Defending On-Line Witch Schools
Article ID: 12631
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: July 13th. 2008
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I was recently listening to some pretty serious “on-line witch school” bashing and I had some real issues with the statements that were being made. Books have their place, live teachers have their place, and on-line schools (aka “distance learning”) have their place as well. Everyone learns differently, and what works for one person may not work for another.
First of all, yes there are bad schools and unscrupulous schools. Just like there are bad teachers and unscrupulous teachers, and entire covens at that. On-line schools are no better or worse than live and in-person schools or teachers in this respect. Caveat emptor in all of these cases.
Before you start taking lessons with anyone in any format, look into their background. What are they using as a basis for their claim to be able to teach you anything useful? Where did they learn? How long have they been practicing? And yes, do they have references?
With something that is completely unregulated like witchcraft, anyone can make up credentials and cover them with the excuse that their covens were secret mystery traditions and they are not allowed to reveal details. There are plenty of people who are able and willing to describe their backgrounds in some detail –avoid anyone who doesn’t.
And just because you find a good school, some of the individual teachers can still be “duds”.
Likewise, be very wary of anyone who is charging money. It is generally considered unethical to charge money for teaching the craft. This applies to live and to on-line schools, and applies to direct payments, the use of advertising on their web site, and the requirement to purchase kits or supplies as part of the course. Even someone hawking his or her own book needs to be considered carefully – especially if it’s an expensive hardcover edition.
Of course, people need to pay for their web server and other actual materials or perhaps for meeting space if it’s a live event, but they should be able to clearly justify what expenses they are incurring and why they are asking you to pay for a part of it.
In general, though, no one should be profiting from the teaching of witchcraft (which is not to say they shouldn’t be covering their expenses). We could also discuss whether there should be such a thing as a full-time teacher or even High Priest or Priestess, but that’s a different discussion.
One advantage that on-line schools have is that you don’t have to worry about the creepy people that are looking to set up a school or coven in order to take advantage of others – especially sexually.
The main argument I’ve heard is that attending an on-line school is no better than going out and buying a good witchcraft 101 book. While this may or may not be true for the actual class material itself, and here only for the text-based material, this is only part of the on-line school experience.
A book can provide basic text and graphics, but these can be augmented on-line with audio and video to provide better examples and a richer experience. How much easier is it to demonstrate a procedure or some step in a ritual with a video clip? How about using an audio clip to demonstrate a chant or song? And these multi-media forms can be downloaded onto an iPod or similar device, which makes them even more accessible.
But that’s just the beginning. A good on-line school provides a teacher as a resource, giving you someone who can answer specific questions. This interactive assistance can be extremely valuable both to help clarify something about the class topic and also to answer questions on topics not directly covered in the main curriculum.
Any good on-line school will have forums or blogs where students can share their experiences with each other about the material they are learning. Again, this is a huge benefit to helping you get through the lessons.
Testing and grading is a big benefit that an on-line school has over a book as well. Some books do have quizzes at the end of each chapter, but a book can’t comment on your answers and correct you where needed or answer questions about the quiz.
Good on-line schools will also offer community forums where students can start and share conversations on other witchcraft-related (but not necessarily class-related) topics. Yes, there are many good on-line pagan communities out there, but those people are not going through the same learning stages that you will be and therefore won’t have the same frame of reference.
I’m not suggesting that the on-line school communities replace other on-line communities, but they are certainly a useful place to discuss issues with others studying the same material.
Clearly a good on-line school has serious advantages over just reading a book. I think reading a book is a great place to start, and they make good references, but an on-line class is a great next step. The other argument people will set forth is that an on-line class is a waste of time – you just can’t learn witchcraft any other way but in person. They will typically make this same argument against book-learning as well.
While it is true that a live teacher can offer many advantages, there are also drawbacks. If you are trying to learn a specific tradition, especially an initiatory one, then yes you really need to find a live teacher who has credentials in that tradition. On the other hand, if you are forging the path of a solitary, it is not imperative to find a live teacher.
There are many other reasons why you may not start off initially with a live teacher. You might live in an area where there simply isn’t anyone nearby to study with. There might not be anyone whose path is close enough to yours to be useful. Even if you have the opportunity to study with someone in person, it’s always good to learn the basics first and you can definitely get that from books or on-line classes.
Finally, as we discussed before, it is difficult to pick a good teacher, and there are many phonies and worse out there. The more you know before searching for a teacher, the more of an informed decision you can make in your selection. Books can help you learn enough to select a good on-line school, and that can in turn prepare you to pick out a good live teacher.
So yes, it’s wonderful if you can connect with a good live teacher nearby that you can study with. For many, however, this is not possible. Even when it is possible, it is always good to start out with some knowledge of the basics.
Definitely start out reading a few good books – but moving to an on-line school is a very reasonable next step.
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