Friday, February 27, 2015

Distance learning.

'Distance learning' a term which makes me think...

A term which is often used to talk about increasing education opportunities, or more cynically and, no doubt simultaneously, increasing profit opportunities in education for distant capital.

Is 'distance learning' a nonsense? Can we really learn 'at a distance'?

Do we learn in order to distance ourselves?

Does distance between us mean learning with others viewed only as abstract objects, as avatars?

Does historical distance between us and our ancestors disconnect us to the contexts of our present?

If I ask these questions, it is because I watched a film on the flight from New York to London, as I sipped a sickeningly sweet Pepsi.

The film, it has to be said was as harrowing as it was compulsive viewing. I couldn't take my eyes off it. There was one character played by Benedict Cumberbatch (him of Sherlock fame) that I suppose, I uncomfortably felt compelled to identify with.

He was a nice man...

Compulsion, subjection, bondage, these are terms which are troubling me these days.

12 years a slave transports us into a not so distant reality. I implore you to watch it.

As I have been participating on and off with Hybrid Pedagogy's #Moocmooc online course on critical pedagogy, over the past few weeks, the subject of slavery has been framed anew.

I tweeted a photo of a child sitting on a dump of digital waste. I annotated the photo with a question.

I am sitting here typing comfortably on my laptop, having earnest conversation with my fellow critical educators around the globe via Twitter, Facebook, via this blog.

I confess that I am ignorant.  I am ignorant of the deal that I have struck with my fellow learners.

I imagine that there are unknown people unknowingly involved in the creation of this post.

I imagine they never will read it.

They will probably not find the time for something so futile.

They will be no doubt otherwise occupied.

I know nothing of the lives of the people who put this machine together
I know nothing of the people who will deal with its remains.

Do I really care?
Can I really care?

Would I be Benedict Cumberbatch?

He was a nice man...

As I said, this question is troubling me.

How far do we care?
How far can we care?
How far does my responsibility stretch?
What is the place of critical pedagogy in a globalised economy?
What is the place of critical pedagogy in a digitally connected world?

Does my local critical pedagogy deny the rights of others in distant parts to learn?

I remember when I lived in Manchester visiting the cotton mills, going to the Liverpool docks.

I admired the solid Victorian edifices.

I remember now a discussion I had with a student who came from the West Indies. We spoke about genealogy. I love history. We compared family trees. While my great grandparents were propping up the British Empire, his great grandparents were propping up the French colonies.  Many stories converge when we do a little research.

I have just read an article from the New Statesman, its title and a link to it are presented below:

Much of Britain's wealth is built on slavery. 

So why shouldn't it pay reparations?

There is a quote from the article that I shall place here:

"Plantation slavery may no longer be with us in the same form but its founding principle has never really gone away – take as much as you can from the labour of the many and concentrate land and wealth among the few. A debate about reparations – and redressing historical injustice – can help us ask the question more starkly: for all the pious talk about “addressing inequality”, can capitalism really move so far from its beginnings as to be inherently fair? How can a system which won’t acknowledge its origins become “responsible” capitalism?"

Interesting to note that a number of major British banks: Barclays, HSBC built their fortunes on the slave trade...

Learning about that would bring a new twist to the banking concept in education.

I never learnt much about slavery at school, interestingly my student from the West Indies didn't either.

It is interesting how far school history strays from the questions which count.

I suppose we should let the bankers do the counting for us.

Maybe much learning at school is a form of distance learning?

“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.” 

― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

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