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On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
David Graeber on a Fair Future Economy - YouTube
"David Graeber is an anthropologist, a leading figure in the Occupy movement, and one of our most original and influential public thinkers.

He comes to the RSA to address our current age of ‘total bureaucratization’, in which public and private power has gradually fused into a single entity, rife with rules and regulations, whose ultimate purpose is the extraction of wealth in the form of profits.

David will consider what it would take, in terms of intellectual clarity, political will and imaginative power – to conceive and build a flourishing and fair future economy, which would maximise the scope for individual and collective creativity, and would be sustainable and just."
democracy  liberalism  directdemocracy  borders  us  finance  globalization  bureaucracy  2015  ows  occupywallstreet  governance  government  economics  politics  policy  unschooling  unlearning  schooliness  technology  paperwork  future  utopianism  capitalism  constitution  rules  regulation  wealth  power  communism  authority  authoritarianism  creativity  neoliberalism  austerity  justice  socialjustice  society  ideology  inequality  revolution  global  international  history  law  legal  debt  freedom  money  monetarypolicy  worldbank  imf  markets  banks  banking  certification  credentials  lobbying  collusion  corruption  privatization  credentialization  deschooling  canon  firstamendment 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
“The Moral Crisis of the University” | Gardner Writes
"Michael B. Katz is a new discovery for me (h/t Roving Librarian). His scholarship on the history of public education in the fascinating, troubling, and revelatory. I’m sure his conclusions are contested–whose aren’t?–but at times the clarity and forcefulness of his insights take my breath away.

“The Moral Crisis of the University,” reprinted in Katz’s last book, Reconstructing American Education (1987), is full of such insights. The essay doesn’t make for happy reading, but every time I read it I come away with a renewed understanding of what will be lost if higher education centered on the life of the mind and nurtured by a strong sense of civic obligation disappears. In many cases, this has already happened. The change Katz describes in 1987 has accelerated in ways that may go beyond his worst nightmare. Along with that acceleration, of course, is a great deal of business as usual, as there always is. We look here when the real erosion is happening there. It’s hard to know where to look, even when there are no distractions–and there are always distractions.

There’s an old joke about going broke, credited to Hemingway: Q: “How did you go bankrupt?” A: “Little by little, then all at once.” During the little by little stage, people who sound various alarms risk being called cranks, or worse. And it’s true: a premature or mischievous cultivation of outrage may damage or destroy what little semblance of community may be left.

And yet, the little by little becomes greater every year. Michael Katz gives me a way to see that. With that clarity also comes hope, the hope that recognizing problems really is the first step toward addressing them, managing them, perhaps even solving them.

Here, then, for Week 7 of Open Learning ’18, my last week as hub director, is some Michael Katz for us to consider together.
[W]hat is it exactly that makes a university distinct from other social institutions? [Robert Paul] Wolff offered a compelling definition based on a conception of the ideal university as a “community of learning.” The ideal university, he argued, should be “a community of persons united by collective understandings, by common and communal goals, by bonds of reciprocal obligation, and by a flow of sentiment which makes the preservation of the community an object of desire, not merely a matter of prudence or a command of duty.” Community implies a form of social obligation governed by principles different from those operative in the marketplace and state. Laws of of supply and demand lose priority; wage-labor is not the template for all human relations; the translation of individuals into commodities is resisted. The difficult task of defining common goals or acceptable activity is neither avoided nor deflected onto bureaucracy….

For all their problems, universities and their faculties remain immensely privileged. They retain a freedom of activity and expression not permitted in any other major social institution. There are two justifications for this privilege. One is that it is an essential condition of teaching and learning. The other is that universities have become the major source of moral and social criticism in modern life. They are the major site of whatever social conscience we have left…. If the legitimacy of universities rested only on their service to the marketplace and state, internal freedom would not be an issue. But their legitimacy rests, in fact, on something else: their integrity. Like all privileges, the freedom enjoyed by universities carries correlative responsibilities. In their case it is intellectual honesty and moral courage. Modern universities are the greatest centers of intellectual power in history. Without integrity, they can become little more than supermarkets with raw power for sale. This is the tendency in the modern history of the higher learning. It is what I call the moral crisis of the university.

I firmly believe that these large questions are essential foundations for any effective change or conservation in higher education. For always some new things must be invented, some things will benefit from change, and some things must be conserved. Some core principles must remain non-negotiable. I agree with Katz: tenured faculty in higher education are the last, best hope for addressing these large questions of common goals and acceptable activities.

It may not yet be too late."
gardnercampbell  via:lukeneff  2018  lifeofthemind  liberalarts  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  community  learning  civics  robertpaulwolff  michaelkatz  1987  howwelearn  purpose  meaning  bureaucracy  interdependence  collectivism  understanding  responsibility  integrity  morality  ethics  neoliberalism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ - The New York Times
"It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement. Research indicates that the more selective a university, the less likely it is to embrace assessment. Learning outcomes assessment has become one way to answer the question, “If you get unprepared students in your class and they don’t do well, how does that get explained?” Mr. Eubanks at Furman University told me.

When Erik Gilbert, a professor of history at Arkansas State University, reached the end of his World Civilization course last fall, he dutifully imposed the required assessment: an extra question on the final exam that asked students to read a document about Samurai culture and answer questions using knowledge of Japanese history. Yet his course focused on “cross-cultural connections, trade, travel, empire, migration and bigger-scale questions, rather than area studies,” Mr. Gilbert told me. His students had not studied Japanese domestic history. “We do it this way because it satisfies what the assessment office wants, not because it addresses concerns that we as a department have.”

Mr. Gilbert became an outspoken assessment skeptic after years of watching the process fail to capture what happens in his classes — and seeing it miss the real reasons students struggle. “Maybe all your students have full-time jobs, but that’s something you can’t fix, even though that’s really the core problem,” he said. “Instead, you’re expected to find some small problem, like students don’t understand historical chronology, so you might add a reading to address that. You’re supposed to make something up every semester, then write up a narrative” explaining your solution to administrators.

Here is the second irony: Learning assessment has not spurred discussion of the deep structural problems that send so many students to college unprepared to succeed. Instead, it lets politicians and accreditors ignore these problems as long as bureaucratic mechanisms appear to be holding someone — usually a professor — accountable for student performance.

All professors could benefit from serious conversations about what is and is not working in their classes. But instead they end up preoccupied with feeding the bureaucratic beast. “It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. You speak two languages,” said Frank Furedi, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Britain, which has a booming assessment culture. “You do a performance for the sake of the auditors, but in reality, you carry on.”

Yet bureaucratic jargon subtly shapes the expectations of students and teachers alike. On the first day of class, my colleagues and I — especially in the humanities, where professors are perpetually anxious about falling enrollment — find ourselves rattling off the skills our courses offer (“Critical thinking! Clear writing!”), hyping our products like Apple Store clerks.

I teach intellectual history. Of course that includes skills: learning to read a historical source, interpret evidence and build an argument. But cultivating historical consciousness is more than that: It means helping students immerse themselves in a body of knowledge, question assumptions about memory and orient themselves toward current events in a new way.

If we describe college courses as mainly delivery mechanisms for skills to please a future employer, if we imply that history, literature and linguistics are more or less interchangeable “content” that convey the same mental tools, we oversimplify the intellectual complexity that makes a university education worthwhile in the first place. We end up using the language of the capitalist marketplace and speak to our students as customers rather than fellow thinkers. They deserve better.

“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas,” Mr. Furedi told me. “They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines.” Assessment culture is dumbing down universities, he said: “One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”

Here is the third irony: The value of universities to a capitalist society depends on their ability to resist capitalism, to carve out space for intellectual endeavors that don’t have obvious metrics or market value.

Consider that holy grail of learning outcomes, critical thinking — what the philosopher John Dewey called the ability “to maintain the state of doubt and to carry on systematic and protracted inquiry.” Teaching it is not a cheap or efficient process. It does not come from trying to educate the most students at the lowest possible cost or from emphasizing short, quantifiable, standardized assignments at the expense of meandering, creative and difficult investigation.

Producing thoughtful, talented graduates is not a matter of focusing on market-ready skills. It’s about giving students an opportunity that most of them will never have again in their lives: the chance for serious exploration of complicated intellectual problems, the gift of time in an institution where curiosity and discovery are the source of meaning.

That’s how we produce the critical thinkers American employers want to hire. And there’s just no app for that."
learning  learningoutcomes  outcomes  academia  assessment  evaluation  quantification  measurement  accountability  highered  highereducation  2018  mollywhorthen  criticalthinking  johndewey  metrics  inquiry  efficiency  standardization  standardizedtesting  capitalism  content  complexity  howwelearn  howwethink  knowledge  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  deschooling  schools  pedagogy  teaching  skepticism  bureaucracy  corporatism  corporatization  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Considerations On Cost Disease | Slate Star Codex
[via: ]


I mentioned politics briefly above, but they probably deserve more space here. Libertarian-minded people keep talking about how there’s too much red tape and the economy is being throttled. And less libertarian-minded people keep interpreting it as not caring about the poor, or not understanding that government has an important role in a civilized society, or as a “dog whistle” for racism, or whatever. I don’t know why more people don’t just come out and say “LOOK, REALLY OUR MAIN PROBLEM IS THAT ALL THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS COST TEN TIMES AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO FOR NO REASON, PLUS THEY SEEM TO BE GOING DOWN IN QUALITY, AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY, AND WE’RE MOSTLY JUST DESPERATELY FLAILING AROUND LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS HERE.” State that clearly, and a lot of political debates take on a different light.

For example: some people promote free universal college education, remembering a time when it was easy for middle class people to afford college if they wanted it. Other people oppose the policy, remembering a time when people didn’t depend on government handouts. Both are true! My uncle paid for his tuition at a really good college just by working a pretty easy summer job – not so hard when college cost a tenth of what it did now. The modern conflict between opponents and proponents of free college education is over how to distribute our losses. In the old days, we could combine low taxes with widely available education. Now we can’t, and we have to argue about which value to sacrifice.

Or: some people get upset about teachers’ unions, saying they must be sucking the “dynamism” out of education because of increasing costs. Others people fiercely defend them, saying teachers are underpaid and overworked. Once again, in the context of cost disease, both are obviously true. The taxpayers are just trying to protect their right to get education as cheaply as they used to. The teachers are trying to protect their right to make as much money as they used to. The conflict between the taxpayers and the teachers’ unions is about how to distribute losses; somebody is going to have to be worse off than they were a generation ago, so who should it be?

And the same is true to greater or lesser degrees in the various debates over health care, public housing, et cetera.

Imagine if tomorrow, the price of water dectupled. Suddenly people have to choose between drinking and washing dishes. Activists argue that taking a shower is a basic human right, and grumpy talk show hosts point out that in their day, parents taught their children not to waste water. A coalition promotes laws ensuring government-subsidized free water for poor families; a Fox News investigative report shows that some people receiving water on the government dime are taking long luxurious showers. Everyone gets really angry and there’s lots of talk about basic compassion and personal responsibility and whatever but all of this is secondary to why does water costs ten times what it used to?

I think this is the basic intuition behind so many people, even those who genuinely want to help the poor, are afraid of “tax and spend” policies. In the context of cost disease, these look like industries constantly doubling, tripling, or dectupling their price, and the government saying “Okay, fine,” and increasing taxes however much it costs to pay for whatever they’re demanding now.

If we give everyone free college education, that solves a big social problem. It also locks in a price which is ten times too high for no reason. This isn’t fair to the government, which has to pay ten times more than it should. It’s not fair to the poor people, who have to face the stigma of accepting handouts for something they could easily have afforded themselves if it was at its proper price. And it’s not fair to future generations if colleges take this opportunity to increase the cost by twenty times, and then our children have to subsidize that.

I’m not sure how many people currently opposed to paying for free health care, or free college, or whatever, would be happy to pay for health care that cost less, that was less wasteful and more efficient, and whose price we expected to go down rather than up with every passing year. I expect it would be a lot.

And if it isn’t, who cares? The people who want to help the poor have enough political capital to spend eg $500 billion on Medicaid; if that were to go ten times further, then everyone could get the health care they need without any more political action needed. If some government program found a way to give poor people good health insurance for a few hundred dollars a year, college tuition for about a thousand, and housing for only two-thirds what it costs now, that would be the greatest anti-poverty advance in history. That program is called “having things be as efficient as they were a few decades ago”.


In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildrens’ generation would have a 15 hour work week. At the time, it made sense. GDP was rising so quickly that anyone who could draw a line on a graph could tell that our generation would be four or five times richer than his. And the average middle-class person in his generation felt like they were doing pretty well and had most of what they needed. Why wouldn’t they decide to take some time off and settle for a lifestyle merely twice as luxurious as Keynes’ own?

Keynes was sort of right. GDP per capita is 4-5x greater today than in his time. Yet we still work forty hour weeks, and some large-but-inconsistently-reported percent of Americans (76? 55? 47?) still live paycheck to paycheck.

And yes, part of this is because inequality is increasing and most of the gains are going to the rich. But this alone wouldn’t be a disaster; we’d get to Keynes’ utopia a little slower than we might otherwise, but eventually we’d get there. Most gains going to the rich means at least some gains are going to the poor. And at least there’s a lot of mainstream awareness of the problem.

I’m more worried about the part where the cost of basic human needs goes up faster than wages do. Even if you’re making twice as much money, if your health care and education and so on cost ten times as much, you’re going to start falling behind. Right now the standard of living isn’t just stagnant, it’s at risk of declining, and a lot of that is student loans and health insurance costs and so on.

What’s happening? I don’t know and I find it really scary."
scottalexander  economics  education  history  politics  policy  prices  inflation  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  bureaucracy  costdisease  healthcare  spending  us  government  medicine  lifeexpectancy  salaries  teachers  teaching  schools  regulation  tylercowen  poverty  inequality  litigation  litigiousness  labor  housing  rent  homes  subways  transportation  health 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Post-apocalyptic life in American health care | Meaningness

• Much of my time for the past year has been spent navigating the medical maze on behalf of my mother, who has dementia.

• I observe that American health care organizations can no longer operate systematically, so participants are forced to act in the communal mode, as if in the pre-modern world.

• Health care is one leading edge of a general breakdown in systematicity—while, at the same time, employing sophisticated systematic technologies.

• Communal-mode interpersonal skills may become increasingly important to life success—not less, as techies hope.

• For complex health care problems, I recommend hiring a consultant to provide administrative (not medical!) guidance.

Epistemic status: impressionistic blogging during a dazed lull between an oncologist and an MRI. No attempt to validate with statistical data or knowledgeable sources."

"It’s like one those post-apocalyptic science fiction novels whose characters hunt wild boars with spears in the ruins of a modern city. Surrounded by machines no one understands any longer, they have reverted to primitive technology.

Except it’s in reverse. Hospitals can still operate modern material technologies (like an MRI) just fine. It’s social technologies that have broken down and reverted to a medieval level.

Systematic social relationships involve formally-defined roles and responsibilities. That is, “professionalism.” But across medical organizations, there are none. Who do you call at Anthem to find out if they’ll cover an out-of-state SNF stay? No one knows.

What do you do when systematicity breaks down? You revert to what I’ve described as the “communal mode” or “choiceless mode.” That is, “pre-modern,” or “traditional” ways of being.

Working in a medical office is like living in a pre-modern town. It’s all about knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get something done. Several times, I’ve taken my mother to a doctor who said something like: “She needs lymphedema treatment, and the only lymphedema clinic around here is booked months in advance, but I know someone there, and I think I can get her in next week.” Or, “The pathology report on this biopsy is only one sentence, and it’s unsigned. The hospital that faxed it to me doesn’t know who did it. I need details, so I called all the pathologists I know, and none of them admit to writing it, so we are going to need to do a new biopsy.”

But at the same time, each clinic does have an electronic patient records management system, which does work some of the time. And there are professional relationships with defined roles that operate effectively within the building.

I suspect increasing “patchiness” of systems may be typical of our post-systematic atomized era. Understanding the medical case may help predict the texture of cultural and social life as atomization proceeds.

A central research topic in ethnomethodology is the relationship between formal rationality (such as an insurance company’s 1600 pages of unworkable rules) and “mere reasonableness,” which is what people mostly use to get a job done. The disjunction between electronic patient records and calling around town to try to find out who wrote a biopsy report that arrived by fax seems sufficiently extreme that it may produce a qualitatively new way of being.

I would like to ask:

• How does health care continue to function at all?

• Can it continue to function at all?

• How do people within the ex-system navigate a world that mashes up high-tech infrastructure that only sometimes works with pre-modern social relationships across organizations?

• How do they understand this contrast? How do they cope personally?1

• What can we do about it?"

"Perhaps American health care is a bellwether model for the future of other aspects of life in post-systemic world? A pattern that occurs in many other sectors: as systems fail, people fall back on innate communal logic. Politics and the media are obvious current examples."
us  healthcare  systems  2017  medicine  davidchapman  medicalcostdisease  costdisease  economics  bureaucracy  communication  politics  absurdity  media 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Kolakowski on conservatism
"A Conservative Believes:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.

A Liberal Believes:

1. That the ancient idea that the purpose of the State is security still remains valid. It remains valid even if the notion of "security" is expanded to include not only the protection of persons and property by means of the law, but also various provisions of insurance: that people should not starve if they are jobless; that the poor should not be condemned to die through lack of medical help; that children should have free access to education--all these are also part of security. Yet security should never be confused with liberty. The State does not guarantee freedom by action and by regulating various areas of life, but by doing nothing. In fact security can be expanded only at the expense of liberty. In any event, to make people happy is not the function of the State.

2. That human communities are threatened not only by stagnation but also by degradation when they are so organized that there is no longer room for individual initiative and inventiveness. The collective suicide of mankind is conceivable, but a permanent human ant-heap is not, for the simple reason that we are not ants.

3. That it is highly improbable that a society in which all forms of competitiveness have been done away with would continue to have the necessary stimuli for creativity and progress. More equaliity is not an end in itself, but only a means. In other words, there is no point to the struggle for more equality if it results only in the leveling down off those who are better off, and not in the raising up of the underprivileged. Perfect equality is a self-defeating ideal.

A Socialist Believes:

1. That societies in which the pursuit of profit is the sole regulator of the productive system are threatened with as grievous--perhaps more grievous--catastrophes as are societies in which the profit motive has been entirely eliminated from the production-regulating forces. There are good reasons why freedom of economic activity should be limited for the sake of security, and why money should not automatically produce more money. But the limitation of freedom should be called precisely that, and should not be called a higher form of freedom.

2. That it is absurd and hypocritical to conclude that, simply because a perfect, conflictless society is impossible, every existing form of inequality is inevitable and all ways of profit-making justified. The kind of conservative anthropological pessimism which led to the astonishing belief that a progressive income tax was an inhuman abomination is just as suspect as the kind of historical optimism on which the Gulag Archipelago was based.

3. That the tendency to subject the economy to important social controls should be encouraged, even though the price to be paid is an increase in bureaucracy. Such controls, however, must be exercised within representative democracy. Thus it is essential to plan institutions that counteract the menace to freedom which is produced by the growth of these very controls.

So far as I can see, this set of regulative ideas is not self-contradictory. And therefore it is possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist. This is equivalent to saying that those three particular designations are no longer mutually exclusive options."

[via: ]
politics  via:ayjay  conservatism  liberalism  security  socialism  society  philosophy  enlightenment  envy  vanity  greed  aggression  brotherhood  love  altruism  despotism  happiness  peace  freedom  humans  economics  bureaucracy  democracy  pessimism  conflict  leszekkolakowski 
november 2017 by robertogreco
I love math, but quit teaching it because I was forced to make it boring - The Globe and Mail
"As a math teacher, there were many days I hated math more than my students did. Way more.

So I quit in 2013, happily leaving behind job security, a pension and the holy grail of teacher benefits: summers off.

Everyone thought I was crazy. I was in the early years of a divorce and had a mother and two kids to support. Almost nobody – and rightfully so, I suppose – supported my ostensibly hasty decision to abandon the education ship. There were no safety boats waiting and I was not a great swimmer. What the hell was I thinking?

In fact I was leaping off the Titanic – where actual math education is relegated to third class and was drowning along with its students.

The hardest thing to teach is mathematics. Not so much because math is hard – so is shooting three-pointers or making risotto – but because education makes it hard. Boring curriculum. Constant testing. Constant arguments over pedagogy. Lack of time. It's a Gong Show.

I found a sizable chunk of the math that I was forced to teach either a) boring; b) benign; c) banal; or d) Byzantine. The guilt of being paid to shovel this anachronistic heap of emaciated and disconnected mathematics around finally caught up with me.

I quit because I felt like a charlatan when I implicitly or explicitly told my students that what we were learning reflected the heart of mathematics or that it was the core of lifelong practicality. "When are we going to use this?" has been the No. 1 whine in math classes for a few generations. We should stop trying to sell mathematics for its usefulness. It's not why you or I should learn it.

Earlier this year, Francis Su, the outgoing president of the Mathematical Association of America, gave a speech for the ages. He referenced a prisoner named Christopher serving a long prison sentence, teaching himself mathematics. "Mathematics helps people flourish," he said. "Mathematics is for human flourishing." In a follow-up interview, Su talked about how math should involve beauty, truth, justice, love and play. Not sure about you, but my math education and Ontario teaching experience were the furthest things from these virtues. In Ontario, kids are imprisoned with criminally bland mathematics – so are the teachers.

