Hunter S. Thompson loved The Great Gatsby and repeatedly wrote it out word for word over his lifetime to try and absorb F. Scott Fitzgerald’s style. So if a successful writer honed his craft by riffing off one of his literary idols, I’m going to have a go at it as well. The following text is a reworking of parts of Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto. I have replaced the feminist premise with a binary that I am quite passionate to untie: education binaries.
The following is inspired by a blog post by Stewart Riddle who identifies (as I do) as both an academic and a teacher. Stewart has already played with the idea of untying this binary here, where he is labeled as a potato for having such a cybernetic identity.
In the interest of bloggy brevity I have selected some sentences out of the 36 page text and strung them together and mixed them up, hopefully making some sense but still, as I think Haraway would have it, ironic.
Irony is about humorous and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and political method, one I would like to see more honoured within educational dialogues. At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the potato. I am making an argument for the potato as a fiction mapping our intellectual and practical reality and as an imaginative resource about what counts as a teacher.
Multiple identities of teachers and the relationship between the education sectors (early childhood, primary school, high school, university, policy makers, traditionalists, progressives, etc) have become a border war. The stakes of the border war have been the territories of production of knowledge, reproduction of a skilled workforce, and the imagination. This blog is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of these boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.
There is nothing about being a ‘teacher’ that naturally binds educators. There is not even such a state as ‘being’ a teacher, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested education discourses and other social practices. Who counts as a teacher? Which identities are available to ground such a potent political myth as a ‘teacher’, and what would motivate enlistment in this collective? Painful fragmentation among educators along every possible fault line has made the concept of ‘teacher’ elusive, an excuse for different education sectors to dominate others.
The ‘integrity’ and ‘sincerity’ of the Western state gives way to decision procedures and expert systems. Systems of control. Controlling teacher identity is formulated in rates, costs of constraints, degrees of freedom. Educators are localised in a system architecture whose basic modes of operation are probabilistic, statistical. The privileged pathology of this compartmentalized system is a communication breakdown between education sectors.
What kind of politics could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves and still be faithful and effective – and ironically, ‘mundane’ and borderless? In the early twenty-first century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, or monsters sewn together in a patchwork of multiple identities; but at the same time we are so ordinary and mundane. Potatoes if you will.
The potato is no longer structured by the polarity of the school and the university, the traditionalist and the progressive, the primary and high school teacher, leadership and chalk face. The techno-sciences have created a machines like Twitter and WordPress that are beginning to break down the pathologies of the education sectors. These technologies indicate fundamental transformations in the structure of the world for us. From a kitchen table a potato can express partiality of education positioning, ironically play with the notion of their Enemies, twining them together in an intimacy previously unrealized before the perversity of techno-domains.
The certainty of what counts as a Teacher – a source of insight and a promise of innocence – is undermined, probably fatally, by potatoes.
“Who are teachers?” has become a radical question.