Monday, September 22, 2014

Things Fall Apart: Schooling, Becoming, Not Being

Want (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

I. Becoming

I read a lot that education is broken.  A worn and tired lot, that.

It's easy, perhaps even comfortable, to lay the brokenness we feel at the feet of public education as it saves us from looking more closely beyond the institution into a void we cannot quite name. Consistency which has held us so closely is less the friend we thought. We fear seeing beyond, for our public institutions are composed to reflect the current reality we believe is whole.

It is not whole.

Our vision of what reality is--a stable, coherent ground--has not worked with fidelity for some time. Claire Colebrook (2001) reminds us:
To see any thing as actual also requires the virtual synthesis of time: we see things only by retaining the memory of past perceptions and anticipating and connecting future perceptions (p.127).
Synthesis is a stream flowing. Becoming requires us to assemble/reassemble/deconstruct. There is no standing still.

Is this fracture, standing still in a stream that moves, not the impetus, in part, for our constant warring?  Our inarticulate speech?  Stability is myth--and it is costly. The internet connects as it disrupts the ways we are in the world and the ways we experience the world.  Its fastness allows us to experience the collisions. A tacit knowing. And experiencing what we have deemed as actual now as myth, perhaps fleeting at first--a glimpse we quickly move away from, has grown more consistent, shaking "foundations" we thought we knew to be true.

There is no one Truth. There is only flow.

We are always becoming regardless of Descarte's insistence on being.  This understanding has deepened across the last century disrupting the center we hold to that says stability is our core.  It is not. Think Yeats, who nearly 100 years ago told us "the centre cannot hold".

The poets know first.

II. Schooling

Public education is built on that faux rock that says we can code the world and transmit it and what we transmit is Truth, not someone's truth, but Truth with a capital T.  Schooling has been built on the belief that we can keep ourselves whole by teaching this truth to our children who can teach it to their children and so on.  Lost in this translation is the reality that we are coding, decoding and recoding often in ways that feel and are simultaneous.  Living connected lives across vast geographies helps us to know this even as we work to deny it.  And so we are a bit like Simon Laplace, hopeful that with some measurements at hand we can name the universe--that it will hold still for us as if we were somehow apart from it.

Nothing living holds still.

Power maintainers situate curricula and pedagogies as measurements of the known universe. Educational standards, high stakes tests, school-based grading and courses often work as the means to maintain the stability myth and alongside it the power of those who get to name. Social media offers us enough clear spaces to (re)name/(un)name the world.  We don't need to hold big power to do so. The power is not in us.  The power resides across the shifting and moving things we make/break/remake.  We are animals with language.  Again, Colebrook (2001) says:
We think of language as a ‘tool’ for speakers, rather than as a differential force that produces speaking positions (p. 76).
And as more and more people connect across these vast geographies, the universe that standards and test results portray reveal speaking positions, not Truth. We come to doubt and as that doubt is echoed we can see not only the cracks undermining the ground education sits upon, but we feel the stream rushing us along.

This movement is not lost on the young, who have less time invested in the maintenance of powerful and established mythologies.  Their knowing is not limited to their selves.  Technologies that connect the young also make more explicit that they are less the individual and more the collective--calling into doubt Wittgenstein's statement, "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence."

They are not silent. They are roaring, moving, connecting. And it is this that creates long tails of difference with regard to how learning is organized, named, needed, desired.  We need not (re)create the system of education as this continues the myth of ground. Education reform is a sordid redundancy.  Rising without our permission are alternatives that young people already turn to as they invent.  Think of them as tribes, as PLNs, as collectives, as affinity groups.

We know more than we can say, Polyani would tell us. That's where we are, tentatively but even as I pen this, the ground beneath is moving and we are moving too.

Learning is more flow, less rocks in the stream.  And so, the space we call school is being cleared.

Colebrook, Claire (2001). Gilles Deleuze (Routledge Critical Thinkers) (p. 127). London: Taylor and Francis.

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