…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!