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Learning at its Best

Corporatization of Daily Life

Traditional (read: corporate) approaches to medicine, education, religion, and the economy are wreaking havoc on people’s emotional and physical health and well-being.  The intent, in each of these domains, is to take power away from the individual by depositing blind faith outside of oneself into an external authority that tells us what to think, how to feel, and what our net worth is or is not. This is not a new phenomenon; it has been going on for a long time now.  The purpose of this post isn’t to go into the history of this “corporatizing movement” but to make a small contribution to the conversation on the Coop about healthier ways to live, learn, and teach.

First, let me say that it’s dehumanizing to be treated as if your health (intellectual ability or professional potential) is equal to the numbers on a chart or the outcomes of an exam.  More and more I’m living the intellectual understanding that my physical health is often a reflection of my emotional health.  Alternative views to traditional medicine, such as meditation and Yoga, all promote the idea that the body is capable of healing itself; we make things happen through our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.  Corporate approaches to medicine, religion, education, and work are founded on the separation between mind and body.  In fact, its very existence depends on this dichotomy.

The first way out of this miasma for me has been to acknowledge, accept, and forgive myself for having participated in this system for so long, sometimes unwittingly, albeit unwillingly.  I have to admit that the alternative is scary and the answers are not clear cut.  It’s easier to take a drug for an ailment than to tune into one’s body and mind (a state of consciousness?) and work with oneself to heal.  That is the path I’m on.

What are your thoughts?

About Elisa Waingort

I am currently a grade 5 teacher in the Spanish bilingual program in Calgary, Alberta Canada. I have been teaching for more than 25 years in South and North America. I love working with kids. I am also a teacher who reads and writes. Every day I look forward to the challenge of learning to be a better teacher.


9 thoughts on “Corporatization of Daily Life

  1. Elisa,

    I think you are on a very profound line of thought. ‘Patients’ have become customers, and at the level of higher education, ‘students’ are certainly viewed as customers with student ratings of professors resulting in rewards/punishments. The same series of events have been, and are taking place at the K-12 level.

    I was taught to change should be effected from the inside I believe I was taught a lie.

    Best wishes to you as you attemp to transition to alternative pathways.


    Posted by Brent Snavely | October 31, 2011, 9:12 am
    • Thanks for your comments, Brent. I’m just wondering if you can elaborate on the idea that you were taught to believe that change comes from the inside. Why do you say you were taught a lie? I was taught that, too to some extent and have hit a bit of a brick wall every time I’ve tried to do this. What else can we do?

      Posted by Elisa Waingort | October 31, 2011, 7:55 pm
      • Lisa,

        My short reply is that sometimes, “the only winning move is not to play”. If that is sufficient, do not bother reading my long reply that follows. I apologize for its length, but structuralism, issues of power and cultural matters complicate the discussion.

        Top-down authority requires that one follow specific procedures to have complaints addressed such as petitioning through political processes or moving through a bureaucratic maze. Those procedures are certain to result in compromise that can result in formalistic changes that temporize whatever led to the petitioning, but fail to result in substantive change. Victories may be hollow – “We did the best we could”.

        Derrick Bell’s converging interests theory bears on the matter. Dominant powers will effect change(s) 1) Only when the dominant and sub-dominant interests intersect and 2) Only to the extent that those interests overlap and/or to the extent the dominant powers relinquish nothing of significance. In the U.S., the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Affirmative Action offshoot is a prime example of this – ‘equal opportunity’ has turned out to provide ‘equality’ (IF you Start as an ‘equal’).*

        I watch OWS with great interest. Mere ‘occupation’ has already been framed as endangering the public health, safety and welfare. At some point, mere physical presence, simple ‘occupation’, will likely be viewed an overt form of ‘violence’ that justifies a fully violent response (I grew up during the era of full-blow riots – current U.S. events are limp by comparison).

        The OWS is in the process of developing a statement of purpose, a platform of sorts. I do not doubt that some changes will be effected, but do doubt they will be substantive. I suggest they will turn out to be but a gloss on the surface of what lurks beneath. Some will remain ‘true to the (occupy) cause’, but many will not because they are bound within, and reliant upon the structure they fight against. They will get tired, finally learn their lesson (part of life-long learning?), and realize they must do something else in order to survive.

        I think #occupyedu is more likely to effect change than OWS. Small (and to dominant structural authority rather subversive) practices can result in substantive change if carried out consistently and over the long run. Change of substance can be made but it will require running a marathon, not a wind sprint, and the efforts required do not comprise a showcase event. The heroes/heroines, stars and celebrities of true change are unlikely to be recognized as such during their lifetimes (I am quite sure some are here at the Coöp).

        Perhaps you can stay ahead of the villagers who may chase you with pitchforks and torches like John Taylor Gatto. All told, I like his perspective on education. He was a subversive who worked “from the inside” and whose work, by all accounts, was extremely difficult. He had to go far beyond the call of duty merely to retain his job. Since leaving the teaching arena, he has been able to cut loose as an ‘authority’ having spent decades teaching. Had he adhered to the rules, I think he would have made a living and affected a handful of students, but not much else.

