The Human Capital Movement: Dehumanizing Education


metamodern Education. Human Capital Movement.Image by H. R. Giger

During the Reagan era, education took a drastic turn toward the Human Capital business model. Loosely speaking, human capital corresponds to any stock of knowledge or characteristics the worker has (either innate or acquired) that contributes to his or her ‘productivity’.”
– The Basic Theory of Human Capital


By Damien Rush

On the face of it the Gary Becker’s Human Capital movement for education seems forward thinking and progressive enough. Yes, investment in our children’s, education and career opportunity for the future is important. We all see value in this. But we also see the value in maintaining a strong defense, rather than going to war; the value of protecting a strong domestic working economy, rather than selling our innovation, work ethic and our Human Capital out to the highest bidder as well. When one observes how this theory has been introduced into the education system over the past few decades, one might be led to believe that our systems of education is geared more for mindless recruitment of conformist thought rather than innovative or creative thinking. How else could we explain the lack of prominence with the arts, politics and humanities in public education?

Creative thinking often challenges the status quo of thought and routine, and becomes “dysfunctional” to the institutions which depend on their “investments” to bring them returns, period. Their return might be your contribution to a failed system of taxation for example, as collateral on the nation’s debt. Your life, expended for oil is another good “return” on their investment.

Opportunity is leaving us on the sliding curve. They may have invested poorly. If Human Capital is the focus of metamodern education, then why do so many corporations treat their humans like cogs? Because it is the education system that resources and develops the cogs for the machine. School educates us to be intimidated just enough not to question. Metamodern education trains us to conform. A trait found most advantageous to education administrators and human resource departments today.

You are an investment. To be reinvested in. By yourself. What you bring is your property, your intellect and your ethics. How and to what purpose those commodities are being manufactured and exchanged in our “free market” society, leaves little to be desired. Humans are not capital. They produce capital; out of necessity, innovation and freedom of thought and critical thinking.


Metamodern Education. Human Capital.
“In our dreams, we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning, or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, editors, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply…The task we set before ourselves is very simple as well as a very beautiful one, to train these people as we find them to a perfectly ideal life just where they are. So we will organize our children and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way, in the homes, in the shops and on the farm.” – General Education Board, Occasional Papers, No. 1 (General Education Board, New York, 1913)

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