What Kind of Country Do We Want?

“The cult of cost/benefit—of the profit motive made granular, cellular—not only trivializes but also attacks whatever resists its terms. Classic American education is ill-suited to its purposes and is constantly under pressure to reform—that is, to embrace as its purpose the training of workers who will be competitive in the future global economy. What this means, of course, is that universities and students themselves should absorb the cost to industry of training its workforce. Since no one knows what the industries of the future will be, a wrong guess about appropriate training could be costly, which means it would be all the smarter, from a certain point of view, to make colleges and students bear the risk. If this training produces skills that are relevant to future needs, their cost to the employer will be lowered by the fact that such skills will be widely available. In any case, the relative suitability of workers will be apparent in their school history, so industry will be spared the culling of ineffective employees. Those who fail to make the cut will be left with the pleasures of a technical education that is always less useful to them, skills that will be subject to obsolescence as industries change. Certain facts go unnoticed in all this. The great wealth that is presented as endorsing an American way of doing things was amassed over a very long period of time.”

Marilynne Robinson, “What Kind of Country Do We Want?The New York Review of Books. June 11, 2020.

There is so much to like about this essay. The writing is crisp and sharp. The cultural criticism is on point. A bit difficult, but I think worth the effort. I need to read more of her work post haste. Recommended.

Don’t Let People Enjoy Things | Kate Wagner

“As the day-to-day misery of this lucid nightmare wears people down to stumps, and the last refuge of joy and escapism is sought in mass culture, it may appear somewhat cruel to take entertainment to task. But the far worse alternative would be a world without criticism—a world well-wishing people are now working to build for their bosses, one where monopolistic media conglomerates cater to our simplest desires and most superficial political awareness. Until we are all forced to communicate with memes from pods wholly owned by Disney, we’re just going to have to Let People Dislike Things.”

—Kate Wagner, “Don’t Let People Enjoy Things.” The Baffler. May 9, 2019.