The Factory Store

or Telling Lies to Children, or Education in America.

So, do you remember when you were a child and someone asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I don’t either, but let me ask differently, have you asked any child this?  This magical, mystical, and ultimately mystifying question was answered once, and to my mind definitively, by Bill Watterson in Calvin & Hobbes:

Calvin: “When a kid grows up, he has to be something. He can’t just stay
the way he is

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. But a tiger grows up and stays a tiger why is that?”
Hobbes: “No room for improvement.”
Calvin: “Of all the luck, my parents had to be humans.”
Hobbes: “Don’t take it too hard. Humans provide some very important protein.”

There are then the fantasy choices of “princess” and “knight” (always a strict gender division in our options) and now I suppose most kids want be some sort of “idol” or celebrity X.  I’m not sure anyone wants to be in the protection racket anymore.  Fire Departments are depleted and that seems way too selfless (you could die and you don’t get to taze anyone) while Police are way too scary now as they seem constantly in riot gear.

Possibly kids still say “Doctor” or “Nurse” (and it must be a sign of our failures in society that we still seem to promote gender divisions in this).

Let’s not argue here about the philosophical problem of attaching identity and being to an occupation, especially when we are told we must always be prepared to change our “careers” (and does this mean alter our identities?).  Instead we can be inspired for there is a new dream for our children.  Indentured servitude.  Oh, wait that’s not new.  What I mean is a new dream of freedom!  No, that’s not right either.  I mean a new thing to be when we grow up!

Biotechnicians.  Sigh…doesn’t it just give you goosebumps and make you tingly inside?  Our local agitprop for the business managers of america in Bloomington, Indiana declares, “Summer workshop at Ivy Tech gives high school students a taste of bioscience careers.

Here is the article in full filed by April Toler today.  It’s accompanied by a photo of two girls in lab tech suits and goggles.  I’ll interject in the body of the piece.

Walking around a lab in Ivy Tech’s Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, 15-year-old Rachael Mosley feels right at home.

This is a sly and significant trope.  Home and the Lab.  Get used to it–you recall that recently we’ve been reading about the suicides at the “dorms” built for workers in the Apple (and other fine upstanding American corporations) manufacturing plants in Asia.  This is nothing new in labor relations though–where do you think the Lowell Mill Girls lived?

In fact, there aren’t many other places the Bloomington High School North student, who’s taking part in the college’s Biotech Summer High School Workshop, would rather spend her summer.

“I really like being in the lab,” said Mosley. “That’s my favorite part.”

Mosley is one of 15 students taking part in this year’s workshop, which, according to Sengyong Lee, professor and program chair of Ivy Tech’s biotechnology program, was developed to increase students’ awareness of bioscience-related careers and to help recruit “well-educated/trained” employees for such jobs.

Honesty, at least.

Because the program is funded through a grant, it is free to students who through completion of the program can also earn three college credits at the college.

1. This worker training is paid for by you and me, subsidized by state funds, to benefit a private employer in Bloomington, The Cook Group.  Do you think Cook has a “worker dormitory” project in the offing?

Clint Merkel, Director of the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, in a press release found on the Ivy Tech blog tells us: “The workshop meets a direct need for increasing student awareness of the life sciences industry in the greater Bloomington area…According to the Bloomington Life Sciences Partnership, Bloomington’s employment in the life sciences industry is six times greater than the national average. Additionally, a 2010 BIO/Battelle study rated Bloomington as the highest among U.S. communities its size in per capita medical device employment, and third highest in pharmaceutical employment.”

2. THREE college credits for 9 days?????  That’s the equivalent of a semester.  Am I misreading that?  Is there more to the program?

“Ivy Tech Bloomington’s biotechnology program has been supplying well-educated workforces to our local bioscience companies, however, we wanted to recruit more high school students to our workforce development pipeline,” Lee said in an email. “Many high school students want to become doctors and nurses but they don’t know much about so many bioscience career options that can make similar positive impact on our society.”

And there it is folks…the NOBLE career of biotech factory line worker.  Glory and Hallelujah!  Our children can now dream in the black and white realities of worker training.  Man, am I proud to be an enlightened Westerner.  Listen to that language–your child can now be funneled into a pipeline JUST like the oil and gas we funnel into our “use/waste” systems.  And it’s as good as being a Doctor or Nurse.  The positivity of standing or sitting over tubes and spectrographs and whatnots is indeed equivalent to healing and caring for the human person.

Throughout the students’ nine days in the program, they not only learn about the bioscience industry and career options, but receive hands-on lab experience.

This week, the group was extracting DNA through food items to see if the food had been genetically modified.

“They receive not only experience but an understanding of what biotechnology is and an understanding of what lab work is involved,” said Sarah Cote, professor at Ivy Tech.

Although some students may prefer spending their summer sitting poolside, for Makayla Culbertson, 15, there is nothing better than suiting up in a white lab coat, safety glasses and blue latex gloves and conducting research alongside her fellow, future scientist.

“I’ve always enjoyed science so I don’t mind spending my time in a lab,” she said.

Um…science?  “I’ve always enjoyed line work on the factory floor.”  How is it that we’ve allowed tech-labor to be classified as science?

