DSISD Commons #8

In this one,

  • Dyslexia and shame
  • Open Education Pedagogy
  • Compliance culture and school to prison
  • The False Promise of Education
  • Special Education in Texas
  • These kids were bursting to tell someone
  • Created serendipity
  • Average social sensitivity and psychological safety in teams
  • Eye contact and neurodiversity
  • Connected Students and Explicit Instruction
  • Critical thinking
  • Coding, Education, and Teams
  • Writing in education in the age of collaboration

Dyslexia and shame

Most schools and reading programs designed for remediation of dyslexia are based on the idea that dyslexia equals brokenness. Their aim is to transform the child into a person who can read without problems. But I’m here to tell you that’s just wrongheaded. I’ve learned that if you make your primary goal teaching your child to read or spell just like every other child, you’re going to decrease your child’s chances of achieving success. It’s like telling a person in a wheelchair that she needs to put in more time to learn how to walk.

I am introducing these terms to address an underlying bias in our schools: that eye reading is the only form of reading. You can help move the needle on this limited assumption by using the terms eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading yourself and explaining them to your child. We need to celebrate children’s love of ideas and quest for knowledge and give them permission to not like standard books at the same time! When we give kids opportunities to gather information and explore ideas in other ways, they will thrive.

Focusing on eye reading overlooks the real goals of education, which are learning, independent thinking, and mastering the ability to make new connections in the world of ideas.

A central theme in this book is that we must question what we are taught is the “normal” way to do things, and instead integrate multiple ways for our children to access information.

Source: Foss, Ben (2013-08-27). The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning (Kindle Locations 387-389). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

For more, see Ben Foss on Dyslexia and Shame .

Open Education Pedagogy

Puyallup provides the following advice to other districts thinking about using OER and joining the #GoOpen movement:

1. Free is good, but open is better. The ability to remix and adapt is more important than just free access – it allows you to keep the focus on teachers, honors their professionalism and improves their practice.

2. Think carefully about your platform. If you truly want to share and be open, you need a method of delivery that is accessible to all.

3. OER allow us the opportunity to be 100% aligned to standards. You have to do the work up front to align the materials, or you will lose out on the power of OER to address core instructional needs.

4. Recruit teachers to be ambassadors of OER – their enthusiasm will help to sustain the work.

Source: Puyallup School District: Investment in Teachers – Office of Educational Technology

For an open platform that provides accessible delivery to all, see Communication is oxygen. Build a district wide collaboration infrastructure and an open by default culture.

Compliance culture and school to prison

A collection of links on compliance culture and pipelines.

The False Promise of Education

This piece is chock full of structural ideology and systems thinking. I worked it into my piece on Growth Mindset and Structural Ideology.

But education cannot guarantee opportunity — it’s government policy and economic practices that increase or decrease the likelihood of success. The centrist promise of education is a false promise. This doesn’t mean education cannot be a force of positive social change, just that in its current incarnation, US education discourse simply works to release those with influence from the responsibility of making a social system that supports working people.

This is the centrist’s promise about education: getting an education will save your life; education will be the difference between success and failure. If your house, which also serves as a private daycare, catches fire — and you’re a single mother and have to work twelve hours a day — school will provide a way out. If your company lays you off after thirty years of service, don’t worry, you can get an education and switch careers.

Millions of new workers will enter the job market in 2017, graduating from their “paths to opportunity.” Yet the path to opportunity might not end up anywhere in the face of sluggish to moderate job creation. The number of graduates doesn’t correlate with the number of available jobs. It’s like saying if we teach people how to play musical chairs well enough, everyone will get a seat.

Education’s real promise is that it is one site among many others in the struggle to transform the social structures that create inequality.

Schools don’t necessarily make a better society; they simply get people ready for the society that exists. Recognizing this doesn’t mean giving up on the radical potential of education or descending into a vulgar or mechanistic view of education.

Blending the lessons of the reproductive view and resistance theory provides a crucial, materialist reality check on the centrist view of school. We must fix the social structures which create inequality and poverty in the first place.

