kids? Close ranks? Strip the elder of his elderness? Gently reprimand? Hasn't this sorry scenario been duplicated times almost beyond measure in sanghas, temples and orders throughout the world. Isn't it great that DhO is free from this problem?

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