EXCO offers alternatives for community learning

By Federico Burlon

A blend of university courses, life-learning workshops and hands-on activities, EXCO (Experimental College) courses provide Macalester students and the community not only with an alternative to regular courses, but an opportunity to explore the community and themes like social equality and justice.

Experimental College is an initiative conceived in the 1970s at schools such as Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. EXCO began at Macalester last spring, organized by David Boehnke ’07, Miriam Larson ’08, Claire Stoscheck ’07 and Víctor Llanque-Zonta ’08. The program is now in its first full semester.

Organizers say that EXCO aspires to expand the definition of education by including elements beyond regular university courses, increasing opportunities for lifelong learning—since courses are open not only to Macalester students but to the entire community—and to promote social equality and justice.

“I became involved with EXCO because I wanted to do something positive, create something, as opposed to opposing what other people were doing,” Boehnke said.

Those teaching the courses include students, Macalester faculty and community members.

“I joined this project because it is wonderful,” said James Redde, Macalester’s Catholic Chaplain, who has taught a conflict resolution course for over 10 years.

The organization has put much effort into finding experienced people to teach the courses, some of which offer credit to Macalester students. Among these specialists are Ray Tricomo, an educator, U.S. Senate candidate for Minnesota in 2002 and director and founder of Turtle Island Multiversity, an organization that works toward restoring ecological conditions in which indigenous people can live sustainably. Tricomo teaches a course called “The Great Law of Peace: Past, Present and Future.” The course looks at history from an indigenous perspective, focusing on the long-lasting Iroquois confederation.

Erik Forman ’08 is among the Macalester students teaching courses. Forman teaches Anarchist Anthropology, a course based on a syllabus developed by the Anarchist Free University of Toronto. According to the Anarchist Free University of Toronto, the title “anarchist” means that courses are based on a non-hierarchical structure, consensus decision-making and decentralized organizing, fostering an environment for people with different ideologies.

Although this is EXCO’s first year in existence, it has attracted a number of students.

“We have 70 students in 7 courses” Boehnke said.
EXCO has also engaged with the local community, with 40 percent of its students from outside Macalester.

“We are really building a network and a structure that will hopefully just be run by the people using it, but until then we need to build that structure” Boehnke said.