The New School of the Anthropocene is an experiment. But it is also an act of repair. In partnership with October Gallery in London, we seek to reinstate the intellectual adventure and creative risk that formerly characterised arts education before the university system capitulated to market principles and managerial bureaucracy.
The pause enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 afforded a unique opportunity to rethink the wider basis of our educational practices, against a context of unimaginable climate catastrophe and irreversible species extinction; of economic depression and sanctioned inequality.
The New School was the response: founded by an ensemble of experienced academics from the higher educational world alongside artists and practitioners, none of whom regard education as a business and their students as customers.
We recognise the pitiless financialisation of the university world and the dismal situation of the student-consumer, for whom vast debt is a passport for crossing the threshold to adulthood and social participation. We observe the demoralisation of exploited teachers within a casualised workforce whose energies are drained by a technocratic culture of audit and administration. We witness the purposeful and systematic dismantling of adult education, the crude instrumentalisation of learning and a joyless culture of accreditation.
Collectively we can do better. We see that higher educational institutions in their current form are ill-placed to foster the new critical and creative ways of working collaboratively that are necessary for social renewal and ecological recovery.
The New School explores radical new possibilities - affordable, flexible, transparent - for non-residential degree-level education. We wish to explore how higher education can shift away from reproducing the destructive practices of the present and preparing students for what David Graeber termed “bullshit jobs,” and instead forge a viable future for the generations to come.
Or, as the Wobblies put it in 1905, “forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.”
'The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for him[her]self, to make his[her] own decisions . . . What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of him[her]self as responsible is to examine society and try to change and fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope that society has. This is the only way societies change.'
James Baldwin, A Talk to Teachers (1963)