If you want most people to be successful in the economy, the economy itself has to work for most people. It won’t matter if most people work harder in school, or if we reform school ad inifinitum. Schools will largely reproduce the existing conditions of the economy, not serve as compensation for the economy’s faults.

But just because getting a job requires having a degree doesn’t mean that more and better schooling will cause there to be more available positions society-wide. To get a job, you have to have a degree. But you don’t have to get a job because you have a degree.

This causal sleight of hand is symptomatic of the centrist promise. Schooling will not cause economic equality in an unequal economy, but it will certify people to find positions within that unequal economy. It may successfully lead folks to positions within society, but it won’t necessarily lead them to social success.

These data show that wealth goes to the wealthy, not the educated. At the macro-level, there is no relationship between socioeconomic success and schooling.

If the centrist promise were true, then greater educational attainment for the broader US population should have coincided with more economic success for more people. If schools create real opportunities for socioeconomic success, there should have been decreasing income inequality as the general population became more educated.

This is clearly not the case.

Schooling cannot control the number or kind of jobs available in an economy.

They articulated a more critical position on education, arguing that public education is part of a broader process of social reproduction: schooling activities correspond to existing echelons of social hierarchy and opportunity, preparing students for positions within that hierarchy. Schooling does not lead to opportunity in the sense that it creates opportunity; it simply prepares students to exist (or not exist) within the opportunity structure that the government and economy create.

Source: The False Promise of Education | Jacobin

Special Education in Texas

Inaccessible, inhumane, and in need of inclusion, neurodiversity, and the social model.

These kids were bursting to tell someone

@sara_ann_marie presents Design for Real Life in 50 minutes. Included is an anecdote about how lowering communication barriers even a little can help kids.

Design for Real Life

Created serendipity

Collaborate and seek perspective in the commons.

Average social sensitivity and psychological safety in teams

This piece on iterating teams at Google offers interesting insight on social sensitivity and psychological safety. I pulled several quotes here. Here are a handful on teams and psychological safety.

In Silicon Valley, software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems. Studies also show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. Within companies and conglomerates, as well as in government agencies and schools, teams are now the fundamental unit of organization. If a company wants to outstrip its competitors, it needs to influence not only how people work but also how they work together.

Google’s People Operations department has scrutinized everything from how frequently particular people eat together (the most productive employees tend to build larger networks by rotating dining companions) to which traits the best managers share (unsurprisingly, good communication and avoiding micromanaging is critical; more shocking, this was news to many Google managers).

Norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather: One team may come to a consensus that avoiding disagreement is more valuable than debate; another team might develop a culture that encourages vigorous arguments and spurns groupthink. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals — they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently — but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team.

As the researchers studied the groups, however, they noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’

Within psychology, researchers sometimes colloquially refer to traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ as aspects of what’s known as psychological safety — a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’

Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson wrote in a study published in 1999. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.

Google, in other words, in its race to build the perfect team, has perhaps unintentionally demonstrated the usefulness of imperfection and done what Silicon Valley does best: figure out how to create psychological safety faster, better and in more productive ways.

‘Don’t underestimate the power of giving people a common platform and operating language.’

Source: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team – The New York Times

I worked this into my piece on Agile and Scrum in Education.

Eye contact and neurodiversity

Don’t force eye contact. Gaze aversion is a sensory processing tool, one necessary to managing overwhelm.

Source: Eye Contact and Neurodiversity – hypubnemata

Connected Students and Explicit Instruction

“The new information economy, as opposed to the older industrial one, demands more innovation and less imitation, more creativity and less conformity.” In other words, this isn’t just about doing school “better.” It’s about transforming our work.

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology.
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally.
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information.
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts.
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Regardless of how we define the skills needed by today’s global graduates, however, it’s undeniable that these needs will continue to morph as our ability to create and share expands and as we face increasingly complex global challenges—climate change, workforce shifts, changing demographics, the growing global threat of terrorism and violence, and more. That’s why, as the late Seymour Papert (1998) said,

The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn …. We need to produce people who know how to act when they’re faced with situations for which they were not specifically prepared.

