pedagogy

I am more and more convinced that true revolutionaries must perceive the revolution, because of its creative and liberating nature, as an act of love. For me, the revolution, which is not possible without a theory of revolution — and therefore of science — is not irreconcilable with love. On the contrary: the revolution is made by people to achieve their humanization. What, indeed, is the deeper motive which moves individuals to become revolutionaries, but the dehumanization of people? The distortion imposed on the word “love” by the capitalist world cannot prevent the revolution from being essentially loving in character, nor can it prevent the revolutionaries from affirming their love of life. Guevara (while admitting the “risk of seeming ridiculous”) was not afraid to affirm it. “Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality.”
The legacy of identity politics has produced a problematic language idealism where we focus more on correct words and phrases rather than the material basis of oppression… And even in the moment where we imagine we are indeed combatting real world oppression we are, in fact, simply engaging with the level of appearance. […] This language idealism becomes nothing but a self-righteous exercise when it refuses to contemplate a praxis of mass pedagogy based on actually changing the material circumstances and instead focuses on anti-oppression training, atomized concepts of privilege, and how to speak correctly.
—  J. Moufawad-Paul

A Great Big 10 Minute Drawing Lesson

Good prepwork makes good art. Taking 20 seconds to do a value sketch before you do an actual sketch or drawing can tell you which shapes are going to be hard for you, demonstrate if there are problem areas with your reference, help you decide how to change things, and help you figure out how you’re going to place the final object on the page.

1. Break your reference image (from life or photo) into three values. Dark, midtone, light. No more! Only 3!* Squint to see them.

2. Put the darks down. Not sure if it’s dark or not? Round everything to the closest value. ONLY 3, PEOPLE.

3. Add the midtones.

4. Leave the lights (or introduce them if you’re working on colored paper).

5. Remember that your background choices shape your foreground and are as important a decision as the subject.

6. Draw what you see, not what you know is there. (i.e. artists often find noses difficult, because they draw a nose. Draw the three values, and a nose will appear)

7. Be Rembrandt.

A value study can be done with a Sharpie on a receipt or the back of your hand. 20 seconds. It’s only  your worksheet, so it doesn’t matter how ugly or wrong it is — no one’s gonna see it unless you post it on your tumblr with numbers photoshopped over it.

20 seconds. I swear I’m giving you the keys to the universe here. Don’t crash it.

20 second value study —> 30 second line study —-> 20 minute drawing****

 

 

* If it doesn’t make sense in three values, it’s not the greatest composition/ reference. FIND A NEW REFERENCE**

**grossly oversimplified***

***we only have 10 minutes here

****the more involved my final work is going to be, the more prep work I’m going to do. It’ll save me time in the long run and keep me from doing stupid things in the final

GO FORTH AND FILL TUMBLR WITH ART FAREWELL FAREWELL

I admit not being able to define, not even for even stronger reasons to propose, an ideal social model for the functioning of our scientific or technological society. On the other hand, one of the most urgent tasks, before everything else, is that we are used to consider, at least in our European society, that power is in the hands of the government and is exerted by some particular institutions such as local governments, the police, the Army. These institutions transmit the orders, apply them and punish people who don’t obey. But, I think that the political power is also exerted by a few other institutions which seem to have nothing in common with the political power, which seem to be independent, but which actually aren’t. We all know that university and the whole educational system that is supposed to distribute knowledge, we know that the educational system maintains the power in the hands of a certain class and exclude the other social class from this power… . It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize and attack them in such a manner that political violence has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.
—  Michel Foucault, “On the Topic of Future Society” from Conversations with Noam Chomsky, c. 1971 (via metamash)
vimeo

Strangely close to our hearts. Be interested to watch this when it comes out.

I was blessed to preach at a church in Newark this last year. The pastor was telling me that they had 54 funerals in one year [you only get 52 weeks in a year] and the vast number were precious brothers and sisters between 18 and 26. And that’s the killing fields of neoliberal imperial America. Ferguson is just a peak of the iceberg, and since we have not even gotten to the soul murder. The spiritual death on the inside with these decrepit school systems where rich kids get taught and poor kids get tested.
— 

Cornel West; A Public Dialogue Between Bell Hooks and Cornel West

That last line is so important.

The $50,000-A-Year Socratic Joke, or,
What Are You Buying When You Buy An Education?

