temporarily embarrassed millionaires

(This one’s long. Sorry.)

Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress (2004), quotes John Steinbeck as saying:
“socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but temporarily embarrassed millionaires” (p. 124).

This expression has stuck with me for nearly a decade.

When I first read it, it sent me back another decade or so to a small book I read when I first went back to school after teaching in the Arctic.

A little red book, but not THAT little red book. Still, a book that brought ideas of communal action and adult education home to me, in a very literal way.
Myles Horton
and Paulo Freire‘s We Make the Road by Walking is one of those dialogic educators’/theorists’ conversations captured as texts that education faculties were very fond of teaching from in the late 90s. It was my intro to adult education as a field and an ethos, and in a sense, a reintroduction to my own Maritime history and sense of place.

It was my introduction to the idea that education need not be a lofty enterprise separate from the lived experience of being somewhere, and from somewhere.

With the death of Fidel Castro last weekend – and even my own FB feed making evident the vast difference in the narratives Canadians and Americans have been sold about Cuba over the past nearly sixty years – it feels maybe *too soon* to be talking about socialism and public education and communal action.

But with the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency this month – to which my FB feed had a more coherent response of pretty broadly-distributed OH SHIT – and his appointment of the Amway-adjacent & public-school-attacking Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, it feels maybe too late NOT to be talking about public education and communal action, at least. (I can take or leave the socialism, depending on the interpretation. It’s the totalitarianism and cults of personality I’m wary of.)

And here we circle back to the temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

(Bear with me. I swear all these synaptic connections cross.)

One of the interesting parts about coming of age as an adolescent and (semi)conscious citizen of smalltown PEI, Canada, in the 80s was that – in spite of lacking both social media and cable TV – I inhabited two equally-confusing places simultaneously: my own latter-day Avonlea, with its dour social mores passed on relatively unchanged since their airing in Anne of Green Gables, and Reagan’s America.

I lived in both.

I was a kid of the 99 Luftballons era. I listened to the words…and I wrote poems about nuclear disarmament to the United States President. I did not write to my local mayor, or to Trudeau Senior.

As the twelfth-grader is to the ninth-grader in the classic high school pecking order, so the US is to Canada on the world stage of power and Mother Do You Think They’ll Drop the Bomb? I learned to understand that whatever risks nuclear weapons posed to my possible survival in that brief window of the reheated Cold War, when I was twelve, it wasn’t a matter of President Reagan *wanting* to blow me up in any personal rendition of The Day After.

(I realize now he’d likely have been hard-pressed to find PEI on a map.)

But in a place tacked onto the edge of the continent and economically downtrodden for the better part of a century or more, you gradually figure out that you’re not at the centre of anyone’s calculations about the world.

What this has to do with Horton & Freire is all about education, to me.

(NOT education as a simple, linear path to success and prosperity for the marginalized…or those who think they are. That’s a complex mythology that tends to serve up false expectations and disappointment, at best, across cultural, racial, geographic, and economic marginalization. Not that there are necessarily better answers, only that the playing field Simply. Does. Not. Level. On those fronts, read Sara Goldrick-Rab on the costs that education exacts from those least prepared to pay, and Tressie McMillan-Cottom on the link between for-profit schools and increasing inequality.)

I’m thinking more in the vein of adult education.

In We Make the Road by Walking, one of the threads of conversation between Horton and Freire – the one that stands out most in my memory – is this question of whether systematized education can be transformational for marginalized people(s), or whether it replicates all the inequalities baked into society’s/societies’ existing systems.

Horton and Freire, lions of educational practice and leadership in their own Appalachian and Latin American contexts, have differing perspectives on this, with Horton asserting that change within a system gets co-opted by the system itself, while Freire suggests a “one foot *in* and one foot outside” approach to systematized learning.

My own career has been more in the vein of Freire. I work for an institution, however precariously.

But in the context of these strange days of Trump’s pre-presidency, I find myself drawn to concepts that go beyond the boundaries of institutions as ways of trying to rethink education and communal action and where we all go from here.

