Flipping (off) the Classroom

There's a lot of excitement and interest in flipping the classroom - the idea that the class time should be used for practice in groups and homework should be where the lecture lives, on digital video - but what does flipping the classroom do for students and teachers?

The biggest barrier to education in any model that includes a classroom as a "classroom" (not a reappropriated space that was designed to be a classroom) is the association with singular sources of power and authoritarianism that come with that place. 

The teacher who flips the classroom can do so and still remain in power, and even consolidate that power through surveillance. The flipped classroom a lot of times is defended by surveillance rhetoric: I can't trust you to do this work on your own, so I will supervise you doing it at no extra cost to me. 

Doing the work under supervision might make everyone feel that it's being done better, but I think there are powerful and important ways that students can do the practice on their own or at home that are more educational than doing it under the teacher's observation. Speaking to others who are outside the teaching industry can provide insights of tone and style, judgements on power ("this is how they want you to do it, but you could do it like this"), and also necessary context for the utility of the work - you'll use this here and this in this other thing that you might have to do, etc. 

The video lecture at home is a very static and very closed model of instruction, where the teacher's power and authority are used to create a rigid document (the video) in which the truth of what the teacher knows is laid out to the viewer. I wonder about the interaction during class with the teacher and the confused student and the value of that for others in the class. Or the teacher recognizing the low or high energy of a group of students and using that as an advantage in teaching. 

Most importantly the classroom stays far away from being democratized under a flipped model. The only thing that changes is where and under what conditions do students do work assigned by a powerful figure, a master of knowledge, who cannot be swayed that there are other points of view or perspectives. They have already considered what's best for you (the student) and have flipped the classroom; look at how benevolent they are! No boring instruction! We work together in a community spirit, mandated by the teacher. 

Alternatively, I suggest flipping off the classroom and using the demands of the institution to perform in a certain way as material for critique and for the course itself. The power-over-others benefit teachers get is in exchange for shortening and altering the curriculum and the presence and expression of ideas in the course a certain way that might or might not be ethical. Bringing that to bear in front of the course doesn't exchange independent practice for lecture, but democratizes the class and allows the generation of new terms for the term, new meanings to come out of the exposure of the superstructure to the course material. The teacher, the one who is supposed to know what's going on, exposes herself as also a subject in this institutional power structure, unable to provide (or unwilling) the answers the students seek. They must practice something new in order to get the class going, and that new thing they practice is democracy. 

The institution has created itself to be powerful and to avoid critique that is threatening to it - all systems are this way. But the education system must depend on the articulation of ideas in order to function and have legitimacy. This opening is an opportunity to use the structure that makes it easy to certify and license students as material to question where and why that certification matters. And this is the development of education.