Theorising Autopedagogy; Relating Education to Human Rights

This is a collection of notes on the idea of autopedagogy – the self directed innate behaviour of garnering means with which to learn in structured ways.  This speaks to ideas of a living curriculum and the creation of curricula through self orienteered gleaning, foraging, collating, creation and curation of activities. All the writings and the website of Ragged University act as an open copy book of the evolving and emerging ideas of education and models of learning available to everyone.

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They represent a work in progress which has developed from a tactic of using available infrastructure and common technology to avoid the boom and bust dependence on funders and funding structures – strategies of pragmatism and adaptation to function in all landscapes particularly the inhospitable.


In this manner education is positioned as a human development point of view tied intrinsically with the being of each and every person and referenced in the rights of peoples in various forms.


Discovery and building upon activities in learning is located in the inter and intra personal space. The use of inter and intra is a choice to denote not only the work of Karan Barad in identifying the mutually reciprocal nature of relationships and the simultaneous, but also to take into account the work in dehumanization studies (REF) where understanding of infrahumanization speaks of a particular dynamic of ingroup behaviours.


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So in an emerging process I have been exploring education as a personal covenant with learning as understood through social practices involving the exchanging of created and curated experience. This philosophy and practice is pre-political setting up the circumstances for citizenship. It removes the state from the social relation (Ref: Abdul Hafiz) and although the state is constituted of interpersonal relations, interpersonal relations exist prior to the formation of the state.


This educational and pedagagical philosophy and practice is the setting for human development which is reliant on opportunity, interpersonal experience, communing in the contexts of reciprocal encounters. In this way it necessarily involves mutual recognition and circumstances which are mutually re-cognitive.


The epistemology is one of communing – a culture of encounter with other (people and phenomena) and discovery through the breaching of acknowledged identity; self and other are re-negotiated in the learning practice as relations synthesised and transcending the simplistic and abstract binaries. This is the opposite motion to othering building understanding inside the resolution of the universe; i.e. as some phenomenon exists in actuality, the line of reasoning suggests that an resolved intellectual correspondence is possible even if it is yet unknown.


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This applies to multiple phenomena which pose enigmas and contradictions in the human intellect but nevertheless exist in plurality in the universe; plurality resolves – it is only the internal world of human symbolic schema which contradicts this. Again, we are interested in the intellectual realm beyond the human not how well the human imposing its will and politic on the universe.


Spirit is the most important thing in doing what we do; it is important to realise the intention not to give up in attaining our own education, in our own lives, through the means of sharing which make us human. Intention is a source of power beyond finance. If we base our projects on the energy of friendship and the invention of play we never run out of resources. These forms of wealth are sustainable abundances resistant to enclosure.


A practice of autopedagogy centered in an indiviudal has no bounds; it relates the transcendental to the existential. It is not bounded to the conventions of human culture but is intimately involved in it and informs it. Whilst the practice is rooted in the informal it shares ownership of and is free to explore the formal landscapes as they ultimately emerge from the informal.


Autopedagogy speaks of an adaptive strategy (pedagogy) of development specifically referent to phenomena as diffuse and aims to locate itself here as a universal model/mode of education. As a model of education and development it should be able to operate in any given environment (no matter how inhospitable) and be based on the means of wealth less vulnerable to appropriation (such as money) noting knowledge as a commons threads through the others. Knowledge can be understood as an artefact of the process of coming to know and as such exists beyond the centralised organisation of any given culture or group of people.




As the landscapes nature is more systemic than linear expressing Ragged University in a singular form is problematic; it will be different with each person practicing and each context, but their is a meta consistency across the practice organisation of activities of ‘coming to know’. Hence rather than an ‘organisation’, a ‘charity’, an ‘idea’, a ‘history’, an ‘education’…. chiefly it should be understood as an idea; thus ‘Ragged University’ is not commodified and ‘owned’ in terms of Intellectual Property or covetous identity (i.e. through the creation of ingroups and outgroups). It is, in law, what is based on an expanded sense of prior art.


Firstly Ragged University should be as free as an idea and from this a million potentials will be afforded the opportunity to flower. To monopolize a concept is a type of poverty imposed upon the world of humans; in this sense intellectual property in the way it has commonly come to be expressed is a degenerate form of the nature of the stuff which ‘Ragged University’ is concerned with – it is a pre-political idea which gives rise to a philosophy and successively a practice of learning via a methodology available to (and co-owned by) all.  It is the means inherent to the rights expressed in the concept of inalienable human rights and as such is perceived to be related.


In it’s practice therefore it necessary is to protect the idea, reiterated over centuries, over cultures, over the span of human consciousness, that education in development terms must be freely attainable to everyone.  Associated with this is necessary intentionality expressed in acts of positively valuing through relational means what is human, what comes of other species and those things which are non biological.  This necessary intentionality of positively valuing is imperative as a means of coming to know and therefore of reaching towards knowledge.  Ignorance is understood as a blight of knowledge and as a disconnection from reality.


Rather than building the image in terms of the monolithic organisational structure of the industrial revolution, the terms of engagement must be turned inwards, towards a situation and practice – as in the place of outwards to a centralised practice organised and regulated solely by a discrete group of people. From personal practice in situation, activity can be organised whereby knowledge in terms of development can be fully and richly expressed despite traditional barriers being against the individual, and where the individual comes to discover the roots of the traditions which have had the barriers erected in their names.


A charity has been started, called Ragged, by the skill of George Fyvie, local Edinburgh Lad, to realise the organisational practice in a legal form. This choosing of the governance of the charities commission is an attempt to try and enshrine the philosophy, history and practice as much as possible to keepers who are in name custodians of certain charters. Charity law has some considerable value to us because it largely underwrites the university system in the UK today. This dates back to Bologna in the 11th century where the first charters for universities were a benevolent guild for students.


This move to create a formal organisation is an adherence to culture for enabling communal activities to be planned and physical resources to be amassed for specific public purposes. However, as such, it is only visiting a convention and does not constitute Ragged University the idea; as natural law is to legislative law, Ragged University represents what ‘natural education’ (equitable to informal education) would be to formal education.


The practice of the idea is syncretic – synthetic of the eclectic and shameless in doing so.  It has the freedom of science with the choice of history and every other permutation of subject range. It necessarily involves interdisciplinarity and exists independent of the artificial divisions of subject matter we find as a categorising mode in formal education (i.e. teaching mathematics separate to biology separate to psychology and so on).  Whilst being independent from these categorical modes, the practice is at liberty to draw from the value of each and every categorical mode in its synthesis.




Culture and convention in this context are understood in terms of ownership rather than in terms of people as subjects of a culture.  The individual and populus are the animus rather than the alienated.  This set in terms of identity of sameness in a framework of relationality distinct from appropriation or creation of the other as outsider.


Everyone is respected as not only a reader but also as an author.  In this scheme the subject is respected as the principle author and authority flows from that (Mike Neary).  Authority is therefore situational and distinct from becoming a means of creating a power differential in nature.  This takes the view that ‘knowledge is power but only when it is shared’ (Francis Benton).


Knowledge is accessed by diffusing the differentials as opposed to building them; again an expression of knowledge as relational.