Concepts and initiatives like #4YOS – four years of individually-pledged, distributed service as means of fighting hate in local, concrete ways. Efforts to make communities stronger, more inclusive places.

For myself, I’m particularly interested in how we fight the strange cocktail of victimization and entitlement that hate leeches onto and deploys in its service. I’m interested in how media and social media are part of the problem, and what we do about it.

I’m also interested in the not-solely-American concept of the temporarily embarrassed millionaire. The person – whatever their economic circumstances – clinging to idealized privilege in the rearview mirror with their cold dead hands. Sure that Trump’s gonna make them a contender again.

I went looking for historical models for what to do about this mess, systemically. And Horton was the first person I thought of, because the temporarily embarrassed millionaires have always – somehow – made me think of Horton.

Horton and Lilian Wyckoff Johnson, a teacher and professor, established the legendary (and interracial) Highlander Folk School in the mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression. It was both an educational and political space, for organizing and training labour unionists while conserving and enriching the local cultural values of that specific geographic place. Highlander later served as a site for Civil Rights and social justice organizing, and ultimately had its charter revoked under accusations of communism. It re-incorporated as the Highlander Research and Education Center, and continues to do work in local leadership training, environmentalism, and economic justice.

Highlander operated outside systematized, institutional, formal education.

Part of me thinks whatever we’re going to do now, we don’t have time to wait for systematized, institutional, formal education to address the blossoming of outright bigotry that Trump’s election seems to have released on both sides of the border (I mean the US and Canada, for those of you used to the word “border” meaning Mexico). The system can catch up later if it wants.

But Highlander had a Canadian equivalent that fewer people outside my neck of the woods know about.

It was called The Antigonish Movement, a Maritime adult education, cooperative, and microfinance movement of the 1920s and ’30s that led to the development of local credit unions that still dot the landscape around Maritime Canada. Its vision was as education-focused as it was economic: it was a vision of human emancipation. And for all it was a relatively radical movement for its time, it had its roots in two stalwart institutions of Maritime Canada: the Roman Catholic Church and the extension department of St. Francis Xavier University, located in a tiny little rural industrial town called Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

The Antigonish Movement centered around the endemic poverty and marginalization people in these small rural towns experienced.

Geographic marginality is often a marginality of benign neglect rather than overt oppression, at least where the ongoing benefit of systemic white supremacy operates. But – and particularly in the economic context of the 1920s and ’30s, before Canada had any form of social safety net – benign neglect can nonetheless result in grinding, structural, seemingly inescapable poverty. And this experience – among others – can produce temporarily embarrassed millionaires, who feel victimized by their lack of what they perceive as their rightful status, but are disinclined to examine why.

The Antigonish Movement was about examining why. It was formed to fight the “weird pessimism” of constant outmigration from the Maritime provinces and its attendant social attrition and decay among those who remained. It was about working collectively to change that.

It was about the idea that the “local economy could be revitalized if the right type of learning was cultivated in ordinary people: especially critical thinking, scientific methods of planning and production, and co-operative entrepreneurship.”

The Antigonish Movement had three key structural components: mass meetings, which Extension Department members organized with community members from villages and towns around the entire region, study clubs, wherein community members gathered together in local homes to study materials available on economics, cooperative principles, and business organization, and the School for Leaders, wherein members of the study clubs could attend six-week programs at the university in Antigonish, to prepare people for action and minimize business failures.

In the late 1930s, at the peak of the Antigonish cooperative influence, there were 1100 study clubs around the Maritimes, with 10,000 participants. Wikipedia says, “by 1938 these study clubs had formed 142 credit unions, 39 co-operative stores, 17 co-operative lobster factories, 11 co-operative fish plants, and 11 other co-ops.” In provinces as small as these, it is impossible to over-estimate the human effect of this level of industry and change.

They used technology as part of this educational change process.

