Invictus 3: A New Start, and a Little Messed Up

If I’m truthful, I started the Invictus project because I don’t believe the education system is set up to teach students everything they need to know.

Without question, rigor and standards have fallen throughout the years, and we too often cater to the ego of the students. While these elements of education bother me, they aren’t the only problem. In the race to create standardization across all universities, we have created a college curriculum that focuses less on learning, and more on evaluation measures. We have bought into the ill-advised line of thought that our job is train workers.

That is not the job of a university professor; that is the job of the corporation.

My job is to help students master the basics of logic and reasoning, of communication, of networking, and of creating. In many ways, my job is to help them understand what they want to master, and help them attain the skills they will need when they venture forth into the world.

As my life is built around storytelling and writing, I find my job is built around teaching younglings the art of that trade (in written, digital, and transmedia forms). Unfortunately (and through no single fault), universities are structured very badly for this endeavor because I am forced to create arbitrary deadlines with 10-point grade systems, elements that do not encourage the free-thought needed to sink into the notion of storytelling.

To get around this, I launched The Invictus Writers. I hand selected my students. I refused to give them college credit. And I made them pancakes at my home on two Saturdays a month. During those meetings, we discussed storytelling, life, writing, friends, humans, pets, love, heartbreak, and pain.

We spent no time on grades. Or critiques.

We spent time exploring what it means to write. Out of that process, two different groups published books.

You would think this success would prompt me to continue my group as an unaffiliated writing project.

You would think.

***

On Tuesday, January 8, I launched Invictus 3 as a university class. Gone are the pancake Saturdays, replaced by regular class meeting times. Gone are the free-wheeling discussions, replaced by a syllabus (for what it is) and deadlines.

I am nervous about the prospects. Not because I doubt the students. They are once again hand-picked. I know they will produce book-quality work.

No, I’m nervous because we are now arbitrarily defined not only by writing, but also by a university. We are not free to succeed and fail on our own; we are part of a larger institution, one that by definition is not set up to promote the idea of writing and writers.

We are fitting our little band of pranksters into a pre-existing condition, one not covered by universal education.

I don’t know how this is going to work out, or what will become of my young writers. I know our first week contained the type of discussion that used to fill my living room. There were tears. There was frustration. There was awe. There was bonding.

There was the spark of what will become.

And they even asked if I’d make pancakes for them, which I have agreed to do.

Pancakes in a college classroom, where students are exploring the depths of what it means to exist and trying to find the stories in the world around them.

This isn’t what you’d call a “normal” classroom, but as Invictus 3 is already finding out: We’re all a little messed up anyway.

We’ve decided to go with it.

I hope you’ll join us along the way.