Those of us who are educators as well as naturists / social nudists often ask ourselves how to bridge the two: What are good ideas for structuring a naturist education? What would be the practical constraints of establishing a school where people could be nude?
|Nude Classroom I
While it’s possible to learn about socialism, for example, without being a socialist, or Catholicism without being a Catholic, the act of learning about naturism and social nudism is intrinsically enhanced by doing so while nude, because nudity is an integral part of both the method and the subject itself. A body-centered pedagogy, or whole body learning, fully engages our empirical uptake of new information and helps stimulate our brains more thoroughly and on more levels.
There have been many fine articles on nudity and education in Nude & Natural over the years, and often these articles cite scholarly research in education and the social sciences advocating greater engagement with the range of our corporeal faculties when learning. The Naturist Society’s Professors and Researchers SIG (Special Interest Group) hosts a webpage on Visionary Colleges organized by Paul LeValley, featuring a description of the nude Whatif College and the curriculum of a proposed Naturist Studies Institute.
|Nude Classroom II
How about a Naturism Studies major? (There are plenty of “Fill-in-the-Blank Studies” majors already, like Southeast Asian Studies or Women’s and Gender Studies.) The program could start with a core course that all majors would complete, something like The History and Philosophy of Naturism, and then beyond that the students could fill out the required number of total credits by choosing from a variety of course offerings including Life Drawing; Aesthetics of the Body; Ecotourism and Sustainability; Ecological History of the United States; Human Anatomy; Naturist Health, Nutrition and Well-being; Human Sexuality, etc. Perhaps there could be a required number of credits in Physical Education, with selections such as Canuding; Nude Yoga; Gymnos Gymnastics; Co-ed Naked Volleyball; Gymnos Track and Field; No-Swimsuit Swimming, etc. There are similar suggestions for the proposed Naturist Studies Institute mentioned above.
The implementation of such a curriculum, let alone an entire school, would require not only willing professors but also willing students, as well as advocacy from naturist or nudist groups as well as professional education organizations. Perhaps it could become a reality somewhere like Florida or California, where both climate and abundance of naturist and nudist groups, beaches, and resorts would be favorable factors. Perhaps, in such a context, and given the viability of programs like Hotel and Restaurant Management, Naturism Studies could be considered an economically feasible major.
My novel Co-ed Naked Philosophy is but one such attempt to imagine the reality of a nude education. Here is a passage from the novel, in which the main character, philosophy professor Christopher Ross, describes an idealized nude Palace of Fine Arts in conversation with Daphne, a former student tending bar:
“Let’s play a guessing game,” said Christopher, repeating the line that Daphne knew well from his Introduction to Philosophy classes. “Imagine a place,” he thought out loud, “of monumental, open-air beauty. You with me?”
Daphne put down the tray of dirty glasses she was carrying. Resigned, she closed her eyes. “I’m with you.”
“Sunlit figures pass among wispy tall trees and immaculately carved columns. The figures carry books and instruments; they pass by in groups or alone, they are young, middle-aged and old, but mostly young. Even the older ones are stricken more youthful by their company and by their surroundings.”
In his imagination, Christopher revisited Alexandria and Timbuktu, borrowing and shaping from Charlottesville, Texcoco, Salamanca and Coimbra and Oxford. “This is a place where all manner of pursuits relating humankind to itself and to its environment are welcome. The people we see engage themselves in animated discussions and demonstrations, of varying degrees of formality. Much effort is spent on proving, testing, experimenting, documenting and evaluating from a critical perspective. Factual conclusions are highly valued, but intuition and emotion are not without importance.”
“There is much activity outside, but groups of people often go inside, where a variety of more specific engagements are practiced: reading, sketching, outlining, brainstorming, researching, painting, playing, sculpting, observing, listening, discussing, writing, creating…”
“Do you realize how many ‘-ing’ words you’re using?”
“Gerunds, yes, because this place I’m describing to you is a place of continuous and concentrated action. The effort is endless. When some people leave, others arrive. Changing perspectives, constant renewal.”
“I know what your place is,” said Daphne triumphantly, reaching for a dishtowel. “It’s a college campus, a university.”
