Re: grading / mapping society

Bob King (
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 22:29:09 -0400

On Fri, 6 Sep 1996, Beth W. Baldwin wrote:
> Steve, I don't think it's an either/or proposition either. I also don't
> think that Bob was arguing for either/or as much as he was pointing out
> that things seem a little skewed now in the direction of personal
> betterment rather than civic betterment.

Yes, I'm saying that things are skewed.

And what I'm presenting is neither an either-or nor a both-and. I'm
presenting instead a shift in metaphors, towards something like "occupying
subject positions with an overall awareness of context" -- still
playing into the metaphor of actor-pomo-self.

My argument needs a map of society, to supply the overall context in
which to situate what I'm saying. Let's say there are 5 major social
institutions: the family, religion, education, business, and government.
Then let's say the first two, family and religion, are mainly private
matters. The leaves three public "voices" in the pomo self that
makes up the organic whole of society.

One of these voices speaks unequivocally for personal betterment and
profit -- that's business. Sure, business people do good civic stuff, but
they aren't trying to fool anyone about where they stand -- they
first and foremost need to make a profit. That's the subject position
they occupy, that's their voice, and let's say that's a good thing as long
as it gets balance from somewhere else in society.

Another of the public voices needs to speak unequivocally for civic
betterment and the values of citizenship and community -- that would be
education. Yes, schools are also businesses, but we shouldn't be
fooling ourselves that our bottom line is anything but citizenship.
This doesn't mean that schools are utterly unlike businesses, or that we
shouldn't be concerned about our students finding work. Schools of
necessity have their business aspects, and we should be concerned about
students finding meaningful work. It also doesn't mean that we, or anyone
else, should forego a living wage because of our mission. It means only
that we need to speak and name the world from the subject position of
citizen. Maybe that's our job.

The third public voice needs to referree the structural conflict
between the first two -- that would be government. Another subject
position in the composite psyche. Sure, government is like a
business in some ways, and is concerned with education, but its
primary role in America is to mediate the clash/balance of
powers between the voice of personal betterment and the voice of civic

Educators need to watch for being co-opted not only by business metaphors
such as competition, comparative grading and tracking, but also for being
co-opted by now defunct ideologies of education-for-education's-sake (the
gentleman's club that Steve wrote of, the museum-piece academic that
Eric wrote of). Thanks to those who attended to this kind of long