Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Perspectives on Uselessness 

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I read yesterday this article by Luca Morini on Hybrid Pedagogy, which argues for the importance of uselessness in higher education. I am sharing here the annotated hypothes.is link because there are already so many great annotations there. 

It’s a really provocative argument against neoliberalism and it’s beautifully written – go read it and come back. 

I just wanted to unpack one major point in his article. The uselessness. I think there are about 3 ways to take his argument on Uselessness:

  1. Uselessness as absolute – it’s ok for Higher Education and learning to be about completely useless things. That is a really hard argument to agree with 
  2. Uselessness as temporal – what may seem useless today may become useful tomorrow. That’s hinted at in his dinosaur/evolution example. We don’t know what will be useful tomorrow so we can play and experiment today – it might become useful someday. Much of science is built on this 
  3. Uselessness as contextual – we value different things. So while something may not be useful in context of marketability or employability it may be useful in terms of promoting open mindedness or nurturing the soul
  4. (also a 4th one) Usefulness as intrinsic – something need not be useful beyond itself. E.g. Music for sake of music 

I wish I could give an assignment prompt exactly like what Luca wrote:

Anything goes, as long as it eludes the hegemonic criteria of market and productivity, and preserves the voluntary, joyful character of play.

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