Professionalism is environmental. Amateurism is anti-environmental. Professionalism merges the individual into patterns of total environment. Amateurism seeks the development of the total awareness of the groundrules of society. The amateur can afford to lose. The professional tends to classify and specialize, to accept uncritically the groundrules of the environment. The groundrules provided by the mass response of his colleagues serve as a pervasive environment of which he is contentedly unaware. The “expert” is the man who stays put. -Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967
When we ask individuals to gather at a fixed location, on a fixed schedule, to participate in a largely one-sided, segmented, and fixed menu of conversations we are bringing into existence an environment of professionalism. When structures of authority collaborate to perpetuate the environment by subjecting those under its control to testing of their absorption of environmental patterns, we reify specific norms of professionalism as objective truths. Of course, this is the state of education today, as it was 10 years ago, and 10 years before that, and as far back as McLuhan’s original quote extends and some time beyond.
The amateur operates in the realm of anti-environment, as does the artist, where total awareness of society’s groundrules both casts one as outsider and privileges one as free thinker. True education is the business of anti-environment, the business of trial and error and exploration over learning the well-beaten path. It’s the business of gaining for losing, a concept that is totally foreign in a society where efficiency reigns supreme. Efficiency is the business of the professional, but efficiency only works well if one has all the answers and the answers are fixed in stone. “The ‘expert’ is the man who stays put” in a universe that is constantly in motion. Education is a state of mind, of anti-environment, where knowledge is never fixed and questions dictate action rather than answers.