EDUPUNK Battle Royale, Part 2

EDUPUNK Battle Royale, Part 2

Thanks to Gerry Bayne for turning this around so quick —I think the next three videos will be coming out sooner than later. I just saw this for the first time minutes ago, and I have to say that this is where Gardner and I really start to dig deep into questions that we have been talking about for years, namely the idea of leadership in institutions.

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19 Responses to EDUPUNK Battle Royale, Part 2

  1. now THAT was a fascinating discussion. I love Gardo’s point about a leader – whether or not Jim wants to be a leader, he is one, even if only spiritually. He IS The Reverend after all. Would the UMWBlogs community have formed without the preachings from the pulpit? Without the revival tents?

    and I love Jim’s point about there being no single leader, that we all are leaders by the nature of distributed power. But I really think Gardo is onto something. It’s like a seed crystal – without the smallest spec of matter, nothing will form. But given even the slightest core upon which to build, amazing things can happen all on their own, without direct leadership or control.

    can’t wait for the next episode.

  2. Scott Leslie says:

    can’t wait for the next parts…I think this one backed off a little too much from the power of the edupunk critique of corporations owning the means of education. And Gardner’s right, it *isn’t* about *reforming* institutions, rhizomatic actions never are.

  3. Steven Egan says:

    Sounds like leadership in the same way as good teacher. The leader is the one who facilitates the processes needed for the process to happen. Yet, at the same time it is included that the “leader” is a figurehead to inspire the group, and works best when the leader doesn’t want to be a solitary hero that saves the day and gets the glory.

    That’s one of the biggest problems with how we humans make organizations and leadership, we ask for volunteers who want to be leaders. Thus, they take upon themselves the solitary hero persona that supposedly saved the day, rather than just being a more visible facilitator.

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  5. Jared Stein says:

    Loving it and waiting for the next meaty chunk. Tofu chunk for you eduhippies.

  6. Laura says:

    Very interesting. And boy, did I miss you at NV for just this reason. I do think Gardner’s on to something about you being a leader, especially when I look at the success of UMW blogs compared to BMC blogs (it’s likely that that will die on the vine in the not to distant future). But I also understand your gesture toward not accepting that leader title because you drew on the support of the ed tech bloggers and your colleagues, including some very supportive faculty like Gardner, to build UMW blogs. In your mind, it was a collective project and couldn’t have succeed if it hadn’t been.

    Partly because of the not so fabulous success of BMC blogs, I lost some faith in higher ed institutions. To me, they don’t want to give power to the faculty and students (or even the staff) to build what they want/need for their own learning. They want to have top-down control. And Blackboard offers that. Think about all the assessment tools Bb is implementing. They may say it’s for learning, but it’s like NCLB on steroids. Those tools in the wrong hands . . .

    I think Gardner recognizes that that kind of blatant democratization scares the crap out of a lot of administrators. He wants to make the perfect diplomatic argument to convince the powers that be to move away from the likes of Blackboard. I understand that need. I’m sympathetic to it. I just think that many of us feel that there’s no time for that. Some diplomacy sure, but not the perfect argument.

  7. Mikhail says:

    This is fascinating. I’m looking forward to where you take it, Jim. It seems like you are broaching a notion of something like auteur theory in ed tech or even the blogosphere in general. Great stuff, as expected.

  8. Leslie M-B says:

    This is such an excellent conversation. I think both you and Gardner are correct. Does that mean I’m clueless or just that I’m exhibiting Keats’s negative capability?

  9. Andy Best says:

    Gardener lost me from the beginning with that kind of reactionary shallow dismissal of ‘punk’ or ‘hippies’. Those cultures were mainly about DIY, ie building your own community and activities.

    A facilitator in the model of Friere or Boal is not a leader and he wouldn’t let Jim make those distinctions with more nuance by cutting him off continuously and then demanding to be let finish when he was speaking himself.

    I think through talking about the facilitator or collaborative roles in reference to UMW blogs, Jim could have shown how ‘Edupunk’ is not just a shallow slogan.

