EDUPUNK Battle Royale, Part 3

And for your sins, here’s part 3:

EDUPUNK Battle Royale, Part 3

The third installation of this video takes us deeper into the questions surrounding leadership. This is an issue that hits close to home for both Gardner and I, and it may seem to move away from the logic of EDUPUNK for some—but in many ways it’s one of the issues that’s at the heart of it. It’s also an idea I struggle with regularly from within an institution, especially when I see how destructive bad leadership can be for so many folks trying to creatively imagine the historical moment we are living through for education. Revolution is already happening (we didn’t need EDUPUNK for that), but more times than not, leadership is just an obstacle in the way. Why do we need it? I once proposed at a DTLT meeting a couple of years ago that our group do away with the idea of a director, and share the responsibilities and recognize the fact that we are more akin to a group that is self-motivated and anti-hierarchical. And while the idea is somewhat radical, I still believe it has value and that we need to re-conceptualize ourselves not as workers or underlings, but as creative collaborators working towards a common goal for a larger community. The other I want to stress is that EDUPUNK was meant to be fun, but it also needs to be “red in tooth and claw” against a tired diplomacy that is making the issues that surround us academic. They aren’t, they are deeply personal and emotionally charged—like anything of value is—and we have to be brave enough to go there.

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6 Responses to EDUPUNK Battle Royale, Part 3

  1. Steven Egan says:

    Here I was just wondering when the next would come out and here it is. Beautiful! Wonderful! I’m loving this.

    Seems like the classic argument between two people who agree on a goal, but not on how to view the goal. I think that Edupunk does support and point to a “bill of rights” of sorts with leadership as a catalyst/facilitator sort of role. At the same time, the people have to take up their freedom and defend it, not take it for granted and leave it’s defense to others. Basically, everybody becomes a leader of sorts. Some will be leaders to more than others, but at the same time they need to remember their role as a catalyst, a facilitator.

    Fascinating and wonderful, I’m looking forward to the next video to see what was said. That and I think it would be a blast to sit down with Gardner and talk. What about? Who cares? Still sounds like fun to me.

  2. Laura says:

    I just want to briefly say that I disagree with Gardner about leadership, not that I don’t think leaders are important, but that I do think things can happen without direct leadership. On the other hand, I think a leader can often step into the middle of an already existing movement and take it to a higher place. MLK did this.

    Anyway, I think Gardner’s right here on the Bill of Rights metaphor and I think that people who associate themselves with the Edupunk movement, however loosely, have taken their precepts (or Bill of Rights) as self evident. But the framers of the Bill of Rights thought those rights were self evident too, until they were trampled on. So, what are the precepts of Edupunk (or something like it, since the term is fraught).

    I would start with something about learning as a process, about teaching and learning as open, about education being about connecting ideas and connecting with people simultaneously. It not about learning by rote, but about thinking deeply, about sharing those thoughts with others so that others may learn from them. It’s understanding that one can learn from many sources, some of them not so obvious. It’s about taking responsibility for one’s own learning and not relying on someone to feed you information.

    What else? And while we’re thinking about those, in what ways does DIY get us there while “fluorescent lights and boxes” don’t?

  3. Hey, so I think I mostly side with Gardner, at least in this segment.

    The key here is collective action. Politically you look at this story, time and time again and you see that in the absence of collective action nothing happens. It’s a phenomenon that has been extensively studied.

    Example: Some people don’t shop at Wal-Mart because they don’t support thier business practices. That may make you feel good, and it’s good in that way. But it doesn’t change anything. One day your local Wal-Mart has 10,000 sales, the next day 9,999. No effect.

    So then you go and shame your friends, and say, hey don’t shop at Wal-Mart. OK, you have a lot of friends and your good at talking. Wal-Mart sales in your town drop 10%! You’ve won right?

    Nope. Wal-Mart doesn’t know whay it’s lost the sales. Some people say it’s the economy or the wrong products. Others say it’s these people protesting.

