Nomadic University – Principles and Goals – 1st draft (10/30/2011)

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The following is the first working draft from the Principles and Goals Task Force of the Nomadic University. This is an attempt to translate the ideals of Occupy Wall Street into a framework for educational change and liberation. This document does not map out specific concrete proposals or strategies, but rather tries to lay down a conceptual framework to inform how we approach and develop a liberatory model of educational learning.

OWS Principle
Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy.

Nomadic University Translation
The educational process and structures should incorporate and prioritize direct, transparent, and participatory democratic processes.

Although many people call the United States a democratic nation, the reality is that we do not have direct, transparent or participatory political structures. Instead, we find ourselves living in a country where money directs politics, where secrecy hides abuses of power, and where our participation as political subjects has been reduced to the symbolic act of a meaningless vote for the lesser of two evils. We have lost control over the decisions which directly impact and shape our lives, yet we continue to support this broken political system.

The experience of Occupy Wall Street, and the General Assembly in particular, demonstrates that direct, face-to-face political decision making is possible. If the experience of OWS so far is to have a lasting impact on our society, these values and practices must be taught and modeled from a very early age. We believe one task of an emancipatory political education project like the Nomadic University is to develop and support direct and transparent models of political participation.

OWS Principle
Exercising personal and collective responsibility.

Nomadic University Translation
We all share a responsibility to ensure that all have a right to be educated in a collective, communal, and continual process.

In order to genuinely mean anything, responsibility must be grounded in an understanding of our place within a larger community. This could be a community of people struggling to make a better world, an ecological community we are all a part of, or a physical space we call our neighborhood. Regardless of how we understand the word community, there is a sense of give and take, of a personal and political responsibility for the general collective good.

The same is true for education. We have a responsibility to share our collective wisdom with each other so we may learn and generate new forms of knowledge. We further recognize that there are multiple modes of learning which in turn produce many diverse ways of knowledge creation and transmission. An emancipatory approach to education must focus on both the content of what we learn and the processes used to generate that knowledge.

OWS Principle
Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions.

Nomadic University Translation
THIS WILL BE REVISED: In the educational process, all are seen as equal teachers and learners. Empowering individuals to be conscious of differences such that they can be negotiated in more compassionate, respectful, and productive ways will be prioritized.

OWS Principle
Empowering one another against all forms of oppression.

Nomadic University Translation
Education should be liberatory, empowering, and generative KEEP THE REST?: to challenge all forms of oppression.

(These two were merged together, as they really seem to be aiming at the same thing, since they are both addressing issues of power and privilege).

A truly liberatory approach to education must challenge all forms of privilege, personal, institutional and structural. By privilege we mean the ways that different forms of power shape and generate what is considered legitimate forms of knowledge and ways of acting in the world. Privilege manifests in many forms:

* In the form of continued exclusion, marginalization and criminalization of people of color by those defending and protecting white privilege.
* Through economic exploitation and the creation of vast sums of wealth without labor.
* In the gendered hierarchies which value males over females and which create a climate of misogyny and sexual violence against women.
* Via heterosexual social norms acting as forms of social policing against transgendered and gender non-conforming lifeways.
* Through the unequal treatment and exclusion of differently-abled bodies.
* In the enslavement and death of millions of sentient beings through industrial farming, habitat destruction and similar ecologically destructive practices.
* Via the continued displacement and attacks on indigenous communities and lifeways.
* By the forced sexual trafficking and enslavement of young people, especially women.
* In the exclusion of both young and old from meaningful involvement in society.
* Through the various ways that language, citizenship and other political categories can open or close access and opportunities for a better, safer and more meaningful life.

It is not enough to simply recognize these various forms of oppression and say we are against them. A truly liberatory education must go further and also seek to challenge them directly. For this to be possible, we need a critical anti-authoritarian pedagogy which systematically critiques and dissects how various forms of power and privilege operate in our world today. We must teach our movement about these structures and support efforts to dismantle them.

But it is not enough to just recognize difference, we must also build respect for and protection of these values, regardless of what form they take. We find strength in diversity, not in homogeneity and uniformity. It is this cookie-cutter model of industrial education and standardized learning that we reject in our approach of communal knowledge creation. Rather than forcing people to live with unjust and arbitrary rules, we seek to create a space where we can learn, live and love respectfully and compassionately as a community of equals.

OWS Principle
Redefining how labor is valued.

Nomadic University Translation
We need a new curricula that re-thinks the intensive commodification of knowledge. (do we want to include “labor” specifically here?)

Everyone should have the opportunity to support themselves through their own efforts, but we also recognize that in the world today that has become increasingly difficult. When we talk about valuing labor, we believe it is important to separate the concept of actual labor (physical or mental) from the concept of monetary value (capital), as the two are not equivalent. What counts as value has been reduced to punching time cards or counting up how many hours we worked. Many of us have lost touch with how or what we are actually producing, and in the process, we have been alienated from the products of our labor. This process has only increased with the outsourcing of jobs and the growth of an immaterial economy based on speculative future value. The current economic crisis will not fix itself, because it is the underlying system of economic incentives and profit motives that are the root of the problem.

We seek a re-articulation of labor and value that recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of every person to a fair and living wage, whether that be in the form of currency or exchange. We believe that value is not only produced in the marketplace, but also in the face-to-face and hands-on process of creation. In other words, we understand value production as a much richer and more complex process than our economic system allows for. When we share knowledge we create a common language about what is valuable, but we do this above and beyond purely monetary calculations. We seek meaningful ways for each person to use their skills for the enrichment of the community while recognizing the importance of that contribution. Rethinking how we create and exchange this perceived labor value is a critical challenge of an emancipatory and anti-capitalism educational pedagogy.

OWS Principle
The belief that education is a human right.

Nomadic University Translation
All have the right to be educated in a manner that respects the inherent worth, dignity, and equal and inalienable rights of every individual; these principles are the basis of freedom, justice, and peace in the world and the educational process must adhere to them.

We believe that everyone should have the opportunity and resources to further their own quest for knowledge and personal growth, be that intellectual, physical, emotional or spiritual. We believe everyone must have equal access to education, regardless of the form or type of learning, in order to realize this ideal. One way to achieve this is through a system of free public education. Another is through a model of community-based free schools. A third way might be found in some form of cooperative learning community. Whatever the means, the ultimate aims of a liberatory education project like this must be to ensure equal access and opportunity for any and all who seek it, regardless of any other considerations.

OWS Principle
Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

Nomadic University Translation

We believe that the principles of open-source reflect the same principles as our desire for a transformative and meaningful pedagogical approach. Learning should be free and open to all. Information should be accessible so that public critique and elaboration can occur. Group collaboration and idea development is key. Adaptability, creativity and hybridity are central to the horizontal and networked nature of a dynamic community or learners.


A living version of this document is hosted on the Nomadic University website.

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