Monday, February 23, 2009

Letters to Local Newspaper

This past month I have sent in two letters to our local newspaper. I'm beginning to think a lot of people in my community have forgotten that we exist in a class based power structure.

The Pyramid

In this system money is a stand-in for power. Corporations and individuals with a lot of money get to plan and dictate the political and economic policies of this country. I don't know of many people who would argue with this. And it's because of this simple fact that I'm always surprised to see people spending more time and energy on criticizing citizen groups like Washburn County First instead of corporations or individuals with a lot of wealth and power.

Corporations and individuals with power will not give up their power without a fight. Wal-Mart is one of the most powerful corporations in the world. So why are most of us are complaining about losing the opportunity to buy cheap products and work at a low wage job?

Perhaps the question we should be asking is what kind of system would allow a corporation like Wal-Mart to accumulate so much wealth and power. And isn't this what groups like Washburn County First are doing in their own way? What happened to the revolutionary spirit this country was founded on?

This takes me back to the spotted owl problem of the early nineties when I was a logger. People were complaining that since they were closing down spotted owl habitat to logging operations, loggers were losing jobs. Not once did I hear anyone complain how advances in logging technology cost loggers their jobs. Well, close to 20 years later I understand why.

High technology enables the centralization of power. In other words, a select few individuals and corporations accumulate a lot of money and power because it's cheaper for them to hire machines to do the work humans could do. Our system fulfills the needs of our machines, and therefore those in power, more effectively and efficiently than it fulfills the needs of human beings (unless of course your needs are the same as a machine). Systems that are designed this way are volatile and don't last long. Period. Why we let allow it to continue is beyond me.

We live in a pyramid shaped power structure. As the economy continues to collapse and the number of people at the bottom of the pyramid continues to grow daily it's time we start asking why there are so few with so much at the top of the pyramid and so many with so little at the bottom. After all, there are more of us than there are of them.



Last week, in his article titled "Philosophy: Forgotten in our schools?" Spooner High School student Nick Prete asked this question: So should our teachers focus more on introducing the hunger for learning into or students?
Teachers need to tell their students the truth about what students need to become successful outside the world of schooling. The answer is: power. And in our society money is a stand in for power. As Derrick Jensen (A philosopher and teacher himself) has stated in his amazing book "Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution":

"We hear, more or less constantly, that schools are failing in their mandate. Nothing could be more wrong. Schools are succeeding all too well, accomplishing precisely their purpose. And what is their primary purpose. To answer this, ask yourself first what society values most. We don't talk about it much, but the truth is that our society values money above all else, in part because, as is also true of power, it gives us the illusion that we can get what we want."

Of course we all pay dearly for this physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally (How many people do you know on anti-depressants?). As Jensen goes on to say "But one of the costs of following money is that in order to acquire it, we so often have to give ourselves away to whomever has money to give in return. Bosses, corporations, men with nice cars, women with power suits. Teachers. Not that teachers have money, but in the classroom they have what money elsewhere represents: power. We live in a culture that is based on the illusion—and schooling is central to the creation and perpetuation of this illusion--that happiness lies outside of us, and specifically in the hands of those who have power.

"Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss's bidding (as she does hers, and he is, all the way up the line), and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o'clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?" pg.5-6

It has been my experience that understanding this is all one needs to kindle the flames of learning.


No one responded to either of those.


Erik said...

Have you read Gatto's book?

Curt said...

Hi Erik,

Yes. I have "Underground History" and "Dumbing us Down". They're some of my favorites.

Curt said...

LOL...that last post made no sense.

I meant to say: Yes, I have. "Underground History" and "Dumbing us Down" are some of my favorites.

Gene said...

I liked both of those. I'm also a fan of Gatto and Jensen. Have you considered sending to other (local or not) publications?

Curt said...

Thank you for your kinds words about my letters, Gene.

No, I haven't considered sending the letters to other publications.

Curt said...

John Taylor Gatto will be on Wisconsin Public Radio today. I'm pretty sure I will be calling in.

10:00 AM Kathleen Dunn - 02/25E
With increasing reliance on standardized testing in American schools,
educators face increasing pressure to "teach to the test" After ten,
Kathleen Dunn and her guest discuss how standard schooling can
discourage kid's critical thinking, and cripple their
imagination.Guest: John Taylor Gatto, author, "Weapons of Mass
Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of
Compulsory Schooling".