A terrific essay by Peter McLaren urges us to ask why our focus is on educational access and quality as the answer to poverty rather than on the ground upon which we all stand: capitalism. Capitalism demands and requires poverty – and neoliberal capitalism has planted itself and bloomed into infinite shapes and forms more fluid and insidious than the industrial capitalism of our past.
Peter asks why more graduate students aren’t learning about capitalism.
I ask why more K-12 students and their teachers aren’t learning about capitalism.
It’s the air we breathe, the habits we don’t even realize, the language we speak, the consciousness already embedded in us before we had anything to say about it. That’s why we don’t “learn” about it, it is taken as an assumption. Capitalism is believed to be the only way an economy might be imagined. Capitalism has been fed to us with a spoonful of sugar and we’re left with the bitter aftertaste of massive inequities and devastating poverty.
Critiquing capitalism is not – like some would have us believe – being “unpatriotic.” We are not expected to be loyal to our nation’s economic policies and practices, and there is nothing inherently “American” or “Un-American” about capitalism. It is a thing, it is a system, it is a collection of beliefs and assumptions – and all of that can be torn apart, reconsidered, reimagined, and criticized. To not engage in such inquiry of the system that impacts all our lives would, indeed, be un-American.