Friday, March 15, 2013

Predictions, Suggestions, No expectations. (2739 Edwin conversation starter)

I would love to also be a part of the discussion about education with everyone back in Detroit, but I would like to keep away from writing any kind of definitive teaching philosophy. That's where the title of my online contribution comes in, there's something about a conversation that requires nuance, friction, contradiction and antagonism in order to sustain a critical conversation about alternatives to keep them from being hollow words, but keep them in the realm of contemplations that result in the slight alteration of everyday actions.

Schools and classrooms are places where particular performances of authority and hierarchies come into focus, but besides the fact that these discussions are inherently about 'future generations' of citizens, I'd like to also discuss how we understand how pedagogical concepts also impact our own lives and our own work.

This is the second introduction. Everything is going very very well in Glasgow, not specifically just my work, but what I'm learning from living here. In fact two works that I'm currently pursuing involve exploring what it means to create work within an educational framework, but I'm not going to go into those ideas, because that's what making the work is for, to explore it myself. I would however love to talk about what has been inspiring about the art scene and community groups in Glasgow, particular readings and particular works of art that may be of some use to this discussion that the show "How is your School?" at 2739 Edwin can help bring together.

I think when I was in fifth grade we read "Flowers for Algernon" a science fiction short story by Daniel Keyes and then watched the movie Charly from 1968. (See the last 2 minutes of this clip.) In that clip, the character Charly, who is meant to have undergone a procedure which made him go from dull to a genius (I imagine that he turns into Marshall McLuhan) in order to prove that he is a genius he has to answer questions from the scientific community. He mentions that in the future, he imagines TVs in every classroom and the whole audience laughs.

I too have PREDICTIONS about what the future may hold for classrooms, and I would be fascinated to find out from others if they have any as well. I can't entirely backup any of my claims but perhaps through conversations, I will be able to be more clear of their origins and have further discussions.

1. Classrooms will rely on students learning online at home and doing homework in class.
(Kahn academy, RSA animates, youtube, wikipedia and pirate bay are my reasons why.)

2. Art will be infused into all other disciplines through the use of comics to teach complex subjects.
History classes may already use Mauss, Nick Sousanis just finished his PhD in comic book form and it is becoming old news that comics are considered museum worthy, and comic courses that were once only taught in college will trickle down into middle school, not just high school. RSA animates which is linked above also connects with this idea as well to make learning more visual.

3. How education is expected to be self-funded as a bubble will burst. Non-tenured faculty will organise, corporations will sponsor more students to attend college and student loans will be the largest form of debt keeping students from actually entering the workforce with the set of skills that they went to college to 'obtain'.


Onto SUGGESTIONS, which honestly, I can understand how frustrated I would be as a teacher if anyone gave me unsolicited suggestions, but on the other hand, suggestions are one of many ways that people can engage with a topic they don't fully understand and they say a lot about what values we have and putting ones values on the table is an important form of vulnerability.

1. Two teachers to every classroom. If I could've had someone who is much more authoritative than me to help facilitate classroom projects and could teach particular skills that I didn't have, I would probably be a teacher and not be an artist. I don't want to go into arguments about what this might mean for class size, but philosophically, the idea of complicating the 'teacher as singular authority' and doubling the methods of relaying information, and checking on students is wonderful. Teaching on ones own is probably still an important thing to learn too, but if we imagine that there are infinite teaching styles, it would only make learning more fun.

2. Disconnect the funding for education with 'providing jobs' or 'funding art' or anything else. Education will always be the single most important role of society and like health care almost everyone outside of the US believes that it is a human right. It's also no coincidence that both teachers and artists tend to go far lower in compensation than any other profession when it comes to the amount of training required (and cost to be a part of the profession) for the amount of pay. Especially art teachers when one considers the fact that most art teachers spend a good amount of their own pay to afford art supplies, and when they're not doing that, there's a lot of unpaid time for preparation. Perhaps artists and teachers are devoted to their craft to a fault and we can blame it on their distaste for monetary rewards over the psychological 'flow' of the activity.

