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robertogreco : fearmongering   3

[Readings] | The Working Classroom, by Malcolm Harris | Harper's Magazine
"The main thing is that twenty-first-century American kids are required to work more than their predecessors. This generation is raised on problem-solving to the exclusion of play. Authorities from the Brookings Institution to Time magazine have called for an end to summer vacation and the imposition of year-round compulsory schooling. But the possible downsides of this trade-off are almost never discussed.

Parents, teachers, policymakers, and employers are all so worried that children won’t “meet the demands of a changing world” that they don’t bother asking what kids are expected to do to meet those demands, and what problems they’re being equipped to solve. The anxious frenzy that surrounds the future has come to function as an excuse for the choices adults make for kids."



"This sort of intensive training isn’t just for the children of intellectuals; the theory behind the rhetoric advocating universal college attendance is that any and all kids should aspire to this level of work. College admissions have become the focus not only of secondary schooling but of contemporary American childhood writ large. The sad truth, however, is that college admissions are designed to funnel young adults onto different tracks, not to validate hard work. A jump in the number of Harvard-caliber students doesn’t have a corresponding effect on the size of the school’s freshman class. Instead, it allows the university to become even more selective and to raise prices, to stock up on geniuses and rich kids. This is the central problem with an education system designed to create the most human capital possible: an increase in ability within a competitive system doesn’t advantage all individuals.

In a world where every choice is an investment, growing up becomes a complex exercise in risk management. The more capital new employees already have when they enter the labor market, the less risky it is for their employers. Over time, firms have an incentive, as the economist Gary Becker put it, to “shift training costs to trainees.” If an employer pays to train workers, what’s to stop another company from luring them away once they’re skilled? The second firm could offer a signing bonus that costs less than the training and still benefit. Paying to train a worker is risky, and risk costs money. As American capitalism advanced, the training burden fell to the state, and then to families and kids themselves.

Childhood risk is less and less about death, illness, or grievous bodily harm and more and more about future prospects. But if it is every parent’s task to raise at least one successful American by America’s own standards, then the system is rigged so that most of them will fail. The ranks of the American elite are not infinitely expandable; in fact, they’re shrinking. Given that reality, parents are told that their children’s choices, actions, and accomplishments have lasting consequences. The Harley Avenue letter is merely one of the more dramatic examples of this fearmongering. With parental love as a guide, risk management has become risk elimination.

By looking at children as investments, it’s possible to see where the product of children’s labor is stored: in their human capital. It’s a kid’s job to stay eligible for the labor market (and not in jail, insane, or dead). Any work beyond that adds to their résumé. If more human capital automatically led to a higher standard of living, this model could be the foundation for an American meritocracy. But millennials’ extra work hasn’t earned them the promised higher standard of living. By every metric, this generation is the most educated in American history, yet its members are worse off economically than their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents. Every authority from moms to presidents told millennials to accumulate as much human capital as they could; they did, but the market hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. What gives?

As it turns out, just because you can produce an unprecedented amount of value doesn’t necessarily mean you can feed yourself under twenty-first-century American capitalism. Kids spend their childhoods investing the only thing they have: their effort, their attention, their days and nights, their labor time. (And, sometimes, a large chunk of whatever money their parents may have.) If the purpose of all this labor, all the lost play, all the hours doing unpleasant tasks, isn’t to ensure a good life for the kids doing the work, if it isn’t in the “interests of all children,” then what is it for?

When you ask most adults what any kid in particular should do with the next part of her life, the advice will generally include pursuing higher education. As the only sanctioned path, college admissions becomes a well-structured, high-stakes simulation of a worker’s entry into the labor market. Applicants inventory their achievements, being careful not to underestimate them, and present them in the most attractive package possible.

Then, using the data carefully and anxiously prepared by millions of kids about the human capital they’ve accumulated over the previous eighteen years, higher education institutions make decisions: collectively evaluating, accepting, and cutting hopeful children in tranches like collateralized debt obligations that are then sorted among the institutions according to their own rankings (for which they compete aggressively, of course). It is not the first time children are weighed, but it is the most comprehensive and often the most directly consequential. College admissions offices are rating agencies. Once the kid-bond is rated, it has four or so years until it’s expected to produce a return."
malcolmharris  education  colleges  universities  admissions  2017  children  childhood  meritocracy  capitalism  neoliberalism  economics  labor  work  competition  inequality  highered  highereducation  sfsh  homework  purpose  training  unschooling  deschooling  risk  value  fear  fearmongering  parenting  riskmanagement 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Charlie Kaufman: Screenwriters Lecture | BAFTA Guru
"we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise."

"Don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that the way things are is the way the world must work and that in the end selling is what everyone must do. Try not to."

"This is from E. E. Cummings: ‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.’ The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind."

[Giving up, too much to quote.]
danger  risktaking  risk  failure  simplification  fear  fearmongering  materialism  consumerism  culture  marketing  humannature  character  bullying  cv  meaningmaking  meaning  filmmaking  creating  creativity  dreaming  dreams  judgement  assessment  interpretation  religion  fanaticism  johngarvey  deschooling  unschooling  unlearning  relearning  perpetualchange  change  flux  insight  manifestos  art  truth  haroldpinter  paradox  uncertainty  certainty  wonder  bullies  intentions  salesmanship  corporatism  corporations  politics  humans  communication  procrastination  timeusage  wisdom  philosophy  ignorance  knowing  learning  life  time  adamresnick  human  transparency  vulnerability  honesty  loneliness  emptiness  capitalism  relationships  manipulation  distraction  kindness  howwework  howwethink  knowledge  specialists  attention  media  purpose  bafta  film  storytelling  writing  screenwriting  charliekaufman  self  eecummings  2011  canon 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Webstock '12: danah boyd - Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?! on Vimeo
"We live in a culture of fear. Fear feeds on attention and attention is captured by fear. Social media has complicated our relationship with attention and the rise of the attention economy highlights the challenges of dealing with this scarce resource. But what does this mean for the culture of fear? How are the technologies that we design to bring the world together being used to create new divisions? In this talk, danah will explore what happens at the intersection of the culture of fear and the attention economy."

[See also: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2012/SXSW2012.html ]
networkculture  control  arabspring  politics  policy  power  jaronlanier  stewartbrand  johnperrybarlow  legal  law  internetbubbles  regulation  webstock  webstock12  data  safety  onlinesafety  children  facebook  society  socialnorms  networks  fearmongering  visibility  behavior  sharing  transparency  cyberbullying  bullying  information  advertising  infooverload  panic  moralpanics  unknown  perceptionofrisk  perception  neurosis  internet  online  parenting  riskassessment  risk  cultureoffear  2012  attentioneconomy  attention  technology  responsibility  culture  fear  socialmedia  danahboyd 
march 2012 by robertogreco

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