A system that cannot conceive
stopping and dreads a slowdown has developed its cultural complement
in a postmodern sensibility that adores novelty, dreads boredom, and
far from operating as a ‘fetter’ on capitalism, encourages its
-Sheldon Wolin, Politics
[I]ntellectual activity, according
to me, is, and must be, disinterested - the truth is a two-edged
sword, even to the extreme of dying on it, then all of one’s
intellectual activity is a masturbatory delusion and a wicked and
-James Baldwin, “Take Me to the
What you are left with is a system that selects the best possible cogs.If
the heart to be transplanted in your system is not compatible, you
die. “Foreign,” nonetheless, the new heart must fit like a glove.
Different from the “original,” it must serve as the perfect
surrogate. Its difference and its newness virtually invisible. For
the survival of the system, designed to protect itself from the
foreign, deception is a priority: The new heart must act in such a
way as to convince the system that change will not spell its end.
Intruders are not welcomed.
usually begins with the seemingly innocuous. An understanding and
acceptance of hierarchical configurations of people and subjects,
your willingness to “go with the flow” and “look the part,”
and spend “free” time engaging the “free market.” Shopping,
while expressing taste in the exquisite and most
expensive is a test of your ability to “fit in.”
take you out of the classroom, possibly for as long as a week. So
enjoy the travel, the hotel service, the meals, the camaraderie, the
exchange of ideas, so long as you know, work on slavery, the working
class, liberation, and most importantly, the “political economy,”
are outdated, a red flag signaling your mental instability. For
“ideas” now are catchy if not chic, dazzling and entertaining.
Marketable! Everyone should think: How cleaver! I should have thought
of that! Think: Post-modern! Think: Post Racial!
multiple choice exams! Sure, even for literature! Easier for you and
the best way to accumulate high scores on student evaluations of you
and your course! Easier for the “consumers” in our classrooms,
too, whose sophistication is limited…but remember your salary! The
“C” is better than the “D” unless the “D” permits the
customer to repeat the course again and even maybe a second time,
thereby generating more income for the campus and keeping those
bodies warming seats for the next batch of freshmen classes.
the rules and you will fit in nicely. Stay “low key,” invisible
when it comes to the technicalities.
Assure students through every classroom task and homework assignment that the big world of corporate Fatherland awaits them.Modus
operandi in higher education for the expulsion of the “unruly” is
already written and time-tested in the worn, yellow-paged,
blood-stained manual passed down generation after generation. Once in
the hands of powerful politicians and charismatic civic leaders, it
sits in the palms of Robber Barons and corporate CEOs and their
minions of hardworking gold diggers. Collectively, they oversee a
political economy in which the new and different must not threatened
the safety and survival of the system.
The death and transfiguration of
democratic hopes, first at the hands of modern and then of postmodern
power-formations, is not proof that Marx misunderstood the economy of
modern power but rather that he fatally underestimated the
anti-democratic tendencies in its requirements. The political world
of contemporary capitalism is the bittersweet vindication of his
insight into the political primacy of economic formations. Instead of
being absorbed into Marx’s ‘permanent revolution,’ capitalism
‘incorporates’ it and thereby achieves the final stage of history
when the economics fulfills Marx’s prophecy of a ‘world-creating’
power, a universality, a totality. (Sheldon Wolin, Politics
impact on higher education allows for everyone and every field of
study to be incorporated smoothly and without disruption, in order to
serve the development of capitalism. As Wolin writes, the vocabulary
of postmodernism, at odds with “essentialism, centered discourse,
foundationalism, and historical narrative,” serves to
disable its theorists from
confronting the basic characteristics of contemporary
power-formations whose precise characteristics are to be: centralized
yet quick to react, essentially economic, founded on corporate
capital, global, and best understood in terms of developments over
theory yes! But what theorists are permitted to “fit in” if what
is to be transplanted is critical of corporate capitalism today?
as “revolt,” the “cascade of ‘critical theory’” actually
“functions as support rather than opposition,” Wolin argues.
Supposedly “expressions of originality and intellectual freedom,”
critical theory legitimizes “forms of power that thrive/depend upon
producing accelerated rates of change that leave opposition outdated
before its case is mustered.” .In short, this collective of
thought, “encourages” the “rhythms” of the system.
only death admissible is that of democracy!
few days past the first day of class and, in the hallways, cafeteria,
and the classroom, the laughter generated by my dreads has been
replaced with turned heads. Among the students, at least, I am
invisible. Black colleagues to show off boots or to take me to shops
where they purchase rings at $200 each are absent.
