robertogreco + meritocracy   115

Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race | The New Yorker
"In making sincerity the litmus test of American racism, Thomas took a strand of the black nationalism that influenced his early development and wove it into an entire philosophy of race. In the nineteen-twenties, at an especially acute moment of racist reaction in the United States, Marcus Garvey also found comfort in the promise of candor. “They are better friends to my race for telling us what they are, and what they mean, than all the hypocrites put together,” Garvey said, of the Ku Klux Klan. “I like honesty and fair play.”

For Thomas, dishonesty was not only about race; it was also about class. However well intentioned white liberals were about remedying racial inequality, their élitism was steadfast. At Yale, some of Thomas’s classmates would query the absence of class rankings and grades. “You do not separate cream from cream,” a professor responded. “It is your fate as a Yale Law School student to become one of the leaders in the legal profession. It will happen, not because of you personally, but because you are here. That is what happens to Yale Law School students.” But Yale’s black students were separated from the cream; indeed, the absence of rankings was used to effect that separation. As he approached graduation, Thomas tried to secure a position at an élite law firm in Atlanta, which had no black associates. One of the marks against him was that he had no grades. Even if he came from Yale, how could his prospective employers know how good he was?

Thomas came to believe that, for the white liberal, offering help to black people was a way to express the combined privileges of race and class. This is a running theme of Wright’s “Native Son,” in which Bigger Thomas, a poor black man from the slums of Chicago, is given an opportunity to rise when a wealthy white family hires him as a chauffeur. The idea that black people can advance only with the help of whites is anathema to Clarence Thomas, who has identified with Wright’s protagonist throughout his life. For him, white benevolence denies black people the pride of achievement. By contrast, if one is black and overcomes the barriers of Jim Crow, one can be assured that the accomplishment is real. Thomas often invokes the example of his grandparents, who, despite segregation, managed to acquire property and support their family. Though they “had to work twice as hard to get half as far,” they knew, however far they got, that the distance was theirs. When black people succeed in the shadow of white benefactors, that certainty is lost.

This is the loss that Thomas has suffered since his youth: not of the color line but of its clarity. It’s a loss that he associates with liberalism, the North, and, above all, integration. “I never worshiped at the altar” of integration, he declared, five years after joining the Court. As he told Juan Williams, who wrote a profile of Thomas in The Atlantic, “The whole push to assimilate simply does not make sense to me.” It is a loss that Thomas has set out—from his early years as a young black nationalist on the left to his tenure as a conservative on the Court—to reverse.

Thomas’s rightward drift, which began in the seventies, was inflected by the very ethos that once put him on the left: namely, disaffection with black liberalism and the mainstream civil-rights movement. In his memoir, Thomas notes that part of the appeal of black nationalism was tied to his sense, in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, that “no one was going to take care of me or any other black person in America.” Eventually, this notion extended to the left. “I marched. I protested. I asked the government to help black people,” Thomas told the Washington Post, in 1980. “I did all those things. But it hasn’t worked.” The whole repertoire of black politics—from mainstream activism to Black Power radicalism and beyond—now seemed pointless. By the eighties, Thomas, a member of the Reagan Administration, believed that state action could do nothing for African-Americans. Problems of racial inequality “cannot be solved by the law—even civil-rights laws,” he told an audience at Clark College, a historically black school in Atlanta, in the nineteen-eighties.

And yet it was on the bench that Thomas began to pursue his own particular vision of racial justice. In his first decade on the Court, Thomas often met with high-achieving black students from Washington’s poorer neighborhoods. One meeting—with a high-school student named Cedric Jennings—was immortalized in a 1998 Esquire piece. After several hours of warm conversation, Thomas asked Jennings what his plans were for college. “I’m off to Brown,” Jennings replied. Thomas frowned. Finally, he said, “Well, that’s fine, but I’m not sure I would have selected an Ivy League school. You’re going to be up there with lots of very smart white kids, and if you’re not sure about who you are, you could get eaten alive. . . . It can happen at any of the good colleges where a young black man who hasn’t spent much time with whites suddenly finds himself among almost all whites.”

This concern runs throughout Thomas’s jurisprudence. “Some people think that the solution to all the problems of black people is integration,” he said, in 1997. By his own admission, he is not one of them. In a lengthy 1982 research article (published with an acknowledgment to “the invaluable assistance of Anita F. Hill”), Thomas notes pointedly that “it must be decided . . . whether integration per se should be a primary goal.” At Thomas’s confirmation hearings, the Republican senator Arlen Specter pressed him on that claim, asking, “If you end segregation, doesn’t it necessarily mean that you are requiring school integration?”

At the time, Thomas dodged the question, but he has since given his answer on the Court. In the 1995 case Missouri v. Jenkins, the Court’s conservative majority held that federal courts could not force Missouri to adopt policies designed to entice suburban white students to predominantly black urban schools. Thomas joined the majority. In the Court’s private deliberations about the case, he argued, in the paraphrase of a profile of Thomas in The New Yorker, “I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs. . . . All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose.”

This private sentiment made its way into Thomas’s public statement about the case. His concurrence in Missouri v. Jenkins was “the only opinion,” legal scholar Mark Graber argues, “that questioned whether desegregation was a constitutional value.” If anything, Thomas believes that the state should—where it can, within the law—support the separation of the races. Looking back on his education, in an all-black environment, Thomas has admitted to wanting to “turn back the clock” to a time “when we had our own schools.” Much of his jurisprudence is devoted to undoing the “grand experiment” of which he believes himself to be a victim. As he made clear in 1986, “I have been the guinea pig for many social experiments on social minorities. To all who would continue these experiments, I say please ‘no more.’ ”

Perhaps the most insidious of those experiments, for Thomas, is affirmative action, which he has long opposed. His critics call him a hypocrite. “He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it,” Rosa Parks said of Thomas, in 1996. His defenders believe that Thomas is advancing a common conservative line—that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism, which imposes illegitimate burdens on whites. In fact, Thomas’s arguments are considerably more unorthodox than that. According to Thomas, affirmative action is the most recent attempt by white people to brand and belittle black people as inferior. Affirmative action does not formally mirror the tools of white supremacy; for Thomas, it is the literal continuation of white supremacy.

His argument is rooted in two beliefs, each informed by his time spent on the left. The first is that affirmative action reinforces the stigma that shadows African-Americans. Among many whites, blackness signals a deficit of intellect, talent, and skill. Even Supreme Court Justices, Thomas wrote in one opinion, “assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.” When the state and social institutions identify African-Americans as beings in need of help, they reinforce that stigma. It doesn’t matter if some African-Americans succeed without affirmative action. In the same way that enslavement marked all black people, free or slave, as inferior, affirmative action—here Thomas borrows directly from the language of Plessy v. Ferguson—stamps all African-Americans with “a badge of inferiority.”

The second way affirmative action continues white supremacy is by elevating whites to the status of benefactors, doling out scarce privileges to those black people they deem worthy. The most remarkable element of Thomas’s affirmative-action jurisprudence, and what makes it unlike that of any other Justice on the Supreme Court, is how much attention he devotes to whites, not as victims but as perpetrators, the lead actors in a racial drama of their own imagination. Put simply, Thomas believes that affirmative action is a white program for white people.

We see this argument in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 affirmative-action case concerning the University of Michigan Law School. In the early nineteen-nineties, the school adopted an affirmative-action policy in order to create a more diverse student body. … [more]
clarencethomas  affirmitiveaction  elitism  admissions  colleges  universities  politics  polarization  law  conservativism  blacknationalism  race  racism  segregation  integration  inequality  prejudice  discrimination  rankings  grades  grading  richardwright  whitesaviorism  assimilation  supremecourt  liberalism  civilrights  coreyrobin  blakpanthers  blackpantherparty  meritocracy  hbus  solidarity  self-help  angeladavis  kathleencleaver  erickahuggins  bobbyseale  us  policy  activism  radicalism  cedricjennings  schools  busing  charleshamilton  blackpower  stokelycarmichael 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Meritocrat Who Wants to Unwind the Meritocracy - The New York Times
"In “The Meritocracy Trap,” Daniel Markovits delivers a fierce indictment of a system he says is undermining democracy and making everyone miserable."
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  inequality  democracy  society  misery  capitalism  elitism  2019 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Meritocracy Is Killing High-School Sports - The Atlantic
"Obsessive competition in high-school athletics is inseparable from the gargantuan role that sports plays in college admissions.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education,” says Philip Smith, a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. (About 30 percent of Williams students are recruited athletes.) In the 1990s, Division I and Division II colleges annually distributed less than $300 million in student-athlete scholarships. Today that figure is more than $3 billion.

You might think most of that scholarship money is going to help kids from poor families who couldn’t otherwise afford college. That’s not the case. In 2010, just 28 percent of Division I basketball players were first-generation college students, meaning they likely came from low-income families. Five years later, that figure has fallen by nine percentage points. Today, fewer than one in seven students receiving athletic scholarships across all Division I sports come from families in which neither parent went to college. Farrey calls this the slow-motion “gentrification” of college sports.

This process starts in youth and high-school sports. Both historically served as a pipeline to flagship universities for low-income kids. But when they’re shut out from pricey travel leagues and the expensive coaching that early specialists receive, lower-income kids are denied not only the physical benefits of playing sports, but also the jackpot that is college recruitment and Division I and II scholarships.

Institutions that were meant to be opportunity-equalizers for the rich, poor, and everybody in between—community youth sports leagues, public high schools, the American college system—are being stealthily hijacked to serve the primary goal of so many high-income parents, which is to replicate their advantages in their children’s generation."
meritocracy  athletics  colleges  admissions  sports  scholarships  inequality  highered  highereducation  universities  games  failure  education  competition  economics  anxiety  parenting 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Meritocracy Harms Everyone - The Atlantic
“Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves. Building a society in which a good education and good jobs are available to a broader swath of people—so that reaching the very highest rungs of the ladder is simply less important—is the only way to ease the strains that now drive the elite to cling to their status.

How can that be done? For one thing, education—whose benefits are concentrated in the extravagantly trained children of rich parents—must become open and inclusive. Private schools and universities should lose their tax-exempt status unless at least half of their students come from families in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution. And public subsidies should encourage schools to meet this requirement by expanding enrollment.

A parallel policy agenda must reform work, by favoring goods and services produced by workers who do not have elaborate training or fancy degrees. For example, the health-care system should emphasize public health, preventive care, and other measures that can be overseen primarily by nurse practitioners, rather than high-tech treatments that require specialist doctors. The legal system should deploy “legal technicians”—not all of whom would need to have a J.D.—to manage routine matters, such as real-estate transactions, simple wills, and even uncontested divorces. In finance, regulations that limit exotic financial engineering and favor small local and regional banks can shift jobs to mid-skilled workers. And management should embrace practices that distribute control beyond the C-suite, to empower everyone else in the firm.

The main obstacle to overcoming meritocratic inequality is not technical but political. Today’s conditions induce discontent and widespread pessimism, verging on despair. In his book Oligarchy, the political scientist Jeffrey A. Winters surveys eras in human history from the classical period to the 20th century, and documents what becomes of societies that concentrate income and wealth in a narrow elite. In almost every instance, the dismantling of such inequality has been accompanied by societal collapse, such as military defeat (as in the Roman empire) or revolution (as in France and Russia).

Nevertheless, there are grounds for hope. History does present one clear-cut case of an orderly recovery from concentrated inequality: In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.S. answered the Great Depression by adopting the New Deal framework that would eventually build the mid-century middle class. Crucially, government redistribution was not the primary engine of this process. The broadly shared prosperity that this regime established came, mostly, from an economy and a labor market that promoted economic equality over hierarchy—by dramatically expanding access to education, as under the GI Bill, and then placing mid-skilled, middle-class workers at the center of production.

An updated version of these arrangements remains available today; a renewed expansion of education and a renewed emphasis on middle-class jobs can reinforce each other. The elite can reclaim its leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford. At the same time, the middle class can regain its income and status and reclaim the center of American life.

Rebuilding a democratic economic order will be difficult. But the benefits that economic democracy brings—to everyone—justify the effort. And the violent collapse that will likely follow from doing nothing leaves us with no good alternative but to try.“
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  neoliberalism  capitalism  society  2019  competition  policy  privateschools  taxexemption  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  inequality  redistribution  governance  taxation  hierarchy  oligarchy  parenting  anxiety 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Spadework | Issue 34 | n+1
"By the time I started organizing so much that it felt like a full-time job, it was the spring of 2016, and I had plenty of company. Around the country there were high-profile efforts to organize magazines, fast-food places, and nursing homes. Erstwhile Occupiers became involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign and joined the exploding Democratic Socialists of America, whose members receive shabby business cards proclaiming them an “official socialist organizer.” Today’s organizers — not activists, thank you — make clear that they are not black bloc participants brawling with police or hippies plotting a love-in. They are inspired by a tradition of professional revolutionaries, by Lenin’s exhortation that “unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized — it is everything.” Organizing, in other words, is unembarrassed about power. It recognizes that to wield it you need to persuade untold numbers of people to join a cause, and to begin organizing themselves. Organizing means being in it to win.

But how do you win? Historical materialism holds that crises of capitalism spark revolts, perhaps even revolutions, as witnessed in the eruption of Occupy and Black Lives Matter; uprisings in Spain, Greece, and Egypt; and the British student movement against tuition fees. But there’s no guide for what happens in the long aftermath, as the left has often learned the hard way.

In previous moments of upheaval and promise the left has often turned to Antonio Gramsci, who sought to understand why working-class revolts in Europe following the Russian Revolution had led to fascism. Gramsci concluded that on some level people consent to subservience, even take it for granted, when the order in which they live comes to seem like common sense. Hegemony was subtler than outright coercion, more pervasive, permeating the tempos of daily life.

It was hegemony, Stuart Hall argued in 1983, that was key to understanding the disappointment of his own generation — why Thatcher and the new right had triumphed in remaking common sense after a decade of labor union revolt. Hegemony shaped how people acted when they weren’t thinking about it, what they thought was right and wrong, what they imagined the good life to be. A hegemonic project had to “occupy each and every front” of life, “to insert itself into the pores of the practical consciousness of human beings.” Thatcherism had understood this better than the left. It had “entered the struggle on every single front on which it calculated it could advance itself,” put forth a “theory for every single arena of human life,” from economics to language, morality to culture. The domains the left dismissed as bourgeois were simply the ones where the ruling class was winning. Yet creating hegemony was “difficult work,” Hall reminded us. Never fully settled, “it always has to be won.”"



"The Thatcherite project was since then much advanced, and we had internalized its dictates. For our whole lives we had learned to do school very well; in graduate school we learned to exploit ourselves on weekends and vacations before putting ourselves “on the market.” Many of us still believed in meritocracy, despite learning every day how it was failing us. The worse the conditions of academic life became, the harder everyone worked, and the harder it became to contest them. Plus, we were so lucky to be there — at Yale! Compared to so many grad students, we had it good, and surely jobs were waiting on the other side for us, if for anyone. Who were we to complain? Organizing a union of graduate students at Yale seemed to many like an act of unbearable privilege — a bunch of Ivy League self-styled radicals doing worker cosplay."



"Realizing that it was not enough for people to like me was revelatory. I had to learn to be more comfortable with antagonism and disagreement, with putting a choice in front of people and letting them make it instead of smiling away tension and doing the work myself. I had to expect more from other people. With other organizers, I role-played the conversations I feared most before having them; afterward, I replayed them over and over in my head. I struggled to be different: the version of myself I wanted to be, someone who could move people and bend at least some tiny corner of the universe.

It’s not easy to be the site of a battle for hegemony. It’s not a beatific Whitmanesque “I contain multitudes”; it’s an often painful struggle among your competing selves for dominance. You have one body and twenty-four hours in a day. An organizer asks what you’ll do with them, concretely, now. You may not like your own answer. Your inner Thatcherite will raise its voice. You can’t kill it off entirely; you will almost certainly find that it’s a bigger part of you than you thought. But organizing burrows into the pores of your practical consciousness and asks you to choose the part of yourself that wants something other than common sense. It’s unsettling. It can be alienating. And yet I also often felt I was finally reconciling parts of myself I’d tried to keep separate — what I thought, what I said, what I did. To organize, and to be organized, you have to keep in mind Hall’s lesson: there is no true or false consciousness, no true self that organizing discovers or undoes. You too, Hall reminds us, were made by this world you hope to change. The more distant the world you want to live in is from the world that exists, the more deeply you yourself will feel this disjuncture. “I’m not cut out for this,” people often say when they struggle with organizing. No one is: one isn’t born an organizer, but becomes one."



"The relationality of organizing is maybe the hardest thing to understand before you’ve done it. But it is the most important. This is not because people are governed by emotions instead of reason, though they sometimes are. It’s because the entire problem of collective action is that it’s rational to act collectively where it’s not to act alone. And you build the collective piece by piece.

Organizing relationships can be utopian: at their best, they offer the feminist dream of intimacy outside of romance or family. In the union, I loved people I did not know very well. In meetings I was often overcome with awe and affection at the courage and wisdom of the people there with me. I came to count many of the people I organized with as my dearest friends. When I needed help, there were always people I could call, people who would always pick up the phone, people I could and did talk to about anything. These relationships often served as a source of care and support in a world with too little of those things. But they were not only friendships, and not only emotional ballast. The people I looked to for support would also push me when it was called for, as I would them; that, I knew, was the deal.

Our relationships forged the practical commitments to one another that held the union together. They made us accountable to each other. They were difficult and multifaceted, often frustrating, intensely vulnerable, and potentially transformative but no less prone than any other relationship to carelessness, hurt, and betrayal, and always a lot of work. We were constantly building them and testing their limits, pushing each other harder the closer we got. They had to bear a lot of weight. In more abject moments, I wondered whether they were anything more than instrumental. More often, though, I wondered what was so menacing about usefulness that it threatened to contaminate all else.

The word comrade, Jodi Dean argues, names a political relationship, not a personal one: you are someone’s comrade not because you like them but because you are on the same side of a struggle. Comrades are not neighbors, citizens, or friends; nor are they any kind of family, though you might call them brother or sister. The comrade has no race, gender, or nation. (As one meme goes: “My favorite gender-neutral pronoun is comrade.”) Comrades are not even unique individuals; they are “multiple, replaceable, fungible.” You can be comrades with millions of people you have never met and never will. Your relationship is ultimately with the political project you have in common. To many noncommunists, Dean readily admits, this instrumentalism is “horrifying”: a confirmation that communism means submitting to the Borg. But the sameness of the comrade is a kind of genuine equality.

Being an organizer is like being a comrade in some ways but different in others. The people you organize alongside may be comrades, but the people you are organizing often aren’t; the point of organizing, after all, is to reach beyond the people who are already on your side and win over as many others as you can. So you can’t assume the people you organize share your values; in fact, you should usually assume they don’t. This means that unlike comrades, organizers aren’t interchangeable. It matters who you are. McAlevey’s theory of the organic leader is that people have to be organized by people they know and trust, not by strangers who claim to have the right ideas. The SNCC looked for “strong people” — not necessarily traditional leaders, but people who were respected and trusted among their peers, on the logic that people would only take risky political action alongside people they trusted. When organizers reflect the people they organize, they win: when women of color organize other women of color, a 2007 paper by Kate Bronfenbrenner and Dorian Warren shows, they win almost 90 percent of elections. This cuts both ways: when women and people of color led the organizing in my department, we often struggled to get white men to take us seriously.

Yet the comradely element of organizing can also open up space for building relationships with people beyond those boundaries. It’s not that class and race and gender disappear, transcended by the cause — … [more]
alyssabattistoni  organizing  academia  academics  highereducation  highered  2019  labor  work  unions  thatcherism  reaganism  margartthatcher  communism  ronaldreagan  capitalism  meritocracy  hegemony  stuarthall  busyness  antoniogramsci  comrades  relationships  relationality  utopia  hierarchy  instrumentalism  equality  leadership  politics  class  race  gender  school  schooliness  schooling  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Zombie Neoliberalism | Dissent Magazine
"For someone who demands that Democrats return to the questions of class that once supposedly drove the party, Frank has a fraught relationship with the radical left. Perhaps it’s to be expected of someone who cut his political teeth in the decades when the idea of socialism was all but dead. His books are peppered with denigrations of communists past that feel particularly dated in a post–Cold War era where many of today’s Bernie Sanders supporters and new Democratic Socialists of America members scarcely remember the USSR. He often draws equivalencies between left and right, positioning himself, like any good New Dealer, as the compromise keeping the commies at bay—the only reasonable position between two wildly irrational poles. This leads, at times, to a curiously apolitical reading of politics, one that strikes an above-the-fray pose that ignores the realities of struggle.

Frank is sharper when he examines the Democratic establishment. Listen, Liberal is a biting diagnosis of the cult of smartness that has become liberalism’s fatal flaw. Given his own weakness for pretending to float above partisan conflict, the book is a self-critique as much as anything. In previous books he glanced at the failures of liberalism, only to return to pointing out how very bad the right is. When he notes today that “Nothing is more characteristic of the liberal class than its members’ sense of their own elevated goodness,” this is an unsubtle rebuke to his own earlier assumptions.

Criticizing the fetish for smartness within the liberal class (the term that he uses for what others have called the “professional-managerial class”) puts Frank in familiar territory. His skewering of tech-fetishists from the first dot-com era turns into a skillful reading of Obama’s turn toward Silicon Valley (and the fact that so many former Obama staffers have wound up there). The failure of the “knowledge economy” has been a subject of Frank’s since way back. There is, he notes, a difference of degree, not kind, between the Republican obsession with entrepreneurs and business and the “friendly and caring Democratic one, which promises to patch us up with job training and student loans.”

Since Trump’s win, Democratic strategists have doubled down on the idea that victory lies with Frank’s “well-graduated” professional class, the “Panera Breads” or the suburban voters of Chuck Schumer and Ed Rendell’s famed predictions that Democrats would make up any losses with blue-collar voters who defected to Trump by gaining ground in affluent suburbs. The most obvious problem with this strategy is that it does not approach a majority: only a third of the country has a bachelor’s degree, and only 12 percent an advanced degree beyond that. The other, and more significant, problem is that this assumption encourages a belief in meritocracy that is fundamentally anti-egalitarian, fostering contempt for those who haven’t pulled themselves up by their bootstraps—and Republicans already give us far too much of that.

Liberalism’s romance with meritocracy has also fostered an obsession with complexity for its own sake—a love of “wonky” solutions to problems that are somehow the only realistic way to do anything, even though they require a graduate degree in public policy just to comprehend. Politics by experts gives us a politics that only experts can understand. Complexity allows people to make things slightly better while mostly preserving the status quo and appearing to have Done Something Smart.

In Frank’s description of Hillary Clinton we see where all this leads: a feeling of goodness that replaces politics. This isn’t entirely fair, of course—for the millions of Clinton voters (and there were, we should remember, some 3 million more of them than Trump voters), one can assume that at least as many of them were motivated by her actual stated policy goals as Trump voters were by promises of jobs and a wall. Yet Clinton came up short in the key states that lost her the Electoral College as much because poor and working people stayed home than because of any sizable flip of the mythical “White Working Class,” those bitter non-degree-havers of the coastal media’s imagination, to Trump.

Feeling good about voting for Clinton because she was less crass than Trump—the campaign message that the Clinton campaign seemed to settle on—was not enough to inspire a winning majority at the polls. Feelings, Frank would agree, are no substitute for politics.


What is left of liberalism these days, then? Surveying the wreckage of the Democratic Party, one is tempted to answer: not much. On the other hand, the 2016 election (and the 2017 elections in the United Kingdom and France) show us the rise of a current presumed dead for decades. In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the United States has seen the awakening of socialist politics, breathing life into the kind of class talk that Frank has yearned for his entire career. It is important, then, that we take note of the limitations of longing for a vanished past, that we salvage the lessons from recent history that Frank offers in order to move forward.

Frank’s books presume that a return to the New Deal is the best we can hope for. His frequent invocations of FDR demonstrate the problems with Frank’s take on “culture.” Many New Deal programs, after all, excluded workers who were not white men, and while the best parts of the New Deal have resisted right-wing attempts to take them down, nostalgia for its peak is similar to that which motivates right-wing populism. It is the left’s version of “Make America Great Again.”

The echoes of Kansian arguments have returned to a left grappling with the best way to respond to Trump; some have forthrightly said that pandering to presumably cultural-reactionary Trump voters is necessary, that Democrats should discard “identity liberalism,” in Mark Lilla’s words. In Kansas, Frank wrote, “If basic economic issues are removed from the table . . . only the social issues remain to distinguish the parties.” But this is also true in reverse: when Trump ran to the left on trade, denouncing deals that Hillary Clinton had backed, few people were able to successfully explain why Trump’s racism and sexism made him, still, a bad deal for working people.

Frank demonstrates both liberalism’s promise and its limitations—which are also the limitations of Bernie Sanders and those who, in trying to defend the left against its more disingenuous critics, wind up casting the New Deal–state as the apotheosis of all possible politics rather than as one temporary phase in the class war.

For it is class war that we are in, whether we like it or not, and we will not win it with smartness or with better billionaires. It is a power struggle in which the right will aim to divide and conquer, to mobilize racism and sexism to maintain a hierarchy, and the center will attempt to smooth the roughest edges in order to hold onto its own power or, what’s worse, because it genuinely believes that there is still No Alternative.

“Liberalism,” Frank notes in The Wrecking Crew, “arose out of a long-ago compromise between left-wing social movements and business interests.” In most of his books there is a brief acknowledgment of this kind of struggle—nods to what Kansas refers to as “decades of movement building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, advocating, and thankless organizing.” We need that kind of fight once again, if we are to hope for things to get better.

John Feltner of Rexnord knew; he joined his union comrades on the picket line even as he was preparing to lose his own factory job. Feltner told me about his time at “union school,” held on the grounds of the great labor leader and five-time Socialist presidential candidate’s home, and how compared to Debs’s day, neither political party spoke to him.

We need to ensure that our politics are not just a welfare-state version of Make America Great Again, a kinder fetishizing of the industrial working class that leaves so-called “social issues” out of the picture. For that hope, we need to turn to the social movements of recent years, to the growth of the Movement for Black Lives and the promise of the Women’s March and particularly the Women’s Strike, to the activists sitting in and disrupting town halls to save healthcare and even improve it, as well as the burgeoning membership of socialist organizations and the rise of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi. The groundwork is being laid, but as Frank notes, no benevolent leader is going to bring us the change we need.

That is going to be up to all of us."
2017  neoliberalism  sarahjaffe  donaldtrump  thomasfrank  hillaryclinton  meritocracy  smartness  elitism  politics  us  elections  newdeal  economics  workingclass  class  classism  berniesanders  socialism  capitalism  chokweantarlumumba  liberlaism  unions  labor  activism  organizing  chokwelumumba 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Almost All the Colleges I Wanted to Go to Rejected Me. Now What? - The New York Times
"There’s a greater delusion here. We’re often encouraged to imagine our society as an egg-sorting machine: jumbo, extra-large, large, medium (and then the sizes that don’t show up in the supermarket: small, peewee). We’re drawn to the idea that the rewards of social life — money, esteem, opportunities at college and then, later, at work — are determined by talent and dedication. In this picture, everyone can be ranked on a scale of how meritorious they are. True, we can complicate that picture a little and acknowledge that skills are various; that one person might be a fine mathematician and another a fine musician. But even if you had multiple scales for multiple skills, you would find that the vast majority of us aren’t great at anything. A person can only be at the top if there are lots of people ranged below.

If your self-worth is tied to being better than others, then, you’re headed for trouble. Your classmate in the honors program can feel inadequate compared with a higher-performing classmate in that program, who can feel inadequate compared with a still-higher-performing classmate and so on up the line. They could all walk around in a state of dejection. But that would be an ethical error. Why ethical? Because ethics, in its classical sense, concerns itself with what makes a life go well.

In the end, what matters isn’t how we rank against others. (Though my hunch is that you’re the only student at your school to be published in The New York Times this week!) You started out with a bundle of talents and interests unlike anyone else’s — yes, even if you have an identical twin. Your life so far has allowed you to develop some of them and to take up projects that you are committed to: Maybe it’s playing the guitar decently, writing a short story, serving the needs of the less well off in your community, being a good Christian or Muslim. Maybe your aim right now is simply being a good friend, taking genuine pleasure in the good fortune of those you care about. “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?” Dorothea asks in George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.”

You may acquit yourself, in these various endeavors, better or worse than another person, but nobody else is trying to do exactly the things you are trying to do with exactly the developed talents you have. Because we all come equipped with different capacities and have been born into different circumstances, and because we choose our own projects, each of us faces his or her own challenge, one that is, like you, unique. You have, as the great German thinker Johann Gottfried Herder once put it, your own measure.

The goal, therefore, isn’t to be the best; it’s to do your best. And don’t think this lets you off the hook. To become a better version of yourself is quite demanding enough. The 18th-century Hasidic rabbi Zusha is supposed to have said that when he died and appeared before the heavenly court, they could ask him, “Why were you not as great as Abraham?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; after all, he wasn’t given Abraham’s intellectual gifts. They could ask him, “Why weren’t you Moses?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; he didn’t have Moses’ skills as a leader. The question that frightened him was this: “Why weren’t you Zusha?” The scholar Martin Buber, writing in the past century, called this the “question of questions.”

I’ve talked about delusions. Here’s what’s true: Lots of things that happen to you — a good number of which will be a matter of sheer luck — will affect the life you make. But what will make your life a good one, along with luck, is a willingness to run with the opportunities that come your way.

Mourning all the things that didn’t turn out in your college-admissions season, you say that you can’t see yourself thriving in any school that has accepted you. Don’t trust that intuition for a moment. If acceptance from elite colleges is hard, self-acceptance can be harder.

Take up that question of questions. Think about what you can do with the opportunities you have, like going to a good college near home. If you do the work, make friends and enjoy reasonable luck there, you’ll come away from the college enriched and ready for the next phase of your life. So seize the day. The race you’re running has only one competitor, and it’s you."
colleges  universities  admissions  collegeadmissions  2019  kwameanthonyappiah  education  highered  highereducation  meritocracy  sorting  ranking  hierarchy  ethics  inequality  selectivity  personhood  acceptance  elitism  self-acceptance  delusions  measurement 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
may 2019 by robertogreco
How Tressie McMillan Cottom's 'Thick' Affirmed My Years-Long Refusal Of Body Positivity Language
"Beauty only works if someone is not."



"Beauty is a global economy and a vital component in industries not directly related to it. But it’s not something progressive women and men want to believe is completely constructed. It’s easy for us to acknowledge the standards of beauty that exist, say, on a Victoria’s Secret runway and the way these narrow ideals can harm women’s self-esteem. But there’s still a popular belief, guided by the principles of body positivity, that everyone is beautiful or can achieve beauty. We’re defensive about it. We all want a slice of that capital."



