When did EDUPUNK become about entrepreneurship?

I never really thought the ideas surrounding EDUPUNK led to innovation in businesses and business models, in fact I thought it brought into deep question the irresponsibility and lethargy of corporations like BlackBoard and their ilk as well as the institutions that support this bad habit like sick crack addicts. Innovation has flatlined for almost a decade in the land of Learning Management Systems, and let me be clear here that in my heart of hearts EDUPUNK is not about entrepreneurship, that is simply how this article interpreted it.

If there will be a new way, it won’t depend on the next business model or unique profit-driven approachs to e-learning or textbooks, it will ultimately depend on people finally re-imagining their relationship to status, money and power. Therein lies the future, and it need remain predominantly idealistic rather than purely economic and market driven. EDUPUNK is a state of mind, it’s an attitude, and it’s a belief that the system in its current incarnation does more harm than good, and so much of the damage is born of the increasingly business logic of higher ed. And maybe EDUPUNK has to die to be born again in some more radical fashion that resists the all-encompassing logic of captial that refuses to rest until every alternative is subsumed into a potential market for commodification. bavatuesdays is EDUPUNK, and it’s back on that map ready to rumble in the edtech jungle. Bring it on!

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19 Responses to When did EDUPUNK become about entrepreneurship?

  1. Edupunk is Project Mayhem. The Reverend is Tyler Durden. It is the antithesis of entrepeneurship, of commercialism.

  2. Reverend says:

    Let’s get a room, baby, cause you are turning me on!

  3. Ed Webb says:

    Fuck, yeah! The revolution will not be monetized.

  4. Leslie M-B says:

    “The revolution will not be monetized.”

    I think Ed just created the new tagline for Edupunk(TM).

  5. Reverend says:

    @Leslie M-B,

    I couldn’t agree with you more, we now have a tagline thanks to @edwebb—all we need now is a drunken documentary a la The Decline of Western Civilization, perhaps The Decline of Western Education 🙂

  6. Ed Webb says:

    Can’t we skip the documentary and make a Broken Glass equivalent (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15Ij9Y–dIQ) – Broken Class, perhaps?

  7. Mikhail says:

    What, edupunk isn’t about making a buck? Even the Clash had “Cut the Crap.”

    As a testament to the idea’s relevance, it too faces being quickly co-opted, hence the FC article.

  8. parezcoydigo says:

    I must admit, I stopped reading the piece on the first page after the first mention of venture capital. I find it supremely irritating to have my desires to use tech for liberal human ends shoved through the grist mill of the logic of capital. A friend and I had a long argument six months ago over the term edupunk for this very reason– that the logics of capitalism are so successful at defanging, commodifying, and subsuming just about any challenge, those challenges are ultimately turned into aesthetic and consumer choices. It happened with punk, and apparently it’s already happened to edupunk too.

    Edupunk is dead. Long live edupunk. And fuck all you venture capitalist Halliburton-wannabe edu-entrepreneurs.

  9. Mike Caulfield says:

    Well, this is what I’ve been worried about for some time — but I do feel sometimes I am alone in it (although Siemens recently wrote in a similar vein) —

    The problem with kicking against institutional approaches and phrases like “more harm than good” is that history shows, again and again and again, that punks like us are used to serve the interests of the powerful.

    When you smash up public institutions you don’t end up with power to the people. You end up with the most powerful interests in society (in this case the corporations) stepping in and taking over. They’ll thank you kindly for busting the joint up and pick it up at auction for a song.

    I’m insistent that we have to save public institutions b/c I believe that they have historically been the only check against complete corporate power. And I suppose we can gamble that the Internet changed that, that a couple hundred years of history no longer applies — but that’s a hell of a gamble I think.

    I don’t mean to be the skunk at the party — but what I see happening is a slow motion train wreck, where our collective words, thoughts, and theories will be used to demolish public education and replace it with corporate fee-for-service — every article I see gives this more steam.

    With power comes responsibility, and the meaning of of our words will eventually not be what they say, but what they do. Are we all okay with that?

