Archive | curriculum RSS feed for this section

Radical alternatives? Surely we can do better?

16 Dec

We wish to juxtapose two things.

The first thing is this statement from Vinay Gupta on the muppetocracy. In it Vinay gave us food-for-thought about the desperate hard-work that a re-politicised form of higher education might have to undertake in the face of socio-environmental crisis. He writes

“Do you think Occupy, or any political group, Left, Right, Green, Libertarian or other, has any hope of doing so much better than our existing system that we actually manage climate?”

He goes on, damningly:

“Gandhi’s last card was this: with enough discipline, we could govern ourselves and our own affairs so that the State had little or nothing to do. Everyone perfect in their duty to their family. Everyone perfect in their duty to their neighbour. Every village perfect in its duty to its poorer neighbours: a global wave of responsibility displacing coercive models at every point.

“That’s not happening either.

“And now the question: do you know what to do?

“So here we are, face to face, at the end of our tethers. If you’re not aware of this situation, I guarantee you it’s because you’re not paying attention, alas. The more people know about these issues, the more worried they get. The best of us are chronically depressed and grasping at straws, fighting our own minor battles in full expectation of futility, while awaiting results that seem to take forever to come.”

The second thing is about futile battles. We popped along to the Bank of Ideas last evening to see how the London Free University was developing. We love the Bank of Ideas, just like we love the Space Project in Leeds, and the Social Science Centre in Lincoln, and the heroes in Oakland and those who are indignant in Chile and Spain and Greece, and everywhere. There were some lovely people at the first meeting of the LFU – in particular it seemed to us a number of younger academics in precarious employment situations or who had been inspired by the Occupy process, and for whom education was a way in, or a way out, to something else. Something more enclosed. There were also a number of older academics for whom engagement with a different energy was revitalising.

What we learned from the second meeting was enlightening for us in thinking about place and dissent and co-option and process and curriculum, and it made us wonder a few things about *alternatives* as potentially futile battles. So this is like our Christmas list of things we have been thinking about over the course of 18 months in attending and arguing and doing, and most importantly in listening and hearing other people.

  1. There are always people who think they know the answer. Or at least how to unlock it. Like it is a commodity to be revealed. And in thinking that they know the thing they speak or skew conversations. And they demonstrate their power. And they forget to listen. And they marginalise. And they accelerate the exodus.
  2. Are we really trying to re-produce the University in the name of *free*, whatever *that* is, inside capital and ruled by money? Without a critique of the form of the University inside capitalism we risk simply re-producing all the same alienating principles that congeal and restrict inside the academy. Mimicking what we are railing against is comfortable but changes little. It simply gives us a new, safe space in which to rail and exclude.
  3. The process of consensus is disabling where it is shackled to a perceived need to be productive or by self-imposed time constraints or by the fear of being bogged down in long discussions, and by the desperate, unquestioned desire to act now. However, we’ve seen the allegedly direct democratic process of consensus used in time-limited ways to marginalise or simply give voice to those more experienced in the process. In this way it is no different to standard institutionalised forms of governance. But what is worse is the subtext that it is more open and transparent, and that somehow at every point we don’t have to out power relationships. The network, for all our trite statements about newness, is neither new nor power free. It is just as hateful and disabling, or just as counter-hegemonic and different.
  4. Nor is it good enough to use statements about alleged openness, facilitated by technological or platform richness. Or to state that everyone has access through always-on, or libraries or SMS or to use assumption and assertion of *democratic process/form* in order to drive what is a deeply political process. Technology is not neutral. Technology is enclosing and monitoring and its use needs constant attention, and we need to find a way to engage those whom it marginalises, if we are not to become that which we claim we are not. It is not enough to say that because notes from a meeting were online, and that issues were previously raised, that certain directions or issues are closed for comment. Or that we do not have the time or the courtesy to renegotiate. The very act of making such statements is an act of power-over. Previous discussions or technological determinism become veils over what was once enacted and what needs renegotiation. We need to recover and remember how our statements are potentially acts of closure, of the rejection of the need to reiterate or re-cover issues that need constant renewal. It is a sense that we must always be moving irrespective of the need to bring others along, rather than a recognition that we might not in any one place have the answer.
  5. We appear to be becoming obsessed with content. We see disenfranchised teachers wanting a place or set of spaces in which to re-find themselves. But to what purpose? To the empty promise of an education that is free for all? Free for all under capitalism with no engagement with critical pedagogy or structures or politicised forms, that risks then becoming a free-for-all. By re-engaging our focus on the subject, within its fetishised, commodified, REF-ified, controlling, capitalist appearance, we start from us. From the teacher, with the power. We do not start with the student. Or the community. This is simply another way of doing things to people. Or speaking to an echo chamber. And this is maybe where traditional university educators have it right when the mesh critical pedagogy with power, before they get to content. We know that content is safer for some people. As is producing curricula for students. But who says we know what is needed? Who says we have it right with our “activism 101” or our “educational technology 101” or our “physics 101”? For whom and for what is this free or radical education?
  6. We note that it is very rare indeed for people to start from the student or the community, and to ask how might I help that person/those people? What does this mean for me as an educator? What does this mean for power? What does this mean for process? What does this mean for politics and pedagogy? What does this mean for content? Our obsession with content and just getting on, mirrors their obsession with employability and becoming a productive economic actor.
  7. Place is important in building permacultures that emerge over time, and may congeal, as occupy threatens, into some form of counter-hegemonic position. Does it really matter that the mainstream, virtualised within its X-factor love-hate, its bitter cynicism of all things French, its snarling and visceral hatred of Leveson, its snide cynical use of austerity to demonise, might lose interest in us or our commodified, branded project? Why run to catch-up with a thing that neither knows nor cares? Do we somehow believe that the thing we loathe can be tamed? Or that we will not just form it spectacle? That the thing which brutalises can be turned through some liberal homily? Really? We might push back for a while but building the alternative as a process takes time, and deliberation, and technology, and talk, in the social centre, and the pub, and the WEA, and the Women’s Institute, and at the football, and on the picket line, and in the school and the university. And occasionally in the mainstream. But isn’t the rule and domination of the mainstream over our lives the thing we wish to break? With its alienating hatred.

