Photo by DO'Neil
Photo by DO’Neil

“What’s an industrial engineer?” I asked my sister Toki.

“You read Cheaper by the Dozen, right?”


“Well, the dad is an industrial engineer. His work is studying how to make things more efficient. Remember the chapter on how to take showers? That’s what he does.”

Me? Interested in seeing how fast people could take showers? Don’t think so.

The rebellion against high stakes testing in the public schools, and against Common Core, reminded me of a test I took in my high school over 50 years ago. It wasn’t a “high stakes” test but a test that all students had to take. The Kuder Preference test measured students’ personal likes and dislikes with a wide variety of professionals’ preferences and interests, which suggested what kind of profession the student might be interested in.

“You not going do that,” my dad answered, when I asked him. “They ‘efficiency experts.’ Tell bosses how to get workers to work faster so bosses make more money. They no care about workers. Anyway, they goin’ get robots pretty soon.”

“Toki, what’s an actuary?” That was another “occupation” that was suggested to me by Kuder.

“Insurance man,” she answered. “Probability and statistics stuff.”

A few years later, in my first week in college, my dorm roommate suggested we should have a study group for Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged. For me, her “Objectivism” came from the mind of an imbecile. Think about a “red diaper baby” who was raised on “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” having to conceptualize Rand’s belief that the super elite are entitled to all, damn the needs of anyone else. I brushed the book and my roommate aside. Nobody in his right mind would embrace this. Or so I thought.

In fact, “Objectivists” have now taken over the world economy. The One-Percent really believe that they are superstars, and deserve all the fruits they can steal. They’ve used all the creativity and invention of the last four decades, not to create a better, safer world for all, but to increase their own advantage. And they’ve done a lot of it with efficiency experts, statistical geniuses, and the new technology with the ability to crunch big numbers quickly.

Their experts have eliminated most family wage jobs from the economy. The Big One Percent have found that robots are faster, more reliable, and don’t talk back. They have robots that put together cars, kill folks with absolute precision, spy, load cargo, mix medicine, drive.

These robots are being used to make money without making or doing anything tangible. They connect a service or a product, to a person or corporation who wants it and takes a cut in the action. An on-line robot pimp.

Their statistical geniuses are also in demand, because they now work in almost every type of business doing evaluation and research: science, food, and health, professional athletics (think sabermatrics), genetics (all about probability and statistics), Wall Street “financial products” (steal money out of other people’s retirement funds).

These experts know ways to chip away at Social Security and Medicare, cutting benefits or actually stealing from the trust fund surreptitiously (e.g. $700 million is going to be taken away if Fast Track passes). They raid state education money by privatizing public schools in revenue-starved states, all the while privatizing our prisons. That’s a real problem: privately run “public” schools and prisons with no public accountability provisions.

Our public education system has always been equated with getting a good job, which means we have a pathway: School. Work (Jobs). Retirement.

Take away the Job category, what happens? It’s beginning to look like the replacement for jobs is confinement. In this country, that’s what happened to the indigenous population, and what is now happening to the black, brown, and immigrant populations.

Take away the only public retirement option (which at this point happens to be Social Security), what’s left? Homelessness and confinement for retirees?

So maybe Kuder was right. I should have been paying more attention to that “statistical stuff” and how quickly one can take a shower (a very important issue in California, Arizona, and Washington right now).

But Kuder was wrong about one thing. I wouldn’t be happy about working for these folks.

Let’s catch a breath, then break free.

More to come: We can’t throw our children and grandchildren under the “school reform” bus.

Elders should be able to ride the bus free. It’s just safer for everyone if we’re not driving.

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