Thoughts from Tutors

Ed Parkour: The Free Running Approach to Education

By Chaise Jung

As most may have picked up from talking to me around the Techniques Center, I spend my free time (and often my time that isn’t supposed to be free) researching various theories in regards to human life. Now I could not tell you how exactly I got from point A to D, seeing as I fell into the wonderful information spiral that is the Internet, but I came across an interesting approach to education. This approach makes the argument that education should be approached in a similar fashion of parkour. By definition, parkour means “the sport of traversing environmental obstacles by running, climbing, or leaping rapidly and efficiently.” Now the question of how this has anything to do with education, I’m sure, is rattling around in the forefront of your minds. Bear with me. I take this approach as a thought provoking imagery of a new way of approaching education.

A man leaping over a bench, with words overlaying the grass that reads "Only a Bench"

To start, I would like to take a moment to present the outlook on this strange sport trend in the way I will be using it later on. When the craze of this sport hit, I won’t lie that I saw the whole thing as strange and veering on the wrong side of recklessness. However, I have since seen this initial reaction to be hastily conducted. Parkour participants view the urban world that surrounds them differently than the scope I was using to judge them on. They view the landscape as a challenge or even tools for creativity. They look at objects that we perceive to be for one use, and transform that object into something else. For example, we see a park bench and think that it is a place to sit in the park. However, a parkour participant looks at the bench as a means of creative exploitation. As Bill Genereux presents it, “Whatever the new mandate or initiative, these people know how to roll with it, jump over it, or incorporate it into what they do without even flinching.” These people view the world around them as merely obstacles to be conquered.

Taking this outlook, we can apply this metaphor to a new approach to education. This approach challenges educators to view the acquisition of knowledge the way that the parkour participants view the urban landscape, which means to view each obstacle as a challenge to create something uniquely new. By viewing all the obstacles that come with attempting to pass knowledge to another with the fearless prowess of parkour participants, these obstacles transform from a negative state of mind to a positive state of mind. The difference in thought comes from the ability to incorporate these obstacles in a way that challenges ardent action.

A man leaping off a building, with the caption "E-D Parkour"

When I continued to research this approach, I realized that this could also be applied to tutoring within the Techniques Center. The most reoccurring statements I am asked by other tutors are along the lines of “I can’t motivate my students”, “sessions seem repetitive”, or even “the subject material is just not interesting”. All of these questions are approached differently from a parkour perspective. By perceiving the course material as a passerby might see a park bench, the material might not register with your student for the long haul. I mean does anyone remember every intimate detail of simple objects like this? Take these as a challenge. If jumping over it isn’t an option, why not try rolling? Get motivated by these obstacles! Every parkour participant gets a share of scrapes in their time, but the obstacle of the unsuccessful attempt gives them further motivation to conquer it. In my experience, there are always going to be stumbles in the pursuit or teaching of knowledge, but every now and then one can pull off something quite spectacular. Those are the moments that must be strived for, because that is going to be the knowledge that sticks around in the long run.


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