The bad news, however, is that new research suggests that traditional schooling may actually discourage these dispositions. For example, in one experiment described by Gopnick (2016), 4-year-olds were much less likely to find their own solutions to making a complicated toy work when the experimenter “taught” them (“I’m going to show you how my toy works”) than when the experimenter allowed them to observe her trial-and-error efforts and think about the problem (“Hmmm … I wonder how this toy works?”). As Gopnik writes,

Studies show that explicit instruction, the sort of teaching that goes with school and “parenting,” can be limiting. When children think they are being taught, they are much more likely to simply reproduce what the adult does, instead of creating something new.

The new reality is that our students will be required to build their own curriculums, find their own teachers, and assess themselves as learners and doers in an increasingly complex variety of contexts. That is the work of new global-ready learners. And preparing them for it is the work of the modern school.

Source: Educational Leadership:The Global-Ready Student:Getting Schools Ready for the World

Critical thinking

Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.

Source: Evaluating Information: the Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning

 

Coding, Education, and Teams

Adapting, working in groups, are those, in the end, the two necessary elements required to work in the digital world in general?

In my profession, when you want to hire someone who knows how to code, you make them sit and code. You don’t ask them for their diploma. If they have a diploma, that’s great for them, but we don’t care about it. Coding is a job or a know-how in which a diploma has no importance. In the end, people have it, or they don’t. It may be the case in other fields, but in mine, a diploma is not something that permits you to objectively judge someone when it comes to a know-how. Plus, the fact that there’s no diploma takes away some of the stress for the students.

A diploma also means following rules. 42 is a school that’s open 24/7. At 3 a.m., you can still see between 300 and 400 students working there. So we’re used to a system in which a certain number of rules are necessary in order to get a diploma, but those aren’t compatible with our teaching methods.

We’re doing something that works quite well: We rely on cooperation. People talk a lot about Collaborative Economics nowadays. Well, here at 42, we chose Collaborative Education. What does it means? It means putting people together and making them learn together. The knowledge, you can acquire it from the internet. You can type anything into Google, and there’s your answer. So lessons are useless, you’ll find the best lectures in the world on the internet, if you want to learn. But we do not wish to make them learn stuff by heart, we want to teach them how to develop, work, and live together, to build projects together and to make them happen. That’s what we want to teach them.

Source: Xavier Niel explains 42: the coding university without teachers, books, or tuition | VentureBeat | Entrepreneur | by Arthur Scheuer, Ulyces.co

Writing in education in the age of collaboration

As a hacker and writer, I spend a lot of time in text editors. Almost everything I write starts in my favorite text editor. A text editor is my thinking space. My notes are not just a record of my thinking process, they are my thinking process. Iteration and ideation happen in my editor, in plain text.

In the age of distributed collaboration, we are constantly writing. Equip students with the writing tools and flow popular with hackers, writers, scientists, and screenwriters—plain text & Markdown. Let’s infect education with the love of plain text. It’s portable, flexible, ubiquitous, and humane.

Source: Writing in Education and Plain Text Flow – hypubnemata

DSISD Commons #3

Learn to Code

https://hypubnemata.me/2016/10/10/learn-to-code/

The Pipeline Problem and the Meritocracy Myth

Overcoming diversity and inclusion pipeline problems requires adopting structural ideology and restorative practices in education and work. Do more than blame pipelines, and don’t propagate the meritocracy myth.

https://hypubnemata.me/2016/10/10/the-pipeline-problem-and-the-meritocracy-myth/

Surviving Is Diversity Work

Burnout is a systemic issue in tech and education. Anxiety & impostor syndrome are nurtured in the treadmill of primary education & carry into the relentlessness of tech. Tilting at the thoughtlessness all around us is a full time job on top of all other duties. The flow patrollers, the diversity & inclusion unit testers, are tired.

https://hypubnemata.me/2016/10/11/surviving-is-diversity-work/

Inclusion and Created Serendipity

Inclusive collaboration in the commons improves our heuristics and creates serendipity. Bricolage in the intersections.

https://hypubnemata.me/2016/10/14/created-serendipity-idea-scouting-idea-connecting-coworking-distributed-collaboration-and-intersectional-bricolage/

Developing a voice amidst rubrics and continuous evaluation

Embrace obsession and iteration

Allow iteration without continuous evaluation.

