Desertification, or Living Nowhere

Be True to Your School Be True to Your School

Be True to Your School

Here are things I cannot change that make me angry and perhaps you might share a similar list: War; anything that is war dressed up under other terms; fraud; exclusionary self-interest; that same interest commended and encouraged as something natural; profit calculated via actuarial risks.  And so on.  In other words, American culture, American economy, American foreign policy, American business.

As a friend intimated…honey, not vinegar.  The above brings out the vinegar in me and will draw forth bile.  When that happens some are with me, and some agin me, and ne’er the tween shall meet.

I don’t have honey.  But I want to talk about one thing that I think we all share in some degree.  I believe in communal strength.  That is the strength of common bonds.  That is the strength of human friendship.  That is loyalty and trust.

I think many of you do too.  But it seems to me as if we have replaced all of these things over the last 200-plus years.  Instead we offer contract and property and we reap morality from that seed.

I defend the public school.  I do not defend the state.  I defend community.  I do not defend authority.

My contention is that you can see our errors on the whole in our cultural organization by simply taking a look at the school; but further, you can see where we might right ourselves in our schools.  And still further, the ways in which we are trying to turn even further against community.

I am simply asking you to think about terms like “neighbor” and “community” and “friend” and “trust” and “loyalty” and how they are or are not embodied in our current society.

I am afraid these terms are not longer real.  We are detached from each other.  We fight over abstractions.  We “nationalize” our ideologies and prejudices.

Fighting about testing in our schools is a real fight.  But it is, I think, a decoy.  In America all of our technology and all of our “innovation” serves to further isolate us.  It’s true that allowing the massive testing to go forward will exacerbate this and that’s why it is worth fighting and standing against.

But to not see it as only a part of a larger truth is to forfeit the field in the midst of the battle.

Schools are a kind of local identity and a kind of local geography–a very definite point on the map of our memories.  Breaking them up, filling them with itinerant labor (corporate instructors), closing them when they fail to make a profit, these things will erase a kind of community memory and create a further fracturing of community identity.

Schools as corporate pods of production will further our march towards “singularity” and self-interest to exclusion of even the idea of being a neighbor.

With this and a thousand other commercial cuts (big box stores, malls, amazon, etc.) we will be citizens of the Utopia that translates “Nowhere.”

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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