Readings for 22nd January

A Learning Model for the Future: Aoun

I found this a fascinating. I’ve read a little about the rapidly changing relationship between technology and the workforce, and its effect on society & economics through a left-wing lens in Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Srnicek/William 2016). This article made it all the more relevant to me being focused on education, as its obviously something i’m practising. The idea of ‘Humanics’ resonated with me — i’m very aware of and irritated at how the current education system seems to demote creativity and the arts to second rate or non-serious subjects. It often seems to me to be astonishing that there are people who come out of the other side of this system and still want to do something creative! I’ve seen the Ken Robinson talk mentioned and it was also something that made a big impression on me.
So these proposed methods of learning/teaching seem to be good groundings for the kinds of creative thinking I subjectively value. Also convergent vs divergent thinking is something I hadn’t seen expressed before, and this made me think about discussions I have with students about their work, and how the course and the tutors I work with encourage them to explore their ideas, to embrace failure and to acquire/utilise knowledge through research, in a definitely rdivegent way.

Something i’ve been aware of but am perhaps unwilling to accept is the depth of influence that technologies have on my own life. I am rather suspicious of the seemingly total positive reception new software, devices or systems tend to get in the press and from individuals, who i see as being seduced by shiny new things they do not understand the construction of or the eventual social/psychological effects of. I think there needs to be much more criticism of Silicon Valley and its unchecked rise to its philosophy and technology controlling almost every aspect of our lives. I think that my own teaching practice. However, it has to be accepted that the language of computers is essential to people growing up and experiencing education now, and I feel I should be aware of this. I do not spend enough time really getting to grips with the near future and what I should be looking at and pointing students towards. So this is an area for improvement for me – to broaden my thinking so I can in turn give students a better understanding of where their work might be situated. One idea that particularly struck with me is that of literacy being power. If the new literacies need to include coding etc, then I read the effect of this to be that if we/i remain ignorant of them, we are denying ourselves any agency in the creative/entrepreneurial and economical world of the near future, and risk this concentration of power being in the hands of a few.

Systems thinking is another area that i’ve not really come across and am interested to learn more about. I am generally anti-specialisation in terms of the arts, so again this resonated with me personally.

There is much more to discuss but i’ve run out of time. The main thing I took away from this is the optimism and insight that is in the article, and the adaptive approach that is being suggested or proposed, where we as educators need to respond to but also anticipate the effects of what is happening in the wider world, and create frameworks for the future that continue to value human skillsets and idiosyncrasies. It has made me want to become more aware of what i’m doing as an educator, and what I need to be thinking about outside my subject area.

Universities and their Function: Whitehead

Less fresh in my head than the previous text, so less to say here. Some overlapping themes, this idea of convergent vs divergent thinking appears albeit less directly, when he talks about ‘the mere imparting of education’ through books vs a more stimulating university environment of debate and discussion etc.

A couple of ideas with good imagery stuck in my head —

‘The task of a university is to weld together imagination & experience’ which is a simplistic but powerful image of forming something new by putting these two concepts together. Reminding me of Kant’s ideas of opposing ideals creating peace. Imagination and experience are not quite opposing, but this Whitehead text does seem to be largely about the differences of imagination and experience, and how one is not enough alone, and there’s a fair bit of conflict in the way he describes both approaches. So there might be a subtle link here with the idea of the University being an environment where other points of view need to be present to make new kinds of thinking/practice emerge.

and the idea of

‘A band of imaginative scholars’ – like the Magnificent Seven or something – a bit of a silly image of strength/guardianship of learning in the university context.

Also this idea of creativity being stamped out by repetitive mundane low-cognition learning/drudgery (possibly convergent) in a hierarchy of employment he describes is another good criticism of a way of learning/teaching that is perhaps becoming unnecessary (for humans to do anyway). Links here with Robinson’s idea of ‘strip-mining’ parts of the intellect too in the Anoun text.

Conflict and Peace in Kant’s Critical Philosophy

I’ve never read any Kant. His ideas for world peace sound pretty logical to me — fascinating that they’ve been used (unfortunately only partially) as part of the UN’s rules. I suppose the main thing I took from this is the obviously central theme of conflict being necessary for stability or peace. I think The idea of philosophers being held accountable only to reason (because they do exist in the world as much as anyone else so must have subjective viewpoints and experiences that inform their thinking) is idealistic but then i’m not a philosopher. Trying to transpose this idea onto arts education, I suppose on way to see it might be the arts tutors as philosophers and the management as the lawyers(!) I was left with the impression of the necessity for different viewpoints in order to make progress, and the idea that if you dismiss someone else’s view you are basically obliterating any opposition to your thinking and that is not very helpful at all – so even opposite perspectives must be listened to and reasoned with. Philosophers annoying all lawyers and lawmakers, government and military organisations is an amusing image. The idea makes sense as it is reasoned in this text.

Again, convergent/divergent thinking could be embodied as lawyer/philosopher, and the two types of thinking need to be present perhaps? Critical thinking vs received wisdom? Also shades of Duna Sabri’s text on the NSS as well in terms of opposition/conflict between a system or on a perceived scope of a system, and the realities/practicalities of actually using it/being framed by it.