Last year, in Spain, teachers took to the streets. Not only protest marches. To teach.
The education crisis had done more than enrage -- it had inspired a pedagogical performance protest. From this inspiration María
Goicoechea and I hatched an idea for a summer seminar: Off Course: Escuela del Caos
, offered for free through the UnderAcademy College,
July 29-Aug 6, 2013.
It was May in Madrid when I saw thousands of teachers, students, and families take to the streets to protest devastating cuts to public education. There were drumming circles, dragons, and dancers. There were teachers arm and arm with administrators. It was a marvel. And yet the signs, the slogans, the rhetoric of the politicians attacking education sounded so much like what I had heard in the K-5 School Site Council meetings of my home in Los Angeles. This is not a localized crisis.
That's when María and I started talking about the deep value of public education and how misunderstood and misrepresented it is. María teaches literature at the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM), a public university that was also on the chopping block like a hunk of jamón. Our radical streaks conspired. We decided the best way to respond would be to use the powerful tools of education: finger paint, writing on the desks, and, of course, recess.
Education reform has been central to HASTAC for quite some time (if not since its inception), and Cathy Davidson and many others have been pushing us to think more creatively about these questions.
What became apparent to us was the straw man, this image of public education bandied about by the bureaucrats, was not even made of construction paper. It was cut and pasted from some balance sheet by bean counters who couldn't tell a bean bag chair from a beanie, by people who had forgotten all that you learn that doesn't show up on lesson plans or standardized test, what you learn from your friends whispered in the hallways, what you learn from teachers when they don't think you're watching. The laughter, the shame, the ah-ha and the uh-oh moments. Education as a scarypowerfulwildwonderful field trip toward understanding life.
This summer I'd like to invite you to unique critical performance art project that will be taking place in, and using as its medium, a course management system.
The structure will be a seminar called Off Course: Escuela del Caos that I'll be teaching with my co-organizer María Goicoechea for UnderAcademy College. Following the model of UnderAcademy's radical pedagogy, all the students will also be the teachers. (If you're not familiar with UnderAcademy, you should be. Think Black Mountain. UnderAcademy has not just flipped the classroom; they've flipped the entire flipping institution and then danced on its backside. It's the perfect home for our unaccredited course)