education and ethics

We posit that education is in the end about what constitutes the ethical. Rather than a prescriptive model for an ethical education of students, we see ethics as a set of evolving questions about who we are as individuals, as a community, as a species. Our inherited ideas about ethics have been centered on implicit and/or explicit discussions of morality as related to politics and law. At the same time, we have tacitly concluded that ethics is either a subject of study (usually delegated to post-secondary curricula within a general education requirement) or something that will trickle-down to students through general educational. More radically, and increasingly prevalent, is the conclusion that it is parents’ responsibility to instill ethics in their children. This latter opinion is at the root of many political debates today. The fact of the matter is that ethics is always already a political issue of and about responsibility. To delegate ethics to the private sphere of parental instruction is to occlude the increasingly controversial political (public) dimensions of the ethical. Understanding that education is grounded on communicative practices (delivery, instruction, experience, language, coding, design, translation, media), which are the same operations that constitute our contemporary life (discourse, communication, information, experience, coding, design, translation, media), makes it imperative to locate education as a way of questioning the responsibility of our increasingly evolving and valuable discourse channels. Thus, the ethics of education – or the educational import of ethics – would be questioning and critical analysis of the way we transmit, archive, protect, code, translate, manipulate, and otherwise produce, sell and communicate information. The practice of education could be seen as the questioning of the ethical responsibility of communication itself in the overlapping realms of the individual, the community, the increasingly biopolitical global sphere. Thus, the practice of education would then become the practice of making ethical decisions throughout a student’s life.

education and digital culture

The discussions over the inevitable intersections between education and technology are commonplace in the debates about the future of education, and it is naïve and unproductive to dismiss this discussion, for it is a crucial facet of our political, economic and existential reality. Thus, the question is not whether or not but how the digital will be used in educational contexts. As in every other aspect of our lives, the digital is not simply infiltrating our lives but also redefining lives—how and what we live for. This is a new paradigm: consumers are becoming their own producers, or prosumers: individuals are designing, producing, consuming , and sharing their own goods and services. Education is increasingly seen as a product that is designed, marketed, and consumed. We see this as an opportunity to critically reassess and restructure education from all dimensions: content, environments, delivery, assessment, and production and consumption. The communication and discursive conduit today for all forms of information is digital, visual culture. That we still teach using learning models and physical environments for students that are unproductive is a national scandal. We aim to exploit the aesthetically cognitive powers of digital visual culture to produce various platforms and environments of education—platforms and environments that will become more humanized precisely because of the increased active, experiential, and communicative efficacy facilitated by the digital. Digital technology is a connective conduit through which individuals and communities of students can critically question and practice the ethical responsibility of human communication while being a part of a human community. The new world of digitized information and communication is not un-human but neo-human in its positive recoding of a responsible communication, dissemination, and use of information.

user-designed education

The new paradigm for education will be transmitted through the practitioners. We believe that students – the actual practitioners – should and will be principally involved in the holistic design of their educational environments and the products they create. This notion is not radical but an intuitive and economically viable shift in educational practices being employed in varying degrees by other schools across the country. In our new education practice, designed facets include architecture, interiors, curriculum, texts, and “outcomes.” The latter concept, a notion that is frequently prompted by all so-called reformers, and as such is as misguided and unproductive, is a main target of our deconstruction project. The recognized solution of outcomes, such as standardized testing, is perhaps the most damaging aspect of today’s educational quagmire. All political parties and ideological entities are implicated in this gargantuan disaster. From Reagan’s “A Nation at Risk” to Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and today’s “Race to the Top,” the fraud of rote quantitative testing is producing nothing less than highly uneducated students, while the testing industry and their sycophant supporters within education and American politics continue to profit despite test results. User-designed education would not be a party to the profiteering and political manipulation of testing as an arbiter of learning. We propose that “outcomes” and “assessments” should be reconfigured, redesigned as an organic component of the learning process itself. In truth, education does not have “outcomes” but new questions, openings and discoveries that negate the very notion of “outcome.” The student could be actively involved in his/her own designed educational quest, the course of which would be determined by the student himself/herself. Let’s determine directions rather than outcomes. This allows for countless models of assessment instead of just one.

deconstructing political correctness

One of the greatest challenges facing education in the 21st century is the censure of critical discourse through the influence of political correctness. Although the ideology of political correctness has inundated all facets of social life as well as the media, the growing hegemony of political correctness in educational institutions threatens to destroy critical intellectual engagement and debate where it is most needed. There can be no ethical education when critical thinking is annulled. When there is a ban on discourse, education is no longer possible–it becomes indoctrination. This is not a question of political agendas: both liberal and conservative ideologies are effected negatively by the tacit censorship of modes of intellectual inquiry. Critical thinking is impossible when ideas, histories, voices, positions, traditions, and controversies are bracketed as unmentionable. It is precisely the role of an ethical education to critically consider all that is possible no matter its “correctness.”