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January 29, 2007

[iDC] New Media Education


Luis Camnitzer

Seeing that in this discussion (Kanarinka, etc.) many are just entering the academic tunnel, I would like to contribute a little from the vantage point of the exit. I retired 7 years ago after slowly dying during 32 years in an institution that started well. We were to take off were we thought Antioch had stopped, "break the lockstep of traditional education" as our mission stated in 1968. The three decades plus spent on observing changes of mission, corruption, brown nosing and decay, only served to teach me that there is no way to build a truly progressive institution in the U.S. The rhetoric may be progressive, but the core won't ever get there, and it is not only due to corporations, government, bad administration and self-serving colleagues.

Education in this country is only a relatively true right for the people until high-school level. After that it is a commodity in a profit making business. University profit comes of course from the tuition students have to pay for the honor of getting a job to help corporations make more profit. It comes from corporations themselves, that sponsor projects that benefit them (government and army being part of that), and it comes from non educational things like sports events. It is into this picture we enter trying to educate people, without realizing that we can't really balance a greed-based structure with our idealism.

In terms of art education I figured that if I had 5000 students over the years, maybe 20 of them managed to support a family with their art. The 5000 ensured that I could survive as a professor. The other 4980 that didn't make it in the gallery circuit, hoped to survive teaching the same way I did. If they managed to get a teaching job, each one of them would need another 5000 students to survive. We have a perfect pyramid scam here.

I suggest a different utopia than the attempt to find the precarious balance you are seeking or an impossible institutional reform within the university. It is too late for all that. It might be much more realistic to accept that the U.S. universities are corporate tools that in fact are competing with corporate training at a disadvantage. In art, the Whitney museum is training its own artists and being better at it than many schools (partly due to better filtering). Let us stop the hypocrisy and have corporations openly take over education for "real life," making sure that students survive in the market. It will provide a much better and up to date education. With this we would have a true education for serving.

Let us also have the government start from scratch and create a free humanist education system that ensures that people learn about cultures and ideas, how to speculate and how to make connections. This would be the education for thinking. The student could be in both systems at the same time and end up well rounded. Some of us are better at teaching skills than thinking, and therefore would contribute in the first system. Some of us are better at idealistic speculation and would be in the second. We all would lead much less frustrating lives, be incredibly more productive, and present ourselves with a constructive attitude to our students. Presently, those of us who are idealistic can only teach (justified) resentment." Luis Camnitzer

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Posted by jo at January 29, 2007 11:41 AM