When we labor “in the mode of information,” what do we become (Bosquet 62)?
It’s a big question, and one I think we covered pretty in-depth in class, but this conceptualization of labor in conjunction with the student and higher education has really gotten me thinking. As we discussed in class, in our society, education has become a business and we are the obligatorily (and perhaps blindly) smiling consumers.
But in this way, we become more than just costumers, I think. When we labor only “in the mode of information,” students and teachers (laborers) become things (Bosquet 62).
Laboring solely “in the mode of information” serves to limit the capacity of creative or independent thinking. It reifies people, the individual, the laborer (Bosquet 62). The individual serves one specific purpose and no other, and you are not to change that intended purpose for the sake of the sanity of the management, the societal engineers who created that structure (of education?) (Bosquet 62-65). You are not to be a force of disruption (of innovation?). In this way, I guess that people have, in a sense, a sort of technology within themselves. They possess intellectual technology that they can use to disrupt (innovate?) if given the power to move of their own will, to question, to research. In this vein of thinking the laborer (student, teacher) is but a channel, a carrier for a good or service always at the beck and call of another, whether it be a manager or the pressures of a society to choose a certain academic concentration over another. It’s almost as if your whole life and profession can be swept away with a key stroke and defined by a series of those same strokes (Bosquet 62-65). In that way, humans become chess pieces of sorts, subjected to the whims of some invisible hand. This way of thinking limits the value of education and the passions it helps us to strive for, as well as the real good that education can do for individuals, which Hank Green will discuss in the first video I link to below. That reification of the student/teacher/laborer may also be seen as the idea of the nonexistence of change. No worries, no free thinking, no “disruptive innovation” (Lepore/Christensen). All is as it should be and it will always stay that way.
In this vein of thinking, students become Charlie Bucket, hoping for the chance to find that golden ticket in a Wonka Bar, to access a world of thinking and being that is full of life yet, in a way, forbidden to them. That ticket gives him the chance to change his future, to be more and to have more than what he has in that moment. It gives him a chance to realize his dream and to find his passion. I remember viewing this film as a child, and again a few months ago. I think we root for Charlie because of the purity of his heart. He is earnest and passionate in every action he undertakes. He is curious about the Wonka factory and the man himself. He never ceases to question his surroundings and to strive to better his life for himself, but also for those he loves. He is the “student” that is always taking the opportunity to “educate” himself, in a way, even as he walks the hallowed halls of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
But there is another side to this.
Charlie’s life in this novel/film is a product of societal inequality. He and his family (6 in total I believe) live in a ramshackle of a house and eat cabbage “soup” on a daily basis. This shaped how he saw himself and his role in the world. In this fortunate case, it made him an idealist, a dreamer. But, if Wonka’s hadn’t have been a business that was seeking a new “employee”, it is very likely that Charlie the dreamer would never had captured our hearts the way he did. I know that I would like to believe that his passion would have manifested itself in some other way, but the realities of systemic economic and social inequality do not share in my sunny disposition. Following this very, very jagged offshoot of a train of thought, Charlie’s opportunity for “education” would never have been possible. He would have denied access because it was not his role to question, to want or to ask for more than what was given to him. He would have probably followed the path of his parents; taking the “rational” and “realistic” path instead of embarking on the risky journey of perhaps one day owning a chocolate factory, partly because it is possible that he wouldn’t think that he ever could even do such a thing.
Berrett describes how this trend manifested itself in the lives of real students who were beginning their own journeys into the realm of higher education. He states that during
[t]hat year students were most likely to major in business. The discipline’s rise seemed inexorable. In the 1930s, around the time Reagan went to college, about 8 percent of students studied in “business and commerce.” When he was elected governor, that share was 12 percent. By the time he moved into the White House, more students majored in business than anything else. It’s held that top spot ever since. In the early 80s, most freshmen said they’d chosen their college because they thought it would help them get a better job. The previous top reason? Learning more about things that interested them” (Berrett).
Please consider that quote while viewing the following video:
Is School Broken?
Curiosity is the Greatest Human Quality:
Our commoditization of higher education has diminished that curiosity that Hank Green describes in his second video, as does laboring “in the mode of information” (Bosquet 62). Education becomes more about the means to a monetary end instead of the opportunity to find your passion and to realize your dreams. Those are the great gifts afforded to us by education, and it is crucial that their true value never be diminished. That curiosity, that endless questioning and thirst for knowledge that is fueled by the passion to be and to do more is being slowly lessened by this business model of education that trains students to think about certain majors as the only sure tickets to a secure future, even if it is not their dream. This, I believe, is the source of the greatest heartbreak that no amount of Wonka’s chocolate bars could ever relieve. Still, I don’t think this is hopeless. Becoming aware of the power of education, and working to share that, to empower others to access this opportunity to learn, to better themselves, is the key to making a positive and lasting change in the conceptualization of higher education and the future of those students in the workforce. And that involves the acknowledgement and overcoming of deeper social issues such as the economic and social inequality that I briefly discussed earlier. Those ideas have permeated into our society so deeply and cultivated the attitudes of so many that the road ahead is a rough one, but one that will be ever so worthwhile. Maybe that’s just blind optimism, but maybe it isn’t. Those are, after all, just some thoughts—but they will never be just some things.