Deschooling Society 2012 @the Serpentine Hayward
I spent most of the last day of April 2010 at the infuriatingly provocative DSS event at the Purcell Room; the Hayward Gallery is being refurbished until June 19th, I think, when they re-open with Festival Brazil. Hey, We’re Closed! is a site-specific season outdoors now, in the meantime.
Deschooling Society, titularly inspired by Ivan Illich but focused around Critical Pedagogies, was a roomful of somewhat precious creatives from the expansive USA, the diffident UK and the rigorous EU (compression hey, don’t you just love it) discussing the possibilities for Museum Education in 2012. In many ways this was a unique debate on curating future learning.
As an ex-educationalist it seemed to me that this artistic agglomeration knew how to ask the right questions but weren’t sure what the right answer looked like; which keeps the debate open. In education we think we know what the right answers are (high-stakes assessment right?), but we don’t know what questions we should be asking. Unless it is about >>
So educationalists know the past but not the future; Artists know pathways to some futures, and actively engage with possibilities. Somewhere perhaps there is a space in which learning can be located…
On balance, in developing new futures, in curating future learning, it is necessary to create problems in the question space rather than offering received wisdom in the answer space. It is the difference between the epistemic cognition offered by heutagogy and the rule-following certainty offered by pedagogy. We need both, but in original collaborations and unique partnerships. Take a bow (and thanks) for moving in the right direction Ralph Rugoff (Hayward) and Sally Tallant (Serpentine)
Critical Pedagogies in Civic Spaces
The range of projects discussed and described were wonderfully inspiring, as most of them took social problems and developed learning programmes as art in civic spaces which were way more of a community-responsive curriculum than you ever find even in community education. Here as a tribute is a brief list of them; Pedro Lasch’s self-financing 16 Beaver (New York seemed particularly inspiring) Hannah Hurtzig’s Mobile Academy (peer-to-peer “blackmarket for useful knowledge“), Jeanne van Heeswijk’s Blue House (community spaces opposing gated societies), Janna Graham’s Edgeware Road Project Centre for Possible Studies (urban interculturality), Suzanne Lacy’s Latino Mobile Museums (addressing gang culture) and Pedro Helguera’s brilliant deconstruction of the Monroe Doctrine “The School of Panamerican Unrest”
Clearly in Art Education learning has left the classroom and is playing in the Streets, not under the paving stones but in all sorts of pop-up locations. Education is now merely curating its own history whilst Art has its canvas out and is creating it’s own future, and not just with graffiti but in people-centred collaborations.
At last the 1968 Show
Of course having been involved in a Polytechnic Occupation in 1970 that lasted 6 months, which resulted in a canteen being run as a student co-operative for five years (yes a student-run workers co-operative lasting five years), I took great pleasure in the discussion of Art Schools as situated rebellion debate. Felt a bit celebratory as we haven’t really learnt from those interventions yet, although Lisa Tickner nailed the historic blinkers concerning race and gender really well. Read her Hornsey Art College History. Thankfully Dave Beech is still fired by those peculiarly English potentialities.
I don’t agree with Heather Brooke’s conspiracy theory models of the Silent State, being more of a cock-up theorist myself, except when she is right. But educational policy has definitely managed down original thinking in institutional spaces since the seventies. Just look at the facade of London Met on Holloway Road to check; Liebeskin, tower blocks & concrete bunkers. Art Schools offer structured spaces with unstructured potentialities at their best. No wonder interesting views on socially irresponsible and civically responsible learning activities don’t come from the Academy anymore.
In 2001 having worked as a Culture Online Visioneer for DCMS and on the DfES Community Grids for Learning CALL programme for NOF, I wrote Digital Fields of Creative Play for metapod at Coventry University. I was arguing that only artists had the open creative abilities to find new ways to the future and they should be encouraged to take digital forms and play with them as a kind of research lab for future networked societies. Creative play should be the essence of any field but, in the UK, it seems we are scared of it, educationally, economically and politically.
An Open Context Model of Creative Learning
My interest in this debate can be deduced from the title of this blog; the heutagogic possiblities of learning. As a member of the Learner-Generated Contexts Group we have discussed heutagogy as part of the PAH Continuum in the Open Context Model of Learning. For the LGC heutagogy, the creative playing with form so crucial in Art School, should be a key component of learning, helping us develop our understanding between pedagogic repetition and with the andragogic support of other. So how do I see possible ways forwards in this fascinating ongoing debate initiated at the Purcell Room?
1) Look to integrate understanding, collaboration and creativity as a learning process.
2) Understand the nature of the learning that comes from playing with form (however imperfect)
3) Create public spaces of learning; co-create the pop-up learning that emerges (mobile academy)
4) Develop a framework that models curating learning strategies that can be used to develop and support Creative Learning Hubs across the sector;
5) Self-accredit and then negotiate with educational institutions from a position of knowing your worth
An Open Model of Creativity, or an Open Model of Creative Learning perhaps? An artistic obuchenie for civic spaces maybe? Illich wasn’t exactly celebrated, the Situationists were remembered with slightly more warmth, but the critical pedagogies debate was using the past constructively not merely celebrating it. Public deconstruction with great projects as soaring flight paths, summarised with great passion by Paul O’Neill. Ralph and Sally have to navigate their own learning narrative out of all this. I’m of the school that believes creativity comes from copying something great and failing to reproduce it; the work of art in the age of digital mashup. All that is needed are some inspired failures and all may be well. “”
One thing is certain the Art Education world is asking more interesting questions about learning than mainstream debates about education even hint at.