I left teaching because my impact on math education lay beyond my classroom and my school. I felt I could contribute my passion/understanding for mathematics on a larger stage – maybe global. I was dreaming, but sometimes chasing your dreams is worth all the outside skepticism and uphill climbs. At one point, I was penniless at 50, stressed, confused and disappointed. But I wasn't unhappy. I was rescued by the light and humanity of mathematics.

Fast forward four years. I've written a book about the hidden happiness of math. I work remotely for a Canadian digital math resource company and I travel all over North America speaking about my almost gnawing passion of mathematics. I felt that I couldn't share that passion for most of my teaching career because the unchecked bureaucracy of the education system was more interested in data from standardized test scores and putting pedagogy ahead of mathematics. As such, the culture of mathematics has almost been shaded into obscurity.

So now, when I see the flood of math articles about Ontario's low math scores, I put my head in my hands and worry my eyes might just roll too far back into my head.

Every year is a contest to see who will win this year's huffing and puffing award about the province's low standardized test scores. For the past few years, arguments about old math versus new math have been running away with the trophy. Although, headlines crying Elementary Teachers Need More Math Training are often the runner-up.

As a student, I went through that "old" system. Sure, I got plenty of As and gold stars, but it took me well into my teaching career to really understand a fraction of the things I thought I knew.

Calculus? Pfff. Get rid of that thing, it belongs in university after a serious boot camp of algebra. Fractions, as with unsafe firecrackers, need to be pulled out of the hands of younger students and introduced to them in their hormonal years. Why are teachers asking students to flip and multiply fractions when you need to divide them? Anyone care to explain that to children – why fractions are doing gymnastics to arrive at the correct answer?

There are so many amazing teachers fighting the good fight. But until the real culprit – the government – gets called out for manufacturing a dog's breakfast of math education, students will continue to suffer in the classroom."
sfsh  mth  mathematics  teaching  education  testing  standardizedtesting  2017  sunilsingh  calculus  curriculum  pedagogy  cv  learning  francissu  math  beauty  truth  justice  love  play  happiness  bureaucracy  oldmath  newmath  fractions 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Buenaventura Durruti - Wikiquote
"what anarchists had to do was understand the natural process of rebellion and not separate themselves from the working class under the pretext of serving it better. That would only be a prelude to betrayal and bureaucratization, to a new form of domination."

"No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges."
buenaventuradurruti  anarchism  bureaucracy  betrayal  domination  oppression  rebellion  poer  privilege  fascism  statusquo  centrism  workingclass  hierarchy 
september 2017 by robertogreco
David Graeber • Dead zones of the imagination: on violence, bureaucracy, and interpretive labor
"We are not used to thinking of nursing homes or banks or even HMOs as violent institutions—except perhaps in the most abstract and metaphorical sense. But the violence I’m referring to here is not epistemic. It’s quite concrete. All of these are institutions involved in the allocation of resources within a system of property rights regulated and guaranteed by governments in a system that ultimately rests on the threat of force. “Force,” in turn, is just a euphemistic way to refer to violence.

All of this is obvious enough. What’s of ethnographic interest, perhaps, is how rarely citizens in industrial democracies actually think about this fact, or how instinctively we try to discount its importance. This is what makes it possible, for example, for graduate students to be able to spend days in the stacks of university libraries poring over theoretical tracts about the declining importance of coercion as a factor in modern life, without ever reflecting on that fact that, had they insisted on their right to enter the stacks without showing a properly stamped and validated ID, armed men would indeed be summoned to physically remove them, using whatever force might be required. It’s almost as if the more we allow aspects of our everyday existence to fall under the purview of bureaucratic regulations, the more everyone concerned colludes to downplay the fact (perfectly obvious to those actually running the system) that all of it ultimately depends on the threat of physical harm."
sociology  violence  davidgraeber  2006  bureaucracy  force  coercion  threat  capitalism  property  ownership  latecapitalism  propertyrights  via:ayjay 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The Architect Who Became a Diamond - The New Yorker
"Barragán was a devout Catholic, and his work is characterized by a mixture of opulence and abnegation. “Where do you find more eroticism than in the cloister of a convent?” he once asked. His buildings are mostly residential, with anonymous perimeter walls that protect modestly sized but lavish interiors. Louis Kahn recalled that, in the sixties, he asked Barragán to help him design the courtyard garden at the Salk Institute and flew him out to San Diego to see the site. Barragán took one look at the expanse of concrete and said, “You are going to hate me, but there should be no tree here,” and went home, forsaking a commission from one of his most famous living colleagues.

Tall, blue-eyed, and bald from a young age, Barragán lived beautifully and tyrannically. He wore English sports jackets, silk shirts, and knitted ties; he had a Cadillac and employed a chauffeur. He enjoyed melon halves drizzled with sherry, and was known to have his maid prepare entirely pink meals. An architect friend recalled being disinvited to tea on several occasions because the light in the garden wasn’t right.

“You have no idea how much I hate small things, ugly things,” Barragán told the journalist Elena Poniatowska. “Yet the fragility of some women moves me.” Though he never married (and is thought by some to have been gay), his taste in women was particular: willowy, dark, with, as Poniatowska put it, “the big, hollow eyes of someone who has suffered.” Women recounted trying to lose weight in the weeks before visiting him. Barragán was generous with gifts, bringing small tokens of appreciation—silver boxes, flowers, packages of dates—even to casual lunches. He spoke gently and smiled often. He liked to read Proust, listen to classical music, and fantasize about the Russian gentry. Famously private, he despised his contemporaries’ infatuation with “uninhabitable” glass houses and thought that shadows were “a basic human need.” His work, likewise, was hidden: the residences were often within gated communities, the fountains protected by private courtyards. If there is a recurring criticism of Barragán, it is that he was undemocratic. He spent Sundays at an equestrian club, and when someone accused him of “only designing homes for rich people,” he allegedly replied, “And horses.”

I met Andrés Casillas, an architect now in his eighties who was a protégé of Barragán’s, at his home, an hour and a half from Mexico City. He had perfectly coiffed white hair and wore a fine cashmere sweater. His home had an austere, siesta-like feel that was unmistakably Barragánesque. He spoke slowly and with exaggerated gallantry. “This is stupid to say, but Barragán was a gentleman,” he told me. Casillas talked about meeting Barragán for the first time. He was eight years old, and had wandered around the “magical” garden of Barragán’s house for half an hour, after which Barragán presented him with a small glass of rompope, an eggnog-like liquor prepared by nuns. “I left absolutely mesmerized,” he said.

The hypnosis was by design. Barragán believed that architects should make “houses into gardens, and gardens into houses.” He made blueprints premised on surprise and an almost perverse protraction of pleasure. Low, dark corridors open into blindingly bright rooms with church-high ceilings. Floor plans only gradually make themselves evident to the visitor. He called it “architectural striptease.”

Walking through Barragán’s home, which was declared a unesco World Heritage site in 2004, one feels a sense of coercion, and Barragán himself never completely disappears. Keith Eggener, an architectural historian who made a pilgrimage to Barragán’s house soon after he died, recalled his impressions with the hesitant laughter of someone who’s embarrassed to tell the truth. “Even when it was run-down, it was a ravishing house,” he said. “I remember having this feeling of really wanting to spend the night there—not just to sleep in the house but to sleep with the house.”"

"In 2002, as an artist in residence at the Rijksakademie, in Amsterdam, Magid began noticing the large number of surveillance cameras in the city—anonymous gray boxes, mounted on everything from the corners of buildings to coffee-shop awnings. One February morning, she went to the police headquarters and explained that she was an artist interested in decorating the municipal cameras with rhinestones. She was directed to the appropriate police administrators, who told her that they did not work with artists. She thanked them and left. A few weeks later, Magid returned, armed with business cards and a corporate-speak sales pitch, presenting herself as the Head Security Ornamentation Professional at System Azure, a company that she had made up. The police not only allowed her to bedazzle the cameras but even paid her a couple of thousand dollars. “I realized that they could not hear me when I spoke as an artist,” Magid later said. “This had nothing to do with what I proposed but with who I was.”

The impish venture touched on a theme that Magid has returned to again and again, in increasingly ambitious ways. Her aim with most of her work is to humanize institutional power structures, subtly undermining them while adhering to the letter of their regulations: exploiting legal escape clauses and other red tape, and forging relationships with civil servants. She has ensconced herself in the Dutch secret service and been trained by a New York City cop. She once got members of a surveillance team from Liverpool’s police force to direct her through a public square with her eyes closed. In 2008, she told me, a Dutch government official warned her that she was considered a national-security threat. Though she cares deeply about how her work looks, she has less in common with other artists than with people whose jobs are not typically thought of as artistic: spies, investigative journalists, forensic experts.

Magid’s work can seem like a series of extended pranks, but when I suggested this to her she was aghast. “No!” she exclaimed. She laughed but seemed genuinely distressed. “I hate mean-spirited work,” she said. “It’s about the engagement. A prank doesn’t engage. A prank is: you throw something in and watch what happens. This is a commitment.” Still, people often ask Magid why anyone ever agrees to collaborate with her. She has said that she thinks it is “due to some combination of vanity, pride, and loneliness.”"

"Magid heard about the archive by coincidence: her gallery in Mexico City, Labor, is across the street from Casa Barragán. “It intrigued me as a gothic love story,” she has said, “with a copyright-and-intellectual-property-rights subplot.” In early 2013, Magid contacted Zanco through an intermediary, to introduce herself as an artist working on a project about Barragán, and asked if she might visit the archive. Zanco replied that she was “completely unable to allow access to the collection, nor be of any help to third parties.” A few months later, Magid sent a handwritten request, explaining that she had an upcoming show on Barragán in New York. She invited Zanco to curate pieces from her archive for inclusion. She signed off, “With Warmth and Admiration.” Zanco declined to collaborate, and warned, “I trust you would make yourself aware of the possible copyright implications of any sort of reproduction, and clear the related permissions, procedure and mandatory credits.”

That November, in Tribeca, Magid produced an exhibition about the impasse, “Woman with Sombrero,” which later travelled to Guadalajara. The show was a multimedia installation, with images of Barragán’s work, slide projections, and an iPad displaying the correspondence between Magid and Zanco. Objects were placed in teasing juxtaposition, in a way that suggested connections and narratives without insisting on them. Copies of books that Barragán had sent to various women lay on a bedside table that Magid had fabricated based on one of his designs. In what a press release described as “flirtation with the institutional structures involved,” Magid went to extreme lengths to stay just the right side of copyright law. Rather than reproduce Barragán images from Zanco’s book, for instance, Magid framed a copy of the book itself. The show was written up in the Times, and the article was not flattering to Zanco. Magid was quoted asking, “What’s the difference between loving something and loving something so much that you smother it?”

After the Times took an interest, Magid and Zanco’s correspondence became friendlier—either because Zanco now appreciated Magid’s work or because she realized that anything she wrote could end up as material in future shows. “Thank you for your company,” Zanco wrote at one point. “I feel definitely less lonely down in the archives.” The tone of their letters became familiar but measured. At no point did Magid mention her plan to make a diamond out of Barragán.

Magid agrees with those who argue that the Barragán archive should be open to the public and returned to Mexico, but she insists that this is not her focus. “If that’s what my intentions were, I don’t think I’d make art,” she told me. “I’ve always called the archive her lover. To marry one man, she negotiated owning another man, whom she’s devoted her life to. It’s a weird love triangle, and I’m the other woman.”"

"Magid was disconcerted; she’d expected Zanco to be alone. She followed Zanco in. Fehlbaum was there, seated, his back to a glass wall, and greeted her warmly. Zanco sat down beside him and gestured for Magid to take a seat across from them.

“I brought you this,” Magid said, taking a bottle of champagne from her bag. It was wrapped in an announcement of her St. Gallen show. Zanco removed the paper and thanked her. For the next hour, over lunch, the three of … [more]
2016  jillmagid  luisbarragán  architecture  art  archives  performanceart  laurapoitras  film  bureaucracy  institutions  casaluisbarragán  barraganfoundation  federicazanco  switzerland  guadalajar  mexico  mexicocity  mexicof  df  sfai  sanfrancisco  death  copyright  elenaponiatowska  pranks  engagement  performance  loneliness  journalism  alicegregory  mexicodf 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Jill Magid: The Proposal | SFAI
"The Proposal presents a climactic moment within Jill Magid’s extended, multimedia artwork, The Barragán Archives, which examines the legacy of Mexican architect and Pritzker Prize-winner Luis Barragán (1902–1988). The multi-year project poses piercing, radical, and pragmatic questions about the forms of power, public access, and copyright that construct artistic legacy. With this work, Magid asks, “What happens to an artist’s legacy when it is owned by a corporation and subject to a country’s laws where none of his architecture exists? Who can access it? Who can’t?”

Through his will, Barragán split his archive into two parts. Along with the vast majority of his architecture, Barragán’s personal archive remains in Mexico at his home, Casa Barragán, which is now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1995, Barragán’s professional archive, including the rights to his name and work and all photographs taken of it, was purchased by the Chairman of the Swiss furniture company Vitra, allegedly as a gift for his fiancé, Federica Zanco; who now serves as Director of the Barragan Foundation. For the last twenty years, however, the archive has been publicly inaccessible, housed in a bunker at Vitra corporate headquarters.

The Proposal reaches a thrilling and unexpected salvo in Magid’s engagement with Barragán, Zanco, Barragán’s descendants, the Mexican Government, and the indispensable creative legacy that binds them. Through the public exhibition of The Proposal, Magid will present Zanco with the gift of a two-carat diamond engagement ring grown from the cremated remains of Barragán’s body, in exchange for the gift of his archive to Mexico.

The exhibit serves as both a poetic counterproposal to the original gift to Zanco, and a stunning re-animation of the formerly closed scenario. Magid’s gesture elegantly, and forcefully rejoins the divergent paths of Barragán’s professional and personal archives; even as it reveals Barragán’s official and private selves, and the unique interests of the institutions that have become the archives’ guardians. By developing long-term relationships with multiple individual, governmental, and corporate entities, Magid directly engages complex intersections of the psychological with the judicial, national identity and repatriation, international property rights and copyright law, authorship and ownership, the human body and the body of work. On May 31, 2016, Magid proposed to Zanco in Switzerland. The Proposal has not only exhumed Barragán’s physical remains, but opened the possibility to bring his spiritual and artistic legacy up out of the vault and back to life.

Read about The Proposal at The New Yorker » [ ]

The Proposal is commissioned by San Francisco Art Institute. The exhibition is curated by Hesse McGraw, SFAI Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs, and organized with Katie Hood Morgan, Assistant Curator and Exhibitions Manager.

About the Artist

Through an artistic practice that is at once visual, textual, and performative, Jill Magid (*1973, lives in New York) forges intimate relationships within bureaucratic structures—flirting with, seducing, and subverting authority. Her projects probe seemingly impenetrable systems, such as the NYPD, the Dutch Secret Service, surveillance systems, and, most recently, the legacy of architect Luis Barragán, and infiltrates and unsettles these forms of power. Her work dynamically locates unexpected and rich communities within faceless bureaucracies.

Her works often take the form of elliptical love letters that draw out human qualities in agents of control. These charged encounters are founded on mutual trust, but are also fraught with ethical complications and social asymmetries. Through her works, Magid reframes the complexity, potential intimacy, and absurdity of our relationship with institutions and power.

Her performances and exhibitions have been commissioned and presented by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; and the New Museum, New York; among other venues.

Magid is represented by LABOR, Mexico City; RaebervonStenglin, Zurich; and Galerie Untilthen, Paris.

Related Film

A documentary about The Proposal will premiere on The Intercept in Fall 2016. Field of Vision, a filmmaker-driven visual journalism film unit created by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnack, and Charlotte Cook, commissioned the documentary, which is directed by Magid, and filmed and produced by Jarred Alterman. View Trailer »


The Proposal is accompanied by a co-publication between Sternberg Press; The Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School; and SFAI. Released as part of the Sternberg Press Critical Spatial Practice book series, the book is edited by Nikolaus Hirsch, Carin Kuoni, Hesse McGraw, and Markus Miessen, and features contributions by Nikolaus Hirsch, Jill Magid, Hesse McGraw, Leonardo Díaz Borioli, David Kim, Daniel McClean, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Beth Povinelli, and Ines Weizman. The publication is funded in part by Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation."
jillmagid  luisbarragán  archives  art  performanceart  2016  laurapoitras  film  bureaucracy  institutions  casaluisbarragán  barraganfoundation  federicazanco  architecture  switzerland  guadalajar  mexico  mexicocity  mexicof  df  sfai  sanfrancisco  mexicodf 
december 2016 by robertogreco
What's deadly dull and can save the world? (Hint: We can't stand it)
"What do poor people need most? Food? Healthcare? Education? The answer is as surprising as it is simple. And it can be found under fluorescent lights and modular ceilings."

"“Do you live here?” I say.

“Yes, over there.” He points his spoon at a shack with a corrugated roof, walls made from advertising signs, and – unusual for this neighborhood – a window, salvaged from a bus, frame and all.

“Have you been here long?”

“Since the earthquake.”

That was five years ago. In the meantime, billions of euros in aid money have been pumped into Haiti, including millions from the Netherlands. Yet Lebrun – along with more than half the country’s population – still lives below the poverty line.

“If you could name one thing that would really change your life, what would it be?” I say. I'm expecting him to say a better house, or more food, or a doctor, or education for his kids. I'm expecting him to mention one of the things relief money often provides.

But Sony Lebrun grins broadly at me, revealing a missing tooth, and says, “What would help me most? A land registry.”

I assume I’ve misheard.

“A land registry,” he repeats, smiling.

A land registry. An agency where you can officially affirm that the land you’re building your house or planting your food on is your own. Lebrun would love to build a brick house, he says. He wants to save up for the materials. But what if someone shows up at his door one day claiming to own the land? His savings would be gone in a heartbeat.

What Lebrun needs is security – security he can build a future on. And he needs agencies to safeguard that security. What Lebrun needs is bureaucracy."

"Development organizations are starting to take notice. Along with food, schoolbooks and mosquito nets, one agency after the other has started donating paperwork, Excel sheets and bookkeeping courses. They call it “capacity building.”

For instance, the OECD sends idealistic experts from the group Tax Inspectors Without Borders to help developing countries. Because poorer nations don’t just suffer from a shortage of tax inspectors: they also often lack the knowledge needed to bring crafty multinationals to book.

British tax veteran Lee Corrick went to Kenya in 2011 to train local inspectors. For years, the Kenyan tax office had had problems with a big multinational company – something to do with tea auction license rights and letters of credit. It sounds overly complicated, and the Kenyans thought so too. But after two workshops with Corrick and a stern talk with the multinational, the Kenyan tax office managed to collect $23 million. In fact, revenues from Kenyan tax inspections doubled after Corrick came to town. And in Colombia, the take increased tenfold after training.

And the effects of Lebrun’s longed-for land registry are being studied in a growing number of developing countries. A few months ago, World Bank researchers published a paper on land registration in Benin. containing the first results of an experiment in Benin. In one area, farmers’ land was officially added to a land registry; in another, it wasn't. The researchers then looked at how the farmers used their land.

Here’s what they found: farmers who owned their land on paper invested more. For example, they more often planted trees, such as oil palms, that would continue to provide income all their lives. And since they no longer feared their land would be snatched out from under them, they spent less time guarding it. That left them more time to do other things – like earn money. Similar results have been seen in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Why doesn’t Haiti have a land registry?

The big question, then, is: why, in spite of all the aid money and relief organizations, does Haiti still not have a land registry? If development economists and slum dwellers like Sony Lebrun are calling for bureaucracy outright, why don’t we all – aid organizations, governments, companies – get behind it 100%?

The answer is simple. Bureaucracy is boring.

To convince people to donate money and persuade taxpayers their money is being well spent, you need pretty pictures. A TV ad showing a sweetly smiling Haitian girl who’s just gotten her first school uniform works better than one with a blah bureaucrat in a fluorescent-lit office drawing lines on paper with a ruler. Pictures of starving children with distended bellies still bring in the most money, research shows. And so all too often, capacity building remains the neglected stepchild.

But the truth is, real progress is a gradual, thoroughly bureaucratic, deadly dull process. Saving the world isn’t sexy.

We need to update our image of what it looks like to change the world. The superheroes aren’t the people handing out well-intentioned teddy bears to smiling toddlers; they’re the nondescript worker bees printing out forms in gray offices.

Yes, it’s invisible work. Yes, it’s boring. But the people who will genuinely save the world won’t have throngs of kids hanging onto their superhero capes. The people who will save the world will sit hunched over heaps of files, stamping one certificate after another, sporting an office pallor. The people who will save the world will give Sony Lebrun what he wants: the bureaucratic security he needs to build a future."
bureaucracy  landregistries  law  legal  haiti  ownership  security  2016  maitevermeulen  governance  rwanda  ethiopia  land  landregistration  kenya 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Welcome to Jun, the town that ditched bureaucracy to run on Twitter | Technology | The Guardian
"Residents of the Spanish town use Twitter for everything from reporting crimes to booking doctor’s appointments. Is this the future of local government?

“The only things that the United States has given to the world are skyscrapers, jazz, and cocktails,” once wrote Federico García Lorca. “And in Cuba, in our America, they make much better cocktails.”

