"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, July 20, 2018

“Social capital” scrip? Fin-tech experiments with new forms of precarious “employment.”

from Wrench in the Gears
July 20, 2018

I write this piece as a follow up to my post on self sovereign identity on Blockchain, the distributed ledger system designed to capture flows of data, and information about our lives. Supporters of Blockchain tout its ability to secure “transactions” into permanent, immutable records of activities, earnings, payments, and debt. As we shift to a cashless society dominated by dynamic online payment systems, I see new forms of draconian labor compensation practices starting to emerge.
To set the stage for my examination of Union Capital Boston, I want to give you a bit of personal background. I work at a botanic garden surrounded by a mostly post-industrial landscape. It’s on the way to the airport, a stone’s throw from trash transfer plants. Residents live with terrible air quality due to the refineries across the river. For a number of years we were hopeful they’d be shut down, but then fracking revitalized the petroleum industry and they’re still going strong.
When I started my job fifteen years ago, an adjacent parking lot held hundreds of school buses. Most students in Philadelphia don’t take yellow buses to school, but the company must have serviced the field trip market and perhaps charter schools and private schools. About seven years ago, as standardized testing ramped up and education funding decreased, the era of field trips drew to a close. The bus company closed up shop, and within a year or so that lot was taken over by a scrap metal company.
Today sidewalks outside the scrap yard are littered with wrecked cars. There’s a constant flow of people in pick up trucks, with shopping carts, and grocery dollies carrying in old appliances, rebar and junk to make ends meet. We are on a trajectory of intentional scarcity and economic instability that has been picking up speed as technology and financialization take hold of our lives. It’s brutal. The image of a frail elderly gentleman attempting to navigate a top-heavy shopping cart across the treacherous trolley tracks remains indelibly printed on my mind and my heart.
Jobs with pensions, with regular hours, with benefits, with stability have been slipping away for decades. First there was temp work and consulting, later gigs and now micro-work. Some try to cobble together part time jobs, but barbarous algorithms, striving for leaner deployment of human labor, make it nearly impossible to piece together a workable schedule. Meanwhile, tech has stepped up to design platforms that meet industry’s need for “just in time” labor.



  1. Jim,

    Have you read about this latest outrage occurring at one of the D.C. KIPP Schools?


    WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Multiple families tell the ABC7 I-Team their children routinely don’t have enough time to eat lunch or go to the bathroom at KIPP DC Northeast Academy, a public charter middle school. KIPP DC denies enforcing the strict scheduling that the students' families' claim. The public charter school’s student schedule is one of the most accelerated among school districts in the area.



    “If you try to go to the bathroom, they won’t let you go, and if you do go or walk out of the classroom, you get your parents called,” said one middle school girl. All of the students and parents agreeing to talk to the ABC7 I-Team spoke anonymously as they continue to go to KIPP DC campuses.

    “I almost wet my pants and I had no more clothes in my locker,” said another middle school girl.

    “You have to raise your hand to get up and go to the bathroom or do anything else. And when you go to class, you can only go once and they’ll put it on dean’s list or in the computer. And one you go to class again, and you ask to go to the bathroom in that same class of the next day, they’ll just be like, ‘Oh, you can’t go to the bathroom.’ If it’s an emergency like she said, they’re just going to brush it off,” said a third middle school girl.

    Student weekly report cards provided by families and KIPP DC show “bathroom emergency” counted right alongside tardies. Parents believe this is a health problem.

    “Young ladies have started their menstrual cycle and there have been several girls have had accidents in their pants and they wouldn't let them go to the bathroom, and they had to take somebody else's sweater to cover their pants to not have embarrassment and the teachers don't care. They have to go to the office to ask for extra clothes,” said one mother.

    What some kids who get one bathroom pass a week say they face daily at a DC charter school (ABC7)

    “It burns me up to see that we’re sending them to school and they’re getting one pass to go to the restroom, when we know that the teachers are going to the bathroom anytime their bladder talks to them.”

    KIPP Northeast Academy is closed for the summer. More than 300 students will start filling the campus August 2nd.

    KIPP DC officials declined to go on camera, but in a statement said while it has no official policy against students using the restroom during class, it tracks students bathroom visits for the “benefit of parents”. The charter school adds students have several opportunities in between class to use the restroom.

    Students are expected to walk a hallway to a restroom, find an open stall, relieve and wash themselves and get to their next class on time all within four minutes, or 240 seconds.

    The ABC7 I-Team called four public school districts in the DC Metro area which report longer times between classes, between five to eight minutes, and more allowances for bathroom visits during class.

  2. Anonymous5:13 AM

    It's one of the depressing things somebody told me for this article, - thank you.
    Useful reference.