"McMillan Cottom challenges her readers to understand beauty as a capitalist and white supremacist structure that is, therefore, inherently inaccessible for non-white people. She points to feminist analyses of beauty standards over time, most notably Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, which women of color are excluded from simply because beauty, as a Western concept, was not designed for us. This isn’t to say that Black women and women of color can’t be beautiful to themselves or within their own communities or even span outside of them under certain conditions. Just as McMillan Cottom talks about experiencing desirability and acceptance at her historically Black college, I find comfort in similar, all-Black environments. Still, we’ve all bought into same system where beauty is a form of power and that power is oppressive."
kyndallcunningham  tressiemcmillancottom  roxanegay  beauty  race  racism  inequality  capitalism  whitesupremacy  economics  hierarchy  feminism  whiteness  desirability  power  oppression  bodies  meritocracy  2019  bodypositivity 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The Great American Meritocracy Machine – alex posecznick
"Cheating is a thing. It happens a lot. A few years ago, I was having a conversation with Gregoire, who ran the testing center at an institution I will call “Ravenwood College.” Although Ravenwood accepted SAT and ACT scores, they also had their own in-house entrance exam which was administered on site. Gregoire was meticulous in proctoring exams, checking paperwork and especially photo identification carefully. He recalled one time, when an applicant claimed to have left her ID in the Office of Admissions and said she would be right back. Later, the applicant returned with the ID and escorted by an admissions counselor, but it was an entirely different person.

She tried to persuade Gregoire that he was mistaken – that they had just spoken and she had come back as instructed. But he responded, with a roll of the eyes and a dry comment: “Okay, who did you get to take your exam for you?”

Sound familiar?

The Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal has splatted hard in the middle of the media, and already faded from our attention. Several days of non-stop coverage and opinion, followed by fatigue. Our attention is nothing if not fickle. It is outrageous that wealthy elites and influential celebrities and their consultants have falsified documents and bribed coaches so their kids can go to extremely selective universities. And it makes sense that this would catch our collective attention. The story fundamentally undermines our trust in American meritocracy.

Maybe it should. Maybe that’s a good thing. Because the most noteworthy thing about the scandal is not the cheating. There are other important observations to be made. And there have been many who have made important observations about how affluent families already game the system in entirely legal ways. But there is more still to consider here.

I’ve spent a lot of my professional life around colleges and universities and seen wonderful and transformative things happen there. But we have to also recognize that a big part of what colleges do is sort students into piles based on merit. “Going to college” is one sort of meritorious pile that employers pay a lot of attention to; and in some circles the most relevant pile is which college we went to. And even affluent parents are under a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure their kids are sorted into the most distinctive pile. There is thus a lot of consequence here.

The contradiction, however, is that the more people obtain degrees, the less distinctive those degrees become. This pushes people to find new ways to be distinctive: a degree from this elite college, or perhaps a master’s degree. But this is an anxiety-fueled, credentials arms race – and although it can benefit colleges and universities financially, I’m not sure it is sustainable. How many loans can the average American family bear?

Elite institutions flourish when demand is high and admission low. Demand is measured by how many people you reject every year. But admission offices need to constantly balance the demands of coaches, wealthy donors, trustees, campus executives, ranking metrics, and alumni. One’s job could be at risk if the wrong donor is unhappy, or if the institution falls in a popular ranking system. We therefore need to acknowledge that colleges and universities are not the ivory towers we like to pretend they are. Not any longer. Colleges and universities are extremely competitive, profit-focused enterprises that must reconcile competing aims: educational mission on one side and market on the other. The big secret is that admission offices are under as much pressure as parents are.

This pressure shifts in less-selective spaces, but does not diminish.

Less-selective institutions flourish based on higher enrollments, because their budgets are so closely tied to the number of students sitting in their classrooms. Such institutions may have some strong standing locally, but like “Ravenwood” College, are not household names across the country. For these colleges, the consequence to a bad year could be layoffs, contractions, budget cuts, or closures. In fact, Ravenwood itself experienced some of these challenges. And this is increasingly a concern: by some accounts, private colleges are closing at the rate of 11 per year!

Public universities are not cushioned from such pressures either; many states have so severely cut funding to public higher education in recent years that they must learn to play the market like private institutions. Colleges and universities want to appear distinctive for the same reasons that we all do.

In short, we have built a massive, comprehensive infrastructure to “objectively” identify, evaluate, measure, and sort us into piles. And this sorting machinery involves high school administrations, college recruiters, College Board test designers, marketing teams, private test prep centers, university administrations, college athletics, federal regulatory agencies, voluntary accrediting agencies, magazine publishers, student loan lenders, employers, faculty, students, and their families.

Attending college does not define our value as human beings, but it would be naïve to pretend that there was no consequence to how we get sorted. When employers take note of a particular name or brand, what they are really interested in is how we’ve been continuously sorted into the right bins across our lifetimes. This scandal (and the many editorials since it broke) has revealed that this infrastructure is not objective. The notion of meritocracy has long been at the heart of the rhetoric of education in American society, but is that machinery broken?

Students of history should know that we’ve never had an objective, merit-measuring machine; this is not the story of national decline that some have been preaching. As many have been pointing out, affluent families systemically use their resources to give their kids advantage all the time – and always have. There are boarding schools, expensive test-prep programs, legacy admissions, private counselors and coaches, private violin lessons and extravagant service trips to other countries that make for a great personal statement. And despite some recent and limited interventions through affirmative action, communities of color have been systematically and appallingly excluded for centuries.

Operation Varsity Blues reveals that although the meritocracy machine is powerful and active, we should not always accept it at face value. Not only in elite space, but at all levels, we must recognize individuals for their achievements while weighing them critically and skeptically. In short, the best measure against a broken meritocracy machine is vigilant, morally-grounded people willing to challenge what they see. As long as we have the credentials arms race, there will be cheats and scammers – and the most noteworthy part of this scandal is not that some cheated, but that the wealthy perpetrators will face consequences.

Unless of course the siren call of some new big scandal distracts us."
meritocracy  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  2019  operationvaristyblues  alexposecznick  markets  degree  sorting  ranking  rankings  society  degreeinflation  employment  elitism  objectivity  testing  standardizedtesting  cheating  credentials  scams  corruption  admissions  anxiety  education 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Mike Gravel on Twitter: "Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class."
"Why is the media so in love with Buttigieg? Because his resume—USSYP, elite college, Rhodes—is an exemplar of meritocratic success. He is the child and apparent savior of America’s meritocratic ruling class.

Professional Democrats and elite journalists are largely in thrall to the cult of meritocracy, which is the solidification and beautification of inequality. It is inequality based on socially-defined merit—but inequality nonetheless. It is “talent” made god.

And because the new elite ostensibly owes its position to merit, rather than inherited privilege, it feels no sense of noblesse oblige that older aristocracies felt; as Christopher Lasch pointed out, there is no valor or chivalry in the new system, just Darwinian triumph.

Ultimately, as Lasch said, “meritocracy is a parody of democracy.” Meritocracy is an idea that allows the ruling class to hold on to power through the illusion that they deserve it because of merit (read Genovese). It tells the underclass—don’t worry, all is just in the world.

The popularity of true leftism seems to augur the return of old class-based politics, when Democrats were populists who fought for equality, not inequality under the veil of meritocracy. Buttigieg is the archetypal meritocrat—he is the perfect one to save the system.

It is the dream and hope of the meritocrats in journalism and politics that Buttigieg’s shininess distracts from the ravaged country that the current system, the one he clearly wants to perpetuate, has created.

The rule of the meritocrats, the “best and brightest,” has given us a country riven by rampant inequality, drug addiction, and endless wars abroad. Whether their name is Wolfowitz or Summers or Rubin, they’ve been in charge for decades—and look how far we’ve come!

To paraphrase Bakunin: “When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called ‘the Meritocratic Stick.’”

It’s time to return to a politics cognizant of class, one that is not obsessed with helping the best and brightest rise to the top, with making our unequal system more diverse, but instead concerned with leveling the system entirely. The promise of a good life for all."
mikegravel  meritocracy  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  inequality  noblesseoblige  society  socialdarwinism  journalism  journalists  education  petemuttigieg  capitalism  liberalism  neoliberalism  class  classism  rankings  success  justification  talent  christopherlasch  chivalry  power  control  self-importance  canon  politics  policy  mikhailbakunin  paulwolfowitz  larrysummers  robertrubin 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Luxury Interiors – Popula
"The question of “U.S.C. versus A.S.U.” in this piece was unclear to me; to what extent was Hess underwriting this hierarchy? I wrote to ask her, and she replied that she wished she’d had the space to elaborate in the piece. And for good reason:
I’m from a Sun Devil family. My mom worked at Arizona State… I don’t think any of the jokes about ASU are based on a real understanding of the kind of education you could receive there; it’s based on the number of people who can access that education […]

The same people who surely believe that every child should have access to a college education also make sure to rank some of those educations as enviable and others as embarrassing. The idea of an elite, high-class education must be hoarded by a select few, because if everybody had it, it would lose its value to the elite.

Which just begins to explain why someone like Mossimo Giannulli might want to be able to say, “my daughter is at U.S.C.”

***

When people are willing to drown themselves in debt and even commit literal crimes in order to obtain an elite college education for themselves or their kids, what, really, what exactly, do they they think they are buying?

Or selling. What are people thinking, who are selling an “education” that is actively harming a whole society; that wrecks the fabric of a city, that causes people to lose their grip on their conscience, their sanity; that makes them set so catastrophic an example, somehow both before, and on behalf of, their children. All this makes a mockery of the Enlightenment values—by which I mean the egalitarianism and erudition of Alexander Pope, and not Edmund Burke getting himself in a lather over Marie Antoinette—that a Western education was once imagined to represent.

Reaction to the admissions scandal has so far centered on these rich parents and their unworthy spawn, whose lawyers now prepare to spin a tale of misguided, but forgivable, parental devotion. No less a cultural authority than the playwright David Mamet wrote an “open letter” defending accused admissions cheat Felicity Huffman; according to him, “a parent’s zeal for her children’s future may have overcome her better judgment for a moment.” Except that the “moment” went on for months, according to court filings, and involved Huffman’s paying $15,000 to ensure that her daughter would have twice the time to complete her SAT exam that an ordinary, non-bribery-enabled kid would have. Also to hire a crooked proctor afterwards, who could change some of her daughter’s wrong answers to correct ones.

In any case, Hess is right: You can get an ultrafine education at A.S.U. That place is an R1 university, positively bristling with Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows. Walter V. Robinson, who led the famous “Spotlight” newsroom at the Boston Globe, teaches there. It’s wild to think anyone would be willing to blow half a million dollars to ensure an admission to U.S.C. over A.S.U.

Anyone who has been to (any) college can tell you that the proportion of enlightenment to hangovers varies greatly from customer to customer. It’s something else altogether that calls for the half-million bucks.

***

Coming from a quite different angle—and on March 27th, the very same day as Hess’s piece—Herb Childress, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, asked: “How did we decide that professors don’t deserve job security or a decent salary?” (“This is How You Kill a Profession.”) Childress is one of tens of thousands of Ph.D.s in the United States who failed to find a place on the tenure track, and who were slowly forced out of a professional academic career as their prospects faded year by year in the academic Hunger Games, as this brutal process is not uncommonly described.

You might assume that people like Childress just “didn’t make it” through some fault of their own, but you’d be wrong. Over the last fifty years academic work has come to look more and more like indentured servitude: Grad students and postdocs are a species of flexible workers in a gig economy, toiling in low-paying jobs waiting for their once-a-year chance to play the tenure track lottery.

Please note that these are the very people who work in the “good schools,” who are compelled to “teach,” for insanely low pay—like, a few thousand dollars per class—people like Mossimo Giannulli’s daughter Olivia Jade, a famous YouTube “Influencer.” This lady’s dad paid hundreds of thousands to put her in the orbit of hugely educated, committed, job-insecure people like Childress. She, meanwhile, impishly bragged to her legion of YouTube followers that she doesn’t really “care about school.”

And yet scholars like Childress can’t let go of their romantic notions of the academy, and their sense of vocation, which can easily be exploited; unfortunately they’ll agree to live the dream even at cut rates, as Childress himself openly admitted in the Chron.
The grief of not finding a home in higher ed—of having done everything as well as I was capable of doing, and having it not pan out; of being told over and over how well I was doing and how much my contributions mattered, even as the prize was withheld—consumed more than a decade. It affected my physical health. It affected my mental health. It ended my first marriage. […]

Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Consider the benefits-free, pension-free pittance paid to the vast majority of people providing the elite education, who never saw a dime of all those millions in bribes, and a more complicated and larger picture than we’ve yet seen emerges."



"I wasn’t nearly as much of a paragon, but as a brown-trash “gifted” kid who came up poor and went to fancy schools I can easily understand how listening to this brilliant lecturer dazzled my friend, and changed the course of his life. This feeling comes to students anywhere, everywhere, in every school with a good teacher with time and attention to give us. There was and still is something vital, something good and real, to want out of an “education,” something quite beyond the ken of the kind of people who would pay an SAT proctor to cheat.

Then there’s this other angle. I first went off to college already inured to the idea that I was involved in an economy; that we were trading. Everything had been made easier for the rich kids, of course, and it wasn’t their fault, all had been bought and paid for by their parents and grandparents, but also—a crucial thing—they had also lacked our luck; they lacked certain desirable qualities, qualities as randomly distributed as wealth, things with which some of us had won a different lottery, had skipped grades with and been celebrated for: the sort of “intelligence” that made school easy. There seemed to be a natural symbiosis in this structure, crazy and shameful as the whole business of “meritocracy” appears to me now.

But also like all college kids we mainly didn’t give a fuck about any of that and just got to be friends for true reasons, just loved one another. The rich kids happened to be able to teach the poor ones what fork to use and how to ski, and the poor and/or brown kids of halfway reasonable intelligence gave them books, new kinds of food and family, music and art, a view of the other side of the tracks, new ways to have fun. We poor ones brought, say, a taste for Lester Bangs, arroz con pollo, Brian Eno and Virginia Woolf; they treated us to foie gras and Tahoe and big old California cabs on our 18th birthday. Gross, right? Really gross. But the (grotesquely mistaken) idea was that we were bringing each other into a better world, a different world, and a little at a time the true, good world would finally come.

This may sound a bit tinfoil but now I suspect that the problem may have been, all along, that all the college kids started to realize together (as I think they are still) that there was something sick at the roots of this tree of knowledge as it was then constituted. Strangely, dangerously healing, egalitarian ideas began to take hold; demographics changed, and the country began to move to the left. The 90s was the era of the tenured radical on campus, and the culture wars grew white-hot. Al Gore was elected president, and was prevented by the merest whisker from taking office. Even a barely left of center President Gore would have made things a little too parlous for the powers that be, who are on the same side as the Giannullis of the world.

Hess told me that some people think there’s one kind of education within the purview of everyone willing to work to get it, the “embarrassing” kind, and then there’s another kind that is luxury goods, strictly for “elites” from “elite” institutions—however corrupt the latter may be—served tableside by an underpaid servant class.

But the egalitarian view of education and the luxury view are mutually exclusive. Pulling up the drawbridge around your ivory tower only cuts it off from the global commons, which alone can provide the intellectual atmosphere in which a free society, and its academy, can breathe and thrive. Power wants its “meritocracy”: thus the eternal cake-having rhetoric around higher education, the queasy mingling of “exclusivity” and “diversity.”

Note too that the ruling class protects its interests as starkly on the fake left of the centrist Democrats as it does on the right, where the Koch brothers have long bought professors like they were so many cups of coffee. In Jacobin, Liza Featherstone’s … [more]
education  elitism  highered  highereducation  2019  mariabustillos  culture  society  smartness  petebuttigieg  operationvaristyblues  meritocracy  us  capitalism  competition  scarcity  lizafeatherstone  donaldtrump  centrism  herbchildress  academia  colleges  universities  rankings  admissions 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart
"He holds degrees from Harvard and Oxford. Like many Ivy League grads, he also worked as a consultant for McKinsey. He won a national essay contest in high school. He speaks eight languages, including English, Norwegian, Maltese, Italian, French, Spanish, Dari, and Arabic. He learned Norwegian to read a favorite author in that language, and at a recent press conference, spoke with some Norwegian journalists in their native tongue. He was a Rhodes Scholar.

He’s been precocious all his life — no wonder that at only thirty-seven he’s running for president. Pete Buttigieg, son of two professors, is a classic Smart Dude, and there is nothing journalists love more. His followers even have a proudly know-it-all approach to his name, showing up at his rallies with signs explaining, “It’s Pete BOOT-Edge-Edge.” He says he’s all about “bringing forward good ideas.”

For the upper professional-managerial class (PMC), guys like this represent a dreamy ideal of human supremacy. That’s because for them, all of life is an Ivy League application. Well-rounded “smartness” is everything, even in the wake of recent news that this is not necessarily what elite college admissions are based upon.

As a result, BOOTedgedge has been the focus of a media frenzy, despite polling far behind Sanders and Biden (even 538 is skeptical of his recent much-ballyhooed jump in Iowa). CNN’s Chris Cillizza finds his resumé “remarkable.” Some call him “bookish.” Queerty.com exults that he “represents the best and brightest of our country.” A New Republic headline uses the word “Genius.”

Liberal feminists have rightly bristled at the collective ecstasy over the mighty dome of BOOTedgedge. When economist boy-wonder Alan Cole tweeted this week, “Mayor Pete seems head and shoulders smarter than the other candidates running and IMO that should count for quite a lot,” he was widely and correctly rebuked for sexism. What about Elizabeth Warren, asked Katha Pollitt, Jill Filipovic, and many others. The Twittersphere weighed in with lists of Warren’s accomplishments. Others pointed out that the tweet was possibly racist as well as sexist; Julian Castro holds degrees from Harvard, Harvard Law School, and Stanford, and Cory Booker was, like BOOTedgedge, a Rhodes Scholar, among a pile of other academic achievements.

The question of what “smart” even means and why this type of smart should matter in a presidential race got less attention. One person rightly asked, “are you sure he’s not just smart in the ways you also fancy yourself to also be smart.” No one asked why this particular form of well-credentialed “smart” should “count for quite a lot.”

That’s because while the PMC are often eager to be more inclusive about who gets to be “smart” — women, black people — they have tremendous faith in the concept itself. They love rich people whose intelligence has made them prosper: they may cringe at the science-denying Koch Brothers but they went into deep mourning when Steve Jobs died. They devour Malcolm Gladwell’s veneration of the wisdom of genius entrepreneurs over the plodding, clueless masses.

This notion of “smart” allows elites to recast inequality as meritocracy. In this narrative, you’re rich because you did well in high school and went to Princeton, not because capitalism has taken something from someone else and given it to you. Yet the culture of smart is not all smugness; it also contains a heavy dose of fear. The PMC understands that while it’s fun to brag about having a kid like BOOTedgeedge, it’s not optional (like, say, having a pet that can do weird tricks, a cat that can use a human toilet, for instance). In the neoliberal order, if you’re not born into the top 0.1 percent, you have to be “smart” and unusually talented and motivated, otherwise you will not only lose what privileges you have, but possibly not even survive. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman once gleefully proclaimed, “Average is over.”

The PMC therefore tries hard to make their children “gifted” and to nourish their talents, an effort that is supposed to culminate in the kind of august institutional validation that BOOTedgedge has enjoyed. Because they have, all their lives, felt a certain panic about the need to be college-application impressive, the PMC has come to see such impressiveness as somehow morally admirable. For people like this, the recent college admissions scandal, exposing corruption at institutions like Yale and USC, occasions not eye-rolling and wisecracks, as it does on dirtbag Twitter (this writer is guilty), but earnest hand-wringing about fairness and social justice. Smartness, to them, makes some people more deserving of the good life than others. Smartness culture is social Darwinism for liberals.

This obsession pervades the politics of the PMC. Trump’s proud ignorance and shameless pandering to the nation’s dumbness often seems to gall them more than his inhumane, death-drive policies. This class always seeks a Smart Dude as savior. Obama, of course, represents successful fulfillment of this dream, and they can’t wait to repeat it. Beto, after some initial signs of promise, has now revealed himself to be a dummy who has to ask his wife on the proper usage of “subconscious.” Hence, BOOTedgedge mania.

The quest reflects a theory of change in which, as political scientist Adolph Reed Jr remarked years ago, describing the worldview of some of his academic colleagues, “all the smart people get together on the Vineyard and solve the world’s problems.” Davos is the fullest expression of this: elites get together and showcase how smart they are, advertising how fit they are to be our ruling elites.

It’s oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of “smartness” culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad.

This Democratic primary lineup is not the worst, and within it, neither is Mayor Pete (the term used by those not quite smart enough to pronounce BOOTedgedge). He seems to support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in some form. He invested in infrastructure in South Bend. He won office as an openly gay man in Mike Pence country and has a record of connecting with voters who voted for Trump. And there’s no question that he’d be a better president than Trump or some of his Democratic primary competitors. We do need a president capable of reading a book, not one reveling proudly in his ignorance like the current occupant of the White House, who seems to reflect our dumbest tendencies insultingly right back to us. (When Trump this week fantasized that a Hillary Clinton victory would have turned the power grid over to solar energy and deprived us of the joy of watching TV, the writer Tara Rose aptly observed, “He’s so perfect for the kind of stupid that we are.”) A BOOTedgedge presidency would reassure those of us who believe in things like science and logic that we have stepped back from the braying idiocy that now envelopes us like a toxic plume. Of course, that would be a pleasant reprieve.

But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. “Smart” is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: “Not Me, Us.” The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."
elitism  meritocracy  2019  petebuttigieg  smartness  lizafeatherstone  inequality  berniesanders  politics  elections  saviors  merit  liberalism  socialdarwinism  malcolmgladwell  genius 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Why College Is So Expensive In America - YouTube
"College in the United States is expensive. The cost of higher education just keeps going up. Tuition costs at both public and private universities have doubled since the late 80s, while accounting for inflation.

"I think that it's so ingrained in your head that you have to go to college, that college is the next step after graduation," said Jarret Freeman, a college graduate with roughly $50,000 in student debt. "I think in hindsight, I see that college is not for everyone."

But a college education is becoming more and more necessary to succeed in today's economy. Georgetown University estimates that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require more than a high school degree.

Students graduate with an average of $37,172 in student loan debt. It all adds up to $1.5 trillion across the country.

Watch the video above to learn how higher education became big business, hear from former students facing mounting debt and explore why it's so important to solve the student debt crisis."
colleges  universities  tuition  studentloans  studentdebt  money  2019  education  highered  highereducation  rankings  usnewsandworldreport  wealth  inequality  tests  testing  meritocracy  data  sat  standardizedtesting  funding 
april 2019 by robertogreco
What Makes a Fair College Admissions Process? | JSTOR Daily
"Move Away from Meritocracy
Nadirah Farah Foley

Especially in the wake of the recent news of a coordinated bribery scheme, many people seem to agree our selective college admissions process is broken. There is far less consensus, however, about why we think it’s broken, and what a better, fairer admissions process would look like. Some think that the process would be fair if it were conducted without special considerations for legacy students, development cases, or athletic recruitment. Others go further, focusing on the myriad mundane ways—aside from bribery and donations—that the system allows privileged people to leverage their resources to secure and perpetuate their advantages. But I contend the process is inherently unfair because it is based on meritocratic principles designed to produce unequal outcomes. A truly fair system would reject meritocratic logics and instead operate on the principle that high-quality education is not a reward for the few, but a right of the many.

Our current process, in which applicants are stratified into a hierarchical higher education landscape, takes a meritocratic ideology as its foundational premise. Meritocracy, the term popularized by British sociologist Michael Young’s 1958 The Rise of the Meritocracy, is typically imagined as a system in which all have equal opportunity to compete on a “level playing field” on the basis of “talent” and “ability,” and all are rewarded equitably based on their “merit.” While this system sounds fair at first blush, a meritocratic ideology poses two problems, either of which should be sufficient cause to critically question it, and perhaps abandon it entirely.

First, upholding meritocracy necessarily entails accepting and upholding inequality. In the case of college admissions, we currently have a system in which some schools have more resources, are more prestigious, and are deemed “better” than others, and those schools have limited seats. We try to allocate those seats “fairly,” on the basis of demonstrated past success and evaluations of future potential. It’s far from a perfect system, but we can rationalize it as ideologically consistent with a meritocratic ideal of equal opportunity and reward for individual talent, effort, and ability. But perhaps, rather than focusing on who “deserves” the “best” schooling, our societal commitment should be to making a high-quality education available to all. Such a commitment would require a rejection of the stratification and inequality presupposed by a meritocratic system and lead us to question whether a stratified society—and assignment to places in an unequal education system—could ever be just.

Second, even if one were inclined to find inequality and stratification acceptable, the reality is that we are so far from the ideals of equal opportunity and a level playing field that the unfairness is glaringly obvious. As sociologist Jonathan Mijs argues, opportunities for demonstrating merit are far from equally distributed. In the United States, where racial residential segregation and local control of schools combine to disproportionately relegate nonwhite (especially black) students to underfunded schools, the claim that anything approaching equal opportunity exists is laughable. Our emphasis on standardized tests, which have roots in racist, ableist, eugenicist science, evinces a narrow understanding of what intelligence is or could be. Holistic admissions evaluations, which provide necessary latitude to consider students’ contexts and lived experiences, also provide privileged applicants another opportunity to show off well-filled extracurricular profiles and essays carefully coached and edited by counselors and consultants. In sum, our current admissions process is—top to bottom—built to misrecognize privilege as “merit,” and thus advantage the already advantaged. To say wealthy white applicants are gaming the system belies the fact that they’re really just playing the game—a game in which only they have full access to the equipment. Perhaps the way to fix this is not to try to change the rules, but to stop playing the meritocratic game entirely.

If that seems a drastic proposal, let me try to convince you it’s a necessary one. We could try to work within the current system, striking the policies that are most obviously and egregiously unfair: legacy, donor admissions, early decision, recruitment of athletes in country club sports. While an improvement, this does nothing to address the fact that even with those components stripped out, the process still falls far short of fairness, because our very metrics of merit are skewed toward privilege. We could try to calibrate for disadvantage, but that’s essentially what holistic evaluation tries to do now—and it’s not enough. Meritocracy is an arms race, one in which the privileged are always better equipped.

We could, as many scholars have proposed, move toward a lottery, which would go a long way toward making explicit the role of luck in college admissions. But I’m concerned by the way some thinkers discuss a potential admissions lottery. Proponents of a lottery often suggest that there should be some baseline level of “merit” in order to enter the lottery. Such a formulation of the lottery doesn’t entail a rejection of our metrics of merit, meaning it would likely reproduce existing inequalities. To avoid that, a lottery would need to not use simple random selection, but instead be carefully calibrated to ensure the resulting class is not just representative of the pool (in which wealthy white students are overrepresented), but of graduating high school students. That could be achieved by assigning different weights to students depending on their background, or by using a form of stratified random selection, in which the applicant pool would be divided into smaller pools based on, for example, demographic factors, and a certain number of students would be accepted at random from each pool.

The lottery is an exciting idea, but one likely to run into legal challenges. And beyond that, it doesn’t do enough to address the unfairness inherent in our unequal education system. I think we need to go a step further than asking what constitutes a fair admissions process, and instead ask what constitutes a fair society. We should recognize that our college admissions process is merely holding a mirror up to our society, reflecting how competitive, individualistic, unequal, and unfair the United States is. A truly radical solution would require the reorganization of our entire class structure and the redistribution of resources, thus obviating the need for such a high-stakes college application process.

It seems that we cling to meritocracy as a way of clinging to some hope of a better life in an increasingly unequal world. But rather than investing our hope in a fairer admissions system, I think we should dream bigger, and invest our hope in a more just society—one in which we live in community rather than competition. That might look like taking up Harvard professor Lani Guinier’s call to emphasize “democratic merit,” or it might look like dispensing with merit—and its attendant acceptance of deserved inequality—entirely.

Everyone deserves access to education. A fair admissions system would have that as a core premise and reject ostensibly just, “meritocratic” inequalities."
juliepark  christineyano  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  admissions  colleges  universities  meritocracy  lottery  collegeadmissions  highered  highereducation  merit  inequality  academia  academics  education  school  schooling  us  firness  laniguinier  democracy  privilege  jonathanmills  race  racism  michaelyoung 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud - The New York Times
[using this bookmark as a placeholder for many links on this topic:

"Varsity Blues and the Destructive Myth of Meritocracy"
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/183433523388/varsity-blues-and-the-destructive-myth-of

"Inside the audacious college scheme to get kids of the rich and famous into elite schools"
https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-college-admission-scheme-varsity-blues-20190312-story.html

"The College Bribery Scam Reveals How Rich People Use 'Charity' to Cheat
Anand Giridharadas explains how alleged payoffs to test takers and athletic coaches are part of a larger ecosystem of elite hypocrisy."
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/panw7g/the-college-bribery-scam-shows-how-rich-people-felicity-huffman-lori-loughlin-allegedly-use-charity-to-cheat

"All College Admissions Are a Pay-to-Play Scandal"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-bribery-scandal-felicity-huffman-loughlin-analysis-explained.html

"One of Silicon Valley’s most prominent voices for ethical investing is implicated in a college admissions bribery scandal"
https://www.recode.net/2019/3/12/18262003/bill-mcglashan-college-admissions-scandal-tpg-stanford-usc-yale

"What the role of one Silicon Valley entrepreneur reveals about the college admissions scandal"
https://twitter.com/i/events/1105618857320865792

"The unfortunate reality behind meritocracy"
https://dellsystem.me/posts/fragments-71

"College Admission Scam Involved Photoshopping Rich Kids’ Heads Onto Athletes’ Bodies"
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-kids-photoshopped-as-athletes.html

"Two CEOs. A wine magnate. A doctor: The Bay Area parents charged in a college bribe scandal"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Two-CEOs-A-wine-magnate-A-doctor-The-Bay-Area-13683029.php

"Why the College-Admissions Scandal Is So Absurd: For the parents charged in a new FBI investigation, crime was a cheaper and simpler way to get their kids into elite schools than the typical advantages wealthy applicants receive."
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/college-admissions-scandal-fbi-targets-wealthy-parents/584695/

"In the college admissions game, even the legal kind, money has always mattered"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/In-the-college-admissions-game-even-the-legal-13683518.php

"Fifty charged in massive college admissions scheme"
https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/fifty-charged-in-massive-college-admissions-scheme-1456907331756

"Bribes to Get Into Yale and Stanford? What Else Is New?: A new college admissions scandal is just the latest proof of a grossly uneven playing field."
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/opinion/college-bribery-admissions.html

"Bribery ringleader said he helped 750 families in admissions scheme"
https://www.axios.com/william-singer-college-bribery-fraud-scheme-d769eb2c-dfb2-4ea0-99f3-8135241c5984.html

"College admission scandal grew out of a system that was ripe for corruption"
https://theconversation.com/college-admission-scandal-grew-out-of-a-system-that-was-ripe-for-corruption-113439

"College Admissions Scandal Exposes Moral Rot at the Heart of US Plutocracy"
https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2019/03/13/college-admissions-scandal-exposes-moral-rot-at-the-heart-of-us-plutocracy/



Additional articles and resource predating the scandal, but relevant to the topic.

