The Sentient and the Bag of Meat
It is the Sentient student with whom we are concerned.
In most cases, design education takes place within the larger context of this thing called “art school.” Art school culture is a unique subculture within American education. In Art School Confidential, Dan Clowes claims to “blow the lid off a million-dollar racket” whereby Clowes carefully exposes art school as a cabal of snake oil salesmen, has-beens and hirsute poseurs. Well, I’m calling bullshit.
Just as the smash hit films, Superbad, Knocked-up and She’s Out of My League, resonate deeply in American culture because they portray a re-balanced universe of pathetic couch-squatting, disempowered male losers  who magically win the affection of overachieving super-females, Art School Confidential resonates deeply with all of those sleep-walkingBags of Meat, who see any knowledge beyond their immediate intellectual grasp as illegitimate. Art School Confidential is a mirror that legitimizes ones’ intellectual, spiritual and physical laziness. Like the law of gravity, there are simple immutable physical laws that govern the universe.  Chief among these laws is: knowledge is power. This simple inescapable truth undergirds what Sentient students in real art schools are working so hard to achieve. These students strive to achieve agency and real power through knowledge. Knowledge begets power. Power begets a higher level of self-determination. Self-determination begets a better life.
Apatow and Clowes are but two of a nearly infinite wellspring of sources, seducing the populace with the promise of short-cuts.They are pied pipers leading others down the primrose path of victimhood, they encourage the viewer to distrust fancy book learning and sweat equity. Go ahead park your ass on the couch all day and smoke some weed, somehow you’ll score a hot-chick with a great job. Oh, and if you don’t make it as a designer, blame your school: after all, those fancy polysyllabic words in those books were a con game anyway. Good luck with that and let me know how it works out.
Oh, by the way, next time you see Mr. Clowes do me a favor, and ask him how he likes working at the art supply store.
3. “I still say that you are overlooking the third type. I think you have bags of meat, robot sharks, and sentient beings. Robot sharks are quick with an excuse, like the bag of meat, but quick with an answer, like a sentient being. Robot sharks are aiming at a salary, but pretend to be concerned with meaning. They are the type that is most difficult to discern because the bag of meat has not, for the most part, the capacity to maintain the appearance of anything but a bag of meat; the sentient being cannot maintain deception for terribly long, because his conscience will not allow it; but the robot shark can mimic all the positive attributes of both when necessary. I think you could potentially acknowledge a third type and still make your concern the sentient being. However, as it is and as it will be misinterpreted regardless, the ultimate point of the essay does not REALLY hinge on these distinctions. The essence of your argument may be just as valuable for the bag of meat as the sentient being. But the design world is largely made up of robot sharks, so it may be a good provocative addition to include that type.” — Joshua Ray Stephens
4. Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, edited by Betty Sue Flowers. Doubleday, 1988, p. 120.
5. I plan to explore these ideas in much greater detail at DesignInquiry:JOY in June 2010.
6. At the risk of seriously undermining my position, our culture’s primary spiritual leader Deepak-Opra reminds us that we should love what we do, and the rest will take care of itself.