  10. Reverend says:


    I think that’s fair, and I am working from within a public institution and I believe change is possible there. In my mind the public institutions themselves are going though a transition towards a more corporate model, and they reactions are born of that as much as they may be understood as the cause—something I’m not so sure of. In fact, I agree with you that here needs to be a voice within public institutions like the one I work at that challenges the increasing commodification of the public mission for quality and affordable education. And in my mind these words are both saying, and also backed up by a doing. I never predicted the end of highered by 2020, and I am very much dedicated to UMW and its mission, that said, there is a struggle going on that needs to be understood beyond pragmatism and the paltry two party estate we exist in now. And this will not entirely come from within, there need to be real, grassroots pressure from below, without, and beyond.

    So while I agree with you, I think there is at once a reaction in edtech to imagining an ideal state that we can both fashion and push toward, and most of that resistance comes from within a mindset of appropriating power and insisting on playing to some degree by its rules. This may be essential, but at the same time the pragmatism of edtech has got us far deeper in the whole of share cropping all of information and data to corporations like Google, moving us more towards the corporate that the public interest. And that is a larger movement that I think is often veiled by a sense of efficiency, simplicity, and ease, Google has become our master, and this is also something Siemens has written about recently, and I see this as part of a larger sense of a false liberation from institutions. I have no pretenses towards freedom or democracy, I think thy are both myths we foster to manage the fallout of a carefully managed system of control. And I will dispense with them as battle cries, and rather insist on refusing to passively accept an increasingly corporatized model of education—whether that is provided by the state or the conglomerates. The problem in my mind is that the idea of a radical alternative is just as quickly defanged by people and their push for status power and money, as it is by corporations—and that is an age old problem that we may not solve, but I will sleep better at night knowing that I consciously refuse that road.

  11. Steven Egan says:

    Returning the systems to a state where innovation can once again flourish is the same as making the systems entrepreneur friendly. Entrepreneurs depend on innovation and supplying needs, which is why that article was pointing out several interesting educational projects.

    To make a project sustainable and be responsible about running it requires dealing with the financial side of the matter. It’s called funding. If you can get such an education project up and running in a stable, functional, sustainable way, I’d say that you are a successful edu-entrepreneur. The problem is ethics, not having a business side.

    Just like working within an institution isn’t selling out, neither is dealing with the financial realities of the project as a whole. If anything, it fits more with the DIY and not being limited by institutions to find a way to sustain the project without compromising. One example would be a tutoring service supporting a free, open resource.

    While Edupunk may not be ABOUT entrepreneurship, it is definitely compatible with it. By bringing “into deep question the irresponsibility and lethargy of corporations like BlackBoard and their ilk”, Edupunk is about considering better alternatives to the current models of sustaining education. To me, that leads to innovation and entrepreneurship, but that’s just me.

  12. Reverend says:


    As always, you bring a level-head to the discussion, and in many ways I agree with you. At the same time I’m just not so certain how much I agree with the impulse of our system to transform everything into a product or a commodity. There are some general rumblings throughout the edtech blogosphere at the moment about the direction and nature of opened, and whether it is getting a seat at the power table or working with start-ups to frame a new business model, I’m just not so sure this accounts for, or even builds upon, the people that are working together in a loosely joined manner. In many ways it is about consolidating both wealth and power into the hands of a few of the high-profile figures in open education and the edtech blogosophere, and that is a direction I am highly concerned and skeptical of. We need more plurality and less centralization of power and possibility, and I think the economic models we subscribe to currently, as well as the political ones, ensure the lack of possibility of radical thought that Mike cautions against.

  13. Hey Jim, didn’t mean that screed to be directed at you — it’s more a general frustration and fear as I watch these corporations line up and rub their hands over what they think will soon be the spoils of public education.

    I will probably write a post about this but briefly

    My practice is much the same as yours, more bricolage than anything else, supporting a wide array of efforts, motivating the faculty where I can to try something new and more student-centered, hashing out ideas with people over a syllabus, trying not to build too much for them, but building what I have to to support what we do. And that’s combined with institutional initiatives (painful, painful) where I work with others to remove some of the red tape, to get money to flow into projects like undergraduate research, to help inform discussions about things like technological fluency outcomes — to move them away from “student knows Excel” to something more meaningful.

