Stick it to the man

There’s a fantastic discussion on the most recent Educause Now Podcast between Jim Groom and Gardner Campbell about the merits of Edupunk. They both more or less agree that the spirit of DIY is a great mode of working, but where they disagree is on the appropriateness of the term “punk” in education. Campbell argues against it because, from the viewpoint of a casual oberserver, the term “punk” connotates a snotty, “stick it to the man,” down with authority vibe. He brings up the Sex Pistols, and the infamous “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” line that Johnny Rotten told the audience after their last show (a show consisting of exactly one song).

I respect Johnny Rotten (if not for his contribution to music, then certainly for the fact that he’s an Arsenal supporter), but I find it a bit cringe-inducing that when the word punk is mentioned, the Sex Pistols are frequently the first thing that comes to mind. Let’s review their entire contribution to the genre: one freaking record. That’s it.

Punk was a phenomenon that came out of a variety of places all over the globe, and was led by people coming from any number of socioeconomic and philosophical backgrounds. Take a listen to Never Mind the Bollocks… (made by nihilistic Londoners) and compare it to, say Double Nickels on the Dime by the Minutemen (middle class white guys from suburban Los Angeles), or I Against I by Bad Brains (Rastafarian jazz musicians from DC). All three are completely different, but it’s undeniable that they’re all punk records. If there’s a vein of anti-leadership that goes through the punk philosophy, it’s less out of desire to be snotty and attention-seeking (as the Sex Pistols were), and more of a call to action on the part of individuals.

Also contrary to Campbell’s perspective is the history of punk musicians in higher education. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion has a doctorate from Cornell, Milo Aukerman took a leave of absence from the Descendents to earn his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, and Henry Rollins will visit any university that will listen to him rant about politics.


Posted on January 23, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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