Not too old to punk

Like most of the rest of the virtual gang I run around with, I’m enjoying the heck out of the recent fascination with “everything edupunk.” And saying something like “enjoying the heck” will brand me very quickly as someone who never did qualify to wear any label that might be considered cool. D’Arcy Norman even identified some of his edupunk heroes, and I would add him to my list for sure.

I wanted to pick up briefly on something that Rob Wall wrote today:

I’m not sure what to make of edupunk. It might be the meme of the week. It might be a cultural movement within the edtech community. It might be a manifestation of our collective mid-life crisis (a lot of us seem to be in the neighbourhood of 40). It might be, and I suspect it is, a combination of all these things.

I sympathized with Rob’s sense of wonder, especially since I’m well past that “neighbourhood of 40”. I think that “edupunk” is a wonderful example of finding a resonant label for something significant that has been rattling around amorphously for awhile. We’ve seen it before: lots of teachers were doing Webquests long before Bernie Dodge came up with a great name and provided some structure for them. But at the same time I’m not arguing that this is a trivial naming exercise: quite the opposite. A good label that can help people who have been emotionally and intellectually passionate about something to finally see its shape from a higher vantage point can have a galvanizing effect. Wouldn’t it be fun if we looked back in 10 years and knew that we were in on the ground floor of exactly that kind of thing?

I’m a stranger to anything “punk”, but not to counter-culture. We had different slogans in earlier times, but they also had a galvanizing effect. “Make love, not war” is cliché now, but at the time it meant something (well, two things actually, although the first was more elusive for most of us). Around 1970, Abbie Hoffman wrote a wonderful book entitled “Steal This Book.” Read it if you really like counter-culture stuff and even if you don’t. It says a lot about what rebellion means at an individual level.

The main point I want to leave you with is that in order for any label to live a long life, it needs to go beyond anger and righteous indignation. Certainly it needs to stand against something in a powerful way, and I think “edupunk” has that nailed. But to endure, I think it also has to offer a vision of something better. And in this case, I think “edupunk” has that flavour too. It doesn’t just seem to be about a sense of moral outrage directed against commercialized, corporatized, institutionalized education for example; it also seems to be about sharing, openness, freedom and liberation.

Then again, maybe it is just a very cool label.

9 thoughts on “Not too old to punk

  1. Have you seen Steal This Wiki?

    Kind of weak, truth be told. Though the section on food has some promise, and some of the bits on “Free Education” are indeed relevant to Edupunk (whatever the hell that is):

    “If there is stuff that you want to learn though, there is a way to get a college education absolutely free. Simply send away for the schedule of courses at the college of your choice. Make up the schedule you want and audit the classes. In smaller classes this might be a problem, but even then, if, the teacher is worth anything at all, he’ll let you stay. In large classes, no one will ever object.”

    And of course, low-threshold open schools like the ones Hoffman plugs are popping up… here’s one started by my partner Keira:

    Which reminds me, I’d better go water the garden, or I’ll be a dead man when she comes home next week.

    Peace and love – I don’t care if those are punk values, that’s what it’s all about, that’s why we’re here.

  2. Thanks, Brian. I love the look of the Sustainable Living Arts School. For anyone who hasn’t yet clicked through on your comment, here is the description:

    “The Sustainable Living Arts School is a rural and urban learning initiative that emphasizes bringing local folks, local knowledge and local resources together for free-of-charge, hands-on learning experiences that help us reduce our ecological footprint, increase our individual and community self-sufficiency, and build healthy community relations. We value and work towards non-commodified, non-institutional, non-credentialized, non-evaluated learning and yes-accessible, yes-joyous, yes-empowering, yes-collective learning (among other lofty goals)! Consuming less and relating more, might be one way to sum it up.”

    Man, you had definitely better get that garden watered, Keira doesn’t sound like someone you want to mess with! 🙂

  3. A good label that can help people who have been emotionally and intellectually passionate about something to finally see its shape from a higher vantage point can have a galvanizing effect. Wouldn’t it be fun if we looked back in 10 years and knew that we were in on the ground floor of exactly that kind of thing?

    Beautifully said! Thanks Rick, a perspective like this is very much rooted in a belief system that goes far beyond any term, but like you note so well, the idea of some of the anarchic energy in the realm of educational technology galvanizing for good could be both very exciting and powerful.

  4. I can’t wait to see you in your Scottish plaid bondage pants and some decent stomping boots. I know you’re just itching to punk out all the way. It’s so great to see such a supportive post from someone who knows the hearts of the people embracing this term. You know it’s about learning, sharing and giving. Hopefully, others will catch on as well.

  5. Thanks Jim and Jen. It’s really interesting to see the volatile reactions that have appeared since Jim introduced it. We’ve even seen a site commit nuclear suicide — thankfully only for a day. It must be hitting a nerve, and that’s a good thing.

    And Jen, you’ll know I’ve crossed over when I get my first tattoo. Of course it will probably say something like “Otis Redding rules!”

  6. Pingback: edupunked « Jaymie’s blog

  7. Great post Rick – I too am of the “over 40” group and “punk” was but the anarchist aftertase of my hippy days (the rebuttal of my brother’s greaser days). As I clamour for more openness in learning, more sharing, fewer walled gardens, fewer third party data mining – I guess edupunk is an appropriate label – if labels are required. I fully agree with your summation “not just moral outrage but about sharing, openness, freedom and liberation.” I think the edge is punk but the sentiments linger on from the hippie days (which lasted about two weeks before drugs, STD and war doused the energy).

  8. Pingback: Punks hate hippies… | Networked Learner News

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