Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blackboard, DOPA, and Control: Why do we go overboard?

I wonder if we care about innovation in the USA anymore. We seem to spend a lot of time trying to block others, control iffy intellectual property and generally shut down the power of remixing and mashups. Wassup?

Brian Zug wrote about the latest - LMS provider Blackboard getting a patent that makes no sense from a variety of perspectives. Brian lays it out here. It is a hot topic on many edublogs. Some edubloggers are organizing responses to the patent and passage of the US DOPA act.

Is the culture of control a sub part of the culture of fear? (We fear the loss of our market if we don't create patent barriers? We are not smart enough to make an offering to the market that stands on its own merits?) What would be the culture of love response to overreaching patents and uninforceable and uninformed laws?

What if we started getting creative and thinking about REAL alternatives to the over-control?

Yeah, time for the culture of love.

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Blogger Chris said...


Schools don't teach innovation, following passion or social networking. They punish it. In schools you don't learn to innovate. You get taught about other people's innovations and you get tested on how well you can parrot that back to the person that taught you about them. It's a self-referential loop. It requires real creativity to actually extricate yourself from it, which is why some many real innovators were poor students at school.

The education system is a relic of a society that needed conformists to work in factories and serve in armies. It is an 19th century institution that has no bearing in the 21st century.

Schools teach confusion, class position, indifference, control, surveillance, fear and dependant self-esteem. It is no surprise to me that there is lack of innovation in North America. Anything truly creative usually happens because people have chosen to buck the system, or opt out of it altogether.

The culture of love, to me, means keeping my kids away from schools, to foster in them a sense of their own power, development of their own passions and creativity and a sense of responsibility to themselves and their community that is not dependant on people giving them marks but is measured by what the contribute to the world around them.

Schools are the one thing most of us have in common. For large scale social questions like "Why don't we innovate?" I always look there first. I usually find the answers pretty quickly.

And so the solution? Don't waste your time trying to refomr institutions that are outdated. Leave them to die on their own and begin really learning by actively participating in the world, and by subverting control with love at every turn.

Hack it and share it.

More on freedom shock and schools in this .pdf:

12:00 PM  
Blogger Nancy White said...

Chris, as always, you cut to the quick as to where we should focus our attention. I confess, I hate to give up on schools because it means giving up on so many human beings who are in them. As I let the schools die, what does that mean to them?

Conflicted in Seattle...

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Astha said...

I agree with you Chris- but I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here.
-Schools teach children discipline (or at least they should!). I think the virtue of self-instilled discipline is getting lost in our drive for creativity. And cashing in on innovation without rigor and discipline is impossible.

- Schools expose children to the way the world functions in a controlled manner. Life isn't easy, it's rarely fair. And if you don't learn to fend for yourself or discover and rediscover yourself in the face of pressure- life aint gonna be easy!

But I do think that we need to work on making every child feel prized and accepted by the teacher (actually should be called facilitator). That's all that the human soul needs to grow- acceptance, love and freedom. It doesn't need to be absolute- just genuine!

1:01 PM  
Blogger Bryan Zug said...

Is the culture of control a sub part of the culture of fear?

This has been on my mind a lot lately as I work my way through Friedman's "The World is Flat".

While changing worlds and markets can be scarey, they also offer the opportunity to innovate and thrive -- that's a big shift in view for all of us to one degree or another (or for me a lot of times anyway)

1:17 PM  
Blogger Chris said...


I don't give up on people, just schools. And I'm not about letting them simply die. We've been building and holding together a learning community of homelearners, life leraners and unschoolers here in our community for almost five years now. Got a space where anyone can come if they decide to get themselves out of school.

And to reply to astha (or at least her Deveil's Advocate):

1. Yes schools teach discipline, but it's in service of nothing. Or, at the very least, and this is frightening, it's in service of authority.

I believe that passion + commitment = innovation. That formula doesn't exist at school. At school "discipline" is more like punishment: if you don't do your homework *boom* you're busted. Nevermind that conjugating French verbs is a useless waste of time for all by a select few Gaullish grammarians.

Real discipline is harnessing your own power and gifts to max them out, make them a unique and substantial offering to the world. You are never taught about that ins school. What schools think we should learn is completely arbitrary. Why reading and not dance? It takes about 40 hours for most people to learn to read when they are ready to, which is later than you think. But most 5 yerar olds know how to dance. What if we taught them discipline to harness what they are good at rather than using it to focus on what they aren't yet ready for?

2. On the idea that schools somehow prepare us for the real world, the truth is that schools expose children to a version of the world that is a complete fiction. Once you leave schools there is no such thing as "geography" or "math". Instead, there is navigation and travel, accounting and making change. There is no where where you sepnd all of your time with people that are the same age as you are. There are old people and young people and middle aged people with children and bad rashes, and you never know who might be your next best partner. But ask a typical high school grad if they would like to explore a business opportunity with an uncool 50 year old middle manager and they cringe. Very few kids learn to live in the actual world while they are in school.

In the world nothing exists in isolation. The world is not in fact a nice controlled place where all you have to do is please someone and everything works out. It's messy and chaotic and it's a terrible shock to enter it at age 18 or 21 and just discover that for the first time.

I bet that very, very few people discover themselves at school. When I was in school I discovered that I wanted to be a Christian Minister and that I mostly wanted to be of service to the world and it had everything to do with the mentors in my life and not the ones paid to jam a curriculum down my unwilling throat. As a result I got to experience what it would be like to do that work of ministry, as a teenager. I found out I didn't like being a Minister, but I did like the service part, and here I am today - a facilitator. Some days I'm just a minister without a vestment.

And I actually don't think we need to have every child feel accepted by a teacher. I think it's important that we help our children cultivate real relationships in the world. Just because you are assigned to Miss Knwles Grad 2 class doesn't mean you need to like her, or that she should like you. But you don't get to choose that relationship, and if it doesn't work out, who do you think gets put on Ritalin 3 out of 5 times?

Unless the child can choose the relationship it's false intimacy and it's dangerous and confusing.

When children find real teachers in their lives they develop a deep bond with them and the learning is unbeliveable. I see this with my daughter's drama teachers, with her art mentor, with her adult friends who run coffee shops and let her clean the tables and fetch cups. She is a real person in the real world, respecting others she likes and getting respected for who she is and what she offers. THAT is what life is.

Touched a nerve here! :-) Can you tell I love this stuff?

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Astha said...

Wow! Never looked at it like that. And yes, you were countering my devil's advocate- I'm all for initiatives that help children discover their genius.

I guess the only thing I do hold out on- is making things too easy for them. Coz I've learnt that every bit of progress we make on ourselves comes from hard work.

And I hold a lot of grudges against the education system- but had never thought about the fact that they 'isolate' children from the real world. You've given me something to think about!

7:42 PM  

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