Noodle Expert Alexander Baack explains his longstanding dislike of school (and how he’s learned to cope), his reasons for sending a student to New York City, and his admiration for the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
There are so many, both living (John Taylor Gatto, Noam Chomsky, the Dalai Lama, Martin Scorsese) and gone (William Shakespeare, Mary Ellen Mark, John Holt, Stanley Kubrick, Gandhi, Arthur Miller, Leonard Cohen), but at the moment my pick would be Thich Nhat Hanh, who seems to be the one whose simple words have the deepest, most direct, and positive impact on how I feel about myself and others.
If I’m walking down the street and a piano falls on my head, it may not be my fault, but it’s my responsibility. The advice came from myself.
First, I would have the student be quiet for a minute and see where her insides tell her to go. Failing that, I might send her to New York City. It’s filled with people from all around the world, and it can lead to anywhere (which is why Times Square is called the crossroads of the world). And once you’ve conquered New York, everywhere else is less daunting, which is helpful.
The first day of third grade was the beginning of my total academic failure, which lasted ten years (the entire remainder of my time at school). It was the day I realized that school was a farce and a cruel form of incarceration. This was a revelation I could neither escape, recover from, nor pretend I didn’t know about. It was only years later — when I realized I was far from alone in those feelings — that I began healing from that experience.
After high school I went into film and theatre, though I felt a twinge of guilt at the time (I knew I would make a good teacher and there were probably kids who could’ve used me). But now I’m working towards starting new, democratic schools in addition to plans to build a public awareness campaign for alternative education, all in conjunction with my film work and it’s very rewarding. My dream is to create many safe, human places where true learning and growth can occur to help the next generations. I’ll let you know how different it all is from my expectations after I reach my lofty goals.