I remember learning about Antigonish back at the time I first read We Make the Road By Walking, and a prof told us stories of Father Moses Coady, one of the great lights and voices of the Antigonish Movement, using radio to broadcast to communities and villages throughout the Maritimes.

I thought about that as this post germinated the other day and I began to wonder what a modern-day Antigonish Movement would look like, could do.

The original was about collaboration and cooperation to address poverty and people’s lack of understanding and agency regarding their own circumstances. To me, at this current moment, it is our societal lack of understanding and agency regarding media literacies and digital literacies – and thus the stories we tell ourselves about truth, decency, and each other – that is the poverty I know how to address. To ask “why” about.

Media literacies as an educator has been what I *do* for the better part of twenty years. I have a Ph.D in Twitter and social media, more or less. And yet the contemporary media landscape and the fake news and the climate change news and the mainstream media’s failure to consistently label white nationalism by its name all have me overwhelmed.

If I am going to learn and teach against this tide I won’t be able to do it alone.

Could we? Together? In a systemic, local-global organized fashion? Is there value in an Antigonish 2.0?

The mass meetings would be easy, I think.  We would need each other for study groups. We could break out the best of what we all bring to digital and media literacies and dig in hard until we figure we can see behind the curtain for a moment.  We could then start our own local study groups/digital literacies initiatives in our own contexts. I personally happen to coordinate a Maritime university adult ed program – not *quite* an extension department, but hey – that I’d love to use in a School for Leaders capacity, if that part is still relevant.

I believe that education is a process of offering people tools – conceptual as well as technical – to understand their identities and possibilities and those of others within a structural framework that points to various paths of possible agency.

The temporarily-embarrassed millionaires won’t all be interested, nope. But is there something here, in examining the why and how of contemporary #digitalliteracies in ways that help people understand the systems shaping all our lives, that could make a difference?

I’m curious. I’m listening. I invite your ideas and feedback.


38 Comments temporarily embarrassed millionaires

  1. Laura

    Hi Bonnie,
    I found your post through a comment Kate made and it has been a great read to start the day. Two comments: You are not alone, and in my mind when I read, I change the word ‘against’ to ‘through’ and take out the ‘how’. We will teach through this.

  2. Martin Weller

    Hi Bon, Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I didn’t know the Antigonish movement. I keep coming up against a problem though which is that all education implies a willingness to learn. There is a cultural movement (in the UK and US particularly but elsewhere too) which portrays experts, knowledge and education as part of a conspiracy. Ignorance is more desirable than knowledge. We can deal with issues about access, opportunity, etc but how do we overcome an anti-learning perspective? You can’t even get in the room then. I think there may be tactics, so any thoughts you have there would help me.

      1. bon

        Martin, you’re right, and Autumm, you’re right. And I think there’s more to it all (of course)…the key, I think, is that an awful lot of reasonable-ish people across a fair swath of politics have, at this point, almost reached a point of cynicism and giving up on trusting anything they read/come across. And there are small pieces of getting on top of that again – of building empowerment and agency through digital literacies – that I think an initiative like this, blending online networks of critical knowledge with local networks of trust, could do. There are lots who’d never come in the door. But I’m not sure there aren’t some who wouldn’t.

        1. Autumm

          This is really interesting to me Bon. And Martin I need you to know that I empathize with your skepticism.

          There is something about this tension… I guess it might be between believing and giving up… hope and fear… I’m not doing a good job at articulating… do you catch my drift? That could be something special.

          I think that we have all been trying for so long to find that thing, that spark, that magic. And you are right Bon – there are lots who will never come through the door but there is a good chance that there are some who will.

          I like the blending/hybrid aspect of this. I’d like to see it be flexible. Local hubs are amazing – let’s build those where we can and where we can’t create connections that transverse space.

          The connections are what matter – let’s make them using all of the faculties and technologies at our disposal.

  3. Brittany Jakubiec

    really enjoyed this piece, Bon. not sure how i could contribute, but i am in for whatever this leads to… Antigonish 2.0.

