MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy is a six-week exploration of critical pedagogy. During this fourth week of MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy (MMCP), we will be discussing Jeffery Shantz’s essay, “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool” (chapter 7) in Anarchist Pedagogies and considering the impulse to dissent as seen in Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.” Feel free to read as much or as little of these selections as you are able. We promise there will be no reading quizzes.
Schedule of Events:
- Wednesday, February 11 at 5:00 pm EST – #MOOCMOOC Twitter chat
- Friday, February 13 at 8:00 pm EST – live, digital roundtable featuring the author of this week’s reading, Jeff Shantz.
- Ongoing – Participant blog posts, casual conversation, and questions shared on the community hashtag #moocmooc.
Critical pedagogy asserts that learning is an act of freedom, the practice of becoming free. And, yet, the education system, of which we are all products (and which many of us continue to participate in), is a highly regulated and structured environment. Students, teachers, support staff, and administrators all lack the personal autonomy they deserve and are therefore often limited in their actions. Anarchist educators, working both within and beyond the formal education system, resist these limitations, seeking to maximize personal freedom and autonomy.
This is no easy task.
The current shift in education toward an emphasis on job training and employable skills interferes with the practice of critical analysis. It perpetuates the myth of an American meritocracy based off formal credentials. Young people are told that a college degree, not critical faculties and autonomy, is the key to success; and this “success” is defined in terms of capital, the value one’s life contributes to GDP. Popular discourse and reform efforts dismiss the effects of race, class, and gender on one’s future prospects. Without the crucial space to practice critical analysis, many students are left without the skills necessary to challenge and disrupt the oppressive reality. Free Skools and other counter-cultural institutions that engage in anarchist practices often try to reskill participants in these often forgotten areas of study.
While contemporary schools prepare students to productively contribute to the current social structure, anarchist learning promotes critical engagement with society. The former builds social stability while the latter encourages dissent, critique coupled with direct action. Many anarchists contend that to comply with a broken system — one founded largely on race, class, and gender disparity — is to strengthen it. We must act in defiance to the systems which oppress us, and in doing so, establish radically different ways of structuring (or unstructuring) society.
This is possible through anarchist educational practices. According to cultural critic and radical educator Jeffery Shantz, anarchist pedagogies work toward building “infrastructures of resistance” where participants may “learn and practice skills which are undeveloped in authoritarian social relations” (125). An anarchist pedagogy, then, “aims toward developing and encouraging new forms of socialization, social interaction, and the sharing of ideas in ways that might initiate and sustain non-authoritarian practices and ways of relating” (126).
Social structures embody a particular sort of character or ethos that emphasize and reinforce certain beliefs and behaviors. Chain charter schools are in the habit of directly announcing these core beliefs. Other schools may promote certain characteristic more subtly, or even unconsciously. Regardless of the type of education, however, contemporary American schools regularly reflect and encourage the values strengthening global capitalism by reinforcing beliefs and behaviors that would benefit an individual participating in this economic superstructure.
But the primary aim of education, especially an anarchist education, isn’t economic.
The values learned in schools shape our social behaviors. Thus education holds a deeply civic purpose. Education teaches us how to act. Yet, today, many graduate feeling a lack of agency, an object to be traded on the global marketplace. And this feeling is anything but new.
Henry David Thoreau critiqued American’s passivity and compliance in his 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience,” suggesting that “those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.” And when the government proved itself to be an unjust machine, as Thoreau often believed, he encouraged citizens to “let [their lives] be a counter-friction to stop the machine.”
Anarchist pedagogies promote the critical skills necessary to be that counter-friction.
So let us come together and discuss how to build alternative education structures, both within and beyond traditional learning spaces, that challenge and subvert the dominant education paradigm here-and-now. Let us discuss education as a site of resistance, a space of unlearning and reskilling. On Wednesday, February 11 at 5:00 pm EST, students, teachers, parents, activists, and concerned citizens are encouraged to participant in a #moocmooc chat on how to shift educational values towards social justice. Check out worldtimebuddy.com to see when to join us in your time zone. In this conversation, we will consider questions such as:
- What are the aims of education? Ideally? In reality? Now, speaking from your position and experience within and beyond the education system, what is your role in defining these aims? What social structures and institutional systems limit our ability achieve these aims?
- How would you describe the character or ethos of your school or institution? What values do they promote and how does the institution describe these values? What does the institutional narrative hide?
- In your local community, where would you go to learn skills not taught by formal education institutions? If you have participated at these countersites, consider your experience learning in this alternative environment. Was it effective? What worked, and what didn’t? Thinking beyond what you’ve experience: what do you imagine these infrastructures of resistance could look like?
- How can you act as a counter-friction to oppression structures? In what ways can you meaningfully dissent, defy, and resist harmful educative forces? Where are there opportunities to build countersites in learning? What are the risks of doing so?
Secondly, a live, digital roundtable using Google Hangouts on Air featuring the author of this week’s Anarchist Pedagogies chapter, Jeff Shantz, will occur on Friday, February 13 at 8:00 pm EST. Joining Jeff in this conversation about countersites in learning will be three educators dedicated to idea that education is a means of social justice. While all four speakers share a commitment to the values described in this article, each participant works within a different educational context.
If you cannot join us for our synchronous chat or viewing the roundtable live, feel free to post your thoughts throughout the week on the #MOOCMOOC hashtag or in the comments below. The video will be archived for future viewing. We’ll also be curating highlights from the community’s blog responses on the MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy homepage, where you can also find the schedule for the rest of the MOOC.
Registration is not required for MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy. No personal data will be collected and everyone is welcome. However, if you’d like updates about the course, there are a few things you can do. First, follow @hybridped, @moocmooc, and #moocmooc on Twitter. And sign up for Hybrid Pedagogy’s e-mail list where we send updates about events (like MOOC MOOC) and digests of recently published articles.