No troublemakers shouting “academic freedom” would be permitted.Here,
at this art college in Philadelphia on Benjamin Franklin Parkway,
real prime land, the very well-dressed, in shinny black suits and
chic evening gowns step out of chauffeured-driven limousines, and of
course you do not exist, as they enter the campus’ front door and
pass on their way to a gallery showing. At the end of my day, while I
waited for the “guests” to file by so I could leave the campus, I
would stand there seeing myself step out in front of them.
I am not one of the cafeteria workers or a member of security, but
actually a teacher (I
think I was one of two or three Black faculty there at the time),
proud to have come of age
during the Black Power era, and EDUCATE for resistance, and you
capitalists! - someone awaiting the death of capitalism!
I am not suicidal! Accidents can happen when a raving mad Black woman
with a cell phone and satchel on Franklin Parkway shouts she awaits
the death of capitalism!
cafeteria has been closed off to students. They have been sent out
for lunch on this high-priced Parkway with vouchers, complements of
the art college who would like to make a good impression with its
you mind, I asked the
students once as they filed into the classroom one late afternoon.
Oh, its fine! At
this small, private college where the tuition per year is a worker’s
salary - it is fine students are asked to vacate the premise. Several
students chew on snack food in the minutes before the start of class.
Prepping for their delivery to the “host,” they have been vetted and groomed for the corporation that will have them!Pick
your battles! These students, dressed in the smartest, hippest
outfits, vampire attire, heels, tights, skimpy wear, salon-styled
hair cuts, and manicured nails, hailing from prep schools in and out
of the city, have not asked the question themselves as to why they
are sent away from campus - and many of them live on campus. The few
Black, Brown, and Yellow students did not see in me, this strange
phenomenon thrown at them, any “kinship,” for I was not the one
who convinced them that a corporate job as graphic or fashion
designer would await them if they enrolled at the college, if they
worked hard, and won the attention of professors in their fields.
I was an English professor asking them to read short stories and
novels, pointing out “weird” stuff, they photographers and
sculptors could barely see and cared even less about, since people
“my age” would tend to see what is not there, since people “my
age” grew up in a different era. Those days were over! Even the few
students of color agreed - emphatically!
did I qualify to teach them!
hung in the air above our classroom. Other questions from the
students were harder to come by. We usually ask questions of the
texts, of what we read, of the ideas within the text.
To write a paper?
student balks, gathers her things, and walks out of class - before
the end of the first week!
remaining students stare as if envisioning the end of everything they
know and have been told. And they have been told the truth by every
corporate-engineered communicator, human or machine. Prepping for
their delivery to the “host,” they have been vetted and groomed
for the corporation that will have them!
did I qualify to teach them!
course the subject of Blacklisting in the United States, Blacklisting
in academia, was not something the admission at this college or any
other would have wanted me to discuss with students. I was available
to teach the course, a freshmen-level composition course I had taught
for years, as opposed to the higher-level literature courses more
aligned with my doctorate, courses I had also taught in the past,
until a Midwestern university system, with few “minority” faculty
and students, and funded by the corporations and the Pentagon decided
that my “perspective” on “race, gender, class,” unsettled the
students. I was available when I spoke to the outgoing
chair by phone, and when
he called back to say the course was mine to teach, I asked when I
could meet him. You can’t!
I am packed and ready to go!
He was moving on, it sounded, to a campus in the South. The campus
will welcome me.
I was a surprise for the new, young chair and the dean, I referred to
as “Dr.____” - not to mention the students.
did I qualify to teach at Moore College of Art and Design in
did not have time to do my own “homework.” Classes started just a
week or so after the second call from the outgoing chair. Not until a
friend in California sent me information on previous professors,
seniors, union reps and union faculty - dismissed, including the
union itself, did I understand that this college intended to keep its
chic galleries, including work by the artistic-minded faculty, on
display for its moneyed guests. No troublemakers shouting “academic
freedom” would be permitted to grace its halls.
