Saturday, September 13, 2014

Letter to Jim Groom:

Dear Jim

Hope you are fine.

I am writing to make a confession.

It takes me a long time to trust others.

I am sure that I can not completely trust someone who for the purpose of education is prepared to shave his head like Peter Sellers in I forget the movie (thanks for giving me the desire to Google that).

I loved your Dr Desolation was it? - can't remember now the name but no matter I won't be graded on my memory.

I firmly believe that Einstein - I remember he was given authorship right on the quote 'Education is what remains after you have forgotten what you learnt at school' was right. Education is not about what you remember at school it's what you remember after you forget the crap in school. Crap detection, I think Howard calls it.

After watching your last 'youtube offering' or maybe 'your last 'youtube offering that I saw' a few wires maybe neurons  connected and sparked.   (I seem to remember you talking about The Wire (don't know that one, maybe I shall look it up)

So with faltering memory (Thank God my career doesn't depend on remembering by heart) I am going to give you some of my impressions of what stuck (not much). I have not learnt by heart your video performance but I am at least writing this by heart. Will I get graded on that?

Sorry if I remember not a lot.

Sod it, I have no intention of revising your goddam video before I write this letter to you.

I struggle with what some guys call laughably (for me) 'education', I don't believe in an education which is designed as a means for shareholders to make dividends while selling our kids into slavery.

I don't believe that kids are consumers before they are kids. I don't believe that our value depends on our credit-rating, the size of our [ choose example]...or our ability to remain gleaming and young looking like....[choose your example.]

I don't believe in MOOCS -or at least the market-speak that gets on the front of...Fortune, Time - fuck I don't know - some magazine which is trying to make massive bucks.

I fully understand why you are distancing yourself from Edupunk as a 'brand'.

God, I was of a generation being perhaps your age (but with masses more hair) for whom Punk meant something.

I called my first son Joe after Joe Strummer - one of my heroes.

I celebrate Mr Lydon when he sings (not sure sing is the appropriate verb) 'This is not a love song'.

I believe Jim, (may I call you Jim? No? too late I just did) I can relate to a DIY conception of doing stuff without looking to make masses from the majors...

My favorite music,features people like Nick Cave, John Cale  - hey here's a photo of John Cale, (shit it disappeared to the bottom of the page) PJ Harvey, Bertrand Cantat, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, the Clash, the Gang of Four, Joy Division.

These people for me are authentic artists.

I believe Jim that you are an authentic educational artist, along with your partners in crime Alan Levine and Howard Rheingold.

I may be disappointed like I was when some of my favourite artists sold out.

Frankly I think you guys are getting on a bit to be members of a boys-band.

Maybe you could do a Seniors Tour with another of my favourite bands - Toto. (that one was irony)

It took me a long time to decide on labels that I could stick next to my avatar on Twitter.

I managed to blag money out of my university to go to London, get a free iPad, see my uncle and buy him dinner, meet really amazing people, like Jaron Lanier,(I don't think any guy who plays weird instruments like Jaron Lanier for a keynote is looking to go mainstream and join Toto).

It meant a hell of lot to me to go and listen to Steve Wheeler talk about Edupunk.

I remember he asked who considered themselves an Edupunk.

After listening to his spiel, I reckoned that that was a label that I could live with.

It's a label that means something to me.

I don't care if people are trying to make bucks out of it.

They did that with punk. To paraphrase the Sex Pistols - I (we) don't care.

So Jim, while I understand why you are retiring the Edupunk tatoo on your hands (laser-treatment must have been pricey)

I shall stick with the 'brand' on my Twitter account.  I am sure that you don't care.

I agree with you that MOOC as acronym is better killed.

I was always suspicious of MASSIVE as in Enormous.

For me that choice of tag, well it was an open door, a beckoning call to people who don't give a fuck about how they extract profit from their own fucking families.

I believe that they see education as a mine of un-exploited gold.

I believe that they are selling us, like they sold football, (do you know Manchester United Jim?) to debt, wrack (do you spell it like that?) (shit maybe I will lose credit if I don't use the spell check) and ruin.

I believe that they are fucking (fracking) with what I consider the most important resources that we have - us and our children.

I believe with Joe (Strummer) that we need to mobilise people to stop them doing what they are doing or at least to be authentic artists and sing about it.

If I don't imagine that Click, Link and Embed are dreaming of being in bed with Madonna (material girls) it's because I have spent some time eyeing you over. -(OK now I have raised that idea, maybe I will be responsible for your downfall or at least a different dream for a moment)

I have read stuff, I have played around with #ds106 and met other guys who did that sort of thing.

I think guys such as  you are artists, like Monika Hardy. (not backing singer with Toto) (not to self maybe I should give them a chance and listen to Toto to check I am picking on the right band).

I look at the company you keep, you don't seem to me to be looking to be pop-stars.

I say that while reading blog-posts of guys who refer to you as educational rock-stars (or something like that) they talk of being in awe.

I don't believe that they really understand AWE.

Aw, I am not in awe, guys because I figure (I am playing with speaking American) guys, that you are like me, you are not in this for making massive bucks even if I am sure you don't mind (like me) having fun, and using the system to further your aims to live your lives as you see fit.

I read Howard's (Mr Rheingold's) thesis title, he inspired me to write stuff in response.

I tweeted it to you Howard. It doesn't matter if you never read it, cos it already has touched other people. I don't care if nobody reads it, because I just enjoyed the discovery of reading what the hell came out, despite it being in the early hours.

I got stuck Alan with your blog syndication stuff, I appreciated your help, your immediacy.

I read your blog, bits of it.