  4. Simon Ensor

    This is very useful and timely Bonnie. From my own perspective I have been investigating how to enable cultural change towards more widely networked participative engagement/learning through affinity groups and investigating how to leverage existing power structures.

    I am particularly interested in how individuals/institutions/communities may be nodes for good.

    We definitely need to make these sorts of connection globally – after all capitalistic and then neoliberal conquest respects few boundaries.

    We must absolutely connect narratives of the little people (us) as weapons.

    At the moment (under grave threat) there is a distinct local embeddedness of social action within communities around here.

    I detect some similarities between a largely rural Auvergne and the région you are talking about.

    I welcome your questioning of “So where do we go from here?”

    Fillon-Thatcher-Reagan-Le Pen-Trump-Farage-Putin-Vomit.

    Aaagh we need to hear alternative stories.

    1. bon

      Just thinking about your phrase, “We need to hear alternative stories.”

      Maybe to me this is the great possibility here. And the thing that worked in Antigonish the first round. Stories of who we can be, as communities. Stories that are not automatically circumscribed by cynicism and defeat, and don’t require getting on board with craven self-interest alone.

  5. Sarah Honeychurch

    Having never heard of this book suddenly it is everywhere I look, so now sitting in my Amazon basket.

    I tend to agree with Horton – unsurprisingly as it is a Deleuzean thought – that those entering an institution hoping to change it are likely to be the ones who change, but the anarchist-optimist in me still believes, deep down, that human nature is not as hopeless as all that. So count me in.

  6. Rebecca Hogue

    Great post. One of my immediate thoughts after Trump’s election was that I needed to emphasize critical instructional design and cultural diversity more in my classes. I needed to actively do what I could to do help fight the hate. If I get enough registrations, this summer I’ll be teaching a graduate course on Leadership and Digital Literacies. I’d love to have some conversations around what we need to be teaching future educational leaders. My students are mostly mid-career professionals doing a masters in instructional design.
    I guess my first question is always, what thing can we do as individuals to bring about change? and then what can we foster as groups to bring about change?
    I really would like to try and figure out the cluster-fuck that is fake news and how we can turn that on its head and get back to figuring out how to get back to news that is perhaps still biased, but where the biases are identified but also where the information presented is truthful rather than blatant lies.

    1. Sarah Honeychurch

      All well and good, and I applaud you for doing this, but is this not preaching to the converted? I took Bon’s challenge to be the hard one of engaging with communities we do not teach, and have to reach out to find.

      1. bon

        There’s room for both. People who teach are my own primary audience for media literacy/digital literacy work (like in my day-to-day life this year and this fall, before this idea sort of emerged last night), partly because teachers’ reach is huge and they have the opportunity to use critical practices in their work. And teachers aren’t always converted, either.

        I’d hope that community groups in most locations – if we got this off the ground – would extend beyond formalized courses for educators…that extension to me is core and key to the Antigonish model…but it wouldn’t exclude educators and members of formal courses being encouraged to belong to study groups or form study groups of their own.

  7. Brooke A. Carlson

    Aloha, Bonnie. I’m way out in the middle of te Pacific now, but I did spend a decade in Southern Maine, much closer to you. More importantly, you offer a terrific call to arms here and I would be honored to join.

  8. Ronald

    Sounds very interesting. Never heard of this Antigones movement.

    It a tough challenge, I think. It’s in the US culture that if you just try hard enough, you can do and reach anything. And those who have reached the top, they belong there.

    This meroticratic thinking keeps the poor down without them knowing it. They’re just like mice in a big bucket, jumping up the walls, trying to get out. And, yes, just maybe once and a while Ine does get out and thus confirms the believe in the meritocracy.

    Such a circle of selective perception and keeping the cultural basic ideas alive, are very hard to change.

    Simply going against it,won’t work IMHO.
    There has to be a way to ‘go with the flow’ and change the directions slowly. Like not swimming against the current, but with the current, yet stadily towards the river side.

  9. bon

    I wanted to thank you. All of you, those here in the comments, and on Twitter and FB, for the response to this.