Embracing obsession is critical to teaching neurodivergent kids.

http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/04/30/a-parents-advice-to-a-teacher-of-autistic-kids/

See also the marshmallow challenge.

Gifted, talented, obedient, fearful

This aligns with my experience as a straight-A student.

13th

Why do we need structural ideology and restorative practices? Watch 13th on Netflix.

Learn to Code

Computers are the new paper and ink, & programming is the new literacy.

Source: Get Ready for the Future

What is code?

“What is Code?” is a good primer on software and software culture

https://hypubnemata.me/2016/08/14/what-is-code-code-has-been-my-life-and-it-has-been-your-life-too-it-is-time-to-understand-how-it-all-works/

 

Lynda, Code School, and Treehouse

At my company, we have corporate Code School and Treehouse accounts. I personally haven’t used either, but we like them enough to maintain corporate accounts. A criticism I’ve seen a few times from coworkers new to coding is that Code School “makes too many assumptions on what the user already knows.” The quality of their screencasts is often praised. Experienced programmers like it for leveling up or acquiring a new skill, but some of those new to coding moved from Code School to Lynda.

Feedback on Treehouse is that its format is slower paced. Some liked that, some didn’t.

https://www.codeschool.com/

https://teamtreehouse.com/

I’ve seen Lynda recommended by several coworkers new to coding. I’ve also heard complaints about it getting a little repetitive and boring.

Lynda.com

Swift Playgrounds

If you have an iPad, Apple recently released Swift Playgrounds.

https://www.apple.com/swift/playgrounds/

Thoughts on Swift Playgrounds and programming education on iOS from a Computer Science teacher:

https://www.macstories.net/stories/swift-coding-comes-to-ipad-playgrounds-schools-and-learning-to-code/

Everyone Can Code and Interactive Textbooks

Apple also offers interactive textbooks:

Hacker Ethos

Get hip to the hacker ethos of flexible improvisation and collaboration.

https://hypubnemata.me/2016/08/05/communication-is-oxygen/#hacker-ethos

Other resources

The Pipeline Problem and the Meritocracy Myth

Update: An updated version of this post is available at my main blog.

‪In a structurally racist, sexist, and ableist society, hiring strictly from credentialist pipelines is exclusionary and unethical.‬ Overcoming diversity and inclusion pipeline problems requires adopting structural ideology and restorative practices in education and work. Do more than blame pipelines, and don’t propagate the meritocracy myth.

Focus is often given to the “pipeline problem,” allowing tech companies to address diversity without making changes within their own organization.

A huge amount of diversity effort and money is focused on “the pipeline problem.” Not enough young people get interested in technology, so they never enter the pipeline, so they never get CS degrees, so they never are available to hire as programmers, so these tech companies never get their “fair share” of diversity. It is simultaneously the excuse many use for issues with diversity and their best hope to improve it in the future.

The monomaniacal focus on this narrative does a disservice to underrepresented people in tech in the present and future. A pipeline has many entry points and continues on for a distance. Focusing solely on a single entry point leaves the rest to disrepair. The metaphor is so broken that many have added their own sardonic twists: The pipeline is leaky and full of acid. The pipeline leads to a sewage treatment plant. The pipeline ends in a meat grinder.

