America has become culturally entwined with the tenets of corporatism. We cannot think in the simplest terms about how to accomplish anything, except by corporate instincts and rules.
We don’t know any other way to be – we imagine that our minds are free and unfettered, but we are constrained to a small set of ideas and possibilities. Discount retail goods can be marketed by modern business methods. Healthcare can’t. No matter. Humans are skilled in enduring misery for the sake of exhausted, failed ideas.
Corporatism is a method; it is not a value. It is not always good or useful. In its Taylorist form, it is crushing to the human spirit.
Communism was a theoretical objection to Taylorism. Over time, Communism became the same monolithic cruelty that it claimed to oppose. I
Without humanity, there is no system in which humans can survive. We can adapt to many challenges; we cannot erase our essence. It cannot be done for long.
We can pretend. We do. Many cultures die in the throes of emptiness and frustration, unbending; unwilling to accept humanity. We are immersed in the requisite amount of self-love and exceptionalism necessary to keep us blind to the truth. All dwindling cultures do.
Our educational systems have become critical elements of the corporatist approach. Throughout, one tests to the curve, and teaches to the test. What will be on it? Most of one’s childhood in America reads like this. One must demonstrate excellence from within the Sorting Box. How can that be done? Ask any admissions department, deluged by reams of perfectly mediocre students. The peak of the Bell Curve is not the guide to noteworthy members of a group; rather, it is the guide to the most representative members. If the schooling system is perfect, then the peak of the bell curve defines perfection. But if it points out the most precisely average, and the schooling is meaningless, then the bell curve identifies the most meaningless students. Were they born meaningless, or made meaningless?
One obtains what one selects for. A curious standard of the American schools is the production-by-time line. Your assignment is sent out in September; it is due in December. It is accepted when it is handed in; all assignments are ranked against each other. Don’t you see the fistful of assumptions underlying this habit?
What if the assignment were to be read, commented upon and returned for rewriting to its author, over and over again? What if time were not the grade of product, but rather the quality of the final product itself?
I had the opportunity to make a gift of a small piece of worked silver jewelry to a person in Japan. It was made in a tiny rural workshop by metalworkers, a semi-custom piece. The comment from the recipient, and most of the Japanese, was astonishment at how well-made it was, down to the intricate detail. American manufacture is not known for exquisitely diligent attention to small details. The Japanese note that we’re 80/20 folks – get it 80% right in 20% of the work time allotted. I felt a bit embarrassed.
We are 80-20 educators, as well. Since we grade by the test, whether SAT or other for-profit national testing service, our educational values are defined by the testing company, which uses statistical methods to correlate test results with some type of desirability in students – their intelligence, or whatever might be selected as the target. Best Practices define mediocrity; they select for the most degenerate student, using that word only in its physics context. Degeneracy in physics means absolute exchangeability of two objects; they are the same thing but in two places. In America, one cannot be both excellent and unique; they are mutually exclusive. Our vanity insists upon it. (See Frank Devita’s little piece on vanity.)