Friday, 13 November 2009

Flying Universities in Poland

Since the beginning of the 1880s flying universities have existed in Poland in one way or another. The flying universities were self-organised and often clandestine responses to repression and curtailment of knowledge production and academic freedom. There is a close relationship between the desire to fly and the various occupations that Poland has faced: Russian, German, Stalinist, neoliberal... The flying universities were organised by scholars and students that wanted free access to the knowledge needed to sustain their life and community.

Flash Research Workshop
A flash research workshop is a short and intense collective workshop. The aim of a FRW is shedding light on a specific topic or a specific area of interest by means of all available information and knowledge found or created during the course of the investigation. The process is more important than the end result, even though some kind of final reply or articulation is essential in terms of fulfilling the process. As a point of departure any preexisting knowledge or experience of the workshop participants needs to be activated and shared. The workshop travels through found and invented contexts, which becomes a dialectical process for catalysing knowledge. Knowledge is always the relation between the people taking part and their milieux and never a finality external to the project. The process of a FRW is more akin to psychoanalysis, automatic writing or an urban drift than a positivist scientific method, even though the knowledge that is generated during a FRW has a perfect claim on truth. The length of a FRW can vary but between one day or one week of non-stop research have been shown to be optimum for such a investigation. Food and drink, walking and sleeping are important as means to valorise the social and individual senses as parts of the process. The final articulation could be an image, a pamphlet, a film, or a poem, according to the medium found most suitable to the chosen topic or area of interest.

Flying Universities - Flash Research Workshop - Warsaw November 4 - 8 2009

What was the flying universities? Could we make a map of the Flying Universities? Could we make a time-line? What kind of knowledge did the Flying Universities produce and reproduce? Who were the students? Who were the teachers? What was the relationship between 'flying' and occupation? How was the FU organised? Under which historical conditions was 'flying' necessary? To what extend were the Flying Universities kept secret? What is the advantage of secrecy? What does it mean to fly? Can we meet some of the people involved? Can we walk to some of the places where the flying universities were situated? Can we get access to documents? To what extend were they facilitation research? To what extend were they facilitating education? To what extend were they fascilitating resistance? What kind of economy was involved? What was the relationship between the teachers and the students? Gender and age of the flying students and scholars? Is flying still necessary? Are we under occupation? What kind of knowledge is lacking or excluded? Is the tradition still alive? How can we organise? What do we want to know? How can we fly?

Workshop Participants:
Kuba Szreder (the Slow University), Romek Dziadkiewicz (Academy 36,6), Jakob Jakobsen (former Copenhagen Free University

Organised by
Jakob Jakobsen in collaboration with Kuba Szreder

Statement from the Towarzystwo Kursow Naukowych 1978

We the undersigned bring the Towarzystwo Kursow Naukowych (Society for Academic Studies) into being. By taking this initiative, we express our wish to respond to the recently awakened aspirations of Poland's students and young intellectuals to broaden, enrich, and complement their knowledge. These aspirations are particularly striking in the realm of the social sciences and the humanities. They result from the need to understand the historical period and the society we live in, as well as from the desire for self-knowledge. Both this intellectual quickening and its motivations form a phenomenon that is extremely valuable to society. After all, creative and independent civic attitudes cannot be formed if people do not search for the truth about the world and about themselves. Forming these attitudes requires not merely the attainment of professional competence - however indispensable it may be - but also an understanding of the whole of society's life. What is needed is a solid knowledge of the historical roots of all dimensions of the present. There is no place in the world today where the educational system is able to satisfy these needs. The educational system serves pragmatic purposes by favoring increasingly narrow specialization both in teaching and research. This results in a dangerous disintegration of culture into instrumental and cognitive layers, a separation that is harmful to both pursuits. Another result is the transformation of an intellectual into a performer of tasks; he does not participate in their formulation and is not even able to sensibly participate because his narrow professional specialization makes him unable to realize the consequences of those tasks. This potential danger is made more acute by the structure of political power in our country. All this brings harm to our society, to its culture and learning. Those who are hurt most are the young people: they try to satisfy their needs by undertaking self-education initiatives. The shortcomings of official education and the political and ideological restrictions on learning have been known and criticized for centuries. In an effort to remedy this situation, societies have been creating institutions and forms of education and self-education outside the official educational system. In this respect, the history of Polish learning and education has a splendid tradition of numerous educational associations: the flying university, the guidance for independent study, or, in the interwar period, the Polish Free University. Aware of this tradition, as well as of our present needs, we declare our initiative. Our purpose is to help anybody who wishes to increase his or her knowledge through self-education. We wish to offer - within the limits of our capacity - our counsel, knowledge, and assistance in teaching and research to anybody who would like to approach us. The curriculum board, appointed by us, will take the responsibility for the quality and scope of this program, its methods and direction, and its freedom of discussion and exploration. During the academic year, the nucleus of this activity will be the work of self-education groups that will study selected problems in history, sociology, economics, literature, philosophy, and pedagogy. The classes are open to anyone free of charge. The participants are students, graduates of virtually all fields, and lecturers who work without remuneration. Despite the fact that taking part in self-education does not provide the student with any special privileges and does not offer a diploma, the Interest among the young is remarkable, confirming the existing social need for this kind of activity. We undertake our initiative as a result of our conviction that an action of this kind is urgently needed today. Further developments of this initiative will depend on its acceptance by the students themselves, as well as on the support of the society as a whole.

Warsaw 22 January 1978

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