In popular conceptions of the “pipeline”, the single entry point is the traditional computer science degree. Companies ignore other methods of entry like apprenticeship programs, hiring self-taught programmers, or transitioning staff from related roles like QA and support. Many small and midsize companies aren’t even willing to invest in junior engineers who do have a traditional CS degree. Companies simultaneously claim they care about diversity and hiring the best engineers, yet their “meritocratic” methods for identifying the latter often are in conflict with the former.

Many companies ignore large portions of the pipeline once you leave the beginning. They’re not sharing their attrition numbers. You’re unlikely to hear about how they’re addressing toxic environments. The most you will probably hear about is addressing issues related to babies (e.g. maternity leave, freezing eggs). I’ve heard more than a few stories about leaders largely blaming motherhood for the lack of diversity in tech despite studies to the contrary. Ultimately, it’s easier for people to point at the “pipeline problem,” allowing them to wash their hands of investing in change within their own organizations in the here and now.

Source: Diversity for Sale by Anonymous Author | Model View Culture

Inclusion must be embedded in all aspects of the hiring process, and beyond. “Pipeline” rhetoric has polarized the way tech companies recruit, interview, and hire. Focusing on gender allows companies to temporarily absolve themselves of responsibility with respect to age, religion, race, experience, disability, sexual orientation, and other aspects of diversity. Inclusion training must be included with all new employees from day one, while giving employees from historically underrepresented groups access to internal resources and support.

Technical organizations often struggle with the idea that if they diversify their hiring pipelines, attract candidates from underrepresented groups, and support them in the workplace, this will lead to “lowering the bar” or hiring less-qualified individuals. This assertion has no basis in reality, and is inherently both racist and sexist as it assumes that candidates from underrepresented groups must, by definition, not meet the hiring qualifications.

Source: Employee lifecycle

Several signs point towards the potential for positive change. We now have a deeper understanding of bias and the cognitive processes behind it. We have more technology tools to mitigate bias at scale. We have data that show there is both a pipeline problem (e.g. access to Computer Science classes is inversely correlated with underrepresented students of color and low income students in public schools) and a leaky pipeline problem  —  in other words, the myriad of subtle and not-so-subtle barriers and biases that begin with media messages and teacher expectations and progress all the way through hiring biases. However, companies still employ a check the box approach that prioritizes mitigating liability and improving public perception over building an inclusive workforce. Internal policies have been shaped more by lawyers and risk mitigators, focused on avoiding lawsuits and excluding those who truly understand the ways in which companies can build inclusive cultures and processes.

Furthermore, the meritocracy myth continues to persist. Tinkering with systems predicated on this belief is seen as social engineering or “lowering the bar.” Companies blame the pipeline and unconscious bias for lack of diversity without addressing their own internal failures to be inclusive. We find these behaviors racist and sexist.

Source: Defining culture

Though startups are making an effort to implement diversity improvement strategies, the reality is that most are taking limited, potentially harmful actions, including one-off training,5 blaming the pipeline, using language like “lowering the bar,” and describing the current state of the tech industry as a “meritocracy.” Unfortunately, we have seen tech culture become even more exclusive and less diverse over the last five years.6

Source: About Project Include

In computer science classrooms across high schools and universities, minorities are excluded and exit early in the pipeline. Along with the pressure to keep up with our “exceptional” peers, we face the pressure of being a model minority or a success story. Like it or not, being regarded as exceptional is a privilege, not proof of a meritocracy.

Undergraduate computer science education is the most common and traditional way people enter the pipeline, and the concept of exceptionality is baked into students early. In freshman year, the “geniuses” are separated from the proletarians as there is a huge pressure to assert your talents and capabilities. The exceptional students, the ones that have already contributed to open-source projects or won programming contests, emerge as the people everyone else should aspire to be.

