Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech at the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014 – simply, eloquently describes the commodification of art and the destructive effects of capitalism.
The parallels to the work of teachers is easy enough to see. Capitalism turns “writers into producers of market commodities rather than creators of art,” just as it turns teachers into producers of human capital rather than free human beings associated with one another on terms of equality.
“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.”
Le Guin continued, “we will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.” We need those teachers too.
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.”