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Monday, August 20, 2012

Out From the Shadows!

Welcome to the blog for the Shadow School project, 'Liberté: France in the 19th Century'!
We can play with both the form and function of the blog as the project moves forward.

This is a collaborative project between Star City Shadow School and Community High School. What does this mean?

It means there will be two 'classes' running simultaneously; very different in their nature, and intersecting in several ways.

The class at Community High School will consist of a small group of students working under Brian Counihan, with collaboration of Olchar E. Lindsann, who has prepared the compilation of 19th Century texts (all in the public domain) that will serve as the main textbook of the class, to be supplemented with other readings, presentations, classroom discussions, role-playing, and projects. The course will involve a wide array of student-centred educational strategies, structured in two semesters from September through May.

The Shadow School project will consist of a variety of collaborators from all over the world, working in a non-hierarchical way, and without any official structures such as assignments, 'class time' etc. All collaborators will bring their own interests, perspectives, and knowledge-bases to the project to share. Many of those who have expressed interest are involved with Avant-Garde, Decadent, and other underground communities, which will probably result in an intensified focus on the counter-currents of French culture.

We will use the Liberté text-book as a basis of shared reading, and share our responses and reactions, creating dialogues and debates about the presented texts. Further, we will develop our own lines of research that will depart from the text-book, and share additional material that is NOT included in the 'official' text. Basically, this project will become whatever we collectively decide to make it.

The hope is that this project will serve as a catalyst for long-term conversation, collaboration, and dialogue among those involved, and as a medium of exchange between people interested in 19th Century counterculture from a variety of perspectives.

How will the Shadow School project interact with the Community High School Class?

Among other things, this is an experiment in how 'official' pedagogy can interact with unofficial and experimental educational communities.

From the perspective of the Shadow School, the Liberté text-books will be the most concrete link with the CHS course; students of CHS will be encouraged, but not required, to take part in the conversations and investigations occurring on the blog. The blog will be there as a resource for those students genuinely interested in following up the topics discussed in class in a more detailed fashion, in a context which is diverse and non-institutional, to see how what they are learning can relate to an array of real-world issues and contemporary activities. It will also be a place where they can access (and share) texts and resources not included in their official syllabus, learning things which are often more interesting, strange, and (often) subversive.

In addition to the interactions between those involved in the Shadow School project, this is an opportunity to introduce to a group of intelligent students any number of esoteric or marginalised traditions, texts, images, figures, and communities which they would otherwise never have an opportunity to be exposed to. While in the Liberté textbook I (Olchar) have tried to include many people and texts which would never be found in any other high school (or college) anthology, I have still had to maintain a balance of Mainstream and Countercurrent sources. On this blog, there is no need for such objectivity; we can post and discuss everything we wish could be included in the class.

What do we DO as part of this project?

Anything we want.
There is no commitment: subscribe to the blog and participate as much or as little as you'd like, in whatever ways make sense for you.

My initial ideas:

  • Each week I will post a basic discussion-stub or comment regarding the reading assigned to CHS students that week. Collaborators can discuss these readings as desired. There is no need to read all of the texts included, or to strictly follow the CHS reading-schedule.
  • Follow up references in the assigned texts to other topics of interest, and post links and/or discussion on the blog. Post material that you think should have been included, or that you find interesting to juxtapose to other texts. Post anything you like, really, and let us discuss it.
  • Let us know about your own activity/research as it relates to the course or to the materials presented here, and we an collaboratively aid each other in following our various interests.
  • Do you have other ideas, other things you'd like to see happen as part of this project? Let's discuss this on the blog as well!
No doubt there is much more, but this is a start.

At the end of the CHS course, we will publish a final edition of the Liberté Reader including the texts from all four volumes (only Vol. I is posted so far, the others are still being compiled), and incorporating material (footnotes, comments, etc etc etc) generated by both the CHS class and the Shadow School project.

If a number of additional texts are posted, or if we want to discuss or include larger passages of the texts that are abridged in the Liberté Reader, I will publish one or more additional anthologies at the end of the course, representing the paths explored as part of this project.

Thanks for being involved!