Monthly Archives: September 2007

The Day’s First Text

The first text one happens to read in the day sometimes kicks off a sequence of thoughts and activities. The top of the heap in the bathroom happened today to be Parodies: an anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm –and After (the 1965 Modern Library Giant edition, fruit of a trip to the local usedbookery), and a random opening brought this for my consideration as Leitmotiv for the day:

(Cloax is the vilest drink, gouging
Pockets out of your giblets, mixing
Frenzy and remorse, blending
Rot-gut and white-ants.
Jalap has a use, laundering
Colons with refreshing suds, purging
The lower soul with gentle motion.)

Oooooookay, I thought. It’s from Myra Buttle’s Sweeney in Articulo (part of The Sweeniad, Victor Purcell’s rather vicious ca. 1957 parody of T.S. Eliot –I know Victor Purcell for his work on the Chinese in Southeast Asia and on Malayan history, but am pleased to find him at play here). And so the odd half hour went into inquiring into Eliot (which led to The T. S. Eliot Page, and turned up A craving for reality: T. S. Eliot today by Roger Kimball). After that, a visit to the phlebotomist (fasting), and then breakfast… some days are more fun than others.

On Rearward Horizons

Two years after the moment of Retirement, a glance in the rear view mirror suggests that Things are indeed Larger Than They Appear, in the sense that they’re disappearing into the distance. They may be Larger, but increasingly I don’t much care, or anyhow don’t care in the ways that I once did. Reform Teaching and Learning? Faugh. Take on and remediate the technological cluelessness of librarians and college administrators? I thumb my nose in your general direction. Carry on campaigns for GIS and Web 2.0? Somebody else can break their teeth on those bones. But still I occasionally find statements that stir some of those former enthusiasms, usually in the edublogs I’m still following (though in ever more desultory ways). Today’s case in point: don’t miss the beloved Stephen Downes’ latest, Stager, Log and Web 2.0 for its array of home truths and eloquent Aux Armes! that are his specialty. A few crisp outtakes:

…the main lesson is, I would say, school reform won’t work. Schools were designed for a particular purpose, one that is almost diametrically at odds with what ought to be the practices and objectives of a contemporary education, an education suited not only to the information age but also to the objectives of personal freedom and empowerment…

…it’s not just that the textbook is an inefficient paper-and-ink publication. It’s the whole idea of standardization and lesson plans and curriculum that the textbook brings with it. We should stop using textbooks because they cost too much. We should stay off textbooks because we get a better education as a result…

As Dave Pollard says, “Bucky was right: ‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’ We won’t win zoning battles or economic control battles or electoral system battles or proportionate representation battles in the courts or the election campaigns or the markets that are controlled by the elite. We must instead walk away from these corrupt and dysfunctional systems and build new ones, responsive and responsible and sustainable alternatives that others can look at and say ‘yes, that works much better’.”

…people have pretty much given up on trying to reform the existing institutions. We’ve seen a lot of people try. Meet the new boss… same as the old boss. Why bother to fight the restrictions. School web is blocked? Just use your iPhone. Policies are overly restrictive? Just ignore them. I mean – what are they going to do, fire you from your $25K job? Why rock the boat when it’s going over the waterfall?

People are not just opting out of traditional education. They are also opting out of traditional business and traditional government. Making their own decisions instead of trying to sway bodies that purport to make decisions for them.

Trouble is, I’m not so sure myself who should be caring about this. I used to think I knew…

links for 2007-09-04