    I think that set of things looks like most of us, and the practice of that is exactly right. And as you say, we are both really dedicated to public funding for education, and even public education in its current imperfect form.

    I think where we disagree is where we see the threat to public education coming from. I don’t see Google as the threat — or I should say as a threat on anything near the same level as some of the other players here, who have explicitly stated aims to dismantle public education — but this is maybe getting into the post or posts I need to write

    Keep rocking Jim!

  14. Reverend says:


    Actually, Antonella and I spent some time talking about your comment last night, and just how nuanced it was. I by no means took your critique personally, but I responded from the heart because I think your reading and concern in this regard is extremely important. I don’t really have a sense of where this is all going, and many of these posts are written as much from a sense of frustration and concern, as thought and reflection (in fact, much more of the former). But your concern about being a unassuming part of the dismantling of public education is a wake-up call, and it scares me because, like you, I do believe it is one of the few strongholds of possibility outside of the dominant logic of profit and capital—but I think we both can see that changing.

    I’m also very interested in the Google question because Cog Dog had a very similar response to George Siemen’s concern over Google monopoly of data in the comments, and I tend to think Alan and you are bringing in some important qualifications to the Google paranoia that is running rampant. I often wonder if we aren’t watching a monster grow before us, or we are simply creating one cause we need it. It is really a question I have no real clear sense of.

    So, as always on the bava, I always take these discussions seriously, and depend on the nuanced vision I seldom bring to the table. Just ain;t my strong suit 🙂

  15. Tom says:

    If you want to see some of these fears in action, take a look at what’s happening in K12.

    Expensive corporate created testing is being used to justify business takeovers of schools and the sale of untold billions worth of materials to help take these same tests which mean little and prove less. The success of charter schools is trumpeted in media outlets and public education is trashed.

    Teachers are rendered powerless as government and corporate interests dictate what is taught and when. Parents are sold on high stakes testing and preparing students for the “workplace of the future.” Many teachers are basing their ideas of the future (and their practice) on corporate propaganda or crappy pop culture business books like The World is Flat.

    Corporations are eating public education alive in full view of the world and few seem alarmed.

    Higher ed should worry.

  16. Reverend says:


    I love you, why don’t we spend more time together? I miss you.


  17. Tom says:

    I used to see you all the time.

    We worked together, remember?

    Then you left.

    I’ve been depressed ever since.

  18. Steven Egan says:

    “In many ways it is about consolidating both wealth and power into the hands of a few of the high-profile figures in open education and the edtech blogosophere, and that is a direction I am highly concerned and skeptical of. We need more plurality and less centralization of power and possibility, and I think the economic models we subscribe to currently, as well as the political ones, ensure the lack of possibility of radical thought that Mike cautions against.”

    That’s a reason for innovation and entrepreneurship to be encouraged in both the way we deal with education, teaching and learning as well as business models. I’m as against the corporate product business models as the rest of you guys. What we need is a sprinkler system for the grassroots projects. That is, a high-profile entity that consolidates some wealth and power to funnel it into a distribution system, but it has to be all about fair, open distribution and access. An idea for such a system is what got me blogging in the first place, and keeps me in these conversations.

    Personally, I’d like to see a responsible, honest non-profit supply free access, tools and more to a distributed library of educational content. Such a library would be a library of content silos. Funding could come through multiple outlets, and by using other companies there could be a symbiotic relationship. Those other companies could do the for profit stuff in partnership with the non-profit. The non-profit assists the for-profit in exchange for some of the profit, money and otherwise. The legalities of money going into a non-profit then make it so that money has to be used to support the non-profit and it’s goals. So far as I know that should give a very flexible, loosely-connected structure that is sustainable in the long term. Meaning it is only a structure for access to educational materials and supporting open education efforts. It should also be able to work with the educational institutions along with anything else.

    For those who haven’t guessed, my idea is for such a non-profit. That’s why I’ve thought about it. A good leader is one that serves the people. A good power structure is one that effectively, and properly, redistributes that power for the sake of those that support the structure. Like I said, a sprinkler system for grassroots projects. Though I guess this would normally be described as an association or something else like that.

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