  10. Reverend says:

    It kinda reminds me of a conversation you and I had at NV 08 when getting dinner in the pre-conference party. You basically said stay away from labels and idea of a single technology or brand like WordPress or Drupal, and it was in response to Mader’s lame-ass pushing. That said, what was key about that when we talked was the idea of taking the things out of the discussion that will crystallize it within a thing or a person, let it remains as fluid as the concepts that provided the vision to explore around. I hold that dear, and I think that is where leadership, celebrity and the like become dangerous in my mind. The want to manifest responsibility within a person or a thing, and while it may seem good and honorable, it just as quickly becomes a reification of a person or a thing which replaces the generative idea. I like to think of it with the literary term synecdoche, or literally Greek for simultaneous meaning (which is interesting given so many people at once are creating this meaning, not one “leader”), in literature it refers to “a term denoting a part of something is used to refer to the whole thing.” A conflation of a part of something, for the thing, and that happens all to often with leadership through power, and I don;t ever feel comfortable with that relation, because once it becomes embodied within someone or something, we lose sight of the fact that power and compassion exists between people as a relation that is fluid and invisible, not a figure head of right.

    I can’t help but agree with you a little bit, and I blame mself for this because whenever I talk with Gardner I always return to leadership, it is my Achilles Heal when talking about it, but I need the therapy because i so distrust it 🙂

    Also, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and perhaps some Dave Cormier, would have served me well in this discussion, alas all I had was Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch 🙂

    I think you are right in many ways, but that point of visibility is a key one, and it refers to a certain amount of power in many respects. Think about it, those who are more visible facilitating conversations on the internet no are situation differently in a relation of power with other bloggers etc. It is something that must be acknowledged, because to pretend it doesn’t exist is potentially to erase the emergence of ways of seeing that come to dominate fields and ideas. That said, think of someone like Downes who is certainly a visible figure with power who goes out of his way to read widely and constantly incorporate new ideas and bloggers into this field. He’s an interesting example for the facilitator with power, yet also refusing to rest on that assumption or be carried away with it. I respect that immensely, and it returns this relationship to a personal one, not brand per se, but to search for something that doesn’t necessarily depend on institutional power. I don’t know, this stuff fascinates me right now, and I think Scott’s example of the rhizome above is important, must return to this.

    No eduhippies read this blog! Only skate punks like yourself 🙂

    It is I who wish you were there in that room with me when Gardner was talking, because your last point about the perfect, diplomatic argument is precisely what Gardner wants. He does recognize the importance of compromise and give and take, but he’s an idealist (and I say that knowing I am full-well too) and he wants the words the idea to cut through everything else and make it all possible. I agree with him to some degree, but I just don’t know, like you, if it will happen within the hierarchical, money driven logic of our institutions. It will happen in other spaces, creative spaces that don’t necessarily depend on those same ideas of power, privilege, and entitlement. That is a real issue, and that is why I don’t think institutions need to even be part of the discussion of EDUPUNK, despite the fact that we live and work within them, we don’t need to creatively inhabit them as well. Why should all our energy go to them, they sap enough of our life. Right?

    I tried to broach auteur theory, but I think my attempts failed, you can tell me what you think when three comes out. But I started the leadership path, and Gardner really framed his argument beautifully, and had me agreeing with him, rightly, on several occasions. His vision of leadership has many strong arguments, and I think we needed to unpack that term a bit more, as you and I talked about. In fact, I was under his leadership for a while, and it accomplished so many of the things he argued for, but what happened? Leadership leads to ambition? I don’t know, but their is a hunger through that sense of self that comes with leadership that scares me.

    It means you’re a leader, because you are diplomatically making the perfect argument that Laura suggested couldn’t be made, congratulations 🙂


    Hey, hey, hey, spoken like a true punk taking over the Shanghai scene. I think Gardner does tend to over simplify the cultural impact of punk and hippie to some degree, as do I. I think that’s where the neccessitating a kind of literal cross-over between the term edupunk and the punk movement is far less generative than destructively polemical.It becomes an academic question, not a creative charge. So, I agree with you there, at the same time the creative charge I get out of talking with Gardner makes up for his cutting me off, although he is rhetorically brilliant here by making me a leader and effectively highlighting my own sense of self and ego, that is always uncomfortable in that space, to make a compelling argument for the idea of recognition, honor and tradition. All points he nails. Also, i think you are right, the very communal instance of UMW Blogs speaks about a model that is not about leaders, but people doing it together, and the irony there is Gardner and I did much of the early stages hand in hand, which made this discussion that much more fun and cool.

