What is a proposal?
If you look at the list of class proposals, you will see that there is no easy universal answer. Some proposals are an expression of need, others are pure imagination, some point to a lack, and still others express an inequitable distribution of resources. But all of these proposals function similarly in that they describe what does not happen (for the city, for a particular community, or for that individual who put forward the idea.)
A proposal is only an idea until it has been made public. This is why we say “make a proposal” because there is creativity and labor involved in the act of proposing, of offering up an idea as an agent in the world. It is communication, yes, but more than that it is a proposition, an invitation to whoever will accept it. But what are the terms and conditions of this invitation to a momentary, voluntary collectivity? What is the promise of such a proposition, for the person who accepts but also for the person who proposes?
To propose is more than just to “put something forward.” It is also the creation of an artifice, a pose. When we pose, we take an unnatural position, we take an unfamiliar posture. The question of the proposal could then be: who wants to try this posture with me? Maybe we will find it pleasurable! Maybe we will continue to practice it and develop our own kind of way of living.
What is a resource?
It is the concept of access, not accumulation, that lies at the core of a resource. In fact, accumulation (“a stock or supply”) is a component of the resource only in so far as it guarantees access (“can be drawn on”). It is shared, and because it is shared (or held in common) it makes a public.
This public may come into being by shared problems- a better word would be need or even desire. This is what often initiates open-source development. It may be obvious from the outset, so much so that many disconnected people would simultaneously express it; some problems, however, only become visible to people when one has articulated it publicly. Here the “source” in open source takes on a different meaning, before any code repository has been created: not simply the source of a product, it is the source of productive activity, the motivation, the spark.
Learning might work similarly, particularly when it’s not reduced to the asymmetric transmission of knowledge between minds, from the haves to the have-nots. A certain question or idea – or simply the way the question is asked – can mobilize bodies and produce relations, creating a world that lasts as long as the collective desire sustains itself.
Over time, rules develop about the use of a resource - we can each use it how we see fit, including for personal gain, but the moment one person begins to privatize the resource and prevent access for another from the community of users, there is a problem. In the tradition of the English commons, users may act on their right to remove these enclosures.
What is the difference between a proposal and a class?
What is the difference between the idea of a chair and a chair? Quite simply, a chair occupies space and time. When the chair is made, it is what it is, neither more nor less than itself. It can relieve fatigue, block doors, correct posture, break bones, and occupy space. It rots and falls. And it generates new ideas about what a chair can be.
A chair activates the idea of a chair - it makes it real - but it does not exhaust the idea. The idea of a chair is never exhausted.
Any of the proposals in The Public School, each of which is an idea of a class, might be activated at some moment in some place in some city. In fact, it might be activated again and again, always in a different context and with a different form. None of these classes will ever completely use up the proposal. It is an inexhaustible resource.
A class is an event where some people together decide to perform one (or a combination) of these proposals. Each class belongs to the people who participate in it, but the proposal belongs to anyone in a way that only a shared idea can.
Why would a school have no curriculum?
A curriculum is the set of courses and coursework offered at a school or university. It is the content of what takes place. It’s true, a school can’t be without content. But can it be without the institutionalized agenda that decides what content should be offered?
The word, curriculum, comes from the latin root, curró, which means to “run, or move quickly.” Embedded in a curriculum is the idea of a quick movement through some set of knowledge in the context of a school; it is a race. To do without a curriculum would be to move in groups, maybe slowly, and departing from the course whenever it seems right.
That force, which decides the curriculum, is increasingly market-driven. It substitutes its goals for our own. It disallows the possibility that we don’t know what our goals are. It closes off tendencies to change our mind and learn something new. It neglects the things that can only be figured out by going slowly into and out of an idea, an action or practice, or a whim, without a profitable result in mind.
A school without a curriculum can take away those constraints, which often border on coercion, and by doing so carve out a kind of cavity that needs to be filled.