What does it mean to see like a State? “In short, to see like the state is to be myopic,” says Brian Dijkema. “This myopia views geography, people, their customs and traditions in a way that “severely brackets all variables except those bearing directly” on the state’s interests of revenue, security, and order.”
An example from the institutional point of view of schools illustrates the point well. Education, and the shape of the schools that provide it, is one of the most contentious issues in Canadian and American public debate. While there are notable—and hopeful—examples to the contrary, both countries tend to view education, and therefore schools, as being in the service of the state and its goals. Both tend to see schools as being at the service of the economy and the state. Don’t believe me? Listen to recent Canadian debates about education in the trades, or consider the size of Harvard’s endowments and the culture that has grown up around America’s elite schools. It is a rare occurrence indeed to hear a politician speak of schools as places of character formation or of the deepening of wisdom. Instead, they are training grounds for the modern economy. Where deeper questions about the purpose of education are asked, they too are posed with a view to the interests of the state. Where Canadian schools—usually religious schools—attempt to maintain their freedom from central state schemes, they have faced the full brunt of the coercive power of the state. The same fate has befallen other religious institutions that attempted to work outside of the directives of the state in America.