[syllabus] "Reconsidering Merit(ocracy)In K-12, Higher Education, and Beyond"
https://www.nadirahfarahfoley.com/reconsidering-meritocracy

"guest post: “legacy” admissions vs familial capital and the importance of precision"
https://scatter.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/guest-post-legacy-admissions-vs-familial-capital-and-the-importance-of-precision/

"Against Meritocracy: Culture, power and myths of mobility"
https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781317496045

"The Unfulfillable Promise of Meritocracy: Three Lessons and their Implications for Justice in Education"
https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/6w9rg/

"A Radical Plan to Combat Inequality in College Admissions: It's time universities began to think of themselves as producers of value, not arbiters of merit."
https://psmag.com/education/a-radical-plan-to-combat-inequality-in-college-admissions

"Racial Literacy as a Curricular Requirement: A core curriculum must be institutionalized and mandated for all students, argues Daisy Verduzco Reyes."
https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/03/08/colleges-should-have-required-core-curriculum-racial-literacy-opinion

"'I'm Tired Of Justifying My Admissions Letter To People'"
https://www.wbur.org/edify/2019/02/25/affirmative-action-self-advocacy

"White parents are enabling school segregation — if it doesn't hurt their own kids
This is what happens when anti-racism is no longer a major goal of educational policy."
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/white-parents-are-enabling-school-segregation-if-it-doesn-t-ncna978446

"White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege"
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hagerman-white-parents-20180930-story.html

"How Elite Schools Stay So White"
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/opinion/affirmative-action-new-york-harvard.html ]
colleges  universities  admissions  privilege  wealth  inequality  operationvarsityblues  scandals  legacy  legacyadmissions  race  racism  power  meritocracy  bribery  elitism  siliconvalley  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  margarethagerman  noahberlatsky  nadirahfarahfoley  2019  education  parenting  economics  class  cheating  sats  testing  standardizedtesting  daisyverduzcoreyes  us  competitiveness  worth  value  merit  competition  motivation 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Yong Zhao "What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education" - YouTube
"Proponents of standardized testing and privatization in education have sought to prove their effectiveness in improving education with an abundance of evidence. These efforts, however, can have dangerous side effects, causing long-lasting damage to children, teachers, and schools. Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas, will argue that education interventions are like medical products: They can have serious, sometimes detrimental, side effects while also providing cures. Using standardized testing and privatization as examples, Zhao, author of the internationally bestselling Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, will talk about his new book on why and how pursuing a narrow set of short-term outcomes causes irreparable harm in education."
yongzhao  2018  schools  schooling  pisa  education  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  china  us  history  testscores  children  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  sideeffects  privatization  tims  math  reading  confidence  assessment  economics  depression  diversity  entrepreneurship  japan  creativity  korea  vietnam  homogenization  intolerance  prosperity  tolerance  filtering  sorting  humans  meritocracy  effort  inheritance  numeracy  literacy  achievementgap  kindergarten  nclb  rttt  policy  data  homogeneity  selectivity  charterschools  centralization  decentralization  local  control  inequity  curriculum  autonomy  learning  memorization  directinstruction  instruction  poverty  outcomes  tfa  teachforamerica  finland  singapore  miltonfriedman  vouchers  resilience  growthmindset  motivation  psychology  research  positivepsychology  caroldweck  intrinsicmotivation  choice  neoliberalism  high-stakestesting 
march 2019 by robertogreco
How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
[some follow-up notes here:
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/how-millennials-grew-up-and-burned
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/its-that-simple ]

[See also:

“Here’s What “Millennial Burnout” Is Like For 16 Different People: “My grandmother was a teacher and her mother was a slave. I was born burned out.””
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennial-burnout-perspectives

“This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like: If the American dream isn’t possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore, then what am I even striving for?”
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tianaclarkpoet/millennial-burnout-black-women-self-care-anxiety-depression

“Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout: This is a societal scourge, not a generational one. So how can we solve it?”
https://newrepublic.com/article/152872/millennials-dont-monopoly-burnout ]

"We didn’t try to break the system, since that’s not how we’d been raised. We tried to win it.

I never thought the system was equitable. I knew it was winnable for only a small few. I just believed I could continue to optimize myself to become one of them. And it’s taken me years to understand the true ramifications of that mindset. I’d worked hard in college, but as an old millennial, the expectations for labor were tempered. We liked to say we worked hard, played hard — and there were clear boundaries around each of those activities. Grad school, then, is where I learned to work like a millennial, which is to say, all the time. My new watchword was “Everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good”: Things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working; things that should’ve felt “bad” (working all the time) felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed."



"The social media feed — and Instagram in particular — is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn’t. Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like. And when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we’ve been told we should receive from a good job that’s “fulfilling,” balanced with a personal life that’s equally so, the best way to convince yourself you’re feeling it is to illustrate it for others.

For many millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has also become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. The “purest” example is the social media influencer, whose entire income source is performing and mediating the self online. But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.

“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.

But the phone is also, and just as essentially, a tether to the “real” workplace. Email and Slack make it so that employees are always accessible, always able to labor, even after they’ve left the physical workplace and the traditional 9-to-5 boundaries of paid labor. Attempts to discourage working “off the clock” misfire, as millennials read them not as permission to stop working, but a means to further distinguish themselves by being available anyway.

“We are encouraged to strategize and scheme to find places, times, and roles where we can be effectively put to work,” Harris, the Kids These Days author, writes. “Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”

But as sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg points out, that efficiency was supposed to give us more job security, more pay, perhaps even more leisure. In short, better jobs.

Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation. We put up with companies treating us poorly because we don’t see another option. We don’t quit. We internalize that we’re not striving hard enough. And we get a second gig."



"That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial."



"In his writing about burnout, the psychoanalyst Cohen describes a client who came to him with extreme burnout: He was the quintessential millennial child, optimized for perfect performance, which paid off when he got his job as a high-powered finance banker. He’d done everything right, and was continuing to do everything right in his job. One morning, he woke up, turned off his alarm, rolled over, and refused to go to work. He never went to work again. He was “intrigued to find the termination of his employment didn’t bother him.”

In the movie version of this story, this man moves to an island to rediscover the good life, or figures out he loves woodworking and opens a shop. But that’s the sort of fantasy solution that makes millennial burnout so pervasive. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

But individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.

Until or in lieu of a … [more]
capitalism  neoliberalism  millennials  burnout  chores  work  parenting  2019  annehelenpetersen  cv  society  us  performance  meritocracy  inequality  competition  labor  leisure  perfectionism  success  schooliness  helicopterparenting  children  academia  economics  genx  genz  generations  generationx  socialmedia  instagram  balance  life  living  gigeconomy  passion  self-care  self-optimization  exhaustion  anxiety  decisionmaking  congnitiveload  insecurity  precarity  poverty  steadiness  laziness  procrastination  helicopterparents  work-lifebalance  canon  malcolmharris  joshcohen  hustling  hustle  overwork  arnekalleberg  efficiency  productivity  workplace  email  adulting  personalbranding  linkedin  facebook  consumption  homelessness  context  behavior 
january 2019 by robertogreco
We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About the Future Of Schools
"Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education"



"As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu of soul-crushing activities like reading The Outsiders and using protractors. And though the latter reformers are often critics of the former, the two have a lot in common.

Both represent billion-dollar industries. Both frequently co-opt a rhetoric of liberation, autonomy, and empowerment. Both can barely disguise a deep disdain for teachers and schools, especially of the “sage on the stage” variety. And both are almost exclusively headed up by white men.

These are the kind of people setting a bold agenda for the future of education.

Admittedly, us unruly American educators would have a hard time coming up with anything coherent enough to compete with the brave visions set forth by the leaders of these two industries. The very fact that such an all-encompassing solution is needed testifies to their dominance in framing the narrative around American schools. Mired in the day-to-day challenges and complexities of actually caring for and educating children, many teachers exhibit a complete failure of imagination when it comes to sweeping monolithic initiatives with pithy acronyms, eye-catching logos, and font pairings that are straight fire.

But we do need to change. Beyond the usual Alice Cooper-type critiques, we teachers have been especially complicit in the widespread marginalizing, neuroticizing, and criminalizing of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we need to stop boring future white rockstars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. This is already well known. But, more importantly, we also need to stop harming children of color with our whitewashed curriculum, inequitable funding systems, and disparate use of punitive disciplinary measures.

Can today’s reformers help us make progress toward these goals? Or do they exacerbate, perpetuate, and contribute to the very problems we face?

Trying to pin deception, manipulation, and violence on this rag-tag bunch leaves me feeling petty and mean-spirited. After all, they’re often so upbeat and sincere, their rhetoric so humanistic and progressive. Ted Dintersmith, former venture capitalist and billionaire author of the book What School Could Be, recently teamed up with Prince Ea, who has made not one but two viral videos echoing the same message: schools must change. And on the standards and accountability side, David Coleman, “architect” of the Common Core and now CEO of the College Board, has boldly laid out a “beautiful vision” for American schools. In a field plagued by widespread mediocrity and entrenched inequities, shouldn’t we applaud any moves toward a more inspiring, inclusive future?

The problem is that, despite all the rhetoric and good intentions, both these movements have had a devastating effect on education, all while continually escaping blame for their outsized impact. Any negative outcomes are used to justify further expansion and dominance. Poor test scores and persistent achievement gaps aren’t seen as issues with the tests, but as misalignment and implicit bias on the part of teachers. Student attention deficit and boredom aren’t seen as a function of technology addiction, but rather an occasion to blast schools for their inability to fully capitalize on the promise of the digital age.

Not surprisingly, this seeming unassailable innocence reveals close links to the logics of white supremacy culture, especially the values of individualism, objectivity, and so-called meritocracy. They additionally amplify neoliberal beliefs in the absolute goods of privacy and consumer choice, thus shifting the blame away from dominant elites under the guise of “empowerment.” To borrow the central metaphor from Todd Rose’s The End of Average, they ultimately seek to style us as fighter pilots in the “cockpits of our economy,” where we must summon limitless initiative, grit, and resourcefulness just to survive.

Ultimately, their ideas are rooted in America’s original “solutions” to the problems of pluralism, wherein subtle self-effacement and silencing became stratagems for consolidating power. All of this is part of a long tradition in the United States, one that dates back to colonial times, guiding both the “Strange Compromise” of 1789 and the founding of the Common School. Although these roots may be less obvious in our day, they are arguably more powerful and moneyed than ever before."



"Ultimately, the several silences of education reform have proven a powerful gambit for privatization and profit. These industries implicitly offer themselves as neutral alternatives to our fraught political climate, much as Horace Mann’s enjoinder to “read without comment” secularized schools in a sectarian age. They also shift the onus of agency and ownership from themselves onto the student, who assumes full responsibility for finding and following their own educational path.

Whereas Mann, perhaps unconsciously, hoped to indoctrinate students into his supposedly doctrineless Unitarianism, these reformers peddle the so-called empty doctrines of individualism, personalization, objectivity, entrepreneurialism, and meritocracy—all while exacerbating inequities and deprofessionalizing teachers.

Resisting these trends starts by seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Anything that counsels and valorizes silence—before the text, the test, or even the individual student—may partake in this phenomenon. The primary effect is always to atomize: content into itemized bits, classrooms into individualized projects and timelines, and each of us into solitary individuals pursuing personalized pathways.

Among the many omissions implicit in this vision is the notion that each student has equal access to a pathway of choice. Once that false premise is established, you are truly on your own. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, find your own personal road less traveled, dive headfirst into the entrepreneurial shark tank. Unfortunately, far too many smaller-scale reform movements espouse a similar ethos, often flooding Twitter with a toxic positivity that ignores intransigent inequities and injustices."



"None of this is intended to romanticize the educational mainstays of the past: lectures, textbooks, worksheets. But we should note how these more modern trends themselves often devolve into regressive, behaviorist, sit-and-get pedagogy.

Confronted by daunting challenges like widespread budget shortfalls, inequitable funding, increasing school segregation, whitewashed curriculum, and racial injustice, it’s no wonder we would reach for solutions that appear easy, inexpensive, and ideologically empty. At a time when we most need to engage in serious deliberations about the purposes and future of schools, we instead equivocate and efface ourselves before tests and technology, leaving students to suffer or succeed within their own educational echo chamber.

As appealing as these options may seem, they are not without content or consequences. Ironically, today’s progressive educators find themselves in the strange position of having to fight reform, resisting those who would render everything—including their own intentions and impact—invisible."
arthurchiaravalli  education  edreform  reform  history  invisibility  progressive  siliconvalley  infividualism  horacemann  2018  collegeboard  individualism  personalization  commonschool  us  inequality  justice  socialjustice  injustice  race  racism  whitesupremacy  reading  hilarymoss  thomasjefferson  commoncore  davidcoleman  politics  policy  closereading  howweread  ela  johnstuartmill  louiserosenblatt  sat  standardizedtesting  standardization  tedtalks  teddintersmith  democracy  kenrobinson  willrichardson  entrepreneurship  toddrose  mikecrowley  summitschools  religion  secularism  silence  privatization  objectivity  meritocracy  capitalism  teaching  howweteach  schools  publicschools  learning  children  ideology  behaviorism  edtech  technology  society  neoliberalism 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Educational Tyranny of the Neurotypicals | WIRED
"Ben Draper, who runs the Macomber Center for Self Directed Learning, says that while the center is designed for all types of children, kids whose parents identify them as on the autism spectrum often thrive at the center when they’ve had difficulty in conventional schools. Ben is part of the so-called unschooling movement, which believes that not only should learning be self-directed, in fact we shouldn't even focus on guiding learning. Children will learn in the process of pursuing their passions, the reasoning goes, and so we just need to get out of their way, providing support as needed.

Many, of course, argue that such an approach is much too unstructured and verges on irresponsibility. In retrospect, though, I feel I certainly would have thrived on “unschooling.” In a recent paper, Ben and my colleague Andre Uhl, who first introduced me to unschooling, argue that it not only works for everyone, but that the current educational system, in addition to providing poor learning outcomes, impinges on the rights of children as individuals.

MIT is among a small number of institutions that, in the pre-internet era, provided a place for non-neurotypical types with extraordinary skills to gather and form community and culture. Even MIT, however, is still trying to improve to give these kids the diversity and flexibility they need, especially in our undergraduate program.

I'm not sure how I'd be diagnosed, but I was completely incapable of being traditionally educated. I love to learn, but I go about it almost exclusively through conversations and while working on projects. I somehow kludged together a world view and life with plenty of struggle, but also with many rewards. I recently wrote a PhD dissertation about my theory of the world and how I developed it. Not that anyone should generalize from my experience—one reader of my dissertation said that I’m so unusual, I should be considered a "human sub-species." While I take that as a compliment, I think there are others like me who weren’t as lucky and ended up going through the traditional system and mostly suffering rather than flourishing. In fact, most kids probably aren’t as lucky as me and while some types are more suited for success in the current configuration of society, a huge percentage of kids who fail in the current system have a tremendous amount to contribute that we aren’t tapping into.

In addition to equipping kids for basic literacy and civic engagement, industrial age schools were primarily focused on preparing kids to work in factories or perform repetitive white-collar jobs. It may have made sense to try to convert kids into (smart) robotlike individuals who could solve problems on standardized tests alone with no smartphone or the internet and just a No. 2 pencil. Sifting out non-neurotypical types or trying to remediate them with drugs or institutionalization may have seemed important for our industrial competitiveness. Also, the tools for instruction were also limited by the technology of the times. In a world where real robots are taking over many of those tasks, perhaps we need to embrace neurodiversity and encourage collaborative learning through passion, play, and projects, in other words, to start teaching kids to learn in ways that machines can’t. We can also use modern technology for connected learning that supports diverse interests and abilities and is integrated into our lives and communities of interest.

At the Media Lab, we have a research group called Lifelong Kindergarten, and the head of the group, Mitchel Resnick, recently wrote a book by the same name. The book is about the group’s research on creative learning and the four Ps—Passion, Peers, Projects, and Play. The group believes, as I do, that we learn best when we are pursuing our passion and working with others in a project-based environment with a playful approach. My memory of school was "no cheating,” “do your own work,” "focus on the textbook, not on your hobbies or your projects," and "there’s time to play at recess, be serious and study or you'll be shamed"—exactly the opposite of the four Ps.

Many mental health issues, I believe, are caused by trying to “fix” some type of neurodiversity or by simply being insensitive or inappropriate for the person. Many mental “illnesses” can be “cured” by providing the appropriate interface to learning, living, or interacting for that person focusing on the four Ps. My experience with the educational system, both as its subject and, now, as part of it, is not so unique. I believe, in fact, that at least the one-quarter of people who are diagnosed as somehow non-neurotypical struggle with the structure and the method of modern education. People who are wired differently should be able to think of themselves as the rule, not as an exception."
neurotypicals  neurodiversity  education  schools  schooling  learning  inequality  elitism  meritocracy  power  bias  diversity  autism  psychology  stevesilberman  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  ronsuskind  mentalhealth  mitchresnick  mit  mitemedialab  medialab  lifelongkindergarten  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  pedagogy  tyranny  2018  economics  labor  bendraper  flexibility  admissions  colleges  universities  joiito 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Societies | Free Full-Text | Inequality Is a Problem of Inference: How People Solve the Social Puzzle of Unequal Outcomes
"A new wave of scholarship recognizes the importance of people’s understanding of inequality that underlies their political convictions, civic values, and policy views. Much less is known, however, about the sources of people’s different beliefs. I argue that scholarship is hampered by a lack of consensus regarding the conceptualization and measurement of inequality beliefs, in the absence of an organizing theory. To fill this gap, in this paper, I develop a framework for studying the social basis of people’s explanations for inequality. I propose that people observe unequal outcomes and must infer the invisible forces that brought these about, be they meritocratic or structural in nature. In making inferences about the causes of inequality, people draw on lessons from past experience and information about the world, both of which are biased and limited by their background, social networks, and the environments they have been exposed to. Looking at inequality beliefs through this lens allows for an investigation into the kinds of experiences and environments that are particularly salient in shaping people’s inferential accounts of inequality. Specifically, I make a case for investigating how socializing institutions such as schools and neighborhoods are “inferential spaces” that shape how children and young adults come to learn about their unequal society and their own place in it. I conclude by proposing testable hypotheses and implications for research."
inequality  meritocracy  2018  schooling  schools  education  unschooling  deschooling  democracy  neighborhoods  society  institutions  jonathanmijs 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Visualizing Belief in Meritocracy, 1930–2010 - Jonathan J. B. Mijs, 2018
"In this figure I describe the long trend in popular belief in meritocracy across the Western world between 1930 and 2010. Studying trends in attitudes is limited by the paucity of survey data that can be compared across countries and over time. Here, I show how to complement survey waves with cohort-level data. Repeated surveys draw on a representative sample of the population to describe the typical beliefs held by citizens in a given country and period. Leveraging the fact that citizens surveyed in a given year were born in different time-periods allows for a comparison of beliefs across birth cohorts. The latter overlaps with the former, but considerably extends the time period covered by the data. Taken together, the two measures give a “triangulated” longitudinal record of popular belief in meritocracy. I find that in most countries, popular belief in meritocracy is (much) stronger for more recent periods and cohorts."

[via: https://twitter.com/kimmaicutler/status/1063450153217077249
""I hope people know that when the idea of “meritocracy” was initially popularized by Michael Dunlop Young in his 1958 book, it was meant to be a satirical and dystopian critique of the UK educational system. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_the_Meritocracy "]
meritocracy  inequality  2018  society  jonathanmijs 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Education That's Just for the "So-called Talented Young People" is "Sort of a Bullshit Construct" | | Eye on Design
"I’m conscious of how personal liberty has been co-opted by a really aggressive, neoliberal, capitalist model. Education is shifting—we’re moving towards mass education systems—and I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’m happy to move away from the highly selective notion of education for the so-called talented young people, because it’s sort of a bullshit construct. It has to do with access, privileges, and the implicit and explicit biases of people who are making the selection. We need to rethink our approach: What does it mean to effectively operate a diverse, contradictory, and ambiguous education program? I think it’s feasible if we’re able to countenance the idea of not being experts, not in the sense of “let’s punish the experts,” but in terms of reconsidering our sense of where authority and knowledge lies.

Are we able to support the handing over of the education to the students? It’s a fight, because this is a generation of students who’ve been brought through an incredibly instrumental, formal education system, particularly in the UK, which is driven by grades and outcomes. We aim to offer scaffolding and support, which can be easily removed when students are developing their own mode of learning. They have every capacity, they just need the affordance to do it. To flourish and be agents of change, they need to hold on to the controls."



"We’re moving towards a point of revalidation [at Camberwell], we’re re-writing courses and talking about this a lot. I’m interested in pre-existing educational models, like that at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, where there’s a focus on thinking about how you contextualize your practice, how you flavor or inflect it with an understanding of a context. At Camberwell we’re thinking about introducing these “flavors,” which students will be able to align themselves with. We call it ‘Illustrator as…’ and then the inflections will be ‘as activist,’ ‘as author,’ ‘as educator,’ and ‘in industry.’

My aspiration would be that we’d be able to take inspiration from dynamic groups like Artist Placement Group [a London-based, artist-run organization formed in 1965, which sought to refocus art outside the gallery]. The organization announced itself as an artist consultant for big business. It seemed ridiculous, but in reality there’s massive potential—through the type of education and the organization that goes on just in terms of running your own project—to do that. I like the idea of breeding a bunch of sort-of saboteurs, who are able to go and change things from the inside, and be convincing and persuasive."
education  meritocracy  unschooling  2018  design  graphidesign  learning  howwelearn  elitism  deschooling  darrylclifton  lcproject  openstudioproject 
november 2018 by robertogreco
We can’t educate our kids out of inequality
"Those who tout the advantages of a good education like to conjure an image of some future society full of educated professionals all working stable, fulfilling, and salaried jobs. But even the worst students can look around the world and see through this. They can see the economic instability facing most people, and they know that a good education won’t undo the vagaries of the gig economy, or replace the protections of a union. But, they’re told, if you do well enough in school, then hopefully you won’t have to worry about that stuff.

This false promise was more disheartening that any other realization I had while working with students. Unfair tests, confusing admissions policies, unequal schools — all that is bad but sadly unsurprising, so you can prepare yourself for it. On the other hand, I was not prepared to lie to students about how, if they just figured out trig functions, then everything would be OK.

Education fetishism gives the illusion of fairness to society’s inequalities. Grades and test scores and college rankings mirror the stratification of the economy, and apply a thin veneer of meritocracy to that hierarchy. What students internalize about school is that it is primarily about ranking people. So attempts to improve education are really attempts to make those rankings more accurate, instead of making them less determinative. As long as this is true, then education is not really the solution to society’s problems. Even bold steps to improve schools and bring down college costs will not fix the problem of inequality, since status and sorting are also the results of education in America.

None of this is to say that education is bad or that schools should not be improved for their own sake. Learning things, after all, is fun. Education is great when it’s about teaching people stuff they want to know. But because school has to serve this burden of fixing social problems it is not equipped to fix, it cannot simply teach students interesting things they want to learn. Students should learn trig functions because they are an elegant solution to a complicated problem. They should read Hamlet because it’s a good play. They should learn things because there is value in learning them.

Instead, educators have to rend these subjects apart, breaking them into supposedly marketable skills like “reading comprehension” and “analytical reasoning” so that they can be used to demonstrate a student’s market value and justify patently unjust economic outcomes. As long as this is the case, then not only will inequality fail to get better, but education will continue to get worse. Instead of insisting we can educate ourselves out of the social problems capitalism creates, we should learn something new."



"This false promise was more disheartening that any other realization I had while working with students. Unfair tests, confusing admissions policies, unequal schools — all that is bad but sadly unsurprising, so you can prepare yourself for it. On the other hand, I was not prepared to lie to students about how, if they just figured out trig functions, then everything would be OK.

Education fetishism gives the illusion of fairness to society’s inequalities. Grades and test scores and college rankings mirror the stratification of the economy, and apply a thin veneer of meritocracy to that hierarchy. What students internalize about school is that it is primarily about ranking people. So attempts to improve education are really attempts to make those rankings more accurate, instead of making them less determinative. As long as this is true, then education is not really the solution to society’s problems. Even bold steps to improve schools and bring down college costs will not fix the problem of inequality, since status and sorting are also the results of education in America.

None of this is to say that education is bad or that schools should not be improved for their own sake. Learning things, after all, is fun. Education is great when it’s about teaching people stuff they want to know. But because school has to serve this burden of fixing social problems it is not equipped to fix, it cannot simply teach students interesting things they want to learn. Students should learn trig functions because they are an elegant solution to a complicated problem. They should read Hamlet because it’s a good play. They should learn things because there is value in learning them.

Instead, educators have to rend these subjects apart, breaking them into supposedly marketable skills like “reading comprehension” and “analytical reasoning” so that they can be used to demonstrate a student’s market value and justify patently unjust economic outcomes. As long as this is the case, then not only will inequality fail to get better, but education will continue to get worse. Instead of insisting we can educate ourselves out of the social problems capitalism creates, we should learn something new."
education  inequality  tutoring  schools  2018  hierarchy  economics  admissions  class  meritocracy  sorting  johnschneider  schooling  society  capitalism  gigeconomy  colleges  universities  grades  grading  learning  deschooling  unions  socialsafetynet  testing  bias 
november 2018 by robertogreco
John Warner on Twitter: "So It looks like the whole damn thing is rotten to its core with lots of powerful, privileged people protecting each other from scrutiny or punishment. Of course we all know this has been going on, but it's rare that it's exposed
"So It looks like the whole damn thing is rotten to its core with lots of powerful, privileged people protecting each other from scrutiny or punishment. Of course we all know this has been going on, but it's rare that it's exposed quite this openly.John Warner added,

[quoting @sarahposner (https://twitter.com/sarahposner/status/1042782775168958464 ):
"'No accident' Brett Kavanaugh's female law clerks 'looked like models', Yale professor told students https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/20/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court-yale-amy-chua
A top professor at Yale Law School who strongly endorsed supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a “mentor to women” privately told a group of law students last year that it was “not an accident” that Kavanaugh’s female law clerks all “looked like models” and would provide advice to students about their physical appearance if they wanted to work for him, the Guardian has learned.

Amy Chua, a Yale professor who wrote a bestselling book on parenting called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was known for instructing female law students who were preparing for interviews with Kavanaugh on ways they could dress to exude a “model-like” femininity to help them win a post in Kavanaugh’s chambers, according to sources.
]

What's interesting is how mundane all this is to the people inside the privileged spaces. This is just how things work for them, powerful men who get to prey upon women to varying degrees, with women who are granted admittance to that club willing to be some of the enforcers.

This is the meritocracy at work. As someone who has moved in meritocracy-adjacent spaces, but never joined, I've always known the meritocracy was total bullshit based on the people I knew who were inside it, but maybe, just maybe, the lid is being peeled back a bit.

I'm highly skeptical that these revelations will have any impact on the meritocracy, places like Yale/Harvard, the Supreme Court. Ultimately, these places are about power and no group in power has ever relinquished it willingly. The only alternative is to shift the locus of power

At the least, we should end the fiction that these privileged institutions are places of great wisdom or probity, rooted in enduring values. They're among the most corrupt places we have. Note this from the Guardian story about how Kavanaugh likes his female clerks to look.

[image: "Sources who spoke to the Guardian about their experiences with Chua and Rubenfeld would only speak under the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution and damage to their future careers."]

Those who are telling the truth know that to tell the truth publicly about the cesspool they're required to navigate would result in expulsion from the group. Next time someone says someone like Kavanaugh comes from the "best" places, remember it's more like the opposite.

The deep irony is that if all that these people are up to was truly known and exposed, a huge proportion of those coming out of these elite law schools would never be able to pass the American Bar Association's ethics requirement.

Here's how one of the court chroniclers of the meritocracy tries to thread the needle on the accusations. It should be embarrassing to commit this opinion into print, but to hold onto the perch, must placate the powerful while giving a sop to audience. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-kavanaugh-doppelganger/2018/09/18/88418f52-bb86-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html

I mean can we believe for even a second that this is Kathleen Parker's genuine opinion? How foolish do they expect us to be? Don't answer that. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-kavanaugh-doppelganger/2018/09/18/88418f52-bb86-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html

This Chua statement at the end of the Guardian article is an illustration of the self-reinforcing insularity of the meritocracy. In her mind, Kavanaugh only hires the most qualified clerks because so many are go on to the SC, as though the network of connections didn't matter.

[image: "The couple have hired a well-known crisis communications expert but he did not respond to specific questions from the Guardian about Chua’s remarks or the internal investigation.

In an emailed statement, Chua told the Guardian: “For the more than 10 years I’ve known him, Judge Kavanaugh’s first and only litmus test in hiring has been excellence. He hires only the most qualified clerks, and they have been diverse as well as exceptionally talented and capable.

“There is good reason so many of them have gone on to supreme court clerkships; he only hires those who are extraordinarily qualified. As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal, he has also been an exceptional mentor to his female clerks and a champion of their careers. Among my proudest moments as a parent was the day I learned our daughter would join those ranks.”"]

Consider the psychology underpinning this. Amy Chua is convinced she's helping identify the best, a very important perch, and it matters little that she may be perpetuating sexist and abusive practices as long as these people are reaching the heights of SC clerkships.

It's as thought success inside the meritocracy absolves all previous sins (if they were sins to begin with). If you achieve the spoils, who cares about who or what was damaged on the way? The connections to Chua's tiger mom-ing seem obvious.

Chua and her husband's championing of self-control is also interesting here. Apparently one of the things you're supposed to have self-control over is reporting potentially predatory behavior by powerful people. Chua new about Kozinski for years. Great ethics there.

In sum, those elite spaces are always going to be totally fucked up and if you want to play in those circles you figure out how to justify either tolerating and/or doing some fucked up shit. That we let these people run our most important and powerful institutions is a scandal.

When you hear that someone came out of an exclusive D.C. prep school, Yale undergrad and Yale law, we shouldn't be thinking how great they are, but instead wondering what kind of fucked up shit they've seen or done in order to navigate in such corrupt spaces.

Like a good way to trip up a Kavanaugh-type in an hearing would be to just say: Where did you and friends bury the drifter you hit with the car when you were driving home drunk from the Cape that one summer, and their eyes will go wide and they'll say, "How did you know?"

