Caution and Paralysis

I’ve been trying to figure out how to teach a couple of classes — one in interactive fiction, another in computer-based music-making. I’m sure there would be enough interest to fill a couple of small classes (say, 8 to 10 students each) if the price were kept reasonable. The difficulty is figuring out where to hold the classes.

I have several options, all of them problematical.

If I had no more than half a dozen students, I could easily teach a class out of my home. The sticking point is liability insurance. Insurance is a peculiarly post-World War II issue. Seventy-five years ago, during the depths of the Great Depression, anybody who had the expert knowledge to teach a course in their dining room would certainly have done so if they needed the money. They would never have considered that they needed liability insurance. Homeowner’s insurance didn’t exist at all in the 1930s.

What has changed?

Society is less homogenous than it was 75 years ago. Because of increased physical mobility and the concomitant weakening of the bonds of community, you’re more likely to run into people who have no reason not to cause trouble if they see an advantage in it. So the risk of inviting strangers into your home is undoubtedly a bit higher. And my impression (not researched) is that there’s more litigation per capita than formerly, which means the probability of your getting sued is higher.

The intrusiveness of government regulation also plays a role. Seventy-five years ago, auto insurance wasn’t mandatory. (Massachusetts was the first state to make it mandatory, in 1927; other states followed suit by the 1940s.) Health insurance was, I’m sure, a rarity in those days. In effect, then, we’ve been softened up by the insurance industry, which has fostered an environment of pervasive low-level fear. Unless we have coverage, we’re paralyzed.

I’ve looked around for other venues where I might teach. The local library has rooms available, but they won’t let me charge students a fee; I’d have to teach for free, as a volunteer. (Gee, I wonder what bean-brained bureaucrat thought that one up. Let’s see — we’ll deprive our clientele of high-quality content by structuring the use of the facility so that people who really know their subject matter and are not already wealthy will have to go elsewhere.)

There are empty buildings downtown, no more than a few blocks from here, but … well, I’m betting whoever owns the building would have issues with liability insurance. If I were a church-goer, I could approach my church about using one of their meeting rooms. But alas, I’m not. I’m almost hypocritical enough to join a church (probably the Unitarians) purely to have access to their facilities, but I like going to the gym on Sunday mornings. Exercise is a high priority for me.

Maybe I’ll buy a great big tent and put it out in the back yard. That way at least I won’t have hordes of students invading my home. Except that they’ll need to use the bathroom, and — no, wait. I don’t have a back yard, so that’s out.

Guess I’ll have to come up with some other creative approach.

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1 Response to Caution and Paralysis

  1. Conrad says:

    The local library has rooms available, but they won’t let me charge students a fee; I’d have to teach for free, as a volunteer.

    So teach at the Library beginner, entry-level, gee-this-is-cool classes, and distribute material with your facebook page, and so on, which has an open forum and a closed one for paying members.

    Look up the “freemium” business model for the basic approach.


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