Monday, October 25, 2010

Educating for the Keeps

Innovation is important as the world is not enough. We can feel happy and smug with what we have achieved, but then returns this sinking feeling almost inevitably that all's not well. And, it is not: There is too many anomalies in our idea of progress. With most of people on the planet too poor to eat and the resources fast depleting, our prosperity feels like stolen, not earned. The innovation talk helps us feel better: In a way, innovation is the basis of our morality.

But it is still easier said than done. The enemy of innovation is not any hidden monster, but steady state, which we are so eager to achieve. The final frontier forever features in our thinking and drives us: We aspire to stop and stay, therefore we move. It is only fortunate that some of us aim so high that we never finally reach that steady state. It is that Utopian aspiration, rather than rational thinking, which drives innovation.

However, while we were good at innovating physical contraptions to extend our physical attributes - such as moving faster - our thinking about society and that regarding relationships between men (and women) were somewhat retarded. In this sphere, our general innovative tendencies, our desire to go beyond our station, were interfered upon. We were made to believe that such innovation is disruptive. Even the critical thinkers about the society, such as Marx, derided new thinking as Utopian, and wanted to concentrate on what exists to visualize what will be. He failed in a way: Despite the validity of some of his arguments, his followers moved in circles and failed to create a better society. (You can say I am reading Herbert Mercuse)

This, despite, Marx's own boastful expression - the point about philosophy is to change the world. It can indeed be a problem of method: A preoccupation about the process of change undermined the search for the nature of change itself. However, most physical innovators came the other way: They imagined how it will be first and then fit the methods together.

At this point, we may be reminded of Schumpeter's idea of innovation, that it was about solving social problems using existing methods and not about creating new methods. So, innovation is not entirely a scientific exercise: That will be the realm of inventors. It is more the task of the businessmen, the social engineers of our age, to visualize solutions to problems and bring together the scientific body of knowledge to solve it. One can see the problem of social theory, particularly critical social theory such as Marxism, in this light: The obsession with method obscured the imagination of what a better society should look like.

But this is not about Marx and Marxism in particular, but why we must keep looking to create a better society: With fairer distribution of resources, more widely available opportunities and a more 'just' relationship between people. The rationale for being persistent in this search is partly due to the fact that societies, and indeed lives, can't stand still: they inevitably degenerate. Time plays an important role in the physical world; no less so in our personal and social worlds, it is the key to our formations and relationships, our existences and beliefs, and in general, of creativity and happiness. While we inevitably tend to hoard, protect our gains, life always does a sort of balancing act and plays Robin Hood if it must. This happens over long term, indeed; but while economists tried to console themselves by saying that in the long term, we are all dead, long term is increasingly becoming shorter with the expansion of our expanding moral and physical resources, and our ability to change the world at will.

So, we must strive for a better society. As a practitioner of education, this may be my founding faith: But may be not, as education has become an instrument of stability, not newness, in our societies. The educator's goals have been reduced to simple formulations of productivity and servitude: Degrees and Credit-worthiness sum up what the education must achieve. The space for imagination regarding social innovation is, therefore, increasingly limited. Education as an instrument of steady state society, championed by the extension of the corporate state in the realm of educating, is taking over our profession. This is where a line must be drawn, and critical imagination must return. This is the last window of human thought, its ability to think freely and imagine a better society, which is being closed into the darkness of method and mindlessness.

I rest my case.

1 comment:

Kraxpelax said...

GAMMABLIXT


SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

There's much in the world that you can't explain.
It's revealed for you to remember
by the whispering voice of a distant train
or a midnight rain in november.

Horizon within! You can always find
the keys to Enigma. Let's mention
one basic Truth: of spirited Mind
is Nature naught but extension.

Internal expanses! In dreams, ridden
by fear and longing you roam
that deep Southeast in your soul hidden
...on your random journey back home.

---

As a native Swede, I am particularly proud of my love poetry suite Sonnets for Katie.

My Poems

*

Po├ętudes



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- Peter Ingestad, Sweden

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