The residents of Lorca’s hometown of Granada may now dare to add Twitter to that list. The California-based social network has become something of a specialism for the Spanish city, which now proudly promotes Jun, a local town pioneering Twitter as a way of administering its public services, and hosts an annual conference dedicated to Twitter.

Mayor José Antonio Rodríguez Salas has been experimenting with technology to improve civic engagement since 1999, starting with software the council built itself, and later moving to virtual communities and social media. When I first meet him on a blistering Andalucian summer day, he is standing in the shade with a huddle of townsfolk overlooking a roundabout. The centrepiece of the roundabout is a large obelisk, decorated with a Twitter mosaic, and a collection of cement handprints that include the former Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo.

The mayor jokes that Twitter has enabled them to eliminate the bureaucracy brought in by the French. “Twitter has created the society of the minute – very quick questions and very quick answers. We now do our paperwork on Twitter,” he says. “But this is an important point, because who values the work of the people at city hall? The street sweeper? The cleaner? We decided that everyone would have a Twitter account so that they could see that people value their work.”

Salas has been pushing all 3,500 Jun residents to join Twitter. Six hundred residents have had their accounts registered at the town hall so far, and are using it to book rooms at the town hall, make doctor’s appointments, report crimes or street lamps that need fixing and tweet about school lunches. How has this gone down with Jun’s less technophile residents?

Elena Almagro was cleaning floors when she was nine, and didn’t learn to read or write because her family were too poor to send her to school. Now in her 60s, Elena says she never thought she would be able to use Twitter when the mayor started to encourage her. “He said I should enrol on a training course, and I thought I was visiting the moon when I saw all the computers and equipment in there,” she said. Encouraged by her nine-year-old grandson, they both learned Twitter and decided it would be useful. She tweets during town meetings, she says. “And when I tweet to the mayor, he answers back. It makes me feel my tweets matter. I thought old people couldn’t learn how to use this but we can. There was a man of 90 in the training centre! And I’ve been using it to tweet about herbs and recipes.”

Jun’s streetsweeper also says he has had a new lease of life through the scheme. His streetsweeping twitter persona @barredorajun has become something of a town celebrity. “I can feel how people value my work and they congratulate me when I have done a good job,” he says. Does it worry him that he might get complaints too? “The fact that people tell you you have done something badly is not necessarily bad – it means you have to improve something. But not many people tell me I have not done my job properly.”

The mayor is clearly proud of his work, which is the culmination of many years trying to find technologies that would cost the council less and make communication with residents more direct. He says that efficiencies in cutting bureaucracy have enabled Jun to cut its police force down from four to one officer, who can respond to everything from a car accident to a neighbourly dispute through Twitter. What of those who can’t or won’t use the internet? Are they disenfranchised?

“Even old people who find it hard to adapt have been trained to use Twitter,” he said. “If you go to city hall you won’t find anyone queueing – they have all the information they need. And Jun has wifi access throughout and free internet connections in the training centre.”

He is adamant that there is no inherent risk in outsourcing local government functions to a private American company. “We passed a law that we would exploit any free resource, private or public – the important thing was that they were free. The characteristics of Twitter made it the best platform – immediate and efficient.” This is, he says, “mutual visibility” for the authorities and the citizens."

"What of those who can’t or won’t engage?
If Jun is a model for a more fluid, immediate democratic form of local government, is it a concern that some proportion of the population will always be unable or unwilling to engage?

“Looking at how we scale this to a larger community, the potential downside is that if we think those who are digitally represented are the only people we have to worry about, then we aren’t thinking about all the people who can’t or won’t. They become invisible. So we need to look holistically at this,” said Roy, pointing to wider challenges globally where the cost of devices and connectivity, despite decreasing, is prohibitive for many, while a further billion people in the world fall below the functioning literacy rate.

Jun, he said, is the exception rather than the rule, with a very committed and technologically confident mayor who has pursued this project for 16 years. He has ensured that Twitter has replaced paperwork but not human interaction; the town hall still buzzes with people and he is very visible in the town. Recently re-elected, it also doesn’t seem to have done his standing any harm in the community. Roy and his researchers have been exploring how the Jun project could be scaled up, looking at Chicago, New York, San Francisco and in Boston, where MIT is based."
via:kenyattacheese  twitter  government  socilmedia  2015  bureaucracy  granada  spain  españa  jun  technology  communication  federicogarcíalorca 
june 2016 by robertogreco
McDonald's: you can sneer, but it's the glue that holds communities together | Business | The Guardian
[Tweeted previously:
"“Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.” When our public institutions no longer serve the public."

and noting
"Same with other chains (like Starbucks, KFC) in my neighborhood. Places for youth to assemble too, when programs come with too many strings."

"When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks. They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s.

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy."

"In almost every franchise, there are tables with people like Betty escaping from the streets for a short bit. They prefer McDonald’s to shelters and to non-profits, because McDonald’s are safer, provide more freedom, and most importantly, the chance to be social, restoring a small amount of normalcy.

In the Bronx, many of my friends who live on the streets are regulars. Steve, who has been homeless for 20 years, uses the internet to check up on sports, find discarded papers to do the crossword puzzle, and generally escape for a while. He and his wife Takeesha will turn a McDonald’s meal into an evening out. Beauty, who has been homeless for five years, uses the internet to check up on her family back in Oklahoma when she can find a computer to borrow.

Most importantly though, McDonald’s provide many with the chance to make real and valuable connections. When faced with the greatest challenges, with a personal loss, wealthier Americans turn to expensive therapists, others without the resources or the availability, turn to each other.

In Sulfur Springs, Texas, in the late morning, Lew Mannon, 76, and Gerald Pinkham, 78, were sitting alone at a table, the last of the morning regulars to leave. She was needling him about politics. (“I like to tease the men who come, get them all riled up, tell them they just don’t want a female as president.”) Both are retired, Gerald from working for an airfreight company, and Lew after 28 years as a bank teller.

When I asked Lew about her life, she started to tear up, stopped for a second, and composed herself. “Life is hard. Very hard. Seven years ago I lost my husband to leukemia. Then three years ago I lost one of my sons. Health complications from diabetes. When my son died, I had nobody to help me, emotionally, except this community here. Gerald lost his wife three years ago, and we have helped support each other through that.”

She stopped again, unable to speak from tears. After a moment of silence: “I look composed on the outside. Many of us do. But I struggle a lot on the inside. This community here gives me the support to get by.”"

[Update: Kenyatta Cheese blogged this with the following notes:

I’ve learned through @triciawang that spaces like these are known as third places in sociology. Third places are neutral, accessible spaces where people can meet with old friends and be exposed to possible new ones.

Tricia spent a decade living in, mapping, and understanding third places in Beijing, Wuhan, Brooklyn, Bangalore, and Oaxaca. (She’s badass that way.)

She taught me that Starbucks and Pizza Hut serve a similar role among young folks in China, especially for people who don’t necessarily feel comfortable sleeping in the third places that are internet cafes.

Small note on how this connects to @everybodyatonce: tv networks and creators sometimes ask us if they should create a dedicated app or website for their fandoms to which we almost always say no.

Much like the government-run community center, a dedicated app creates an unnecessary barrier to entry for new fans and requires you to program the space in the same way that you need to program and organize physical space. By meeting fans in neutral spaces (tumblr, twitter, IG, LJ, even reddit), you build bigger community by supporting the culture that already exists. ]
2016  chrisarnade  community  cities  mcdonalds  poverty  society  inequality  elitism  us  bureaucracy  elderly  aging  economics  civics  lowerclass  precarity  classism  thirdspaces  kenyattacheese  triciawang  beijing  starbucks  china  brooklyn  wuhan  bangalore  oaxaca  pizzahut  kfc  everybodyatonce  fandom  socialmedia 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Random Institute
"Random Institute is a testing ground for new exhibition formats and random ideas"

"Random Institute is an extension of what a contemporary art institution can be, that is to say, truly unbothered by rules and bureaucracy. Ultimately, it brings together Sandino Scheidegger & Luca Müller curatorial and publishing activities.

We are happy to announce that as of March 2016, Random Institute will be running the curatorial program for Despacio in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The best color is transparency. [ ]
The best defense is a good offense. [ ]"

Publishing: ]

[via: ]
art  bureaucracy  openstudioproject  lcproject  rules  curation  imagination  sandinoscheidegger  lucamüller  exhibitions  distributed  glvo  publishing  sfsh 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Allen Tan on Twitter: "Organizational complexity, misaligned incentives, and false accountability are the biggest issues ailing (all kinds of) institutions today."
"Organizational complexity, misaligned incentives, and false accountability are the biggest issues ailing (all kinds of) institutions today."

[Preceded by a series of tweets with screenshots from this article:
"One Day, 625 Delays: A mechanical failure at Union Square cascaded into hours of underground hell, revealing just how fragile the subway really is."

"That thing when institutions respond to criticism with self-congratulatory bullshit:"

"That thing when institutions fix problems with infrastructure by actively destroying it for short term gains"

"That thing when institutions blame the people they serve:"

"That thing when an institution’s incentives backfire: "

"That thing where an institution issue noncommittal statements ungrounded in the underlying causes:"

"That thing where institutions fancies themselves those futuresight people in Minority Report:" ]
organizations  change  organization  leadership  complexity  oranizationalchange  accountability  incentives  allentan  cv  2016  institutions  bureaucracy 
march 2016 by robertogreco
A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school. Here’s what he found. - The Washington Post
[Alt URL: ]

"I was now fully consumed with this cause. I stepped up my pace, criss-crossing the country to visit schools and gain perspective. I was in hot pursuit of the right answer to the question: “What is the purpose of school?” Everywhere I looked — mission statements, meetings with school leaders, websites — I’d find sensible, even inspiring, purposes:

• teach students cognitive and social skills
• teach students to think
• build character and soul
• help students in a process of self-discovery
• prepare students to be responsible, contributing citizens
• inspire students through the study of humanity’s great works
• prepare students for productive careers

I probed educators on these alternatives, trying to determine the purpose of school, as though answering an SAT question. But I gradually came to realize that this choice was poorly framed. For starters, each of these goals have merit. If some classrooms prepare students for productive careers, and others prioritize on character development, that’s a good thing. And shouldn’t we celebrate an educator who accomplishes one of these goals — not snipe over whether an alternative purpose is superior?

But what came across loud and clear in my journeys is that schools don’t have the luxury of striving for any meaningful purpose. We’ve somehow imposed a system on our educators that requires them to:

• cover volumes of bureaucratically-prescribed content
• boost scores on increasingly-pervasive standardized tests
• get kids through this year’s vacuous hoops to prepare for next year’s vacuous hoops
• produce acceptable graduation rates and college placements
• deal with parents who are either obsessive micro-managers or missing in action.

How did we get here? A deep dive into the history of education helped me appreciate that our school model was brilliantly designed. Over a century ago. In 1893, Charles Eliot of Harvard and the Committee of Ten anticipated a surge of manufacturing jobs as our country moved beyond agriculture. They re-imagined the U.S. education model, ushering in a factory school model to replace the one-room school house. This path-breaking system of universal public education trained students to perform rote tasks rapidly without errors or creative variation — perfect for assembly-line jobs. The system worked spectacularly, a robust middle class emerged, and America became the world’s most powerful country.

Somewhat incredibly, we still utilize this covered-wagon-era education model. Warning signs about its faltering effectiveness go back for decades. In 1983, the blue-ribbon report titled “A Nation At Risk” concluded that if our education system had been imposed on us by a foreign country, we’d declare it an act of war. Yet instead of reinventing the model (as the Committee of Ten did in 1893), we chose to muddle along with short-term, often counter-productive, tweaks. Teachers and students described to me endless additions to content, baffling new standards, and relentless high-stakes standardized tests of low-level cognitive skills. Our nation is hellbent on catching Singapore and South Korea on test scores — a goal those very countries have concluded is nonsensical. We’re betting millions of futures on No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — our twin orbiting black holes of education — with annual reports on par with the season run-down for the Washington Generals.

And how much are our kids really learning? If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that they’re not learning. Practically anything.

In my travels, I visited the Lawrenceville School, rated as one of the very best high schools in the United States. To its credit, Lawrenceville conducted a fascinating experiment a decade ago. After summer vacation, returning students retook the final exams they had completed in June for their science courses. Actually, they retook simplified versions of these exams, after faculty removed low-level “forgettable” questions The results were stunning. The average grade in June was a B+ (87 percent). When the simplified test was taken in September, the average grade plummeted to an F (58 percent). Not one student retained mastery of all key concepts they appear to have learned in June. The obvious question: if what was “learned” vanishes so quickly, was anything learned in the first place?

The holy grail in our high schools is the Advanced Placement (AP) track. Pioneered 50 years ago by elite private schools to demonstrate the superior student progress, AP courses now pervade mainstream public schools. Over and over, well-intentioned people call for improving U.S. education by getting more of our kids — especially in poor communities — into AP courses. But do our kids learn in AP courses? In an experiment conducted by Dartmouth College, entering students with a 5 on their AP Psychology exam took the final exam from the college’s introductory Psych course. A pitiful 10 percent passed. Worse, when the AP superstars did enroll in intro Psych, they performed no better than classmates with no prior coursework in the subject area. It’s as though the AP students had learned nothing about psychology. And that’s the point.

Along the way, I met Eric Mazur, Area Dean for Applied Physics at Harvard University, and was surprised to discover that many of our country’s most innovative ideas about education come from this one physics professor. Over a decade ago, Eric realized that even his top students (800 on SAT’s, 5 on AP Physics, A in first-year Physics at Harvard) were learning almost no real science. When asked simple questions about how the world works (e.g., what’s the flight path of a pallet of bricks dropped from the cargo hatch of a plane flying overhead?), their responses were little better than guessing. He abandoned his traditional course format (centered on memorizing formulas and definitions), and re-invented his classroom experience. His students debate each other in engaged Socratic discussion, collaborate and critique, and develop real insights into their physical universe. While his results are superb, almost all other U.S. high-school and college science classes, even at top-rated institutions, remain locked into a broken pedagogy whose main purpose is weeding kids out of these career paths..

Systematic studies, such as the findings of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s groundbreaking book “Academically Adrift,” reach similar conclusions about how little our students are learning, even at the college level. They report that “gains in student performance are disturbingly low; a pattern of limited learning is prevalent on contemporary college campuses.” Richard Keeling and Richard Hersh, in “We’re Losing Our Minds,” conclude that far too many college graduates can’t “think critically and creatively, speak and write cogently and clearly, solve problems, comprehend complex issues, accept responsibility and accountability, take the perspective of others, or meet the expectations of employers.”

The debate about the purpose of education ignores the elephant in the classroom. We have wrapped up our schools in rote memorization, low-level testing, and misguided accountability — preventing them from achieving any real purpose. It’s a fool’s errand to debate whether students are better off memorizing and forgetting Plato’s categorization of the three parts of a human’s soul, the quadratic equation, or the definition of the Cost of Goods Sold. If classroom “learning” is a mirage, it doesn’t matter whether it’s based on “The Odyssey,” a biology textbook, AP History flashcards, or a phone book.

At this point, a part of me felt like declaring education to be our domestic equivalent of Iraq. Maybe I’d be better off going back to my original travel-and-bad-golf plan. But, actually, I was inspired. Why? I was finding the most amazing rays of hope — schools offering powerful learning experiences. I realized moving our schools forward can happen, since we know what to do. Greatness is happening daily across our country, often in schools with scant financial resources. Our challenge is that these innovations are isolated, when they need to be ubiquitous.

The United States now has more than 500 “Deeper Learning” schools, most in our nation’s poorest communities. Clustered into a dozen networks, these schools aren’t “cookie-cutter” replicas of each other. But in their own creative ways, they deliver exceptional learning based on shared principles:

• self-directed learning
• a sense of purpose and authenticity in student experiences
• trust in teachers to teach to their passions and expertise
• a focus on essential skills (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical analysis)
• teachers as coaches, mentors, and advisers, not as lecturers
• lots of project-based challenges and learning
• public display of meaningful student work

Many focus on project-based learning (PBL), a bland phrase for a powerful approach to learning. One PBL leader, High Tech High in San Diego, now includes a dozen schools spanning K through 12, and offers its own graduate school of education. Curiously, out of 1,400 schools of education in our country training our next generation of K12 teachers, only two are integral to a K=12 school. In walking the halls of HTH (and they get more than 3,000 visitors each year), I observed a school experience that doesn’t look anything like what’s taking place today in most U.S. grade 7-16 classrooms. I felt real urgency in helping more people see the power of this pedagogy.

When it comes to PBL, two school networks are scaling rapidly with exceptional results — the New Tech Network and Expeditionary Learning. Both provide training for teachers along with a vetted curriculum, and cost-effectively … [more]
unschooling  deschooling  education  pedagogy  schools  us  2015  projectbasedlearning  learning  howwelearn  internships  apprenticeships  collaboration  communication  creativity  criticalthinking  tcsnmy  thefutureproject  bigpicturelearning  hightechhigh  mostlikelytosucceed  success  teaching  trust  mentoring  mentors  self-directed  self-directedlearning  richardarum  josiparoksa  ericmazur  bureaucracy  teddintersmith  purpose  schooling  schooliness  howweteach  curriculum  anationatrisk  williamderesiewicz 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Intervention – “Vernacular Values: Remembering Ivan Illich” by Andy Merrifield |
"Illich had it in for professional institutions of every kind, for what he called “disabling professions”; this is what interests me most in his work, this is what I’ve been trying to revisit, trying to recalibrate and reload, in our own professionalised times. I’ve been trying to affirm the nemesis of professionalism: amateurs. Illich said professionals incapacitate ordinary peoples’ ability to fend for themselves, to invent things, to lead innovative lives beyond the thrall of corporations and institutions. Yet Illich’s war against professionalism isn’t so much a celebration of self-survival (letting free market ideology rip) as genuine self-empowerment, a weaning people off their market-dependence. We’ve lost our ability to develop “convivial tools”, he says, been deprived of our use-value capacities, of values systems outside the production and consumption of commodities. We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a supermarket.

Illich’s thinking about professionalisation was partly inspired by Karl Polanyi’s magisterial analysis on the “political and economic origins of our time”, The Great Transformation (Beacon Press, 1944). Since the Stone Age, Polanyi says, markets followed society, developed organically as social relations developed organically, from barter and truck systems, to simple economies in which money was a means of exchange, a mere token of equivalent worth. Markets were always “embedded” (a key Polanyi word) in social relations, always located somewhere within the very fabric of society, whose institutional and political structure “regulated” what markets could and couldn’t do. Regulation and markets thus grew up together, came of age together. So “the emergence of the idea of self-regulation”, says Polanyi, “was a complete reversal of this trend of development … the change from regulated to self-regulated markets at the end of the 18th century represented a complete transformation in the structure of society.”

We’re still coming to terms with this complete transformation, a transformation that, towards the end of the 20th century, has made the “disembedded” economy seem perfectly natural, perfectly normal, something transhistorical, something that always was, right? It’s also a perfectly functioning economy, as economic pundits now like to insist. Entering the 1990s, this disembedded market system bore a new tagline, one that persists: “neoliberalism”. Polanyi’s logic is impeccable: a “market economy can exist only in a market society.”

Inherent vices nonetheless embed themselves in this disembedded economy. Land, labour and money become vital parts of our economic system, of our speculative hunger games. But, says Polanyi, land, labour and money “are obviously not commodities” (his emphasis). “Land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”, he says; “labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself”; “actual money … is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance”. Thus “the commodity description of labour, land and money is entirely fictitious”, a commodity fiction, the fiction of commodities.

Still, we live in fictitious times (as filmmaker Michael Moore was wont to say): land, labour and money as commodities provide us with the vital organising principle of our whole society. So fiction remains the truth, and fictitious truth needs defending, needs perpetuating; the postulate must be forcibly yet legitimately kept in place. But kept in place how, and by whom? By, we might say, a whole professional administration, by a whole professional cadre, by a whole professional apparatus that both props up and prospers from these fictitious times. Professionalism is the new regulation of deregulation, the new management of mismanagement, an induced and imputed incapacitation."

"Vernacular values are intuitive knowledges and practical know-how that structure everyday culture; they pivot not so much—as Gramsci says—on common sense as on “good sense”. They’re reasonable intuitions and intuitive reason: words, habits and understandings that inform real social life—the real social life of a non-expert population. Illich reminds us that “vernacular” stems from the Latin vernaculam, meaning “homebred” or “homegrown”, something “homemade”. (We’re not far from the notion of amateur here.) Vernacular is a mode of life and language below the radar of exchange-value; vernacular language is language acquired without a paid teacher; loose, unruly language, heard as opposed to written down. (“Eartalk”, Joyce called it in Finnegans Wake, a language for the “earsighted”.) To assert vernacular values is, accordingly, to assert democratic values, to assert its means through popular participation."

"Illich chips in to add how professionals peddle the privileges and status of the job: they adjudicate its worthiness and rank, while forever tut-tutting those without work. Unemployment “means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbour”. “What counts”, Illich says, “isn’t the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort but the coupling of the labour force with capital. What counts isn’t the achievement of satisfaction that flows from action but the status of the social relationship that commands production—that is, the job, situation, post, or appointment”.

Effort isn’t productive unless it’s done at the behest of some boss; economists can’t deal with a usefulness of people outside of the corporation, outside of stock value, of shareholder dividend, of cost-benefit. Work is only ever productive when its process is controlled, when it is planned and monitored by professional agents, by managers and the managers of managers. Can we ever imagine unemployment as useful, as the basis for autonomous activity, as meaningful social or even political activity?"

"Perhaps, during crises, we can hatch alternative programmes for survival, other methods through which we can not so much “earn a living” as live a living. Perhaps we can self-downsize, as Illich suggests, and address the paradox of work that goes back at least to Max Weber: work is revered in our culture, yet at the same time workers are becoming superfluous; you hate your job, your boss, hate the servility of what you do, and how you do it, the pettiness of the tasks involved, yet want to keep your job at all costs. You see no other way of defining yourself other than through work, other than what you do for a living. Perhaps there’s a point at which we can all be pushed over the edge, voluntarily take the jump ourselves, only to discover other aspects of ourselves, other ways to fill in the hole, to make a little money, to maintain our dignity and pride, and to survive off what Gorz calls a “frugal abundance”.

Perhaps it’s time to get politicised around non-work and undercut the professionalisation of work and life. In opting out, or at least contesting from within, perhaps we can create a bit of havoc, refuse to work as we’re told, and turn confrontation into a more positive device, a will to struggle for another kind of work, where use-value outbids exchange-value, where amateurs prevail over professionals. If, in times of austerity, capitalists can do without workers, then it’s high time workers (and ex-workers) realise that we can do without capitalists, without their professional hacks, and their professional institutions, that we can devise work without them, a work for ourselves. Illich throws down the gauntlet here, challenges us to conceive another de-professionalised, vernacular non-working future. He certainly gets you thinking, has had me thinking, and rethinking, more than a decade after I’ve had any kind of job."
via:javierarbona  ivanillich  professionals  experts  amateurs  economics  conviviality  karlpolanyi  politics  capitalism  neoliberalism  empowerment  self-empowerment  unschooling  deschooling  production  consumption  corporatism  corporations  institutions  self-survival  invention  innovation  markets  society  labor  land  commodities  nature  money  michaelmoore  andymerrifield  bureaucracy  control  systems  systemsthinking  deregulation  regulation  management  incapacitation  work  vernacula  vernacularvalues  values  knowledge  everyday  culture  informal  bullshitjobs  andrégorz  antoniogramsci  marxism  ideleness  freedom  capital  effort  productivity  socialactivism  maxweber  time  toolsforconviviality 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Ideas About Education Reform: 22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years by Terry Heick
"22 Things We Do As Educators That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years
by Terry Heick

Saw a picture today from the 1970s of a mother driving her car with her newborn baby in the passenger seat (no car seat). This, of course, got me thinking about education. What do we do now that in 25 years we’ll look back on and shake our heads? What are our “doctors smoking cigarettes while giving check ups” moments? I have a feeling we’re going to look back and be really confused by quite a bit. There’s probably a lot more than this, but I had to stop somewhere.

22 Things Education Does That Will Embarrass Us In 25 Years

1. We separated literacy from content.
And were confused when we couldn’t properly untangle them.

2. Meter progress by grade levels.
Right now, progress through academia is incremental, like inches on a ruler. These increments are marked by “grade levels,” which really has no meaning other than the artificial one schools have given it in the most self-justifying, circular argument ever.

3. We frowned upon crowdsourced content (e.g., Wikipedia)
Even though it has more updates and cross-checks than more traditional sources of info. It’s not perfect, but it’s the future. Err, present.

4. We gave vacations.
Why do we feel the need to provide months off at a time from learning to read, write, and think? We made school so bad that students couldn’t stand to do it without “vacations”? We cleaved it so cleanly from their daily lives that they “stopped” learning for months at a time?

5. We closed off schools from communities.
Which was the first (of many) errors. Then we let the media report on school progress under terms so artificially binary that we ended up dancing to the drum of newspaper headlines and political pressure.

6. We made it clumsy and awkward for teachers to share curriculum.
Seriously. How is there no seamless, elegant, and mobile way to do this?

7. We turned content into standards.
This makes sense until you realize that, by design, the absolute best this system will yield is students that know content.

8. We were blinded by data, research, and strategies…. we couldn’t see the communities, emotions, and habits that really drive learning.

9. We measured mastery once.
At the end of the year in marathon testing. And somehow this made sense? And performance on these tests gave us data that informed the very structures our schools were iterated with over time? Seriously? And we wonder why we chased our tails?

10. We spent huge sums of money on professional development.
While countless free resources floated around us in the digital ether. Silly administrators.

11. We reported progress with report cards.
Hey, I’ve tried other ways and parents get confused and downright feisty. We did a poor job helping parents understand what
grades really meant, and so they insisted on the formats they grew up with.

12. We banned early mobile technology (in this case, smartphones).
And did so for entirely non-academic reasons.

13. We shoehorned technology into dated learning models.
Like adding rockets to a tractor. Why did we not replace the tractor first?

14. We measured mastery with endless writing prompts and multiple-choice tests.
Which, while effective in spots, totally missed the brilliant students who, for whatever reason, never could shine on them.

15. We had parent conferences twice a year.
What? And still only had 15% of parents show up? And we didn’t completely freak out? We must’ve been really sleepy.

16. We ignored apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship is a powerful form of personalized learning that completely marries “content,” performance, craft, and
communities. But try having a 900 apprentices in a school. So much for that.

17. We claimed to “teach students to think for themselves.”

18. We often put 1000 or more students in the same school.
And couldn’t see how the learning could possibly become industrialized.

19. We frowned on lectures.
Even though that’s essentially what TED Talks are. Instead of making them engaging and interactive multimedia performances led by adults that love their content, we turned passionate teachers into clinical managers of systems and data.

20. We ignored social learning.
And got learning that was neither personal nor social. Curious.

21. We tacked on digital citizenship.
The definition of digital citizenship is “the quality of actions, habits, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.” This is artificial to teach outside of the way students use these tools and places on a daily basis–which makes hanging a “digital citizenship” poster or teaching a “digital citizenship” lesson insufficient.
Like literacy, it needs to be fully integrated into the learning experiences of students.

22. We turned to curriculum that was scripted and written by people thousands of miles away.
We panicked, and it was fool’s gold.

Bonus 23. We chewed teachers up and spit them out
We made teachers entirely responsible for planning, measuring, managing, and responding to both mastery and deficiency. And through peer pressure, a little brainwashing, and appealing to their pride, somehow convinced them they really were."
education  schools  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  terryheick  literacy  content  curriculum  gradelevels  agesegregation  crowdsourcing  wikipedia  community  vacations  standards  standardization  preofessionaldevelopment  money  waste  bureaucracy  technology  edtech  mobile  phones  smartphones  criticalthinking  socialemotional  civics  citizenship  digitalcitizenship  social  learning  lectures  data  bigdata  quantification  apprenticeships  testing  standardizedtesting  assessment  fail  sharing  socialemotionallearning 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The best art criticism shouldn’t even talk about art – Steve Cottingham opens the door, but can’t walk through | Lebenskünstler
"I would not so humbly offer my own “practice” (which of course isn’t one, or can’t be called one without scare quotes) as a partial solution to some of the quandaries posed. Take the conversation out of the hands of the art journals, the symposia, the universities, and into all the disreputable, trivial places like facebook, blogs, and bars. Maybe the best art criticism shouldn’t even talk about art. Be polite. Be mean. Be drunk. Be angry. Be respectful. Be a fucking jerk. Each is an appropriate tactic at certain times. But above all, don’t take yourself too seriously especially if you insist on continuing to talk about art. We must truly address the “problem with professionalization” (something I’ve posted about extensively on this blog) as Cottingham puts it [emphasis added]:
Art criticism is in crisis because we have a problem with professionalization. We are steeped in the vernacular of capitalism, and we are afraid to leave it. Our world is rife with administration, mimicking the bureaucratic processes of the corporations so many of us profess to hate. We are content to let our artistry cease as soon we begin writing proposals, drafting business letters, and carefully collating our résumés. We push limits and subvert expectations everywhere except on the back-end, that realm which increasingly dominates artistic practices.

Too often, we seek to industrialize our passions. We simultaneously demand creative and financial nourishment from what my grandmother’s friend once dismissively called “a hobby.” Art critics laud artwork that resists capitalist pressures, but rarely does the criticism equally embody the form of this resistance.

I have also talked incessantly about monetizing passions and what that, along with adopting a language and culture of work implies for such passions. So, I would offer the same advice to art critics, that Kaprow offered to artists: “Once the task of the artist was to make good art [criticism]; now it is to avoid making art [criticism] of any kind.” Or: “Artists [art critics] of the world, drop out! You have nothing to lose but your professions!” And finally: “…the idea of art cannot easily be gotten rid of (even if one wisely never utter the word). But it is possible to slyly shift the whole un-artistic operation away from where the arts customarily congregate, to become, for instance, an account executive, an ecologist, a stunt rider, a politician, a beach bum. In these different capacities…[art] would operate indirectly as a stored code that, instead of programming a specific course of behavior, would facilitate an attitude of deliberate playfulness toward all professionalizing activities well beyond art.” So rather than being art critics, become unart critics. Congregate in those uncustomary places, use your creative/critical/empathetic/poetic/agitational powers in every nook and cranny – sometimes, if you insist, in the mausoleum of art , but don’t be “afraid to leave it” either because I “can’t imagine a more thrilling place to be.”"
randallszott  2015  art  artcriticism  criticism  professionalization  unart  stevecottingham  capitalism  work  hobbies  artleisure  leisurearts  resistance  bureaucracy  careerism 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: Conspiracies against the laity
"George Bernard Shaw said this:

"All professions are conspiracies against the laity."

It's discussed in a surprisingly chatty un-wikipedia-feeling wikipedia entry.

I always think about this when people discuss professionalisation.

This and Adam Smith:

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.""
professionalization  experts  2015  cv  confidence  bureaucracy  entrenchment  economics  adamsmith  professionals  domains  artleisure  leisurearts  amateurs  impostors  georgebernardshaw 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Future is Learning, But What About Schooling? | Higher Ed Beta @insidehighered
"I am, in short, moving away from my earlier conviction that schooling is learning enacted for public purposes through public institutions, and moving toward a broader vision for learning as a social activity upon which society depends for its future development. I am increasingly aware that the weight of politics and public policy upon the institutions of schooling is making schools less and less likely to be the privileged place where learning occurs in the future.

The future of learning in society is virtually unlimited, at least for the foreseeable future. Learning is the conversion of information into knowledge; information, in the digital age has become a vast sea of ones and zeros; information becomes knowledge by passing through some medium that transforms the ones and zeros into a conceptually organized form.

In the past, we have thought of this transformation as a single authoritative portal, called schooling. The advent of digital culture means that this portal is now one among many possible places, virtual and physical, where information can become knowledge. The type of knowledge and skill required to negotiate this increasingly complex world is completely different from what schools have conventionally done, and schools are institutionally disadvantaged as players in this new world, in large part because of the well-intentioned efforts of school reformers.

While learning has largely escaped the boundaries of institutionalized schooling, educational reformers have for the past thirty years or so deliberately and systematically engaged in public policy choices that make schools less and less capable of responding to the movement of learning into society at large.

Standards and expectations have become more and more literal and highly prescriptive in an age where human beings will be exercising more and more choice over what and how they will learn.

Testing and assessment practices have become more and more conventional and narrow as the range of competencies required to negotiate digital culture has become more complex and highly variegated.

Teacher preparation, hiring, induction, and evaluation practices have become more and more rigid and hierarchical in an age where the teaching function is migrating out into a more individualized and tailored set of learning environments.

We are continuing to invest massively in hard-boundary physical structures in an age where learning is moving into mobile, flexible, and networked relationships. In other words, it would be hard to imagine an institutional structure for learning that is less suited for the future than the heavily institutionalized, hierarchical world that education reformers have constructed."

[via: ]
richardelmore  2015  education  learning  howweteach  unschooling  dechooling  schooliness  edreform  netwrokedlearning  policy  standards  standardization  expectations  evaluation  hierarchy  schooling  decentralization  obsolescence  irrelevance  bureaucracy  knowledge  information  schoolreform  institutions  institutionalization  publicschools  society  scriptedlearning  testing  assessment  hiring  flexibility  mobility  experience  leadership  politics 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Russell Davies: blog all kindle highlights: The Rhesus Chart
"Read The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross a while ago. Only one highlight. Again, not because it's a bad book, just not that sort of book. This was a resonant expression though.

"A bureaucracy is all about standardization, so that necessary tasks can be accomplished regardless of the abilities of the human resources assigned to it.""
charliestross  russelldavies  2015  standardization  bureaucracy  humanresources  design  organizations 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Basic income — Medium
"Articles discussing the concept of the unconditional basic income"
universalbasicincome  economics  policy  socialsafetynet  poverty  bureaucracy  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Breaking Down Without a Spare — Basic income — Medium
"America’s lopsided welfare system of counterproductive public assistance"

"Our current system is not productive. It is not the fully functional safety net we need, especially as technology increasingly disrupts our day to day lives. If one day we can be a driver for Uber, and the next day Uber can buy a fleet of self-driving cars and fire all of us, that’s a world where we need a real safety net that doesn’t just drop away. We need more than a safety net. We need a floor set above the poverty level, so that regardless of any amount of disruption, we are still allowed to stand on our own two feet and start climbing again.

Don’t catch us and trap us with nets. We need a solid foundation that allows all of us a space in which to build our futures.

We also need to understand that those at the bottom aren’t the only ones receiving welfare. There exists a great deal of netting underneath the feet of all of us. We just don’t see it. It is the invisible safety net, lacking in any stigma."

"But is that what the working Americans who work for them want?

Driving on Spares
It may have seemed a small detail and one possibly gone unnoticed, but it’s possibly the most important detail of all in our automotive parable.

“Unfortunately there’s no spare. We had no choice but to drive on it.”

It’s not that we made the unwise choice to go driving around without a spare tire. It’s that we could not make the wise choice, because our car had already suffered a previous blown tire and there was no money in the budget for a new one. After replacing our blown tire with our spare tire, we could only hope nothing else would happen until there was money for a new tire.

But something did happen. That’s the nature of unfortunate surprises.

It is this fact we must recognize, possibly above all. No one wants to suffer a flat tire, and no one wants to have no options but to call for help when we do get one. And we see this reflected in what we have done for decades now, as we have faithfully sought all possible avenues of increasing our incomes.

We went from one earner per household to two.

We asked for more hours and sought second, third, and even fourth jobs.

We got credit cards, took out second mortgages, and are now even tapping our own retirement funds."
universalbasicincome  economics  us  policy  taxes  safetynet  publicassistance  welfare  welfaresystem  scottsantens  2014  bureaucracy  socialsafetynet  stadiums  inequality  freedom  welfarecliffs  income  uber  labor  work  housing  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Melville House | "We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet...
"We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet it informs every aspect of our existence. It’s as if, as a planetary civilization, we have decided to clap our hands over our ears and start humming whenever the topic comes up. Insofar as we are even willing to discuss it, it’s still in the terms popular in the sixties and early seventies. The social movements of the sixties were, on the whole, left-wing in inspiration, but they were also rebellions against bureaucracy, or, to put it more accurately, rebellions against the bureaucratic mindset, against the soul-destroying conformity of the postwar welfare states. In the face of the gray functionaries of both state-capitalist and state-socialist regimes, sixties rebels stood for individual expression and spontaneous conviviality, and against (“rules and regulations, who needs them?”) every form of social control.

With the collapse of the old welfare states, all this has come to seem decidedly quaint. As the language of antibureaucratic individualism has been adopted, with increasing ferocity, by the Right, which insists on “market solutions” to every social problem, the mainstream Left has increasingly reduced itself to fighting a kind of pathetic rearguard action, trying to salvage remnants of the old welfare state: it has acquiesced with—often even spearheaded—attempts to make government efforts more “efficient” through the partial privatization of services and the incorporation of ever-more “market principles,” “market incentives,” and market-based “accountability processes” into the structure of the bureaucracy itself.

The result is a political catastrophe. There’s really no other way to put it. What is presented as the “moderate” Left solution to any social problems—and radical left solutions are, almost everywhere now, ruled out tout court—has invariably come to be some nightmare fusion of the worst elements of bureaucracy and the worst elements of capitalism. It’s as if someone had consciously tried to create the least appealing possible political position. It is a testimony to the genuine lingering power of leftist ideals that anyone would even consider voting for a party that promoted this sort of thing—because surely, if they do, it’s not because they actually think these are good policies, but because these are the only policies anyone who identifies themselves as left-of-center is allowed to set forth.

Is there any wonder, then, that every time there is a social crisis, it is the Right, rather than the Left, which becomes the venue for the expression of popular anger?

The Right, at least, has a critique of bureaucracy. It’s not a very good one. But at least it exists. The Left has none. As a result, when those who identify with the Left do have anything negative to say about bureaucracy, they are usually forced toadopt a watered-down version of the right-wing critique.”
davidgraeber  2015  bureaucracy  left  right  politics  capitalism  freemarket  policy  government  conviviality  rules  regulations  redtape  complexity  accountability  marketsolutions  individualism  liberalism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
There’s something wrong in education – a response to Stephen Downes | Dave's Educational Blog
"Our education system is always a victim of the need for bureaucratization. It’s terrible… but it’s a necessary evil. Getting everyone on board, getting something funded, getting training rolled out and getting a program started inevitably falls pray to ‘standardization’. Education is much harder than learning. Learning reform is something you can do in your basement… it’s something I explore with my colleagues in projects like #rhizo15. Education reform involves getting governments, teachers and parents to change what they all think learning is for. Oof."

"The problem is that we have built an education system with checks and balances, trying to make it accountable and progressive (in some cases), but we are building it without knowing why. We have not built an education system that encourages people to be engaged. The system is not designed to do it. It’s designed to get people to a ‘standard of knowing.’ Knowing a thing, in the sense of being able to repeat it back or demonstrate it, has no direct relationship to ‘engagement’. There are certainly some teachers that create spaces where engagement occurs, but they are swimming upstream, constantly battling the dreaded assessment and the need to cover the curriculum. The need to guarantee knowing."

"What I’m trying to do is address the serious problem of people not being engaged in the education system. I, like you, think that radical reform is necessary. The vast majority of people in our culture have been trained to be passive learners. (in over 10000 hours of class time, they are ‘expert’ passive learners) In order to support an engaged student we need to change our core assumptions about what education is for. I agree with you when you said in yesterdays newsletter that “the contents are not intended to be memorized by students, they are intended to be used by students as ‘words’ in a ‘conversation'” The ‘content’ is just other people talking, it just expands the conversation. The community is the curriculum.

I’m not sure your take is different. We’re working on the same thing. The ‘first principle’ is a conversation opener that has been successful, for me, at creating a starting point, of establishing common ground, to help foster change from that passive system that measures content in people’s heads (and not terribly effectively) to one that takes a fundamental interest in engagement. People are going to need to care about learning if any of the cool stuff is going to happen."
davecormier  2014  education  care  caring  learning  teaching  pedagogy  bureaucracy  accountability  policy  engagement 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Special Flight: Feature Films | POV | PBS
"Special Flight is a dramatic account of the plight of undocumented foreigners at the Frambois detention center in Geneva, Switzerland, and of the wardens who struggle to reconcile humane values with the harsh realities of a strict deportation system. The 25 Frambois inmates featured are among the thousands of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants imprisoned without charge or trial and facing deportation to their native countries, where they fear repression or even death. The film, made in Switzerland, is a heart-wrenching exposé of the contradictions between the country's compassionate social policies and the intractability of its immigration laws."

[Watch on this page: ]

[via: ]
switzerland  documentary  deportation  2013  immigration  policy  bureaucracy  dehumanization  law 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Why America's favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour
"Q: So you like this idea?

A: I think it’s great. It’s an acknowledgement that nobody else has the right to tell you what you can best contribute to the world, and it’s based on a certain faith — that people want to contribute something to the world, most people do. I’m sure there are a few people who would be parasites, but most people actually want to do something; they want to feel that they have contributed something to the society around them.

The problem is that we have this gigantic apparatus that presumes to tell people who’s worthy, who’s not, what people should be doing, what they shouldn’t. They’re all about assessing value, but in fact, the whole system fell apart in 2008 because nobody really knows how to do it. We don’t really know how to assess the value of people’s work, of people’s contributions, of people themselves, and philosophically, that makes sense; there is no easy way to do it. So the best thing to do is just to say, alright, everyone go out and you decide for yourselves."

"Q: So would you get rid of government programs?

A: It depends on which. The amounts of money that they’re now talking about giving people aren’t enough to take care of things like health care and housing. But I think if you guarantee those sorts of basic needs, you could get rid of almost all the programs on top of that. In huge bureaucracies, there are so many conditionalities attached to everything they give out, there’s jobs on jobs on jobs of people who just assess people and decide whether you are being good enough to your kids to deserve this benefit, or decide whether you’re trying hard enough to get a job to get that benefit. This is a complete waste. Those people [making the decisions] don’t really contribute anything to society; we could get rid of them.

Q: So you’d get rid of, say, the food stamp bureaucracy?

A: If we had a basic income, we wouldn’t need to decide who needs food and who doesn’t."

"Q: Are you surprised that there’s right wing support for this?

A: Not at all. Because I think there are some people who can understand that the rates of inequality that we have mean that the arguments [for the market] don’t really work. There’s a tradition that these people are drawing on, which recognizes that the kind of market they really want to see is not the kind of market we see today.

Adam Smith was very honest. He said, well obviously this only works if people control their own tools, if people are self-employed. He was completely rejecting the idea of corporate capitalism.

Q: Smith rejected corporate capitalism because it became crony capitalism.

A: Well, he rejected the corporate form entirely; he was against corporations. At the time, corporations were seen as, essentially, inimical to the market. They still are. Those arguments are no less true than they ever were. If we want to have markets, we have to give everybody an equal chance to get into them, or else they don’t work as a means of social liberation; they operate as a means of enslavement.

Q: Enslavement in the sense that the people with enough power, who can get the market to work on their behalf…

A: Right — bribing politicians to set up the system so that they accumulate more, and other people end up spending all their time working for them. The difference between selling yourself into slavery and renting yourself into slavery in the ancient world was basically none at all, you know. If Aristotle were here, he’d think most people in a country like England or America were slaves.

Q: Wage slaves?

A: Yes, but they didn’t make a distinction back then. Throughout most of recorded history, the only people who actually did wage labor were slaves. It was a way of renting your slave to someone else; they got half the money, and the rest of the money went to the master. Even in the South, a lot of slaves actually worked in jobs and they just had to pay the profits to the guy who owned them. It’s only now that we think of wage labor and slavery as opposite to one another. For a lot of history, they were considered kind of variations of the same thing.

Abraham Lincoln famously said the reason why we have a democratic society in America is we don’t have a permanent class of wage laborers. He thought that wage labor was something you pass through in your 20s and 30s when you’re accumulating enough money to set up on your own; so the idea was everyone will eventually be self-employed.

Do People Like to Work? Look at Prisons"

Q: So is this idea of a guaranteed basic income utopian?

A: Well, it remains to be seen. If it’s Utopian, it’s because we can’t get the politicians to do it, not because it won’t work. It seems like people have done the numbers, and there’s no economic reason why it couldn’t work.

Q: Well, it’s very expensive.

A: It’s expensive, but so is the system we have now. And there’s a major savings that you’ll have firing all those people who are assessing who is worthy of what.

Philosophically, I think that it’s really important to bear in mind two things. One is it’ll show people that you don’t have to force people to work, to want to contribute. It’s not that people resist work. People resist meaningless work; people resist stupid work; and people resist humiliating work.

But I always talk about prisons, where people are fed, clothed, they’ve got shelter; they could just sit around all day. But actually, they use work as a way of rewarding them. You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we won’t let you work in the prison laundry. I mean, people want to work. Nobody just wants to sit around, it’s boring.

So the first misconception we have is this idea that people are just lazy, and if they’re given a certain amount of minimal income, they just won’t do anything. Probably there’s a few people like that, but for the vast majority, it will free them to do the kind of work that they think is meaningful. The question is, are most people smart enough to know what they have to contribute to the world? I think most of them are.

Q: What Is Society Missing Without a Basic Income?

A: The other point we need to stress is that we can’t tell in advance who really can contribute what. We’re always surprised when we leave people to their own devices. I think one reason why we don’t have any of the major scientific breakthroughs that we used to have for much of the 19th and 20th centuries is because we have this system where everybody has to prove they already know what they’re going to create in this incredibly bureaucratized system.

Q: Because people need to be able to prove that they’ll get a return on the investment?

A: Exactly. So they have to get the grant, and prove that this would lead to this, but in fact, almost all the major breakthroughs are unexpected. It used to be we’d get bright people and just let them do whatever they want, and then suddenly, we’ve got the light bulb. Nowadays we don’t get breakthroughs like that because everybody’s got to spend all their time filling out paperwork. It’s that kind of paperwork that we’d be effectively getting rid of, the equivalent of that.

Another example I always give is the John Lennon argument. Why are there no amazing new bands in England anymore? Ever since the ’60s, it used to be every five, 10 years, we’d see an incredible band. I asked a lot of friends of mine, well, what happened? And they all said, well they got rid of the dole. All those guys were on the dole. Actually in Cockney rhyming slang, the word for dole is rock and roll — as in, “oh yeah, he’s on the rock and roll.” All rock bands started on public relief. If you give money to working class kids, a significant number of them will form bands, and a few of those bands will be amazing, and it will benefit the country a thousand times more than all of those kids would have done had they been lifting boxes or whatever they’re making them do now as welfare conditionality.

Q: And in the United States, the entire abstract expressionist movement, whatever you think of it — Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock — was all on the WPA [Works Progress Administration], on the dole.

A: Absolutely, look at social theory. I remember thinking, why is it that Germany in the ’20s, you have Weber, Simmel, all these amazing thinkers? In France, you have this endless outpouring of brilliant people in the ’50s, Sartre… What was it about those societies that they produced so many brilliant thinkers? One person told me, well, there’s a lot of money — they just had these huge block grants given to anybody. And you know, again, 10 out of 11 of them will be people we’ve completely forgotten, but there’s always that one that’s going to turn out to be, you know Jacques Derrida, and the world changes because of some major social thinker who might otherwise have been a postman, or something like that."

[See also: ]
davidgraeber  2014  economics  universalbasicincome  productivity  wageslavery  labor  work  bullshitjobs  bureaucracy  switzerland  us  policy  government  creativity  art  music  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  libertarianism  libertarians  friedrichhayek  socialwelfare  namibia  democracy  markets  deirdremccloskey  donmccloskey  communitarianism  incomeinequality  inequality  motivation  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Would a citizen’s income be better than our benefits system? | Business | The Guardian
"Let’s assume for a moment that there is more informal activity going on. What should the government response be? One option would be to employ more tax inspectors and launch a crackdown on evasion. That, though, would be an uphill struggle. The number of tax inspectors is small. Low-level evasion is large.

An alternative would be to encourage those working in the informal economy to join the formal economy. The impediment to that is a tax and benefits system that is hugely complex, means-tested and discourages those working less than full-time on low earnings from working longer hours (at least officially).

One radical suggestion is for everybody to receive a citizen’s income. Under this scheme, waged and unwaged, children and adults, the working aged and pensioner, rich and poor alike would receive the same basic income financed by the phasing out of virtually every tax relief and allowance. Those on benefits would not face high marginal tax rates if they took a job, but merely pay PAYE at the current standard rate of 20% on every pound they earned. Those working 20 hours a week on the minimum wage could work 40 hours a week without losing more than 50% of their extra earnings in lost tax credits.

There would be other advantages from such a system. First, it would be universal and hence avoid the stigma attached to benefits. Secondly, people taking a job or starting a business would have the security of knowing that they would still have their citizen’s income if the venture did not work out.

Concerns that a citizen’s income would encourage the idle to sit at home all day watching daytime TV do not appear to be supported by evidence from pilot schemes in other countries. Even so, there would be cases where this did happen and they would doubtless be highlighted as an example of a something-for-nothing culture. Other drawbacks include the failure so far to construct a citizen’s income that obviates the need for housing benefit, and the political difficulty in persuading voters that a millionaire should be getting the same citizen’s income as a milkman.

So far support for a citizen’s income is limited to the Green party, although the government’s switch to a flat-rate state pension is a step in that direction. The truth is that no tax and benefit system is perfect. But the one we have is costly, bureaucratic, ineffective – and ripe for reform."
universalbasicincome  2014  larryelliott  uk  economics  government  bureaucracy  governance  income  ubi 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Tijuana: life on the political equator | Cities |
"In one of those speculative reports full of foreboding about our urban future, UN-Habitat has predicted that this century metropolises will start joining up like blobs of mercury, crossing international borders to form urban mega-regions. Tijuana-San Diego is an intriguing prospect because the border is not just national but forms part of an imaginary line dividing the global South and North, the developing and developed worlds. This is what Cruz calls the political equator. The question is how the two worlds on either side of it can influence each other?"

"Cruz has done pioneering work in Los Laureles. He was the first to point out that the waste from San Diego’s construction industry was being recycled into new homes here. Further along the valley, where the settlement is more precarious, the evidence is everywhere. “You see those yellow walls?” says Cruz, pointing to the side of a house. “Those are garage doors from San Diego.” Garage doors are a popular material in this canyon. The houses are works of assemblage, like habitable collages. Elsewhere, there are whole post-war prefab houses, simply transplanted from the San Diego suburbs by truck. In crowded areas these are sometimes raised up on metal stilts, right on top of another house – a phenomenon Cruz calls “club sandwich urbanisation". He was so captivated by this practice that at one point he collaborated with amaquiladora to cheaply manufacture space frames specifically for raising up old bungalows. It was a kit of parts for building club sandwiches.

The use of readymades like this has led Cruz to describe such neighbourhoods in Tijuana as purely productive, as opposed to the consumption-based model across the border. Here, San Diego’s waste is recycled to build new communities. Revealing this symbiotic relationship was one way of ascribing value to a type of settlement that is under-respected. “This level of activity needs to be amplified if we’re going to understand the sustainable city,” he says. But while Cruz celebrates such creativity, he is careful not to imply that such communities don’t still need help.

Most of Los Laureles is informal, technically an illegal squatter settlement, but many of the residents have begun the process of acquiring land titles. It is a slow process through which residents incrementally buy legal status and in exchange get the utility services and the political representation that come with it.

This is the kind of administrative process that Cruz has been at pains to engage with. For him, architectural design is far less important than the bureaucratic systems that determine whether communities are empowered or disempowered. And this is precisely one of those cases, where informal communities have the resourcefulness to build homes out of garage doors but not the bureaucratic tools – a legal address, for instance – to find employment outside of the informal sector."

"“This is the laboratory for me in the next five years,” says Cruz. “The first thing Oscar and I want to do is to build a community centre/scientific field station to work on the pollution and water issues.” The big question is whether he can get San Diego’s administration to invest in a place like Los Laureles, whose trash washes across the border into the estuary, as a way of protecting its own ecological interests. “Instead of spending millions on the wall, they could invest in this community so that the poor shanty town becomes the protector of the rich estuary.”

As the last informal settlement in Latin America, with its nose pressed against the window of the North, Los Laureles is already symbolic. But it is also significant as the nexus of three crucial issues. Firstly, it reveals the material flows across this border: San Diego’s waste flows south to be recycled into a barrio, while the barrio’s waste is washed north less productively. Secondly, by disrupting the watershed, the border is undermining the stability of an ecological system. And Cruz’s idea is that Los Laureles should be a micro case study in transnational collaboration, so that the barrio is seen not as a slum but effectively as the guardian of the local environment. Finally, the canyon is another potential testing ground for developing land cooperatively, much as Urban-Think Tank had imagined doing in San Agustín, so that the communal agenda is not lost in the formalisation process.

For Cruz, the collision of complex issues embodied by this easily overlooked community is of global significance. “Any discussion about the future of urbanisation will have to begin by understanding the coalition of geopolitical borders, marginal communities and natural resources,” he says. “That’s why this canyon is fundamental.”"

"Cruz recognises that social change and the creation of a more equitable city are not a question of good buildings. They are a question of civic imagination. And that is something that has been sorely eroded by the neo-liberal economic policies of recent decades. Cruz is a stern critic of America’s steady withdrawal from any notion of public responsibility. He talks of “the three slaps in the face of the American public” after the 2008 crash, namely: the Wall Street bailouts, the millions of foreclosures and the public spending cuts. “It wasn’t just an economic crisis but a cultural crisis, a failure of institutions,” he says. “A society that is anti-government, anti-taxes and anti-immigration only hurts the city.”

So what is to be done? For Cruz, the only way forward is not to play by the existing rules, but to start redesigning those institutions. In San Ysidro, he has been seeking to change the zoning laws to allow a richer and more empowering community life. And changing legislation means engaging with what has been called the “dark matter” – not just the physical fabric of the city, but its regulations.

This is the very definition of the activist architect, one who creates the conditions in which it is possible to make a meaningful difference. New social and political frameworks also need designing, and this i what Cruz has been doing in San Ysidro. “Designing the protocols or the interfaces between communities and spaces, this is what’s missing,” he says. It means giving people the tools they need to be economically productive, and giving them a voice in shaping how the community operates.

In one sense, this could be misinterpreted as just yet more deregulation. But this is not a form of deregulation that enables more privatisation. On the contrary, it would allow more collective productivity and a more social neighbourhood. Here, the architect and the NGO become developers not with a view to profit, but to improve the prospects of the community. “We need to hijack the knowledge embedded in a developer’s spreadsheet,” says Cruz.

In San Ysidro lies the seed of an idea, which is that the lessons of Latin America are gradually penetrating the border wall. What Cruz is trying to do is challenge the American conception of the city as a rigidly zoned thing servicing big business on the one hand and some quaint idea of the American dream on the other. Instead, the city could be more communal, more productive. And he’s drawing on the much more complex dynamics of informal economies, where no space goes to waste, where every inch belongs to a dense network of social and economic exchanges. That’s the model he’s using to try to transform policy in San Diego. The regulations need to be more flexible, more ambiguous, more easily adapted to people’s needs. This is not a Turneresque laissez-faire attitude, but an attempt to get the top-down to facilitate the bottom-up.

And while much of that may sound somewhat utopian, the San Ysidro project has had a stroke of luck that may soon make it a reality. Cruz is now the urban policy advisor to the mayor. As the director of the self-styled Civic Innovation Lab, he heads a think tank operating out of the fourth floor of City Hall, which means that San Diego now has a department modelled on the policy units that were so transformative in Bogotá and Medellín.

What we have here is a Latin American architect, steeped in the lessons of Curitiba, Medellín and Tijuana, embedded within the administration of a major US city. And it’s clear that Cruz is establishing a bridgehead for the lessons of Latin America to find new relevance across what was once an unbridgeable divide. It’s early days, but the implications may well be radical."
justinmcguirk  teddycruz  tijuana  border  borders  architecture  2014  mikedavis  politicalequator  loslaurelescanyon  sandiego  mexico  us  latinamerica  empowerment  bureaucracy  process  politics  geopolitics  squatters  oscarromo  infrastructure  medellín  curitiba  sanysidro  urbanism  urbanplanning  urban  cities  policy  economics  activism  medellin  colombia 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Common Core Commotion
"We can assume that if Goals 2000 or NCLB or any of the other reform programs had been effective, the reformers could congratulate themselves for a job well done and go off to find another line of work. They haven’t, which brings us to the third reason that educational reform is an enterprise without end. 

It has to do with the old rule that supply creates its own demand. Over the last two generations, as the problem became unignorable and as vast freshets of money poured from governments and nonprofit foundations, an army of experts emerged to fix America’s schools. From trade unions and think tanks they came, from graduate schools of education and nonprofit foundations, from state education departments and for-profit corporations, from legislative offices and university psych labs and model schools and experimental classrooms, trailing spreadsheets and PowerPoints and grant proposals; they found work as lobbyists, statisticians, developmental psychologists, neurological researchers, education theorists, entrepreneurs, administrators, marketers, think tank fellows, textbook writers—even teachers! So great a mass of specialists cannot be kept idle. If they find themselves with nothing to do, they will find something to do. 

And so, after 40 years of signal failure, the educationists have brought us the Common Core State Standards. It is a totemic example of policy-making in the age of the well-funded expert."

"The foundation’s generosity seems indiscriminate, reflecting the milky centrism of its founder. Evidently Bill Gates doesn’t have a political bone in his body. His intellectual loyalty lies instead with the ideology of expertise. His faith is technocratic and materialist: In the end he believes the ability of highly credentialed observers to identify and solve problems through the social sciences is theoretically limitless. “Studies” and “research” unlock the human secret. This is the animating faith of most educationists, too. All human interactions can be dispassionately observed and their separate parts identified, isolated, analyzed, and quantified according to some version of the scientific method. The resulting data will yield reliable information about how and why we behave as we do, and from this process can be derived formulas that will be universally applicable and repeatable.

“One size fits all” may be a term of mockery used by people who disdain the top-down solutions of centralized power; in the technocratic vision, “one size fits all” describes the ideal.

A good illustration of the Gates technocratic approach to education reform is an initiative called “Measures of Effective Teaching” or MET. (DUH.) The effectiveness of a truly gifted teacher was once considered mysterious or ineffable, a personal transaction rooted in intuition, concern, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and professional ardor, combined in a way that defies precise description or replication. Such an old-fashioned notion is an affront to the technocratic mind, which assumes no human phenomenon can be, at bottom, mysterious; nothing is resistant to reduction and measurement. “Eff the Ineffable” is the technocrat’s motto."

"Exciting as it undoubtedly is for the educationist, MET research tells us nothing about how to improve the world that students and teachers inhabit. It is an exercise by educationists for educationists to ponder and argue over. Three hundred and thirty five million dollars can keep a lot of them busy."

"In the confusion between content and learning, the Standards often show the telltale verbal inflation that educationists use to make a simple idea complicated. The Standards for Reading offer a typical example. They come in groups of three—making a wonderful, if suspicious, symmetry. Unfortunately, many of the triplets are essentially identical. According to the rubric Key Ideas and Details, a student should “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly.” Where one standard says the student must be able to “analyze the development of central ideas,” the next standard says the student should be able to “analyze” “how ideas develop.” One “key detail” is to “learn details.” Under Craft and Structure, the student should be able to “analyze” how “portions of text” “relate to each other or the whole.” Another says he “should cite specific textual evidence” and still another that he should “summarize the key supporting details.” All of this collapses into a single unwritten standard: “Learn to read with care and to explain what you’ve read.” But no educationist would be so simple-minded.

There are standards only an educationist could love, or understand. It took me a while to realize that “scaffolding” is an ed-school term for “help.” Associate is another recurring term of art with a flexible meaning, from spell to match, as when third graders are expected to “associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.” This seems like students are being asked to spell vowels, but that can’t be right, can it? And when state and local teachers have to embody such confusing standards in classroom exercises, you’re likely to wind up with more confusion."


Most of the criticism of the Standards has come from the populist right, and the revolt of conservative parents against the pet project of a national educationist elite is genuine, spontaneous, and probably inevitable. But if you move beyond the clouds of jargon, and the compulsory gestures toward “critical thinking” and “metacognitive skills,” you will begin to spy something more interesting. There’s much in the Standards to reassure an educational traditionalist—a vein of subversion. At several points, Common Core is clearly intended as a stay against the runaway enthusiasms of educationist dogma.

The Standards insist schools’ (unspecified) curriculums be “content-rich”—meaning that they should teach something rather than nothing. They even go so far as to require students to read Shakespeare, the Preamble and First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and works of Greek mythology. Phonics is the chief means of teaching reading in Common Core, rejecting the notorious “whole language” method first taken up in the 1970s and—research shows!—a likely culprit in the decline in reading scores. The Standards discourage the use of calculators, particularly in early grades where it has become a popular substitute for acquiring basic math. The Standards require memorization of multiplication tables as an important step in learning arithmetic, striking a blow against “fuzzy math.” Faddish notions like “visual literacy” are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps most impressively, at least in language arts, the Standards require students to read and write ever larger amounts of nonfiction as they move toward their high school diploma. Anyone familiar with the soupy “young adult” novels fed to middle- and high-school students should be delighted. Writing assignments, in tandem with more rigorous reading, move away from mere self-expression—commonly the focus of writing all the way through high school—to the accumulation of evidence and detail in the service of arguments. The architect of the Language Arts Standards, an educationist called David Coleman, explained this shift in a speech in 2011. He lamented that the most common form of writing in high school these days is “personal writing.”

It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.

Now, it is hard to imagine a more traditionalist sentiment than that. Yet conservative Common Core activists single out Coleman as a particularly sinister adversary, perhaps for his potty mouth. The populist campaign against the Standards has been scattershot: Sometimes they are criticized for being unrealistically demanding, at other times for being too soft. Even Common Core’s insistence on making the Constitution part of any sound curriculum has been attacked as insidious. Recall that students will be required to read only the Preamble and the First Amendment. That is, they will stop reading before they reach the Second Amendment and the guarantee of gun rights.

Coincidence? Many activists think not. "

"Conservative hostility to the Common Core is also entangled with hostility to President Obama and his administration. Joy Pullman, an editor and writer who is perhaps the most eloquent and responsible public critic of Common Core, wrote recently in “I wager that 90 percent of the debate over Common Core would instantly dissipate if states adopted the top-rated standards from, say, Massachusetts or Indiana and dropped the Obama administration tests.”

While the personal hostility to Obama might be overwrought, the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Standards has borne all the marks of the president’s other efforts at national persuasion."


The administration’s bullying and dishonesty might be reason enough to reject the Standards. The campaign has even begun to worry its natural allies, who are losing trust in assurances that the Common Core is an advance for progressive education. Educationists on the leftward edge point to its insistence that teachers be judged on how much their students learn. This bears an unappealing resemblance to NCLB requirements, and they worry it will inject high-pressure competition into the collegial environment that most educationists prefer. Worse, it could be a Trojan horse for a reactionary agenda, a return to the long-ago era when students really had to, you know, learn stuff.

“The purpose of education,” says … [more]
education  reform  edreform  anationatrisk  nclb  georgewbush  georgehwbush  ronaldreagan  barackobama  jimmycarter  money  policy  experts  commoncore  curriclum  2014  andrewferguson  via:ayjay  1990  2000  1979  departmentofeducation  edwardkennedy  tedkennedy  goals2000  1983  gatesfoundation  billgates  arneduncan  bureaucracy  markets  aft  nonprofits  centralization  standards  schools  publicschools  us  ideology  politics  technocracy  credentialism  teaching  howweteach  measurement  rankings  testing  standardizedtesting  abstraction  nonprofit 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Twitter / tlhote: "Bureaucracy is a construction ...
"Bureaucracy is a construction designed to maximize the distance between a decision-maker and the risks of the decision." —@nntaleb

[via: ]
leadership  organizations  bureaucracy  decisionmaking  responsibility  risk  nassimtaleb 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Let's face it. Americans suck at Bureaucracy. | HomeFree AmericaHomeFree America
"We Americans don’t like the idea of making rules to solve every possible problem. If there are too many rules, it chafes our spirit.

We’d rather use our own judgement to make our own decisions and allow others to do the same. Rules in that context are minimal safeguards against egregious behavior, instead of a way to protect against every possible bad decision people may make.

We simply don’t want all of our decisions handed to us, because in most cases, we can do a better job than the bureaucrat or politician that made them. We do this also because we know that when rules replace individual decision making, people end up without the judgement necessary to make good decisions on their own. They become malformed adults, unable to act unless someone tells them what to do or authorizes them to do it.

We don’t like using rules to solve all of our problems because they lock in the present, when we are focused on the future. We don’t like rules because they stop change when we are on a path of constant improvement. We don’t like rules because they assume a pessimism about the future we don’t share.

Of course, attitudes regarding rules are different in other places. There are lots of other countries that actually excel at rulemaking and bureaucracy. The Germans, for example, make rules for their rules. The Chinese invented the bureaucracy that makes and enforces rules. In fact, these countries are so good at making and enforcing rules, they routinely use it to gain economic advantage in the global marketplace.

So, if that’s the case, why are we running most of our economy based on the false assumption that we actually like bureaucratic rules? Why are we investing so much of our time and effort building and paying for the HUGE government and corporate bureaucracies we suck at?

Inertia. Most of the bureaucracy we see today in America is a legacy of the wars of the 20th Century. Bureaucracies got big during the 20th Century because they are so amazingly good at mobilizing a country’s economy for massive destruction of total war they destroyed all of their competition. As a result of this efficacy in waging total war, our bureaucracy grew almost non-stop across the entire 20th century.

However, with the end of the cold war, the need for bureaucracy as a means of waging war faded too. In fact, in today’s world fewer people dying from war than across all of history. We simply aren’t required, out of a need for self-preservation, to have a big bureaucracy in standby mode for the destruction of the world.

This means that bureaucracy is once again, an economic choice: does it help a country become more prosperous or not?

In the case of the United States, that answer should be pretty clear. We aren’t better off with an overarching focus on bureaucracy and the excessive rule-making that goes with it. We aren’t better off with 20 million people in college chasing a credential instead of an education. We aren’t better off with entire segments of the economy, as is the case with healthcare and education, protected from improvement by bureaucratic rules that lock in what we have today.

We should just admit that we suck at bureaucracy and the rules that go with it and try something better.

How? We need an economic focus that plays to what Americans are better at doing than everyone else: creating the future.

John Robb

PS: The extreme carnage of WW1 came as a complete surprise to the Europeans because their new bureaucracies were so unexpectedly good at waging total war."
2014  johnrobb  bureaucracy  us  germany  rules  rulemaking  judgement  politics  policy  china  inertia  economics  war  change  adaptability  credentials  credentialism 
may 2014 by robertogreco
An Administrator's Lament — Casey's Notes and Links
"A businessman approached with the idea of a sporadic institution might be see it as something on the brink of collapse or failure. That’s because the ephemeral institution’s default state is not growing, profitable, comfortable, boring, tense inertia…but: potential energy. A resting network of individuals, resources, and ideas awaiting the charter of its next constellation.

There’s a weight to having resources and a freedom in forcing yourself to shut down and start over early and often. You can tell you’re thinking in terms of Return On Investment if that sounds backwards to you.

Starting something is hard enough, so it’s scary to consider building a framework in which you intentionally shut yourself down like clockwork to rehustle as if you’re just starting out. Self-sabotage?! Self-inflicted trauma!? (The warnings of smart and kind but still capitalists.)

Again, this sounds crazy, but: if you’re liked well enough, you won’t be able to run fast enough to outpace support. The gradual decline into comfortable, boring, tense, rich, ignorant, trapped — at some point forever imposed on you.

The-most-fucked-up-thing-of-all: time accrues. No matter how small you try to stay fiscally, bureaucratically — time grows you up. Simply by virtue of having existed for consecutive minutes, months, years you’re expected to legitimize (as if you didn’t start off running from its logical conclusion): a storage unit, taxes, insurance, payroll, audits, correspondence. Whole industries around not letting experiments stay young forever.

Maybe in a year there’ll be a staff of 25 and franchises from Shanghai to Dubai. I can only see that kind of future when I squint beyond the horizon of some twisted alternate universe. But I’ve lived it before, so when I meet with our accountant it literally hurts to think I’ll live it again."
caseygollan  2014  ephemeral  ephemeralinstitutions  pop-ups  inertia  potential  sfpc  schoolforpoeticcomputing  schools  openstudioproject  lcproject  time  bureaucracy  capitalism  nonprofits  freedom  returnoninvestment  roi  ephemerality  nonprofit 
april 2014 by robertogreco
March 26, 2014 : The Daily Papert
"Many reformers have tried to jigger the school system, to improve it by making small changes in the hope that it would eventually be transformed into a new modern, well functioning system. But I think these reforms are victims of the same illusion that beset Gorbachev in the early days of Perestroika. Reforming School requires more than jiggering. Here too we have to call into question the underlying, structuring ideas. But what are the structuring ideas of school?

A relatively easy step towards an answer is to note that what is wrong with our schools is not very different from what is wrong with the soviet economy–both suffer from rampant centralism. In fact, if we ask what aspect of American life is most like the Soviet economic system, it might well turn out that education is the closest parallel.

But it is easy to criticize bureaucracy superficially. It’s harder to realize that, in both cases our schools and the Soviet economy–the bureaucratic organization reflects underlying “structuring” ideas. I believe that a critique of bureaucracy can only be effective if it proceeds on this basis. Otherwise it cannot intelligently guide reform that will be more than jiggering. Gorbachev’s Perestroika started as jiggering but was forced to move quickly toward calling in question the fundamental ideas of Soviet society, among them its deep commitment to a centrally planned economy.

Does the parallel between the central plan and our school’s concept of curriculum need more explanation? In one case, a central authority decides what products will be manufactured in 5-year plans; in the other, it decides what children will learn in a 12-year plan: two-digit addition this year, three-digit addition next year, and so on. It is in the nature of this centralized planning that teachers be cast in the role of technicians whose job is to implement the plan. The very nature of a curriculum requires subordinating individual initiative to the Great Plan. Schools can see no way to make it work other than by exactly the methods and principles that have now been discredited in the Soviet system. All over the world, more and more people are recognizing that these principles do not work in economics. I think that more and more people are also beginning to see that they will not work in education either. These principles fail in the two cases ultimately for exactly the same reason: They hamper individual initiative, and deprive the system of the flexibility to adapt to local situations."

Papert. S. (1990, July). Perestroika and Epistemological Politics [ ]. Speech presented at the World Conference on Computers in Education. Sydney, Australia.
seymourpapert  1990  bureaucracy  education  standardization  curriculum  centralization  standards  pedagogy  autonomy  learning  schoolreform  change  tcsnmy  cv  hierarchy  hierarchies  control  planning 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail
"The immediate motivation for undertaking this work was provided by the bizarre experience of a colleague of the author (let us call him Jones), a medical scientist specializing in the study of mental retardation. This field, until recently, was a very unfashionable one, and Jones considered himself fortunate to be employed as Research Associate at a small State Home for retarded children. In the humble, even despised, position he was too low on the Civil Service scale to merit the attention of administrators, and he was therefore left alone to tinker with ideas in his chosen field. He was happily pursuing his own research interests when, following presidential interest and national publicity, mental retardation suddenly became a fashionable subject. Jones received an urgent invitation to join an ambitious federally funded project for a systematic attack upon the "problem"[*] of mental retardation.

[Footnote. See The "Problem" Problem, Chapter XI.]

Thinking that this new job, with its ample funds and facilities, would advance both his research efforts and his career, Jones joined. Within three months his own research had come to a halt, and within a year he was completely unable to speak or think intelligently in the field of mental retardation. He had, in fact, become retarded relative to his previous condition.

Looking about him to discover, if possible, what had happened, Jones found that a dozen other skilled professionals who made up the staff of the project had experienced the same catastrophe. That ambitious project, designed to advance solutions to the "problem," had, in fact, taken most of the available workers in the field and neutralized them.

What had gone wrong? Jones, knowing of the author's interest in systems operation, turned to him for advice, and the two of us, jointly, tried to analyze the problem. We first reviewed Parkinson's classic essay on Institutional Paralysis,[*] hoping to find enlightenment there. Was the disease a fulminating case of Injelititis?[*] Obviously not. The professional staff of the Institute were competent, dedicated, and hardworking. Furthermore, the administrators were experienced, energetic, and extremely logical in their approach to problems. The Institute was failing in spite of the best efforts of every one of its members."
johngall  1975  systemsthinking  systems  problemsolving  bureaucracy  institutions  via:caseygollan  organizations  failure  systemicfailure  purpose  paralysis 
march 2014 by robertogreco
6, 4: Block quotes
"So! In some of NASA’s actions you can detect a flavor of institutional hypervigilance against controversy. For example, most of what I’m in contact with is EO (Earth Observation, under what to my great pleasure was once called MTPE, Mission to Planet Earth), and for them climate change is a big, big deal. But they have to bend over backwards not to say anything that could be interpreted as even a little partisan, which is a tough move when simple, contextualized facts are very partisan. Likewise, two different people have politely reminded me that their communications are subject to FOIA, giving me the impression that they feel they have to avoid volunteering opinions outside narrow technical topics, even when they’re squeaky clean of any bias that could possibly affect the quality and independence of their work.

The impression that one sometimes gets is of a sticky note on the monitor frame reading “Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to hear read out in Congress by someone who intends to defund your program”.

It’s a shame. You add friction to people’s work when you make them second-guess themselves and not express even well-supported, carefully framed, intellectually honest, professionally relevant opinions.

I wish the squint-inducing sunlight were felt in agencies whose failures cause secret murders, foolish wars, and the creation of surveillance states more than in an agency whose most salient failures so far – seventeen suited astronaut deaths – were caused by institutional lock-up more than by anything else. It should scare us how much Columbia was a repeat of Challenger: in both cases, a good understanding of the problem and solution was diffused within NASA, but it never converged on the point where it was needed. Too little jidoka. It’s not that transparency causes Crew Module Catastrophic Events, but there’s a chain from “we need to make sure the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth” through “let’s make sure we have solid procedures for everything” to “no, don’t just say ‘STOP! I see a problem that could kill the crew.’ to your boss; write up a nice report in rock-solid formal language” that has to be broken somewhere.

Astronaut deaths are the most salient failure, but to my mind the much bigger one is the failure to go further, which is the fault of the Executive and Legislative branches. One illustration of the problem is the Landsat program. As a series of satellites, you might assume it would be NASA’s responsibility to manage the space side of things. Nope. Obama reached over with scissors and glue to move Landsat to its own authority within the Geological Survey, because we was rightly counseled that Congress (and the presidency) cannot be trusted to fund NASA consistently enough to let it run Landsat. The consequence is very good: USGS’s Landsat operation is one of my stock examples when folks ask about doing open data right. But it bodes bogus of our handling of our primary space program when we have to take satellites away from it because we can’t trust ourselves to let it run them.

And so I see the hypervigilance as another face of the imposed institutional conservatism that has made NASA an anxious genius of an agency, never sure whether it will have the funding to do anything ambitious even after it’s been promised, tired of being scolded for not finishing what it doesn’t have the mandate to start, trying to get through a few short-sighted decades while doing justice to its domain. It’s amazing it’s as sure-handed as it is.

This, then, I think, is why we don’t see even more radical innovation from NASA: because Congress hates funding costly failures, even ones that are small and necessary parts of hugely worthwhile successes. And that’s why I doubt we’re anywhere close to the fail-hard/win-big r strategy program that Maly envisions. NSF grants are one good back door. Universal healthcare and a better social net in general is another: read Bill Gates’s “half” story and go ask a single mother who can’t afford daycare how she thinks the US economy is doing at letting her best ideas compete. I bet we’ll get there, but what happens between now and then still counts. America is waiting.

One of many causes for hope is that, even as its funding for outreach is cut, it’s NASA’s figured out how to put on a show on the web."
charlieloyd  2014  nasa  bureaucracy  universalhealthcare  healthcare  research  government  failure  science  hypervigilance  observation  imagery  congress  funding  landsat  usgs  remotesensing  earth  satellites  satelliteimagery 
march 2014 by robertogreco
6, 3: Seasteading
"So Jim is a blacksmith – a word I mostly hear these days in jokes about obsolescence. He lives on a small, rural island where he has the time and quiet to think and work very hard on small things that most people have not imagined. He is also one of the most globalized people I know. I’m counting people who had “major liquidity events” and whose Twitter profiles say their location is SoMa/SoHo or whatevs. Jim is narrowly specialized labor, enabled by things like oligopolistic global shipping companies.

And likewise, my family’s off-the-grid setup – solar panels, their own well, their own garden – relies on solar panel manufacturers, modern well-drilling rigs, and the internet.

Many visitors are offended by this. They have a rhetoric of simplicity that feels that e.g. buying gasoline to run a generator to have electric lights in winter is failing to live up to the promise of living in the woods. But for my family and others, that promise was never made. It’s a projection, an assumption, an outsider’s stereotype. They are not claiming or trying to be out of the world.

What do you get from living on a natural seastead oops I mean small island? Well, you get a different kind of time – a different set of distractions. Not simplicity, but a reallocation of complexity that suits some people. You get too many things to list here. The one I want to talk about is that you see your material dependencies more clearly. That is, you have to carry the gas that you buy. You know where your water comes from, even if it’s just as technologically mediated as a Brooklynite’s water – maybe more – because you have to replace the pump from time to time. It’s not that you have less of a supply chain, it’s that you pay more attention to it because you’re the last link in it. You unload your kit, your cargo, your stuff, from a literal-ass boat that goes across the water."

So here is what I can tell you: our material culture is vast. The substrate of comfortable, middle-class-as-portrayed-in-primetime American life is ginormous, far beyond anyone’s understanding in any depth. Years ago there was a Neal Stephenson Wired story called In the Kingdom of Mao Bell, from which I often think of the line (phrased in terms of Western culture, but mutatis mutandis):
For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.

Which is only to make a point that is easy to make but very hard to appreciate, and I have to practice making to myself in new ways all the time, re-estranging it to re-familiarize it: what we have going here, this system by which roads are paved, you can appeal a court ruling, you can just assume you got the right change back at Whole Foods, Whole Foods exists, etc., is so big and complicated that you can’t appreciate it. At best you can call upon cognitive intercessors, like thinky magazine features on the cold chain or whatever, to mediate between your grasp of the size of the culture and its reality. I say this as someone whose job is partly to look at enormous depictions of material culture – I mean staring at the Port of Tokyo–Yokohama, or Magnitogorsk, is kind of what I do all day, and I still take it for granted.

And the system has tremendous momentum. I am no historian, but my vague sense is that in recognizable form in the Euramerican sphere it goes back to things like the New Model Army and the aftermath of the French Revolution: the establishment of a bureauracy, i.e. a system of applied governance with accountability built in as paperwork and defined responsibilities, as opposed to something at best hollowed out like a nest of sticks inside feudalism.

And when I see bureaucracy around me doing things like getting all fetishistic about a piece of paper, I have to remind myself that yes, this is imperfect, but the point is that we enshrine the word, something roughly permanent and widely legible, as opposed to worshipping the squire, i.e., whatever he feels like today, that we can’t even examine directly to mutually identify and begin to debate whether it’s good. A whig history but I’m a whig."

in this thread:
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complexity  canon  interconnectedness  seasteading  frontier  waldronisland  bureaucracy  2014  charlieloyd  slow  change  purpose  purposefulness  civilization  interdependence  seeing  noticing  separateness  libertarianism  capitalism  globalization  materials  systems  systemsthinking  siliconvalley  laws  governance  government  society  nealstephenson  simplicity  distractions  bighere  dependencies  supplychains  legibility  illegibility  coffee  waldron  interconnected  interconnectivity 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Bill Gates on poverty
"Should the state be playing a greater role in helping people at the lowest end of the income scale? Poverty today looks very different than poverty in the past. The real thing you want to look at is consumption and use that as a metric and say, “Have you been worried about having enough to eat? Do you have enough warmth, shelter? Do you think of yourself as having a place to go?” The poor are better off than they were before, even though they’re still in the bottom group in terms of income.

The way we help the poor out today [is also a problem]. You have Section 8 housing, food stamps, fuel programs, very complex medical programs. It’s all high-overhead, capricious, not well-designed. Its ability to distinguish between somebody who has family that could take care of them versus someone who’s really out on their own is not very good, either. It’s a totally gameable system – not everybody games it, but lots of people do. Why aren’t the technocrats taking the poverty programs, looking at them as a whole, and then redesigning them? Well, they are afraid that if they do, their funding is going to be cut back, so they defend the thing that is absolutely horrific. Just look at low-cost housing and the various forms, the wait lists, things like that."
billgates  poverty  housing  government  2014  bureaucracy  funding  inefficiency  income  inequality 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism | Molleindustria
"We are only learning to speak of immeasurable qualities through videogames. It’s a slow and collective process of hacking accounting machines into expressive machines. Computer games need to learn from their non-digital counterparts to be loose interfaces between people. A new game aesthetic has to be explored: one that revels in problem-making over problem-solving, that celebrates paradoxes and ruptures, that doesn’t eschew broken and dysfunctional systems because the broken and dysfunctional systems governing our lives need to be unpacked and not idealized.

Strategies are to be discovered: poetic wrenches have to be thrown in the works; gears and valves have to grow hair, start pulsing and breathing; algorithms must learn to tell stories and scream in pain."

[direct link to video: ]
videogames  gaming  paolopedercini  molleindustria  games  art  design  capitalism  economics  efficiency  control  rationalization  marxism  bureaucracy  consumption  commerce  standardization  socialnetworks  quantification  sybernetics  gamification  goals  society  taylorism  relationships  pokemon  facebook  farmville  zynga  management  power  labor  addiction  addictiveness  badges  behavior  measurement  commodification  rogercaillois  play  idleness  ludism  leisure  leisurearts  artleisure  maxweber  resistance  consciousness  storytelling  notgames  taleoftales  agency  proteus  richardhofmeier  cartlife  simulation  2014  douglaswilson  spaceteam  henrysmith  cooperativegames  collaborativegames  tamatipico  tuboflex  everydaythesamedream  unmanned  systemsthinking  human  humans  oligarchy  negativeexternalities  gamedesign  poetry  johannsebastianjoust  edg  srg  shrequest1  simulations  pokémon 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Stagnation (a cranky post) « Lisa's (Online) Teaching & History Blog
Not that long ago, there were exciting new things to try in ed tech. It was easy to get enthusiastic about not only new products but the way the web was going, and to encourage faculty to jump in.

But in the last few years, the web has gone stagnant. Certain models of development, and certain tools, have become dominant, and online teaching has become far less excitiing.

1. Education is seen as a market.

Education, as Apple has known since 1981, is a market. But instead of marketing products toward innovative faculty, now products become “enterprise” and are marketed to administrators. This is a larger version of the problem I wrote about six years ago. Then, the Learning Management System, particularly the dominance of Blackboard, stifled innovative pedagogy, especially for novices who just plugged things in to the system. Now we have that writ large. We limit what’s available because restriction is seen as the only way to offer “support” (which faculty now desperately need – see #7). Educators are no longer seen as having special standing as users, with full-featured accounts offered for fee — we are just a target market like every other “consumer”.

2. The web isn’t as friendly anymore.

3. Tentative faculty were right.

When faculty were afraid to work with web 2.0 tools, we used to talk about the possible creativity. When they worried that they might work hard on something only to have it disappear, we’d talk about the transience of everything on the web, or how much benefit their work would have for students. But they’ve been right. Even though I’ve preached for years not to keep your important stuff on the web (even this post is backed up in plain text), I have been affected by the loss of tools like Posterous and the audio feature in Slideshare. Colleagues have been impacted by price hikes for Ning. Things that we created learning objects in for free now charge $49/month.

4. Nothing new is out there.

This is true pedagogically and technologically. When the new exciting thing is Haiku Deck (yet another simple tool for making what is essentially PowerPoint slides online), we’re in trouble.

5. Online teaching has institutionalized in the wrong direction.

There were initially two models for online teaching. One was the DIY, faculty-driven, creative, early adopter, free development model. The other was the enterprise system, LMS-for-sale, cookie-cutter classes model. The latter featured scalability via automated grading and servers that could handle hundreds of students. When MOOCs became popular about five years ago, both models were in use. In adopting the standardized model as an answer to high college expenses, and promoting it in the best universities, the standardized, commercial model has won. When big universities other than its originator (Stanford) become commercial partners in Coursera, for example, that’s pretty clear.

6. The field has professionalized, also in the wrong direction.

Instead of faculty becoming experts in educational technology as part of a creative process, and being supported by their employers to get certificates and degrees to teach others, educational technology and online course administration are now their own fields with their own PhDs. This means that individuals who have never been teachers and have very little experience create small-sample studies and get degrees that net them jobs administrating experiences for faculty. The entire process promotes the idea that ed tech is too complex for ordinary faculty, promoting dependence and lack of agency.

7. Creativity is being outsourced."
lisalane  edtech  stagnation  2014  web  internet  bureaucracy  education  learning  teaching  administrativebloat 
february 2014 by robertogreco
David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' | World news | The Observer
[video of the full talk here: ]

"The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?"

"And that's what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.

That's the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we've managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people's racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.

And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans. And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it's not just about race, it's about something even more terrifying. It's about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?

So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody's going to get left behind. We're going to figure this out. We're going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.

We're either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we're going to keep going the way we're going, at which point there's going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody's going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there's always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I'm losing faith."

"The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what's a good idea or what's not, or what's valued and what's not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.

Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process."
davidsimon  2013  us  capitalism  politics  economics  warondrugs  lawenforcement  socialism  karlmarx  marxism  healthcare  addiction  prisonindustrialcomplex  race  neworleans  baltimore  labor  class  greatdepression  greatrecession  marginalization  work  corruption  systems  process  systemsthinking  bureaucracy  incarceration  elections  campaignfunding  nola 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Program to teach minority youths how to navigate Pittsburgh city government - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Understanding how a city works is hard enough if you know the language of power.

Karen Abrams has spent the better part of two years trying to spread that know-how to adult groups in Pittsburgh's minority neighborhoods. She began to realize that to really make a difference, youth needed to learn the language, too.

"We have no interaction with 12- to 18-year-olds. But a lot of what we do will have an impact on them in five and 10 years," said Ms. Abrams, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's diversity and community affairs manager. "I thought, 'How do we build a generation of urbanists in communities of color?' We need to include them in the Pittsburgh renaissance."

Ms. Abrams came up with a brainchild: Urban Matters, based on a model at the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a nonprofit in New York City's Brooklyn borough. The Heinz Endowments has provided $50,000 toward its launch.

After several months of planning, the program will recruit high school students next summer to take part in extracurricular investigations of city systems and processes. The students will receive a stipend, and their work will result in audio-visual materials that could be disseminated more widely, possibly for inclusion in school curricula."
centerforurbanpedagogy  pittsburgh  cities  government  civics  education  power  politics  bureaucracy  2013  openstudioproject  projectideas  curriculum 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam: Sixteen tales of information technology in education, 1991-2013
It was not compulsory. My father, a technician and audio engineer, belonged to an Apple Computer Users’ Group and read print publications – magazines – about computing. The resource closet adjacent to his workroom was stocked floor to ceiling with used audiocassettes, loosely classified by course code."

It was not compulsory. The new students used it differently; those who came from abroad were willing to spend their home currency on things teachers considered wasteful and expensive, like international mobile phone calls.

One student faced off a test supervisor in mutual bewilderment after he left the room to take a business call and was not allowed back in. "

It was obligatory. A widespread rumour was that a colleague whose role was made redundant had been targeted because of a refusal to use email, or any technology other than the photocopier.

Another colleague brought long handwritten essays to meetings from which to read counterarguments to whatever was under discussion. There was only ever one copy available."

It was fragmentary. A student, young and perpetually dazed, came into the office to ask for weeks-old course materials, explanations of content, assignment extensions. Haven’t you read the weekly emails on what you have to do? I asked. Oh, I don’t really check my email, said the student. Too many messages."

It was breaking into bits, even while it was new.

You can give course notices on your phone.

I only use my phone for emergencies, like in the earthquake.

The hard shell of the open laptop, raised like a drawbridge to deflect, to disconnect.

I don’t want to put a comment in the learning forum because it might be wrong and then I’ll feel dumb.

Is this for homeworks, teacher, on the Internet? Will you give us a grade?"

It was breaking into bits, even while it was new.

The contact hours in the classroom and the sporadic access in between, the logs that show who has completed the readings and who is offline.

The copyright notices at the photocopier and the ghost-stacks of extracts that chafe at the ten percent limit.

The professional futurists whose utopias will not be mocked, except through the limits of budget proposals.

The noise, the compliance, the surveillance.

The light in the cracks."
edtech  meganclayton  2013  technology  education  schools  teaching  email  mobile  phones  surveillance  compliance  control  bureaucracy  professionaldevelopment  change  computing  computers  internet  web  twitter 
october 2013 by robertogreco
BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - BUGGER
"The recent revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were fascinating. But they - and all the reactions to them - had one enormous assumption at their heart.

That the spies know what they are doing.

It is a belief that has been central to much of the journalism about spying and spies over the past fifty years. That the anonymous figures in the intelligence world have a dark omniscience. That they know what's going on in ways that we don't.

It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do.

But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different.

It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.

I want to tell some stories about MI5 - and the very strange people who worked there. They are often funny, sometimes rather sad - but always very odd.

The stories also show how elites in Britain have used the aura of secret knowledge as a way of maintaining their power. But as their power waned the "secrets" became weirder and weirder.

They were helped in this by another group who also felt their power was waning - journalists. And together the journalists and spies concocted a strange, dark world of treachery and deceit which bore very little relationship to what was really going on. And still doesn't."
mi5  uk  government  spying  adamcurtis  history  intelligence  espionage  incompetence  waste  security  bureaucracy  2013  coldwar  edwardsnowden 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Alex Payne — Letter To A Young Programmer Considering A Startup
"But startups are the new big company. They are, as I’ll describe below, the field offices of a large distributed workforce assembled by venture capitalists and their associate institutions."

I won’t equivocate: I am deeply skeptical of this system. I’m skeptical of this system’s slavering, self-congratulatory fetishization of “disruption” while so obviously becoming the sort of stolid institution it seeks to displace. I’m skeptical of the startup community’s often short-term outlook. I’m particularly skeptical of its callous disregard for both the lives of the people who participate in it and the lives of those who live in the world that startups seek to reshape. Let’s not even begin to discuss how commonplace collusion, price fixing, and other market-corrupting activities are in the world of VC. The point being: it’s a bad game and a rigged one.

And yet. There are startups I wouldn’t want to see disappear. There are people working at and funding those startups who are good, kind, balanced in their personal and professional lives, thoughtful of the impact of their work. Just as we might cast aspersions and accusations of corruption on other systems like politics, mass media entertainment, and professional sports, we must admire those who operate ethically and efficiently within them. We should further celebrate those who are pioneering new and alternative systems, for they work in the shadow of a community that has a constant hand on the crank of the hype machine.

Now, you could say that I’m laying too much responsibility at the feet of the startup world. Though this system daily broadcasts itself as the savior of everything from capitalism to culture, surely we can accept that business is business and ideals are best left at the door. As a VC at a top-tier Sand Hill Road firm told me during a pitch several years ago when describing a conceptual feature in Simple that would let users easily and regularly donate a portion of their savings to charity, “let’s not waste time on that stuff; we’re here to make money”.

You could take this tack, but I hope that your idealism hasn’t been worn down at such a relatively young age. I hope you want your work to be imbued with meaning, purpose, and value no matter what form that work takes. More than that, I hope you want your life to be defined by more than work.

Young programmer, I urge you to consider both sides of the startup coin. There are so many ways to make a dent in the world."
vc  alexpayne  change  idealism  ideals  2013  systems  responsibility  startups  labor  disruption  meaning  meaningfulness  vocations  collusion  pricefixing  corruption  finance  power  control  hierarchy  purpose  bureaucracy  incubators  accelerators 
june 2013 by robertogreco
A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse | David Graeber | The Baffler
[Now here: ]

"What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille."

"Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena. But there is more. What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about. In the wake of a revolution, ideas that had been considered veritably lunatic fringe quickly become the accepted currency of debate. Before the French Revolution, the ideas that change is good, that government policy is the proper way to manage it, and that governments derive their authority from an entity called “the people” were considered the sorts of things one might hear from crackpots and demagogues, or at best a handful of freethinking intellectuals who spend their time debating in cafés. A generation later, even the stuffiest magistrates, priests, and headmasters had to at least pay lip service to these ideas. Before long, we had reached the situation we are in today: that it’s necessary to lay out the terms for anyone to even notice they are there. They’ve become common sense, the very grounds of political discussion.

Until 1968, most world revolutions really just introduced practical refinements: an expanded franchise, universal primary education, the welfare state. The world revolution of 1968, in contrast—whether it took the form it did in China, of a revolt by students and young cadres supporting Mao’s call for a Cultural Revolution; or in Berkeley and New York, where it marked an alliance of students, dropouts, and cultural rebels; or even in Paris, where it was an alliance of students and workers—was a rebellion against bureaucracy, conformity, or anything that fettered the human imagination, a project for the revolutionizing of not just political or economic life, but every aspect of human existence. As a result, in most cases, the rebels didn’t even try to take over the apparatus of state; they saw that apparatus as itself the problem."

"In retrospect, though, I think that later historians will conclude that the legacy of the sixties revolution was deeper than we now imagine, and that the triumph of capitalist markets and their various planetary administrators and enforcers—which seemed so epochal and permanent in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—was, in fact, far shallower."

"In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically. Eliminating guaranteed life employment for precarious contracts doesn’t really create a more effective workforce, but it is extraordinarily effective in destroying unions and otherwise depoliticizing labor. The same can be said of endlessly increasing working hours. No one has much time for political activity if they’re working sixty-hour weeks.

It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future. Yet as a result of putting virtually all their efforts in one political basket, we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible.

Work It Out, Slow It Down

Normally, when you challenge the conventional wisdom—that the current economic and political system is the only possible one—the first reaction you are likely to get is a demand for a detailed architectural blueprint of how an alternative system would work, down to the nature of its financial instruments, energy supplies, and policies of sewer maintenance. Next, you are likely to be asked for a detailed program of how this system will be brought into existence. Historically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint? It’s not as if a small circle of visionaries in Renaissance Florence conceived of something they called “capitalism,” figured out the details of how the stock exchange and factories would someday work, and then put in place a program to bring their visions into reality. In fact, the idea is so absurd we might well ask ourselves how it ever occurred to us to imagine this is how change happens to begin.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with utopian visions. Or even blueprints. They just need to be kept in their place. The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic, participatory basis. I think this is an important achievement—not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can be only thought experiments. We cannot really conceive of the problems that will arise when we start trying to build a free society. What now seem likely to be the thorniest problems might not be problems at all; others that never even occurred to us might prove devilishly difficult. There are innumerable X-factors.

The most obvious is technology. This is the reason it’s so absurd to imagine activists in Renaissance Italy coming up with a model for a stock exchange and factories—what happened was based on all sorts of technologies that they couldn’t have anticipated, but which in part only emerged because society began to move in the direction that it did. This might explain, for instance, why so many of the more compelling visions of an anarchist society have been produced by science fiction writers (Ursula K. Le Guin, Starhawk, Kim Stanley Robinson). In fiction, you are at least admitting the technological aspect is guesswork.

Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than in creating the means by which people can make such decisions for themselves. What might a revolution in common sense actually look like? I don’t know, but I can think of any number of pieces of conventional wisdom that surely need challenging if we are to create any sort of viable free society. I’ve already explored one—the nature of money and debt—in some detail in a recent book. I even suggested a debt jubilee, a general cancellation, in part just to bring home that money is really just a human product, a set of promises, that by its nature can always be renegotiated."
debt  economics  politics  revolution  work  labor  davidgraeber  power  society  revolutions  2013  grassroots  punk  global  conformity  bureaucracy  feminism  1789  frenchrevolution  1848  1968  communism  independence  freedom  1917  thestate  commonsense  fringe  ideas  memes  socialmovements  war  collateraldamage  civilrights  gayrights  neoliberalism  freemarkets  libertarianism  debtcancellation  fear  insecurity  consumerism  occupy  occupywallstreet  ows  sustainability  growth  well-being  utopianism  productivity  environment  humanism  ideology  class  classstruggle  abbiehoffman  slow  supervision  control  management  taylorism  virtue  artleisure  discipline  leisurearts  globalization 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Maverick Colleges: Ten Noble Experiments in American Undergraduate Education (1993)
[Second edition (1996) of the book with some additional schools here in PDF: ]

[Wayback: ]

"This book is a product of a University of Utah graduate seminar conducted in the spring of 1991: "Notable Experiments in American Higher Education" (Educational Administration 728). The contributing authors are professor of educational administration L. Jackson Newell and seminar students, each of whom selected an innovative, or "experimental," college for research and reporting."

"Common Themes:

As seminar participants exchanged findings about the ten selected colleges, several prominent themes emerged that had not been predetermined by selection criteria but appeared to indicate common postures among experimental colleges. These include:

• Ideals spawning ideas. In most cases, the ten colleges appeared to start with the ideals of visionary founders. For some, the ideal concerned the citizens who would emerge from the learning experience …

• Emphasis on teaching; retreat from research. The vast majority of experimental colleges are liberal education colleges where the art of teaching and the development of students are values of high esteem. …

• Organization without specialization. Not unexpectedly, these experimental colleges also tended to turn away from the disciplinary organization of scholarship that had sprung from the German research university model. …

• Administrative innovations. Freedom from traditional higher education bureaucracy and hierarchy have been common pursuits of the colleges studied. …

Divergent Approaches:

Just as common themes instruct us about the aims and aspirations of various experimental colleges, so too do their divergent approaches. Two notable areas of difference among the colleges focus on who should attend and how their learning might best be organized during the college years."

[Bits from the section on Black Mountain College:]

"Its educational commitment--to democratic underpinnings for learning that comes from "human contact, through a fusion of mind and emotion" (Du Plessix-Gray 1952:10)-- was reflective of a larger liberal environment that managed a brief appearance before the 1950s ushered in fear of Communism and love of television."

"Rice and his colleagues had stronger convictions about how a college should operate than about how and what students might learn. Democracy would be paramount in the administration of the college, and structure would be loose. Students and faculty joined in marathon, long-winded decision-making meetings with decisions ranging from a faculty termination to a library acquisition.

Particularly prominent, and vital to the democratic underpinnings envisioned by Rice, was the absence of any outside governing body. Rice had determined that control exerted by boards of trustees and college presidents rendered faculty participation meaningless, limiting faculty to debate, "with pitiable passion, the questions of hours, credits, cuts. . . . They bring the full force of their manhood to bear on trivialities. They know within themselves that they can roam at will only among minutiae of no importance" (Adamic, 1938:624).

The faculty did establish a three-member "Board of Fellows," elected from among them and charged with running the business affairs of the College. Within a year, a student member was added to the Board."

"The 23-year history of Black Mountain College was one of few constants and much conflict. Three forceful leaders marked three distinct periods during the 23 years: the John Rice years, the Josef Albers decade, and the Charles Olson era.

During the first 5 years of the College, a solidarity of philosophy and community gradually took shape. It revolved largely around John Rice's outgoing personality (much intelligence and much laughter mark most reports from colleagues and students) and forceful opinions about education. He was determined, for example, that every student should have some experience in the arts.

This translated as at least an elementary course in music, dramatics and/or drawing, because:
There is something of the artist in everyone, and the development of this talent, however small, carrying with it a severe discipline of its own, results in the student's becoming more and more sensitive to order in the world and within himself than he can ever possibly become through intellectual effort alone. (Adamic 1938:626)

Although he cautioned against the possible tyranny of the community, Rice eventually decided that some group activity would,
…help the individual be complete, aware of his relation to others. Wood chopping, road-mending, rolling the tennis courts, serving tea in the afternoon, and other tasks around the place help rub off individualistic corners and give people training in assuming responsibility. (Ibid, 1938:627)

"Rice soon discovered what he would later call the "three Alberses"--the teacher, the social being and the Prussian. The Prussian Albers decried the seeming lack of real leadership at the College and the free-wheeling, agenda-less, community-wide meetings. Rice noted later, "You can't talk to a German about liberty. You just waste your breath. They don't know what the hell you mean" (Duberman 1972:69)."

"The war years ushered in a different kind of Black Mountain; one where students, and at least some faculty members, started lobbying for more structure in learning, but yet more freedom outside the classroom. Lectures and recitations were starting to occur within the classroom, while cut-off blue jeans and nude sun bathing appeared outside. Influential faculty member Eric Bentley insisted to his colleagues: "I can't teach history if they're not prepared to do some grinding, memorizing, getting to know facts and dates and so on…" (Duberman 1972:198). Needless to say, with Albers and many of the original faculty still on board, faculty meetings were decisive and volatile.

Overshadowing this dissent, however, was a new program that was to highlight at least the public notion of a historical "saga" for the College, the summer institutes. Like much at Black Mountain, the summer institutes started more by chance than choice."

"The summer institutes grew throughout the 1940s to include notable talents in art, architecture, music and literature. And it is probably these institutes and the renown of the individuals in attendance that contributed most to Black Mountain's reputation as an art school."

The excitement and publicity generated by the summer sessions, in addition to a general higher education population explosion spurred by the G.I. Bill, put the Black Mountain College of the late 1940s on its healthiest economic footing yet.

Still, Black Mountain managed to avoid financial stability. Student turnover negated some of the volume gains. Faculty salaries rose substantially, but grants and endowments did not. Stephen Forbes, for example, who had always been counted on to supply money to the College in tough times, refused a request in 1949 because he was disenchanted with the new emphasis on arts education at the expense of general education. The ability to manage what money it had also did not increase at Black Mountain, although Josef Albers proposed a reorganization that would include administrators and an outside board of overseers. In the wake of arguments and recriminations about the financial situation and how to solve it, a majority (by one vote) of the faculty called for the resignation of Ted Dreier, the last remaining faculty member from the founding group. In protest, four other faculty members resigned--including Josef and Anni Albers. By selling off some of the campus acreage, the remaining faculty managed to save the College and retain its original mindset of freedom from outside boards and administrators, while setting the stage for yet another era in its history [Charles Olson].

"What Albers lacked in administrative ability, he compensated for in tenacity and focus. What Rice lacked in administrative ability, he balanced with action and ideas. However, when Olson couldn't manage the administrative function, he simply retreated. His idea about turning the successful summer institutes into a similar series of year-long institutes fell on deaf faculty ears. So he gave up trying to strengthen the regular program."

"The vast majority of former Black Mountain students can point to clear instances of lasting influence on the rest of their lives. Mostly, this seems to have occurred through association: with one or two faculty members who made a difference, with a "community" of fellow individuals who were essential resources to one another, or with a new area of endeavor such as painting or writing or farming. Black Mountain, apparently, was a place where association was encouraged. Perhaps this occurred through the relatively small number of people shouldered into an isolated valley, perhaps by a common dedication to the unconventional, or perhaps to the existence of ideals about learning and teaching. At any rate, the encouragement of association with people and with ideas was not the norm in higher education then, nor is it now. Clearly, it is possible to graduate from most colleges and universities today with little, if any, significant association with faculty, students or ideas.

But at Black Mountain, as at other experimental colleges, association could hardly be avoided. Engagement with people and ideas was paramount; activity was rampant. It was social, and it was educational. As Eric Bentley would remark:

Where, as at Black Mountain, there is a teacher to every three students the advantage is evident. . .a means to … [more]
deepspringscollege  reed  reedcollege  stjohn'scollege  prescottcollege  bereacollege  colleges  alternative  alternativeeducation  lcproject  openstudioproject  experientialeducation  unschooling  deschooling  1991  ljacksonnewell  katherinereynolds  keithwilson  eannadams  cliffordcrelly  kerrienaylor  zandilenkbinde  richardsperry  ryotakahashi  barbrawardle  antiochcollege  antioch  hierarchy  organizations  ephemeral  leadership  teaching  learning  education  schools  research  visionaries  ideals  idealism  specialization  generalists  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  transdisciplinary  innovation  freedom  bureaucracy  universityofchicago  collegeoftheatlantic  democracy  democraticeducation  structure  ephemerality  popupschools  small  smallschools  josefalbers  charlesolson  johnandrewrice  lucianmarquis  highered  highereducation  progressivism  blackmountaincollege  bmc  maverickcolleges  evergreenstatecollege  experientiallearning  miamidadecommunitycollege  ucsantacruz  monteithcollege  fairhavencollege  westernwashingtonuniv 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Design is the easy part… | disambiguity
"Politics and egos are the main reasons that great design goes awry – either it is never presented (because presenting it is a risk to those egos and would be not wise politically), or it is presented and dismissed, or it is presented and then changed such that egos are not wounded and the politics are in tact, the design integrity is hardly a passing consideration.

Organisation processes and complexity are another common killer. As more and more, the digital products replace the previous products and functions of the organisation, this requires a transition in how things should be done that most organisations are unprepared for an unwilling to support. They’d rather keep doing things the way they always have, and craft a design that doesn’t trouble their processes or require additional resources. You know you’re designing for an organisation on the way out the back door when you come across this – disrupt yourselves or be disrupted, Peter Drucker, amongst others, has been telling us this for half a century (or more). Still, it can be surprisingly hard to do. We don’t like change and the changes required often threaten the existing egos and power structures. See above."
leisareichelt  design  systemsthinking  systems  politics  organizations  disruption  2013  peterdrucker  change  gamechanging  egos  organzationalchange  oganizations  bureaucracy  culture  transitions  strategy 
march 2013 by robertogreco
future shock - / current issue
“Fixing government” for Newsom and Brand means getting rid of its vast bureaucracy. But if the Tea Partiers, steeped in Ayn Rand, want to dismantle government bureaucracy because they hate government, Newsom and Brand want to dismantle it simply because they have the tools to do it. And this is where Newsom’s tract moves beyond mere callow publishing opportunism into a broader, more pernicious rejection of progressive ideas. The purely formal urge to overhaul government along notionally digital lines is a manifestation of what I call “solutionism”—a tendency to justify reforms of social and political institutions by invoking the easy availability of powerful technological fixes rather than by engaging in a genuine analysis of what, if anything, is ailing those institutions and how to fix it.

Solutionists are not interested in investigating the subtle but constitutive roles of supposed vices like bureaucracy, opacity, or inefficiency in enabling liberal subjects to pursue their own life projects. Solutionists simply want to eliminate those vices—and the institutions that produce them—because technology permits them to do so. In his discussion of bureaucracy, for example, Newsom doesn’t even bother with the standard Weberian explanation that bureaucracy is a decidedly modernist institution for minimizing nepotism and introducing some fairness and neutrality to public administration. Instead, he simply views bureaucracy as a consequence of inadequate technology, concluding that better technology will allow us to get rid of it altogether—and why shouldn’t we?

“Our government is clogged with a dense layer of bureaucracy,” he complains. “It’s like a clay layer, a filler that serves only to slow everything down. But technology can get rid of that clay layer by making it possible for people to bypass the usual bureaucratic morass.” In a very limited sense, Newsom is right: Modern technology does allow us to bypass “the usual bureaucratic morass.” But to fail to examine why that morass exists and simply proceed to eliminate it because we have the technology is to fall for a very narrow-minded, regressive, and (paradoxically enough) antimodern kind of solutionism.
evgenymorozov  gavinnewson  scathing  review  book  solutionism  california  technology  government  bureaucracy  democracy  stewartbrand  californianideology  via:migurski  books  teaparty  clayshirky  timoreilly  dontapscott  kevinkelly  estherdyson  longnow 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Perestroika and Epistemological Politics : Stager-to-Go
"I am suggesting that it is useful to think of what is happening as the system striving to define teaching as a technical act."

"Real restructuring of the administration and of the curriculum can only come with an epistemological restructuring, an epistemological perestroika . . . reshaping the structure of knowledge itself."

"A body of evidence is building up that puts in question, not only whether traditional scientific method is the only way to do good science, but even whether it is even practiced to any large extent."

"Control over teachers and students is simply easier when knowledge is reduced to rules stated so formally that the bureaucrat is always able to “know” unambiguously what is right and what is wrong. "

"For stable change a deeper restructuring is needed–or else the large parts of the system you didn’t change will just bring the little parts you did change back into line. We have to seek out the deeper structures on which the system is based."
accountability  power  control  sovietunion  mikhailgorbachev  rules  curriculum  cv  teaching  epistemology  revolution  perestroika  mitmedialab  logo  1990  learning  education  change  megachange  educationreform  bureaucracy  systems  systemicchange  hierarchy  constructivism  seymourpapert  medialab 
january 2013 by robertogreco
As we approach the twenty-first century it is... - Notes + Links / Casey A. Gollan
"As we approach the twenty-first century it is correct to say that the United States has become a nation of institutions…Nearly a century ago a French sociologist wrote that every institution’s unstated first goal is to survive and grow, not to undertake the mission it has nominally staked out for itself.

Thus the first goal of a government postal service is not to deliver the mail; it is to provide protection for its employees and perhaps a modest status ladder for the more ambitious ones. The first goal of a permanent military organization is not to defend national security but to secure, in perpetuity, a fraction of the national wealth to distribute to its personnel.

It was this philistine potential that teaching the young for pay would inevitably expand into an institution for the protection of teachers, not students - that made Socrates condemn the Sophists so strongly long ago in ancient Greece."
military  bureaucracy  growthmentality  growth  survival  mission  putpose  institutions  sophists  socrates  dumbingusdown  johntaylorgatto  self-preservation 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Disciplined Minds - Wikipedia
"…book by physicist Jeff Schmidt, published in 2000…describes how professionals are made; the methods of professional & graduate schools that turn eager entering students into disciplined managerial & intellectual workers that correctly perceive & apply the employer's doctrine & outlook. Schmidt uses the examples of law, medicine, & physics, & describes methods that students & professional workers can use to preserve their personalities & independent thought.

Schmidt was fired from his position of 19yrs as Associate Editor at Physics Today for writing the book on the accusation that he wrote it on his employer's time. In 2006…it was announced that the case had been settled, with the dismissed editor receiving reinstatement and a substantial cash settlement. According to the article, 750 physicists & other academics, including Noam Chomsky, signed public letters denouncing the dismissal…"

[ ]
intellectualworkers  workplace  bureaucracy  control  employment  labor  noamchomsky  cv  professionals  disciplinedminds  institutionalization  mediocrity  management  managementstudies  middlemanagement  criticalthinking  personality  law  medicine  physics  2006  2000  unschooling  deschooling  independentthought  independentthinking  professionalization  jeffschmidt 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Harvard Education Letter: “I Used to Think . . . and Now I Think . . .” Reflections on the work of school reform, by Richard Elmore
1. I used to think that policy was the solution. And now I think that policy is the problem. [elaborates]…

2. I used to think that people’s beliefs determined their practices. And now I think that people’s practices determine their beliefs. [elaborates, inlcuding]… The largest determinant of how people practice is how they have practiced in the past, and people demonstrate an amazingly resilient capacity to relabel their existing practices with whatever ideas are currently in vogue. …

3. I used to think that public institutions embodied the collective values of society. And now I think that they embody the interests of the people who work in them. [elaborates, including]…School administrators and teachers engage in practices that deliberately exclude students from access to learning in order to make their work more manageable and make their schools look good."
professionaldevelopment  pd  hierarchy  hierarchies  bureaucracy  organizations  stasis  radicalism  radicals  cv  2010  mindchanging  mindchanges  schools  tcsnmy  administration  policy  institutions  institutionalization  self-preservation  deschooling  unschooling  nelsonmandela  martinlutherkingjr  gandhi  leadership  change  learning  education  richardelmore  mlk  canon  schooling  unlearning 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Richard Elmore: Futures of School Reform - C-SPAN Video Library
"general drift here is from left to more radical... I do not believe that the institutional structure of public schooling anymore. I view the work that I continue to do with schools, and I take it seriously, as palliative care for a dying institution.""

"The central organizing principle for society and for going to be network relationships."

"It will not accommodate well, in fact the longer we stay with the hierarchy model, the worse the disassociation between learning and schooling will be."

"The mobile classroom in the mobile public schools in this country is designed point for point to be exactly the opposite of what we are learning about humans, how human beings develop cognitively."

"how do we handle issues of access when learning starts to migrate away from schooling?… what is the mechanism by which neuroscience becomes part of the way we think about learning and what consequences does that have for the way we design learning environments? I refuse to call them schools."

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networkrelationships  relationships  adhoc  informal  informallearning  schooling  thisishuge  edreform  reform  neuroscience  change  networks  networkedlearning  institutionalization  institutions  self-servinginstitutions  flattening  policy  scale  sugatamitra  hierarchies  nestedhierarchies  bureaucracy  hierarchy  cv  lcproject  learning  teaching  2012  radicalism  radicals  deschooling  unschooling  richardelmore  via:lukeneff  education  radicalization  canon  horizontality 
november 2012 by robertogreco
The Disrupters: Working Outside The Business Norm | Fast Company
[From 3. Joi Ito]

"The Japanese government once asked me to be on a committee about taxes and information technology. The first thing I said was, 'Let's figure out a way to use resources more efficiently to lower taxes.' And they said, 'No, no, no--this committee is about using computers to collect more tax.' So I asked, 'How do we reduce costs?' And they said, 'Oh, there's no committee for that.' [Laughs] That's the problem with large organizations. They create roles and constraints, and sometimes people forget why they're there."
creativity  innovation  business  leadership  2012  joiito  committees  scale  roles  bureaucracy  constraints  organizations 
february 2012 by robertogreco
El cuento del profesor productivo y feliz - Andes Online
"Había una vez, en una Escuela muy lejana, muy lejana, un profesor. El era productivo y feliz; pero, ay, no era supervisado.

Los Diseñadores Nacionales de Organizaciones Escolares, pensaron que era bueno para el profesor productivo y feliz la creación de una Agencia Nacional de Calidad que supervisara los resultados escolares de la Nación.

Para asegurar el diseño de la Agencia Nacional de Calidad, crearon una Superintendencia de Educación para que supervisara y fiscalizara al profesor productivo y feliz…"
learning  via:lizettegreco  pedrocarreñoalarcón  2011  evaluation  standardization  bureaucracy  administration  accountability  teaching  chile 
january 2012 by robertogreco
From Social Business To Superlinear Corporation - The BrainYard - InformationWeek
"…Cities are superlinear; corporations are sublinear…as they [cities] grow bigger, get more productive, creative, energy-efficient, & generally better by just about every interesting metric. Corporations…get less productive, less creative, more wasteful, & generally worse in every way.

Makes intuitive sense, doesn't it? Creative, energetic young people want to live in big cities, but want to work in small companies.

On the macro-scale, this means cities are effectively immortal, while corporations (like humans) are mortal… [and] their lifespan has been falling rapidly…

My theory is straightforward: Cities are open; corporations are closed. People can move into and out of cities freely and basically do whatever they want so long as they can pay the cost of living. So people naturally leave cities that don't work for them and flood into cities that do. This makes cities self-renewing and self-organizing."
lcproject  creativity  bureaucracy  vitality  sustainability  growth  sublinearity  superlinearity  halflifeofcorporations  corporations  deschooling  unschooling  freedom  closedsystems  opensystems  geoffreywest  mortality  scalability  toshare  2011  venkateshrao  cities  scale 
january 2012 by robertogreco
Vaclav Havel's Critique of the West - Philip K. Howard - International - The Atlantic
"Western governments…are organized on a flawed premise not far removed from the Soviet system that had just collapsed. "The modern era has been dominated by the culminating belief," he said, "that the world ... is a wholly knowable system governed by finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct ... objectively describing, explaining, and controlling everything."

"We have to abandon the arrogant belief that the world is merely a puzzle to be solved"

""If democracy is ... to survive," he explained, "it must renew its respect for the nonmaterial order ... for the order of nature, for the order of humanity, and thus for secular authority as well."

It is not hard to imagine what Havel would do in our shoes. The difficulty of changing an entrenched system is no reason not to try. "I do not know whether or not the world will take the path which that reality offers. But I will not lose hope.""
government  dehumanization  diversity  acceptance  judgement  values  choice  control  centralization  hierarchy  bureaucracy  2011  civilization  responsibility  humans  humanism  order  wisdom  philosophy  democracy  anarchy  anarchism  vaclavhavel 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Institutional memory and reverse smuggling | wrttn
"At the end of the project someone should've been commissioned to write a book, "What This Goddamn Plant Is: And, How It Works". That book is effectively being written now, only by archaeologists."
engineering  documentation  process  archeology  knowledge  via:straup  institutionalmemory  memory  legacy  tcsnmy  lcproject  2011  via:blech  scale  scaling  bureaucracy  archaeology  reversesmuggling  institutionalarchaeology  institutions  business  reverse  culture  values  posterity  corporateespionage  reversecorporateespionage  organizations  recordkeeping  companies  management  sharing  via:tealtan 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Berlusconi's exit – what does it mean for Italy? | World news | The Guardian
"Austerity might also strengthen the most well-known building block of Italian society: the family. Many foreigners are rather sneering when they observe extended families living in the same block of flats, if not the same flat. It creates childish, immature grownups, they say. It's not usually true at all, and what those criticisms fail to realise is not only the fact that living together is very often an economic, rather than an emotional, choice…; they also ignore the fact that the strength of the family is the reason that Italy's social fabric is so much better knitted than Britain's. And there are useful economic consequences: almost every successful business is built upon the family…If austerity means relatives have to huddle once again under the same roof, it might be claustrophobic, but at least it might mean that Italy, once again, resists the disintegration of the family unit."
italy  2011  europe  eurozone  austerity  austeritymeasures  families  society  bureaucracy  competition  economics  berlusconi  carlolevi  normandouglas  blackmarket  blackeconomy  romanoprodi  rootlessness  mobility  arrangiarsi  slow  slowfood  braindrain  meritocracy  tobiasjones 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Times Higher Education - The unseen academy
[Again, too much to quote, so just a clip.]

"Neoliberalism is totalising: it is justified only if everyone participates in its markets, and if all human inter-relatedness becomes mercantile transactions. Hence, we get the agenda for "widening participation", but for widening participation in a market, not in a university education. In that market, the university's "product" needs its own measurements and standards. Everything is now a commodity; and anything that is not obviously a commodity is either eradicated or officially ignored: it goes underground. And the Quality Assurance Agency will measure; but it will measure and validate only that which is official or transparent, only that which it can call a commodity.

The QAA, a key driver of the Transparent-Information mythology, makes one basic error: it confounds a concern for standards (meaning quality) with a demand for standardisation (assured by quantity-measurement); and this drives the sector steadily towards homogenisation."
neoliberalism  homogeneity  highered  uk  highereducation  2011  thomasdocherty  learning  criticalthinking  standardization  standards  measurement  academia  history  control  knowledge  commoditization  transparency  information  quantification  resistance  tcsnmy  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  objectives  outcomes  curiosity  exploration  knowledgemaking  truthseeking  bureaucracy  kis  economics  mediocrity  collaboration  martinamis  1995  1984  georgeorwell  authoritarianism  intellectualism  governance  immeasurables 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Mario Savio: Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964 - YouTube
"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

[Via stonecast, see here: ]

[More here: ]
mariosavio  politics  activism  freedom  anarchism  libertarianism  berkeley  history  1964  protest  themachine  organizations  bureaucracy  democracy  leadership 
november 2011 by robertogreco
oftwominds: Complexity and Collapse
"The most obvious features of recent political and financial "solutions" are their staggering complexity and their failure to fix what's broken. The first leads to the second…

The healthcare reform fixes nothing, while further burdening the nation with useless complexity and cost…

Here is the "problem" which complexity "solves": it protects Savior State fiefdoms and private-sector cartels from losses.  State fiefdoms and cartels have one goal: self-preservation…

Complexity works beautifully as self-preservation, because it actually expands the bureaucratic power of fiefdoms and widens the moat protecting cartels…

Put another way: in the competition with the private sector for scarce capital, the State and corruption always win…

Real solutions require radically simplifying ossified, top-heavy, costly systems…

The single goal is preserving the revenue and reach of concentrated power centers…

But complexity does have an eventual cost: collapse."
complexity  policy  statusquo  via:kazys  politics  corruption  collapse  power  wealth  cartels  bureaucracy  specialinterests  fiefdoms  systems  restart  inefficiency  health  healthcare  finance  self-reliance  dependence  privatesector  corporatewelfare  2011  charleshughsmith  self-preservation 
july 2011 by robertogreco
The Spirit of the Spacesuit - ["The success of this “soft” approach — ad hoc, individualistic, pragmatic — should be a lesson to us."]
"Props and costumes mattered in this theater of war. That NASA’s equipment should be painted white, and feature no military shields or corporate brands but only “USA,” “NASA” and the flag, was a deliberate decision by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yet American rockets were nevertheless cobbled together from instruments of war, their craftsmen drawn from the same network of systems engineers that was devised to manage the arms race and its doomsday scenarios. Our first astronauts went to space hunched into an improvised capsule atop ICBM’s, squatting in place of warheads. The brilliance with which the resulting achievements shone was — like a diamond’s — the result of terrible pressure. We should be glad that this era is past.

But if the dazzling image of midcentury spaceflight obscures its dark origins, close scrutiny of the Apollo spacesuit reveals a different and more robust approach to innovation — one that should inspire us at this uncertain moment in space exploration."
space  spacerace  history  war  2011  ingenuity  nicholasdemonchaux  via:javierarbona  spaceexploration  spacesuits  spaceflight  coldwar  adhoc  innovation  nasa  us  bureaucracy  militaryindustrialcomplex  possibility  optimism  dwightdeisenhower 
july 2011 by robertogreco
ZURB – How Design Teamwork Crushes Bureaucracy
"People who can’t communicate w/ each other get stuck making complicated ‘stuff’ to make up for it. Frustration turns into PowerPoints, complicated charts, & lots of meetings…requires layers upon layers of management to keep organized…weighs companies down…creates no direct value to customers. This is why there are so many lame products in the world. There’s not a wireframe or chart or design method that is going to save you if you can’t look your team members in the eye."

"Our teamwork made up for the lack of ‘stuff’ other companies would use because we:

Shared a clear goal that we all understood…Worked physically close to each other & stayed connected by IM and phone when we didn’t…Shared feedback w/ each other & from customers out in the open every day, which builds confidence in arguing & makes new conversations really easy to beginStayed together through thick and thin to build trust in one another"
teamwork  teams  administration  management  tcsnmy  toshare  bureaucracy  organizations  goals  purpose  community  communication  collegiality  feedback  constructivecriticism  argument  arguing  discussion  proximity  powerpoint  irrationalcomplexity  rules  control  missingthepoint  trust  2011  zurb 
july 2011 by robertogreco
YouTube - Disruptive Heroes, Caterina Fake
Caterina covers several topics as she talks about hacking the organization and ‘going rogue’: intrinsic motivation, passion, conformism, control, schools, learning, entrepreneurship, organizations, systems, leadership, etc.
caterinafake  entrepreneurship  unschooling  deschooling  education  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  management  administration  leadership  passion  goingrogue  organizations  hierarchy  bureaucracy  schools  conformism  control  systems  hacking  hackdays  yahoo  flickr  hunch  learning  lcproject  tcsnmy  disruption  innovation 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Harvard dropouts from the class of 1969 | Harvard Magazine Jul-Aug 2010
"I knew I didn't want to do city planning, to play in that bureaucratic world," he continues. "I also knew that if I stayed another semester they would hand me a diploma, and that diploma is going to open a whole lot of doors that I don't want to go through. And I know that I am not real strong, and if I have that key, at some point I'm going to be seduced and want to go through one of those doors. So by not having the diploma, I will remove the temptation. That actually worked out very well, because I was tempted, more than once."

"…another possibility beckons. 3 of her 5 grandchildren attend a progressive Waldorf school in Birmingham, where Boyden came out of retirement briefly to substitute teach. “It was amazing to be in a school that does things right after fighting an uphill battle for years in the public schools, against people who wanted to test, test, test.” Teaching in a Waldorf school is a big commitment…same teacher stays w/ students from 1st through 8th grades."

[via: ]
education  work  life  2011  harvard  dropouts  unschooling  deschooling  identity  temptation  cv  highereducation  colleges  universities  bureaucracy  ratrace  bobos  teaching  schools  schooling  waldorf  testing  standardizedtesting  looping  lcproject  1969  learning 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Valence Theory of Organization / FrontPage
"In a nutshell, my research finds that [Bureaucratic, Administratively controlled, & Hierarchical] organizations…replace the complexity of human dynamics in social systems with the complication of machine-analogous procedures that enable individual independence, responsibility, and accountability. In contrast, [Ubiquitously Connected & Pervasively Proximate] organizations encourage and enable processes of continual emergence by valuing and promoting complex interactions even though doing so necessitates ceding legitimated control in an environment of individual autonomy and agency, collective responsibility, and mutual accountability. The consequential differences in how each type of organization operates day-to-day are like comparing the societies of Ancient Greece, the medieval Church, the Industrial Age, and today's contemporary reality of Ubiquitous Connectivity and Pervasive Proximity."

[via: ]
complexity  hierarchy  bureaucracy  organizations  tcsnmy  leadership  management  administration  lcproject  learning  networkedlearning  networkculture  autonomy  agency  howwework  howwelearn  organization  accountability  innovation  valencetheory  toread  markfederman  emergentcurriculum  emergent  society  industrial  ubiquitousconnectivity  ubiquitouslearning  relationships  responsibility  independence  freedom 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Bill Williams' Blog: The Mailmen
"In the past few years I’ve seen the high end & low end of education in NYC. I’ve taught in private school…& public school…

What the schools share in common is their steadfast adherence to the status quo. Kids at both schools are like the mail…already pre-sorted & classed…teacher’s job…is to ensure the mail gets to its proper destination. The First Class/Special Delivery to be sped to destinations in Cambridge, MA, New Haven, CT, or Palo Alto, CA. Kids from public school are bulk mail, delivered to every doorstep in their neighborhood…

Great teaching gets done in places where people make or are given the room to be remarkable. Schools or classrooms that seek not to define who students are & what they should know, but ask who they can be and what they might create. A few teachers risk being poets who write beautiful letters. The rest, alas, keep heads safely attached and deliver the mail. Going home promptly at end of the school day to lock in a deep embrace w/ mediocrity."
teaching  education  statusquo  cv  organizations  bureaucracy  class  society  socialmobility  socialimmobility  nyc  billwilliams  self  self-awareness  privateschools  publicschools  tcsnmy  mediocrity  compliance  hierarchy  stoprockingtheboat  rockingtheboat  passivecompliance  passivity  success  cynicism  grades  grading  sorting  people  us  2011 
april 2011 by robertogreco
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