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Re: <nettime> Statement in relation to the outlawing of the Copenhagen F
Rama Hoetzlein on Tue, 21 Jun 2011 22:55:33 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Statement in relation to the outlawing of the Copenhagen Free University: All power to the free universities of the future


Jakob,

We call for everybody to establish their own free universities in their homes or in the workplace, in the square or in the wilderness. All power to the free universities of the future.

Hi. Would it not be simpler to just call for everyone to establish their own sense of critical thinking, knowledge and truth.. since the term university carries such a number of other connotations which have a historic significance.

On the Copenhagen Free University website, the CFU Abolition committee states:

 
It has never been about joining the CFU, or any other university, but about opening your own university. 


If there is no one joining, and each individual starts their own university, then it seems to redefine the term university without any distinction between student and teacher. You might be saying that is exactly the point, but does redefining the university help to build knowledge or deconstruct it? After all, the origin of "university" comes from the Latin for "a community of teachers and scholars." The purpose of such a community is to pass on knowledge to others, i.e. students. Doesn't this relationship in the sharing of knowledge between two people sound just like the kind of structure that CFU would want to support rather than deconstruct?

Although I have recently moved to Copenhagen, I have learned a small bit more of this Danish-Norwegian approach by Aksel Sandemose in En flyktning krysser sitt spor (1933, A fugitive crosses his tracks) the cultural concept of knowledge in which the idea of the teacher or authority as someone special is called into question, i.e. one of the ten principles "Don't think you can teach us anything." But isn't the writing of this book in a sense a paradox itself, since a book is by definition something passes on knowledge. So is the author Sandemose teaching us something or not? And my communication of it to readers is another passing of knowledge (unless they already knew it), which does not necessarily indicate the writer is better in any sense, but a relationship between the communicator and the receiver of knowledge still exists.

On the CFU website, it also says:

The Copenhagen Free University has never wanted to become a fixed identity and as a part of the concept of self-institutionalisation we have always found it important to take power and play with power but also to abolish power. This is why the Copenhagen Free University closed down at the end of 2007. Looking back at the six years of existence of the CFU we end our activities with a clear conviction and declare: We Have Won!

If the point is simply to increase community knowledge, why are there any winners or losers? This is why I state above that it appears your intention is a call for increased self-knowledge, critical thought, and reflection, in response to the institutional ways in which this is regulated in education. I would agree with this approach to knowledge, since as you say truth has no bounds. Educational institutions often have the drawback of centralizing the power structure around knowledge. But if the point is to liberate knowledge, why even introduce the term free "university" in CFU?
If the only function of art is to act as anti-matter to other material, then it does no better at improving knowledge. That said, one can acknowledge that art serves a purpose to those whom are engaged in that particular kind of _expression_.

Thus, I see CFU and free universities as serving mainly one function. They are art projects themselves, which form an institutional anti-thesis to established educational systems. It functions as a commentary on the educational system, but should still be distinguished from the process and act of acquiring knowledge, which all people have a right to of course, and which are still primarily acquired through the passing of knowledge from person to person.

In general, I agree that there is an institutional trend toward the capitalization of education. But I think you will find that most faculty and teachers at existing schools would strongly agree that this is problematic, and are in fact vehement about its problems. Despite the closure of the CFU, you appear to be advocating a re-doubled effort to create a free university in copenhagen. I would argue this may not have the effect on the political institution that you intend. In the US, exactly what you propose with schools has happened in pharmacy for example. A serious shortage of skilled pharmacists in 2001 resulted in a surge of many, smaller schools teaching with new methods and not bound to large university standards. It has "liberated" the education of pharmacy in the US, but has now results in a surplus of accredited pharmacists who do not have the basic skills to do the job properly, which results in real medical mistakes. Thus the free education you speak of may actually cause more problems to knowledge.. One cannot get anything for free, even knowledge takes time and work.

I do not know the final solution to institutionalized education (actually, I think it has to do with peak oil). But I am pretty sure that making it free in the sense of anyone-can-do-it may be as equally problematic.
In response to your call, I have already started my own "university", but I do not call it that.. I just call it thinking sometimes : )

Best,
Rama Hoetzlein

Dept. of Architecture and Media Technology
Aalborg University at Copenhagen


The Free U Resistance Committee of June 18 2011.  

Practicalities in Denmark: Please send a mail to the Minister of Science,
Technology and Innovation declaring your university (min {AT} vtu.dk) and cc. to the
The Danish Agency of Universities (ubst {AT} ubst.dk)  


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