Against the romanticizing of education, Leftists should recognize alternative regimes of study, as practiced in prison organizing and indigenous peoples’ movements, and participate with them toward dismantling the intertwined regimes of education and carcerality.
– an essay by Abraham Bolish –
Left movements in North America romanticize education in many ways. Calls to “defend public education” emanate from the most radical movements of students, like the ‘Maple Spring’ in Quebec, and teachers, like the social justice-oriented Chicago Teachers Union. In struggles against prisons, with images of the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and calls for ‘education not incarceration,’ we on the Left often criticize contemporary education as corrupted for disproportionately funneling poor youth of color into the penal regime. Conversely, in organizing around universities, the university has been framed as losing its educational mission and becoming like a prison, an “ivory cage,” which “incarcerates” potentially resistant young people behind walls of debt.
This fetishizing of education is a key obstacle to Left movements’ revolutionary goals. Seeing ‘revolution’ as an overturning of a dominant order, a revolutionary movement would need to radically transform all of the regimes composing that order—from the family and work to transportation and prisons. Such a movement is hindered if any one of these regimes is immunized from critique. That is precisely what has happened with the regime of education.
Summary: Drawing on organizing experiences in Seattle and the University of Washington, Ariel speaks of tensions in horizontalist movements. Within the university, she reflects on an anti-capitalist approach to service learning, organizing within and against a graduate student union, and creating a student-worker coalition. Across the university-city boundaries, she analyzes Occupy Seattle and resistance to both the non-profit- and academic-industrial complexes.