Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week
20201118schneiderberkshire

One of the things they're so excited about in Arizona are these for-profit micro-schools, and that's an idea where somebody - they're not even called a teacher, they're called a 'guide,' and they don't require any specialized training, any degree, any certification - they run a little school for up to ten kids out of their house, the way an Uber driver works out of their car. The idea is that it's radically cheaper, it has no regulation, and this is a model Charles Koch continues to push.

Historian Jack Schneider and journalist Jennifer Berkshire explore the right's systematic, decades-long attack on public schools - through the defunding of districtions and demoralizing students, educators and parents - in partnership with a neoliberal Democratic Party willing to sell out children and workers for the same libertarian elites.

Jack and Jennifer are authors of the book A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School from The New Press.

 


Nov 24
Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Irrational capitalism. There are those of us who complain that capitalism and its corporate and financial pillars only consider, or consider way too much, short term gain over long term effects. I held this belief for a long time myself. But that would be too simple for capitalism. Capitalism is cunning. It’s suspicious and watchful. It has principles now, principles perhaps it always had, but now it’s adhering to them, as they say, “bigtime.”

It’s not necessarily that capitalism leads its misbehaving leaders to seek something other than their own advantage, it’s that financial profit isn’t the only profit to their advantage.

Yes, if they could have peered into the future, they’d have seen that raping the Earth would eventually render their raw materials more expensive. Yes, they’d have seen that impoverishing as many of the public as they could push around would cripple the very consumption that drove the economy. They’d have seen that gaming for short-term future payoffs in a numerical gambling universe rather than long term sustainable development in the real world would lead to bubbles of imaginary accumulation that would explode, over and over, causing ever more volatile booms and busts. They would have seen that jockeying to narrow and unleash the wealth accumulating class would lead eventually to the loss of their health and heads.

But none of that would have changed their behavior. A lot of these destructive achievements required dedicated forethought and scheming, projecting well into the future. So why did they not heed projections of negative outcomes, negative even for themselves?

Beginning with the carving up of the commons in England in Shakespeare’s time (to The Bard’s advantage, I might add) and continuing through last week or so’s successful cramming of Prop 22 down California’s esophagus, corollary and coeval to the profit motive has been the fight for the sovereign right to control – control rules as well as resources human, agricultural, mineral, and otherwise. Now, you might suppose this is not separate from the profit motive, and in many cases it’s not. But it also arises from its own overriding principle.

It’s a principle of material philosophy with an invisible, therefore deniable, spiritual element. Weber wrote The Protestant... read more

Nov 17
Posted by Alexander Jerri

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Let’s say there’s a holocaust. No, not a nuclear one, nothing as fancy as all that. A regular selectively genocidal one. And let’s say you’re one of the select genus upon which the laws of genocide are brought to bear. And let’s say you survive past the end of the genocide.

If I gather to memory all I’ve read of the narratives of survivors and what they tell me about what it’s like, one thing I’ve learned is about survivor’s guilt. It’s like the ghosts of everyone you loved, and anyone at all, who died in the genocide, haunting you. The author Primo Levi struggled with it all his post-Auschwitz life. He finally succumbed in 1987, committing suicide, although that interpretation of his fatal fall in a stairwell is certainly debatable.

He also struggled against survivor bias: coming to selective conclusions based only on the survivors’ input, because those who didn’t survive aren’t there to chime in. It’s the feeling that you’re more than lucky. The feeling that in some way you deserve your good fortune because of some merit or virtue within you. The thesis of one of Levi’s books, “The Drowned and the Saved,” is that it was through no quality, but by pure chance, that anyone who was caught up as a victim in the genocide against various categories of humans during the second World War survived beyond the fall of the European Axis regimes. Levi was useful to the Germans because of his knowledge of chemistry, but he attributes his survival to a series of moments when he happened to be in right place at the right time.

Consciously, overtly, on the surface, Levi was willing to indulge in survivor’s guilt and determined to repudiate survivor bias.

I have an interpretation of survivor bias, which Levi himself may have arrived at in his unconscious, as he pitted bias against guilt, and goes like this: “I’m not unique, I’m a normal person, but somehow I’ve survived, whereas others haven’t. If I’m normal, it’s normal to have survived. Therefore, my survival is the norm, even as extraordinary as it might seem.”

That is, my good luck is no better than anyone else’s good luck. And, though I’m aware that there are all kinds of luck, anyone can find themselves blessed with my kind, the good kind.... read more