The New School’s teachers contribute to an open-ended Ensemble rather than belonging to an exclusive faculty, wherein free-wheeling encounters, long-term collaborations and gracious departures might be valued equally.
Our gathering extends to more than fifty teachers attached to universities across the country and the planet. All of us are otherwise active in the world as parents, children, carers, grandparents, knitters, gardeners and petitioners; and ever wary of what Edward Said identified as the dangers of professionalism.
We aim to explore how a group of people in their work might recover a condition of trust, conviviality and mutual aid, both among and between teachers and students, without falling into the retrograde traps of the institution. In our decision-making we seek to learn from and emulate the improvisational risk, tactical acuity and collaborative grace that characterises the jazz quintet, the dance troupe, the letter-cutter’s workshop and the Occupy movement.
Several of our participants have been involved in the Learning Together programme which has brought together University of Cambridge teachers, students and prisoners in workshops to explore democratic ways of working. The New School also draws upon the feminist orientation of the Cambridge Tactics and Praxis seminar series, which strives to reinstate the creativity, pleasure, exploration, discovery and curiosity in higher education; to respond to political and environmental crisis in the midst of relentless pressures; and to determine the possibilities for collectivity: a means of standing with, and working for, those who have less in the face of institutionally-entrenched forms of privilege.
These collaborative lessons have been built into the intellectual adventure, local independence and personal responsibility within the New School’s teaching pattern. Our aim is to prepare students to make radical interventions and find urgent solutions to social and ecological crisis as a civic responsibility.