    I’m thinking about how to go from idea to action. I’d love input.

    Some caveats…there are things kinda like this that already exist. Someone shared the Ragged University with me – https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/about/ – and someone else shared the Babel Working Group – https://babel-meeting.org/ – and I would love to work with and alongside both of these organizations if they were interested in lending their energies to this model…though I think both might be partners in the gathering of expertise and planning, more than models for extending beyond an academic audience.

    I think that extension beyond an academic audience, in different material ways in differing local communities, is important.

    I’m thinking about a loose three levels of organization that might work for something like this, where the first “mass meeting” level might start here and extend through the groups above to galvanize sharing the project and organizing some core topics and readings/resources (open, hopefully) among those who had the will and knowledge to lead study groups in their own communities.

    The central part to me is the study groups. Local, probably all different. People trying to figure out different ways to work this all through in locally relevant ways that they can bring into their own work lives, home lives?

    The more institutional part could be courses, on the model of #DigPed or summer institutes, that folks could get together in person or online to do together, to push further? I dunno.

    Would a centralized site be better than a hashtag? What topics do we need to start with?

    I sent a message to the Coady Institute today, at St. FX in Antigonish. I don’t even know if there are rights over a term like Antigonish 2.0. I just want to DO something, and this model inspires me to try.

    1. Frances Bell

      I have only just read this great post and comments. Best wishes with this – it’s great to take old ideas and reinvent them. I have been to a local event of the Ragged University and it was great. I am also aware of good work at COOCs http://coocs.co.uk/author/petershukie/ Ilene Alexander might be a good person to talk to – if you Google Ilene Alexander Highland folk you”ll find the paper she gave with Alexander Fink.
      I am currently working with some great people on starting ‘something’ probably emerging in New Year and I have been giving a lot of thought to how we can network our different efforts in a synergistic fashion. I am finding that in my own personal work to make a difference locally and in networks.

  10. Catherine Lombardozzi

    “If I am going to learn and teach against this tide I won’t be able to do it alone.” – This is the line of your post that resonated most with me…

    My faculty/facilitation work tends to take a very practical bent, but at the same time, I am a big advocate for scholarly practice, so a broader lack of respect/concern for truth is bothering me. This week, I found myself posting a comment in a discussion board that lamented our living in a “post-truth” world where it seems people can be both too trusting (believing most of what they see on the internet) and too dismissive of expertise. Where are we supposed to go for grounded, reliable information?

    As we see people gravitating toward DIY education, I have been promoting the role of designers as guides to the most useful, relevant material for a given subject (rather than a structured one-size course). People have been terribly turned off social media, so helping them to find good online networks as part of their personal learning environments is even more challenging. We should be benefiting from the internet but instead seem to be suffering from it.

    My course plans have included discussions of privacy and security issues, but I think I need to introduce more material about “crap detection” and filter bubbles. At the same time, I aim for practical, not necessarily philosophical.

    So figuring out how to teach against the tide and how to teach through the current environment is of immediate interest to me. I’ll look forward to hearing more.

  11. Bryan Alexander

    Bonnie, what a splendid post.

    First, it’s a great way into #HortonFreire.

    Second, it (re)introduces the world to the Antigonish Movement, which is important and fascinating.

    Third, your call for a 2.0 resonates deeply with me. I’ve been doing info and digital lit work off and on for 20 years, and would like to do something now.

    More on Twitter –

  12. Erica

    Bonnie, thanks for this post. It struck home. As a librarian, I’ve been thinking a lot this month about how teaching and promoting information literacy is one of the most important parts of my job (and of my profession) and feeling like a bit of a failure, professionally and personally. I’m doing a lot of thinking on ways to improve my work, and I’m happy to be a part of a 2.0 effort – I’m guessing a lot of other librarians, academic and public (who could be particularly useful in reaching non-academic audiences) would be as well.

  13. Jane Boyd

    Hey Bonnie,

    I’m intrigued. And interested. Lots of thoughts come to mind as I read this.

