Punks hate hippies…

Don't mess with it...

…so I got a real kick when Rick Schwier invoked Abbie Hoffman in his edupunk post. Which reminded me of this riff from Steal This Book:

Too many college radicals are two-timing punks. The only reason you should be in college is to destroy it. If there is stuff that you want to learn though, there is a way to get a college education absolutely free. Simply send away for the schedule of courses at the college of your choice. Make up the schedule you want and audit the classes. In smaller classes this might be a problem, but even then, if the teacher is worth anything at all, he’ll let you stay. In large classes, no one will ever object. [My emphasis, with apologies for the sexist hippie language.]

I’ll get back to the ‘destroying college’ part in a moment. But it seems all too easy and all too relevant to ponder what Hoffman suggests about auditing classes for free and consider how online environments change the equation. If you are an educator, are you really prepared to withhold learning from someone just because they can’t pay for it, or because they haven’t been approved by some admissions process? And does the fact that you can share what you do without any extra effort whatsoever (‘in large classes, no one will ever object’) mean anything to you?

I admit to a sense of wonder mixed with unease watching a provocative and inspiring series of posts on edupunk from Jim Groom (starting here) exploding through our corner of the blogosphere. Speaking for myself, I’m a middle-aged family man with a fantastic job at a university, and higher education is something I want to play a small part in strengthening and reinvigorating, not in destroying. If I were to explicitly adopt the label I’d feel a bit like one of those ‘two-timing punks’ that Hoffman derides. (That’s not meant to criticize others who feel differently, many of them are among my favorite people anywhere.)

But reading the many posts, pro and con, that have so rapidly proliferated has me asking questions about how we practice this profession.

* Are you troubled by how power and money are manifested in society, not to mention our classrooms and our educational institutions? Do you feel like the human race can continue as it is?

* Do you think that learning is a basic human right function? Are practices that gratuitously withdraw learning into a circumscribed domain apart from the rest of the world inhumane and counter-productive?

* Are you committed to practices that place as much power in the hands of individuals as possible, while making sharing and collaboration as easy as possible? How much of what we presently license out are we already able to do ourselves?

I don’t have an acid test for how those questions must be answered. But if you are engaging those issues honestly and directly, then I want to party with you. And I don’t care if its EduPunk or EduStringQuartet that defines the aesthetic.

My characteristic discomfort with labels aside, the explosion of posts on edupunk demonstrates that people want to ask the kinds of question I raise above. People are asking themselves if they are resisting or reinforcing dangerous tendencies, discussing that honestly with their peers, and I’m very much heartened by that. Edupunk must die! Long live edupunk!

BONUS! This whole phenomenon has led someone to suggest that me and my friends are immature thugs with fascist (maybe even latent Nazi) leanings. I guess that makes us Brownhoodies. I’m reasonably sure this is the first time my work has been associated with Nazism, however indirectly. This from the same fellow who says we seek to ‘infantilize’ discussion via hyperbole. (Check out Stephen and Bill respond.)

As for “perpetual adolescence and self-indulgence”… where’s the party?

** Many thanks to Serena for her fine work messing with the image above!

6 thoughts on “Punks hate hippies…

  1. As someone who used to gatecrash philosophy and computer science courses while i was doing an electronics degree, I completely believe in “if the teacher is worth anything at all, he’ll let you stay.”

    And it’s one of the hugely problematic things I’m faced with as an educator (?!) in a distance learning organisation, where we don’t even let students have access to materials from the online courses they’ve taken (paid for) a month or two after they’ve finished them, let alone open them up to anyone who wants to wander by, even if they are registered on other courses we offer…

    Which is partly why I’ve started drafting materials for future courses /in public/ – such as on my Digital Worlds uncourse blog…

    After all, if the materials are only in draft form, haven’t been edited and checked, and aren’t paced by a published curriculum or course calendar, then I’m not really given our distance ed courses away, right? And if the uncourse blog is on a public web domain, then it’s reader beware and obviously not an officially sanctioned or released course?

    Maybe…

  2. Great post (as was your intense and awesome last one)…you’re right, the labels themselves may be wrong, but there is probably an ethos hidden in this (bad) label that could be a force for good over time.

    And I liked edujazz better, but EduStringQuartet could work.

  3. Now that’s fun, Brian! I’m sitting here in my office, paid for by tax dollars, ka-chunking up another day of salary, paid for by tax dollars, and reviewing applications to our program — a big part of which includes deciding who won’t have access to a lot of what we do. Owww!

    I guess I can take some small comfort in knowing that along with a lot of people, I’m trying to open up the system, making as much of it as I can free and accessible. But I guess there’s no denying that I’m part of the system that excludes others. And I love universities and higher education, all the while disliking their exclusivity. There’s the dichotomy.

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