Erle Frayne D. Argonza
It’s late afternoon as I write this piece, and it’s the longest day in the northern hemisphere too (summer solstice). I will devote this piece to the matter of large university classes that are the mode of instruction in many academic institutions across the globe.
Large classes are a thing of the past. The large class modality was referred to as ‘Great Man pedagogy’ in Europe, and was critically challenged by the youth and professors during the stormy youth heydays of the 1960s and ‘70s.
The human psyche is rapidly evolving towards greater individuation. As we humans become more individuated, the educational instruction fit for us is one that should account for and enable our individuality, even up to the point of providing ample space for eccentricity in each one.
In the olden days, when the Herd Mind or folk mind was the characteristic psyche of the people, the modality of instructions was one that would fit them well. Large classes evoked the ‘Herd instinct’ (Nietszchean label for the same), and unconsciously provided a semblance of community for peoples of those ancient times who were cut off from family & village to study in the university.
The coming of the Industrial Age, right after the conclusion of the 30 Years War (1618-48), ushered the ‘assembly line’ of mass production of articles of manufactures. The ‘assembly line’ method found its concomitant equivalent in the Great Man pedagogy which churned out collegiate graduates like commodities for sale in a rapidly expanding labor market.
Up until the late 19th century, during the Victorian Era that is the nadir of the modern age, Great Man pedagogy was a largely unquestioned modality of instruction. As the crisis of the early 20th century set in, the same pedagogy found perfect compatibility with the nascent totalitarian ideologies and systems of that era (fascism, Nazism, communism).
Indubitably, the success of ‘assembly line’ classes was effective only insofar as the psyche remained as more folk-mind or herd-oriented. As the psyche mutates to more individuated type, it will militate against anything that brings it back to the Herd: subject to manipulation and shaping by authoritarian if not sociopathic interest groups and persons.
Sure enough, as the youth rebellion of the 60s set in, the students of the Sorbonne in Paris burst out in revolt against the Great Man pedagogy circa 1968. Other universities quickly caught up the fiery flames of the revolt and followed suit in a tempo of upheavals that were largely unplanned and spontaneous.
Accustomed to bureaucratism and pork barrel largesse that went with mainstream political power, the French Communist Party was caught flat-footed by that revolt. Tailing behind the event that indicated its being mired in intellectual bankruptcy and betrayed its archaic mindset, the communists lose relevance almost overnight.
Had the communists grasped that event quickly and seized the opportunity by siding with the anti-large class youth, the sociopolitical landscape of France and Europe could have changed forever. A social revolution of a new kind, bred by a fusion of working class militancy and youth revulsion against archaic pedagogy and culture, could have been registered in the annals of history as worth our positive valuation.
It is shocking to find out that the large class modality is still around with us today. It is anathema to the goal of human liberation, even as it could be a launching ground to breed new ‘boot camp’ babies for certain interest groups of a fascistic/authoritarian nature.
The Industrial Age had now passed away, and the Post-Industrial/Postmodern Age has brought along with it an erasure (sous rapture) of the dividing line between Reason and Madness. Fascism is resurgent worldwide, and before we’d notice it a global state would be in the offing that is orchestrated by an ideological force of global Bonaparte.
If the large class modality is re-introduced in any university whatsoever, it should only be on an interim phase. It is a regressive move, and running counter to the gamut of psychical individuation, it will erode in time and be abolished across the globe.
Should there be a youth revolt against this antiquated pedagogy in my own home country, I will be glad to make my presence in the barricades to be set up.
[Philippines, 21 June 2012]
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