“Exactly. The Palace of Fine Arts.”
“That’s what you call it?”
“That’s what I like to call it, yes.”
Daphne flashed her hazel eyes. “But what about chemistry, biology and physics?” she objected. “Or history and anthropology? Those aren’t fine arts.”
“You’re right, that’s a good point. I don’t wish to deny the importance of the natural and social sciences, of medicine and nursing, law, education and engineering. Oh yes, and even business! But I believe that artistic expression is how an individual can best juxtapose an original perception or emotion with the universals that unite us as humans. Henry Moore once said that Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for example, never could have been created by anyone else, but Newton’s and Einstein’s discoveries would have been made sooner or later.”
“Maybe…But Newton and Einstein wouldn’t have made their discoveries without a creative and imaginative spirit, don’t you agree?”
“And besides, I remember learning that Shakespeare wasn’t the only one to tackle the story of Hamlet.”
“You’re right! And yet Newton’s laws could have been somebody else’s and they’d be exactly the same. But has anybody heard of Newton’s Hamlet?”
“Well I guess not, but still, the expression and even the limitations of the laws of gravity were conceived by Newton as a creative thinker.”
“Very good! Creativity is the foundation of the Palace of Fine Arts. Thank you for engaging my ideas. You have an inquisitive and well-ordered mind. Oh, and one more thing, Daphne, I almost forgot. In the Palace of Fine Arts, nobody’s wearing any clothes.”
“What?! You lost me.”
“Yeah, I understand that. I don’t understand why.”
“Nudity is truth. Nudity is sincerity. It allows us to see beyond social class and pretension, of which clothing is always an indicator. Paradoxically, nudity helps us see past gender, of which, again, clothing is always an indicator and even an exaggerator. And nudity encourages us not only to express ourselves unabashedly, but also to openly receive and understand the honest expressions of others.”
“Is that really how you think a college campus should be? I was starting to like your description, but not anymore.” Daphne reached up to hang a clean wineglass from the overhead rack.
“You’ve got a hole in your blouse, right where the seam meets in the armpit.”
“What? Oh, I’m sorry!” She lowered her arm.
“Why do you apologize? Why do you cover yourself up?”
“Look, I didn’t have to say anything about the hole. I just wanted to make a point. Clothes seem like our natural covering, but they aren’t. They rip and tear and get dirty and go in and out of fashion, and this is all very important for many people. Fact is: a lot of the time we don’t need clothes, we’re just conditioned to think we do.”
“Well, I’m not so sure.”
“What’s the shock? You know the basics of human anatomy, right?”
“But don’t you see? Being naked is being vulnerable. I’ve always been apprehensive about how I look, even with clothes on. Imagine being naked! I mean, I’m the kind of person who has that recurring dream about going to school naked and being laughed at! Let’s say you’re right, that maybe we can express ourselves better and understand others better in the nude. But what if you have something to hide? Everybody keeps secrets…”
“You mean like a birthmark? Or cellulite? Or that heat-of-the-moment tattoo?”
“Yeah, Professor Ross, but also psychological wounds, repressed emotions, unflattering personality quirks.”
“Ah, yes. We are all familiar with these inner afflictions. But is disrobing them worse than dressing them up, disguising them? Nobody knows what the world would be like if we could all be nude, not just physically but also emotionally.”
“I don’t know…”
“But bodily nudity is a start. And it’s a strong metaphor for spiritual nudity. We have to accept our bodies as we accept our common humanity.”
Daphne pondered this for a moment. “Do you think our bodies are just soul cages?”
Christopher swirled the rest of his drink around in the glass, watching the amber liquid catch the light. “Our bodies don’t imprison our souls. On the contrary, if it weren’t for our bodies, how could we express ourselves—our feelings, our desires, our limits and our aspirations?”
Dr. Ross, with the help of Daphne and other students and colleagues, goes on to implement a version of this ideal that rekindles interest in philosophy as well as education in general. Learning not just about naturism but within naturism is a methodological strength. It is a body-centered focus on truly mastering what we learn, and it provides a needed counterweight to our society’s obsessive reliance on the technological gadgets that store information outside our bodies.