It was an overused joke even before the Covid era, but I really did pick the wrong year to give up Facebook. Now I cling to it for connections and the news. As one of my friends said about Facebook, “In 2008 it was a novelty, a year ago it was the ruin of civilization, now its a lifesaver”. I am addicted to the connections it provides but it sends me into places of fear, indignation, as well as comfort and connection, and motivation. Today I read a post with a Washington Post article entitled “Cuomo questions Why School buildings still exist says New York will work with Bill Gates to reimagine education”. As usual there was more nuance that was suggested by the title, but I am still coming down a bit from the initial adrenalin rush. I’ve been here on FotoFika talking about the potential of online teaching, encouraging educators, particularly photo educators that much can be done remotely, on line, through distance. I’ve been encouraging everyone to consider the potential– the opportunity. And I do believe that through creativity we can do some amazing things and that there is so much that can be done.
But the this article scared me and provoked the need to articulate why engaging with online/remote education is not the same as denying the essential need for in-person, hands on human connections and the need to fight for the brick and mortar experiences. It is not the same as believing that technology and those who control and profit from should be deciding what matters and the future of education or proposing grand solutions at a time when really no one really knows what the post Covid world educational world will look like. I firmly believe that in person education should be the foundation of education for artists and for children. It is interesting to consider what might come out of Covid as Naomi Klein points out a lot of ideas have been lying around and are picked up in these times–both good and bad. One of the more dangerous ones for educators is the continued devaluing of what really happens between students and teachers and the need for the interpersonal and the need to feel things, touch things and to be with human beings outside our homes. It seems logical that we are learning this even more than ever now. But we are also at risk of learning the opposite. Maybe a lot can be done from home, maybe some things don’t need to consume the resources they consume. Of course both things can be and I believe, are true.
This gets back to the idea of hybridity, flexibility and the ability to exist in the in-between space. The non-binary, the grey area (or if you are writing an artist statement the “liminal space”. It means that we, as educators as people in a time of uncertainty need to really consider, again going back to John’s post from Tuesday and a key tenet in recovery, operating knowing that there are things we can’t change or predict or control and accepting those things and still going forward. As artists we can really thrive in this space, as educators its much more tricky, especially when our livelihood is on the line.
But something that we must be vigilant about is the idea that something or someone is going to save us with a definitive answer. While Bill Gates and others with wealth and other with innovative technology may have something to offer we cannot look for saviors to rescue us from where we are. We cannot give up our power because we don’t have definitive answers. More specifically to us as artist and educators we must critically engage with technology applying what we know to be valuable. We can to embrace the true potential of reaching people in new ways but this is not the same as being saved by technology or by thinking that by preparing to teach online, or remotely this fall we are conceding that in person experiential education should be replaced.
Its back to the in-between space and acting without fully knowing. Not looking for a panacea or a savior, neither Bill Gates nor Andrew Cuomo know and they know less than you do about teaching photo students and I would argue know very little about what the K-12 children of the country need. Resist huge sweeping generalizations about the state of education and focus on doing what you need to do.
Time to get off of Facebook. (not gonna happen though).