    OK, so someone at Wal-Mart says, maybe it’s these people protesting. We should deal with that. Now you’ve won, right?

    Nope. Wal-Mart asks one person not shopping what they need to do to get them back — health care for employees, and no Chinese goods! Another: Unions, and health care, and then I’ll come back. How many more jars of pickles could they sell if they did just health care? Are these people for real? Would they even come back anyway?

    What do you do? You put together an organization and elect a leader. The leader represents 600 people that have chosen her to represent them.

    Now Wal-Mart can change.

    I’m sorry, that’s history, time and time again. There is a conservative swindle which liberals in particular fall prey to, b/c it plays on their anti-hierarchical instinct. Conservatives sell liberals on the ideas that their individual actions, unorganized, can change the world. Want to stop hunger? Donate to charities! Better labor practices? Don’t shop at Wal-Mart!

    By pushing this meme that a representative collective will emerges out of unorganized action we’ve gotten where we are today. Corporations running the government. Thirty years of back-sliding on poverty. A nation where disparities in wealth have become epic:

    It’s a swindle, it’s a swindle, it’s a swindle. You don’t change the world without organizing in some way, without some leadership and some organizations. You have to let someone speak for you, at least as pertains to certain decisions for certain limited times — a party, a special interest group, a Director of Learning and Teaching. Or the vendors will steamroll you, because they are organized. *They* are not relying on individual action.

    Please keep in mind that this unmitigated collective will idea comes out of the dotcom era, and is a piece of market-driven mythology, one which insists, in an almost Leninist fashion, that history must be right because it happened.

    I would spit it out, immediately.

  4. Luke says:

    Just wanted to note that skepticism about the role of leadership and the type of leadership necessary to realize change is not the same thing as rejection of the notion of leadership. I could be wrong, but I sense that Gardner assumes that Jim adheres to the second argument… but it doesn’t entirely seem clear to me that Jim does. At times he seems to play with the idea, but I don’t entirely buy the playing. The EDUPUNK metaphor exploded before its contours were fully delineated, and I’ve seen evidence from Jim that he intends it primarily as a starting point for discussion more than the take it or leave it, us or them, totalizing philosophy Gardner presumes. Again, I could be wrong.

    In these debates, Jim is exploring the edges, dancing on the ropes, and Garnder is moving to corner him. Jim is Ali, Gardner is Frazier. And this feels like the first fight between those two, in the Garden. Ali’s greatness lay in his ability to inspire, in how his persona transcended the ring. His rhetoric and his boxing were at times filled with contradictions (like portraying himself as a black nationalist while calling Frazier an ugly gorilla), exposure, inconsistencies, and digging in… it was beautiful, at times frustrating and less direct, but always memorable. Frazier was the opposite… he came at you focused on the task at hand, and forced you into his fight. And what a left hook.

    But, eh, I suppose this like all metaphors breaks down in the end.

  5. Ed Webb says:

    There is so much intelligence in the comments on this page that I’m nervous of stepping up – I’ll keep this brief.

    It strikes me that what Jim is objecting to is the notion of leader-as-figurehead. What Gardner is talking about as leadership is not that, or not necessarily that, and so there is a certain amount of talking past one another. Gardner’s definition casts intentional action as leadership, which I think is not quite right. Mobilization, solidarity, collective action, the kind of organization and movement activity discussed in Mike’s spot-on analysis of what’s wrong with (particularly U.S.) liberalism requires intentional action en masse. Everyone who takes intentional action in the same direction is vital, but that doesn’t make each of them a leader. In those circumstances leadership is in part about inspiration, perhaps, but much more about organization. And that’s where Gardner’s instinct that change requires a document, a fixed core, comes into play. Organizing does not necessarily require hierarchy, so Jim can relax on that score. But it does require a common understanding of ends and means. Which is why we should stop worrying so much about the metaphors and get serious about Laura’s proto-draft of a set of common principles and tools.

    Shit – that wasn’t as brief as I intended. Apologies.

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