Stay Ahead of the Woke

God, this is so true:

The most woke people here at my workplace seem to catch on to some new liberal party line about a year or more after I’ve first seen it out in the wilds of the internet- – I’m pretty sure it’s only when they’ve seen it enough times on TV that they adopt it and start parroting it themselves. I am always so far ahead of them in knowing what they are going to support, what they are going to claim all right-thinking people MUST people in The Current Year. These people have no frame of reference for anything other than TV — everything is put in terms of television — so conservatives are always “Fox News people” and Fox News is metonymically deployed to describe anything bad.

I laughed and laughed. The part about the TV is spot on.

The whole post is worth reading.


I was offered a “young-adult adaptation of Sam Quinones’s Dreamland” on Amazon.

No, it doesn’t seem to be a joke. Why young adults can’t just read the actual book is not explained.

I hate the expression “young adult.”

P.S. Dreamland is an amazing book. Please read it. The existence of the “young adult version” doesn’t detract from the value of the book.

Public Education Is Dead

How, how is it possible to defend public education in the face of this:

A class exercise asking students at Saratoga Springs High School to score their privileged status raised concerns among parents worried about the assignment’s underlying message and the use of offensive words... The activity, copies of which were posted to social media last week, asked students to score how privileged they are: add 25 points if you are white, add 25 points if you are male, add 20 points if you are straight; subtract 100 points if you are black, subtract 50 points if you are female, subtract 150 points if you are gay.

And my favorite part:

The worksheet also included outdated and offensive words and point tallies that appeared to play on cultural stereotypes. Jewish, for instance, was rated as the most privileged religion, earning a student 25 points compared to five points of privilege for a Christian student. A Muslim student lost 50 points under the activity.

I have no words.

Of course, the article concludes that the exercise is great except for some insensitive words it uses. But once you police the vocabulary, it’s a fantastic thing to use instead of actually teaching students something for a change.

Word and Image

In the beginning was the Word, right?

When I tell Klara stories – which happens many times a day – I can see her eyes glaze over because she is imagining what I’m telling her. Her brain transforms words into images. This is how a human brain becomes a human brain.

There is nothing more human than the word. Human identity is a narrative. Consciousness of the past and the future is a narrative. Turning words into images and connecting to the world through narratives is what makes us human.

If you skip the word and get a ready-made image (through YouTube videos, cartoons, etc), this enormously important capacity to create images out of words with the power of your brain is thwarted. The creative work of building images out of words is outsourced. It’s placed outside of your self. The very self-building capacity is placed outside of you. Your control over it is severely constrained.

None of this is from Zuboff’s book. This is all mine, so please don’t ask for links.

Surveillance Capitalism, 1

Folks, I’m starting to read Shoshana Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism. It’s over 700 pages, so this will take a while. You know how I read theory. I read a bit, annotate, then think about it, then write. My apologies to those who aren’t interested in the book because there will be many posts on it and this will last probably for months. Escape while you can!

So here goes.

We are used to defining economic systems by who has control over the means of production. Capitalists in capitalism; the government in socialism.

But this definition is growing outdated because owning the means of production is not the greatest source of capital and power any more. There’s something far more profitable and powerful:

As long as surveillance capitalism and its behavioral futures markets are allowed to thrive, ownership of the new means of behavioral modification eclipses ownership of the means of production as the fountainhead of capitalist wealth and power in the twenty-first century.

The new concept here is “behavioral futures markets” but it’s not confusing once you get into it. Tech companies know so much about us that they can predict our behavior. It’s especially easy for them because they can manipulate behavior. So “behavioral futures markets” are a way for these companies to place bets on our future behavior. Zuboff says this is the future of capitalism and not the unwieldy, solid means of production.

Byung-Chul Han said everyone is his or her own means of production. And Zuboff points out that we all together are somebody else’s means of production because our behavior is more manipulatable, and hence bettable, than ever. Think about my earlier posts today about technology in the classroom. That’s what this is about.

Online Homework

This type of article gives me fits of uncontrollable rage:

Thousands of students nationwide still don’t have access to a fast and stable internet connection in their homes despite huge advances in technology in the past decade.

Whether it’s a lack of technology infrastructure, particularly in rural and remote areas, or prohibitive monthly costs for high-speed internet service, students without access at home have a harder time doing homework and often fall behind their peers that do have access.

What the fuck does homework have to do with internet access? What is wrong with these people that they never even ask this question. There is absolutely no homework on the planet that is enhanced by the internet. All that the online connection does is distract kids into doing something unrelated to education of any sort.

Folks, I’m seriously worried that a teacher will tell my kid to use a screen for homework and I will commit a violent crime. I’ve tried breathing exercises and stuff but it’s not working.

It’s becoming very very clear why we get students in such a blank-slate state.