Sly like a fox

I have read Ed’s Gadfly column, Crazy like a fox, several times and there is something “not quite right” with the essay. Of course, not with Ed’s syntax, especially knowing and then reading that he spent 36 years, 8 in teaching English and Journalism, and then 28 years is school administration. Ed knows how to diagram a sentence and “enforce” the curriculum! I am thinking Ed is “sly like a fox”, however, that may be giving him too much credit. How can Ed, who participated and contributed to the questionable state of our schooling system, now criticize Secretary of Education for deconstructing it – without first presenting her “deconstruction logic”, providing she has one. I think Ed may be worrying his 36-year investment might be exposed as a “sly trick” he has been playing on us.

I recently re-discovered in my library Ivan Illich’s small book “Toward a history of needs” containing five of his essays and started reading them. The essay “In lieu of education” helped to focus my attention in reading Ed’s crazy fox column. It is like reading in tandem two essays on the same topic but on differing planes. Ivan’s deeper analysis suggests that Ed is unaware of Ivan’s deeper probe. The objective of this musing is to examine Illich’s ‘invariant hidden structure’ in our educational system that I suspect is hiding from Ed (Illich: In lieu of education, 1971).

Bruce, your 1960 encounter with Ed was interesting and also motivated me to look closer at what he had written last week. It seems not quite right to cite Michael Fox’s manifesto and not see the “hidden structure” underlying his chosen profession. Consider Fox’s metaphor about a professor filling a pickle jar with golf-ball size rocks and then asking the class if it is full, which of course it is seen to be, until sand and Coors beer (our favorite Bruce?) are added. Then the professor instructs the class that this “jar is your life and make sure the ingredients are the big stuff, your family, your work, your career, your passions. The rest is just sand, minutiae. It’s in there. It may even be important. But it’s not your first priority.” What is this, ‘it may even be important’ – how so, if it is important?

This is where Michael and Ed both seem not right! The by now sandy beer is the most important ingredient – this is Jung’s individuation and Maslow’s self-actualizing need, “Self-Stuff” making the biggest most important rock the family stick-together. If we do not get individuation right nothing works together smoothly. When I first read this, I did not see the jar finally full and thought what else could be added – of course, it is one’s imagination. The other jar ingredients, your work, your career, are the focus of the Illich’s “invariant hidden structure” that we are investigating. Ed seems to not to realize this.

The theme of Fox’s book “A funny thing happened on the way to the future: Twists and turns” is similar to Illich’s essay “In lieu of education”, both reflecting Ed points out Mark Twain’s statement that “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Fox complies a list of other school dropouts like himself, actors and businesspersons, and get this Ed writes, “have overcome (emphasis added) the lack of formal education to make their mark in the world.” And what is Ed’s and maybe Fox’s criteria for “marking this world” – you guessed it, money, as Ed goes on to point to billionaires that have made their money without formal education. Our society’s criteria of success, money, is not right and ultimately will kill us. Illich’s analysis takes us deep into school-logic that underlies our educational system, which he reminds us was established and is still supported by Kapitalism. It is the State that incorporates The Corporation, which should not be forgotten. If we have issues with Corporations, we have deeper issue with the State.

I am now writing, it appears, following along in Ed’s essay with Ivan’s hovering above in a DeLorean. Ed justifies why our society can place students in his professional hands by detailing his 36 years being educated, teaching, and administrating, and finally moving up to a director of district personnel, a crowning event justifying Ed to proudly state, “I feel I have some credibility.” Yes Ed, as Ivan points out, you were fully indoctrinated and successfully deployed:  “The more education and individual consumes, the more ‘knowledge stock’ he acquires and the higher he rises in the hierarchy of knowledge capitalists. Education thus defines a new class structure for society within which the large consumers of knowledge – those who have acquired greater quantities of knowledge stock – can claim to be of superior value to society. They represent gilt-edged securities in a society’s portfolio of human capital, and access to the more powerful or scarcer tools of production is reserved to them” (Illich, In lieu of education, in Toward a history of needs, 1977: 84). Ed really is a good marine.

After commending Fox’s decision to go-his-own-way despite the warning of one teacher that “You are making a big mistake, Fox, you’re not going to be cute forever”, Ed acknowledges that Michael’s decision to follow his talent and not books was a right decision, after all Michael is a millionaire – what more proof do we need? But then Ed challenges Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education as someone “never having entered a public classroom at any level as a student” prompting Ed to surmise that “the Republican Party has the goal of destroying America’s public education system.” In the remaining part of this section, Ed presents in detail the “damage” he thinks Republicans have done and are still doing to the public-school system. Ed then asks this key question, which is an important aspect of Illich’s analytical framework, “How can students learn to read, write, and learn how to use computers and laptops if they don’t have supplies and equipment to do so?” The issue of technology is central in Illich’s analysis of schooling (in 1971 he foresaw the impact of the internet) and Ed ends this section not exploring or at least indicating its importance – he seems to accept technology as a benign entity.