I share a certain grumpiness with companies who just see me as a target. I enjoyed speaking with you and trying to figure out what is important to you.

I read again your comments on this blog. You are writing with your guts, you are not trying to sell me something.

I note that.

I took note when you started talking about the importance of understanding RSS etc.

Jim Groom's talk on youtube - the one I can't remember much about.

He convinced me that you share the concerns which I have about the corporations eating up the internet, eating up our freedom to be, that all connected with Jaron Lanier, Jim.

I read his manifesto, I am not a gadget.

I AM NOT A GADGET. Like you are not TOTO or maybe TOUTOU. (popular name for poodle in France)

I will take the time to look at setting up my own domain, and will reflect on how it may well change my perspective on this world.

Fuck it, I got to learn how to blog, how to use Hawksey's Tag Explorer, I will manage to understand how to to that stuff.

I am not dead yet, even if I have lost more hair than I would like.

So Jim, Alan, and Howard I shall be working on that.

I think you are onto something.

In my first 'proper job' we were going to change the world, we had that PUNK attitude, we blagged studios from companies, we blagged vans from people. We blagged our way with a weird guy called Bill who went on and on and on about UNIX (what the fuck was UNIX?) to expensive London clubs where he paid with his 'magic cheque book'.

Those guys I still connect with after so many years.(not Bill he is probaby either in Jail in Switzerland or dead)

Those guys introduced me to computers, networks, cyberspace, changing perceptions, fun, cocaine, and how it was possible to blag a million pounds in investment from some oil baron to change the world.

We all need to learn to blag - I think that was the term.

I don't want to spend time looking that up. This is not a fucking memory test.

I think that learning management, debt-bubbles, student debt is a scandal as big as the one that sunk economies around the world. NO bigger.

I think that these people are completely insane.

I don't think that John Cale is insane when he dies his hair pink and comes to Clermont Ferrand to play grumpily to an audience of 30 at the Cooperative de Mai.

He is too old and too sane, to sell out and do support for Toto.

I remember Jim, your manic presentation style, I can identify with that Jim.

I don't think that you are reading a preprepared script.

I remember Jim your immediacy, I can identify with that Jim, I don't think that you are trying to be slick like Toto.

Your example of immediacy, is for at the heart of education, I retain the importance of heart-felt joyously insane -to the others creative education which make people go WTF -what the fuck Jim.

I like being on the edge Howard.

I think you are like Bill the guy who went on about UNIX but you give the impression to me of being accessible because you are not interested so much in the machine as in the cultural transformation that it is bringing with it.

I believe Howard that there are reasons for excitement that you might have felt with the Well (was it?). I do feel that we are on the cusp of HOPE.

HOPE, the sort that kids can identify with, in their uncrafted self, hope that we care about them, and their uniqueness rather than dulling them with memory testing, machine-friendly tracking, managing, control...and slavery to debt.

That guys is not my vision of freedom.
That guys is my vision of slavery.

So as I prepare to critically engage with Connected Courses - I am sure that I will meet guys who envision finding ways to turn it into a business opportunity like Edupunk like MOOCS.

I know that they will be hovering waiting to pounce on a means of amassing what they consider to be value.

They are fucking insane.

They don't know what our essential value is.

We are going to die, very soon like but so unlike Joe Strummer.

We are not going to be able to take our fucking shareholdings, corporations, Xanadu, Toto Cd's with us.

There will be silence.

Then people will try to scratch their heads and remember.

What the fuck did they mean to us?

I went to see Lou Reed in one of his last concerts.

He connected with us in Clermont Ferrand - fuck what was Lou Reed one of my heroes doing coming to Clermont Ferrand?

He was still on the edge, he could hardly stand, he was still screaming the rage of being in this absurd place we call life.

I will die with that memory, Jim, I will die with that meaning,

Jim, life is short, life can be an adventure, there is no life in taking no risk, in never accepting that we die, that we lose our hair, that we lose our means, to pogo.

Thank you for reminding us, that life is short, that education can be subversive, that poetry Howard, is at the heart of our existence, at the heart of our well of longing. Tbank you Alan for taking time for convincing me that it is worth the effort to view this frame differently

I am sure that I am connecting to people who I can learn with.

Yours sincerely

Simon Ensor

John Cale in Pink

Jim Groom at 60


  1. I can take only so many Toto references!

    1. I shall go and give them a chance. I can't remember any of their music. Maybe I am being unfair.

  2. Simon, thank you for another subterranean thought-tornado...magma and splinters of rock flying up in here.

  3. "Fuck it, I got to learn how to blog, how to use Hawksey's Tag Explorer, I will manage to understand how to to that stuff."

    Learn how to blog?! This is blogging at it's very best. Gut wrenching, struggle for meaning in a space that constantly lulls you into submission. In terms of me being at the heart of anything, well I tend to avoid that idea. I stole from so many, and when EDUPUNK became a brand the best escape was into letters and numbers like ds106 : That said, I believe EDUPUNK, despite how many people reacted viscerally to it, got at a lot of the raw nerves people feel about the taylorization of education, the same way they felt about the taylorization of music in boy bands. I think it's awesome this idea still resonates for folks, cause I know it does for me. And this blog is a manifesto in and of itself :) Wow, I was not ready for this much coolness so early on in the process.

    As for Toto, don;t listen to Alan, I had my Yacht Rock period too :)

    1. Don't worry I am of the opinion that 'individualism' is a dangerous fiction sold to keep people dumb. Closest I got to Toto - The Eagles/Boston.
      This is not early in a process, its just becoming visible.

      Thanks for your comment. I need connection to make sense of ....whatever.