Life as an Extreme Sport

A New Type of Work, An Old Type of Man

The socialization of the worker to the condition of capitalist production entails the social control of physical and mental power on a very broad basis. Education, training, persuasion, the mobilization of certain social sentiments… and psychological propensities… all play a role and one plainly mixed with the formation of dominant ideologies cultivated by the mass media, religious and educational institutions, and the various arms of the state…

It’s long been a criticism of our public education system that its function is primarily to create highly socialized factory drones. Following a Fordist model, children are raised to be comfortable in warehouse-like settings that accustom the child to working in factory life. Taking direction from the teacher easily translates into taking direction from a foreman, and the indoctrination of school pride (often played out via support for sports teams) can be seen as conditioning to support the company and instill habits of loyalty.

The probelm is, the structure of our public education system was set up during a very modernist period largely dominated by Fordism and scientific management. It was expected, as recently as 30 yeras ago, that you would work for a single corporation your entire life. You socialized with those you worked with, worked together, commuted together, attended church and backyard BBQs together. There was a very specific and distinctly modernist taste to life; your work and life were compartmentalized for maximum functionality. But today, the average person will change careers – not just jobs, but careers – something like seven to twelve times. Being a jack of all trades and master of none is becoming not merely a marketable job skill but the marketable job skill. Company loyalty is out the window – you look after your interests and the company looks after their own. Even IBM lays people off now*.

Our work environment and by extension our social environment has changed, but our educational system has not changed to keep up. There are certainly small attempts here and there – magnet schools, cooperative learning environments – but for the most part children are being educated in an environment that no longer prepares tehm for or even matches the postmodern working world that awaits them.

It was certainly possible to distribute and de-centralize the working world. Will it be possible to do the same to classroom environments so that children are actually being prepared for the world they’ll be lived in, and perhaps more importantantly, what will entail a postmodernist educational system?

Or, largely to humour Phillip – are we beyond consideration of a postmodernist classroom and towards a hyperreal or post-postmodern?

*I actually remember this massive lay-off; several of my parents friends were laid off, and I remember their loyalty extending well beyond working there. They had serious conviction that they would be hired back quickly, as soon as things turned around for the company. Some of them refused to look for work, they were so convinced the lay-off was temporary.