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.
An interview with, Jennifer, a militant student-worker in Seattle on: revolutionary study groups with the Black Orchid Collective, organizing against union bureaucracy and non-profit recuperation, & creating a solidarity network across the university for worker, student, and community control.
Stefano Harney and Fred Moten have collaborated on various projects over the past fifteen years, including a number of essays on the conditions of academic labor. Drawing from the black radical tradition, autonomist and postcolonial theory, they have elaborated an approach to politics that is more concerned with the less socially visible aspects of organization and interaction. Currently they are working on a book entitled the undercommons: fugitive planning & black study that will be released by Minor Compositions / Autonomedia in Spring 2013 [Update: it was released and you can read it here]. As part of that project Stevphen Shukaitis conducted several interviews with them to give an overview of their work and approach. This interview is an excerpt for ClassWarU from their conversation.