Now dreaming of a future where a big appointment is announced: Prep school educated, Yale undergrad, Yale law, Supreme Court clerkship, and the public knows to say, "Uh-oh."""
johnwarner  meritocracy  corruption  elitism  2018  privilege  brettkavanaugh  amychua  jedrubenfeld  collusion  politics  scotus  donaldtrump  ivyleague  law  legal  alexkozinski 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | The Democrats’ Gentrification Problem - The New York Times
"Research that focuses on the way city neighborhoods are changing by income, race and ethnicity, while not specifically addressed to political consequences, helps us see the potential for conflict within the Democratic coalition.

Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, published a detailed study in 2015 for the St. Louis Federal Reserve of the economic composition of neighborhoods. Overall, he found, “middle-income neighborhoods are tenuous,” while neighborhoods at the top and bottom of the economic ladder have remained strikingly stable."



"Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.”"



"As intraparty economic and racial divisions have increased within the Democratic coalition, the political power of the well-to-do has grown at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities."



"The maneuvers in California are a reflection of a larger problem for Democrats: their inability to reconcile the conflicts inherent in the party’s economic and racial bifurcation."



"Democratic politicians should respond by imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and spending the proceeds on the less well off."



"The progressivity of income taxes has decreased, reliance on regressive consumption taxes has increased, and the taxation of capital has followed a global race to the bottom. Instead of boosting infrastructure investment, governments have pursued austerity policies that are particularly harmful to low-skill workers. Big banks and corporations have been bailed out, but households have not. In the United States, the minimum wage has not been adjusted sufficiently, allowing it to erode in real terms."



Rodrik cites the work of the French economist Thomas Piketty, who argues that political parties on the left have been taken over, here and in Europe, “by the well-educated elite” — what Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left.” The Brahmin Left, writes Rodrik,
is not friendly to redistribution, because it believes in meritocracy — a world in which effort gets rewarded and low incomes are more likely to be the result of insufficient effort than poor luck.
"



"The Democrats will become the party of urban cosmopolitan business liberalism, and the Republicans will become the party of suburban and rural nationalist populism."



"The force that had historically pushed policy to the economic left — organized labor — has for the most part been marginalized. African-American and Hispanic voters have shown little willingness to join Democratic reform movements led by upper middle class whites, as shown in their lack of enthusiasm for Bill Bradley running against Al Gore in 2000 or Sanders running against Clinton in 2016.

The hurdle facing those seeking to democratize elite domination of the Democratic Party is finding voters and donors who have a sustained interest in redistributive policies — and the minimum wage is only a small piece of this. Achieving that goal requires an economically coherent center-left political coalition. It also requires the ability to overcome the seemingly insuperable political divisions between the white working class and the African-American and Hispanic working classes — that elusive but essential multiracial — and now multiethnic — majority. Establishing that majority in a coherent political coalition is the only way in which the economic interests of those in the bottom half of the income distribution will be effectively addressed."
inequality  us  politics  democrats  meritocracy  2018  democracy  taxes  capitalism  capital  gentrification  cities  urban  urbanism  nimbyism  california  policy  progressives  wealth  unions  labor  thomaspiketty  michaellind  danirodrik  elitism  liberalism  neoliberalism  republicans  donaldtrump  race  racism  class  classism  segregation  thomasedsall  nimbys 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Admit Everybody | Current Affairs
"There are two conclusions here, one of which I agree with and one of which I find objectionable. The conclusion I agree with is that the SAT may be the “least bad” of three options for competitive admissions, when compared with using grades or Mushy Holistic Factors, and that therefore eliminating the SAT alone won’t in and of itself produce greater equality and could backfire. (I even have a certain soft spot for the SAT because it enabled me, a person who didn’t know any of the weird upper-class “holistic” signals that impress colleges, to go to a good college.) But the conclusion I disagree with is that this somehow makes a “progressive case for the SAT,” or that we should “defend the SAT.” This is the same logic that causes people like Nicholas Kristof to argue that because sweatshops are supposedly better than farm labor, there is a progressive case for sweatshops and we should defend them. This is one of the differences between liberalism and leftism: liberalism argues for the least bad of several bad options, while leftism insists on having a better set of options.

It’s the talk about “powerful ways” to “distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack” that troubles me. My concern is about what happens to the rest of the pack! As my acquaintance Patrick Conner put it, the difference between meritocracy and socialism is “I don’t want everyone to have a fair shot at the 15% of non-shitty lives, I want everyone to have a decent life.” Instead of arguing for the least-unfair version of the brutally competitive war of all-against-all that is the contemporary college admissions system, the progressive case should be that we ought to have an actual fair admissions system.

In other words: just admit everybody. The whole “competitive” nature of undergraduate admissions is absurd to begin with, and the very fact that students are sorted according to “merit” is socially corrosive. Let’s face it: college isn’t like brain surgery or social work. People’s lives aren’t in your hands. Instead of finding the “top ten best people” we should be selecting “anyone who has proved they are capable of doing the expected work.” Competitive admissions are as irrational as grading curves. With a grading curve, only X percent of the class will get As on their papers, even if every single person in the class wrote an excellent paper, which forces you to start making silly and arbitrary distinctions in a contrived effort to pit the students against each other. The better way to grade is by developing a standard independently and giving students a qualification if they meet the standard. Here’s the admissions parallel: everyone who shows themselves capable of doing the work required of a Harvard undergrad is marked “qualified” for Harvard and allowed to apply. There are a limited number of places, of course, but those places will be filled by selecting a random group of students from among all of those marked “qualified.” You might still get a very low percentage of applicants admitted because space is limited, but it won’t be because those applicants have been deemed worthier, it will be because the lottery happened to favor them.

My vision of universities is as a place where anybody can come and learn, so long as they can do the work. Now, you could argue that at elite schools, the work is so hard that only a few people would be qualified to do it. That’s false, though. I have been a TF at Harvard, so I am acquainted with the level of rigor in the undergraduate curriculum, and it’s obvious that vastly more students than the 4.8% they actually admit are capable of passing the courses. In fact, possibly the majority of the applicants could do fine. We know that college admissions are a crapshoot. But let’s just make them an actual crapshoot, so that nobody would be deluded into thinking that merit was involved, beyond the merit of basic literacy and numeracy.

We might have a different system at the graduate level, where higher levels of specialized skill are required. But I think the same principle should be followed: set a clear standard for the minimum a student needs to be able to do. Make that standard public, so that everybody knows that if they can do X they will have the same shot at being admitted to a program as anybody else. Then choose at random from among those who have met the basic standard.

Alright, so you can probably come up with half a dozen criticisms of this system, the way you can criticize the idea of a randomly-selected congress or a jury trial. Colleges will raise the “basic standard” to unrealistic levels and thus recreate a highly-competitive admissions system, and Harvard will start pretending that you need to be able to do calculus in order to muddle your way to a Bachelor of Arts there. (You don’t.) As long as you still have underlying social and economic inequalities, you can’t actually have an equal system, because everything will reflect those inequalities until we get rid of them. Rich parents will always find ways to make sure their children get more than other children. This is part of Freddie’s point, and he is right: instead of fixing the admissions system you have to fix the economic system, because you can’t isolate the one from the other. It’s an important point, but it doesn’t amount to a defense of the “meritocracy” illusion or the concept of “distinguishing from the rest of the pack.” And the left’s education experts should be devising practical alternatives to meritocracy rather than slightly-less-awful versions of it.

We should always be clear on what the goal is: a world in which we don’t all have to fight each other all the time, where we can work together in solidarity rather than having to wage war against our friends for the privilege of having a good job. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have equal access to the highest-quality education, and in a properly organized society it would be perfectly simple to provide it. We don’t need “best” and “worst” universities, ranked from top to bottom, we just need “universities,” places where people go to explore human knowledge and acquire the skills that enable them to do things that need doing. Progressive education means an end to the illusion of meritocratic competition, an end to the SAT, and the realization of a vision of equal education for all."
sat  standardizedtesting  testing  nathanrobinson  2018  freddiedeboer  bias  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  liberalism  leftism  progressive  patrickconner  socialism  competition  selectivity  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  admissions  education  ranking  society  merit  fairness  egalitarianism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than We Realized - Scientific American Blog Network
"What does it take to succeed? What are the secrets of the most successful people? Judging by the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur, there is no shortage of interest in these questions. There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that we can learn from them because it's their personal characteristics--such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence-- that got them where they are today. This assumption doesn't only underlie success magazines, but also how we distribute resources in society, from work opportunities to fame to government grants to public policy decisions. We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.

But is this assumption correct? I have spent my entire career studying the psychological characteristics that predict achievement and creativity. While I have found that a certain number of traits-- including passion, perseverance, imagination, intellectual curiosity, and openness to experience-- do significantly explain differences in success, I am often intrigued by just how much of the variance is often left unexplained.

In recent years, a number of studies and books--including those by risk analyst Nassim Taleb, investment strategist Michael Mauboussin, and economist Richard Frank-- have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science. Their argument is not that luck is everything; of course talent matters. Instead, the data suggests that we miss out on a really importance piece of the success picture if we only focus on personal characteristics in attempting to understand the determinants of success.

Consider some recent findings:

• About half of the differences in income across people worldwide is explained by their country of residence and by the income distribution within that country,
• Scientific impact is randomly distributed, with high productivity alone having a limited effect on the likelihood of high-impact work in a scientific career,
The chance of becoming a CEO is influenced by your name or month of birth,
• The number of CEOs born in June and July is much smaller than the number of CEOs born in other months,
• Those with last names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top departments,
• The display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people's intellectual capacities and achievements,
• People with easy to pronounce names are judged more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names,
• Females with masculine sounding names are more successful in legal careers.

The importance of the hidden dimension of luck raises an intriguing question: Are the most successful people mostly just the luckiest people in our society? If this were even a little bit true, then this would have some significant implications for how we distribute limited resources, and for the potential for the rich and successful to actually benefit society (versus benefiting themselves by getting even more rich and successful).

In an attempt to shed light on this heavy issue, the Italian physicists Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Raspisarda teamed up with the Italian economist Alessio Biondo to make the first ever attempt to quantify the role of luck and talent in successful careers. In their prior work, they warned against a "naive meritocracy", in which people actually fail to give honors and rewards to the most competent people because of their underestimation of the role of randomness among the determinants of success. To formally capture this phenomenon, they proposed a "toy mathematical model" that simulated the evolution of careers of a collective population over a worklife of 40 years (from age 20-60).

The Italian researchers stuck a large number of hypothetical individuals ("agents") with different degrees of "talent" into a square world and let their lives unfold over the course of their entire worklife. They defined talent as whatever set of personal characteristics allow a person to exploit lucky opportunities (I've argued elsewhere that this is a reasonable definition of talent). Talent can include traits such as intelligence, skill, motivation, determination, creative thinking, emotional intelligence, etc. The key is that more talented people are going to be more likely to get the most 'bang for their buck' out of a given opportunity (see here for support of this assumption).

All agents began the simulation with the same level of success (10 "units"). Every 6 months, individuals were exposed to a certain number of lucky events (in green) and a certain amount of unlucky events (in red). Whenever a person encountered an unlucky event, their success was reduced in half, and whenever a person encountered a lucky event, their success doubled proportional to their talent (to reflect the real-world interaction between talent and opportunity).

What did they find? Well, first they replicated the well known "Pareto Principle", which predicts that a small number of people will end up achieving the success of most of the population (Richard Koch refers to it as the "80/20 principle"). In the final outcome of the 40-year simulation, while talent was normally distributed, success was not. The 20 most successful individuals held 44% of the total amount of success, while almost half of the population remained under 10 units of success (which was the initial starting condition). This is consistent with real-world data, although there is some suggestion that in the real world, wealth success is even more unevenly distributed, with just eight men owning the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.

[graphs]

Although such an unequal distribution may seem unfair, it might be justifiable if it turned out that the most successful people were indeed the most talented/competent. So what did the simulation find? On the one hand, talent wasn't irrelevant to success. In general, those with greater talent had a higher probability of increasing their success by exploiting the possibilities offered by luck. Also, the most successful agents were mostly at least average in talent. So talent mattered.

However, talent was definitely not sufficient because the most talented individuals were rarely the most successful. In general, mediocre-but-lucky people were much more successful than more-talented-but-unlucky individuals. The most successful agents tended to be those who were only slightly above average in talent but with a lot of luck in their lives.

Consider the evolution of success for the most successful person and the least successful person in one of their simulations:

[graphs]

As you can see, the highly successful person in green had a series of very lucky events in their life, whereas the least successful person in red (who was even more talented than the other person) had an unbearable number of unlucky events in their life. As the authors note, "even a great talent becomes useless against the fury of misfortune."

Talent loss is obviously unfortunate, to both the individual and to society. So what can be done so that those most capable of capitalizing on their opportunities are given the opportunities they most need to thrive? Let's turn to that next."



"This last finding is intriguing because it is consistent with other research suggesting that in complex social and economic contexts where chance is likely to play a role, strategies that incorporate randomness can perform better than strategies based on the "naively meritocratic" approach."



"Conclusion

The results of this elucidating simulation, which dovetail with a growing number of studies based on real-world data, strongly suggest that luck and opportunity play an underappreciated role in determining the final level of individual success. As the researchers point out, since rewards and resources are usually given to those who are already highly rewarded, this often causes a lack of opportunities for those who are most talented (i.e., have the greatest potential to actually benefit from the resources), and it doesn't take into account the important role of luck, which can emerge spontaneously throughout the creative process. The researchers argue that the following factors are all important in giving people more chances of success: a stimulating environment rich in opportunities, a good education, intensive training, and an efficient strategy for the distribution of funds and resources. They argue that at the macro-level of analysis, any policy that can influence these factors will result in greater collective progress and innovation for society (not to mention immense self-actualization of any particular individual)."
luck  meritocracy  2018  success  research  scottbarrykaufman  inequality  diversity  talent  serendipity  chance  society  misfortune  gender  race 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Disengaged by Design: The Neoconservative War on Youth - Long View on Education
"So, my broad argument is that no, students are not disengaged because schools are stuck in the past, but because schools are caught in the present strong current of policies that constantly re-shape and re-design schools – and life more broadly – to civically and politically disengage youth. To wage a war on them."



"So what’s the war on youth?
Peterson is an example of what I have in mind when I talk about the ‘war on youth’, a phrase which comes from Henry Giroux. In the neoconservative attack, youth are triply marginalised because it is claimed:

• they don’t know anything
• they are ‘fragile snowflakes’ and ‘play victim’
• they are dangerous to free speech (read: dangerous to the identity politics of wealthy white men)

These attacks are always racist and sexist, directed against people who are poor and the most marginalised and vulnerable.

The war on youth is an attack on class:

Tuition fees, re-introduced by Blair in 1998 at £1,000 pounds, tripled in 2004, at which point Michael Gove called people who objected “fools”: “anyone put off from attending a good university by fear of that debt doesn’t deserve to be at any university in the first place” (Finn, p. 7) Tuition fees then tripled again ten years later to over £9,000.

The war on youth is an attack on the differently abled:

Guardian 2013: “…the charity Contact A Family suggests that some schools are regularly making unlawful exclusions. The charity’s survey of over 400 families of children with disabilities or additional needs found that 22% are illegally excluded once a week and 15% every day (for part of the day).”

And the war on youth is an attack on people of colour:

Schools week Oct 2017: “School exclusions data shows that pupils from black Caribbean backgrounds are three times more likely to be excluded than white pupils, at a rate of 0.29 per cent compared to a rate of 0.1 per cent. Pupils from Irish traveller or Roma/gypsy backgrounds have the highest rate of exclusions of any ethnic group, at 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively.”"



"So why call all these attacks ‘neoconservative’?

As Michael Apple argues, neoconservativism is about two things: a “return” – British values, authority, testing, high standards, patriotism – and it’s also about a fear of the “other.”

In an interview with Spiked about “the crisis of authority of the classroom,” Tom Bennett says there is a “chronic” “crisis of adult authority” in the broader culture and classroom, and he believes children want a restoration of adult authority because they are “waiting to be told what to do.” He is concerned that not teaching about “cultural legacy” might “endanger civilisation.”1

In fact, according to Stephen J Ball, the Coalition government and Gove married a lot of neoliberal and neoconservative doctrines. Typically, neoliberals emphasise the free market and privatisation without the explicit agenda for cultural reform (a return to British values). They also typically place more emphasis on global competitiveness that neoconservatives do through their future proofing agenda. But, Gove wove these two strands together.

In both cases, neoconservativism and neoliberalism form a narrative about who is valuable. As Lord Nash said about British Values (2014) “A key part of our plan for education is to ensure children become valuable and fully rounded members of society.”

What would it mean to be a non-valuable member of society? To be a surplus, disposable? To have no hope in a meritocracy?

The overarching narrative that connects the global education reform movement – Gove in the UK, to the OECD, WeF and the Davos crowd – is one values human capital. If schools can produce better human capital, the GDP rise and country will prosper.

The human capital narrative also privatises responsibility: If you fall out of work, it’s up to you to up-skill your human capital. Gert Biesta has pointed out how the right to lifelong education was replaced in the early 1990s with a responsibility for lifelong learning. Of course, as Thomas Piketty points out, humans aren’t literally capital – and he doesn’t use the phrase – unless you are talking about chattel slavery.

Now, in that context – an obsession with improving human capital, the human stock – and the neoconservative framing of society as a level playing-field, a meritocracy, the resurgent of a neohereditarian obsession with the genetics of IQ begins to makes sense."



"In Creative Schools (2015), Ken Robinson acknowledges the “blight of unemployment” that affects “young people that have done everything expected of them and graduated from college” and even that many graduates are underemployed in jobs that don’t require a degree. But rather than conclude that the economy has broken the agreement, Robinson blames schools – and youth. “There is an ever-widening skills gap between what schools are teaching and what the economy actually needs. The irony is that in many countries there’s plenty of work to be done, but despite the massive investments in education, too many people don’t have the skills needed to do it.”

The debunked idea that there is a ‘skills gap’ further marginalises youth – it turns them into an economic problem rather than source of hope. Moreover, framing the purpose of education – even creative education – so strictly in the confines of what businesses demand is short sighted and alienating.

But I do want to leave you with some reason for hope, and I think it’s located precisely where the ‘factory model’ idea about schools misses an important reality.

If students were really being disengaged by ‘factory model’ schools, in effect, kept down and repressed by a school structure that hasn’t changed in 150 years, then the reactionary force of neoconservatives like Peterson would make no sense. They’d have nothing to worry about if kids were being trained to follow instructions and take their place in an industrial hierarchy. But people like Peterson are worried precisely because youth are critically engaged in ways that might actually topple hierarchies. Schools and classrooms might in some – and perhaps – many cases be places for radical hope.

The more neoconservatives think we are doing something dangerous for youth, the more we know we’re on to something."
benjamindoxtdator  2018  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  schools  education  youth  class  race  racism  ableism  eugenics  getbiesta  economics  humancapital  rocketshipschools  altschool  stephenball  tombennett  cathynewman  daviddidau  meritocracy  stefanmolyneux  tobyyoung  johohnson  siliconvalley  kenrobinson  charlottechadderton  neoconservatives  neoconservativism  henrygiroux  michaelgove  stephenjaygould  richardvalencia  dominiccummings  benvandermerwe  jamesthompson  andrewsabinsky  jimal-khalili  barrysmith 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Akala - Knowledge is Power | London Real - YouTube
"18:06 Society is designed by the cultural appetites of the thinkers and maintained by the powerful.

19:22 Difference in expectations for public and state educated children. Benefits of the Saturday morning schools."

[via: https://twitter.com/ecomentario/status/953850955275079680 ]
education  akala  2014  schools  schooling  society  inequality  prisonindustrialcomplex  schooltoprisonpipeline  povery  racism  economics  meritocracy  politics  criticalthinking  criticalpedagogy  power  culture  unschooling  deschooling  music  football  soccer  activism  poetry  reading  writing  alberteinstein 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology | Ryan Boren
"The marketing of mindsets is everywhere. Grit, growth mindset, project-based mindset, entrepreneurial mindset, innovator’s mindset, and a raft of canned social-emotional skills programs are vying for public money. These notions jump straight from psychology departments to aphoristic word images shared on social media and marketing festooned on school walls.

Growth mindset and Positive Behavior Support marketing have joined Leader in Me marketing at our elementary school. Instead of being peppered with synergy and Franklin Covey’s trademarks and proprietary jargon, we’re now peppered with LiM and growth mindset and PBS. Like every marketed mindset going back to the self-esteem movement, these campaigns are veneers on the deficit model that ignore long-standing structural problems like poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, and childism. The practice and implementation of these mindsets are always suborned by deficit ideology, bootstrap ideology, meritocracy myths, and greed.

“Money Doesn’t Have to Be an Obstacle,” “Race Doesn’t Matter,” “Just Work Harder,” “Everyone Can Go to College,” and “If You Believe, Your Dreams Will Come True.” These notions have helped fueled inequity in the U.S. public education system. Mindset marketing without structural ideology, restorative practices, and inclusion is more harmful than helpful. This marketing shifts responsibility for change from our systems to children. We define kids’ identities through the deficit and medical models, gloss over the structural problems they face, and then tell them to get some grit and growth mindset. This is a gaslighting. It is abusive.

Canned social-emotional skills programs, behaviorism, and the marketing of mindsets have serious side effects. They reinforce the cult of compliance and encourage submission to authoritarian rule. They line the pockets of charlatans and profiteers. They encourage surveillance and avaricious data collection. Deficit model capitalism’s data-based obsession proliferates hucksterism and turn kids into someone’s business model. The behaviorism of PBS is of the mindset of abusers and manipulators. It is ideological and intellectual kin with ABA, which autistic people have roundly rejected as abusive, coercive, and manipulative torture. We call it autistic conversion therapy. The misbehavior of behaviorism is an ongoing harm.

Instead, acknowledge pipeline problems and the meritocracy myth, stop bikeshedding the structural problems of the deficit model, and stop blaming kids and families. Develop a school culture based not on deficit ideologies and cargo cult shrink wrap, but on diversity & inclusion, neurodiversity, the social model of disability, structural ideology, and indie ed-tech. Get rid of extrinsics, and adopt instead the intrinsic motivation of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Provide fresh air, sunlight, and plenty of time for major muscle movement instead of mindset bandages for the pathologies caused by the lack of these three critical things.

“Self-esteem that’s based on external sources has mental health consequences.” Stop propagating the latest deficit/bootstrap/behaviorism fads. Develop the critical capacity to see beyond the marketing. Look beyond deficit model compliance to social model inclusion. The social model and structural ideology are the way forward. Growth mindset and behaviorism, as usually implemented, are just more bootstrap metaphors that excuse systems from changing and learning.

Deficit ideology, surveillance capitalism, mindset marketing, and behaviorism are an unholy alliance. Fix injustice, not kids. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student.”"
ryanboren2017  mindset  marketing  behavior  behaviorism  deficitideology  disabilities  disability  race  education  learning  grit  growthmindset  projectbasedlearning  entrepreneurship  innovation  psychology  racism  poverty  sexism  bootstrapping  meritocracy  greed  childism  ableism  socialemotional  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  capitalism  health  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  diversity  inclusion  neurodiversity  edtech  autonomy  mastery  purpose  self-esteem  compliance  socialemotionallearning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Ana Mardoll on Twitter: "The thing about every "I did [ableist thing] and everyone was happy with me" article is that it relies heavily on human confirmation bias.… https://t.co/2wRZLAj4yF"
"The thing about every "I did [ableist thing] and everyone was happy with me" article is that it relies heavily on human confirmation bias. https://twitter.com/nrsmithccny/status/934032393572356096

Most humans are poised to believe that our decisions will have good outcomes. That's why we MAKE the decisions, after all. We pick what seems like the best decision and we hope it turns out well.

Recognizing that the decision was a BAD one in retrospect is REALLY HARD, and becomes even harder when we have to grapple with the fact that we hurt people in the process.

So when teachers ban laptops or fidget spinners or whatever, or when employers force everyone to wear fitbits and take the stairs, they're STARTING with the belief that this will have a good outcome.

Then we look at the words Nicholas has used there: "Low cost" to ban electronics. Well, for him it surely was!

For the students who had to scramble to buy paper and pens and bags to carry them in when they'd been EXPECTING to use the laptop they already owned... a bit more cost.

"Minimal Resistance". That isn't really surprising when we understand that disabled students aren't the majority--which is why they're so easy to stomp all over.

Also not surprising when we understand the high COST of "resisting". Easier to drop the class.

"Learning improved dramatically" but based on what? Knowing that this is a situation heavily prone to bias, how do we measure that?

This isn't pedantry. We're talking about a school. Research methods are important.

We also need to understand how fucked up it is when the goal is to maximize the experience for the geniuses in the class and if the bottom 10% drop out because it's too hard, that's considered a GOOD thing.

If banning electronics causes a "sharpening" of the grade curve--fewer "middle" students, but the higher ones get higher and the lower ones go lower--that means embracing the destruction of the weak in order to elevate your preferred students.

The American school system is competitive in really messed up ways, and electronics bans play into that. If you can't "cut it" with paper notes, you're left behind. Teaching as social Darwinism.

I am going to add, and folks aren't going to like this, that professors are some of the most ableist people on the planet. In my experience.

They've risen to the top of a heavily ableist system that is DEEPLY invested in pretending that it's merit-based.

In the midst of that merit-based pretense, they're also urged to believe that they're biologically better, smarter, cleverer, deeper thinkers.

So you have people who believe they are biologically better than disabled people but also think they know how to accommodate us. Red flags right there.

They're also steeped in a competitive atmosphere where learning takes a backseat to rankings and numbers games and competition.

So very quickly any accommodation seems like "cheating".

You need an extra hour to take the test? How is that FAIR to the OTHER students?

We wouldn't ask these questions if we weren't obsessively ranking and grading and comparing students to each other in an attempt to sift out the "best".

Why do we do that? Well, part of it is a dance for capitalism; the employers want a shiny GPA number so they know who will be the better employee.

But a lot of professors don't really think about that. They just live for the competition itself, and they view us as disruptive.

They also view us, fundamentally, as lesser. No matter how much we learn, we'll never be peak students because we're disabled.

That means we're disposable if we threaten the actual "peak" students and their progress.

That's why laptop ban conversations ALWAYS devolve into "but if you allow laptops for disabled kids, the able-bodied students will use them and be distracted!"

The worry is that the abled-kids who COULD be "peak" students won't be.

If the options are:

(1) Disabled kid, 3.5 GPA. Abled kid, 3.5 GPA.

(2) Disabled kid, 2.0 GPA, Abled kid, 4.0 GPA.

They'll pick #2 every time. They don't want everyone to do moderately well; they want a Star.

Professors want STARS, because a STAR means they're doing well. They're the best coach in the competitive sports they call "school".

Throwing a disabled student under the bus to make sure the able-bodied Star isn't distracted? No brainer. 9 out of 10 professors will do it.

I had very few professors--over 7 years and 2 schools--who recognized the ranking system was garbage.

One of them told us on the first day of class that we would all get As, no matter what we did. Told us that we didn't even need to show up, but that he HOPED we would because he believed we could learn from him.

I learned more from that class than maybe any other I took that year. The erasure of all my fear, anxiety, competition, and need to "win" left me able to focus SO much better.

It's INTERESTING that we don't talk about banning GRADES and instead we ban laptops.

We could improve learning dramatically if we banned grades. But we don't. Why not?

- Capitalism. We want employers to pick our students.

- Ableism. We LIKE ranking humans from better to worse.

- Cynicism. We don't believe students WANT to learn, we think we need to force them.

So in an effort to forced Abled Allen to be the best in a competition for capitalism, we ban laptops.

If Disabled Debbie does poorly after the laptop ban, it's no great tragedy; she was never going to be a 4.0 student anyway. Not like Abled Allen, the winner.

Anyway. Laptop bans are ableist. So is a moratorium on any notes whatsoever. Let students learn the way they feel comfortable learning.

And asking students to "trust" teachers will put disabled students first is naive in the extreme.

I don't "trust" a team coach to prioritize the needs of a third-string quarterback. Maybe some will, but most won't.

(Final note that there ARE good teachers out there and even good DISABLED teachers. I'm talking about systemic problems, not saying that all professors are evil. The problem is the system, not necessarily the people.)

(Although some of the people ARE trash. But only some.)

The original tweet is gone and please don't harass the teacher in question. Here's a screenshot for context, otherwise my thread makes little sense.

I want to add something that I touched on in another thread: Teachers are PROFOUNDLY out of touch when it comes to note-taking.

I guaran-fucking-tee these college teachers who "insist" their students note-take by hand aren't hand-writing to this extent.

For example, the quoted tweet has a professor saying "you just type whatever I say without thinking". That is so ridiculous.Ana My mobile still could load it.

Hardly anyone I know types fast enough to transcribe human speech.

When I take typed notes, I'm choosing what to include and what to leave out. Those choices are interacting with the material.

I'm not recording like a robot.

These professors have been out of the "student seat" for so long that they don't know what studenting is like.

They think we're transcriptionists when we're not. They think pen-and-paper students are paying perfect attention when they're not.

They think writing notes for 4-5 classes a day for 4-7 years is easy on the hands, when it's not.

They just don't KNOW, but (scarily!) they think they do."
notetaking  ableism  laptops  highered  highereducation  learning  education  meritocracy  capitalism  cynicism  grades  grading  sorting  ranking  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  disabilities  disability  transcription  typing  lectures  resistance  socialdarwinism  elitism  competition  anamardoll 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Most Likely to Repeat History - Long View on Education
"Yet, by holding out the entrepreneur as the solution to the America’s problems, Wagner and Dintersmith systematically reinforce class, race, and gender privilege. Many of the traits related to the agentic behavior praised in entrepreneurs, such as assertiveness, are highly valued pretty much only in white men. According to a report by Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein, when entrepreneurs are ranked on the Illicit Activity Index, which highlights the “aggressive, disruptive activities of individuals as youths,” they found that “entrepreneurs tend to engage in more illicit activities as youths than those who never become incorporated self-employed.” In his perceptive analysis of the report, Jordan Weissman writes that “To be successful at running your own company, you need a personality type that society is a lot more forgiving of if you’re white.”

Wagner and Dintersmith parrot back Friedman’s characteristic – and unfounded – optimism that “there is no limit to the number of idea-generating jobs in the world”: “the creative force of innovation erased millions and millions of routine jobs…they were replaced by countless opportunities for the innovative, for the creative, for the nimble.”

Countless? Really? This word choice implies that opportunity is unlimited, if people rise to the task. ‘Nimble’, and its often used synonyms – ‘adaptable’, ‘flexible, and ‘agile’ – seem like positive qualities until we consider the broader context of our lives outside of our value as labor. If you have recently lost your job because the company has off-shored it, then if you are ‘nimble’, you will find other work. However, if you lack that personality trait, or are traumatized, depressed, or restricted by public transit or a lack of childcare, then calling you out on your lack of nimbleness is simply victim-blaming.

Moreover, by focusing on ‘idea-generating’ or ‘innovative’ jobs, Wagner and Friedman ignore the hard realities of service work and the labor conditions in factories on which the ‘innovative’ jobs depend. For example, about half of Apple’s full-time equivalent employees work in their ‘retail segment’ making approximately $25,580 per annum. And that’s not to mention the vast supply chain that does not work directly for Apple, but toils in mines, manufacturing plants in China, and lives among our ewaste.5

In what is perhaps the most eye-catching claim of the book, they write “In the past five decades, all U.S. economic and job growth has come from innovative start-ups. Our entrepreneurial successes create our jobs, shape our society, define us, inspire us, and are the envy of the world.” The idea that start-ups have created all economic and job growth typifies their innovation as Hero ideology. It is not true that all growth comes from start-ups, but more importantly, the venture-capitalist self-promotion that they cite in footnote 35 says nothing of the kind. I would love some clarity from them on their referencing practice. Seriously.



"When you hear talk about ‘reinventing the self’, this is what I want you to think about: since we live in a society with structural inequality and discrimination, how does the focus on each of us reinventing ourselves take away from us having the political energy to oppose and transform the system? When Wagner and Dintersmith insist up innovation, they are actually reinforcing the status quo by ensuring that the inequalities and logic of the broader system prevail.

At once people insist that we commodify the self, then any empathy for the trauma suffered from job loss is blocked and the focus turns to reinvention of the self. As a project for continuous improvement, the self becomes a bundle of skills and images. In response to structural inequality, the neoliberal imperative pressures people to reinvent the parts of themselves that are targets of discrimination, rather than the system.

If you look at the wealth gap between white and black families in the United States through the lens of the ideology of meritocracy, then your explanation for the gap is going to tend to put the responsibility on individuals for their own lots in life, just as Wagner and Dintersmith in fact do when they talk about our responsibility to reinvent our capacities.

However, if we narrowly focus on the qualities of the individual (merit, capacities), then we miss out on an analysis of the structural issues. As McNamee and Miller argue in The Meritocracy Myth, “the most important factor in terms of where people will end up in the economic pecking order of society is where they started in the first place.”

Unfortunately, Wagner and Dintersmith start in exactly the same place as many other failed reform movements: with a desire to please the leaders of industry, whose stories they feed on with little room for anything else in their diet. Those who are ‘most likely to succeed’ will get ahead because of a broader system of privilege, while education reinventors are doomed to be ‘most likely to repeat history’, which is too bad for just about everyone else."
benjamindoxtdator  tonywagner  teddintersmith  entrepreneurship  2017  education  thomasfriedman  inequality  jordanweissman  rosslevine  yonarubinstein  race  racism  learning  risk  individualism  labor  work  economics  capitalism  meritocracy  neoliberalism  reform  publicschools  structuralracism  bias  peterdrucker  power  class  privilege  miltonfriedman  innovation  classism 
october 2017 by robertogreco
[Readings] | The Working Classroom, by Malcolm Harris | Harper's Magazine
"The main thing is that twenty-first-century American kids are required to work more than their predecessors. This generation is raised on problem-solving to the exclusion of play. Authorities from the Brookings Institution to Time magazine have called for an end to summer vacation and the imposition of year-round compulsory schooling. But the possible downsides of this trade-off are almost never discussed.

Parents, teachers, policymakers, and employers are all so worried that children won’t “meet the demands of a changing world” that they don’t bother asking what kids are expected to do to meet those demands, and what problems they’re being equipped to solve. The anxious frenzy that surrounds the future has come to function as an excuse for the choices adults make for kids."



"This sort of intensive training isn’t just for the children of intellectuals; the theory behind the rhetoric advocating universal college attendance is that any and all kids should aspire to this level of work. College admissions have become the focus not only of secondary schooling but of contemporary American childhood writ large. The sad truth, however, is that college admissions are designed to funnel young adults onto different tracks, not to validate hard work. A jump in the number of Harvard-caliber students doesn’t have a corresponding effect on the size of the school’s freshman class. Instead, it allows the university to become even more selective and to raise prices, to stock up on geniuses and rich kids. This is the central problem with an education system designed to create the most human capital possible: an increase in ability within a competitive system doesn’t advantage all individuals.

In a world where every choice is an investment, growing up becomes a complex exercise in risk management. The more capital new employees already have when they enter the labor market, the less risky it is for their employers. Over time, firms have an incentive, as the economist Gary Becker put it, to “shift training costs to trainees.” If an employer pays to train workers, what’s to stop another company from luring them away once they’re skilled? The second firm could offer a signing bonus that costs less than the training and still benefit. Paying to train a worker is risky, and risk costs money. As American capitalism advanced, the training burden fell to the state, and then to families and kids themselves.

Childhood risk is less and less about death, illness, or grievous bodily harm and more and more about future prospects. But if it is every parent’s task to raise at least one successful American by America’s own standards, then the system is rigged so that most of them will fail. The ranks of the American elite are not infinitely expandable; in fact, they’re shrinking. Given that reality, parents are told that their children’s choices, actions, and accomplishments have lasting consequences. The Harley Avenue letter is merely one of the more dramatic examples of this fearmongering. With parental love as a guide, risk management has become risk elimination.

By looking at children as investments, it’s possible to see where the product of children’s labor is stored: in their human capital. It’s a kid’s job to stay eligible for the labor market (and not in jail, insane, or dead). Any work beyond that adds to their résumé. If more human capital automatically led to a higher standard of living, this model could be the foundation for an American meritocracy. But millennials’ extra work hasn’t earned them the promised higher standard of living. By every metric, this generation is the most educated in American history, yet its members are worse off economically than their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. Every authority from moms to presidents told millennials to accumulate as much human capital as they could; they did, but the market hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. What gives?

As it turns out, just because you can produce an unprecedented amount of value doesn’t necessarily mean you can feed yourself under twenty-first-century American capitalism. Kids spend their childhoods investing the only thing they have: their effort, their attention, their days and nights, their labor time. (And, sometimes, a large chunk of whatever money their parents may have.) If the purpose of all this labor, all the lost play, all the hours doing unpleasant tasks, isn’t to ensure a good life for the kids doing the work, if it isn’t in the “interests of all children,” then what is it for?

When you ask most adults what any kid in particular should do with the next part of her life, the advice will generally include pursuing higher education. As the only sanctioned path, college admissions becomes a well-structured, high-stakes simulation of a worker’s entry into the labor market. Applicants inventory their achievements, being careful not to underestimate them, and present them in the most attractive package possible.

Then, using the data carefully and anxiously prepared by millions of kids about the human capital they’ve accumulated over the previous eighteen years, higher education institutions make decisions: collectively evaluating, accepting, and cutting hopeful children in tranches like collateralized debt obligations that are then sorted among the institutions according to their own rankings (for which they compete aggressively, of course). It is not the first time children are weighed, but it is the most comprehensive and often the most directly consequential. College admissions offices are rating agencies. Once the kid-bond is rated, it has four or so years until it’s expected to produce a return."
malcolmharris  education  colleges  universities  admissions  2017  children  childhood  meritocracy  capitalism  neoliberalism  economics  labor  work  competition  inequality  highered  highereducation  sfsh  homework  purpose  training  unschooling  deschooling  risk  value  fear  fearmongering  parenting  riskmanagement 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Study: Poor Kids Who Believe in Meritocracy Suffer - The Atlantic
"A new study finds that believing society is fair can lead disadvantaged adolescents to act out and engage in risky behavior."



"Brighton Park is a predominantly Latino community on the southwest side of Chicago. It’s a neighborhood threatened by poverty, gang violence, ICE raids, and isolation—in a city where income, race, and zip code can determine access to jobs, schools, healthy food, and essential services. It is against this backdrop that the Chicago teacher Xian Franzinger Barrett arrived at the neighborhood’s elementary school in 2014.

Recognizing the vast economic and racial inequalities his students faced, he chose what some might consider a radical approach for his writing and social-studies classes, weaving in concepts such as racism, classism, oppression, and prejudice. Barrett said it was vital to reject the oft-perpetuated narrative that society is fair and equal to address students’ questions and concerns about their current conditions. And Brighton Elementary’s seventh- and eighth-graders quickly put the lessons to work—confronting the school board over inequitable funding, fighting to install a playground, and creating a classroom library focused on black and Latino authors.

“Students who are told that things are fair implode pretty quickly in middle school as self-doubt hits them,” he said, “and they begin to blame themselves for problems they can’t control.”

Barrett’s personal observation is validated by a newly published study in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development that finds traditionally marginalized youth who grew up believing in the American ideal that hard work and perseverance naturally lead to success show a decline in self-esteem and an increase in risky behaviors during their middle-school years. The research is considered the first evidence linking preteens’ emotional and behavioral outcomes to their belief in meritocracy, the widely held assertion that individual merit is always rewarded.

“If you’re in an advantaged position in society, believing the system is fair and that everyone could just get ahead if they just tried hard enough doesn’t create any conflict for you … [you] can feel good about how [you] made it,” said Erin Godfrey, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of applied psychology at New York University’s Steinhardt School. But for those marginalized by the system—economically, racially, and ethnically—believing the system is fair puts them in conflict with themselves and can have negative consequences.

“If the system is fair, why am I seeing that everybody who has brown skin is in this kind of job? You’re having to think about that … like you’re not as good, or your social group isn’t as good,” Godfrey said. “That’s the piece … that I was trying to really get at [by studying] these kids.”

The findings build upon a body of literature on “system justification”—a social-psychology theory that believes humans tend to defend, bolster, or rationalize the status quo and see overarching social, economic, and political systems as good, fair, and legitimate. System justification is a distinctively American notion, Godfrey said, built on myths used to justify inequities, like “If you just work hard enough you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps … it’s just a matter of motivation and talent and grit.” Yet, as she and her colleagues discovered, these beliefs can be a liability for disadvantaged adolescents once their identity as a member of a marginalized group begins to gel—and once they become keenly aware of how institutional discrimination disadvantages them and their group."



"David Stovall, professor of educational-policy studies and African American studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, said the paper is a confirmation of decades of analysis on the education of marginalized and isolated youth. It’s a “good preliminary piece” that lays the foundation for more academic study of historically disenfranchised adolescents and their motivations, he said.

“If young folks see themselves being discriminated against, they’ve been told that a system is fair, and they experience things that are unfair, they will begin to reject this particular system and engage in behaviors that will not be to their betterment,” he explained. Stovall said it’s critical to guide young people from “defiant resistance”—defying what they’ve learned to be untrue regarding a just and fair system for all—to “transformative resistance”—developing a critical understanding of the historical context of U.S. society. Educators, he said, play a crucial role in this work.

“We have to ask different questions around school,” he said. “Does [school] contribute further to our [students’] marginalization and oppression? Is it just about order, compliance, and white normative standards that marginalized young folks of color don’t measure up to because the structure never intended for them to measure up?” He also warned educators and youth of color to be prepared for pushback, highlighting the current legal battle over the ethnic-studies ban in Tucson public schools despite its proven academic benefits.

Mildred Boveda, an assistant education professor at Arizona State University, likewise said the findings hold important implications for both teachers and teacher education. “This is of great consequence to … teachers who may think they are protecting children by avoiding conversations about systems of oppressions,” she said, emphasizing that the onus is also on teacher-prep programs to ensure aspiring educators know how to address these controversial topics.

Given her recent experience teaching fifth-graders in Miami-Dade, Florida, Boveda disagrees with the researchers’ notion that sixth-graders lack a full understanding of social hierarchies. Her students on the brink of middle school, she noted, were hyper-aware of social inequalities. Still, she sees valuable insights in the data.

“Unlike the majority of the teaching workforce, I once fit the demographics of the students in this study,” she said, alluding to the fact that more than 80 percent of public-school teachers are white. “I will admit that it sometimes felt risky to tackle these difficult conversations, but this [research] underscores why we cannot equivocate when it comes to preparing our children to face injustices.”"
melindaanderson  meritocracy  inequality  xianfranzingerbarrett  2017  race  racism  eringodfrey  education  schools  systemjustification  statusquo  society  grit  americandream  bootstraps  davidstovall  oppression  defince  resistance  mildredboveda  youth  adolescence  classism  stereotypes 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Sherman, R.: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence. (eBook and Hardcover)
"A surprising and revealing look at how today's elite view their own wealth and place in society

From TV’s “real housewives” to The Wolf of Wall Street, our popular culture portrays the wealthy as materialistic and entitled. But what do we really know about those who live on “easy street”? In this penetrating book, Rachel Sherman draws on rare in-depth interviews that she conducted with fifty affluent New Yorkers—including hedge fund financiers and corporate lawyers, professors and artists, and stay-at-home mothers—to examine their lifestyle choices and their understanding of privilege. Sherman upends images of wealthy people as invested only in accruing and displaying social advantages for themselves and their children. Instead, these liberal elites, who believe in diversity and meritocracy, feel conflicted about their position in a highly unequal society. They wish to be “normal,” describing their consumption as reasonable and basic and comparing themselves to those who have more than they do rather than those with less. These New Yorkers also want to see themselves as hard workers who give back and raise children with good values, and they avoid talking about money.

Although their experiences differ depending on a range of factors, including whether their wealth was earned or inherited, these elites generally depict themselves as productive and prudent, and therefore morally worthy, while the undeserving rich are lazy, ostentatious, and snobbish. Sherman argues that this ethical distinction between “good” and “bad” wealthy people characterizes American culture more broadly, and that it perpetuates rather than challenges economic inequality.

As the distance between rich and poor widens, Uneasy Street not only explores the real lives of those at the top but also sheds light on how extreme inequality comes to seem ordinary and acceptable to the rest of us."

[See also:
"Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich" by Richard V. Reeves
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/opinion/sunday/stop-pretending-youre-not-rich.html

"The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top 20 Percent Perpetuates Inequality" by Richard Reeves
https://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-education-opportunity/richard-v-reeves-dream-hoarders-how-americas-top-20-percent ]
economics  policy  politics  wealth  us  inequality  2017  meritocracy  richardreeves  class  uk  classnessness  uppermiddleclass  absolution  rachelsherman  ethics 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich - The New York Times
"Beneath a veneer of classlessness, the American class reproduction machine operates with ruthless efficiency. In particular, the upper middle class is solidifying. This favored fifth at the top of the income distribution, with an average annual household income of $200,000, has been separating from the 80 percent below. Collectively, this top fifth has seen a $4 trillion-plus increase in pretax income since 1979, compared to just over $3 trillion for everyone else. Some of those gains went to the top 1 percent. But most went to the 19 percent just beneath them.

The rhetoric of “We are the 99 percent” has in fact been dangerously self-serving, allowing people with healthy six-figure incomes to convince themselves that they are somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans, and that it is just the so-called super rich who are to blame for inequality."



"Progressive policies, whether on zoning or school admissions or tax reform, all too often run into the wall of upper-middle-class opposition. Self-interest is natural enough. But the people who make up the American upper middle class don’t just want to keep their advantages; armed with their faith in a classless, meritocratic society, they think they deserve them. The strong whiff of entitlement coming from the top 20 percent has not been lost on everyone else."

[See also:
Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence, by Rachel Sherman
http://press.princeton.edu/titles/11096.html

"The Dream Hoarders: How America's Top 20 Percent Perpetuates Inequality" by Richard Reeves
https://bostonreview.net/class-inequality-education-opportunity/richard-v-reeves-dream-hoarders-how-americas-top-20-percent ]
economics  policy  politics  wealth  us  inequality  2017  meritocracy  richardreeves  class  uk  classnessness  uppermiddleclass  absolution  rachelsherman 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Is the U.S. Education System Producing a Society of “Smart Fools”? - Scientific American
[had me until he says more (a new kind of) testing is the answer to the problem]

"At last weekend’s annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) in Boston, Cornell University psychologist Robert Sternberg sounded an alarm about the influence of standardized tests on American society. Sternberg, who has studied intelligence and intelligence testing for decades, is well known for his “triarchic theory of intelligence,” which identifies three kinds of smarts: the analytic type reflected in IQ scores; practical intelligence, which is more relevant for real-life problem solving; and creativity. Sternberg offered his views in a lecture associated with receiving a William James Fellow Award from the APS for his lifetime contributions to psychology. He explained his concerns to Scientific American.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

In your talk, you said that IQ tests and college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT are essentially selecting and rewarding “smart fools”—people who have a certain kind of intelligence but not the kind that can help our society make progress against our biggest challenges. What are these tests getting wrong?

Tests like the SAT, ACT, the GRE—what I call the alphabet tests—are reasonably good measures of academic kinds of knowledge, plus general intelligence and related skills. They are highly correlated with IQ tests and they predict a lot of things in life: academic performance to some extent, salary, level of job you will reach to a minor extent—but they are very limited. What I suggested in my talk today is that they may actually be hurting us. Our overemphasis on narrow academic skills—the kinds that get you high grades in school—can be a bad thing for several reasons. You end up with people who are good at taking tests and fiddling with phones and computers, and those are good skills but they are not tantamount to the skills we need to make the world a better place.

What evidence do you see of this harm?

IQ rose 30 points in the 20th century around the world, and in the U.S. that increase is continuing. That’s huge; that’s two standard deviations, which is like the difference between an average IQ of 100 and a gifted IQ of 130. We should be happy about this but the question I ask is: If you look at the problems we have in the world today—climate change, income disparities in this country that probably rival or exceed those of the gilded age, pollution, violence, a political situation that many of us never could have imaged—one wonders, what about all those IQ points? Why aren’t they helping?

What I argue is that intelligence that’s not modulated and moderated by creativity, common sense and wisdom is not such a positive thing to have. What it leads to is people who are very good at advancing themselves, often at other people’s expense. We may not just be selecting the wrong people, we may be developing an incomplete set of skills—and we need to look at things that will make the world a better place.

Do we know how to cultivate wisdom?

Yes we do. A whole bunch of my colleagues and I study wisdom. Wisdom is about using your abilities and knowledge not just for your own selfish ends and for people like you. It’s about using them to help achieve a common good by balancing your own interests with other people’s and with high-order interests through the infusion of positive ethical values.

You know, it’s easy to think of smart people but it’s really hard to think of wise people. I think a reason is that we don’t try to develop wisdom in our schools. And we don’t test for it, so there’s no incentive for schools to pay attention.

Can we test for wisdom and can we teach it?

You learn wisdom through role-modeling. You can start learning that when you are six or seven. But if you start learning what our schools are teaching, which is how to prepare for the next statewide mastery tests, it crowds out of the curriculum the things that used to be essential. If you look at the old McGuffey Readers, they were as much about teaching good values and good ethics and good citizenship as about teaching reading. It’s not so much about teaching what to do but how to reason ethically; to go through an ethical problem and ask: How do I arrive at the right solution?

I don’t always think about putting ethics and reasoning together. What do you mean by that?

Basically, ethical reasoning involves eight steps: seeing that there’s a problem to deal with (say, you see your roommate cheat on an assignment); identifying it as an ethical problem; seeing it as a large enough problem to be worth your attention (it’s not like he’s just one mile over the speed limit); seeing it as personally relevant; thinking about what ethical rules apply; thinking about how to apply them; thinking what are the consequences of acting ethically—because people who act ethically usually don’t get rewarded; and, finally, acting. What I’ve argued is ethical reasoning is really hard. Most people don’t make it through all eight steps.

If ethical reasoning is inherently hard, is there really less of it and less wisdom now than in the past?

We have a guy [representative-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana] who allegedly assaulted a reporter and just got elected to the U.S. House of Representatives—and that’s after a 30-point average increase in IQ. We had violence in campaign rallies. Not only do we not encourage creativity, common sense and wisdom, I think a lot of us don’t even value them anymore. They’re so distant from what’s being taught in schools. Even in a lot of religious institutions we’ve seen a lot of ethical and legal problems arise. So if you’re not learning these skills in school or through religion or your parents, where are you going to learn them? We get people who view the world as being about people like themselves. We get this kind of tribalism.

So where do you see the possibility of pushing back?

If we start testing for these broader kinds of skills, schools will start to teach to them, because they teach to the test. My colleagues and I developed assessments for creativity, common sense and wisdom. We did this with the Rainbow Project, which was sort of experimental when I was at Yale. And then at Tufts, when I was dean of arts and sciences, we started Kaleidoscope, which has been used with tens of thousands of kids for admission to Tufts. They are still using it. But it’s very hard to get institutions to change. It’s not a quick fix. Once you have a system in place, the people who benefit from it rise to the top and then they work very hard to keep it.

Looking at the broader types of admission tests you helped implement—like Kaleidoscope at Tufts, the Rainbow Project at Yale, or Panorama at Oklahoma State, is there any evidence that kids selected for having these broader skills are in any way different from those who just score high on the SAT?

The newly selected kids were different. I think the folks in admissions would say so, at least when we started. We admitted kids who would not have gotten in under the old system—maybe they didn’t quite have the test scores or grades. When I talk about this, I give examples, such as those who wrote really creative essays.

Has there been any longitudinal follow-up of these kids?

We followed them through the first year of college. With Rainbow we doubled prediction [accuracy] for academic performance, and with Kaleidoscope we could predict the quality of extracurricular performance, which the SAT doesn’t do.

Do you think the emphasis on narrow measures like the SAT or GRE is hurting the STEM fields in particular?

I think it is. I think it’s hurting everything. We get scientists who are very good forward incrementers—they are good at doing the next step but they are not the people who change the field. They are not redirectors or reinitiators, who start a field over. And those are the people we need.

Are you hopeful about change?

If one could convince even a few universities and schools to try to follow a different direction, others might follow. If you start encouraging a creative attitude, to defy the crowd and to defy the zeitgeist, and if you teach people to think for themselves and how what they do affects others, I think it’s a no-lose proposition. And these things can be taught and they can be tested."
education  science  social  wisdom  iq  meritocracy  intelligence  2017  psychology  claudiawallis  robertsternberg  performance  creativity  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  rainbowproject  power  ethics  reasoning  values  learning  selfishness  gildedage  inequality  climatechange  pollution  violence  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  sat  gre  act  knowledge  teachingtothetest 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Grades, Equity, and the Grammar of School – Teachers Going Gradeless – Medium
"Teachers lead a lot of change only to be bound by “grammar of school”, or the “organisational regularities” that largely lie outside of the control of individuals (David Tyack & Larry Cuban). Like Sparks, most teachers who aim to go gradeless in their classrooms still have to report grades because of the grammar of school."



"As we de-emphasize grades in our classroom, we still have a responsibility to make the larger grammar of schooling intelligible to our students so they can see a clear connection between our assessment and the numbers that will follow them around."



"Grades are part of what work to create the illusion that we live in a meritocracy, and so when people like Bock claim to have hit on practices that really help to discover merit, we also need to treat those practices with skepticism."



"Can we look forward to a ‘more flexible grading system’ in the near future? I hope so. But given that we live in a society where corporations turn bits of our lives into data points, we’ll need to help students navigate the new grammars of school."
grades  grading  benjamindoxtdator  2017  schools  schooliness  schooling  education  teaching  howweteach  assessment  meritocracy  skepticism  larrycuban  davidtyack 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The revolt of the back row kids – Medium
"1. I earlier predicted Hillary would win in a landslide and I was wrong.

2. I predicted this despite spending the last year talking to voters all over the country and hearing from them nothing but anger.

3. Along with hearing anger, I have heard very little good said about Hillary Clinton. From anyone. Black or white.

4. I hear awful things about her, outright lies and nastiness, from many Trump voters. She is hated beyond anything.

5. I hear less awful things, but still bad, from Reagan Democrats who voted for Obama. They “just don’t like her.”

6. I hear from working class whites who love Bernie. Who will not vote for Hillary. “She is in Wall Streets hands.”

7. I spend an equal time in working class black neighborhoods, & they will vote for her. With little enthusiasm.

8. Many older blacks love Bill Clinton. And that is why they are voting for Hillary.

9. Is all of this anger and tepid support for Hillary just about sexism? Partly. But it is far more than that. She is viewed as aloof & calculating. As the establishment. As the elite. She represents the front row kids.

10. She is everything everyone dislikes about the front row kids. And this election is about everyone else throwing them out.

11. Bill Clinton was a back row kid at heart. That is what he came from. (Go visit his hometown. Really.)

12. Trump is what the back row (and middle rows) often love best. Someone from the front row who joins them.

13. Not only is Trump joining them, he is shooting spitballs at the kids in the front. Making them all mad!

14. And what does team Hillary do? Goes full front row on everyone, throwing scorn. “How dare you behave so awfully! Grow up! Bad kids!”

15. That is why “basket of deplorable” was so damaging. It is exactly how everyone who isn’t in the front row thinks the front row thinks about everyone else.

16. And the thing is, as someone who was in the front row for much of my life (Wall Street banker). It is exactly how many in the front row think!

17. Hillary and the front row kids can still easily win. But only if they become a little self aware and a little humble. Offer up real ideas and admit fault, rather than just dish out condescending scorn.

18. Judging from the dismissive yells of “Racist!” of, “They are stupid”, I hear daily from smart front row kids. Hillary, and her front row supporters, are in trouble.

PS: Here is a more mathematical description of the same thing: Why Trump voters are not “Completely idiots” [https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/trump-politics-and-option-pricing-or-why-trump-voters-are-not-idiots-1e364a4ed940 ]

PSS: Feel free to yell at me on Twitter."

[See also (from 2 Feb 2017): https://twitter.com/chris_arnade/status/827161942452101122

1. The US right now is massively divided. The biggest division is race. Even after Obama. The next biggest division is education.

2. There are the Front Row Kids (Below is my summary of how I define that) [image]

3. There are the Back Row Kids (Again. My definition) [image]

4. These are two entirely different world views. They are two different realities. Neither understands each other! Both want power.

5. How we frame & see everything, especially politics, is function of what group we are in [https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/divided-by-meaning-1ab510759ee7 ]

6. Politics is about each group wanting to run stuff. For last X yrs, until this election, Front Row kids & their world view has run stuff

7. Frustrated, with their world view devalued, back row kids figured their only option was to knock over the game. Break the system. Trump

8. Now the Front row kids are flippin out. Because their world view is being questioned, broken, and devalued.

9. Just like the Back Row kids spent last X years flippin out.

How each flips out is also a function of their world view.

10. Back row kids flip out by anger/exclusion. Embracing populist. Strength is key
Front row kids flip out by condescending. Casting scorn.

11. In both cases it is to deny validity as they define it. Back row says Front row is "Weak/unAmerican." Front row says Back row is "Dumb"

12. These competing world views & realities are only growing bigger, driven by those wanting to intentionally exploit them (Trump!)

But....

13. They are also getting bigger by folks just not understanding they have a worldview that is limiting & often selfish. On both sides!

14. Most people are just good people (on both sides!), and overwhelmed with the daily realities of THEIR world to focus beyond that.

15. They are immersed in their reality, and when another reality comes slamming in -- the natural reaction is to retreat further. Not talk

16. And this social media thing ain't helping at all.

I myself don't see things getting better. I only see further division & more storms

17. Last 6 yrs talking to voters has been uplifting/depressing. Uplifting because individually we are great. But collectively we are divided

18. I can only hope, and stay focused, on the basic decency of everyone I have met all over the US. And hope that wins out."]
via:lukeneff  chrisarnade  us  elections  2016  politics  donaldtrump  hillaryclinton  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  value  worth  communication  worldview  meaning  opposition  2017  division  frontrowkids  backrowkids  government  power  reality 
march 2017 by robertogreco
The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy - The Atlantic
"The main source of meaning in American life is a meritocratic competition that makes those who struggle feel inferior."



"What is happening to America’s white working class?

The group’s important, and perhaps decisive, role in this year’s presidential election sparked a slew of commentary focused on, on the one hand, its nativism, racism, and sexism, and, on the other, its various economic woes. While there are no simple explanations for the desperation and anger visible in many predominantly white working-class communities, perhaps the most astute and original diagnosis came from the rabbi and activist Michael Lerner, who, in assessing Donald Trump’s victory, looked from a broader vantage point than most. Underneath the populist ire, he wrote, was a suffering “rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.”

That cuts right to it. The modern economy privileges the well-educated and highly-skilled, while giving them an excuse to denigrate the people at the bottom (both white and nonwhite) as lazy, untalented, uneducated, and unsophisticated. In a society focused on meritocratic, materialistic success, many well-off Americans from across the political spectrum scorn the white working class in particular for holding onto religious superstitions and politically incorrect views, and pity them for working lousy jobs at dollar stores and fast-food restaurants that the better-off rarely set foot in. And when other sources of meaning are hard to come by, those who struggle in the modern economy can lose their sense of self-worth.

This system of categorizing Americans—the logical extension of life in what can be called an extreme meritocracy—can be pernicious: The culture holds up those who succeed as examples, however anecdotal, that everyone can make it in America. Meanwhile, those who fail attract disdain and indifference from the better-off, their low status all the more painful because it is regarded as deserved. As research has shown, well-educated white-collar workers also sink into despair if they cannot find a new job, but among the working class, the shame of low status afflicts not just the unemployed, but also the underemployed. Their days are no longer filled with the dignified, if exhausting, work of making real things. Rather, the economy requires—as a white former factory worker I talked to described it—“throwing on a goofy hat,” dealing with surly customers who are themselves just scraping by, and enduring a precarious working life of arbitrary rules and dead-end prospects.

And the work people do (or don’t do) affects their self-esteem. When I was talking to laid-off autoworkers in Michigan for my book about long-term unemployment, I met a black man in Detroit who told me his job at the plant had helped heal a wound—one going back to his parents’ choice, when he was a baby, to abandon him. (As is standard in sociological research, my interviewees were promised confidentiality.) “My job was like my mother and father to me,” he said. “It’s all I had, you know?” Then the plant shut down. Now in his 50s, he was back on the job market, scrambling for one of the few good jobs left for someone without a college degree. In his moments of weakness, he berated himself. He should have prepared more. He should have gotten an education. “It’s all my fault,” he said—the company was just doing what made business sense.

For less educated workers (of all races) who have struggled for months or years to get another job, failure is a source of deep shame and a reason for self-blame. Without the right markers of merit—a diploma, marketable skills, a good job—they are “scrubs” who don’t deserve romantic partners, “takers” living parasitically off the government, “losers” who won’t amount to anything. Even those who consider themselves lucky to have jobs can feel a sense of despair, seeing how poorly they stand relative to others, or how much their communities have unraveled, or how dim their children’s future seems to be: Research shows that people judge how well they’re doing through constant comparisons, and by these personal metrics they are hurting, whatever the national unemployment rate may be.