    Here’s a few —

    How would one explain such a movement to people outside of the academic world? To a business owner in a small community in rural area? To a parent who feels totally frustrated by the lack of education options for their child who is struggling in school? To a retired person looking to apply their life experience and knowledge to help their community? To someone working in corporate? To someone who wants to start a business but doesn’t know how or where to start?

    I belong to several networks of “very smart, very different folks” who are using digital media to create change, build virtual business and do good locally and globally — on their own terms and from a place of intention. These people range from artists to authors to educators to advocates to digital nomads. Many of them have built lives, businesses etc that go against the grain of the “system.” They consider “the system” to do more damage than good in most cases. Especially when it comes to education.

    On some level, it strikes me that these kind of folks are the exact kind of people you need to attract to a movement such as the one you are writing about. These people are are focused on creating, doing, collaborating, building and executing. They are the kind of people who get stuff done — by working with others they believe in/value. They build “outside the system” or go around it — because it’s faster, easier and can be more easily customized to meet immediate needs. This happens locally and globally.

    What I notice about the people in these kind of networks is that while the majority of folks are non academic — they are also very welcoming of academia. (As they are of virtually anyone with like minded values of doing good in the world.) It’s as though the creativity on the non academic folks is drawn to the brilliance of the academic folks. And I sense it’s the similar for the academic folks regarding the creativity of the non academic folks as well as a general fascination of understanding more about others who are opting to live, create etc in a new way.

    More and more people are living, creating and building outside of the traditional systems — and they are doing so with ever increasing individual and collective sustainability. You need to find and connect these people to what you are doing –locally and globally — because they are are the kind of people who know and work with people from ALL walks of life.

    Keep on with this. I love it. Many others will too.

    1. bon

      Thanks, Jane.

      I don’t see this – to the extent that I see it, which is admittedly still a hazy thing I’m trying to will into focus – as an academic endeavour. Even where the folks who’ve expressed interest are tied to education or institutions, many who’ve expressed an interest in contributing aren’t “academics” in the strict sense, but citizens of networks that happen to be education/higher ed-focused (instructional designers, staff, etc. A lot of what I know I need to learn could come from these folks.)

      But I still have a lot of roots in networked practice outside academia, and I think there’s lots of room for expertise and hands-on community work from those circles. The only caveat – for me – is that I see one central premise in this that doesn’t always align with those of more market-focused concepts of networked practice – I would want the ethos of this to be in line with that of the original Antigonish Movement. I want to emphasize Digital Literacies for knowledge & empowerment/citizenship (including economic empowerment, potentially) but not Digital Literacies for profit. Study groups rather than startups.

      I think this case – for a concept of education, formal or not, with a public ethos – is going to need to be made increasingly clearly in coming days. I found the way this piece unpacks it valuable to think about – https://www.currentaffairs.org/2016/11/why-is-the-decimation-of-public-schools-a-bad-thing

      I also think there’s an appetite for some kind of focused learning and agency education around Digital/Media Literacies among people who work in neither sector – academia or online in any sense. People who are catching the edges of the headlines re Facebook and the election and fake news and going “FINE. I just won’t believe any of it.” I don’t want that to become the norm in our society but people are mostly sensible and that’s a sensible reaction to the situation we’re in. So I figure those of us who have some tools – not all the tools, but some – for unpacking this, moving to a place of understanding and control, need to put ’em out there. Because what’s the alternative for people looking for some control over the narrative of our lives and times? Authoritarianism and scapegoating. This is the only way I know how to push back against that without engaging it.

  14. Maha Bali

    I’m in. Geographically marginalized and all that.
    I have been thinking of developing a course on cross-cultural learning or global digital citizenship or such and just reading your post now made something “click” as to why I have been feeling that urgency.

