Three Founding Principles

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?


Speculation as to our origin story as a species has existed, well, probably since our origin — or since we conceived a language that could effectively tell the story.


But what about the origin story of the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System?


Recently, we unearthed a fossil (OK, maybe not that old) from 1988: an interview with Anatomy In Clay founder, Jon Zahourek (Jon Zahourek, Anatomical Revolutionary—Massage Therapy Journal, Summer Issue 1988).


The 32-year-old clip helps explain our origin story: the ideas that spawned and continue to sustain the learning system as we know it. In what follows we will offer three of these (certainly unofficial) guiding principles.


The first is Construction, Not Deconstruction.


Before Anatomy in Clay, there had been a traditional approach to the learning and teaching of anatomy that was “particularly rigid because… it has depended on death,” said Zahourek.


Think about it: if you are not working off of two dimensions (an image, a page in a book), you are working with a corpse. Both options are lifeless—at their worst, one is a turn-off, and the other, a scare factor—an aspect that frustrated Zahourek in his early days as a drawer and instructor at the Parsons School of Design, the renowned art and design institution in New York City.


The MANIKEN®, TORZIKEN®, and EQUIKEN® models resolve that issue—the student is constructing, building, creating the very thing that they are learning.


The second rule is Know Thyself.

“We are a series of ideas that the cells have erected upon themselves… If you know yourself, if you even begin to know yourself, you are introduced to every bit of the world around you.” One can take this statement as abstract and global, but let’s take it literally for a second. Humans, as a species, share multiple anatomical similarities with bats, bear, horses, whale, cats, monkeys.


Zahourek laments a tendency in early education that suppresses students’ own bodily awareness. From a young age, “it’s like [children] have been told ‘Don’t touch that. That’s for the doctor or the nurse. They’re going to take care of your body.’ ” After all, they “know” better than we do.


This is a peculiarly Western tradition that caught on hundreds of years ago when a Frenchman by the name of René Descartes, claimed, in his sixth Meditation, that the body is an “extended and unthinking thing.” The comment helped lay the groundwork for what is known today as the mind-body dualism.


Yet there are plenty of reasons that mind and body are not as separate as we have been made to think. [For further reading, see The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk.]


Take, for example, the proprioceptive sense, an aspect of bodily awareness that Zahourek says makes up a “third of the mind.” Proprioception, often referred to as the “sixth sense,” is the neuromuscular interchange that allows us to catch a glass that falls from the counter, or to regain our balance when we trip—actions that the body takes before the conscious mind realizes it.


In Zahorek’s mind, the “self” and the “world” should make up the yin and the yang of education, co-dependent and constantly flowing in and out from each other. Yet the average student’s education often takes a path away from the body and out into the world. All of a sudden, knowing “things” are more important than knowing one’s “self.”


Which brings us to our third, and final, unofficial guiding principle: Learn For Learning’s Sake.

Learn not necessarily to sharpen the mind, but to hone the soul. Zahourek bemoans the pragmatism that often drives specialization in professional and educational fields.


“The fact that people have practical reasons for wanting to know is a hell of an obstacle because they have already channelized what it’s going to do for them.”


Zahourek harks against the mind’s tendency to create categories, for “these categories exist only in the fears we set up and indulge because they give us the freedom to be irresponsible.”


The interview in full can be read here .

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