Second Inning

March 24, 2014

The next chapter of When the Sparrow Sings is up now at The Hardball Times. Go take a gander. We’re getting into the meat of the book now. I hope you like it.

Education and Work

March 22, 2014

Reader,

I have found myself curmudgeonly of late. This comes of reading other people’s ideas about school and learning, and it comes from watching so many of us scurry around for the few crumbs dropped our way. It bothers me greatly that so much effort is put into the idea that schools should prepare students for the workforce and nothing more. I find it condescending and supportive only of the unbalanced wealth structure of our society.

Generally speaking, people work more hours for less money (inflation adjusted) than they used to. This is not how it should be. If you consider that technology has, in many ways, eased the production of so many of life’s necessities while scarcity of resources has not yet become a serious issue in our country, we should not find ourselves working more. We should find ourselves working less. Instead, what has happened is that, through various implementations of bad social policy, too much power has been placed into the hands to a wealthy few who then divy it out among the rest of us based only on how hard we are willing scurry around for it all while convincing us that we need many of the things we only want and that many of the things we want should cost much, much more than they actually do (go look at cellphone/internet costs internationally).

And so we work harder and harder for less. Failing to accumulate any kind of real comfort or wealth. Ever precarious. This is why I am a socialist (not a communist, there’s a difference).

And on top of all of this, we educators are coming to be regarded as mere cogs in the machine whose job is to produce more cogs that are “career” ready. I recently saw written that careers should be one of the results of education, but not the goal of education. This is precisely how I feel.

Much is made of the unimportance of the humanities in academia. Don’t study art history or English literature or film or anything like that. No. Engineering and hard sciences are the only way to go. Engineering and science are wonderful. No one who knows me will accuse me of deriding the STEM fields, but it is folly to think we don’t need the humanities. To point out the painfully obvious, there is a reason the first five letters spell “human.”

Instead of what we currently have, what we should have is a world where people have a vocation – a career – that contributes to society and which they find rewarding, but which also allows them the free time to engage with the world. Not to simply consume art and music and literature, but to make it if such things are of interest.

I don’t want my children to go to school only to learn career skills. I want them to go to school to learn how to be people. To learn how to engage the world in thoughtful and meaningful ways. If that is to happen those of us currently steering the world need to take more time thinking about why we spend so much time working. Why we have less time off than our parents. Why we don’t have paid maternity and paternity leave. Why so many of our children live in poverty.

As a society, we have surpassed the wealth disparity of the famously disastrous gilded age. This can’t endure. I’m not the kind of person who calls for revolution, but this isn’t acceptable. Things should be hard. They should take work. But they shouldn’t be this hard.