Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Problem of Market Values


In a newsletter by abstract expressionist painter Louise Fletcher she wrote, “the harder we push, the less the creativity flows.”  Louise was writing about making art and how the push to finish works may be counterproductive to creating well.  

This adage about pushing for an external purpose and creating is likely true across fields were creativity is essential. Its also true outside of work—as just being human is an inherently creative act. 

It’s also a critical piece of advice for all who supervise/teach others. In my field of education I can see how in my 11-year absence, the ‘industry’ of schooling has become more market-driven, less creative. The non-market values Cornel West espoused that once informed how we lived and worked such as love, trust, kindness, belief in others and faith have been eroded by market values such as gains, completion rates, and and the ever narrowing vision of performance. 

Education needs non-market values at its center. Sadly from 1985 on—the rewriting of what matters most in educating children has been increasingly informed by those who don’t do the work and those who perhaps never did it long enough or well enough to learn that our work is largely about love.

Market values are very bad indicators of how to inspire others to want to be a lifelong learners and creators.


Earlier this week I was at my doctor’s office as I had become dizzy on my way to work and when the health director there checked my blood pressure it was elevated. My blood pressure is usually 90/70 or 90/60. I have not had elevated pressure before. 

During the course of the visit with the doctor he talked about the corporate ownership of medicine and how the treatment plan is being influenced by situating services that the client can further buy in order to not necessarily become well, but rather to become dependent on services that were not necessary to begin with. He talked about the dehumanizing of the field by productivity checklists, set diagnosis fields aligned to purchasable services, and the constant check on how much time a dr spends with a patient. Spend less time is the adage.

Market values are very bad indicators of being whole and well. 


All of this reminds me of the consistent erosion of the autonomy and mission of educators across nearly 40 years since A Nation at Risk was published and now a line erosion across medicine. The market is designed to increase the wealth of corporations. It is not designed to increase happiness or to allocate more equitable wages across socioeconomic strata. 

By their very nature market values are aligned to increasing the health of the market which is measured by the accumulation of wealth by a small percentage of folks who own a large percentage of stocks. Imagine those of you old enough (or students of history) to have lived in less volatile times of the this vulgar scene happening just post WWII:

Two mega wealthy men use that wealth so they can each take a brief flight into space during a pandemic that has not abated and where the masses across the globe are dying in record numbers. 

The unseemly nature of that would have stood out as vulgar, wrong. Now? Not so much. 


So here is the question for which I have no answer: Is it possible to reimagine a world that does not place the market as its god for the masses to feed, revere, fear?


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