When faced with these circumstances, members of the working class often turn inward. I witnessed this coping mechanism among the workers I got to know in Michigan. One of them, a white former autoworker, lost her home and had to move to a crime-infested neighborhood, where she had a front-row view of the nightly drug deals and fistfights. “I just am not used to that anymore,” said the woman, who grew up in poverty. “I want out of here so bad.” Interestingly, she dismissed any sort of collective solution to the economic misery that she and others like her now confront. For instance, she had no kind words to say about the union at her old plant, which she blamed for protecting lousy workers. She was also outraged by what she called the “black favoritism” at her Detroit plant, whose union leadership included many African Americans.

This go-it-alone mentality works against the ways that, historically, workers have improved their lot. It encourages workers to see unions and government as flawed institutions that coddle the undeserving, rather than as useful, if imperfect, means of raising the relative prospects of all workers. It also makes it more likely that white workers will direct their frustration toward racial and ethnic minorities, economic scapegoats who are dismissed as freeloaders unworthy of help—in a recent survey, 64 percent of Trump voters (not all of whom, of course, are part of the white working class) agreed that “average Americans” had gotten less than they deserved, but this figure dropped to 12 percent when that phrase was replaced with “blacks.” (Among Clinton voters, the figure stayed steady at 57 percent for both phrases.) This is one reason that enacting good policies is, while important, not enough to address economic inequality. What’s needed as well is a broader revision of a culture that makes those who struggle feel like losers.

One explanation for why so many come to that conclusion in the first place has to do with the widening of the gulf between America’s coasts and the region in between them. Cities that can entice well-educated professionals are booming, even as “flyover” communities have largely seen good-paying factory work automated or shipped overseas, replaced to a large extent with insecure jobs: Walmart greeters, independent-contractor truck drivers, and the like. It is easy to see why white voters from hard-hit rural areas and hollowed-out industrial towns have turned away from a Democratic Party that has offered them little in the way of hope and inspiration and much in the way of disdain and blame.

It should here be emphasized that misogyny, racism, and xenophobia played a major role in the election, helping whip up more support for Trump—as well as suppress support for Clinton—among the white working class. To be sure, those traits are well represented among other groups, however savvier they are about not admitting it to journalists and pollsters (or to themselves). But the white working class that emerged in the 19th century—stitched together from long-combative European ethnic groups—strived to set themselves apart from African Americans, Chinese, and other vilified “indispensable enemies,” and build, by contrast (at least in their view), a sense of workingman pride. Even if it’s unfair to wholly dismiss the white working class’s cultural politics as reactionary and bigoted, this last election was a reminder that white male resentment of “nasty” women and “uppity” racial and other minorities remains strong.

That said, many Americans with more stable, better-paid jobs have blind spots of their own. For all of their professed open-mindedness in other areas, millions of the well-educated and well-off who live in or near big cities tend to endorse the notion, explicitly or implicitly, that education determines a person’s value. More so than in other rich nations, like Germany and Japan, which have prioritized vocational training to a greater degree, a college degree has become the true mark of individual success in America—the sort of white-picket-fence fantasy that drives people well into their elder years to head back to school. But such a fervent belief in the transformative power of education also implies that a lack of it amounts to personal failure—being a “stupid” person, as one of the white Michigan workers I talked to put it. In today’s labor market, it is no longer enough to work hard, another worker, who was black, told me: “It used to be you come up and say, ‘Okay, I’ve got a strong back,’ and all that,” but nowadays a “strong back don’t mean shit. You gotta have dedication and you’ve gotta have some kind of smartness, or something.”



"One possible answer to the question Harrington posed about how to ease his own generation’s populist rage is the notion of grace—a stance that puts forward values that go beyond the “negatives” of the narrow secular creed and connect with individuals of diverse political viewpoints, including those hungry for more in the way of meaning than the meritocratic race affords. It moves people past the hectoring that so alienates the white working class—and, to be sure, other groups as well—who would otherwise benefit from policies that favor greater equality and opportunity.

The concept of grace comes from the Christian teaching that everyone, not just the deserving, is saved by God’s grace. Grace in the broader sense that I (an agnostic) am using, however, can be both secular and religious. In the simplest terms, it is about refusing to divide the world into camps of deserving and undeserving, as those on both the right and left are wont to do. It rejects an … [more]
victortanchen  meritocracy  2016  election  donaldtrump  capitalism  self-esteem  labor  work  culture  society  economics  losers  class  elitism  workingclass  hierarchy  richardsennett  jonathancobb  inequality  education  politics  competition  unions  status  grace  wealth  populism 
january 2017 by robertogreco
From a sociology for meritocracy to a sociology for democracy | Work in Progress
"Our professional class bias blinds us from problematizing meritocracy and from addressing “The Social Question”— how does our current socio-economic system fail to provide decent living and human dignity for the majority?

We need to acknowledge that a full meritocracy is not a sufficient condition for a just society.

The time is right for us to move from a sociology for meritocracy to a sociology for democracy and inclusion. Instead of focusing solely on the between-group disparities (while controlling for X, Y, and Z), we should pay particular attention to the individuals within each group that are excluded from the opportunity of having a decent life. Instead of recycling the same axes of inequality, we should be creative in identifying hidden categories that are extremely privileged or vulnerable (see David Pedulla’s work on nonstandard employment). Instead of pushing more people into colleges or job training programs, we should ask why a high school graduates can make a good life in Germany but not in the United States.

It is time for us to listen to the “deplorables,” since we have long dismissed them."
sociology  meritocracy  2016  ken-houlin  socialjustice  society  inclusion  inclusivity  democracy  privilege  academia  economics  davidpedulla  highered  highereducation 
october 2016 by robertogreco
This speech could reignite Bernie Sanders: Here’s the argument he needs to make about capitalism - Salon.com
"Bernie uses every public opportunity to show how unjust the economic system is toward the most vulnerable. And he is right.

What he fails to do is help the rest of the American public understanding that some of their biggest heartaches are also tied to capitalism–not because it doesn’t give them enough economic returns or the ability to consume more, but because it promotes values that are destructive to human relationships and families , popularizes an ethos of “looking out for number one” and popularizes materialism and self-destructive self-blaming.

I learned about this as principle investigator of an NIMH-sponsored research project on stress at work and stress in family life. What my team heard from thousands of middle income working class people was that there was a huge spiritual crisis in American society generated by the experience most middle income non-professional people have in the world of work.

It’s hard for professionals and the upper middle class to believe this, but most people spend most of their awake hours each work day doing work that feels meaningless and unfulfilling. They quickly learn that their sole value in the marketplace is the degree to which they can contribute directly or indirectly to the old “bottom line” of money and power of those who own and manage the corporations, businesses and other institutions where they find employment. Moreover, they learn that those who are most successful are those who have learned best how to maximize their own advantage without regard to the well being of others in the work world outside their particular work unit, or the well being of those buying their goods or services.

What we learned was that most working-class people (not all, just most) come away from their work with a complex set of seemingly contradictory feelings. On the one hand, they hate the values of selfishness and materialism they see surrounding them at work and brought home by everyone they know. On the other hand, they believe that everyone is so completely enmeshed in those values that selfishness just is “the real world” and that they themselves have no choice but to seek to maximize their own advantage wherever they can. They find relief from this when they go to church, synagogue or mosque, identify with those spiritual or religious values, but are so depressed by their daily work-world experience that they feel those alternative values have no chance of working in the “real world.”

Moreover, from their earliest experiences in school they have been immersed in the capitalist indoctrination into the fantasy that they live in a meritocracy, and that “anyone can make it if they deserve to.” As a result, they blame themselves for the lack of fulfillment in their lives. And they blame themselves for not being better at “looking out for number one” and maximizing their own self-interest.

The result is a society increasingly filled with people who see each other through the framework of capitalist values: other people are valuable primarily to the extent that they can satisfy our own needs and desires, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable just for who they are regardless of what they can deliver for us.

No wonder, then, that so many people feel lonely and scared. They see themselves as surrounded by people who have internalized the “look out for number one” ethos of the capitalist marketplace. Many notice these same attitudes in friends, even in one’s spouse. Some report that their children have picked up these same values and look at their parent with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So increasing numbers of people feel afraid not only because there is no effective societal mechanism to protect them should they be out of money or in need of too-expensive-to-afford health care and pharmaceuticals, but also because they fear that no one will really be there for them when they are most vulnerable and in need of caring from others, Of course these dynamics play out differently depending on one’s own circumstances, but they are prevalent enough to make many people feel bad about themselves and worried about the enduring quality of their most important relationships.

Bernie Sanders could help tens of millions of Americans reduce their self-blaming were he to help people see that his campaign against capitalism is not just about its unjust allocation of economic well-being, but also and most importantly about how to strengthen loving relationships, friendships and family life by repudiating the values of the marketplace, rejecting the meritocratic fantasies that lead to self-blame, and embracing a New Bottom Line. If his democratic socialism also included the insistence that work provide people with the opportunity to satisfy the deep human need to see their lives contributing to the best interests of the planet and the best interests of the human race, rather than solely to the interests of maximizing the income of the wealthiest, he would be embracing what I once called a “Politics of Meaning” and now call a spiritual politics defined by a New Bottom Line.

Instead of judging institutions, corporations, government policies, our economic system, our legal system and our educational system as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), the New Bottom Line would also include in this assessment how much these institutions and social practices enhance our human capacities for love and generosity, kindness and ethical behavior, environmental responsibility sustainability, our ability to transcend narrow utilitarian ways of seeing other human beings and the earth, so that we can see others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the magnificence of this planet and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement rather than just seeing them as “resources” to be used for our own needs."
capitalism  berniesanders  2016  economics  well-being  health  meritocracy  individualism  socialism  materialism  consumerism  selfishness  fulfillment  self-blaming  middleclass  workingclass  relationships  mentalhealth  success  healthcare  politics  policy  business  efficiency 
march 2016 by robertogreco
William Deresiewicz on the Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life - The Atlantic
"Davis: You’ve observed that Ivy League students have an internal struggle with both “grandiosity and depression.” Can you explain this further?

Deresiewicz: Alice Miller wrote about this 30-plus years ago in the classic The Drama of the Gifted Child, but I had to experience it to see it for myself. The grandiosity is that sense of “you’re the greatest, you’re the best, you’re the brightest.” This kind of praise and reinforcement all the time makes students feel they’re the greatest kid in the world. And I would say that this is even worse than when I was a kid. Now there’s a whole culture of parenting around this positive reinforcement.

These kids were always the best of their class, and their teachers were always praising them, inflating their ego. But it’s a false self-esteem. It’s not real self-possession, where you are measuring yourself against your own internal standards and having a sense that you’re working towards something. It’s totally conditional, and constantly has to be pumped up by the next grade, the next A, or gold star. As Miller says, what you’re really learning is that your parents’ love is conditional on this achievement. So when you fail, even a little bit, even if you just get a B on a test, or an A- on a test, the whole thing collapses. It may only collapse temporarily, but it’s a profound collapse—you feel literally worthless.

These are kids who have no ability to measure their own worth in any realistic way—either you are on top of the world, or you are worthless. And that kind of all-or-nothing mentality really pervades the whole system. It’s also why it’s Harvard or the gutter: If you don’t get into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, it’s a disgrace. If you go to Wesleyan, you can never show your face in public again.

This is not really the only way to succeed, but this crazy definition not only of success, but of how you achieve success, doesn’t even really reflect how actually successful people achieve success. Steve Jobs is an obvious example, because he was obviously very gifted and ambitious but he took a circuitous path, and people who are very successful doing interesting things also often take circuitous paths.

This notion that you’ve got to do X, Y, and Z or else your life is over makes you end up as a high-functioning sheep. You end up being the kind of leader that I talk about in the last section of the book. You get to the top, or you get near the top, but you don’t actually do anything interesting there—you just sort of fulfill your function in the organization. You don’t initiate or create.

Davis: That ties in with your argument that words like “leadership” and “service” have become hollow in the whole college process.

Deresiewicz: There’s a list of things that everyone knows you’re supposed to do to get into college: scores, extracurriculars, and then these two other things, “leadership” and “service.” They’ve been completely ritualized, and kids have become cynical about them because they know they just need to demonstrate them. In the case of leadership, which is supposed to be about qualities of character, self-sacrifice, initiative, and vision, it just means getting to the top, and that’s all. If you get a position with some authority you are, by definition, a leader. And service, if anything, is even worse. Service is supposed to be about making the world a better place or helping people who are less fortunate, but because it’s done for the resume, it really just becomes about yourself.

Davis: You argue that society transmits its values through education. How would you summarize the values transmitted through the elite-education system?

Deresiewicz: I would summarize the values by quoting Tony Hayward, the famous CEO of BP. In the middle of this giant environmental disaster he said, “I want to get my life back.” He had been promised certain rewards and now had this horrible experience of actually having to take responsibility for something, and feel bad. So those are the values that the system is transmitting: self-aggrandizement, being in service to yourself, a good life defined exclusively in terms of conventional markers of success (wealth and status), no real commitment to education or learning, to thinking, and no real commitment to making the world a better place. And I think we see that in the last 50 years, the meritocracy has created a world that’s getting better and better for the meritocracy and worse and worse for everyone else.

Davis: What kinds of values do you think education should be passing on?

Deresiewicz: Ultimately, colleges have inherited the spiritual mission of churches. As religious beliefs have declined with the rise of science, especially among educated people, people started to turn elsewhere to ask the big questions: What does life mean? What is the world about? People turned to works of art, to literature, music, theater, philosophy, which were in turn brought into college curricula."



"Davis: Gaining self-knowledge isn’t a simple or predictable process. Are there certain things that can only be learned outside the classroom?

Deresiewicz: There are certainly limits to formal institutional education. As you say, gaining self-knowledge is going to happen when it’s going to happen. But it’s certainly not going to happen if kids don’t have the tools to do it. So that’s the first thing that an education can do—help kids develop the means of reflection, and then, maybe it’ll happen the next year, or the next summer. A book you read in 12th grade or as a sophomore in college might suddenly click five years later. So yes, it happens throughout your life. But you’ve got to start, and I think you’ve got to start when you’re young. Developmentally, adolescence and the early 20s are precisely the time to ask these questions because you are engaged in making the transition from childhood certainty to adult conviction.

Aside from the classes themselves, the fact that we’ve created a system where kids are constantly busy, and have no time for solitude or reflection, is going to take its toll. We need to create a situation where kids feel like they don’t have to be “on” all the time. Given the chance, adolescents tend to engage in very intense conversation, and a lot of life learning happens laterally, happens peer to peer. But if they’re constantly busy, there’s literally no time. It’s crazy. We’ve taken adolescence away from adolescents. School must not take away your opportunities to self-reflect on your own.

When I taught humanities classes, I never talked about self-reflection, and I never invited students to talk about their feelings or their backgrounds or their experiences. I would sometimes do it with students one on one, if they wanted to, but it’s an indirect process. The books are designed to make you think about your life. You can just talk about Achilles, or Elizabeth Bennett, it doesn’t matter if you leave the personal stuff out of the conversation. The books do the work of getting the soul in motion.

One good thing that they do at Lawrence University is have a course where freshmen can read great books and at the same time think about what an education is for. You don’t have to talk too personally there, but at least you’re still preparing yourself to understand your college education in an appropriate way."



"I’ve continued to struggle with the psychological stuff—the cycle of grandiosity and depression, the constant comparisons. Once it gets implanted, you will always struggle with it, and you just get better, hopefully, at dealing with it. But the take home message is that everyone has to liberate themselves from this system. Education should be an act of liberation. We need to make a better system but ultimately everybody has to claim their freedom for themselves."
williamderesiewicz  education  culture  psychology  meritocracy  ivyleague  highered  highereducation  schools  selfworth  success  achievement  assessment  society  values  self-aggrandizement  meaning  meaningmaking  purpose  life  living  deschooling  unschooling  grandiosity  depression  laurencassanidavis 
december 2015 by robertogreco
How the Myth of the Meritocracy Ruins Students
"The inequitable outcome of the meritocracy is hiding in plain sight in every facet of society - in schools, workplaces, prisons and neighborhoods. We don't like inequality and we're alarmed by how fast the underclass is growing, but we believe that it's a fact of life because, let's face it, some people are just better than others. Most of us, liberals included, are to varying degrees beholden to the Myth of the Meritocracy.

Liberals are all for trying to level the playing field. We support basic civil rights measures that prohibit blatant discrimination and affirmative action programs that groom the cream of the crop for middle-class membership. But for all the leveling that has supposedly occurred since Martin Luther King Jr.'s time, things are still very lopsided. King's dream of economic equality was sidelined, because most Americans believe that once the shackles of overt discrimination are removed, the next logical step is for everyone to compete for as big a share of the spoils as possible.

We raise our kids to aspire to the "American Dream," which is understood to extend the promise of upward mobility only to the winners of the rat race. Theoretically, every individual has the opportunity to win the competition and live the dream. But so long as there are winners and losers (with outcomes largely predetermined at birth), the "American Dream" is a Trump-like zero-sum game, and our misplaced allegiance to it has led to nightmarish levels of inequality and social breakdown. As the late George Carlin said, "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Meritocracy is taken for granted as part of the natural order but, in reality, it's a political choice. The alternative to meritocracy is the organized, formal redistribution of wealth on the basis of need, not achievement, but this notion is not (yet) given air time because it upsets the Myth of the Meritocracy. What if some loser gets something he doesn't deserve? What if I have taken away something I deserve to keep?

There's a "me" and there's a "them," and they're in competition and conflict. We'd rather they be homeless, imprisoned, deported or fired than take what we believe is rightfully ours. There is, it seems, a little bit of The Donald in all of us.

We've been conditioned to prefer a society in which everyone has at least some chance of climbing to the top to one in which everyone's basic needs are met. And so it is. And so our society unravels because we'd rather fight each other and fetishize individual success than share.

This reflex to compete rather than cooperate stems from the modern delusion that humans are separate from one another and from nature. When we pause to reflect, we can readily sense and observe that all beings are interconnected and our fates intertwined. But we don't pause to reflect, because we're too busy reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well-being, threats that are amplified 24-7 by the media.

The biggest actual threat to our well-being is the hyper-individualist ethic that frightens us into participating in the war of all against all, the endgame of which is social collapse and, at the rate we're plundering a natural world we feel disconnected from, human extinction.

Dr. King said:
We must see that whatever diminishes the poor diminishes everybody else. And the salvation of the poor will mean the salvation of the whole nation. For we're all tied together in an inescapable network of mutuality. We are tied in a single garment of destiny.

Our culture conditions us to believe the opposite - that each of us can and must strive to rise above the fray. Schools do their part, training children to put a premium on personal excellence or be condemned to a lifetime of drudgery, poverty and, most horrifying of all, low status.

We can abolish homework and testing. We can turn classrooms into innovative hands-on laboratories of learning. We can tell our kids that their lives will be just as happy with a degree from a community college as from Princeton. We can run programs for at-risk youth and, with enough progressive elected officials in office, we can even wrangle some extra money for public schools.

And we should do all of those things. But so long as we focus on each individual child's success rather than the collective well-being of all children and families, we will not be able to extricate our children from the corrosive zero-sum game of "race to the top or get left behind" they are forced to play. So long as we remain trapped in the meritocratic arena, we ensure a mean and uncertain future for our children, a future in which most will be consigned to the underclass and even those closer to the top will unhappily strive to surpass thy neighbor.

Politics and culture keep the Myth of the Meritocracy alive. Market fundamentalism ensures high levels of economic inequality that have people worried enough to want to elbow their fellow citizens (and non-citizens) out of the race. Culturally, we're conditioned from such an early age to enter the race to the top and to believe that those at the top belong there, that we never consider what it would look like to cooperate instead of compete.

It doesn't have to be this way. The United States is blessed with more than enough to go around, enough food, enough medicine, enough housing, enough money to create space for every child to graduate from a university or vocational college and earn a decent living doing something they enjoy. We just need to get better at sharing and cooperating.

That, in the end, is our choice: Redistribute wealth equitably and invest in schools that honor and inspire students or force our children to run the gauntlet, knowing that only a fraction of them will succeed and the rest eliminated like Celebrity Apprentice contestants. Either Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream will be realized, or Trump's will."
meritocracy  society  ericaetelson  competition  capitalism  2015  inequality  wealthredistribution  wealth  politics  culture  us  learning  children  poverty  privilege  georgecarlin  mutuality  martinlutherkingjr  individualism  japan  collectivism  socialism  communism  americandream  socialsafetynet  economics  injustice  unfairness  race  racism  classism  class  libertarianism  success  virtue  work  labor  motivation  education  schools  racetonowhere  mlk 
november 2015 by robertogreco
CLASS DISMISSED: A ROUNDTABLE ON ART SCHOOL, USC, AND COOPER UNION by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer, Helen Molesworth, Mike Essl, Jory Rabinovitz, Lee Relvas, Amanda Ross-Ho, Victoria Sobel, Frances Stark, A. L. Steiner, Charlie White - artforum.com / in print
[via: https://twitter.com/CaseyG/status/652215259235807232 ]

"IN AN ERA when creative economies are leading the hypermonetization of every aspect of life, from attention and identity to privacy and time, it’s not surprising that this country’s most progressive models of art education are under attack. In fact, the liberal arts and humanities are besieged across the board, increasingly expected to justify their funding, even their very existence, in universities and beyond. We are witnessing a massive cultural shift when we see the corporatization of higher education—with its top-down power structures, bloated bureaucracies, “synergistic” partnerships with the private sector, relegation of faculty to contingent adjunct labor, and reliance on students as revenue streams—spiking tuition costs and sending student debt ballooning.

All this has come dramatically to a head this past year on both coasts, at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design in Los Angeles. It is sadly predictable and all the more alarming that the ever-accelerating process of financialization should upend two of the most vital art schools in America, each of which has been based on the endangered premise of a tuition-free or fully funded education. While the specific circumstances and institutional histories make the nature of each crisis distinct, they both betray the wrenching cultural shifts produced by a head-on collision with the technocratic crusaders of contemporary capitalism.

Following its board of directors’ decision to abandon Cooper Union’s tuition-free mandate, which had stood for more than 150 years, the school’s president and five trustees resigned amid an ongoing inquiry into the institution’s finances by the New York State Attorney General. The grassroots Committee to Save Cooper Union has taken legal action to preserve the venerable institution’s founding mission of free education, and to call attention to the fiscal mismanagement and lack of accountability on the part of the school’s board of trustees. [Eds. note: As this issue was going to press, the Attorney General announced that a settlement had been reached and that Cooper Union would work to eventually reinstate free tuition.] At USC Roski, the drastic restructuring and reduction in funding for the school’s renowned graduate program by a new dean’s administration prompted high-profile, tenured faculty to resign in protest and the entire MFA class of 2016 to drop out en masse earlier this year, citing unacceptable changes to funding packages, curriculum, and faculty.

Debates over art education have a long history, of course. A groundbreaking and utopian model that remains relevant today is Black Mountain College, which nurtured cultural and pedagogical innovation at mid-century and which is the subject of a major exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, opening on October 10. Artforum invited the show’s curator, HELEN MOLESWORTH, to join eight distinguished participants—from Cooper, faculty MIKE ESSL and alumni JORY RABINOVITZ and VICTORIA SOBEL; and from USC Roski, current or former faculty members FRANCES STARK, CHARLIE WHITE, and A. L. STEINER; alumna AMANDA ROSS-HO; and LEE RELVAS, one of the seven class-of-2016 students who dropped out—to discuss the current situation at both institutions and the histories, challenges, and continued promise of art school."



"HELEN MOLESWORTH: We’ve convened today to talk about the current crises at USC and Cooper, both of which are symptoms of larger problems facing the entire concept of art education in this country. And for many schools today, Black Mountain College remains a key model for art education after World War II.

In the face of this crisis, Black Mountain is even more relevant to the current situation than one might think: It was a program born of extraordinary optimism, but it was also born of dissent, born of a firing of tenured faculty, born of a group of teachers and students deciding that they needed to own the means of production themselves and create an institution in which there were no trustees or board of regents, so they could collectively control the college. It had an extraordinary efflorescence and was a wellspring of the American avant-garde; the curriculum at BMC influenced many of the practices that define contemporary studio and liberal-arts programs—group critiques, collaboration, interdisciplinarity. It also failed beautifully and wonderfully and spectacularly at its end: It was short-lived, running only from 1933 to 1957.

Which leads me to the most basic and perhaps the most unanswerable question: Why now? Why are extremely successful, renowned arts-education departments on both coasts under attack in the way that they are at Cooper and USC? Are they—and Black Mountain—anomalies, experiments that could never last? Or are they victims of some of the nastiest tactics of our neoliberal new economy?"



"LEE RELVAS: I’m one of the seven MFA students who just dropped out from USC. We dropped out collectively to protest the school’s reneging on funding and curricular promises made to us, because that funding model and pedagogical model were clearly no longer considered valuable under the new dean’s leadership. But we also wanted to protest publicly the economics of higher education: namely, the normalization of massive student debt.

We range in age from twenty-seven to forty-one years old. So we actually did know what we were getting into as far as the debt that we thought we were going to be taking on, as well as the lack of teaching opportunities, and if we were so lucky to get a teaching job, how little most of those teaching jobs paid.

But we still wanted two years of time and space to be artists and thinkers and to be in close conversation with each other. And outside these flawed institutions, there is little material and cultural support for that."



"HELEN MOLESWORTH: In New York, do you have a similar sense that the faculty and the students at Cooper were unable to articulate the value of free tuition to the board?

MIKE ESSL: I think we did articulate it but we weren’t heard, and it was all the more disturbing to me because of my own personal understanding of that value. My dad is a mechanic and my mom is a bookkeeper. They didn’t go to college and they didn’t save for college, and me going to college was just never on their radar. And Cooper Union gave me permission to go to art school. Without that freedom, without being able to tell my parents essentially to fuck off, I don’t know where I would be now. [Laughter.]

And what that does for, say, a lower-middle-class student, that permission, the way it lowers the risk of art school and allows you to even conceive of going, is something that the board of trustees did not care about at all.

We would hear about how the cost of teaching artists is too expensive and that when artists graduate they don’t donate, and there was really no consideration of the artist as a person in the world at all. And so for those people to be the board members of a school like Cooper Union, I would argue, is criminal. They just refused to hear any arguments.

JORY RABINOVITZ: There was no dialogue, no transparency. There was never any mention of charging tuition while I was at Cooper. I started when the demolition of the Abram S. Hewitt Memorial art building, and the construction of the new Thom Mayne–designed academic center, 41 Cooper Square, in its place, was just beginning. The three-year transition phase completely displaced the art school and literally split it in two, sending half of the classes and studios to a rented building in Long Island City. Since the art school donated the least and protested the most, it really felt like we were being singled out to receive this weird form of punishment or austerity measure. Many of the school’s questionable financial decisions that are currently under investigation happened at the very same time. So when I look at the new building, it’s hard not to see a big perforated smoke screen.

MIKE ESSL: They showed up at the table already having decided that our model was old-fashioned and could no longer be supported. Which is why we have been saying all along that it’s a cultural problem, not an economic one."



"A. L. STEINER: Eighty percent of USC’s faculty is now adjunct and contingent. This is part of an ideology of austerity being embraced at the school, even though its undergraduate program ranks sixteenth in tuition nationwide and the university is one of twenty schools nationwide responsible for one-fifth of the country’s graduate-school student debt. The dean’s thinking came down to a gamble—that the graduate faculty’s interactions, and the program’s funding and curricular promises, were unnecessary. There’s a bigger agenda in play, and it’s intertwined with the value and significance of an arts education in a technocratic regime, in a world where the nonprofit sector exists as a manifestation of the private sector."



"FRANCES STARK: But you have to consider that in context. I was on the search committee for the new dean in the spring of 2013, and the problem of financial sustainability was not explicitly on the table when we were interviewing candidates. The entire process seemed perfunctory: It became clear that the interim dean was the internal candidate they wanted, and who, it was later disclosed, was somehow attached to the $70 million gift from Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre to endow a new school of “Art, Technology and the Business of Innovation” at USC. Erica Muhl, who became dean, has zero background in contemporary fine art, design, or art history. She is not conversant with these fields at all. I asked her, “What is your vision for the school?” And she responded, “To be number one.” No joke. OK? She told the graduate students: “The future of art is Mark Zuckerberg… [more]
cooperunion  blackmountaincollege  usc  art  arteducation  education  highered  highereducation  helenmolesworth  mikeessl  joryrabinovitz  leerelvas  amandaross-ho  victoriasobel  francesstark  alsteiner  charliewhite  sarahlehrer-graiwer  via:caseygollan  activism  neoliberalism  capitalism  politics  conversation  proximity  ambiguity  joy  meritocracy  organizations  institutions  bmc  arts  humanities  schools  tcsnmy  progressive  technocracy  artseducation  culture  thinking  optimism  bauhaus  calarts  community  pedagogy  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn 
october 2015 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"



"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Jennifer Armbrust | Proposals for the Feminine Economy | CreativeMornings/PDX
"“The experimental feminine is all that is not business as usual and vice versa.” — Joan Retallack

What does it look like to embody feminine principles in business? In art? Why does it matter—what’s at stake? What does gender have to do with business? What does business have to do with art? What does capitalism have to do with nature? And what is an economy, anyhow? Can a business be feminist? Why would it want to? Where is money in all of this? Armbrust’s Creative Mornings talk posits a protocol for prototyping an experimental/feminine business."

[Direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7kI7Bsa56g ]
jennarmbrust  via:nicolefenton  2015  capitalism  feminism  masculinity  consciouscapitalism  power  egalitarianism  growth  art  design  criticaltheory  entrepreneurship  business  economics  competition  inequality  ownership  consumerism  consumption  labor  work  efficiency  speed  meritocracy  profit  individualism  scarcity  abundance  poverty  materialism  care  caring  interdependence  vulnerability  embodiment  ease  generosity  collaboration  sustainability  resourcefulness  mindfulness  self-care  gratitude  integrity  honesty  nature  joanretallack  well-being 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Sub Prime Kristol Meltdown - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
"I remember back in the late ’90s when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture to an economic philosophy class I was taking. It was a great lecture, made more so by the fact that the class was only about ten or twelve students and we got got ask all kinds of questions and got a lot of great, provocative answers. Anyhow, Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol back either during the first Bush administration. The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle’s chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon’s domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at The White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at UPenn and the Kennedy School of Government. With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. “I oppose it”, Irving replied. “It subverts meritocracy.”"

[via https://twitter.com/elongreen/status/598146600058368000
via https://twitter.com/vruba/status/608293036699688960 ]
via:vruba  2008  billkristol  irvingkristol  privilege  affirmitiveaction  connections  irakatznelson  republicans  georghwbush  danquayle  meritocracy 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech's Inequalities
"“Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” you’ll often hear politicians and education reform types say.



"To the contrary, I maintain that civil rights remain the civil rights issue of our generation. When we see, for example, the Supreme Court overturn part of the Voting Rights Act, when we see rampant police violence against marginalized groups, when we see backlash against affirmative action and against Title IX protections, when we see pervasive discrimination – institutionalized – in people’s daily lives, when we see widespread inequalities – socioeconomic stratification based on race, ethnicity, gender, geography – we need to admit: there are things that, as Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued, the “education gospel cannot fix.”

