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What and how would an anarchist educate?

+10 votes
If by some desire or chance and alignment of the planets you found yourself in a position of educating (not presupposing the teacher-student binary):
-very young children (preschool age)
-children (K-5,6)
-adolescents (6,7-12)
-young adults/adults/more or less elderly
What would you teach them and how would you go about doing it? Or how would you suspect education will go about in a situation of anarchy?
This question may or may not presuppose the existence of a 'school' or place intended for the purpose of education.
asked Feb 15, 2013 by anonymous

3 Answers

+2 votes
 
Best answer
Your question has a number of different pieces to it; the age of the person being educated, the existence of a place of education, the potential relationships between the parties, and the here and now vs. speculative condition of anarchy.

What I am enjoying about answering this question is that my answer seems to stay the same regardless of which variables I plug into it. What a pleasant break from the constant caveat of it depends.....

I think that teaching to a developmental age will come naturally if the teaching is anarchistic. My idea of educating/learning as anarchists is that it is a dialogue in which both parties listen to each other (not just words but are able to connect enough to read lots of kinds of signals too) and so what and how something would be taught would vary wildly depending on who was “teaching” and who was “learning”. Part of this thing I am calling listening includes not forcing a topic or relationship if it isn't meeting the goals of both parties.

In terms of what anarchists would educate I assume it would be something that all parties involved understood why they were learning/teaching it and had a desire (not necessarily a pleasure desire, just a motivational desire) to be there.I think that “reason” behind education is a big difference from what the school system offers, which is “because you have to in order to move forward”, hence a society building/coercive reasoning. That said, I don't have a problem with motivational desire, meaning I want to do something because of the options it provides me as opposed to a joy I derive from the doing itself. I’m actually kind of into motivational desire, but that's a different topic...

So, how would an anarchist educate? A couple things come to mind. One is to use all of our senses and perceptions. Including in a “lesson” physical release, tactile perception, emotional response, intuition, judgement, muscle memory, association with taste or smell, etc. In doing this the educator asks the learner to take ownership over what they are learning and to make their own, to trust their own response to it, to allow the material to change based on how they understand it. Another part of this process is sharing experience, with the “educator” establishing their authority in the subject matter by personalizing the topic, what mistakes they have made, how they currently experience the topic, why they do it, etc....

Anarchists can also probably teach better if they aren't scared of what they know, and are assertive about it. While learning is a process and a dialogue, it is not helpful to either claim expertise you don't have or to act guilty about having a skill set. I’m all for people knowing about stuff and being responsible towards that knowledge and there being the parts of teacher and learner, cause we aren't all magically equally skilled in everything (good!).

And, also, the “educator” can ask questions they don't know the answers to. And make mistakes. And then the roles get mixed up and reversed and become less clear. Which is cool.
answered Mar 4, 2013 by shark.heart (1,510 points)
edited Mar 5, 2013 by shark.heart
–2 votes
While I cannot tell you what anarchic learning and teaching would prioritize and really *be* since that would entirely depend on the fact of a people's existence that is beyond the pale of extant experiences, I can maybe broadly explain the elementary rule of its practice.

All peoples' are possessed of an equal capability for making sense of things, of becoming proficient in an object of their attentions, and from this one should extrapolate that a person does not have to be *educated* to become learned and that to teach others in subject matters they need no more knowledge of the subject than their pupils. Their own reasoning is sufficient as a device for learning without having to proceed according to the expertise of a person who has formally mastered the reasoning of a subject. In other words, explicating how to reason is a hierarchical and stupefying method. So long as the minimal requirement of someone's intellect being fully effected is attained then that person will learn. The problem is knowing how to fully effect the person's powers of reason, not building reason within the person's mind. That would be the elementary principle of an anarchist philosophy of intellect, to my mind.
answered Feb 18, 2013 by madlib (2,730 points)
edited Feb 24, 2013 by madlib
really madlib?
i had a hard time getting past "all people are possessed of an equal intellect". wtf?
how are you measuring? what is intellect? how on earth can you say everyone's is equal? people are not equal at all, and it's questionable if we're even equivalent.
i appreciate that you're trying to devalue a certain kind of teaching, but you could do a lot better using simpler words and having more signfigant (and better thought out) points.
//The Power of the Ignorant