Collaboration is usually not permitted in CS classes, in part due to fears of plagiarism. Although students inevitably collaborate, they submit their work independently. As a result, the pressure to be an exceptional programmer is greater. In the industry, programming is communal and collaboration does not taint intellectual property, and engineering teams thrive when their programmers are able to work well together. Collaboration allows for people to learn from one another and value each other’s work. In contrast, group assignments are often only done in senior CS courses, ensuring that individual achievement and exceptionality are centered over teamwork and collaboration early on.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating talented programmers, but only privileged men and occasionally people who are seen as model minorities are being recognized. Students are entering the industry with false and dangerous assumptions about gender, race, sexuality, success, and education. These assumptions lead to certain groups being treated as exceptional and others being excluded, and eventually leaving. Rather than focusing on discovering exceptional programmers, there needs to be more initiatives to support gender, racial, and LGBT inclusion in the pipeline.

Programming is no longer an exclusive club for computer science-educated men, but capable programmers are still being pushed out of our industry because they lack racial, gender, and academic privilege — and it starts early in the pipeline. Whether it’s a programming contest, bootcamp, internship, or computer science education, many paths into tech jobs are intimidating or unaccessible to beginner and underrepresented programmers. And whether they took a traditional or nontraditional path to the industry, programmers are expected to be ready-to-go with all the necessary skills for employment once they enter the field. This places a huge pressure on programmers to be perfect, which makes the pipeline painfully competitive.

Source: Exclusion and Exceptionality in the Pipeline by Julia Nguyen | Model View Culture

Although there has been a recent call to abandon the “leaky pipeline” metaphor, it gives us a clue of how we think about education and career development: fluids in pipes start somewhere and end up somewhere else. They don’t flow backwards, they don’t stop at some point in the pipe and hang out for a while, and they only branch at predetermined locations. The pipeline models success, growth and end states in a manner that implicitly assumes an unencumbered white male, with access to adequate financial and emotional supports, unharmed by structural oppression, with few external drivers competing for his time, and the ability to progress smoothly ever-forward. And as a metaphor, the pipeline envisions attrition as a one-way, absolute process; the people who leave almost waste material, lost forever.

One of the things that is common across most STEM disciplines is that they are all-consuming. Dedication is proven by sacrificing everything else, or fitting “life” into the niches left after an 80-hour (plus) work week. The training period is long and likely to be supported on student loans, or paid below subsistence level. As we have broadened the recruitment pool at the front end, we have more people in the system who experience real structural conflicts between identities, some of which result in their choosing to abandon their technical careers. “I cannot balance these things. Something has to go, and it can’t be my (aging parents, children, outstanding bills, mental health) any longer. It will have to be the dreams of (science, code, mathematics, a corner office).”

Maybe it is time to abandon the leaky pipeline metaphor, and reclaim our own skills and talents, rather than accept a role as raw materials to be moved around at whim by a system. Or worse, to contort and diminish ourselves in order to fit in the pipes.

Source: Re-Recruit From the Leaky Pipeline by Seonaid Lee | Model View Culture

Creativity – as an expression of originality, experimentation, innovation – is not a viable product. It has been priced out into irrelevance – both by the professionalization of the industries that claim it, and the soaring cost of entry to those professions.

Today, creative industries are structured to minimize the diversity of their participants – economically, racially and ideologically. Credentialism, not creativity, is the passport to entry.

“What the artist was pretending he didn’t know is that money is the passport to success,” she writes. “We may be free beings, but we are constrained by an economic system rigged against us. What ladders we have, are being yanked away. Some of us will succeed. The possibility of success is used to call the majority of people failures.”

 But creative people should not fear failure. Creative people should fear the prescribed path to success – its narrowness, its specificity, its reliance on wealth and elite approval. When success is a stranglehold, true freedom is failure. The freedom to fail is the freedom to innovate, to experiment, to challenge.

To “succeed” is to embody the definition of contemporary success: sanctioned, sanitized, solvent.

To which the 30-something, having spent their adult life in an economy of stagnant wages and eroding opportunities, takes the 20-something aside, and explains that this is a maxim they, too, were told, but from which they never benefitted. They tell the 20-something what they already know: It is hard to plan for what is already gone. We live in the tunnel at the end of the light.