In the last section of his column, Ed presents a flood of polling statistics from the Pew Research Center to criticize “the richest country in the world for refusing to fund education at all levels”. I am reminded of the book “how to lie with statistics” we read as college students. However, more to the point Illich makes – it makes no difference if the right or the left control schooling, their approaches on the surface while different, both lack awareness of what is “hidden” – they both remain unconsciousness or indifferent to what is going on. Ed ends his column with the interesting awareness of Michael in comparing his life experiences with that of the curriculum from Hunter College finding them to be very close, prompting Michael to reflect that he “fulfilled the requirement for each particular course – while having absolutely no idea I was doing it. I might have skipped class, but I didn’t miss any lessons.”

While Michael’s lack of formal education is similar to other successful movie stars and business types, society still needs educated workers. In a previous comment, I suggested Ed’s columns lacked depth but did not defend this statement. I started defending my position here and then in ending this introduction to Illich, he reminded me this about Ed and myself, “In order to see clearly the alternatives we face, we must first distinguished learning from schooling, which means separating the humanistic goal of the teacher from the impact of the invariant structure of the school. This hidden structure constitutes a course of instruction that remains forever beyond the control of the teacher or all of the school board. It necessarily conveys the message that only through schooling can an individual prepare for an adulthood in society, that what is not taught in school is of little value, and that what is learned outside of school is not worth knowing. I call it the hidden curriculum because it constitutes the unalterable framework of the schooling system, within which all changes in the visible curriculum are made.” (In lieu of education, 82).

Wow, as I read Illich, I recalled my past teaching experiences and took note of what had been ‘hiding’ from me. I remember teaching and using management textbooks, now fetching $200 a copy, presenting Maslow’s “Needs Hierarchy Theory”. It may have taken 2 out of 300 pages for these PhD authors to cover Maslow’s Theory, leaving a few paragraphs for Self-Actualization, which they defined as doing all one can for the corporation, building one’s career – being the good worker. Seldom do they address the “deep unconscious work” needed to approach individuation, self-actualization. I came to realize that students are not being taught to care about the deep Self-stuff – the real challenge in business schools is mastering the “mathematics of finance” not the “mathematics of psyche”. There was no time to properly address this math, there are 298 pages I had been told must be covered. Even advanced management classes do not go deep. My attempt at committing class treason is now hovering – preparing a new attack, yes, it has started!

I should not be so hard on Ed – how we go about understanding and addressing the “invariant hidden structure” is tough! To uncover this hidden structure, we have to investigate all the ingredients in our pickle jar – our family, our work, our career, and our passions. Illich states “the economic system” is hiding something. What and why are corporations hiding this knowledge? Why are we, the State, allowing them to hid this knowledge? Illich’s essay examines how schools have turned education into a “commodity”. Pinky’s “class-treason” dialogue is an attempt to reverse this process but as this clip ends, realization hits – more work on this project is badly needed!

I looked for video clips on Illich and there are not many but this one is interesting. Illich was a speaker at the 1984 Water and Dreams Conference sponsored by Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture addressing city life. Illich begins with William Harvey’s discover of the circulation of blood and follows this idea into other circulation of water in cities. (The heading link below is more compete but still illich’s full address is missing.)

Ivan Illich on Water and the History of the Senses – 1984

Ivan recounts that understanding water circulation made possible city life, noting cities were quite stinky until we got the technology right – today 42% of city water is used to flush waste down, out, and in Fargo’s case up the Red River to Grand Forks. Fargo is in the midst of replacing its water and sewer system and over the weekend, we learned that Garrison water will soon be piped to Grand Forks. Then we witnessed hurricane Harvey’s assault on Houston and are learning now the its water circulation is not right. I liked Michael Fox’s saying at one time he showered with his dishes – wonder if he still does? How about you Bruce? After living with you for a year, I know you drank in the shower – ha!

The weekend before last, we welcomed Ken Harvey a Fargo classmate into the FSHC Class 62 FB Group. I started writing “sly like a fox” and listening to Illich’s clip on William Harvey’s blood circulation discovery and then Hurricane Harvey sinks Houston. Then a new born emerges from his sack of water and is named Harvey. Four Harvey’s in a week – hum… . Ken, is there a song here?

One more weekend experience. In surfing TV channels, I re-watched the end of “Back to the Future” where Doc drops Marty back at home and then sets his time dial to visit the future 30 years out. Marty wakes the next morning to find his family’s life has significantly changed –economically and socially better off. Doc and Marty’s effort not to influence the future had failed. Then Doc suddenly returns with knowledge from the future – Marty and his girlfriend have to see something that is not right with their children. Doc then says he needs more fuel for the DeLorean, opens the fuel chamber, reaches into a near-by trash-can, throws in a banana peel, empties a can of Bruce’s Miller beer, throws the can in, closes the lid and takes off – “technology and the Soul” Wolfgang Giegerich; “Technology with Soul” – Bernard Amadei. Past and future circulations to continue …


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1 Response to Sly like a fox

  1. Pingback: In The American Penal Colony – Trumpesque | Dialectic Analytical Man

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