cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Tag: education


These past few days I’ve realized that I have passively considered myself marginalized for most of my life. When I lived at home, I was non-white (according to US standards), in an abusive home situation, low income, came from an uneducated family, I took care of younger siblings. As a student, I was struggling like mad to get over these things and also to make ends meet to be able to keep studying. I had been depressed and struggled emotional, and was unemployed and unable to provide for myself.

Suddenly, I find myself graduating and emerging into the real world with a new job and a new life. I realize I am now educated, not a visible minority, gainfully employed, emotionally stable, living with  supportive and loving partner, no messy family situation, taking care of only myself. I feel that I’ve left a vulnerable status and been accepted to a non-vulnerable status. It’s a strange transition, but a welcome one. I always knew I had a great deal of privilege relative to the rest of the world, but it was never such that it provided me enough stability to feel better off. Today, being better off is very palpable.

With this new phase of privilege comes greater responsibility to use it for good, and to help bring up those who are not here yet.

university as entertainment

Last winter I knew a girl from France who was astonished at how university worked here as compared to back home. Stuyding in France is very cheap, but in order for that to be the case it’s about going to class and little else. In Canada student space is valued and there are events, fancy gymnasiums, student initiatives (like Sustainable Concordia, the Potato, Frigo Vert, the Co-op Bookstore, clubs) and a hierarchy of political student bodies with massive budgets to make this work. In most cases, the promotion of student life has nothing to do with the activities of a student–namely, studying.

The CSU is pushing this even further with a proposal for a student centre that will cost $43 billion (67$ per semester for full-time students). I agree with voting for fee levies for humble initiatives that make Concordia a community, but a building with space for arcade games on campus is a waste of our money. Maybe it’s because I’m an international student and it hurts a lot to pay tuition, but it reminds me that I’m here to get an education, not to have a party on campus.

I wonder about the role of the university in a capitalist world that pushes it more and more towards becoming a private business. How does this pressure affect its objectives and policies?

I also wonder how increased rates of post-secondary education in Canada affect the population, as well as the education. Does it pay to dumb down classes for more people to get degrees? Does it elevate their quality of life?

Lastly, it would be interesting to run a sort of culture- and class-neutral IQ test on the wealthiest people in the US and compare the distribution to the rest of the population. Would they be similar? Would the rich score higher? If not, I would cite it as evidence against the American Dream.

Education as sedative

I am alarmed at how much time I spend reading. Focused, quiet, still, oblivious. How much time A’s take in being produced. I can’t help but feel that I’m being drained on purpose, perhaps with the intention of precluding other activity. But that’s me being the conspiracy theorist. Right?

I am glad that I’ll be countering this with rugby this semester: an activity that demands action, speed, strength, movement. A strenuous fight. This is the complete state of a human being: brains and brawn; strength, discipline and deftness both in mind and body.

Gramscian organic intellectuals


Intellectuals and Education

Gramsci gave much thought to the question of the role of intellectuals in society. Famously, he stated that all men are intellectuals, in that all have intellectual and rational faculties, but not all men have the social function of intellectuals. He claimed that modern intellectuals were not simply talkers, but directors and organisers who helped build society and produce hegemony by means of ideological apparatuses such as education and the media. Furthermore, he distinguished between a ‘traditional’ intelligentsia which sees itself (wrongly) as a class apart from society, and the thinking groups which every class produces from its own ranks ‘organically’. Such ‘organic’ intellectuals do not simply describe social life in accordance with scientific rules, but rather articulate, through the language of culture, the feelings and experiences which the masses could not express for themselves. The need to create a working-class culture relates to Gramsci’s call for a kind of education that could develop working-class intellectuals, who would not simply introduce Marxist ideology from without the proletariat, but rather renovate and make critical of the status quo the already existing intellectual activity of the masses. His ideas about an education system for this purpose correspond with the notion of critical pedagogy and popular education as theorized and practised in later decades by Paulo Freire in Brazil, and have much in common with the thought of Frantz Fanon. For this reason, partisans of adult and popular education consider Gramsci an important voice to this day.