I mention the salary for someone with a doctorate, a specialty, and
years of teaching experience forced to teach as an “adjunct”? For
one month of work, I was paid $640.00 - take home!
dean, hired by the president, was not a “Dr._____” In other
words, she did not possess a doctorate degree, and the president of
the college? Just call me “Happy”! Once a candidate for mayor in
Philadelphia, now a kind of “CEO” of the college campus, Happy
will bring in millions for renovations - millions for corporate
builders. A few years before I arrived on campus, this-
Eighty-three percent of
the full-time faculty at Moore College of Art and Design voted no
confidence in the college's president, Moore Federation of Teachers
announced at a news conference today.
members called on college president Happy Fernandezi
to step down, saying she is jeopardizing academic excellence and
stifling academic freedom at the only women's art college in the
was already too late. Professor Steve Sherman, former union president
at Moore before Happy Fernandez fired him in 2008:
Our administration has been
eliminating or dumbing down courses and course requirements (and
portfolio requirements for admission to the college). This
accomplishes two things in their way of thinking. They imagine that
enrollment will go up if it is easier to get into the college, and
that more generalized easier courses mean that particular faculty are
evening when I attempted to introduce the first Black, full-length
text in the course - unusual for me and this was late October!, the
students became hysterical. Bone
Black by cultural
theorist, bell hooks, and her memoir was just too much.
didn’t wear black so causally in the 50s. Certainly not children!
It was generally a color people wore at funerals…
Cash wore Black!”
privatized schools where educational institutions and “education”
itself resembles a “prison” under surveillance, the “customers,”
as opposed to ”inmates,” have come to believe they are endowed
with “freedoms” previous generations could only imagine. The
students are “consumers,” and in that knowledge is
freedom! “Electronic technologies,” writes Wolin, “(computers,
video, Internet) epitomize the combination of the illusion of
individual freedom/power with the encapsulation of the individual in
a cocoon from which escape seems an incoherent idea.”
What theorists are permitted to “fit in” if what is to be transplanted is critical of corporate capitalism today?Why,
as “student-consumers,” they are “idolized” while other
populations of young adults are targeted by the police apparatus, is
never questioned because, to use Wolin’s words, “self-interest,
competitiveness, acceptance of hierarchy, and complicity in
imperialism,” become accepted elements in the idea of a virtuous
citizen.” Despite the legacy of Vietnam and, more recently, the
lie that produced “shock
and awe, and the deaths of women and children from U.S. drones,
college students still sign up with the armed forces. But history is
student-consumer pays good money to be always right, and chairs,
deans, and presidents want to make the students happy - or the guests
do not grace the campus with their presence and donate funds to
sustain - the “education” some graphic artist was hired to
illustrate on brochures, flyers, and billboards.
are all one big happy family, pushing our students toward success!
But I had to go! How could I be considered among the “professional”
if on the campus classroom
email site, mind you,
(who is more aware of surveillance?), I communicate to students about
their behavior in class!
“on your toes” - this posture in the year 2012 - after slavery,
after legalized segregation, and now during the capitalist
revolution, is neither mentally or physically healthy! Truth-telling
barely enters the classroom and when it does…
corporate-funded education is in need of loyal collaborators, with or
without doctorate degrees, happy or unhappy! The criterion is loyalty
to the free market! As foot soldiers for the Ministry of Propaganda,
salute the flag and then assure students through every classroom task
and homework assignment that the big world of corporate Fatherland
awaits them! Be gentle if you discover a “lift” here and there
from the Internet. There are rules on paper, but be gentle. Above
all, faithfulness, efficiency, and your wiliness to be uncompromising
toward a democratic reality qualify you to teach the future
Corporations are extensively engaged
in administering penal institutions and operating health-care
systems, and they have assumed important roles at every level of
public and private education, undertaking to operate primary school
systems, establish universities, and collaborate in joint projects
with academic researchers. (Appropriately, corporate centers have
exchanged the name of ‘headquarters,’ with military connotations,
[i]n the course of these
developments public services formerly undertaken for he benefit of
recipients are objects of profit. At the same time, the folkways of
government emulate corporate ways. Conceptions of management and
efficiency, even profitability are adopted. The ideal of two distinct
‘spheres,’ the public and the private, is scrambled as public
functions become privatized and private modes of operation
is not a publicized objective! What you are left with is not
“education” but a system that selects the best possible cogs and,
of course, collaborators for its survival. It is all about profits,
controlling dissent, and rejecting the adverse idea of democracy.
is privatization - so smooth, you hardly notice it is there!
Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate
in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Click
contact Dr. Daniels.
Happy Fernandez resigned in May, 2012.