— on the one hand —
] Goethe via [
I remember when potentia was on Maxwell Street
] Kodak ad adjacent to E.O. Wilson’s “Slavery in Ants” Sci Am ~ 1975 [
a version of “The Side Effect” | (photo ~ 11/14/11)
[ answer ]
& then went down to the picket. The other St. Peter’s. “Protect Patients Not Profits.” $8.7 billion net revenue; $200 million profit. “What would Jesus cut?” CEO John Koster’s compensation: $6.4 million. “Providence: practice what you preach!” 500 workers; median income $31K; penurious alterations to the healthcare plan made while in negotiations. That’s no way to “reveal God’s love for all, especially the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service.” Corner standing under low clouds waving placards in exchange for honked horns and thumbs up, comparing notes. Four teachers, two of them union leaders, one unemployed. One about to enter contract negotiations, two preparing to teach in jail, one about to commence a sabbatical that would include an analysis of robotics.
The cover-story for a hospital is that it makes people healthy, even if we know that too often the health it makes is an alibi for pocketed profit (the hastening trade in mental health pharmaceuticals would be the avant-garde in this ploy). The cover-story for a jail is justice: the prison is the space-time continuum in which the phrase “justice has been served” is converted into a special regime of discipline and abuse reserved for the other 1% the rest of us prefer to ignore (tho it’s done in our name), a conversion that of course also comes bundled with profits (+) that increase in proportion to time served. The question emerged naturally. If the alibi of the hospital is health, and the alibi of the jail is justice, what is the alibi of the school?
In England not long ago a sign was hung out an occupied classroom window that said “The University is a Factory” (cf.). But what does it make? Whatever else it may make, we know for a fact that universities and colleges make debt — irrepressible buckets of it: here in the U.S. we owe three times as much as we did eight years ago, for a grand total of some $1 trillion. And these debts — just like those mortgages alleged to be at the root of these our austere times — get spliced and diced, packaged and sold all over the place as derivatives backed by the Feds. (Not for nothing did the Department of Education recently spend $1.4 billion per annum on loan collection and guarantees; and you can even get rich on defaults now.) Queen MABS meet the almighty SLABS: Mortgage Asset Based Securities and Student Loan Asset Based Securities sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Another bubble inflates.
But what else does the school-factory make? For one thing, it actively produces forms of discipline. Bourdieu taught us how schools naturalize and reproduce the invidious differentials of class — tho perhaps we should add that this reproduction inadvertently contains the forgotten possibility of its antidote. Of the renaissance classroom Keith Thomas writes that “schooling was meant to teach application and self-control, sitting still for hours at a time” (via). But such arguably value-neutral competence comes at what some would calculate as a price. Francis Bacon, for instance, worried about a cohort of persons who, through schooling, “will be bred unfit for other vocations, and unprofitable for that in which they were bred up, which fill the realm full of indigent, idle and wanton people” (via). (One way of reckoning Marlowe and Shakespeare & co. is as an unintended consequence of the surplus making Bacon fret. No priesthood? No clerkship? No problem: we’ll just write some sweet poems that tell you what we really think.) Bacon’s early-17th-century concern acquires a more pungent rendering in cotton mill manager Thomas Livermore’s 1883 testimony to a Senate committee investigating child labor conditions: “I have seen cases where young people were spoiled for labor by being educated to a little too much refinement.” For love of reading and dabbling in arithmetic, the school-factory renders workers inoperative. That sounds like a pretty good plank for an education plan. Bring on the robots to do the dirty, dangerous, and demeaning work and sign the rest of us up for a guaranteed annual income!
But we wanted to flesh out the comparison across these institutions with some transcendent good, however compromised that may be in the practice as we know it. The hospital makes health, the jail makes justice, and the school? The school makes the truth. Or perhaps we should say, makes and remakes the truth, teaches how the truth is made, makes it possible to forge the truth anew, to collectively establish a new meridian for our agreements. Why did it take us so long to remember this? We were never taught it, that’s true. But there it is and now we know it. Time to take back and make each of these alibis stick, to use health, justice, and truth to leverage the profits, the abuses, and the predations that lurk under their cover-stories into extinction…….