The Learn(-)ed... and 'white trash'.
Canadians understand themselves as among 'the well-educated" and for the
most part, this is true. However, I find this to be a generalization that is rather
taken for granted and somewhat disputable.
It might be argued that institutional education is largely that of a capitalist
boot-camp yanking kids in and onto a production line that intends only to spit
them out into the work force. However, perceptions of what it means to be
educated, is a matter of subcultural insulation. A true diversity of perception,
can be found there.
For example, tax season falls upon us and while reading and writing levels may
be graciously high, a large majority of citizens do not know how to file their own
taxes or understand the measures and implications of their own laws beyond
'thou shalt not kill, covet, nor warrent the special interest of a tax collector. Yet,
it seems that no one questions this nor cares to. Much the same can be said in
regard to understanding what our gov't is up to daily or on a larger scale - lest
some fantastic scandal arises. So why would those many care to investigate the
more subtle implications of the nature of their education? And yet, so many
opinions are abound and plentiful when addressing the importance and need
My personal perspective is, in short, that too many Canadians have not been
educated in the finer points of any part of the collective agreement that is our
society nor are they living with a critical appreciation of that society. An
'education' is not (at it's best) the grade-rewarded and habitual process of
swallowing and spitting back up whatever one is fed.
Many folks seem warily informed about the systemic class structure they live in,
except to the extent that they either support or denounce the 'rich' and 'poor'.
But haven't a word to offer in the why's or why not's that hasn't been ill-coined by
a talking head somewhere at sometime for political purposes. In fact, overall, it
appears to be extraordinarily easy to confuse the bulk of the population over
any issue at all. At least, that is what I can surmise from various conversations,
media representation, and online dialogues. Misinformation is in abundance
and is astoundingly effective, marketting strategies are successful. Distracting,
oversimplified, and largely irrelevant debates mold our societal concerns and
awarenesses merely for political purposes rather than to tend to the real needs
present in our society.
Now granted, there is much to be confused about. Of this, there is no doubt.
I am among 'the many' myself, assuredly. But what I have observed, is that
education - as it is so regularily defined - is truly successful only in so far as
it is popularized.
Racism and sexism, for example, are no longer popular and thus are masked
or difused in formal education arena's. But (and contrary to the hype) neo-
conservative social-political values are popular and thus contextually
(directly and indirectly) supported without question. Even political science
students are left wondering amuck in any attempt to envision another
structure outside the 'neo-liberal' one within which we are already immersed.
And economics majors aren't even pressed to study real alternatives. Only
very specific departments of study require 'liberal studies' courses - topics
of history and issues for today that could as easily be addressed in grade
There was a time, in which formal education was an arena that produced
competitive, imaginative, and challenging conceptual invention. Though,
it is true, that such institutions were fashioned by the elite for their own
purposes and that this lasting tradition has shaped our contemporary
understanding of 'education'. While this was once evident to all, it has been
entirely drown in the plight to achieve greater class status through the
So it is not surprising then that I've come across some shallow but revealing
idea's about education, over the years. That those whom do not recieve a formal
education, are an unfortunate but isolated minority in Canada - for example.
These poor folks live in 'slums' and are caught up in blackmarket or drug
trades, have addictions and criminal records, or live on social assistance in a
shack in a small town - somewhere else. These are the 'ignorants' of our society
whom should be looked upon with pity or with scorn. I have even been told
that 'these people are just stupid' - simply put. They haven't 'got what it takes'
to make better decisions for themselves. Alternatively, I have been told that
poverty is the only barrier to education.. Which will unto itself, resolve
All this, in my view, is fallacy and ignorance with a voice. The voices of the
'educated' - a relatively large but distinctly inexperienced subculture.
Often, folks of similar opportunity and walks of life end up in the same or
similar places. They speak among themselves and even agree to disagree about
the same things. Thus their view of their society is composed nearly of mirror
reflections. Assurances and re-affirmations of norms and expectations that
do not produce the essential ingredients needed to deconstruct 'problems', and
reconstruct solutions. Easy processes of dialogue that merely imitate the habit
of chewing and spewing - like rehearsing answers to exam questions. Only now,
the answers begin to shape the questions posed to begin with. "What should
we do with these people?"
Perhaps a little diversity in the company kept would transform the question
and unearth some more interesting answers, leading to more constructive
Poverty is apart of the recipe, of Capitalism, in its present form. Look it up.
Talk to an Economist. Observe the plight of history and how it relates to
the place within which you live. The system we live in, is sustained by that
which it takes from or makes upon the backs of others - the reason that
a manager is thought to have a higher status than a stock-boy. The reason
that the employer owns a lot and the employee, a lot less. The system we
live in shapes the cultural attitudes we take for granted as perspectives of
'reality'. But I digress...
