Remedial Class Struggle/surplus of educated labor

steven r cohen lomco at
Mon Jun 1 16:25:53 PDT 1998

At 01:15 PM 6/1/98 -0700, you wrote:
>> They *say* they want a more educated workforce, but do they come through
>> with the scratch? No. If it were really as urgent as the thumbsuckers say,
>> the money would be there.
>> Doug

"They" gave up on a "more edcuated workforce" in the 1870s at the latest. To education reformers of that day--like Felix Adler, founder of Ethical Culture--the depression of 1873 and the ensuring chronic labor problems implied that there would henceforth always be too many workers for the industrial system of absorb. The solution--make "hand work" honorable to people with the constitutional right to vote. More or less from that time, hasn't there been a surplus of most kinds of labor, either homegrown or imported, except perhaps for a couple of years during wartime? Aren't many of us on this list part of the oversupply of educated labor from the '60s and '70s and '80s? Cab drivers with PHDs, and so forth. In short, there is no shortable of capable and trained people COMPARED TO THE NUMBER OF REAL JOBS OUT THERE, and there hasn't been for long in over a 100 years.

A curious related development: Sociology 311: Ethics, Policy and the Triage Society," for sophomores at Wesleyan University (one of the training grounds for Doug's talented 10th). What is a "triage society"? According to the profs in charge, progressive sociologist Charles Lemert and Protestant Chaplain Gary Comstock, "Today triage is the social process whereby those of means and greater social value are selected out for social benefits of all kinds--most notably medical treatment, nutrition and shelter, jobs, decent education. Some wait. Others are rejected. The fate of these others is the foremost ethical dilemma of the day." It seems to our humane profs that "The world our students will enter is one in which human and capital resources, and the social policies by which they are distributed, will be less generously available, and more harshly witheld, than at any time in the last half-century. It would not be wrong to say that the liberal age is at an end." So how can the talented 10th do the ethical thing in a world of insufficient resources and domineering class power [Adler, 1880]? Teach the best and brightest to finesse the policy makers. It won't be easy, though. As Sam Gejdensen, liberal Dem from CTs 2nd District of the put it during a mock session when hit with a proposal by the kids to expand Head Start, "More liberal spenders!...If you're in the 50 percent tax bracket, are you willing to go to the 60% to help kids who are poor?"

"come through with the scratch"? They did that for brief moment in the flush times of the 60s and look what it got 'em. They're back to basics now. Make our version of "hand labor honorable," via family values, workfare and populist/kitsch rhetoric from the Right and forget about real jobs, healthcare and the rest. Circumstance won't have it so.


********************** Steven R. Cohen lomco at

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