RE: general, particular; economics, education

From: Judy Diamondstone (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 08:43:13 PDT


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peg Griffin []
> Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 10:44 AM
> To:
> Subject: Fw: general, particular; economics, education
> About exchange:
> One answer calls to mind again the importance of the content domains
> involved in education:
> It is a matter of mutual appropriation, the student "gets" the cultural
> historical domain as a subjective object and the society "gets"
> the student
> as an objective subject.
> This may not work in schools, maybe only in education:
> Peg Griffin
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jay Lemke" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2004 1:02 AM
> Subject: Re: general, particular; economics, education
> Michael Roth makes some interesting points about how AT concretely links
> the macro-social and the local-community levels of analysis in studies of
> workplaces or of educational issues.
> I think we all know it is easier to combine micro-social and meso-social
> (community, institution) levels of analysis, than it is to link either to
> more fully macro-scale sociology.
> So it seems intriguing to me to explore Michael's suggestion that the
> concepts of exchange and division of labor are notions not usually brought
> in to the analysis of, say, schools and classrooms, but which might help
> bridge the micro-macro gap (in our theoretical discourses, not in the
> material system, where the gap does not "exist").
> Do we ever ask, for instance, why students' labor is not considered
> productive and paid for?
> (Compare the traditional case of housework labor by "wives".)
> What difference would it make to schools if we paid students to study and
> to learn? in fact paid them enough to get them to learn as much
> as we think
> society needs them to learn?
> What would be the going rate of wages for the productive labor of
> learning?
> How much would we have to pay? Would we pay those who are currently less
> academically well-motivated more or less than those who already see
> self-interest in learning (because for middle-class students that learning
> has a high probable pay-off that it does not seem to have in the view of
> many other students)? If we believe there is a net social benefit
> to having
> more students learn more, why are we not prepared to pay for this largely
> involuntary labor?
> Suppose students unionized and refused to learn anything at all,
> or to take
> our tests, or to cooperate in any way with schools, unless they
> were paid a
> fair wage for their labor?
> Suppose student unions negotiated for wage rates, but also for working
> conditions, or learning conditions, balancing meeting state requirements
> with time for learning about personal interests? or a voice in the hiring
> and promotion of teachers?
> And what of the division of labor? A lot of scholarship already tells us
> that the kind of labor-of-learning assigned to working-class vs
> middle-class students in schools mirrors the adult division of
> labor-of-production. This is the cornerstone of reproductionist
> theories of
> education. In fact there seems to be a third-tier here, because even
> middle-class school "education" is pretty mind-numbing. The division of
> labor assigns leadership class students labor-of-learning which is more
> creative, involves more autonomy of decision-making compared even to
> middle-class labor-of-learning. But none of these are paid labor. If we
> think in terms of the aggregate value-added to society by the labors of
> learning of the three classes, surely the first two groups, by sheer
> numbers, must add far more social value by their learning. Compare this to
> the delayed payback they get for their labors. An interesting economic
> exercise. But what would be the consequences for this division of labor,
> and for the attendant class reproductive cycle, if we did pay all students
> for their labor of learning in proportion to the value-added to society as
> whole? not in deferred job opportunities, but in current-dollars for
> current-labor?
> Would the race be on for highest achievement and highest pay? Would there
> be conflict over the criteria of achievement? Would we end up
> paying by the
> hour, by test results, or by some more economically rational model of
> actual value added? How would that be calculated, when it is not at all
> obvious what the value of a given type of learning will be to society at
> the future time that the student deploys that learning in other productive
> activity?
> Is the humanistic model of education, that education is not about exchange
> value, but about intrinsic value to our souls, partly just a mystification
> to cover up the bare fact that we do not pay students for their
> educational
> labor? There is here a basic primary contradiction: we claim that their
> learning is essential to society and adds value to society, but we also
> claim that there is no economic grounds for paying them for adding this
> value to the community.
> If on the other hand this value were to be subtracted from the community,
> by students' refusal to perform the labor of learning, its enormous
> economic value-added would be immediately obvious.
> Would you work for 12 years for no pay on the non-guaranteed promise of
> deferred wages? Would you endorse a union contract with this provision?
> And if you were paying students for their labor of learning, would you be
> content that the current contents of the curriculum stands
> entirely without
> any empirical evidence whatsoever of its specific _use value_ in society?
> In my own opinion most of the contents of the standard curriculum,
> certainly in the US, has neither economic use value nor
> intellectual value,
> and one that had documentable and calculable economic use value
> would be an
> improvement. In fact, with a slightly less ideologically tainted economic
> model than is now dominant, it ought to be possible to demonstrate that a
> curriculum with genuine intellectual value would have more economic use
> value than the current curriculum. Such an analysis might also force
> comparisons of the different types of economies which would maximize the
> use value of different kinds of curriculum, e.g. deskilled workers in
> standardized mass production economies vs. critically thoughtful and
> innovative workers in small-scale niche-production economies.
> There was a time when economics aimed to be a general theory of human
> social value. There was never a time when education could be said to have
> rationally aimed at maximizing human social value.
> JAY.
> At 06:55 PM 10/12/2004, you wrote:
> >Hi all,
> >I am in the middle of "Das Kapital," and have had many thoughts about the
> >recent exchanges concerning Engeström/Holzkamp, Il'enkov/Dubrovsky etc.
> >Two things in particular to be mentioned here:
> >
> >1. I don't think that Yrjö attends to Marx's emphasis on the
> >particular/general (concrete/abstract) distinctions. This is clear, in
> >part, of Y's use of "community" rather than "society", which, in my view,
> >also leads to the problem Mike once stated to me that some in our
> >community don't distinguish activity and action. Within communities (if
> >interpreted in Lave's sense), there is no commodity exchange; division of
> >labor happens at the level of the society, to which work IN GENERAL
> >contributes so that it continues to exist. The analyses YE provides are
> >always of concrete situations, that is, not of activities in general but
> >of concrete realizations. So the upper triangle relates to the latter
> >case, the individual in his/her productive situation, the lower triangle
> >pertains to the society, activity in general. The ideal implies society,
> >lower part of the big triangle, activity in general; but the individual
> >always concretely realizes it thereby makes it actually possible.
> >2. This is where my second point comes in, activity in school? Marx
> >clearly says that all activity implies the exchange situation , Leont'ev
> >talks about the vision of the outcome. I was thinking that anyone
> >analyzing school situations without attending to the exchange situation
> >(grades) students are involved in, does not do an activity theoretic
> >analysis in the dialectical materialist sense. Perhaps the French Frenet
> >schools, where students participate in everyday out of school (this is
> >the adjective Marx and Holzkamp use) activities or the situations we set
> >up where students contributed to environmentalism, open house
> events, etc.
> >in a free and open exchange with other parts of the town are better
> >examples than most of the ones we read about.
> >
> >Michael
> >
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website.

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