If you are 35 or younger – and quite often, older – the advice of the old economy does not apply to you. You live in the post-employment economy, where corporations have decided not to pay people. Profits are still high. The money is still there. But not for you. You will work without a pay rise, benefits, or job security. Survival is now a laudable aspiration.

In the post-employment economy, jobs are privileges, and the privileged have jobs.

Unpaid internships lock out millions of talented young people based on class alone. They send the message that work is not labor to be compensated with a living wage, but an act of charity to the powerful, who reward the unpaid worker with “exposure” and “experience”. The promotion of unpaid labor has already eroded opportunity – and quality – in fields like journalism and politics. A false meritocracy breeds mediocrity.

Education is a luxury the minimum wage worker cannot afford. This message is passed on to their children.

Young Americans seeking full-time employment tend to find their options limited to two paths: one of low-status, low-paying temp jobs emblematic of poverty; another of high-status, low-paying temp jobs emblematic of wealth. America is not only a nation of temporary employees – the Walmart worker on a fixed-day contract, the immigrant struggling for a day’s pay in a makeshift “temp town” – but of temporary jobs: intern , adjunct , fellow.

Post-recession America runs on a contingency economy based on prestige and privation. The great commonality is that few are paid enough to live instead of simply survive.

In the post-employment economy, full-time jobs are parceled into low-wage contract labor, entry-level jobs turn into internships, salaries are paid in exposure, and dignity succumbs to desperation.

The problem in America is not that there are no jobs. It is that jobs are not paying. America is becoming a nation of zero-opportunity employers, in which certain occupations are locked into a terrible pay rate for no valid reason, and certain groups – minorities, the poor, and increasingly, the middle class – are locked out of professions because they cannot buy their way in.

During the recession, American companies found an effective new way to boost profits. It was called “not paying people”. “Not paying people” tends to be justified in two ways: a fake crisis (“Unfortunately, we can’t afford to pay you at this time…”) or a false promise (“Working for nearly nothing now will get you a good job later”).

In reality, profits are soaring and poorly compensated labor tends to lead to more poorly compensated labor. Zero opportunity employers are refusing to pay people because they can get away with it. The social contract does not apply to contract workers – and in 2013, that is increasingly what Americans are.

American ideology has long tilted between individualism and Calvinism. What happened to you was either supposed to be in your control – the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach – or divinely arbitrated. You either jumped, or you were meant to fall. Claims you were pushed, or you were born so far down you could not climb up, were dismissed as excuses of the lazy. This is the way many saw their world before it collapsed.

They cut and blame us when we bleed.

When people are expected to work unpaid for the promise of work, the advantage goes to those immune from the hustle: the owners over the renters, the salaried over the contingent. Attempts to ensure stability and independence for citizens – such as affordable healthcare – are decried as government “charity” while corporate charity is proffered as a substitute for a living wage.

Faust’s is an inspiring tale – and one beyond the comprehension of most young graduates in America today. “Don’t trust the boomers!” warned Paul Campos in a 2012 article on the misguided advice the elder generation peddles to their underemployed, debt-ridden progeny – including gems like “higher education is always worth the price” and “internships lead to jobs” – and Faust’s rebuke proves him right. What is most remarkable about Faust’s career is not its culmination in the Harvard presidency, but the system of accessibility and opportunity that allowed her to pursue it. Her life story is a eulogy for an America long since past.

Participation in these programs and internships is often dependent on personal wealth, resulting in a system of privilege that replicates itself over generations. McArdle compares America’s eroded meritocracy to imperial China, noting that “the people entering journalism, or finance, or consulting, or any other ‘elite’ profession, are increasingly the children of the children of those who rocketed to prosperity through the post-war education system. A window that opened is closing”.

Mobility is but a memory. “The life prospects of an American are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country for which there is data,” writes economist Joseph E Stiglitz in an editorial aptly titled “Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth”.

This is not to say that hard-working elites do not deserve their success, but that the greatest barrier to entry in many professions is financial, not intellectual.

