America is not SoHo, NY. In rural America, children head for a McDonald’s parking lot to access the internet for a day of remote learning. Bourdieu, like Marx, argued that capital forms the foundation of social life. Capital decides one’s place in society. Bourdieu elaborates Marx’s idea of capital beyond the economic into the more symbolic realm of culture. Bourdieu’s “cultural capital” refers to the assemblage of symbolic elements such as talents, tastes, posture, apparel, gestures, material belongings, titles and credentials that one acquires by being part of a particular social class. Sharing similar forms of “cultural capital” with others — a university degree from KU Leuven, polo in Barbados in January, sailing the Bequia Easter Regatta in St. Vincent, driving a Lotus Evija or spending Christmas on Mustique — creates a sense of collective identity. For Bourdieu and Marx both, the more capital one has, the more powerful a position one occupies in society.
To reach schools and businesses in rustic America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated US$9.2B to fund the construction of rural broadband networks. The newest variant of COVID-19 and the associated policy responses of confinement leave countless children in precarious circumstances. In NY, students had the option of fully remote learning or a hybrid model of remote learning and in-person tutoring a few days each week. About 190,000 of the 335,000 students who choose in-person classes are eligible to resume instruction. More than 500,000 students who choose fully remote leaning will continue in that modality. Schools Chancellor Carranza has expanded school testing to allow schools to offer safe in-person instruction.
Officials have set a 3% positivity rate over a seven-day average as a threshold as an academic trigger for closures. Beyond access and quality of instruction, children must be in a physical and emotional state that enables them to learn. COVID-19 hasn’t just forced schools to remain remote; it has also prompted learners to leave the public school system. Those of higher class habitus have switched to private schools, pandemic pods, or home-schooling. In rural communities, many girls may have dropped out of school altogether. The number of children who are housing-insecure has risen as families struggle to pay rent. Parental supervision and support may be more difficult in families in which both parents work outside the home.
Bourdieu points out that “cultural capital” is a source of social inequality. Certain forms of “cultural capital” are valued over others, and can help or hinder one’s social mobility. One’s accent or dialect is an example of embodied cultural capital. Samuel Selvon in his “Lonely Londoners” juxtaposed the Trinidadian dialect as a form of cultural capital typical of Windrush working class life at the Balmoral Hostel against the habitus of the upper crust gentry in Holland Park and High Gate.
Parents from all backgrounds need help to minimise the difference in home learning environments to reduce the impact on the attainment gap. A typical grammar school reading list gave Bob Dylan a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. It is instructive to understand how principles, sensibilities and an informed view of the world comes from the study of Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and A Tale of Two Cities. Every theme from each of these books has found itself into every song that he wrote.
Bob Dylan, the only song writer to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, just sold his entire publishing catalogue to Universal Publishing for hundreds of millions of dollars. He can now cash in on his life’s work. Tapping into artists’ catalogues has become a bigger focus during COVID-19, as Mr. Dylan and other musical artists have been unable to go on tour.
The West Indies must avoid a ‘pandemic generation’ of young people with poorer education and flimsy career prospects. In 2016, it was estimated that Latin America and the Caribbean was home to twenty million young adults who were neither-in-school nor-at-work (NiNi). Down the road, economic and educational inequality will be wider than before. Many will struggle to find work. Those in work will struggle to climb the income ladder. It will be a gruelling trudge for the young to realise their aspirations regardless of their habitus. If these inequalities are not to taint society for years to come, the pandemic must be a time to develop and implement radical policies that will create a more socially mobile society and a better functioning economy.
For these reasons, Pope Francis has joined the “Council for Inclusive Capitalism” convened by Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild. The coalition includes the heads of EY, BP, Bank of America, Visa, Johnson and Johnson, Salesforce, Marcie Frost the CEO of Calpers, State Street, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Mark Carney- UN special envoy for climate finance, and Angel Gurría the Secretary General of the OECD. This alliance of investors intends to confront the idolatry of making profit one’s only purpose. The council views unfettered free markets as the “dung of the devil” and has committed to measurable action to create a more equitable and trusted economic system.