Education and Open Source Art


Before Les Misérables and its story of youthful, futile rebellion fades again into popular irrelevance, I thought I’d share this sweet digital painting.  This scene, with its striking red flag, was composed in response to yesterday’s police incursion into a peaceful demonstration outside a government summit on education, after protesters threw snowballs at them. Through all the chunky and kinetic faux-brushstrokes, it shows an invincible and imposing police on horseback, riding roughshod over students who can do little but wave their banners and retreat.

I highly recommend a browse through this gallery of digital paintings by the same anonymous artist (the blog is maintained by his wife) who gives full credit to Quebec’s militant underground for supplying the inspiration and subject matter for the work. They have the stated goal “of supporting, with images, the fight against neo-liberalism which is eroding Quebec society.”  The images and text are free for all to use, no copyrights, no licensing, no advertisements, no ‘Click to Subscribe.’  No linkbait.  No Kickstarter.

In an age when student activists in America turn out in droves to support a sitting US president who believes it within the power of his office to ignore his own secret intelligence courts regarding privacy and assassination orders, it’s good to know the Quebecois are keeping the (always popular and effective) black bloc alive with snowball fights and some creative commons agitprop. No physical media exists for these images, so don’t even think about co-opting this movement to decorate your corporate cafe wall and advance your profit-motive, pig. This art is for the people, by which we mean people with the internet and a computer, and electricity.

Sure I want educators running education.  Also, I sure don’t like compulsory edicts regarding thought and ‘correct’ historical cirricula. But as long as we have the internet, and it’s filled with free art and information, maybe it doesn’t matter? We’ll always have teachers, but will our kids need schools at all?  Are we all certain that the revolutionary spirit demands I take a baton to the face to protest standardized math testing for 3rd graders?  Am I really the enemy because I think there is a better way?

Educators: When technology empowers the individual so spectacularly, why obsess on industrial-age pedagogy and large-scale daycare, when the next generation will live and work entirely online? Neo-liberals: Why bother trying to bend the system to your will, when there are means to educate outside of public walls and property taxes and mandatory lesson plans? Anarchists: Why fight the state, when (if) you can work around it?

Our schools reflect our culture, and right now they are kid factories that short-track the privileged and enforce mediocrity on the rest.  Meanwhile, kids nowadays write as many words in a month than Thomas Jefferson wrote in his entire life. Popular literacy has a new domain: the air.  Teachers deserve our solidarity, because they do the hard work of educating our nation.  But they need to innovate, they need technology to do so, and they need to free students to learn efficiently and without staid biases and obsolete physical and disciplinary boundaries.  The June Rebellion was a failure.  So was Occupy.  They failed because the people as a whole cannot engage in large-scale bureaucratic reform through protest.  Only two things drive reliable, lasting revolutionary change: technology, and access to that technology for everyday people.  When art and information are free, humanity is free.


Categories: politics

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