I’m sure there are other things that we learned. But it has made us think about shock and awe, and how their domination of our spaces is so disconcerting at times that we can only imagine alternatives within their space and place. It is as if we can reimagine nothing other than a nicer form of what they do to us. A nicer form of control and power, because some of us are more free or more knowing than others. Rather than negating their institutional and process-driven power over us, we simply re-inscribe those patterns through our new institutions and forms and processes, whilst claiming they are new or democratic and power-free.

So we wonder how we might try to create something that starts from power and critique and critical pedagogy and politics, and most importantly from the student, in order to disengage, refuse, say no, push back or break their imposition on our world. Surely we can do better?


There will be some free @thirduniversity workshops happening on 5th – 6th November…

18 Oct

As part of Leicester’s community media week, the third university will be running a series of workshops during ‘open media’ day at the Phoenix Square. We will be tweeting more information about this shortly – and when we’ve got more details of other workshops on other. We’d love to see you there- again, as always, the cost of the third university is exactly nothing – so even you can afford to attend the 3rd best university in Leicester. If they prove popular, we’ll run them again.

Simple Website Building using WordPress: 1 hour

We’ll show you how you can set up a website using wordpress and turn it into a space to write, to share information or to host your campaign. We’ll go through the basis of using themes, hosting video and audio and writing your first blog post. You do not need to have much technical skills, but you do need to bring your own or share a laptop (this keeps the costs down (free!))

Social Media for Campaigns: 1 hour

This session will take a look at the recent online activist campaigns, the reasons why they went viral and explore the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and ipadio are a tool for inspiring action and change. Get hands-on experience and advice on how to find, build and maintain a social media community around your cause. Bring your own laptop or mobile phone for additional opportunities to create campaigns, organise supporters and to amplify your message.

Keeping safe when making media: 1 hour

If you are making citizen media on the front line, you need to keep yourself safe. There is a chance that you’ll be more visible to the police or the rioters and with a camera/mobile to your face, there is more chance of being injured. This will be an open discussion to take about the best practice and the legal rights that you need to know if you wish to make media and document dissent.

Call for workshops:

The Third University is looking for people to host short (1hr or less) workshops or discussions on the 5th or 6th of November during Leicester’s 3rd community media week (1st-7th of November) They can be about anything, really, because we just want to learn from you and to be able to share our skills with each other. We have space – we just have to transform it. If you think you are up for a bit of skillsharing (or have a suggestion about what you might want to learn) tweet us @thirduniversity, leave a comment or drop us a line:

The Third University has been learning about content and form

11 Apr

The Third University met at lovely Natterjacks Bar on Braunstone Gate in Leicester. The subject at issue was alternative teacher training. There was no prescription for the ills of normalised, institutionalised teacher training. But as one of the lovely participants highlighted “I just want to listen to people who care about stuff. I might learn things.” The things that were highlighted were a wonder and amplified so many connections that are hinted at in formalised teaching but that are never delivered within the commodified realm of monitored and precarious education.

The things were various.