Let's begin by reassuring the critics: we will not make of the ignorant one the fount of an innate science, and especially not of a science of the people as opposed to that of the scholar. One must be learned to judge the results of the work, to verify the student's science. The ignorant one himself will do *less* and *more* at the same time. He will not verify what the student has found; he will verify that the student has searched. He will judge whether or not he has paid attention. For one need only be human to judge the fact of work. … The ignorant master must demand from his student that he prove to him that he has studied attentively. Is this insignificant? Think about everything the demand implies for the student in the way of an endless task. Think about the intelligence it can also grant to the ignorant examiner: “What prevents the *ignorant* but *emancipated* mother from noticing all the times that she asks the child where “Father” is, whether or not he always points to the same word; what prevents her hiding the word and asking, what is the word under my finger? Etc., etc.”

A pious image, a housewife's recipe… This is how the official spokesman of the explicative tribe judged it: “One can teach what one doesn't know is still a housewife's motto.” We will argue that “maternal intuition” does not exert any domestic privilege here. …the mark of human intelligence, the most elementary ruse of its reason—the true reason, the one proper to each and common to all, this reason that is manifested in an exemplary fashion whenever the ignorant one's knowledge and the master's ignorance, by becoming equal, demonstrate the powers of intellectual equality.//

Yes, the point of saying all of this is to refute extant teaching and to refute extant schooling and to refute extant education in our social order. I'm not giving an objective, unbiased account of intelligence. I'm not an academic. (Although, this academic's account of intelligence is fascinating: http://youtu.be/MV9e1_w2EgY?t=4m55s )

I wasn't saying we all know as much as everyone else and in exactly the same way. I was saying we all have an equal aptitude for making sense of things and therefore we also have equal aptitudes for seeing to it that others make sense of things. Sure, we may not all equally evaluate the importance of making sense of things. We may not all hold ourselves equally in the esteem necessary to advocate for our own intellects. We may not all immediately know, without any assurance or advice, how to proceed in such a method. And so on…

I also have no idea what you mean when you urge me to use “simpler words.”
So… ? Are we still at odds?
i was never at odds with you, just critical (wait, are those the same? ;) ) and i'm not sure why i mentioned simpler words either, except that "extant" just seems silly sometimes.
or maybe i just mean that you are writing a lot for what seems like a pretty simple point.

but perhaps i lost the nuances in the verbiage?

at any rate, i don't think that we all have an equal aptitude for making sense of things. i think that valuing making sense of things makes a difference, and so if one person does value that and another person doesn't, than those two cannot in any meaningful say be said to be equal on that metric. but perhaps now i'm making a simple point with too many words...
Yeah, I did over reach. It took a lot of words because I didn't arrive at this idea originally through my own intuition. The answer itself was, in fact, something of an extrapolation on my part. (Rather than an "axiom".) Maybe I'm more enthralled with the extrapolations and arguments to be made from it than the idea itself.

I can't be world weary all the time. I should be allowed the luxury of being embarrassingly conceited and optimistic once in awhile.
go for it. have a blast.
@madlib: "we all have an equal aptitude for making sense of things"

as worded, i disagree strongly with that statement. it would imply that we all have the same tools with which to make sense of things, and that seems downright impossible (given my own experience with different people).

but i feel like perhaps i am missing something in your point. care to explain?
0 votes
It seems like the current mode of education in many western states is hierarchical and takes knowledge as something to be consumed and learned. A non-hierarchical model might instead understand knowledge as something that is produced, and so education would be a process of re-invention and re-discovery of all the things we communally know.

One writer that might be of interest in this regard is Paulo Freire and especially his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
answered Feb 23, 2013 by dashe (1,000 points)
this seems like the beginning of an interesting answer, but there is not enough there there.
it would be nice if you could add some details about what is different about the theory and/or the practice of Freire from what is thought/practiced here and now.
Thanks dot. I'll give it a go...

Freire's pedagogy is constructivist, in that it sees knowledge as constructed/produced and not as something that exists somewhere in the world and must be found. The role of an educator is to facilitate learning by creating the possibilities for students to produce knowledge. Freire suggests that this is initially an act of self-liberation (something he calls critical consciousness).

Perhaps more helpful is how this operated on the ground. Freire was active in Brazil and many of his ideas were implemented on a large scale and had a dramatic effect on the literacy rate (until the 1964 coup saw him imprisoned and then exiled, and his writing suppressed). One practical example of his pedagogy was to give new students cameras and have them document their own community and daily life (autoethnography). Students would analyze the photos and construct knowledge of their world as the basis from which further learning (reading/writing) would take place. This was revolutionary in Brazil at the time, and many of the poorest of people were not all that happy with the exploitation they discovered.