As for the program, Culbertson said it’s a great way to not only study a subject she loves, but to also gain experience that might help her down the road.

“It’s really interesting to learn all this stuff and every bit of experience helps,” she said.

So, what this article does is promote the “STEM fantasy for girls.”  Do we then equate this with the Mill Factory Fantasy for Girls?

Is there a difference?


Look, this is where we are manipulated by our business managers–the local press and the local corporation and the local “public/private” hybrid called “Ivy Tech.”  These are the INTERESTED parties who manage our lives and continue to manufacture the fables of culture.

This piece gives us the fable by the writer, April Toler, while also telling us the truth (which is rare)–the fable of equality for women in science vs. the truth of being educated for labor camp employment subsistence wages.

If history and the culture of repressive societies are any guide, women are perfect for this brave new world.

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  1. SS July 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I think this piece, or rather the piece in the HT, is interesting to consider purely on a local, economic level. Bloomington’s prominent employer needs lab techs, so as the author says why not throw some high school kids in the pipeline? I hear what you’re saying about the factory/labor aspect, but this is Bloomington’s factory. Are there any merits in the local effort? If this were, say, P&G coming in and hosting a “camp” for high school kids in the community to gain college credit in bioscience, that seems a much worse and blatant offense. Of course this is my own reading. The article makes no such claims on local economy, and likely has nothing to do with this program to get high school kids in labs.

    Wouldn’t it have been more honest for Lee to just say “A lot of you won’t be able to be a doctor (or nurse) because you’re either not smart enough, or not rich enough. So, here you go, kids. This will be your only option.” But yes, biotech lab = modern factory. We have dressed up our modern science factories as a new salvation (thank you, Jeanette Winterson), or at least glorified them as luxurious career options.

    Having said all that, I was reading James’ Portrait of a Lady today, and in this particular chapter a female character was aghast at another relationship, describing them horrifically as “two chemicals mixing together!” I thought it was funny in light of this. Look out, kids…chemicals mix together and do bad shit!!!

  2. Focus July 15, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    There are statistically more women applying to college than men currently. The same is true for medical school. The financial burden of those student loans is astounding. The medical profession isn’t what it used to be and paying off those loans is a major issue for almost all physicians graduating today. It is true that not everyone can be a doctor or nurse–the harsh reality however is that it is too much of a financial burden that has nothing to do with inherent ability.
    With the numbers of women applying to college and medical school it is not surprising to see an emphasis on STEM. Women have long been considered deficient or lagging behind the men in these disciplines, whether that is true or not.
    The thing we are rapidly losing amid all this push to technology is the respect for individuals inherent skill sets. Some are distinguished by athletic prowess, others with a gift for language or art. Still others in working with their hands or teaching. These skills should be rewarded and stimulated–but all too often–with the exception of athletics-they are relegated to second tier skills.
    The man who did framing of my house is an artisan. He is a carpenter by trade but he has an inherent skill in working with wood. His custom moldings, fireplace mantels and built in bookshelves make my home unique. This is what he does to make a living. The work that brings him joy is custom furniture and that is where his artistry shows through.
    I have gotten vastly off topic but my point is this: we can’t all be good at the same things and no one is good at everything. Our individuality and our individual skills combine to make the whole better. We cannot all populate the factory.

  3. Sarah Stup July 16, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I think primarily my point is that this is a sideshow intended as misdirection for creating a low-wage tech labor force for the anonymous worker in America (ie, any and all of us).

    It is irrelevant to imagine that gender inequality has altered in the male world of capitalism or corporate feudalism.

    The 60s offered, perhaps, an intellectual argument for women not to be an “underclass.” But that argument was hi-jacked to benefit the corporate order. And women were not praised for their unique role in our living. They were exalted to be “more equal” in the economic workforce.

    Say “yay” to that if you will, but turning mothers and daughters into drones and factory girls and abandoning all sense of “home” as the place of family and the locus of true life has left all of us adrift looking for “meaning” in a soulless and meaningless environment–wearing hazmat suits and killing our future.

  4. focus July 16, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I would have to agree with you Sarah. The argument was completely hijacked and as women we “cannot have it all.”
    There was recently a piece in the Atlantic Monthly about just that topic.

    Not meaning to hijack this post with the much larger subject of women in the working force in general and the never ending tug of war of work and home on women today–it does relate however.
    In a utopia of universal health care, fair and equal wages, exemplary child care and generous maternity and paternity leaves perhaps this would not be an issue. But that utopia does not exist and in our current state women are leaving their homes and children to work, for wages that barely pay the cost of the childcare required to let them have the time to work. It’s a catch-22 of epic proportions and I don’t know the answer. I am a professional with an advanced degree. My hours are long. I don’t see my children enough. I can work less but the establishment does not consider that working enough.
    Ugh I need to stop. I am really veering off course.

    1. Doug July 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

      when the US spends 60% of it’s budget on defense…is there “world enough and time” to care about gender equality in the workplace?

      we need to radically reconfigure our lives. If I can’t say no to tech, can I say no to the war machine? or are they now inseparable?


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