When I looked up the stats in Alberta (the wealthiest province in the nation),
more than fourty percent of residents did not get a high school degree. So much
for an 'isolated minority"... But, just more than half of this number returned to
school, the majority of which were women. The average income of women who
got a degree was notably higher than those whom did not. But this was not the
case for the men in the same age bracket. The 'bracket' refers to the earliest
fruits plucked from the first wave of baby-boomers who stepped up to the
batters-box in a sparkling fresh new post-second-world-war Canada.
I found this interesting because, it supports my observations, and is really
very contrary to popular belief. Everyone who lives here, is middle class or doing
much better than that. So, what about those stats? How can so many appear to
have no post-secondary education while the median income remains so high
among wage-earners? Firstly, millionaires greatly boost the median. Secondly,
the stats reflect temporary flux's evident in a soon-to-be short lived cycle that
I myself have observed, even in my short time spent on this planet to-date.
I think that by explaining further, it may help dispell one or two lofty myths.
I know that in my family, young men from agricultural communities were
expectantly removed from grade school, to assist in the ever more challenging
business of self-sustainance - living on the land. This relates directly to trade
agreements and tax incentives given to corporations, in the agricultural
industries. I also know that young adult males were then quickly desperate to
join the labour force (mines, forestry, transport and industrial trades) for the
same reasons. I know that the 'lucky' were inticed by the higher wages offered
in the oil fields and that this meant they could make what an urban masters
student couldn't fathom earning in a single year, in his entire lifetime. I know
that the destruction of unions has ensured that the hard-labour force remain
at the bottom of the food chain, as well as corrupting those unions which fight
now only for their own protection, in the oil fields and many a government
office (to name but a couple of sectors).
This creates the observable cycle of prosperity on one end and poverty on the
other. Many on this graph - are the same men. At their wage-earning pinacle,
they are a shining example of the glory of our economic progress. Their
images are displayed prominately in media, artwork, pr material and even
in painted murals on buildings in Albertan cities and towns.
However, men among them who start families cannot preserve them while
working up north for most of the year. They tuck away their cash for property
purchases and return to the towns and cities with no degree but an opportunity
to train in the trades via employment insurance. Despite popular belief, the
program does not sustain indefinate support income to clients. In fact, young
able bodied men are generally turned away and expected to find other means of
getting training, or paying bills inbetween contracts. The cities are short of
tradesmen, due to the tactics employed to diminish their working conditions.
So men are generally not supported in enrolling into non-trades related
training programs - which is in fact all that EI offers training support for.
From here, most will work without protection, health benefits, paid holidays or
retirement packages. Most will work out their lives in lessor and lessor paid
jobs as their physical strengths become less superior than the younger men now
stepping in to take their place.
This cycle matches up with the statistics and even the voting trends of the one
age group predictably change with the next and older one. One bracket is
concerned more about their jobs specifically, the other has long since grappled
with that issue and turn to more bleak and fundamental issues.
Somewhere in the process these men are culturally demoted from shining
examples - to "white trash".. Which is refering to a group of folks that are
not entirely composed of Caucasions (but is a term suggesting that evolution-
inherited white supremacy has been foiled by the overwhelming inadequacies
of the individual in question). It would be good also to remember that if
these folks had a little time on their hands, they could shatter your world into
the likes of energy, cloths and food rations - just by refusing to work. Someone
has to cut that wood, lay that cement, cut that glass, and transport just about
everything you put in your vehicle, home and office.
I was there, so I can also report that these are not 'stupid' men. Nor would they
leave you standing if you were to express your pity for them. They can usually
tell you straight-up which trade agreement, labour dispute, or privatization deal,
when, how, what for and remember which Prime Minister was in office at the
time. They read and watch the news, they vote with a faith in democracy and
ever-thinning belief that whomever uses those key words in their interests, will
honour them... Heck, these fella's fill out their own income tax forms.
In part, it is the current version of their former selves whom contribute greatly
to the median income reported in Alberta (which makes it's riches from oil) and
throughout this country. And as the population ages, there rises also a rather
unified, hearty grumble among them when our political 'leaders' speak of tax
breaks while also "fucking around" with healthcare, privatizing sectors only to
drive down wages and drudge up rebates and literally ignoring retirement issues.
That's not to mention what manifests from the chorus in the face of outright
fiscal corruption utilizing their tax investments.
From my experience, these men are keenly aware that the globalisation of the
Market has not aided them in their journeys. It startling how informed they are
about what company from what nation bought out that plant, or owns that firm.
This used to be an opportunity for racist policy-making surrounding immigration
issues - but it isn't anymore. This used to be an opportunity for rhetoric
surrounding the creation of jobs via corporate tax breaks and lower wage levels,
but it isn't anymore. Now, even the card-carrying religious voters are starting
to twitch their "x marks the spot" finger...
Those whom aren't already are damn near ready to pick up the pitch fork and
do a little 'educating' themselves.