There may not be any conclusive evidence between funding for schools vs. funding prisons, but education should not have to prove its worth year after year, there needs to be an assumption that if someone has the drive and potential to achieve a PhD they deserve to have everyone get out of their way as they blaze a trail. See: Francis McKee, received his free education from Northern Ireland (which is no longer the case today), and went on to create art jobs that didn't exist such as starting Glasgow International, I believe he aided Glasgow's connection to the Venice Biennale, started the Third Eye Archives and became director of the Centre for Contemporary Arts. When he leaves those jobs he's invented everyone desperately wants that position.

Education makes jobs which make money, as opposed to demanding that everyone become 'educated' to perform a particular job, and on top of that, pay to become 'educated'.

Btw, I think we should actually try to lure away Francis McKee to Detroit, I think Glasgow has done pretty well having him around and if he knows what's good for him and wants to keep his life from getting too tedious, he should set his sights on bringing great art criticism to Detroit and it already has everything he professes he's interested in...

3. All teachers (not teaching institutions) should be exempt from copywritten software, books, movies and educational tools. We should all steal resources and share them with other teachers, I have been doing this for years and the end goal is always not to accumulate or even to distribute, but to encourage a culture where recipes, different ways of working, and ideas cannot be privatised or owned, but are meant to be shared, used and made even more useful. I am currently sharing all of the tools in my studio, and many of these tools have come from past students, I also help show people how to put pirated software on their computers. I don't know why so many people are obsessed with making lots of money as opposed to lots of people making lots of ideas, must have something to do with neoliberalism, capitalism and the American dream...


NO-EXPECTATIONS, which perhaps may come off as pessimism, but these are things I just don't expect to see it will ever change in my lifetime concerning education, but it will always be a struggle. On the other hand, having no-expectations is the most healthy outlook one could possibly have.

1. Schools will still remain as segregated from each other as the separation between rich and poor. We may have great information about the importance of pre-kindergarten education and how to let kids learn as opposed to making them learn, all of these ground breaking 'discoveries' will only be applied to the schools that can afford to implement heavily researched programs. I can't help but to bring up season 4 of The Wire and how great the whole series is... but then again, things like Catherine Ferguson Academy give me hope...

2. It will be years and years until teachers will be able to implement what we (cognitive scientists, psychologists, behavioral economics etc) discover about the human mind in useful ways into the classroom. Just because we get closer to having definitive explanations of our human irrationalities and placebo affects, it doesn't actually mean that we will learn to live without them. I read somewhere that when we consider how much of what we do in 'public' is a performance, the more we will realise that we will never be able to remove the artificiality and get closer to the 'real' so if anything we should understand what it means to embody these 'performances' better, smarter and with less pretention and give up the notion that we aren't 'performing'. 

We are closer to tricking ourselves into doing something positive than when we are being hyper-aware of this goal of doing something positive, because we tend to derail ourselves. Also consider the strange notion that when something is avant-garde or radical it is attributed with a particular date, ("The society of midwestern socialist magicians 1963-1967") it's as if it's impossible to do amazing things and to have it impact others without us waiting for it to end so that we can become nostalgic about the event. Perhaps its because as Sister Corita Kent (and John Cage) once said, "Don't try to create and analyse at the same time. They're different processes."

3. Any model that works in Glasgow or in Detroit or works anywhere in the world will not be possible to implement somewhere with even a 70% success rate. Somehow we became obsessed with the idea of education having 'models' in the first place and that seems to go against how fluid the idea of education needs to be in order for it to be effective. As much as I'd love to talk a lot about how inspired I am by skill-sharing communities such as GalGael or the free civic services such as the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre where you can tour their stores of over a million objects in the city's collection, I just can't expect to pick up what I love over here and try to implement it back in Detroit and vice versa. 

I will say that I am amazed at the level and diversity of people that pack in to hear a forum on art and economy and it makes for a difficult to attend art events if you don't arrive early or buy tickets early, which is still a good thing. When I tried to attend a film festival showing art films by recent MFA graduates, so many of them were sold out and I had to hang around and beg to be let in, who do you attribute that kind of success of engagement with the general public? Is it because the programming is so enticing? Is it because people in Glasgow are culturally brought up to attend things and to be outspoken during the Q&A? It would be impossible to just want that from Detroit as well overnight, because well… it probably starts with having a culture that values education from many avenues.

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