Thursday, October 27, 2005

On the virtues of loopiness

Intellectually I am drawn to the loopy, the "enfant terribles" of the academic world. I figure that folk who keep repeating, reinforcing particular epsitemologies, ontologies are, more or less, intellecutal sycophants. We enjoy an enormously privileged position in being paid to think and also to contribute to the well-being of the citizens of this country/planet. Being an intellecutal "yes person" does not cut it. It seems to me that merely echoing others, acquiescing to the status quo mindsets is, effectively, squandering public monies. If we can't convey to our students the importance of skepticism, curiosity and even bloody-minded resistance to status quo ideas then we don't deserve the monies the public provide us. I hope there is no need to rehearse what status quo thinking has delivered to the youth of this and other countries. What to me is curious is what holds, what are palpably silly ideas, together. For example, the nonsense around literacies that "rages" in the public media in Australia at present. Pathetic neo-liberal nonsense versus precious old left nonsense while the kids of this country are ignored. Well, not exactly ignored, both camps claim to represent the youth and as far as I can tell the youth are saying, to both, "huh?" (which is a polite translation of what is actually being said). There are multiple nonsenses, many of which come from a well meaning bunch of elderly folk making decisions on behalf of the young. Mostly the oldies get it wrong but hey, they were well intentioned. I have often suggested that if you started from square one, ground zero, it would be impossible to invent the stupid, unfair, absurd, inefficient, stiffling education system we currently enjoy and what is worse we export this nonsense to countries who can ill afford such wasteful "luxuries". We live in what is argued to be an "evidence-based" world. Anyone care to offer any evidence that the current system does much other than impress on the young that they are stupid, dumb, can't cut it? Where is the evidence that "the system" actually prepares the young for the contemporary world? Much huff and puff, zip evidence. There is much to be said for systems that encourage and nurture idiosyncracy, loopies, people who will think way outside the tiny little square that claims to capture all of human wisdom. It would be ok to have a uniform system if we lived in a 1950's world where much was predictable, linear, not much different from the year before. But we don't. We need a system that supports people to think, to challenge, to be rewarded for being loopies (well argued loopies). In a dangerously unpredictable world, educational certainty is a handicap we can well do without. A system whose sole purpose would be to produce eccentrics would do more to secure the future of humanity on the planet than the deadeningly dull certainty and conformity of the educational here and now.


coarsesalt said...

no damnit! mmm... always being disagreable is always so difficult for me... :) Interesting post.
While I probably take issue with your blanket denunciation of 'literacies' which i see as a transitional concept which forces people to understand that reading is not about letters, my real exception is to the idea that in the 50's one year was like the next. The reason silly people like McCArthy had such a run in the fifties is that most people were never trained to understand how to think. (a whole north american generation that hid under their desks from nuclear weapons) The people who have come from that generation who have been successful have the same basic set of literacies (hee hee, i said it again) that you're saying students need today. They just learned the audacity, adaptability and self confidence on their own. What wishy washy leftists are looking to do, is teach those things to everyone...

Anya said...

at the risk of being one who acquiesces, i couldn't agree more about the boundaries that seem to constrain intellectual thought in education!