        Teachers who rely upon the structure for their livelihood are shackled. As an attorney, I am shackled to a system I find abhorrent. We are trying to fight our way out of our respective paper bags – it cannot be done because the bags’ structure is not susceptible to rupture from the inside.

        For decades, I have followed society’s rules, playing a game structured to be unwinnable except for those who have already won the circumstances-of-birth lottery. To the extent that we will avoid complete reliance upon societal structures for subsistence and thereby gain our individual freedom, I am joining a number of others in “dropping out” of the mainstream.

        We are tired of being “commodities”. We have realized that sometimes, “the only winning move is not to play”. My cohorts and I are filled with a degree of trepidation because we were raised in, by and through the mainstream and are concerned we will perpetuate a great deal of nonsense. The best we can determine is that we should live life-as-ceremony as we seek out healing rather than a ‘cure’.


        *Given the Western European post-colonial situation of both the U.S. and Canada, I suspect you know of a number of parallel laws having similar end-results.

        Posted by Brent Snavely | November 1, 2011, 11:37 am
  2. Lisa – it’s so interesting to me that you wrote about the mind-body dichotomy today as I happened to tune into a program about the zen concepts of “eager openness” and “beginner’s mind” being the keys to true understanding and how words and logic get in the way of these states of mind.

    As the developed world moves toward educational constructs that attempt to measure and compare our kids’ proficiencies in the language, maths & science realms, the Zen perspective would indicate that we are, in fact, moving away from true understanding as we squelch eager openness with drill & kill…as we try to push/force our kids in a direction of higher test scores that are supposed to be indicative of better understanding.

    The question–at least for me–is…how do we get the system to break out of this box? Is it through starting from scratch & throwing the box out completely? Or from using the cardboard of the testing/assessments box to do as we did when we were young…to hide inside of briefly only to leap out joyfully as we surprise those who had forgotten to live in their “beginners’ minds” and bring them back into an awareness that learning never *concludes* with testing–it’s the *starting point* that shows the box from which we need to emerge.

    Great post & reminder!

    Posted by kidzmet | October 31, 2011, 9:29 am
  3. Elisa, This is great and powerful. As someone who does a hot yoga flow everyday, less for exercise than as a way of checking in on mind and body health, I couldn’t agree with you more. How could we bring body health more into the world of conventional education? How can be bring the connections between happiness, positive thinking and mindfulness, to our practice as students and teachers? How are you doing this?

    With love and sweat,


    Posted by Kirsten | October 31, 2011, 4:36 pm
    • Hey Kirsten,
      I re-discovered Yoga, in a very personal way, the last time I went. I have been a fair weather Yoga participant thus far but practicing breathing has become my way of living my life in a more burden free way. I even had a strong emotional reaction the last time I went which hadn’t happened to me before. Today, being Halloween, I had the kids do a few breathing exercises and I think it calmed them down. I’ve decided to try to do this more often. It has helped me so I hope it will help them.

      Posted by Elisa Waingort | October 31, 2011, 8:01 pm
  4. I try to be aware of the reactions students and I have to what’s happening. And then I try to exit untenable situations as quickly as possible.

    For example, yesterday I tried to share with an entire class a cool assignment from last year some students and I had developed. Many students in this year’s class were in the same place, content- and analysis-wise. I repeated again and again that the description of the assignment was just an invitation, but that ‘d like to share it with the whole class.

    This shift in our usual operating procedures caused so much anxiety half the class immediately checked out into a variety of coping and avoidance strategies. So I stopped the description cold, apologized for going against the culture we had built, and rewound the invitation to something like: “Hey, feel free to listen to this thing some kids came up with last year while they studied what many of you are studying; otherwise, go about your learning; my bad.”

    All of my training and experience at school was screaming at me to expect the kids to be able to listen for 10 minutes and to “make” them listen as a lesson in “what’s good for you, dammit.”

    Had I listened to those incredulous voices in my head, I doubt anyone would have come back to listen voluntarily (a quarter of the class has started the assignment), and I know I would have lost another large percentage of the students to discomfort and anger.

    I think we should talk about what made the expectation threatening, but given how hard we’ve worked to establish a community around student-relevant learning, I know I did something more right than I had planned to do or wanted to do, given what the system tells me I should have done.

    So, my thoughts?

    What made me feel bad about not making the kids listen is exactly what’s wrong with the system. There’s little comfort in not pleasing the system; there’s a lot of fear in it instead.

    I’d rather struggle with my own fear (which is like a constant buzz in my head sometimes) than transfer or heap it on to my kids, which is how I read my own compliance with the system. The classroom is the one place I do this really well – which is to say, the classroom is the one place I consistently check my socialization as a teacher and “American” and consumer.

    It doesn’t get easier until the system changes. The system doesn’t change until we change it. But that’s not impossible. Shame on the system for making us feel bad about teaching and learning in accordance with human needs.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | November 1, 2011, 8:45 am

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