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The Edupunks are coming … to an Edu-Factory near you!
February 9, 2011 - 9:15pm

From the archives - this post was originally published at on 2010.04.06.

I have always been attracted to everyday forms of resistance over BIG SOCIAL MOVEMENTS (see James Scott – Weapons of the Weak and Michel de Certeau – The Practice of Everyday Life). In real life, these two types of resistance are usually found together either working side-by-side or working collaboratively with one another to make change happen.

I am the daughter of a former GM factory worker. I grew up in a house filled with union talk – of strikes and pickets and layoffs. As a child, this appeared to be a secretive world of working-class men. Perhaps this explains why I was drawn to the work of Scott and de Certeau, why I felt comfortable with the idea of resistance as part of daily life – as part of a world I already inhabited.

My graduate work in Sociology focused on cultural studies and social movements. The various authors in Toward a Global Autonomous University: The Edu-factory Collectiveare well-represented on the shelves in my home library (full disclosure – one of the authors, Randy Martin, was a member of my dissertation committee). I know this language – it is familiar and what I consider an insider language of professors, graduate students, and intellectual activists. Edupunk is new to me, a movement I recently encountered through Anya Kamenetz’s book DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneur’s and the coming transformation of higher education. This is a movement from my generation, focused on a do-it-yourself ethic – focused on resistance in everyday life. As far as I know, these movements are not working together.

Some movement statements below:

What is Edu-factory?:

  • What do we mean by edu-factory? We mean that it is impossible to understand the transformations in the university without linking them to transformations in labor and production. Because new forms of valorization and accumulation make knowledge a central commodity, the role of the university changes definitively. … In fact, knowledge is not a scarce commodity: on the contrary, its richness comes from social cooperation and collective use. The production of knowledge is thus without measure. It is inseparable from living labor. Knowledge is always living knowledge. This difference is the main source of the struggles against the becoming corporation of the university, its imposition of an artificial measure, and the enclosure of free knowledge. (from Monthly Review).

What is Edupunk?

  • The teaching and thinking happen within the medium of texts, videos, film, images, art, conversation, game playing, computers, etc. Technology may provide new ways of delivering and accessing this information, and mark the basis of many a medium, but the idea of a community and its culture is what makes any technology meaningful and relevant. (Jim Groom – from his website).
  • “Edupunk” gets us there — with its implication of technical accessibility, a DIY ethic, quick and dirty over grand design, and a suspicion of corporate appropriation it hits a lot of the right notes. (Mike Caulfield –from his website)
  • In short, edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance. … Edupunk, it seems, takes old-school Progressive educational tactics–hands-on learning that starts with the learner’s interests–and makes them relevant to today’s digital age, sometimes by forgoing digital technologies entirely. (Leslie Madsen Brooks on BlogHer).

What is DIY U ?

  • You argue for a movement toward something called “DIY U.” What is it? I define it as the mentality that there’s another way to provide the benefits of higher education to the people who need it. It’s an idea that puts the learner at the center. Rather than the game being, “How do you get into the most exclusive institution possible?” the idea is that you as a learner are identifying your own goals and assembling experiences that will be the most valuable for you to achieve those goals. (Anya Kamenetz at Salon).

I would argue that Edu-factory begins from the perspective of labor and focuses on the worker (graduate students, adjuncts, professors, etc). Whereas Edupunk places learning at the center of its movement – focusing on the process that brings teachers together with students and students together with other students. And, if DIY U were a movement, the focus would be on the learner, on advocating for students.

From my everyday life perspective, all three “movements” are working to change the same system of higher education. In addition to working side-by-side, we should also find a way to work collaboratively to bring about changes that will benefit the teachers, the process of learning, and the students. We should find a way to bring everyday forms of resistance together with the BIG SOCIAL MOVEMENT to make change happen.

Mary Churchill


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