The time has come to take a stand against this thoughtless use of “Luddite” in the pejorative. The historical record needs to be set straight, and it needs to be set straight as a prelude to defending a Luddite approach to education.
A Luddite pedagogy for the 21st century
Just as the 19th century Luddism was interested far more in a forward-looking political agenda than in particular pieces of technology, so a 21st century Luddism in education will be concerned with more important issues than whether or not allowing pupils to use their own devices in class is a good idea. Like their political ancestors, the Luddite pedagogues will wield a hammer, but they won’t see any urgency in bringing it down on trivial things like touch-screen gadgetry. Instead, the targets lie elsewhere.
One place they lie is in the false talk of liberation that has gained popularity among people using the #edtech hashtag. A Luddite pedagogy is a pedagogy of liberation, and, as such, it clashes head on with the talk of liberation peddled by advocates of edtech. According to the latter, the child, previously condemned to all the unbearably oppressive restrictions of having to learn in groups, can now be liberated by the tech that makes a 1:1 model of education feasible, launching each and every child on an utterly personal learning journey. Liberation as personalisation – here the Luddite finds something that ought to be smashed.
But what needs to be smashed is less the pedagogy itself than the idea of freedom it rests on – the more general political notion that freedom is all about freeing individuals from social constraints so that they can pursue their personal projects unhampered by the claims of society. This is the essentially liberal idea championed by Sir Ken Robinson, for instance, for whom it is enough for individuals to find things to do that they enjoy and that allow them to develop a talent.
But we need to be clear here: Luddism doesn’t want to smash the concern for personal freedom, rather it wants to smash the idea that it is enough. The untruth of personalisation is its unjustified narrowing of the horizon of liberation.
Via Hybrid Pedagogy, Miloš Bajčetić