The Costs of Education

The Occupy Movement has influenced the mainstream media to discuss neoliberalism in terms of its production of greater economic inequality. However, for most people this discussion continues to be framed inside the question of raising taxes on the 1%. Rather than merely raising our voices in advocacy of a slap on the wrist, we can also push the discussion further and escape mere economism by registering the costs of inequality that are beyond cost.

Environmentalist and anti-war groups have been doing this for decades. For example, we know that the true cost of a gallon of gas isn’t the number on the pump, that climate change and imperialism pose existential threats that outweigh even U. S. military spending.

Below are two excerpts that discuss various challenges facing students and educators, challenges which also face the Occupy Movement in various ways, and compel us to register the unmeasurable costs of daily life today. The first, from an essay by Harry Cleaver, describes how grading transforms the education system into a manufacturer of workers for the 1%. The cost of tougher grading, he writes, is no less than our freedom and our humanity. On the other hand, “The easier the grading, the more time and energy are liberated for each student (or for groups of students collectively) to think independently, to read on their own, to explore aspects of life they may have just discovered, or to delve into whatever issues their intellectual and sensual curiosities may have raised for them.”

Like Cleaver, the second excerpt, from R. D. Laing, also argues that we should kick the 1% out of the classroom as part of a larger project of creating freedom.

Since 9/11, reactionaries have mobilized masses by redefining “freedom.” The arguments below are just two ways we can take it back, restore its original meaning, and build the movement.

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OWS, Month 3

The accelerating Occupy Movement is freely developing of its own momentum. Not only have occupations proliferated around the globe, but as the occupations gain mass they’re increasingly throwing off satellites.

One such satellite is The New School Free Press’s occupation of a building owned by Wells Fargo, an action which continues Occupy Wall Street’s novel focus on private institutions:

“As we are continually and violently pushed out of public spaces, the people of this city must find new spaces in which to foster dialogue, learn and engage politically. Private spaces must be liberated; the movement must expand. We students, educators and members of the broader public have come together to occupy this space, seeking to transform it into a place of public education, safe and open to all.

“Much of the repression of this movement has been conducted under the pretense of public health and safety. We, the occupiers, declare that our primary concern lies in the safety and well-being of this occupation and its participants. New School President David Van Zandt and the New School Administration have expressed concerns that we observe the building?s fire code. We share these concerns. Licensed fire guards are included among the occupiers and we will continue to take the necessary steps to prevent harm from coming to anyone.

“We reiterate that this occupation is not a New School action; this building actually belongs to Wells Fargo, whose role in the current economic crisis is well-known. We are occupying a building: and we, as occupiers, are not solely students ? we are workers, teachers, students, unemployed, under-employed, indebted and exploited. We are creating a common space that will eventually be open to all. In addition to the people?s university, the CUNY adjunct project, and the all-city student assembly, we are in the process of planning a series of open teach-ins and events. Schedule forthcoming.”

Viewpoint Magazine continued their excellent coverage of the movement this week with an article that examines and welcomes the shift toward deeper decentralization. Is there a limit to this reduction in scale?

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First New School General Assembly

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