And yet the dominant narrative – the gospel, if you will – about education and, increasingly education technology, is that it absolutely is “the fix.”

Education technology will close the achievement gap; education technology will close the opportunity gap. Education technology will revolutionize; education technology will democratize. Or so we are told. That's the big message at this week's ASU-GSV Summit, where education technology investors and entrepreneurs and politicians have gathered (registration: $2995) to talk about "equity." (Equity and civil rights, that is; not equity as investing in exchange for stock options and a seat on the Board of Directors, I should be clear. Although I'm guessing most of the conversations there were actually about the latter.)



"The rhetoric of “open” and education technology – particularly with regards to MOOCs and OER – needs to be interrogated. “Open access” is not sufficient. Indeed, as research by Justin Reich suggests – he’s also one of the authors of the MOOC study I just cited, incidentally – open educational resources might actually expand educational inequalities. A digital Matthew effect, if you will, where new technologies actually extend the advantages of the already advantaged.

In his research on OER, Reich looked at schools’ uses of wikis – some 180,000 wikis – and measured the opportunities that these provide students “to develop 21st-century skills such as expert thinking, complex communication, and new media literacy.” Among the findings: “Wikis created in schools serving low-income students have fewer opportunities for 21st-century skill development and shorter lifetimes than wikis from schools serving affluent students.” Reich found that students in more affluent schools were more likely to use wikis to collaborate and to build portfolios and presentations to showcase their work, for example.

Reich’s assertion that education technology broadens rather than erases educational inequality is echoed elsewhere. An article published last year in the journal Economic Inquiry, for example, found that “the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest, but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.” Importantly, the negative impact was the greatest among low income students, in part the authors suggested because “student computer use is more effectively monitored and channeled toward productive ends in more affluent homes.” That is, students from affluent homes have a different sort of digital literacy and different expectations – themselves and from their parents – about what a computer is for."



"Anyon’s work is critical as it highlights how students’ relationship to “the system of ownership of symbolic and physical capital, to authority and control, and to their own productive activity” are developed differently in working class, middle class, and elite schools. Her work helps us to see too how the traditional practices of school might be reinforced, re-inscribed by technology – not, as some like to argue, magically disrupted, with these hierarchies magically flattened. Menial tasks are still menial if done on a computer. To argue otherwise is ed-tech solutionism – dangerous and wrong.

That’s not to say that education technology changes nothing, or changes little more than moving the analog to the digital. There are profoundly important questions we must ask about the shifts that education technology might bring about, particularly if we have our eye towards justice. How does education technology alter the notion of “work” in school, for example – students’ labor as well as teachers’ labor? Who owns all the content and data that students create when using educational technology? How do technology companies use this data to build their algorithms; how do they use it to build profiles and models? How do they use it to monitor, assess, predict, surveil? Who is surveilled; and who is more apt to be disciplined for what’s uncovered?

If we’re only concerned about the digital divide, we are likely to overlook these questions. We cannot simply ask “Who has access to Internet-connected devices at home?” We need to ask how Internet-connected devices are used – at home and at school?"



"This surveillance is increasingly pervasive, at both the K–12 and at the college level. New education technologies create more data; new education technology regimes – education policy regimes – demand more data."



"The architecture of education technology is not neutral.

Despite all the hype and hope about revolution and access and opportunity that these new technologies are supposed to provide us, they do not negate hierarchy, history, privilege, power. They reflect those. They channel it. They concentrate it, in new ways and in old."



"Education technology simply does not confront systemic inequalities. Or rather, it often substitutes access to a computing device or high speed Internet for institutional or structural change. Education technology routinely fails to address power or privilege. It fails to recognize, let alone examine, its history. It insists instead on stories about meritocracy and magic and claims about “blindness.”

I want to end here on what is a bit of a tangent, I suppose, about blindness – the things in technology we refuse to see.

This is a picture from Baotou in Inner Mongolia. Tim Maughan published a story last week on the BBC website about this artificial lake “filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge” – the toxic result of mining rare earth minerals, used in our modern computing devices, many of which are assembled – at least in part – in China.

That means this toxic lake is a byproduct of education technology. It grows as our fervor for new devices grows. Can we really say we’re architecting an equitable educational future if we ignore this foundation?

This is the great challenge for those of us in education: to address and not dismiss the toxicity. Adding technology does not scrub it away. To the contrary, we need to recognize where and how and why education technology actually makes things worse."
audreywatters  education  edtech  2015  technology  inequality  equity  mooc  moocs  anantagarwal  edx  dabanks  meritocracy  privilege  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  evgenymorozov  suveillance  natashasinger  pearson  aclu  eff  rocketshipschools  seymourpapert  carpediemschools  arneduncan  civilrights  justinreich  jeananyon  solutionism  charterschools 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Everything To Like About Kevin Carey’s #EndofCollege And Reasons to Pause — The Message — Medium
"If “The End of College” gives a little love to jobs, it does not give much love inequality. There isn’t a single discussion of any of higher education’s well-documentated fault lines in the entire book. That ommission undermines the arguments chosen to advance the major claim of what technology can do. Take for instance, Carey’s framing of higher education’s skyrocketing cost. He talks about high student loan debt and tuition. But debt and cost are relative. Despite impressive sounding aggregrate numbers about student loan debt the most vulnerable students are struggling with objectively small debt burdens. Making college cheaper by cutting out the expensive campus real estate arms race does not address the fact that cheap is not an absolute value. That is why race, class, gender, and citizenship status are ways to understand how much college costs: they map onto the relative nature of debt. If you don’t talk about why skyrocketing tuition is relative then you aren’t really talking about skyrocketing tuition. And if your argument is built on the claim that it counters skyrocketing tuition, then the slightest tug of the thread unravels the whole thing.

Let’s take another example of how the “End of College” argument talks about jobs. For Carey, the key to changing higher education is employers seeing online degrees as “official”. Becoming official could, indeed, change the game. We call it legitimacy and it is hard to earn, hard to keep but worth trying because legitimacy can turn a piece of paper into currency. If Mozilla badges become the preferred degree for jobs, we may be talking about a big deal. But, again, the challenge is not about quality of teaching or the skills people learn at online colleges. Colleges aren’t even the problem for online degrees’ quest to become official. The problem is that easy access to skills training is precisely what employers do not want. A labor market of all creeds and colors and cultures with objective skills is actually a nightmare for employers. Employers benefit when they can hire for fit and disguise it as skill. If the private sector were interested in skills over racism, sexism, and classism, it need not end college to end wage disparities. Employers could start by ending inequalities among the people they already employ. They don’t because politics makes it so they don’t have to. Carey overstates the private sector’s interest in skills and understates its interest in hiring for who we are as much as for what we know."



"The argument is well aware that political priorities and coalitions produce higher education crises. But what are those politics? The book never says. Of course, other books do say but there aren’t many references of them. A reader who picks up just this one book is going to know a lot more about technology and very little about the politics of how we live with technology.

Just once I would like a technological disruption to be tuned for the most fragile institutions, rather than the most well-heeled. Carey seems to aim for just that. Less well-funded colleges, especially those without the prestige to justify their tuition are squarely in Carey’s sights. The argument is that these schools cannot compete for the best; subsidizing them is throwing good money after bad; and, individuals are better left to their own devices. But even Carey’s choice of George Washington University does not represent the typical college in the U.S. or the diversity of colleges. There is no treatment of historically black colleges, Hispanic-serving colleges, or for-profit colleges. They are in the status competition race, too, with different stakes and different traditions with different importance for different reasons than Harvard or even George Washington University. The institutions, like the students they serve, just disappear in the future. The book is about the end of college but Carey’s higher education future only describes the end of some colleges.

All of that is also fine. Really, it is. Imagined futures can be useful thought experiments, although I admit a preference for those that do not erase people who look like me. But I’m selfish that way.

Thought experiments can be fun and edifying and useful abstractions. I like that about the tech sector’s approach to problem-solving. But in reality, these arguments can also suck the air out of the room precisely when we must make hard, political choices."
tressiemcmillancottom  education  highered  highereducation  2015  kevincarey  disruption  technology  class  inequality  race  politics  policy  meritocracy  future  endofcollege  forprofit  jobs  employment  legitimacy  badges  mozilla  credentials  debt  gender  tuition 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Venture capital has a self-dealing problem -- Fusion
"If the tech industry is as important to America’s future as Silicon Valley thinks it is, they should want these gatekeeper institutions to be as meritocratic as possible. And that means making sure that they operate with as little in-group prejudice as they can. Sometimes, that might mean missing out on a big deal over a conflict of interest. But it would give aspiring tech founders some confidence in the integrity of the system they’re entering."

[via: http://log.scifihifi.com/post/113467684156/if-the-tech-industry-is-as-important-to-americas

See also: http://log.scifihifi.com/post/84235469306/it-turns-out-that-insider-ness-provides-little ]
vc  venturecapitalism  meritocracy  inclusion  2015  kevinroose  diversity  gender  race  technology  siliconvalley  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
march 2015 by robertogreco
BusinessTown
"An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry."

[via: http://kottke.org/15/01/richard-scarrys-business-business-town
see also: http://boingboing.net/2014/11/26/tom-the-dancing-bug-richard-s.html ]
humor  richardscarry  labor  work  siliconvalley  business  2015  meritocracy  bullshitjobs  disruption 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Artist Endures - The Atlantic
"What’s more, the idea that 10,000 hours of practice makes someone an expert may not even be psychologically valid. A recent meta-analysis found that while practice correlated with skill, it did not at all explain it. “Deliberate practice left more of the variation in skill unexplained than it explained,” wrote one of that study’s authors in Slate. We know so little about this idea because it’s so relatively recent: The first research suggesting a “10,000 Hour Rule” existed was published in 1993, and the rule itself only became popularized with the 2008 release of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.

And look what happened: In six years, the idea became such a part of the cultural atmosphere that Deresiewicz can treat it like it’s timeless. But it’s not—it’s new, as much a part of the changing artistic firmament as the compulsion to have a website.

But that doesn’t mean its meaningless. The “10,000 Hour Rule” caught on because it invited readers to a cultural meritocracy. It discredited the un-American idea that in-born talent drives careers, instead suggesting that any discipline, any craft or art, could be accessible to anyone through hours upon hours of practice. Maybe that’s true: We just don’t know. Likewise, I don’t know whether true cultural democracy is coming.

But I do know one thing. The value of any discipline, whether craft or art, is not extracted solely by experts. In his essay, Deresiewicz approves of how Gertrude Stein once scolded Picasso for writing poetry. I have also heard Picasso was a terrible poet, but I really don’t know, and I can’t hazard whether some iambic innovation would have spurred him to paint differently.

I am not Picasso, though, and neither are you. And in the world I’d like to live in, everyone—whether they’re a famous painter or a CPA—would feel as though they can explore the breadth of human expression, whether through writing poetry or learning about Chinese pottery or even researching historical pickling methods. If cultural democracy comes, my guess is it will not look like 100 million specialists. It will appear as a society of curious minds, captivated by human traditions and inspired to improve upon them, interested in the many places in the world where humans have spent their attention—and hungry to invest more."
robinsonmeyer  2014  art  williamderesiewicz  craft  practice  internet  malcolmgladwell  advice  democracy  culture  creativity  attention  specialists  specialization  generalists  meritocracy  joirodreamsofsushi  gertrudestein  pablopicasso  dilettantes  innovation  imagination 
january 2015 by robertogreco
6, 31: Nixtamalization
"Broadly, you’re getting three things here:

First, reminiscences, because “I saw an unusual thing once and, on reflection, here’s what I think of it” is one of my favorite things to read.

Second, criticism of cultural criticism, especially of the tech industry. From the fact that I work in this industry, you can guess that I think there are at least a few beautiful, wholly worthwhile things here. From the fact that I’m not a complete psychopath, you can guess that I think the industry as a whole is enormously broken. My ideas about this are not very lucid, but I try to clarify them using actual experiences and numbers and introspection. One opinion you’ll see a lot is that complaining about epiphenomena – the taste of Soylent, creepy wording choices in Facebook press releases, the fact that some tech workers are rude – is fine or whatever, but it doesn’t replace serious inquiries into cultural and economic problems like systemic sexism or child labor.

What I fear is a cultural framework around technology like the one around pro sports, where a merry enterprise has grown an industry based on “a subtle but insidious form of child abuse”, but popular criticism is stuck on the level of nitpicking stars’ public behavior. To take high technology’s potential for good seriously is to take its potential for bad seriously, and to take its potential for bad seriously is to get beyond the “they call us users, which is also what drug addicts are called!!!” horseshit.

The tech industry, or its subculture, or the network itself, is neither independent of nor a seamless part of the society around it. It has its own potentials, its own points of rigidity and articulation, that are not understood in one glance. Studying it is like studying anything else. You need sweat and rigor: to build a ship that floats, that catches the wind, that can be sailed and improved by other people. You also need enchantment and humility: to have been out of sight of land and imagine, involuntarily, the abyssal plains and mountains far under you, and realize that your mind will never encompass everything as it is at once.

In this decade we have a lot of loud commentators who are very keen on certain conclusions about the network – that it’s good or bad, shaped like this or that – but don’t show the rigor or the humility. The commentators themselves are not a bad blight, as blights go. Better to have reflexive Luddites and unreflective transhumanists selling tweet-sized answers to Wikipedia-sized questions on the lecture circuit than to have locusts, or bears, or superflus, or gray goo, or dictators, or weevils.

But we can do better, I hope. We will apply more of what we already know about people to technology made and used by people. It’s a very slippery thing to talk about people, personhood itself, at the scale where experience happens. People speaking for themselves can do it. Good fiction does it, and very good narrative history. Nonfiction tends to be terrible at it. There is a big exception. It’s the structure that’s been home to a sizable plurality, maybe even a majority, of the most serious intellectual work of the last three or four generations: feminism. (Other fields have been able to talk about lived personhood, obvs, but it’s feminism that’s coordinated all these insights into productive mosaics. Third-wave feminism is the single most useful collection of ideas of what people are like. So it is that if in 2014 you read something generally about humanness that doesn’t feel like it was written by Howard Hughes on DMT, it’s likely using a hundred years feminist scholarship as a foundation.) The first of many problems, of course, is that a lot of the tech culture shares the larger culture’s suspicion that feminism is just patriarchy through a mirror, and we all know patriarchy is for crap, so.

And we have weird ideas about the future. We think that technology is more about the future than other things are. We think that to make people work for a better future, we have to convince them that things are getting worse. (The evidence is that the most important things are getting better for most people.) We think that we can make climate change not come true after it’s already come true. On the whole of course I suspect the future of people is less determined by its being the future than by their being people.

And a special note on meritocracy. The following is pandering to most readers, but occasionally someone thanks me for my “newsletter about how the tech industry isn’t really that bad” or something, so I’d like to draw a line. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of several institutions that people could move in under their own power. I’ve appreciated them partly because they’re so rare, especially in tech. The idea that the economy is an objective sorting of people according to innate virtue onto a scale of income is on a level with the idea that our fates are woven by the Norns. Maybe a bit below, in that the Norns were fictional but describable, while merit is both fictional and circularly defined. Smartness is a concept that I try to avoid, but if I had to choose someone as the smartest I know, with the best ability to analyze and construct complex and subtle ideas, she’s in training as a mid-level social worker and can expect to “““““earn”””””, at her career peak, somewhat less than a middling third-year code monkey making trick websites in SF. I know two different brilliant people stuck in subsistence retail jobs to take care of their sick relatives. I know two different eldercare nurses who are made to take extra work hours. You can take your meritocracy and shove it so far up your ass it chips your teeth."



"By request, though in some consternation about acting as if I have the answers, I suggest two rules of thumb:

1. When you meet someone, examine your first impression carefully. Consider what kind of person you reflexively think they are, and start interacting with them from the assumption that they’re sick of being treated like that kind of person. Defer to basic sensitivities and to common sense, of course. The idea is to actively negate biases rather than trying to ignore them, and it seems to land me in more interesting conversations.

2. Think of times you’ve changed your mind about something important. Think especially of the ways that people tried to talk you out of it that failed before you did come around. Then, when debating, use ways of arguing that have worked on you. Maybe more importantly, don’t use ways of arguing that only entrenched you."
2014  charlieloyd  firstimpressions  listening  assumptions  conversation  mindchanging  openmindedness  iterestedness  debate  debating  arguing  argument  meritocracy  technology  siliconvalley  fiction  patriarchy  feminism  humility  rigor  criticism  nuance  complexity  systemsthinking  epiphenomena  internet  web  mindchanges 
november 2014 by robertogreco
“Two Cheers for Anarchism” reviewed
"There are lots of stories about follies arising from central planning. One such is that a factory was incentivized based on the number of shoes it manufactured. It ended up producing a lot of shoes — but only for left feet. Contracting out with performance measurement in ultra-modern capitalism can generate similar results, not least, God help us, in the public education of children. When you attach high stakes to a narrow measurement, hijinks ensue.

For Scott, performance measurement and testing are futile efforts by a state to regiment what would otherwise be more productive, creative, unplanned work. Such practices are an over-extension of meritocracy. Meritocracy is an improvement over rewards according to the accidents of birth, much less to predatory behavior. But meritocracy can degrade itself, as society’s winners massage the rules to perpetuate their privileges for their less-deserving descendants. Such practices of course build on the inherent advantages derived from gender, race, and class that provide unequal advantages in the establishment of merit.

One of Scott’s more compelling passages is about how the ubiquity of regimentation in schooling and large organizations, both public and private, for the purported exercise of a benign meritocracy, actually generates an attitude of fear and supplication that is not conducive to democratic citizenship.

Again I’ll resort to one of my pet peeves. The corruption of the American institution of the “town meeting.” In folklore, if not in fact, the town meeting was a setting where citizens gathered as equals and engaged in democratic discussion and debate. In small towns, familiarity made it difficult for people to promote their own narrow interests above those of the community, because everybody knew everybody else’s business.

These days the town meetings one usually finds are commanded by a local elected official. He or she controls the microphone. Constituents — supplicants, really — are allowed brief questions. Ushers will escort troublesome people out, aided if necessary by the local police. The fun part of these affairs is when control breaks down and critics reach critical mass. Meeting adjourned!"
jamescscott  2014  twocheersofranarchism  anarchism  meritocracy  education  townmeetings  democracy  us  society  governance  government  inequality  corruption  incentives  elites  control  power  piolicy 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us | Paul Verhaeghe | Comment is free | theguardian.com
"We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation.

Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it’s known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.

Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the “infantilisation of the workers”. Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities (“She got a new office chair and I didn’t”), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults.

More important, though, is the serious damage to people’s self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being “Who needs me?” For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us."
neoliberalism  economics  politics  psycopathy  paulverhaeghe  2014  capitalism  ethics  behavior  identity  zygmuntbauman  power  freedom  meritocracy  responsibility  society  hegel  lacan  richardsennett  roberthare  impulsivity  markets  privatization  articulateness  boasting  personalbranding  lying  dishonesty  personality  bullying  parenting  priorities 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Myth of Magical Futures — Kate Losse
"Despite its (now frequently mocked) claims to meritocracy, Silicon Valley loves its hierarchies. However, because these hierarchies often look somewhat different than old-time corporate ones, they are often opaque to outsiders looking in. My book The Boy Kings is among other things a diagram of hierarchy as it was architected at Facebook in Facebook’s early years, where the closer one was to a Mark-Zuckerberg-when-he-started-Facebook combination of age, race, and gender qualities the higher one was in the hierarchy (a hierarchy that appears not to have changed much given the industry's recently released diversity data). In the past year tech's particular version of hierarchy has been more widely acknowledged and critiqued, and thus we are now in the situation where people as powerful as Peter Thiel are being asked to comment on tech’s diversity and misogyny problems, as in yesterday’s Reddit Ask Me Anything interview with Thiel.

Peter Thiel’s answer to misogyny in tech was that we need more women founders, and this answer struck me as interesting on a number of levels, and also somewhat opaque to someone looking into this world from outside. Why women founders? On the one hand, the possibility that a woman founder would construct the hierarchy at her company differently than Mark Zuckerberg is compelling. On the other, the idea of women founders as a solution to tech misogyny also makes existing male founders and investors unaccountable for misogyny as it exists today. Thiel is saying that he and his funded companies are not responsible for the misogynist environments they themselves have built, and furthermore, that they can’t fix them-- only a woman founder can.

This is a problem, because the misogynist hierarchies that exist in tech today are not mystical outcomes, but very real products of the values of the people involved at the formation of a company, which are investors and founders. Investors and board members in addition to founders influence everything from how much equity goes to individual employees, to perks and play budgets (which often are not evenly distributed across the company), to the construction of departments, their relative importance, and the resources accordingly allocated to them. And not coincidentally the privileged departments, on this model, tend to be those occupied by people who look most like the founder and investors (at Facebook this was product engineering, which dominated other forms of engineering, which dominated non-engineering departments, which tended to have the largest degree of race and gender diversity).

But when Thiel is arguing for more women founders he isn’t just deflecting responsibility from himself and his fellow investors. He is also doing something else that I want to unpack: he is re-inscribing a form of hierarchical thinking that is part of the reason tech is such a mess regarding diversity. That is, when Thiel points to “more women founders” as a solution, he is asking women to become founders in order to possess a status that would allow Thiel to acknowledge women in tech at all. That is, all of the women who are currently working in tech, up and down the employee stack, many at companies that Thiel may be invested in, do not seem in Thiel’s formulation to really exist to him. They do not have a seat at the table. They are not acknowledged as agents of change, or as subjects of discrimination (for example, in the AMA, Thiel cited the Bay Area “housing crisis” as a worse problem than sexism in tech, not knowing that the housing crisis disproportionately affects women and people of color because of the wage discrimination marginalized people face at work).

That is, according to Thiel’s “women founders” logic, he can only imagine women as agents/subjects if they are the founder of a company. And this, in the end, is exactly why and how tech is such a diversity disaster: because there are so many ways powerful people in the industry have of ignoring that marginalized people are working at their companies and are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination right now. This is why many powerful people in tech can only conceive moves to “change” the industry in terms of magical futures like “more women founders” or “getting young girls to code”. The women working in the industry right now are being written off in favor of these magical futures, and as long as this is the case, the now of tech (whether the now is today or twenty years from today) will be unchanged.

This is why you should be skeptical whenever you see powerful men arguing for magical future outcomes in regard to diversity. Instead, ask what they can do right now to affect discrimination in their companies. For example, what are they doing to rectify across the board pay and equity discrepancies between men and women, or white men and people of color? What do their harassment policies look like? Investors like Peter Thiel directly influence these decisions at startups they fund (even if “influence” means “failing to advise founders to avoid discriminatory practices”, which is a form of influence). So when men like Thiel speak of magical futures, we should always be asking them: what are you doing today?"
katelosse  siliconvalley  sexism  internet  culture  business  women  technosolutionism  peterthiel  gender  californianideology  meritocracy  facebook  markzuckerberg  vc  venturecapital  technology  libertarianism 
september 2014 by robertogreco
El estómago revuelto de la educación: El colegio como base de la injusticia social. | Stgo Maker Space
"He aquí el tema más obvio, álgido y doloroso al que se enfrenta nuestra educación; y de hecho, podría ser la razón que produzca este infarto del que hemos hablado con anterioridad. El sistema educativo es la base de la injusticia social: un padre que tiene ingresos insuficientes, no puede educar a sus hijos tan bien como los padres de mayores ingresos. No podemos pedir a los padres de mayores ingresos que eduquen peor a sus hijos para que se den más oportunidades a los otros, porque están directamente con ellos, y es legítimo que les quieran dar lo mejor. Tampoco el país puede subvencionar educación gratuita y de calidad para una población gigante que no la puede pagar, y agregando a una población que dejaría de pagarla en caso de que fuera gratuita. Es claro que terminaría por producir un fracaso educacional generalizado por falta de presupuesto; haciendo un agujero económico nacional que tomará muchas generaciones en sortearse (por falta de competitividad de este país con el resto). Este es el drama: nuestro sistema no es meritocrático, puesto que los desafortunados de nacer en familias de pocos recursos, están cuesta arriba, mientras que los que pueden pagar buena educación, tienen el camino más allanado.

El problema de injusticia social a primera vista parece no tener solución. En nuestro país, se discute si la educación ha de ser gratuita o no. Los principales pesos en esta balanza son la inequidad social versus la capacidad del país para solventar algo tan enorme como esto. La peor parte es que detrás de cada posición, hay una bandera política; y por lo tanto, cada bando sólo está abocado a “ganar” (¡¿a ganar?!) la discusión, y probar que el equipo contrario está equivocado. El foco de la discusión tiene que estar en otra parte, puesto que las dos teorías que están sobre la mesa, son radicalmente destructivas. La discusión debería estar en cómo hacemos un sistema educativo eficiente. Nuestro sistema educacional despilfarra toneladas de horas de los profesores en actividades infructuosas. Estamos limpiándonos los dientes con mondadientes de uranio: el uranio es caro, se debería estar usando en otra cosa, está haciendo muy mal su trabajo, y para colmo, está dañando al que lo usa. Un proceso educativo quizá podría estarse llevando con contactos profesor-alumno de dos horas al día solamente; y con un método completamente distinto, sólo por pensar en una idea vaga."

[Parte 1: Parte 1: http://www.stgomakerspace.com/el-estomago-revuelto-de-la-educacion-introduccion/
Parte 2: http://www.stgomakerspace.com/el-estomago-revuelto-de-la-educacion-parte-2/
Parte 4 (ingnora el URL): http://www.stgomakerspace.com/el-estomago-revuelto-de-la-educacion-parte-5/ ]
chile  education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  2014  joaquínaldunate  howwelearn  schools  schooling  socialization  meritocracy  inequality  socialjustice  socialinjustice  injustice 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Free college narratives | MattBruenig | Politics
"Supposing college was free, what would the social narrative about the recipients of it be? I have seen two basic approaches:

1. It is a right. I owe nothing.

Under this narrative, recipients of free college are due free college as a matter of right. To deprive them of it is to oppress them. When they receive the free college, it is not a privilege, a bonus, an excess; rather, they are simply getting what already belongs to them.

This is the way the student movement in the U.S. has gone. The students are the downtrodden and the oppressed because they are required to finance large parts of their college education. It is common now to even see them included in lists of oppressed people alongside people of color, women, and the poor.

The problem with this narrative is two-fold. First, on the merits, it is very implausible to include college students in the ranks of the oppressed. If you line up a list of identities and their opposite — black/white, man/woman, poor/rich, straight/gay, student/non-student — the thing that stands out about student is that, all else equal, it is the better identity to be. The college wage premium still stands at around $1 million, making it hard to really contemplate students as an especially oppressed category of people.

Second, and more important for my point here, it establishes the future economic elite of the country as not really owing others anything. They don’t owe others for their free college because it was theirs to begin with as a matter of right. I am generally fine with these kinds of statements, but not when they are being made about and by the future economic elite of the country. A narrative that paints them as just getting what they are due with respect to free college misses a huge and important opportunity to describe them as indebted to the rest of society for paying for their college.

2. It is a privilege. I owe everything.

Under this narrative, free college is described as a generous gratuity from the rest of society, especially those who never get to go. In order to allow you to study and not work for many years, the rest of society — including those workers who are your age but do not get to attend — puts aside some of the national product just for you.

The amount put aside comes to you, not as some hyper-individualist right, but as a humbling gift. Working class people who never get to use the colleges toil for you while you study. Accordingly, you are deeply indebted to them for that gift. Without it, you would not have been able to get your degree and all of the market benefits it generally comes with.

The benefit of this narrative is that it allows society, and working-class people in particular, to make totally legitimate claims on the future market incomes of the college-degreed. Under the first narrative, it is very easy for the college-degreed — who go on to be management and grab up all the other spots in the top of the economic hierarchy — to say that they don’t owe anybody anything. The free college certainly doesn’t bind them to anyone else: it was theirs as a matter of right, not some gratuity from society that they should reciprocate.

But under this second narrative, you don’t have that. A rich college-degreed person who looks back and says they don’t owe anyone anything and shouldn’t have their market income taxed at high rates to fund social benefits and such is being ridiculous. The only reason they have those high market incomes is because of the college everyone else toiled to provide for them. People gave up part of the national product to allow them to acquire the skills, abilities, and credentials precisely so that they could occupy those lucrative spots. Accordingly, you owe them for supporting you in such a generous way. That income is not exclusively yours: it was gotten through a concerted social effort to finance your education, something most people don’t get.

Conclusion
The fact that the free college people in the US almost exclusively gravitate towards the first narrative is very troubling to me. We already have a problem of people at the top of the economic hierarchy acting like they are owed the big chunk of the national income that some hypothetical set of market institutions would deliver to them. Put another way: the top of our society is already in the grips of a bad dose of entitlement mentality. Free college as a right only entrenches that mentality further, while free college as a gratuitous privilege from those who toil helps to undermine it.

The only way free college (as opposed to debt-financed college) is of much use to the majority of poor and working class people who do not attend it is if it can help ensure that the market income gains that flow to college graduates are spread around. But the rights-based narrative that animates the current free college movement makes that much harder to justify."
mattbruenig  2014  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  privilege  interdependence  philosophy  libertarianism  meritocracy  inequality  entitlement  indeptedness  economics  hierarchy  class  perspective  income  individualism  hyperindividualism  society 
july 2014 by robertogreco
College is a promise the economy does not keep - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
"Purchasing credentials

College does not guarantee a job. It is debatable whether college - in a time of defunded and eliminated programmes, rampant grade inflation, and limited student-professor interaction - offers much of an education, at least one for which it is worth taking on significant debt. So why go?

People go to college because not going to college carries a penalty. College is a purchased loyalty oath to an imagined employer. College shows you are serious enough about your life to risk ruining it early on. College is a promise the economy does not keep - but not going to college promises you will struggle to survive.

In an entrenched meritocracy, those who cannot purchase credentials are not only ineligible for most middle-class jobs, but are informed that their plight is the result of poor "choices". This ignores that the "choice" of college usually requires walking the road of financial ruin to get the reward - a reward of employment that, in this economy, is illusory.

Credentalism is economic discrimination disguised as opportunity. Over the past 40 years, professions that never required a college degree began demanding it.

"The United States has become the most rigidly credentialised society in the world," write James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield in their 2005 book Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money. "A BA is required for jobs that by no stretch of imagination need two years of full-time training, let alone four."

The promotion of college as a requirement for a middle-class life in an era of shrinking middle-class jobs has resulted in an increase in workers whose jobs do not require the degree - 15 percent of taxi cab drivers, 18 percent of firefighters. More perniciously, it has resulted in the exclusion of the non-college educated from professions of public influence. In 1971, 58 percent of journalists had a college degree. Today 92 percent do, and at many publications, a graduate degree in journalism is required - despite the fact that most renowned journalists have never formally studied journalism.

