Judea Faith


Mass-produced students

mass production

“Upon passing through the portal, the students immediately find themselves on a conveyor belt. They are sternly and constantly moved along with the aid of various rough mechanisms of drilling and machine harassment: they are pressed through the gears of basic knowledge, the disciplining sluices of exercises, and the stress presses of exams, then subject to the imprisonment of administrative rules and the mills of specialised knowledge, until they arrive at the final round of examinations that undertake to include the docile and the exclude the stubborn rejects.”
(Wolf Wanger)

Since the industrial revolution, mass production has been one of the most lucrative sources of economic capital. Most of our possessions are mass produced – our books, bags, phones, and basically everything. It is not surprising that over time, this profitable system found its way into the education sector too. We used to understand mass production as the efficient manufacture of large quantities of standardized products. However today, this can also be adapted to our schools as the efficient manufacture of large quantities of standardized students. As Raunig (2013) claims, what was once the factory is now the university. 

Knowledge became a manufactured commodity, formatted over and over again in the likeness of textbooks and syllabus to shape our tender minds. This effective reproduction is not only rapid, lucrative but very often also politically crafted. At our age, the knowledge transferred (content), and the transfer of knowledge (method), has the potential to set our minds in stone – leading to our future decisions to stand for or to stand against. Educators or entrepreneurs alike have caught a glimpse of this marketisation agenda and transformed our factories of knowledge into financial actors, prioritising profit over student interests. 

Schools began to modularise themselves, offering a wider selection achievable within a shorter period of time with of course, a higher profit margin. This also gave rise to online education and digital certifications, luring in a different clientele of people who are seeking smaller investments in time and capital. With this, space and time continually condense as the industry of knowledge production steadily rose. This is why the possession of knowledge has to condemn us to a life of debt. Universities have been reduced to a mere transaction, tied to the cycle of supply and demand. 

What a monstrous factory this is that we operate and participate in, a constant jockeying for a piece of the student loan industry pie.

Looking back at London College of Communication, I sense a difference. Not in the price, no never. But in the transfer of knowledge and knowledge transferred. Unlike many other factories, this one has a different methodology that turns away from standardization by encouraging experimentation and failure. In a recent tutorial, I questioned my lecturer on the lack of structure in our curriculum, which seems to be a recurring concern amongst us students. Her response ‘this is the only time for you to design your own curriculum, do it’ lead me to realize how my initial expectations of school advocated the manufacture of even more mass produced students. Here, knowledge is delivered 'informally via practice rather than systematically via syllabus'. (Giampetro , 2011) Lectures are often made out of inquisitive discussions from the students rather than a standard delivery of speech from a teacher.

The role of a teacher no longer consists of teaching and imparting, but of calling-into-question. This insinuates a mode of investigation which then leads to self-inquiry. (Raunig, 2013) “Knowledge” here does not preexist but is fabricated in exchange. Thus, the teacher also goes to school. This two-way exchange of knowledge can avert the manufacture of even more mass-produced students in future. 

Judea FaithComment