    So I am in. Looking forward to continuing to think about this together and hopefully inshallah act and learn together

  15. Neil

    Anyone on Facebook who was in my eighth grade Social Studies class with Mr. Molnia will tell you about his semester-long study of Propaganda Techniques. Of course, this was way before the introduction of the internet, but the lessons we learned about how advertisers, governments, and the media use propaganda were more important than anything I learned in college from famous professors. I would think any sort of media literacy would need to approach these techniques and how they are used in the media age. What is as troubling is that we all have been taught to market ourselves a brands so we can become as media savvy in manipulation as those in power. We have grown so accustomed to branding that 50% of the country excuse much of Trump’s antics as “Twitter stuff,” where people just mouth off. When it comes down to it, whatever gets the hits and traffic wins. I don’t think the idea of any truth is “cool” anymore; it is whoever has the best PR campaign. I suppose that is a new lesson we need to teach the young — that just because something is viral, doesn’t mean it is good or wise. Whatever happened to the concept of “Question Authority?”

    1. bon

      Apparently that’s died since GenX? We could bring it back…but I’m not sure any of us can identify which authority is ruling us anyway, which is half the problem. Global monopoly is hard to rail against…it’s slippery…and so we end up with Trump in the guise of populism.

  16. Robin DeRosa

    I’m also thinking about workload. About the work I already do in my daily “job.” Is there a way that this can be work INSIDE of that work as opposed to ON TOP of that work? How can we bend and shape the work that we already do to flexibly serve a new kind of collaboration? I am particularly interested in this because so many of us are exhausted now– busy, yes, but also demoralized and worn. Can this help to revive and recontextualize our work? Can it subvert the institutions we already work for in productive ways, and strengthen those same institutions in ways that also are productive? And for those of us who are not academics, how can non-academic “jobs” provide fertile grounds for participating here? And how can the work that we generate actively resist further casualization of academic labor? I only ask these things because I have ideas; I need support and collaborators; I need to be challenged and want to make change. And I think building some coalitions for working will help us all maximize the impact of the transformation we are trying, in diverse ways, to nudge ahead. Though I rail against higher ed’s obsession with efficiency and scaling, I also note a need for some efficiency and scalability in my own resistance. How can we use what we each already (have to) do to do something bigger together to change the world?

    1. bon

      Robin, agree. I see this too, the need to tie this to what I already *do*, or maybe shift what I already do to encompass this more directly, because it matters.

      At the same time, this will need to be more than what I already do, in the sense that running study clubs in my neighbourhood is a level of commitment and organization and just…putting it out there that I don’t already do. But people – locally – smart people from librarians to hairstylists to accountants, all within three blocks of my house, have nibbled at the idea.

      I’m working on a model for this that is loose enough to maybe be replicable in a variety of contexts. Think with me. How do we do it well without making it too big another job?

      1. Autumm

        I’m thinking about Sundi’s DigPins project – could that be a kind of model for a local study group around digital literacy that is tied to an institution? Or perhaps a starting place?

        1. bon

          I’m a fan of the DigPins model and have used something similar for PD projects – am doing one now with our local community college instructors and had planned more of a DigPins/#digciz presence online but that wasn’t the direction they wanted. Still think it’s a strong model.

          However…the key thing I want to do here is go beyond people already tied to institutions. Probably by connecting to people tied to PEOPLE tied to institutions….in local contexts. And possibly non-educational workplaces that “we” (the folks who might be at the core of driving something like this) can access. It’s hard to make those leaps in practice, and get buy-in, but to me if we only keep these efforts focused within the boundaries of educational institutions we will be bound by the self-replicating goals/necessities of educational institutions…and a lot of people will remain outside that circle. So I’d like to figure out how to use institutional capacity to get outside, in the spirit of what “extension” departments used to do more of. ;)

  17. Michael Caulfield

    I’m doing a more Freire approach personally, and after a blizzard of work it looks like it might come together in the spring, though honestly I haven’t quite stopped to look up and figure where I am yet.

