A manifesto is meant to be persuasive and vibrant and stamp an image of what you are, what you believe in and proudly posit any rules or policies you need to make it so.
The agile manifesto (education version) is one that I refer to regularly and I have been thinking about the need for visionary thinking in education a lot lately. This manifesto challenge was prompted by a blog by Claire Amos in our DisruptEd facebook community. Consequently I have been looking into the manifesto as a historical means for change and as a relative staple in art movements. I have also had a go at writing one of my own. (I used PicCollage as an easy tool).
The anchor for a manifesto is ‘What do you believe?’. It needs to be your impassioned thoughts about what your art (or school) should be. Le Corbusier (one of my favourite modernist architects) wrote that ‘a house should be a machine for living in.’ It is functional and streamlined. The house as a machine metaphor has always captured my imagination. Such a simple statement defined his style.
Where are the architects of education? What kind of ‘machine’ might a school be? Is a machine even an appropriate metaphor?
A school is a machine for learning in?
A school is a heart for dreaming in?
A school is a hub for thinking in?
In 1909 futurist F.T. Marinetti wrote, ‘Courage, boldness and rebellion will be the essential elements in our poetry.’ This was for the Futurism manifesto. Futurism was a rejection of the past and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry. It was aggressive, bold and forceful. Courage, boldness, rebellion! I’m not sure I stand for the violence but I like the courage. Another non-manifesto recommended read is by Tyson Yunkaporta whi has written a phenomenal book called, ‘Sand Talk: how indigenous thinking can save the world’. In it he talks of the power of metaphor and story (among other things) but he also rightly notes that if you want to find your innovative and disruptive thinkers, you need to look in the detention room. (If in a traditional environment). So it stands to reason that rebellion is the disruption that is needed. Perhaps we need to be collectively looking in many places (together) in order to create the policies that will benefit all and not some. Courage! A rejection of the past! A celebration of other knowledge!
In 1963 the Fluxus art movement wrote a manifesto to ‘start a revolutionary flood and tide in art.’ They wanted to ‘purge the world of bourgeois sickness’ and to ‘dismiss and mock the elitist world of “high art” and to find any way possible to bring art to the masses’. Well, why not education? Bring education to the masses. Close the digital divide. Start a revolutionary tide. Purge the world of elitist education offerings?
I write to work things out. I also draw to draw things out. So these thoughts are not finished or complete – they are just a snapshot of my current thinking. They are a start for a manifesto to which policy makers might be able to start attaching policy to.
What is your motivation for a manifesto? How can you make your mark? Why can’t educators be more like artists and start new and daring movements?
A large proportion of students in New Zealand (and globally) are limited through lack of devices. Add rural connections and rural wifi expenses to the NZ picture and the digital divide makes learning inaccessible unless you have money. Our Māori and Pasifika learners are also not thriving. What about other inequities? Neurodiverse students and students with disabilities are similarly denied access to adequately trained teachers to help them to build the bold new neural pathways they could be growing. (Thinking about UDL and currently reading Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets). Make education a priority! Train the teachers! Elevate their role as sculptors of tomorrow!
Artists, by nature of the modes that art takes, can ‘steal’ more readily than educators. (Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon is another great read). Teachers might be thinking great things, trialing great experiments, making great discoveries – but it is harder to ‘see’ these pictures in order to learn techniques and tips quickly. What if we all shared freely to encourage more robust debate, collective growth and collaborative capacity?
Imagine the future or look at all of the things around you that are not right. Then imagine what education needs to be to fix those bad things. Then start talking about it. Start questioning it. Start writing about it. All learners should have the opportunity to thrive.
Be bold and imagine a manifesto.