To cut to the chase as fast as possible, I’ll abstain from offering a detailed history of the Student Debt Crisis in Higher Education, or the Spiraling Costs of Higher Education.  Both titles are “copy/pasted” by the editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the reg, and a little judicious Googling will feed you all the info you desire.  A few historical highlights, though:  the boom in the humanities started with the G.I. Bill after World War II.  The decline in the humanities started in the early ’80s when Reagan cancelled a bunch of grants, slashed the education budged, pissed on the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and then sat back and laughed while the faggots died of AIDS.  That more or less brings you up to speed, with one additional fact:  even though the systemic decline of the humanities in higher education began in the United States well over 30 years ago, some people are still pretending that we’re in a “slump” or, famously, that “it gets better.” 

Yeah.  OK. 
Onward and upward.

Instead, let me explain the joke on the card above, since I suppose it’s possible some of my readers aren’t intimately familiar with Plato’s dialogues, the corpus of Greek drama, and the history of classical Athens in its “Golden Age.”  Fortunately for you, I can boil it all down. 

I’m fond of pointing out things in Plato’s dialogues that your teachers (like Derrida) forgot to tell you about; for example, the age of Socrates’ preferred boytoys (in the Protagoras, for example, he tells his nameless friend that he likes them just as their beards start to come in).  When you read Derrida, you hear all this stuff about Plato’s distrust of writing, the logocentrism, and all that complex metaphysical hoo-ha your were supposed to learn in Intro to Critical Theory but everyone had the flu the day you read “Differance” and “Structure, Sign, and Play” (or maybe “The Law of Genre” if it’s a Comp.Lit. class).  And yes, Plato does concern himself greatly with methods of inscription, techniques of memory, and all that fun stuff.  But you know the character of Socrates in Plato’s dialogues is concerned with more than anything?  Money.  Yes, money.

Look close.  Closer…eh, too close.  A little too close (Jaffar, Jaffar, he’s our man). 
What you’ll see if you look closely is that somewhere in every Platonic dialogue is hidden the true omphalos, the actual shibboleth by which Socrates decides whether a system of inquiry is “true” or not is…whether or not the instructor demands money.  Though he drones on for page after page after page of aporia and elenchus, Socrates really only cares about one thing.  Did you pay for your edumacation?  If so, it sucks.  Boom.  Protagoras isn’t wrong because he’s wrong or a bad philosopher; he’s wrong because he charges money for lessons.

Socrates is running a much deeper and smarter game.  What we might call “a long con.”  You see, Socrates has something so much better going for him that tuition fees.  He hasprivilege.  Socrates isn’t a poor student or an immigrant, you see; he’s an Athenian citizen, from a noble family - what the Greeks called “of good birth,” oreugenos.  This is, of course, the source of our word “eugenics” and we all know how happy that road was.  Anyway.  Socrates was independently wealthy.  Moreover, he had connections and old friends among the high and mighty of Athens, which was then a largely oligarchical society of inherited privilege. 

Socrates could afford to spend all day on the agora arguing with people for free.  You know why?  Money.  That’s why.  He had a wife, Xanthippe, to take care of the household regulation (oikonomia), no doubt assisted by a “manager” or majordomo who was likely a foreign slave.  So he could spend all his time getting drunk at symposia, fucking little boys, and accosting poor, hard-working artists and artisans like the bard Ion and the self-righteous Euthyphro and instill in them a profound existential crisis.  And he pretends to spread his philosophy for free, out of the goodness of his heart.

So what’s the con, you ask.  Just this.  Look at the structure of the Platonic dialogues.  Look carefully.  Almost every single one, at least in the earlier, properly “Socratic” tetralogies, begins with somebody running up to Socrates with a strange conceptual problem.  And almost inevitably, Socrates responds something like this:  “I see your problem, and I understand what you’re saying.  I can ever help you resolve it.  But first I want to know, who taught you this claptrap, and how much did they charge you?”  Then Socrates pretends to unravel the problem, though he rarely does; and in gratitude for this “help,” perhaps the inquistor would like to make a friendly donation to the Socratic Philosophy Fund?  In other words, Socrates will save your soul for free, but then you have to sell it back to him in exchange.  Sound familiar?

If it does sound familiar, maybe you’re thinking of the Christian Church, which founded and spread itself according to much the same hypocritical principles.  If you’re thinking of contemporary higher education, you’re right about that one, too.  So what’s the comedic essence of Aristophanes’ The Clouds?

