“Counter Education” is our theme for January. It’s drawn from the 1970 publication Blueprint for Counter Education. Originally published by Doubleday, Blueprint is a boxset—or “portable toolkit”—with three charts and what the authors Maurice Stein and Larry Miller call a shooting script. The charts are like posters. They have constellations of names of radical modern and postmodern thinkers, designers, political theorists, sociologists, artists and movements in Western culture. The posters are easily pinned to walls to create a do-it-yourself learning environment. Stein and Miller wanted to foster a participatory curriculum emphasizing social interaction where learning occurs in dialogue without hierarchies. Instead of providing a precise roadmap for how to read the bevy of cultural references, Blueprint prompts groups to devise their own interpretative explorations. Ideologically, the process of knowledge production is prioritized over the final product.
Ideologies live large in education today, where the quality of learning is often gauged by quantifiable data. Our theme “Counter Education” should not be interpreted as “against” or “opposed” to education. Counter conveys something closer to what Stein and Miller envisioned with Blueprint: Disruption. Think, new tools—from learner-driven platforms and peripatetic field modules, to relational learning among peers and experiential learning sites beyond walls of an academy. Consider new timeframes—for example, pockets of intense interaction between professors and students interspersed with weeks of independent reading. And atmosphere—what about flexible environments with natural light, community tables, music and refreshments, a space not easily identifiable as a classroom. The counter scene might look like a bookshop, a coffee bar, or a living room. It could look like a hike. It could be a bread oven as a primary tool for learning together about foods and cultures. Counter is something that disrupts typical education models.
At CRB we have numerous publications about “counter,” “anti,” “expanded,” “alternative,” “other” education models. This fact was made clear during a recent visit by a colleague. It shouldn’t be a surprise. CRB, as another colleague wrote, “speculates a new form and context for education, public dialogue and creative partnerships.” As I considered a theme for our new month, new semester, new year, the expanded reprint of Blueprint for Counter Education (designed by Project Projects and published by Inventory Press) along with the other books in our inventory seemed the best way to begin. Blueprint is a time capsule of 1960s counterculture radicalism. It is an opportunity for contemporary readers to scrutinize the content, consider the audiences, challenge the narratives, and think about new approaches for teaching and learning today.
James Voorhies, Chair, CCA Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice