Perils of funding!

Into the breach of the DARPA/MAKE debate!

Our systems are broken. I don’t feel it’s enough to explore how broken they are, but that we must also actively work on solutions. My way of doing this is through the creation of educational spaces and experiences via School Factory. I support spaces however I can and also organize and facilitate events. After talking with Dale, I do think his heart is in the right place. He wants kids who are being left in the cold right now to have access to a better education so they can be more empowered. He *wants* them to move on to the local independent spaces due to their exposure to this environment in school.
The only acceptable place for military and religion in school is in the study of history and social construction. So how visible is DARPA’s involvement with this program to the students? I asked Dale, and the answer is — not at all. MAKE is running as a buffer between the funding and the military ideals. That’s the only thing that makes me ok with this project, and the only thing. The benefits would not be worth the detriments otherwise. It is not ROTC reincarnated. The comradere that kids felt and associated with military ideals via that program would be instead associated with maker spaces in this one. And, for the standard recruiting that happens at high schools across this country, hopefully the kids will be a bit more equipped for examining systems and their consequences.
edit: stated methods often vary from praxis, in all interactions and within all ideals. Your Mileage may vary.

My question to the various continued points about idealism and being co-opted: what do we propose to do about it instead? How many of us actively reach out to local schools already? There’s a vacuum of need here, and MAKE is currently offering to fill it, using DARPA funding. *Something* will fill this gap. How about it be the grassroots maker movement? The Department of Education certainly doesn’t have much money, and what they do have is arguably being spent in ineffectual/immoral ways (hey, just like our military dollars!).

I would sadly have to hazard that most of us aren’t up to the task. We can rally to change the spending of tax dollars (because that’s been super effective. Most people of my generation and/or subculture don’t give a fig about politics due to the long-standing ineffectual connection between citizen and representative). Or we can become those teachers. Children need more stability in their lives than most of the people in this community are able to give. Workshops and Faires are a great introduction, a way to wet the pallet. But they are not enough, it has to be at least a semester’s worth of effort, preferably several contiguous years. I’d love for people to prove me wrong about this dedication to involvement, to have that sort of dedication in the face of the incredibly frustrating education system. While the one shared trait of all hackers is frustration (to quote a dear friend), we also tend to rage quit broken systems. I bet no more than 20 people in our American community would be willing to take on the role of middle- or high school instructor who aren’t already in that role. I know I’m not planning to become an instructor in a midwestern community for another 15 years. There are huge gaps between being a hobbiest, living a lifestyle, and giving up your lifestyle to ensure others have access to it.
Edit: Why is it important that we work with the existing school system? Because we’re not done building the new one yet, and neglecting an entire generation while we sort that out is far worse than associating with the military.

In short, this is not the solution I would like best. But it’s an acceptable stop gap which will hopefully also drive us to create a better solution. And it makes far more sense for us to work together as a community to create that better solution and to make the best out of this stopgap in the meantime.

More reading:
Mitch’s opposition
Library Cult parts 1 and 2
Dale’s post on MAKE
OpenBuddha post
(and more, curated by Library Cult — thank you)

Disclaimers:
I occasionally write for MAKEzine, but am not under any contractual agreement with them. I participate heavily in Maker Faires. I am one of two employees of School Factory, in my role as director of Geeks Without Bounds. I am anti-military. I am pro-consensual-governance models. I grew up in a socialist/anarchistic, non-pacifist, anti-war home. After examining that upbringing, I stand by it.

Caveats:
Comments will be moderated, as that is the norm for this blog. You can hit up my e-mail if it doesn’t appear within 4 hours. I will have a discussion with you offline if you prefer, and will ensure that points are valid (even if I disagree with them) before posting them. No straw men here, please.