The “lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change” Drew Gilpin Faust extolled is something most Americans desire. But it is affordable only for a select few: the baby boomers who can buy their children opportunities as the system they created screws the rest.

While the start and end dates of the millennial generation are up for debate – and the idea of inherent generational traits is dubious – people of this age group share an important quality. They have no adult experience in a functional economy.

Millennials are chastised for leaning on elders, but the new rules of the economy demand it. Unpaid internships are often prerequisites to full-time jobs, and the ability to take them is based on money, not merit. Young adults who live off wealthy parents are the lucky few. They can envision a future because they can envision its purchase. Almost everyone else is locked out of the game.

It is one thing to discover, as an adult, that the rules have been rewritten, that the job market will not recover, that you will scramble to survive. It is another to raise a child knowing that no matter how hard they work, how talented they are, how big they dream, they will not have opportunities – because in the new economy, opportunities are bought, not earned. You know this, but you cannot tell this to a child. The millennial parent is always Santa, always a little bit of a liar.

The children of the millennials have been born into a United States of entrenched meritocracy – what Pierre Bourdieu called “the social alchemy that turns class privilege into merit”. Success is allegedly based on competition, not background, but one must be prepared to pay to play.

“This reliance on un- or underpaid labor is part of a broader move to a ‘privilege economy’ instead of a merit economy – where who you know and who pays your bills can be far more important than talent,” writes journalist Farai Chideya, noting that this system often locks out minorities.

By charging more for a year’s college tuition than the average median income, universities ensure that poor people stay poor while debt-ridden graduates join their ranks. By requiring unpaid internships, professions such as journalism ensure positions of influence will be filled only by those who can pay for them. The cycle of privilege and privation continues.

One after another, the occupations that shape American society are becoming impossible for all but the most elite to enter.

My father, the first person in his family to go to college, tries to tell me my degree has value. “Our family came here with nothing,” he says of my great-grandparents, who fled Poland a century ago. “Do you know how incredible it is that you did this, how proud they would be?” And my heart broke a little when he said that, because his illusion is so touching – so revealing of the values of his generation, and so alien to the experience of mine.

What they are defending is a system in which wealth is passed off as merit, in which credentials are not earned but bought. Aptitude is a quality measured by how much money you can spend on its continual reassessment.

For lower class parents, admissions is a test failed at birth: An absence of wealth guised as a deficiency of merit. In the middle are the students, stranded players in a rigged game.

Namely, they have raised the price of the credentials needed to participate in the new meritocracy by such dramatic measures that it locks out a large part of the population while sending nearly everyone else into debt.

Today’s youth are the best educated generation in US history. But opportunities are reserved only for those who can buy them.

Young US citizens have inherited an entrenched meritocracy that combines the baby boomers’ emphasis on education with the class rigidity of the WASP aristocracy it allegedly undermined.

People go to college because not going to college carries a penalty. College is a purchased loyalty oath to an imagined employer. College shows you are serious enough about your life to risk ruining it early on. College is a promise the economy does not keep – but not going to college promises you will struggle to survive.

In an entrenched meritocracy, those who cannot purchase credentials are not only ineligible for most middle-class jobs, but are informed that their plight is the result of poor “choices”. This ignores that the “choice” of college usually requires walking the road of financial ruin to get the reward – a reward of employment that, in this economy, is illusory.

Credentialism is economic discrimination disguised as opportunity.

Journalism is one of many fields of public influence – including politics – in which credentials function as de facto permission to speak, rendering those who lack them less likely to be employed and less able to afford to stay in their field.
College does not offer a better future, but a less worse one. College is not a cure for economic insecurity, but a symptom of the broader plague of credentialism.
The economic crisis is a crisis of managed expectations. Americans are being conditioned to accept their own exploitation as normal.
Entry-level jobs in journalism have been replaced with full-time internships dependent on other internships. Today people work for the possibility of working, waiting to be considered good enough to be hired by the employers under whom they already labor.
 Credibility is not something that can be bought, but credentials are.

Source: The View From Flyover Country