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

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Thu Feb 19 14:35:21 UTC 2009

Honestly, I think the day that we get rid of the University is the day
that we finally, truly become "post-human."  I mean, even if the
University was just an elaborate simulation that existed to help young
people get laid...  I think it might be worth it.  I'm not saying that
sex is everything, I'm saying that work and tv are way more than they
are cracked up to be.

A large number of my students hold 30-40 hour a week jobs in addition
to attending classes full time, and no matter how efficiently we can
"deliver content," the main difficulty that these students face is
that they don't have time to sit around and gaze at their navels or go
to parties or otherwise explore the dimensions of subjective space.

And though my own father was a bartender, I was, thanks to the more
liberal financial aid offerings of days gone by, able to go to a nice
liberal arts college with gardens, ocean views, pleasant architecture,
and teachers who were committed to expanding my mind.  When I first
struggled with what I wanted to do with my life, my father sat me down
to tell me about his upbringing.  He told me about his working-class
immigrant dad's insistence that he do something practical, that he
learn a trade, and get to work.  My dad did as he was told, and then
had a nervous breakdown.  And so, in the early 1960s, he quit his job,
started painting, writing poetry, taking LSD, and hanging out with
musicians.  He got into the nightclub and bar business.  And, as he
aged, he slowly slid, as service workers do, towards employment in
less image-centered establishments.  He insisted, that whatever I do,
I don't make my decisions based on what's practical, efficient, and
proper.  So, after meeting a bizarre English professor who insisted
that I enter and leave his class through the window, I decided to
study English during the day and to spend my nights roaming the
beaches of San Diego in a blissful haze (I had been a science major,
based on the advice of a guidance counselor).  It was totally
impractical and utterly foolish.  But this impracticality and folly
has made all the difference in the world.  Instead of getting to work,
I read stuff and write stuff and hang out with students all day.

I think the problem with education is that there is too much
efficiency in it.  The mood of education is geared towards assessment,
outcomes, and careers.  The students don't even have enough financial
support to loaf around and enjoy each other's time.  And then, when
they graduate, they are buried under this staggering amount of debt
that forces them to take jobs they don't want.  The goal of the
University should be to teach students how to be comfortable with
open-endedness, with unpredictability, with creative problem-solving,
and with a sense of warmth and appreciation towards other people.  And
to pursue these ends with a sense of disciplined openness.  The goal
should be to humanize people, to cultivate in them a sense of
appreciation for who they are and what they can do, and to appreciate
and cultivate this appreciation in the people around them.

I think once we do away with this way of being....  and it does not
necessarily have to be attached to a physical space....  we are going
to only see an intensification of the sort of deindividuation that has
taken countries like the U.S. into some really sinister territory, and
which finds its expression not just in isolated incidents of violence,
but in wide-scale anti-social movements.

Davin Heckman

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