DAMN° Magazine Issue 83 (Stepping into Education) is available now on loremnotipsum.com. In this issue we tiptoe into the major tectonic shifts currently rattling arts education and its institutes. All sides of this gridlocked clash make convincing arguments, because iniquity, bad attitudes, economic precarity and worse have simmered for far too long, protected by a closed system. We give voice to both protest and moderation, and add a dash of nostalgia via the 90s Art School, before social media appointed itself to the role of everything from PR to police.
“Everyone had fun and nobody felt guilty about it,” indie actress Sadie Frost, the era’s ‘it girl’, recently told the Guardian. “There was an amazing, exciting vibe. It was uncomplicated. It wasn’t manufactured. Everyone was just who they were.”
DAMN° Magazine is a magazine from Belgium on contemporary culture. An independent publication with open-minded views on the interchangeable worlds of design, architecture and art. In making meaningful connections rather than dictating tastes, its approach to storytelling brings editorial content beyond hype or conventional academic debate. Unafraid to link the personal and the political, the economic and the emotional, the stylistic and the social, DAMN° Magazine is ultimately about discoveries that aim to provoke a reaction…whether it be a thought or a smile.
Downtrodden by today’s educational realities, we also hand the baton over to those creatives who have opted-out entirely, designing an alternative approach to learning. Studio Makkink & Bey’s self-initiated Water School renegotiates the terms of an elementary school, its focal point and curriculum. And most urgently of all, we look at the gun culture in the US that is shaping the reality of teachers, parents and children. Can the system be redesigned? Then we move beyond students to look at how society as a whole learns through protest, devastation, and sheer resilience – a quality that designer and technologist, John Maeda thinks needs more attention.
Because in this current climate, who is to say where knowledge comes from and what its ultimate point is anyway. The defined purpose of a liberal arts education has always been ripe for debate, but if we assume that it is there to encourage doubt, then much of the righteous (and wrong-teous) chatter and cancellations in this current battle sound suspiciously specious.
And not to get all hoity-toity on you, but Thomas Jefferson once positioned education as the guardian of freedom. “Wherever the people are well informed,” he wrote in 1789, “they can be trusted with their own government.” To entrench that belief culturally, he founded the University of Virginia, about which he wrote: “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it.”
Since then much has changed, but if freedom and reason rather than the status quo are still to be cherished, we need all of our systems to be driven by education, science, innovation, and design. Education then must stay close to providing students with the tools required to understand themselves as well as the world in which they live.
And it is in art and design education where the benefits and methods of striving for a global good can begin. By educating students to think freely enough to visualise and defend a different and fairer type of world, while still making some sort of sense in the existing world is the necessary balancing act.
Designers, artists, and architects will always be complicit with this thinking because for them nothing is more exciting than improvements. Whether it be the hunt for something smarter, fairer, greener, or just simply more beautiful, applied creatives are on it. But their attention should be equally striving to create a better (and fairer) education system for themselves. It’s the journey, after all, that matters as much as the destination.
Details: DAMN° Magazine – Issue 83