Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Defending Edupunk

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 02, 2008

Originally posted on Half an Hour, June 2, 2008.

Responding to Ken Carroll, who unloads with a personal attack on the very idea of edupunk: "It is also dismaying to see the lack of edublogger critiques,: he writes. "Everybody loves Edupunks, it would seem. "

Actually, the critiques - Belshaw, for example, and Warlick - began within a day or two of the idea being announced, which may actually be a new record. So it's hardly fair to say everybody loves edupunks.

And while I'm correcting misconceptions, few of the people who self-identified as edupunks are actually teachers.

I think you are mistaken to confuse the target of edupunk criticism as 'the capitalist'. The target is, more accurately, authority. It's true that many capitalists have used wealth to appropriate authority. But the two are not identical.

More significant is the suggestion that edupunks are "seeking to politicize (and I would argue, infantilize) discussion in this space." Leaving aside the pointless ad hominem, I would suggest that discussion in this space is already very politicized, and that edupunk is a reaction to this.

If you look at the things the people involved have stood for over the years (and not, say, their postings over the last week) you'll find that they are strongly in favour of things like open access, personal empowerment, diversity, and such.

These are political positions, yes, but they are positions that are actively and consistently opposed by people who are in positions of authority. We have had to deal with politically inspired curricula, blocking of applications and websites (including our own), legal threats and lawsuits, funding and political issues in the workplace, and more.

It takes a lot of willful narrowness to say that it is the *edupunks* that are politicizing this space. Ideology is *dominant* in this space, and edupunks are calling it out, naming it, and pointing at it for all to see.

The final criticism is that you oppose the attitude - "These guys look intellectually and emotionally indistinguishable from their students." And "Forty year old tenured men in hoodies, talking about revolution is no more than perpetual adolescence and self-indulgence."

Fair enough. But I think you miss the point of this. Conventional wisdom would say that these people should put on suits and make their points intellectually in polite society. The attitude is - in my opinion - a way of saying that the game is rigged. That no change will ever emanate out of polite society, which structures specifically to preserve its privilege.

You write, "Personally I reserve that right for someone with a grown-up argument and a relatively serious attitude." I have been making such arguments for decades. View them here:

From my perspective - you haven't deal with any of these arguments. You haven't engaged on the positions I advocate at any level, save perhaps the most superficial, as it relates to your own self-interest.

As for Junger: the author you accuse of 'flirting with Nazism' was influenced rather more by Nietzsche than by (say) his friend Heidegger, and he actually refused a Nazi post and position in the party, a very courageous anti-Nazi stance for a German in that era to take.

I could debate - and have debated - these points to a considerable degree of nuance and intellectualism. But the serious attempts are reduced to caricature and ridicule by the polite society, which, as I said, serves to protect its own self interest, and little else.

I think that what discomfits people about the edupunks is that they are grown adults doing things the authorities would disapprove - it is, indeed, anti-authoritarianism, impolitely expressed, which is *exactly* the point.

And insofar as they may appear to be 'defenders of the oppressed' - may I say, if they are like me, they looked, and they saw that the position was vacant. Nobody in polite society gives a damn about the oppressed. Though they are very quick to criticize anyone who lifts a finger.

p.s. my punk roots - people like Ted Axe and the Action, and F.I.S.T. - have mostly been erased from history.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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