"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 30 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Angels and Insects


[The Church]

As year-round schools and other

measures failed to slow the

collapse of their public

education systems, metropolitan

mayors turned to the Roman

Catholic church for more than

spiritual salvation. After all,

parochial programs have shown

remarkable success in converting

gun-wielding punks into

God-fearing pupils, and if

old-fashioned hard work can't

boost test scores - well,

there's always school prayer.


[Good Science]

Beyond raising the bar for the

inner city's underachievers, the

move should also give secular

humanism a well-deserved run for

its money. K-12 kids will

finally be free to compare and

contrast creationism with

Darwinism, The Origin of

Species with Original Sin, the

Ascent of Man with the Fall. For

soon comes the time when they

must sign away the fruits of

their labors; whether their

creation takes the shape of a

double helix or a double

auction, understanding the

religious implications of a

nondisclosed eternity should

help ease the natural selection.



Besides, catechism classes are a

small price to pay to put your

kindergartener's paws on a PC.

Lord knows, it's no longer just

pedagogues from the Family

Research Council telling parents

to claim their inalienable

rights as taxpayers.

High-ranking educrats routinely

refer to schoolchildren as

clients, and the conventional

wisdom now holds that teachers

must tailor the product to

better serve their customers. In

the face of an unforgiving

marketplace, competition in and

outside the classroom has become

an article of faith. The new

primary skill set reflects this

matter-of-fact fundamentalism.

The three R's can be boiled down

to one bedrock belief - return

on investment.


Sure, antediluvian apparatchiks

still cling to such Second Wave

notions as separation of church

and state, public good and

private profit. But true digital

revolutionaries embrace the

blurring of learning and

earning. The marketplace, after

all, long ago expanded beyond

its literal and figurative

corner of the body politic. In

fields from amateur sports to

agoric systems, the invisible

hand transubstantiates the free

flow of information into a

lucrative exchange of

high-concept goods. And

liberated from its symbolic

burden, the marketplace of ideas

can follow its industrial

imperative to become Knowledge




This new brand of business has

old foundations in the think

tank. Once lonely academic

outposts, places like the

Brookings Institution were

populated by bleeding-heart

cherubim tackling the social

issues of the day. As the

political climate shifted with

the winds of libertarianism,

such selfless undertakings

spawned a breed of

self-sufficient ventures,

corporate brain trusts less

concerned with public policy

than private enterprise.


Though these scenario-spinning

consultancies may not boast the

best and brightest, their smart

and lazy experts make a mint

circulating market-friendly

memes. Big thoughts mean big

bucks, especially for those at

the high-volume hubs of the new

knowledge networks, where they

busily compound interest in (and

from) the left-right confusion

of free thinking and free




You see, the stock in trade of

the information age is

intellectual capital, leveraging

the intangible assets of

employee potential into


infrastructure. Redefining a

worker's know-how as "human

capital," a forward-looking firm

converts it into a corporate

asset, "structural intellectual

capital." And since the key to

success in the 21st century will

be architectures built on

intellectual property, knowledge

sharing must focus not on

self-improvement but on

front-line advantage. Such

instructional effectiveness may

improve the nation's moral

fiber - but the accelerated

flexibility of high-powered

machines drives the mind to the

end of its tether, making human

capital little more than a

housing for low-level RISC




The price of the new networked

paradise, unsurprisingly, is the

soul. Knowledge systems

distribute and redistribute a

wealth of information - from the

source of brainpower to the

slippery centerlessness of the

hive mind. But ofttimes nothing

profits more than well-managed

self-esteem. We have heard the

angels singing - let us join the

insects that now creep upon the


courtesy of Bartleby