[iDC] A Modest Proposal: Let's get rid of the teachers

John Hopkins jhopkins at tech-no-mad.net
Thu Feb 19 17:11:24 UTC 2009

Lovely views coming up, Davin, Simon, others -- it's always a marvelous pleasure to hear from other teachers, as this kind of dialogue seldom happens within the systems where it is most needed!

While the offerings of IP_based networks seem unlimited, and in rhetoric, the superlative of "unlimited" is often applied, I think it is important to keep firmly in mind that it is not a space of unlimited knowledge nor is it a space of neutral knowledge. And, also, in this time, it is not a space of embodied experience aside from eyes absorbing statically-framed EM radiation, ears hearing sounds disconnected from their source, and fingers twitching across a very limited place.  Not to mention underlying ideologies which accompany each form of mediated connection (largely invisible but very much real) -- among others, that of consumption (extractive resources, electricity, and thus, the globe-spanning world that we exert irresponsible dominion over).

In this regard, the (limited)vastness of that knowledge-space seems a bit tainted and out-of-touch perhaps.  Expensive and consumptive.  Exclusive, reductive, and reified.

A teacher is a catalyst, and is one who, simply by being an Other we encounter in life, presents us with the unknown.  If we trust that Other, a world opens up that was previously unknown, and (if) we (trust enough to) apprehend and engage it, it changes us, we learn.  This unknown world is sourced in the entire comprehensible universe, and is available through that Other.  These encounters may take place anywhere, anytime, and can be had 'for free.'  We need only 'pay' the Other with our attention, our life-time, and life-energy.

It seems that in our formal techno-social educational systems, these potential encounters with the Other are (being) replaced by more and more socially-standardized systems-of-relation (protocols, curricula, government mandates, abstracted monetary instruments) which seem ever more intrusive to and even suppressive of potential open encounters.  This limits the creative potential of the outcome.  The cumulative effect of this social hyper-formalization-of-encounter -- because learning occurs precisely at the edge of knowing, not within the known -- is that we look elsewhere for the dynamic of coming-to-be (learning) that keeps us alive and growing.  To me this is the ultimate source of the loss of vitality that affects the Education World, a vitality that ultimately does not rest on technological mediation but on human encounter.  Yes, human encounter is always mediated by the vast range of social protocols and tools, and learning encounters may happen within highly mediated ('virtual') spaces, but when we allow those encounters to slide continuously into more and more mediated spaces, the life-time available for less mediated human encounter shrinks.  I think that this represents a wide loss to learning, education, community, and creative potential as it moves to extremes and forgets what it is predicated upon -- the originary encounter between the Self and the Other.

John Hopkins :: neoscenes - a bridge between eye and soul
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