Teachers and students, take back control of the school: teach it as tech-galley | John D Hammerschmidt

How do we really measure progress as a society? A great teacher likes to use the old term “creative destruction”. It implies that when society undergoes sudden and drastic changes, a kind of reordering takes place; and as it starts to change, material accumulation and accumulation of capital is halted and turned over to those who benefit from the changes (and who are in turn separated from their own traditions, identities and interests).

We call it the living wage. What happens when creative destruction sets in, having to do with a fossil fuel monopoly and its material and political allies?

It takes a lot of resources to fight a fossil fuel monopoly. Your phone costs a lot of money. You need electricity. Houses cost a lot of money. “Uniting the tech-galley”, however, requires gathering together all those resources and resources to stop the ability of a government, corporation or wealthy individual to override basic natural and political laws in order to gain control of the means of production. You’ve done this already.

As educators, we are now trying to create “transformative learning”. But whether it’s really transformational is a question for students, not teachers.

The technology companies responsible for the exploitation of each generation have created industries – not institutions – that are designed to make workers very uncompensated, having to work for 12-hour days and overnight, in contract-only positions, for deeply indentured lifestyles, with little or no rights. They’ve taken their dirty tricks to our classrooms.

We’re teaching high school. We’re barely different from their kids. They use far less student labour than we do. And their profits are fine, as long as your kids don’t recognize that they are being exploited.

Students know that their employers are stealing from them. They know that their future, as laid out by the ruling class, is bleak. They know what the top 1%’s household incomes look like. They are more than capable of understanding the connection between the exploitation of our most vulnerable, first-year students, and the growing problem of the widening gap between the living wages of most people in this country, and the obscenely vast wealth of the top 1%.

Is there a way to think outside the oil companies and talk about capitalism today without “gonna end us up in the streets”? We want our teachers to teach us to think outside of these invisible boxes. We want our teachers to be for-profit employers. That’s why we are conducting a wide-ranging exercise called Imagine Not Living in Big Tech’s World. We’re trying to get enough teachers to say “I’m not getting paid enough”.

Reaping insane profits, supporting fossil fuel corporations and demonizing the pay and conditions of education workers is good for fossil fuel companies, not great for students.

I didn’t become a social change theorist because I want everyone to have Diaspora, kids living anywhere in this world, exposed to everyone’s creative destruction. I really want everybody to have a living wage. “Capitalism” doesn’t exist, but the “new” capitalism exists within each person, built on exploitation and slavery. Every time the tech-galley needs a crisis, we are subject to a “reorganisation”. This, in turn, places us in the grip of the very companies that exploit us. We need to take the power over our own economy away from these companies and reverse their destructive practices.

If we all teach students that they have choices – choices to get free money, choices to get paid wages, choices to negotiate with their bosses – we could stop the horrific excesses of the oil industry.

It’s hard to explain to kids that we are all working for somebody, and that your creators and keepers are taking this power away from you. Don’t give your kids false consciousness, and they’ll learn the truth.

If we’re worried about how little power the teachers’ unions can wield in American education, we need to show our students that we are not asleep and doing nothing. We can teach about the technological companies responsible for the exploitation of each generation. Teach our students that student labour is not an optional extra. Teachers, commit yourself to the transformation of your profession, so that you can save those kids, because they depend on it.

John D Hammerschmidt is a robotics teacher.

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