We the LSE guerrillas take our stand against the lack of creativity and imagination in university teaching today. Why must class be scheduled in the way it is? How are lectures to be treated as fresh and lively if they take place at the same time and in the same place on a regular basis, and deal only with topics that have been anticipated, set out in advance and generally drained of life? What is this about disciplines, as though the world were segmented into silos – marked LAW, ECONOMICS, SOCIOLOGY and so on – and not the messy confusion of rival ideas that it is in reality? Why do some humans claim a greater right to teach than others based simply on the arbitrary title PROFESSOR – good at school and afraid to leave it for real life, all that they now bring to others is prejudice amplified by wider reading.
Agreed at our inaugural meeting two years ago, the Guerrilla Manifesto
- deplores the concept of the pre-ordained in teaching;
- demands that all ‘teaching’ engagements be SURPRISE INTERACTIONS WITH LEARNING;
- calls for teaching that is SPONTANEOUS, UNEXPECTED, MYSTERIOUS and therefore MEMORABLE;
- recognizes as teaching only that work in which KNOWLEDGE IS CO-PRODUCED BY ALL THAT ARE PRESENT: truth is no longer the preserve of the priest, the learned or the ostensibly ‘qualified’ – humanity is our qualification, voice our common means of communication.
Our first action after issuing our Manifesto was to identify a useful idiot, a conduit through which to channel our ideas. We settled on CONOR GEARTY (under whose name we write this piece) for various reasons: he had just started a new Institute at LSE and was therefore more vulnerable than most, having something to prove, a rationale for his Institute’s existence that he needed to demonstrate; his presence on Twitter and his access to the levers of power within LSE communications, allied to his perceived status within the organization ( ‘a full professor’ – what a pompous comedy!) made him someone through whom we could work; and by allowing him to believe the Guerrillas was his idea (easily done) we have secured his commitment to something that is in truth way beyond him.
Our first strike was in the crypt of Westminster Cathedral: the first thirty LSE workers (students? professors? staff? – we recognize no such distinctions!) in a flash queue in the new academic building were guided to a grubby street in Westminster when at a preordained time they entered a dark and dank passage that lead beneath the Cathedral to a Holy Place where, surrounded by the tombs of cardinals, they debated the MEANING OF HELL, in the company of the School chaplain Jim Walters, a sociologist of cults Eileen Barker and an anthropologist with a specialism in humanism Matthew Engelke.
Next up was Highgate Cemetery. We took possession of it one Summer evening when it was ostensibly ‘closed’ (albeit not to the guerrillas!) and after our LSE people had wandered this mysterious place of death we summoned them by bell to the graves of Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer, frowning at each other across a gravelly path, the one a great revolutionary, the other a cheerleader for social Darwinism. Leah Ypi and Tony Giddens debated their merits, both school people immune to status however high they rise and natural sympathisers therefore with the Guerrilla agenda.
Our most ambitious action was our last. Just a few weeks ago we took possession of LSE Director Craig Calhoun’s apartment (magnificent; opulently overlooking the Thames) for a debate about wealth and higher education. Calhoun himself was not in though his partner was – her tweets from the upstairs study alerted the Director and on arriving home at 9pm he found us still in deep debate – Nick Barr, Tim Leunig – both faculty workers – were joined by the Student Union’s Nona Buckley-Irvine, and a group of LSE people brave enough to have taken a ticket to an unknown destination one miserable February evening.
Brothers, sisters, trans-siblings: this is just the beginning! As this last action shows, we are growing in confidence, drawing nearer and nearer to the full levers of power. In education what is power? Not knowledge for we deny there is such a thing, but rather the networks of influence and opportunity that the ostensible search for knowledge at the right place brings. The right place is LSE, top ranking, international, hugely influential. If we can realize our Manifesto here we can achieve anything, anywhere. And even if we do not what does our failure leave: memories of unexpected discussions for those courageous enough to have sought them out; debate about topics on which we feel strongly but of which feelings we knew nothing before we had the chance to explore them. If this is failure then we devotedly hope that more lectures and classes should fail more often. Death to routine!