Journalism is one of many fields of public influence - including politics - in which credentials function as de facto permission to speak, rendering those who lack them less likely to be employed and less able to afford to stay in their field. Ability is discounted without credentials, but the ability to purchase credentials rests, more often than not, on family wealth."
colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  2014  sarahkendzior  education  credentialism  credentials  meritocracy  economics  inequality  employment  work  labor  debt 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Against "Innovation" #CNIE2014
[See also: http://steelemaley.net/2014/05/16/philosophers-innovation-and-questioning/ ]

"One culture values openness and collaboration and inquiry and exploration and experimentation. The other has adopted a couple of those terms and sprinkled them throughout its marketing copy, while promising scale and efficiency and cost-savings benefits. One culture values community, and the other reflects a very powerful strain of American individualism — not to mention California exceptionalism — one that touts personal responsibility, self-management, and autonomy."



"As I read Solnit’s diary about the changes the current tech boom is bringing to San Francisco, I can’t help but think about the changes that the current ed-tech boom might also bring to education, to our schools and colleges and universities. To places that have also been, in certain ways, a "refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists.”

Global ed-tech investment hit a record high this year: $559 million across 103 funding deals in the the first quarter of the year alone. How does that shape or reshape the education landscape?

In the struggle to build “a great hive,” to borrow Solnit’s phrase, that is a civil society and not just a corporate society, we must consider the role that education has played — or is supposed to play — therein, right? What will all this investment bring about? Innovation? To what end?

When we “innovate” education, particularly when we “innovate education” with technology, which direction are we moving it? Which direction and why?

Why, just yesterday, an interview was published with Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, who’s now moving away from the MOOC hype and the promises he and others once made that MOOCs would “democratize education.” Now he says, and I quote, “If you’re affluent, we can do a much better job with you, we can make magic happen." Screw you, I guess, if you're poor.

I’ve gestured towards things so far in this talk that might tell us a bit about the culture of Silicon Valley, about the ideology of Silicon Valley.

But what is the ideology of “innovation.” The idea pre-dates Silicon Valley to be sure."



"See, as I started to gather my thoughts about this talk, as I thought about the problems with Silicon Valley culture and Silicon Valley ideology, I couldn’t help but choke on this idea of “innovation.”

So I’d like to move now to a critique of “innovation,” urge caution in chasing “innovation,” and poke holes, in particular, in the rhetoric surrounding “innovation.” I’d like to challenge how this word gets wielded by the technology industry and by extension by education technologists.

And I do this, I admit in part, because I grow so weary of the word. “Innovation” the noun, “innovative” the adjective, “innovate” the verb — they’re bandied about all over the place, in press releases and marketing copy, in politicians’ speeches, in business school professors’ promises, in economists’ diagnoses, in administrative initiatives. Um, in the theme of this conference and the name of this organization behind it.

(Awkward.)

What is “innovation”? What do we mean by the term? Who uses it? And how? Where does this concept come from? Where is it taking us?

How is “innovation” deeply ideological and not simply descriptive?"



"The technology innovation insurrection isn’t a political one as much as it is a business one (although surely there are political ramifications of that).

In fact, innovation has been specifically theorized as something that will blunt revolution, or at least that will prevent the collapse of capitalism and the working class revolution that was predicted by Karl Marx.

That's the argument of economist Joseph Schumpeter who argued most famously perhaps in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that entrepreneurial innovation was what would sustain the capitalist system — the development of new goods, new companies, new markets that perpetually destroyed the old. He called this constant process of innovation “creative destruction."



"The precise mechanism of the disruption and innovation in Christensen’s theory differs than Schumpeter’s. Schumpeter saw the process of entrepreneurial upheaval as something that was part of capitalism writ large — industries would replace industries. Industries would always and inevitably replace industries.

Schumpeter argued this process of innovation would eventually mean the end of capitalism, albeit by different processes than Marx had predicted. Schumpeter suggested that this constant economic upheaval would eventually cause such a burden that democratic countries would put in place regulations that would impede entrepreneurship. He argued that, in particular, “intellectuals” — namely university professors — would help lead to capitalism’s demise because they would diagnose this turmoil, develop critiques of the upheaval, critiques that would appealing and relevant to those beyond the professorial class.

That the enemy of capitalism in this framework is the intellectual and not the worker explains a great deal about American politics over the past few decades. It probably explains a great deal about the ideology behind a lot of the “disrupting higher education” talk as well."



"“The end of the world as we know it” seems to be a motif in many of the stories that we hear about what “disruptive innovation” will bring us, particularly as we see Christensen’s phrase applied to almost every industry where technology is poised to transform it. The end of the newspaper. The end of the publishing industry. The end of print. The end of RSS. The end of the Post Office. The end of Hollywood. The end of the record album. The end of the record label. The end of the factory. The end of the union. And of course, the end of the university.

The structure to many of these narratives about disruptive innovation is well-known and oft-told, echoed in tales of both a religious and secular sort:

Doom. Suffering. Change. Then paradise."



"Our response to both changing technology and to changing education must involve politics — certainly this is the stage on which businesses already engage, with a fierce and awful lobbying gusto. But see, I worry that we put our faith in “innovation” as a goal in and of itself, we forget this. We confuse “innovation” with “progress” and we confuse “technological progress” with “progress” and we confuse all of that with “progressive politics.” We forget that “innovation" does not give us justice. “Innovation” does not give us equality. “Innovation" does not empower us.

We achieve these things when we build a robust civic society, when we support an engaged citizenry. We achieve these things through organization and collective action. We achieve these things through and with democracy; and we achieve — or we certainly strive to achieve — these things through public education. "
audreywatters  2014  edtech  culture  technology  californianideology  innovation  disruption  highered  highereducation  individualism  google  googleglass  education  schools  learning  ds106  siliconvalley  meritocracy  rebeccasolnit  class  society  poverty  ideology  capitalism  novelty  change  transformation  invention  language  salvation  entrepreneurship  revolution  business  karlmarx  josephschumpeter  johnpatrickleary  claytonchristensen  sustainability  mooc  moocs  markets  destruction  creativedestruction  publiceducation  progress  justice  collectivism  libertarianism 
may 2014 by robertogreco
San Francisco’s (In)Visible Class War — Editor’s Picks — Medium
"San Francisco is in the middle of a class war. It’s not the first or last city to have heart-wrenching inequality tear at its fabric, challenge its values, test its support structures. But what’s jaw-dropping to me is how openly, defensively, and critically technology folks demean those who are struggling. The tech industry has a sickening obsession with meritocracy. Far too many geeks and entrepreneurs worship at the altar of zeros and ones, believing that outputs can be boiled down to a simple equation based on inputs. In a modern-day version of the Protestant ethic, there’s a sense that success is a guaranteed outcome of hard work, skills, and intelligence. Thus, anyone who is struggling can be blamed for their own circumstances.

This attitude is front and center when it comes to people who are visibly homeless on the streets of San Francisco, a mere fraction of the total homeless population in that city.

I wish that more people working in the tech sector would take a moment to talk to these men and women. Listening to their stories is humbling. Vets who fought for our country, under the banner of “freedom,” only to be cognitively imprisoned by addiction and mental illness. Abused runaways trying to find someone who will treat them with respect. People who were working hard and getting by until an accident struck and they lost their job and ended up in medical debt. Immigrants who came looking for the American Dream only to find themselves trapped. These aren’t no-good lazy leeches. They’re people. People whose lives have been a hell of a lot harder than most of us can even fathom. People who struggle on a daily basis to find food and shelter. People who we’ve systematically disenfranchised and failed to support. People who the bulk of tech workers ignore, shun, resent, and demonize.

A city without a safety net cannot be a healthy society. And nothing exacerbates this worse than condescension, resentment, and dismissal. We can talk about the tech buses and the lack of affordable housing, but it all starts with appreciating those who are struggling. Only a mere fraction of San Francisco’s homeless population are visible, but those who are reveal the starkness of what’s unfolding. And, as with many things, there’s more of a desire to make the visible invisible than there is to grapple with dynamics of poverty, mental illness, addiction, abuse, and misfortune. Too many people think that they’re invincible.

If you’re living in the Bay Area and working in tech, take a moment to do what I asked my colleague to do a decade ago. Walk around the Tenderloin and talk with someone whose poverty is written on their body. Respectfully ask about their life. Where did they come from? How did they get here? Where do they want to go? Ask about their hopes and dreams, struggles and challenges. Get a sense for their story. Connect as people. Then think about what meritocracy in tech really means."
danahboyd  sanfrancisco  poverty  2014  inequality  homeless  homelessness  meritocracy  libertarianism  mentalhealth  cities  healthcare  classwar 
may 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Pastry Box Project: Mandy Brown: Tuesday, 25 March 2014
"The creators of an app fail to consider how it could be used to harm. A founder implements significant changes to community tools with little thought given to the consequences. Thousands of entrepreneurs and investors contribute to the creation of an advertising model that collects enormous quantities of data on users but apparently never imagine how that data could be abused. Organizations declare an end to “structure” without asking themselves how power is exercised absent such systems. Others claim they operate in a meritocracy without, it seems, ever really wondering what such a world would even look like.

Here’s a very simple method: when you set out to make something, whether it be software or policies or mechanisms for organizing information, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen. Imagine a powerful person, someone endowed with the right circumstances of birth such that the odds are nearly always in their favor; and imagine, also, the reverse—someone for whom discrimination, oppression, violence, and poverty are commonplace. Then optimize to protect the latter, even at the expense of the former. And do it right away: not after you scale, not after the money is rolling in, not after a leak exposes you, but now. Yesterday, even. Go."
mandybrown  information  software  2014  discrimination  violence  poverty  exposure  privacy  anonymity  policy  meritocracy  power  abuse  circumspection  consequences 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Everything you need to know about Common Core — Ravitch
"These two federal programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, has produced a massive demoralization of educators; an unprecedented exodus of experienced educators, who were replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of many public schools, especially in poor and minority districts; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; an increase in low-quality for-profit charter schools and low-quality online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers' due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations, charter chains, and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market. Hedge funds, entrepreneurs, and real estate investment corporations invest enthusiastically in this emerging market, encouraged by federal tax credits, lavish fees, and the prospect of huge profits from taxpayer dollars. Celebrities, tennis stars, basketball stars, and football stars are opening their own name-brand schools with public dollars, even though they know nothing about education.

No other nation in the world has inflicted so many changes or imposed so many mandates on its teachers and public schools as we have in the past dozen years. No other nation tests every student every year as we do. Our students are the most over-tested in the world. No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of Education wants every state and every district to do it. Because of these federal programs, our schools have become obsessed with standardized testing, and have turned over to the testing corporations the responsibility for rating, ranking, and labeling our students, our teachers, and our schools.

The Pearson Corporation has become the ultimate arbiter of the fate of students, teachers, and schools.

This is the policy context in which the Common Core standards were developed. "



"Early childhood educators are nearly unanimous in saying that no one who wrote the standards had any expertise in the education of very young children. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a join statement complaining that the standards were developmentally inappropriate for children in the early grades. The standards, they said, emphasized academic skills and leave inadequate time for imaginative play. They also objected to the likelihood that young children would be subjected to standardized testing. And yet the proponents of the Common Core insist that children as young as 5 or 6 or 7 should be on track to be college-and-carer ready, even though children this age are not likely to think about college, and most think of careers as cowboys, astronauts, or firefighters."



"I fear that the Common Core plan of standards and testing will establish a test-based meritocracy that will harm our democracy by parceling out opportunity, by ranking and rating every student in relation to their test scores.

We cannot have a decent democracy unless we begin with the supposition that every human life is of equal value. Our society already has far too much inequality of wealth and income. We should do nothing to stigmatize those who already get the least of society's advantages. We should bend our efforts to change our society so that each and every one of us has the opportunity to learn, the resources needed to learn, and the chance to have a good and decent life, regardless of one's test scores."

[See also: http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html ]
dianeravitch  commoncore  2014  government  policy  education  democracy  us  standards  nationalstandards  meritocracy  testing  standardizedtesting  society  arneduncan  rttt  nclb  schools  publicschools  pearson  michellerhee  joelklein  billgates  jebbush 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Expensive cities are killing creativity - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
"Today, creative industries are structured to minimise the diversity of their participants - economically, racially and ideologically. Credentialism, not creativity, is the passport to entry.

Over the past decade, as digital media made it possible for anyone, anywhere, to share their ideas and works, barriers to professional entry tightened and geographical proximity became valued. Fields where advanced degrees were once a rarity - art, creative writing - now view them as a requirement. Unpaid internships and unpaid labour are rampant, blocking off industry access for those who cannot work without pay in the world's most expensive cities.

Yet to discuss it, as artist Molly Crabapple notes in her brilliant essay "Filthy Lucre", is verboten. Recalling her years as a struggling artist, she remembers being told by a fellow artist - a successful man living off his inherited money - that a "real artist" must live in poverty.

"What the artist was pretending he didn't know is that money is the passport to success," she writes. "We may be free beings, but we are constrained by an economic system rigged against us. What ladders we have, are being yanked away. Some of us will succeed. The possibility of success is used to call the majority of people failures."

Failure, in an economy of extreme inequalities, is a source of fear. To fail in an expensive city is not to fall but to plummet. In expensive cities, the career ladder comes with a drop-off to hell, where the fiscal punishment for risk gone wrong is more than the average person can endure. As a result, innovation is stifled, conformity encouraged. The creative class becomes the leisure class - or they work to serve their needs, or they abandon their fields entirely."



"Creativity is sometimes described as thinking outside the box. Today the box is a gilded cage. In a climate of careerist conformity, cheap cities with bad reputations - where, as art critic James McAnalley notes, "no one knows whether it is possible for one to pursue a career" - may have their own advantage. "In the absence of hype, ideas gather, connections build, jagged at first, inarticulate," McAnalley writes of St Louis. "Then, all of a sudden, worlds emerge."

Perhaps it is time to reject the "gated citadels" - the cities powered by the exploitation of ambition, the cities where so much rides on so little opportunity. Reject their prescribed and purchased paths, as Smith implored, for cheaper and more fertile terrain. Reject the places where you cannot speak out, and create, and think, and fail. Open your eyes to where you are, and see where you can go."
arts  art  creativity  cities  housing  london  nyc  paris  failure  success  inequality  2013  sarahkendzior  credentialism  economics  risk  risktaking  meritocracy  inheritance  conformity  careers  ambition  opportunity  us  costofliving 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The immorality of college admissions - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
""We admit students without any regard for financial need - a policy we call 'need-blind admission'," Harvard's website proudly proclaims. Harvard charges $54,496 per year for tuition, room and board, but waives the fees for families making less than $60,000 per year.

This would be a laudable policy were Harvard admitting low-income students in any significant numbers, but they are not. Instead, they fill their ranks with the children of the elite portrayed in Miller's article - elites who drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on private schools, exorbitant "enrichment" activities, and personal tutors that almost no Americans can afford.

Harvard's admission is "need-blind" only in that it turns a blind eye to actual need. Like many universities, it increases its number of aid recipients by inflating its price tag. With tuition higher than the median US household income, students from families making $200,000 are now deemed poor enough to qualify for financial aid.

"You can afford Harvard," the admissions site boasts, noting that 70 percent of students receive assistance. They neglect to mention that this 70 percent represents some of the wealthiest people in the country.

This is not to say that a family making $100,000 or even $200,000 does not merit financial aid to attend Harvard. They do, but only because Harvard charges obscenely high tuition, despite having an endowment of over $30 billion. Their price tag functions as a social signifier and a "go away" sign, a sticker designed to shock - and deter.

Harvard is but one of many US universities whose admissions policies ensure that the entering class is comprised of the ruling class. Studies by the New America Foundation note that most merit aid goes to wealthy families, and that "merit aid policy is associated with a decrease in the percentage of low-income and black students, particularly at the more selective institutions."

While universities like Harvard keep out the poor by redefining wealth as poverty, others practice more blatant discrimination. At George Washington University, students who cannot pay full tuition are put on a waitlist while wealthier students are let in. In 2012, less than 1 percent of waitlisted students were admitted.

Like Harvard, George Washington had advertised itself as "need-blind" until revelations of its admissions process came to light. It now defines itself as "need-aware" - a phrase which implies they are aware of need, but seemingly unconcerned with fulfilling it."



"Students whose parents pay tens of thousands for SAT tutors to help their child take the test over and over compete against students who struggle to pay the fee to take the test once. Students who spend afternoons on "enrichment" activities compete against students working service jobs to pay bills - jobs which don't "count" in the admissions process. Students who shell out for exotic volunteer trips abroad compete with students of what C Z Nnaemeka termed "the un-exotic underclass" - the poor who have "the misfortune of being insufficiently interesting", the poor who make up most of the US today.

For upper class parents, the college admissions process has become a test of loyalty: What will you spend, what values will you compromise, for your child to be accepted? For lower class parents, admissions is a test failed at birth: An absence of wealth guised as a deficiency of merit. In the middle are the students, stranded players in a rigged game."



"A higher education system that once promoted social mobility now serves to solidify class barriers. Desperate parents compromise their principles in order to spare their children rejection. But it is the system itself that must be rejected. True merit cannot be bought - and admission should not be either."
class  colleges  universities  2013  sarahkendzior  harvard  collegeadmissions  inequality  admissions  economics  meritocracy  testprep 
december 2013 by robertogreco
STET | You keep using that word
"What’s perhaps most remarkable about the sequence of events that Young-the-narrator describes is just how little imagination it requires: any worthy member of the new (or old) elite could presumably lounge comfortably in his beach chair, margarita in hand, and — without working up too much of a sweat — count off the real-world institutions and privileges which are at odds with a system of merit. Unequal access to schools, hierarchies of needs, nepotism, and so on: all would be obvious targets for someone even half-heartedly considering the idea of meritocracy.

That none of Young’s proposed reforms have taken place should be enough to convince anyone that no real meritocracy exists. Those who claim it does must then be incapable of even that half-hearted thought experiment. (For that matter, anyone who asserts the meritocracy is real is almost certainly too thick to be a member of it.)

But words do not adhere to their creators’ intentions, and the word “meritocracy” has certainly not clung strictly to Young’s definition. In usage it has morphed from a flawed sociological experiment to a disingenuous defense: having failed to introduce the necessary changes to produce an actual meritocracy, the wealthy elite simply appropriated its trappings. The new meritocrat is simply the old aristocrat with a righteous smirk on his face."



"The book’s message is clear: not only is a purely merit-based system unachievable, it is also undesirable. It’s a mechanism not for expanding opportunity but for cementing inequality. It believes that some humans are more valuable than others, and naively proposes that we can measure the difference. It rests on the foundation that those declared less equal will accept their inferiority without resentment. It is thus both unsustainable and morally bankrupt."
mandybrown  2013  meritocracy  siliconvalley  economics  society  michaelyoung  stevesoutherland  newpuritans  homeslessness  poverty 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Kevin Slavin: Debunking luck
"Pioneering gamer Kevin Slavin takes the PopTech audience on a colorful tour of the history of luck in America, games of chance, gambling and mathematical formulas. "That's amazing, the idea that anything that seems to be built out of chance or instinct or luck can yield to a computational assault.""
2013  kevinslavin  games  play  history  luck  statistics  saschapohflepp  crispinjones  mohansrivastava  shingtat-chung  dariuskazemi  boardgames  gametheory  dice  jacksonlears  stanulam  nicholasmetropolis  georgedyson  computing  johnvonneumann  edwardthorp  teetotums  chance  meritocracy  jasonrohrer  unpredictability  success 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The Case Against Credentialism - James Fallows - The Atlantic
"By persuading people on the bottom of the heap that they probably can't succeed, then, the educational meritocracy destroys talent on which we might otherwise draw. By teaching people that they are struck where they deserve to be, it promotes the resentment that it so destructive to economic and democratic life. Within the past decade, as American businesses have looked with anxiety at Japan and with envious curiosity at successful domestic firms, the conventional business wisdom has emphasized the danger of creating a rigid class structure within a firm. From the Delta executives who handle baggage at Christmastime to the GM Saturn workers whose pay will depend on the plant's profitability, the anecdotes on which the new folk wisdom is based have had a Frank Capra-like democratic theme. Everyone has to feel important, has to think that his efforts are needed and will be rewarded. These days the “us-against-them” mentality of recalcitrant unions and thickheaded managers is widely denounced, but the caste system created by educational credentials has a similarly divisive effect."
credential  credentialism  qualifications  business  jamesfallow  1985  us  culture  meritocracy  risk  professions  classmobility  upwardmobility 
november 2013 by robertogreco
They may have the money, but we have the tools of technology. — Medium
"I went to a London comprehensive, called Woodbridge High School. OFSTED reports had it hovering around ‘average’ among similar schools. That’s about 60% of students getting 5 A-Cs at GCSE. Put frankly, the education was awful. I can list everything I learnt from the curriculum in my time there: a little bit about the war poets from a teacher who was quickly seduced into the private education sector, some cold war history, and that using your year 8 speech to speak out against homophobia gets you beaten up. I looked forward to being a grown up, being my own boss, and playing with the real world.

I was incredibly fortunate. At the age of 13, from my comfortable bedroom I began to tinker with computers. I got interested in a new technology called Ruby on Rails, an opinionated framework for making interactive websites, around which more intelligent and experienced people openly discussed and shared best practices and code. I learnt along with them, and within a couple of years, it turned out that knowledge was very profitable. Working as a programmer enabled me to drop out of my A levels, sidestep the recession, the generational debt and the joblessness being handed to all of my peers and was able to work in whatever industry or company intrigued me. By the time I was 23, I had worked in Business Continuity, the Music industry, Media, Advertising and Design. It was like industrial tourism: a never ending series of internships, except I was valued and got paid, sometimes very well.

You might think the BBC news website article narrative here charts how a boy in his twenties taught himself to code, left school and founded a dynamic startup. It could have been an iPhone app that sold a few million copies, an industry disrupting platform for whatever, or (if I was feeling fluffy and socially conscience) a social innovation startup, perhaps enabling homeless people to become just like me, a self-reliant self-starting entrepreneur!

All very tempting, but these saccharin narratives of geek boy done good carry a political message that I’m not comfortable with. People are incredibly excited in and outside of tech and in the mainstream media about specific aspects of the tech world. They are fascinated by profits, newness and the political issues of data protection and surveillance. But beyond this there is a severe lack of debate about how the tech community participates in our socio economic context. Because for all the excitement around the new powers of technology, the tech community became one of the most powerful practitioners of the neo liberal agenda, with only some of us noticing.



Many developers I speak to shy away from politics. They comfort themselves with ideas of our community being meritocratic, that the good guys will win out over partisan and agenda based politics because we are working towards a more logical, educated society. This is, of course, the same lie as the fully informed rational consumer of market liberalisation. They shrug when it’s pointed out that we’re nearly all white middle class men. The discussions around women in technology have only just started, and boy do they get defensive about it, and we haven’t even begun discussing class based privilege, so repellant is the idea of discussing something as political in our rational meritocratic nirvana. ‘Check your privilege’ is an idea that flies directly in the face of our self narratives of the underdog nerd proving himself with his intelligence and well meaning intentions.

Our generation is generally adverse to ideologies. I don’t have too much of a problem with this. I find that Ideologies often cause nothing but obstacles to those people who are actually getting things done. But as developers we are both close to the ground, and have real power. In his new short book “The new Kingmakers”, Stephen O’Grady very effectively makes the case that software developers are just that. It’s time we stopped making toys for quite rich people to make very rich people even richer."



"I have a suspicion. I suspect that the idea of the public sector not only doing something well but better than most of the private sector offends them. Turns out the best way to piss off market libertarians is to make government work.

Sure, I hear moans from Silicon Roundabout that the government is sucking up all the best talent in London, but while they’re saying that, GOV.UK increased signups to the organ donations register by 10,000 every month with just a bit of clever A/B testing as a side project. I could be working on your socially network website that tries to convince parents that fruitshoot isn’t awful for their kids (I have actually done that), or I could be doing what I’m doing now, helping bring real change to the office of the public guardian so they can do their job better. They provide support for those caring for someone who has lost mental capacity, whilst checking that the carer isn’t abusing their position.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the software developer community. I love being a part of it and I’m constantly excited about what we are doing. But I’m also frustrated. We seemed to have been coerced into working for a future that we didn’t sign up for. But hopefully, as anger amongst my generation grows at the world that has been handed to us, maybe more of us will realise that they may have the money, but we have the tools of technology."
design  government  politics  2013  ideology  technology  designfiction  brucesterling  elitism  privilege  meritocracy  gov.uk  jamesdarling 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Quitting academic jobs: professor Zachary Ernst and other leaving tenure and tenure-track jobs. Why?
"Ernst’s “Why I Jumped” is thus not unusual in and of itself: Academe is a profession full of erudite free-thinkers who feel disillusioned by a toxic labor system in which criticism is not tolerated—so those who leave often relish the newfound ability to say anything they want (talking about “a friend” here). In its insularity and single-mindedness, academe is also very similar to a fundamentalist religion (or, dare I say, cult), and thus those who abdicate often feel compelled to confess.



What further distinguishes Ernst’s giant middle finger to the profession, Mizzou, and the chair of his department (what approximates in academe for a direct “boss”), is that he does not succumb to either of these trappings. He is cynical about the “academic freedom” of the tenured, whom he believes have been hand-selected for mediocrity and obsequiousness (and since he is among their ranks, one wonders if he begrudgingly includes himself in this indictment). He also has no delusions about the relative importance of hyper-specialized research, and has sought to publish innovative multi-disciplinary articles that involve the scientific disciplines—for which he has then been heavily penalized. And finally, in a rare coup for humanists, Ernst is departing for a lucrative job in the private sector."
2013  academia  education  meritocracy  highered  highereducation  annetrubek  terranlane  zacharyernst 
october 2013 by robertogreco
▶ Christina Xu, Breadpig - XOXO Festival (2013) - YouTube
"In many industries, publishers can sometimes hurt unknown artists more than they help. But a new model for publishing is emerging, and Breadpig is paving the way—helping independent artists find a wider audience without losing control over their work. In addition to her work running Breadpig, Christina Xu is co-founder of ROFLCon, the conference on Internet culture, and founding director of the Institute on Higher Awesome Studies, the nonprofit wing of the Awesome Foundation."

[Transcript:
http://breadpig.tumblr.com/post/62171738926/welcome-to-the-new-breadpig-blog-this-is-the ]

See also Frank Chimero:
http://frankchimero.com/blog/2013/09/the-inferno-of-independence/

and Anil Dash:
http://dashes.com/anil/2013/09/xoxo-and-reckoning-with-nice.html ]
christinaxu  breadpig  crowdfunding  xoxo  2013  trailblazing  support  creativity  logistics  supportservices  bootstrapping  independence  interdependence  supportstructures  kickstarter  structure  structurelessness  obsatacles  systemsthinking  darkmatter  norms  communities  meangirls  cliques  meritocracy  gatekeepers  disintermediation 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Denmark | Dissent Magazine
"Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.” That’s why Roosh fails to advance to the second level—”trust”—without being creepy. Thus “seduction” is almost always out of the question.

We can agree with pick-up artists that men and women exhibit some behavioral differences. But the PUA framework places their sources in evolution instead of the sexual and social division of labor. In her essay “A Marxist Theory of Women’s Nature,” philosopher Nancy Holmstrom argues that women’s lives are less free than men’s under capitalism “both because they are dependent on men and because they have children dependent on them.” Therefore, “traditional sexual values constrain women more than they do men,” and women “are less able to act to realize their own desires” and must be “more passive and oriented to other people’s wishes than men.”

But in societies with a less marked sexual division of labor, those sexualized generalizations dissipate. Marginalized women who need male spouses to flourish might, indeed, find pick-up artists alluring. But women in countries that have gender-equalizing policies supported by an anti-individualist culture may not.

***

By his last night in Copenhagen, Roosh’s game is not on point. His face is shining “a molten red” at the injustice of it all. He can’t stop himself from calling his buddy’s friend a “stupid, ugly, fat, cock-blocking bitch.” He ends the night by lying his way into bed with an apprehensive eighteen-year-old virgin. The determined pick-up artist can switch from “proactive” to predatory at the drop of a fedora. Since the Community deploys the strategies of hypercompetitive “meritocratic” societies in which self-promotion is indispensable to survival, Roosh felt he was responsible for making his night a success. If the inexperienced teenager had been more reluctant, it seems doubtful he would have relented.

As Roosh himself admits in Don’t Bang Denmark, Nordic social democracy doesn’t support his kind. His guidebook concludes with a resigned “bottom line” acknowledgment that his time in Denmark “liberalized me when it came to a government taking care of its citizens….Denmark sucks balls for women, but it kills the United States when it comes to having a higher standard of living.” Still, he won’t be going back anytime soon.

“Unfortunately, we have to accept that they go hand-in-hand, that we can’t fulfill basic human rights for all without viewing everyone as equal,” Roosh writes. “That’s fine for most people, but I’ve spent way too much time happily surviving in the jungle to pack my bags and move into the zoo.”"
culture  denmark  feminism  gender  socialism  redistribution  power  democracy  equality  socialdemocracy  meritocracy  capitalism  predation  marginalization  narcisism  marxism  individualism  collectivism 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Against Meritocracy | Gerry Canavan
"Basically all liberal interventions in the name of fairness intervene too late, and thus intensify rather than diminish class difference.

And of course the "merit" paradox goes all the way to the level of the gene, and is thus totally irresolvable under liberalism.

The only choice is a world where all people have decent lives regardless of any fantasy of "merit" or "desert."

Determinisms (genetic, epigenetic, environmental) are together such decisive disproofs of liberal meritocracy that they can't be discussed.

Class is a miracle solvent for "merit": it boosts abilities of the rich while muting disadvantages, while doing exact opposite for the poor."
liberalism  neoliberalism  determinism  meritocracy  gerrycanavan  2013  class  economics  advantages  disadvantages  fairness  poverty  education  wealth  wealthdistribution  politics 
august 2013 by robertogreco
White definitions of merit and admissions change when they think about Asian Americans, study finds | Inside Higher Ed
"But what if they think they favor meritocracy but at some level actually have a flexible definition, depending on which groups would be helped by certain policies? Frank L. Samson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami, thinks his new research findings suggest that the definition of meritocracy used by white people is far more fluid than many would admit, and that this fluidity results in white people favoring certain policies (and groups) over others.

Specifically, he found, in a survey of white California adults, they generally favor admissions policies that place a high priority on high school grade-point averages and standardized test scores. But when these white people are focused on the success of Asian-American students, their views change."
race  us  policy  meritocracy  bias  testing  asian-americans  franksamson  access  sociology  admissions  highered  highereducation  via:javierarbona 
august 2013 by robertogreco