  • Evolutionary technology and the creation of good enough algorithms for contextual problems. The Third University wonders how we might develop this model to look at narratives around solutions to our environmental crises, like climate change, decarbonisation and peak oil.
  • The place of hidden politics and cultures in East Germany after reunification. The Third University wonders how the lessons from the lost popular cultures of the GDR refract our views of lost cultures in the here-and-now, in the face of capital and the market.
  • Mixing cocktails and foraging for/drying apples. The Third University wonders how this might develop into a shared mechanism for exchanging goods, and for laughing.
  • Mental health and the arts. The Third University wonders how we can learn from those whom society marginalises and demonises, in order to recast our relationships.
  • The art of understanding reptiles, serpents and fish. The Third University wonders how this might enable us to understand our relationship to nature.
  • The relationship between international relations and the media in representations of the ostracised and the alienated and the marginalised. The Third University wonders how this might lead to new forms of action in the world, and to more smiling.

So there was new content. But there was also a discussion of forms. It was noted that teachers constrained learning, because they were constrained by a performative logic of quality and outcomes. So how might learning and teaching in public, based on shared interests and curiosity, help? How might analysing Shakespeare be achieved through performance in public? How might it develop confidence? How might algorithms be discussed through movement and performance in public spaces? How might it encourage hugging? How might popular public bars be used to discuss the politics of representation in marginalised communities? How might it help us share a drink and a smile? How might informal field-trips challenge the geography of content and subjects? How might radical spaces like libraries be re-radicalised for reading in public rather than private? How might we liberate our souls from the cloying commercialisation of the social factory?

The Third University is in love with the possibility of new content. Of listening to and learning from people who care about stuff. The Third University is excited about the public and shared forms this might take, in opposition to the precarity of learning in the academy. The Third University is excited. There will be more stuff.

alternative teacher training

31 Mar

We are all teachers. Gramsci, concerned with conservative schooling for radical education, and engagement with the general intellect, had a view of intellectual life dissolved into the fabric of society. This is what the Third University is concerned with in the present moment. How do we empower each other by association to teach each other newness, new things, new comprehensions of the world? How do we empower each other to build alternatives. Or test alternatives?

The Third University has a wonderful offer from Natterjacks Bar on Narborough Road to use their space to do stuff. We want to do stuff dissolved into the community. In this moment that thing is an alternative to teacher training. Rather than accredited, monitored, assured, validated teaching as an adjunct of economic growth, we believe that everyone is able to teach something to someone, somewhere. So we will be running a session at Natterjacks. We hope. On alternative teacher training. Against a prescribed curriculum. Against a validated performance. Against performativity, precarity, economic progress and growth.

In classic Fight Club style, if you attend Third University’s alternative teacher training for the first time, then you must teach.

We want a learning outcome. Our learning outcome will be that participants will leave confident in their ability to teach something to someone somewhere. Participants will define what is useful for whom and where. We will assess this thing in classic Fight Club style. Third University expects that participants will have taught something to someone  somewhere at some point.

More details will follow. Good Night and Good Luck.

#1 – The first rule of Alternative Teacher Training is, you do not talk about Alternative Teacher Training.

#2 – The second rule of Alternative Teacher Training is, you DO NOT talk about Alternative Teacher Training.

#3 – If some learner says stop, goes limp, taps out, the teach-in is over.

#4 – At least two participants to a teach-in.

#5 – One teach-in at a time.

#6 – No shirts, no shoes. If you like.

#7 – Teach-ins will go on as long as they have to.

#8 – If this is your first night at Alternative Teacher Training, you have to teach.

towards an anti-curriculum? or a curriculum of exchange?

24 Mar

When the Third university met, its attendees discussed what they were interested in furthering. Or learning. Or sharing. These things might be exchanged. They might be offered. They might be congealed. They will not be commodifed.

The scale of the things is of note to us. The action implicit in the things has some urgency. The things might define action that takes place beyond the Third University. In the social factory. The Third University hopes to find some friends which can help it critique and develop the exchange of action. The Third University is In. It is Against. It hopes to use a curriculum of exchange to help us move Beyond.

  • The environment, environmentalism, action and Leicester.
  • Animal Rights.
  • The Middle East.
  • A history of working class struggle in Leicester.
  • The -isms: Marxism; anarchism; feminism; neoliberalism.
  • Cinema, pop-media, film production and citizen media.
  • Criticality and higher learning: the place of histories of radical learning within and beyond the University.
  • Our governance: social awareness of our politics and economics.
  • Poetry and poetic traditions.
  • Shared reading: an exchange of ideas.

These areas might be developed. They might be ignored. There is some expertise. There is a space for practice and doing. For labour and work. For critique and praxis. There is opportunity for us at the Third University.