This sort of liberatory pedagogy is what I had in mind when thinking about nonhierarchical education, in that the impetus is really coming from the grassroots. On a much more basic level, constructivist approached to education make sense in terms of how I think learning takes place. For teachers this means that it is much more important how you teach than what you teach.
p.s. Just got my hands on a 2012 book, Anarchist Pedagogies, that has some interesting perspectives on anarchism and education, edited by Robert Haworth through PM press.
"A non-hierarchical model might instead understand knowledge as something that is produced"

i wish i could grok exactly what you mean by knowledge as something that is produced (ie, a product). but as i read it, it gives me the pukes. can you elaborate for this uneducated bloke?
Hi funkyanarchy. Got a kick out of the turn of phrase in your comment. Bit of a British accent coming through me-thinks. And I can understand the trepidation of talking about knowledge as product, as that seems to tend toward co-modification, capitalizing, consumption, etc.

I suppose one way I'd explain the use of the phrase "knowledge as produced" is to say that it's not produced in any absolute way, but knowledge is something constructed (or produced) over and over again, as each learner strikes on a particular subject or topic. This constructivist approach to knowledge differs from the more typical understanding of knowledge as somehow existing independent of the body. For example, we might speak about a scientist 'discovering' a particular 'truth' (say the polio vaccine or gravity or whatever), as though knowledge is hiding somewhere and waiting to be found. A constructivist approach to knowledge, on the other hand, would say that a particular truth depends on context and the productive energies of that scientist bringing knowledge into being (i.e. knowledge does not exist independent of the human beings that make use of it). This constructivist theory of knowledge makes sense to me because of how frequently what is taken as 'truth' is overturned, and in that case how can there be any sort of absolute truth as a reference point? This is perhaps getting to the point of TMI, but the idea of absolute knowledge (on which the current western education system is based) is rooted in 'logocentrism', which traces back to the religious ideal of god as absolute truth. This means education tends toward an understanding of knowledge as hierarchy, and what spurs me to suggest that anarchist education practices would take the opposite approach and instead understand knowledge as 'constructed from below', so to speak. In that sense to say that knowledge is produced (and is indeed some sort of product) is perhaps not so puke-worthy as it seems ;)

I hope this is answering in some way your query.
thanks for the explanation, dashe. and no, my use of the term "bloke" does not indicate a british accent (or background), that is just the word that came out. :-)

if i understand you correctly, you are saying that knowledge is subjective; contextual to the individual/situation in which it is considered. i would agree with that. (if i got that wrong, please correct me).

your use of "scientist" as the common role associated with the "discovery" of knowledge i find less agreeable. but let's say you are using that term in the most generic of ways.

i plant a tomato, and watch it grow. as the weather gets cold and the tomato plant is not yet ready for harvest, i discover that my immediate area is too cold to grow tomatoes outside. that is knowledge i have just ... assimilated? ... obtained? ... come across? ... produced?  the latter seems least applicable, to me. in the normal course of my life, i acted in a way that allowed me to discover a (contextual) reality of my life in this habitat. in doing so i gained knowledge. did i produce that knowledge? i guess by some definition of the word, i did. i just don't find that meaning of the word very useful. to each their own, eh?

information
knowledge
learn
produce

defining these terms (among others) would be a great starting point for better clarity.
Hi again funkyanarchy,

It sounds like we are on the same page, especially where you speak of knowledge as subjective and contextual to individual/situation in which considered. I also think the example you bring up of growing tomatoes is spot on, and something I can understand in concrete terms since I've never had much luck growing anything more sensitive than potatoes, even though I've read a bunch of books on gardening. I suppose it's one of those things where each gardener will have to figure out how to do it for themselves. Following the words/question marks in your last comment I would use the term 'constructed'. I do think that's the best word, and thank you for spurring me to clarify. I also subscribe to the care you are calling for with regard to specific language (words like knowledge, learn, produce, etc.), but I'm not sure I am up to the task of defining these in any sort of philosophical or rigorous way.

Nice chatting with you, as it always is nice to speak to the folks here on this site. I hope you don't take any offense to the remark on the accent (as some of my Irish friends might). All the best...

-e
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