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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