  11. Andy Best says:

    I feel that while your work on WordPress is a ‘leading example’ of how someone might interpret Edupunk – the term and idea itself still inspires in an important way.

    Inspiring or agitating is not the same as leading. The kind of leading that Edupunk opposes is a top down agenda of control. Jim groom dos not have top down control of ‘edupunk’ and does not tailor it to suit sinister purposes.

    As much as you two worked together and all that, in this video at least, he is blurring those distinctions to score rhetorical points in the debate sense. It’s far off the real meanings.

    For me, hearing ‘Edupunk’ greatly empowered the progressive work I was trying to do myself at the time.

    It is important not to bring it down purely because of the misplaced and illogical debating idea of the compromise … ie BB is wrong, Edupunk seems extreme too, the correct way should be somewhere in between.

    Better stick to facts and examples.

  12. Reverend says:

    See, that’s why I resist any one notion of EDUPUNK, because what I would ultimately think it is or means would preclude so many more cool things. I think at its heart, if it is anything, it is an inspirational space like you suggest. A creative edge by which to challenge some of the assumptions suffocating higher ed, and our culture more generally. I’m with you in that all the way. I also like the idea of sticking to specific examples, when I think back to the follow-up of the Glass Bees post, what followed was a simple stream of examples rather than a statement or manifesto. I really appreciate you returning some of those ideas here, because I wonder if something like this video both attempts to examine the idea while at the same time potentially diluting its power and inspirational value. I don’t know, I guess that is why embodying it within any one person, idea, discussion, or technology is dangerous and must be avoided.

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  14. Leslie M-B says:

    I see how punk can function as an interesting metaphor for the larger project of challenging educational practices that are no longer useful yet remain institutionalized. But honestly, the metaphor leaves me a little cold, since I missed the punk bandwagon, generationally speaking. Edufolk–in the vein of Pete Seeger–now that really speaks to me quite a bit because my parents were closet hippies and raised me to be one, too. But that’s the problem with music metaphors, isn’t it? Our tastes are so varied that selecting any one musical genre as a metaphor is going to damper the enthusiasm of someone who might otherwise be evangelical about the revolution.

    Regardless of what you call it, Jim, I like that you’re galvanizing people around an idea that learners should embrace a DIY spirit, act collaboratively, be resourceful and scrappy, and remain suspicious of institutional directives.

    • Reverend says:


      Yeah, therein lies the rub. So many folks have had such a hard time dealing with the idea of punk in this conversation, which is kind of fun. What I like about the term, as much as any other, is the fact that it does introduce something strident to a vocabulary about teaching and learning that has become so prescriptive and bland. Ideas like 21st Century Skills, PLN, PLE, connectivism, etc., they all have their value, but they are all such edtechspeak and rob the space of some kind of cultural, imaginative infusion, and therein lies my attachment to this idea. But I recognize it as a term, and I am far more interested in its real world manifestations than defending its honor 🙂

  15. Barbara says:

    Great conversation here (though I must say, much as I love him, I think Gardner is lecturing more than discussing, a problem with leaders ;-)). Indeed, he seems even to be supporting paternalistic authority structures or charismatic leadership through his impossible idealism (such patience has contributed, I believe, to the deep inertia within our institutions) –in classrooms this often reads as the cult of the teacher, something I saw as incredibly dangerous. If we look to leaders, we often abdicate our responsibility for active participation. (Look at what’s happening right now with all the armchair presidents criticizing Obama from the comfort of their chairs–it is so easy to talk, so difficult to act.) I see edupunk as a push to take that responsibility, all of us.

