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Quit bitching, quit buying

The next generation will be less educated than we are.

At least that’s what the American Association of State Colleges and Universities says in a new report that is pretty dismal all the way around.

A couple of acquaintances and I were talking about it. The first thing that came up was that familiar whine, “The American education system is so screwed up…”

All eyebrows raised when I said I wasn’t convinced it’s all the “system.” Free universal public education is the most valuable institution we have–and the most socialist.

Rather, I think our innate American and healthy anti-intellectual streak has turned into pure knee-jerk reaction. Ignorance has proved more valuable to consumer capitalism than human fulfillment fueled from within.

The consumer society since WWII has commodified liberal arts education–“Just what kind of job do you get with THAT degree?”

Then, through the offering of shiny trinkets promising a better life, we as a people have been convinced things have more value than thinking. We are all participants in our own oppression, some more than others. I mean, try to think of someone taking away your car or computer or ipod or television and saying, “You can do better than this.” You know you can do better, but these things take some of the thinking out of life: planning trips on public transpo, spending time reading books and writing with a pen, singing and dancing communally.

Not being a complete Luddite, however, I think we can use these things when they are not using us. But so many of us are convinced that these things’ use of us is, in fact, us having more control over our lives. Pah! How many of us go on a walkabout with nothing but cash and a map–no tour guide, resorts, planned sightseeing, or GPS. I mean, I’ve never needed a GPS for anything, even the deepest wilderness trek. But somehow people around me can’t live without their cell phone/PDAs, GPSes, super-duper coffees, and SUVs. I’m not a moderate guy, but even I can see when I walk under my own power and when I’m being led by the nose.

We live, after all, in the Bloated Head Age, where many people perceive loudmouthing around the AM dial and demagoguing in elective office as expressions of our best and brightest. I mean, I can’t take Rush Limbaugh or Rusty Humphries, or Sarah Palin or Jame Inhofe seriously. Yet, these people are ascendant. They aren’t advocating expanding the mind’s life. Just the opposite: “You don’t need to know anything, just listen to me and agree to agree.” What do you really need an education for?

Locally, it sickens me to hear our “civic leadership” talk about jiggering the metro’s education to provide an “educated, flexible workforce.” To me, that sounds a hell of a lot like a the promotion of people marching in the same phalanx. If education has only utilitarian value in the modern neocapitalist society, maybe we shouldn’t be listening to the people promoting it.

Outlaw. Dissent. Agitation. Rogue. Revolt. The Teabag contingent have appropriated the meanings of these words and re-formed them into rhetoric for and extending the status quo–can Glenn Beck or Laura Ingraham be dissenters when they work to take the last restrictions off the accumulation of wealth and power, and raw human exploitation?

Can you really be a rebel on a Harley-Davidson? Can you really revolt against your oppressors when you don’t want to destroy the structures that oppress you?

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