    But I’d like to plug into existing classrooms a series of critical programs which push students to look at their information environments with a critical eye in the service of pushing non-students to do the same. My firm belief is that if we don’t don’t address our toxic information environments our chances of achieving meaningful change are small. I need good people. Let me know if you want in. If you’re not feeling too Horton about it. ;)

    1. bon

      I want in. But I also want your input / collaboration here, or on this, if I can get it. :)

      Not sure if you had a chance to read to the end but the Antigonish idea is not so entirely Horton-esque. It drew on both institutions (in the educational and more structural sense, drawing on the power of the church and community as organizing entities of that time & place) and networked connections (pre-digital, both ties and technology) to build its reach.

      I think we need to work with existing classrooms in a more coordinated and critical fashion and I’m in full agreement about toxic information environments. I just think that going beyond existing classrooms is also a) crucial and b) possible. Let’s talk.

      1. Michael Arthur Caulfield

        I did read it — still formulating my thoughts on it. As I’ve said elsewhere, there’s this problem of externalities. In civic terms the people who are careful with information bear the costs of those who don’t.

        On the other hand if what you’re seeing is sort of a meta-group — a group of people looking to form a community of practice around the practice of getting people up to speed on this stuff, then that I could certianly support, since I need that myself. I don’t have a PhD. but like you I’ve been in this space since the 1990s, thinking about how we learn together online, and now that the biggest learning machine out there is Facebook it scares the shit out of me and makes me think I have been thinking too small. As someone else said to me in a moment of clarity, we now know the walls of our teapot and we’re going to need a bigger tempest.

        1. bon

          Late responding, Mike, but yes – a community of practice.

          Talked to The Coady Institute in Antigonish yesterday…thinking about next steps. :)

  18. Sundi Richard

    I have yet to say, I’m in, but I’m in. I really love and see the need for that building trust in local spaces piece. It is the most difficult part for me, a wanderer, whose local community is almost entirely tied to my institution. But I’m excited to keep talking about how to be involved and stretch my own comfort zones. I think connecting to what people care about is key.

    1. bon

      Your comment made me think about ways the digital could be part of the “local communities” aspect of this, Sundi. Maybe you decide to run a FB group or present a workshop that your sister pulls together for legislators in New Mexico. (OOH. I like that.) There’s room for variety. Everybody’s “local” needs to be for them to work out and define, I think.

  19. Mike

    To quote Patty Griffin, it’s a mad, mad, mission.. sign me up.

    And I was born in Antigonish. Been away a long, long time.

    Your timing is impeccable.

  20. Keith Hamon

    I’m late responding, but I was in when I read this several weeks ago. Actually, I was in several years ago when I discovered MOOCs and started thinking about all the issues mentioned in this discussion.

    I suppose my point is that we’ve already started Antigonish 2.0. I sense a struggle in this conversation between a central, clear model and a looser, crowd-sourced model. I prefer the looser model with a mechanism for aggregating information about what people are doing locally and what works and what doesn’t.

    I also like a focus on literacy, or meaning-making, to push the concept of literacy beyond the mechanics of communicating. I want an effort to rethink how we make sense of the world and each other–in large part because I think the old sense-making strategies are failing us. I understand Martin Weller’s complaint that people don’t want to learn, but I insist that they are learning whether or not they want to. A big part of the issue is that they are using old sense-making strategies in a new context, which too often yields nonsense. We need new strategies, and I don’t think that those strategies are clear to any of us. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits Antigonish 2.0 can provide is a space to work out strategies for mapping vs. tracing truth (to use Deleuze and Guattari’s terms). If we actually come up with new, useful ways to make meaning, then others will notice.

    I am your first pupil. I know that I have learned more about making sense from the open groups that we have both participated in than I have learned in all my previous institutional learning. We can be clearer about what we are doing, but I don’t know how we can be more effective. I don’t think I can learn faster without major trauma.

  21. Zack

    Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen of Wikipedia? :)

    “Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[…]”
    —H.H. Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, “On the meaning of: OM MANI PADME HUM
    On the Internet, nobody knows you are not a Buddha. As a concept, the internet might have qualities you seek in common but are not “real” in the bricks and mortar sense. Still, bricks make for better foundations. We’ll see?


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