    I’m with Margaret Mead (who I seem to be quoting frequently these days): “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Citizens. Group. Small.

  16. Gardner says:

    Harsh words, Barbara. And how paternity enters the discussion here is not at all clear to me. It’s a big smooth rock and easy to throw, especially at a male.

    Would you call Margaret Mead a leader? I would. Would you call Barack Obama a leader? I would. Are they complicit with paternalistic zubzubzub? I don’t think so. Are they impossibly idealistic? Some have criticized them for that. As I recall, many folks criticized Obama for “empty rhetoric” too, another big smooth rock that’s easy to throw. As if stumbling, halting, inarticulate speech is some guarantee of grassroots authenticity. Of DIY. Of sincerity.

    And I also hear the criticisms of Obama for lecturing, for being too professorial. As I recall, Hillary Clinton was also criticized on these grounds. I don’t recall hearing Bubba Dubya ever being accused of lecturing, though I do think he’s pretty well plugged in to the malignant structures of leadership sustained by men and women.

    Would the US be better off without a president? Depends on the president, I guess. Can presidents make a difference that no one else can make? I’d say so. Can they do it all by themselves? Never.

    As I think about it, I wonder what “impossibly idealistic” can possibly mean. Naively hopeful? Too non-violent? What can this mean? Should I become “possibly idealistic” and understand–well, understand what? That no reformation is possible? OK, let’s say that’s true. Then what? What should we abolish? What should we promote? And how?

    Citizens are constituted by a nation. And it took leaders, sacrificial leaders, with the hard work of many citizens, to constitute that nation. The results sure aren’t perfect, but I think the recent election showed at least some capacity for self-correction. If that’s an impossibly idealistic statement, then I’m guilty as charged. I won’t cop to “lecturing” in this video, though. I don’t think that’s fair.

  17. Barbara says:

    I’m sorry, Gardner, that you felt my words were harsh. I intended to be direct, but not hurtful. And so I apologize for that. And I apologize for calling your impassioned side of this bit of the larger conversation “lecturing,” for I can see that you were trying to engage with Jim. Forgive me for that.


    I do believe that our educational institutions follow paternalistic authority models. My response was framed within that world. I was not lobbing easy gender bombs here but naming something for what I truly think it is. Women are as complicit in holding up these institutional values as are men. I could have called on Freire, too, and his banking model, which boils down to the same thing. Your stance on leadership that calls on us to work with patience and quiet perseverance from the inside will, I fear, be too slow to allow us to step into this opening we have right now to change the fundamental structures of our institutions. What change have we really seen in 100 years? That’s what I mean by “impossibly idealistic” and actually working in service of those structure. We have a window here to move intentionally in a new direction. Let’s not be patient.

    I have nothing against lectures as lectures, leaders writ small. That was not my point at all. I said nothing about empty rhetoric. I think that leaders (male and female alike–Hilary Clinton, surely) are so often called upon to do more than is possible for one human, and also often fall prey to the seductiveness of their own voices.

    I don’t want to lead or to be led–I want to do, in concert with many others, to act, to speak out as we are doing here. That’s what edupunk means to mean. That I spoke harshly or unfairly, I am sorry. I look forward to behaving better when we engage with this question at SXSW.

  18. Andy Best says:

    Really nice idea introducing the idea of ‘Edufolk’ as a synonym and I liked Jim’s response.

    I think language has the power to create action but also the power to divert or co-opt.

    A lot of this, for example, came out of BB using terms like ‘open’.

    ‘Edupunk’ leads to a sense of urgency and action, it is empowering and seems to cut through corporate language and wishy-washy edu-terminology. It leads to action and active thought.

    Watching the videos, never mind Jim, obviously Gardener is also inspired to react, think and add to the discourse by ‘edupunk’. You see, ‘edupunk’ is michievous and unpredictable.

    I think most people who say “well, the word Punk itself … blah blah” are getting away from the point and brining in their own opinions on certain bands. But the term ‘edupunk’ is still working.

    Great comments on this post – everybody and despite me coming down with Jim with extreme prejudice, kudos to Gardener for doing the sessions too.

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