Well, here’s the thing.  Aristophanes and Socrates were good friends.  According to Diogenes Laertius, the only time Socrates would leave the city walls of Athens was to see the plays of Aristophanes performed at the Piraeus.  Aristophanes, as his comedies clearly show, could read and cut a bitch like no other (except Diogenes of Sinope and Aristotle himself, and perhaps Critolaus, the Great Queen of the Skeptical Academy), and what he’s mocking in this short comedy is precisely this con on Socrates’ part:  his pretense of saving students from the errors of others, in exchange for a modest sum and a lifetime of anxiety.  At the end of the dialogue, as at the end of Aristophanes’ farce, the student is left more confused and indebted than ever.

I don’t think the allegory needs much more belaboring.  So let’s return to our actual question.  What are you buying when you pay $50,000 a year for higher education?  Obviously, that’s an inflated figure relative to the average cost of state college and community college, for example.  But that’s not the point.  Let’s reduce the numbers drastically.  Let’s just point out that a total of $50,000 of debt after a 4-year education is by no means unusual and leave it at that. 

Now, before I start, let me point out once again that my critique, hyperbolic as it may be, is aimed at the humanities, since I have no experience outside of them.  So let’s take a degree in English, say, or Classics, or even Philosophy, at Columbia or NYU or Cornell or whateverthefuck.  What are you paying for?

Well, let’s think for a second. 
In the Wayback Time of Long Ago - like, say, 1200 AD, when we can clearly see institutional structures identifiable as the prototype of the “modern” university - Scholastic universities were literally the only place in Latin Europe where it was ALLOWED to think.  Publication and circulation of ideas without Church approval was just not done, and more importantly, nobody who wasn’t Catholic or Jewish in Europe know how to read, anyway.  So if you wanted to be any kind of “thinker” or “reader” or “intellectual,” you had to go to a university, or at least start a basic Latin education at a nearby cannon school, or be Jewish. 

From the 14th to the early 19th century or so “official” institutions of pedagogy, whether Royal Societies, the private estates of nobles, or proper Universities, offered a different type of exclusive access:  books.  In a time when books were rare and valuable, universities were literal center of learning where information could be access simply not available anywhere else.  For centuries, scholars would travel around the world just to look at a specific piece of paper in a particular place.  Wait, I guess some people still do that.  Wait, I guess, I’ve done that.  But anyway, you get my point. 

This has no longer been true in the humanities since the beginning of printing, really, but it certainly isn’t true now that the “digital humanities” are exploding everywhere like fungal spores.  Basically, most texts you can dream of are available for free on-line.  And if not for free for a modest price.  And if not online, at Amazon or the public library.  “Content,” so to speak, is no longer a marketable commodity in the humanities.  Onlyproductsare.  A book.  An on-line course.  A 4-year degree.  So again - what you buying for your money?

Well, in the United States, at the moment, you’re buying two things.  You’re buying 4 years of housing and partying as a kind of normative suspended adolescence, and you’re buying a guided tour of the humanities. 

Professors can’t give you “content” in exchange for money, not with Wikipedia telling you everything you need to know, and you can even download syllabi and course notes in virtually every topic now, not to mention order any number of “teach it yourself for dummies” kind of things.  What the university is offering you is a guided tour of the history, meaning, and connections between “things,” whatever the field might be, and it’s telling you that you’ll get to study these things in a fun, comfortable environment in exchange for a lifetime of debt.  And most importantly, it’s implying that, as a bastion of culture and learning, it can teach you to navigate these connections at a much higher pedagogical quality than you can hope for by piecing shit together yourself.

Well, folks, there’s the rub.  Yep.  Because that last bit, the ideological crux of today’s higher education system, is a crock of bullshit.  The idea that you’re buying the best that is known and taught in the world is as old and rusty as “Dover Beach.”  Give me a fucking break.  Did you see my post on Byzantium the other day?  Using a used Penguin Atlas that I bought for $4, Wikipedia, and a book called The Byzantines that I checked out from the library, I learned more about the Byzantine Empire and its philosophical history than I would have in many thousands of dollars’ worth of higher education.  And this is assuming that you actually get a quality education for that price, which, as we know, is a rather hit-or-miss prospect.  Trust me when I say that many undergraduates finish degrees at extremely prestigious institutions only to hate themselves and the teachers who failed them.  I’ve taught some of those students.  So basically, you’re going into a lifetime of debt for a 4-year summercamp. 

Doesn’t sound quite so worthwhile when you put it that way, does it?