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Let the anger come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for fifteen minutes…

Recently, I filled out a questionnaire on Facebook that turned out, basically, to be a political poll.  While I questioned to some friends the virtue of such polling (ultimately I was convinced – the people of Facebook represent vast numbers of people who like to click on websites and fill out idiotic questionnaires, so there’s a lot of data to be mined therein), I filled out my end as dutifully as able (see, again, liking on clicking things and answering idiotic questionnaires).  One of the questions asks: “What is the greatest problem with America today?”  My answer was something like “corporate greed running unchecked”.

Just earlier, I stepped out of a comment-thread knife fight after someone basically admitted that their common sense and life experience was worth more to them than the facts and research that I presented to them.  Since things were about to devolve into a string of ad hominem attacks, and one clearly does not win converts by means of internet pwnage, I decided not to respond.  But the experience left my blood boiling, and I immediately wanted to alter my answer to the Facebook questionnaire – the greatest problem in American is not corporate greed running unchecked, but rather willful ignorance running amok.  That just because people have now been given a voice and a box of soap upon which to stand, their ideas are worth the equal of others.  (“Black!” says the kettle to the pot.)

I wanted to point to the mass media, for its insistence on feeding us fear, panic, and fluff instead of intelligent discourse.  I wanted to blame the schools for failing to instill a system of education wherein we respect intelligence, facts, and educated opinions.  I wanted to blame the government for creating a system of education where standardized testing is king, where teachers are forced to teach how to pass a test, instead of how to think your way through a problem. Most of all, I wanted to point to us, as a lazy, uninformed citizenry, content to let the world burn down around us because the fire is just down the street, it doesn’t affect me directly.

But the fact of the matter is, I realized, that corporations are still to blame.  Corporations run the media, and corporations thrive on profit.  The most profitable programs are those that are cheap to produce but easy to consume – reality television, entertainment news, and programs that take advantage of people’s willingness to do anything to achieve or prolong their fifteen minutes of fame.  And corporations run the schools, sometimes directly, but often indirectly.

How can a corporation influence a public school entity?  Why, through government of course!  Take the example of the state of Indiana.  The current Superintendent for Public Instruction, (the unfortunately named) Mr. Tony Bennett, a Republican, is attempting educational reforms that would privatize the educational system, moving away from public schools towards a system of private and charter schools.  This is not new to any one given state, or even unique to Indiana.  What is unique to Mr. Bennett, however, is that his wife, Tina Bennett, is a “school improvement consultant” for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association, an organization that will greatly and directly profit from the expansion of the number of charter schools in Indiana.

So now we have an individual in public office who, through his ties to his wife, will directly profit from his decisions in office in his private life, particularly if such decisions are to dismantle the existing public education system and rebuild a new system of charter and private schools.  To this end, he has instituted policies and requirements which, I have it from a friend of mine who is a teacher in Indiana, are essentially humanly impossible to complete – at least, assuming one also wants to teach, which very well may be the entire point of this little exercise.  The end result is that either: 1) public school teachers will be made to look the fool for not completing these new rigorous requirements, and the superintendent can claim that he was right all along; or 2) public school teachers will have to focus on completing said reporting requirements at the expense of their actual teaching of materials, which will in turn cause them to fail to meet the teaching goals and standards that said rigorous requirements are supposedly there to ensure, which allows Mr. Bennett to declare that public schools are failing and, thus, he was right all along.

This is known as “raising the goal post.”  Of course, in finance, theyactually call it “insider trading,” and it is – at least the last time I checked – highly illegal.  But these are public funds, so who cares?

Of course, what’s happening in Indiana isn’t unique.  We now live in the information age where, ironically, people are no longer getting the right information.  The signal to noise ratio is just too broad – thanks to the corporations, who continuously pump out a message of drivel and flash in order to keep the masses docile.  Panem et circensis, indeed.

The neo-noir and cyberpunk authors of the 80s and early 90s wrote about a future run by amoral megacorporations, where governments no longer existed and everyone served the corporate profit margin.  Such places were often technocratic dystopias, full of scorched earth and blackened skies.  Well, the skies may still be sunny, and kids still play outside in the yard, but make no mistake – that age is already here.

Protip for my Lawyer Colleagues: A juror’s “common sense and life experience” – which is simply code for “prejudices” – will always be more powerful than facts and experts.

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