The “Edupunk” Thing.

As Rob MacDougall pointed out, “Edupunk” seems to be the new hot meme in the edublog world.

I’m coming a bit late to the party, as the term was coined almost two weeks ago, which in the blogosphere seems to mean a thing’s ready for its postmortem… Well, unless it’s LOLcats. LOLcats has legs.

If you’re not hip to the right circles, or just behind on your feed reader (I’m both), click around these entries. Follow the hyperlinks. Check out the blogs of the people posting replies. Make sure you’ve got a couple hours on your hands– for such a new concept, it’s generating a lot of dialog. Which is awesome in and of itself, honestly.

Personally, I find the concept deeply intriguing. Ultimately, a lot of what people are talking about as being “edupunk” is very similar to things I’ve been trying to express for a while. An appreciation for the DIY ethos– the concept that fast, quick, and handmade is better than slick corporate cookie-cutter product any day of the week. A desire to get people to get their hands dirty with all the new tools available. The understanding that sometimes you need an Allen wrench, and sometimes you need a sledge hammer. Advocating that educators going past the standard classroom interaction is the essence of “best practices.” The concept that being in a classroom shouldn’t keep students from being autodidacts, but should rather encourage it. Using Web 2.0 tools (when appropriate) to make students interact more, participate more, and allowing them a greater amount of ownership and stewardship of their work. Acknowledging that Blackboard is too badly designed and inflexible to be the killer ap of courseware it’s become.

Of course, I’ve been a big fan of and advocate for punk, DIY, zines, and the like for– wow… over fifteen years. So this sort of thing has an intrinsic appeal to me. Something that co-opts the DIY ethos and combines it with new media and progressive/radical pedagogy? That’s just custom-tailored to my tastes.

The term’s a bit silly, of course. And the term’s too new to really indicate any real community or cause. But I’m glad the term’s been coined. Ultimately, if the meme gathers enough steam, and actually comes to be a real thing, a movement, philosophy, praxis, approach, critique, whatever… It will have come out of Jim Groom coming up with a term that provides an umbrella of linked concepts under which different people can gather.

I hope it does. I’d gladly call myself edupunk if that came to pass.

Even if it doesn’t, it’s definitely come to generate a really interesting conversation.

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One qualm I have to express, though, related to an association made by several critics of the not-yet-extant “movement,” as well as some of its advocates.

Punk was never, ever, only about anger and nihilism.

That’s an impression that comes from too many people painting with much too broad a brush, and the overstatement of the impact of the Sex Pistols.

The Ramones had an edge, but blind, dumb joy drove their music, just as often as anger. The Clash had more righteous indignation than undirected anger. Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers are, to my mind, totally punk rock– and JR writes songs about romantic awkwardness and being a baby dinosaur. The DIY ethos that has driven so much of the last thirty years of punk music and culture found its incubator in the garage bands of the sixties. Listen to the Shaggs singing (with no sense of melody or harmony, let alone any sense of irony) about how great parents are. Listen to the One Way Streets singing “We All Love Peanut Butter.” You can’t hear anything but sheer joy in these songs.

I thought Bob Mould proved conclusively in 1984 that punk had a lot more emotional depth and complexity than angry adolescent rejection. Why does this impression persist?

Assuming that punk– and anything that, like the notion of “edupunk,” draws on the legacy and ethos of punk– has the emotional complexity of the Incredible Hulk is just patently wrong.

Sure, punk is often about smashing the “system.”
And sometimes anger makes you want to smash things.
Sometimes, it’s political– the system is too broken to be repaired, and needs to be cleared away before new options can thrive.
Sometimes, it’s just the sheer joy of breaking things.
And other times, you’re motivated by a sense of play and fun– detourning the mechanisms of a system, subverting it, disrupting its self-seriousness, and trying to provoke positive change.