Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Waldo Emerson

Young Americans Won’t Fight Back? What Resistance to crush in first place?

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements.

The ruling elite have managed another coup and created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination

Young Americans appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it.

A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?”

Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76% of them said no.

Despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

Bruce E. Levine republished from alternet.org: 8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. 

In 1955, late Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.”

Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said,

I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.”

Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy.

Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.

A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation.

A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.”

The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.”

These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority.

In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take EducationBut Not Their SchoolingSeriously. 

In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States.

Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”

Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population.

Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance.

The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages.

Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television.

In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone.

American children average 8 hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).

Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming,

TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism.

American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking.

While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism.

Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see.

A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination.

The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated).

As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite  (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is www.brucelevine

Noam Chomsky on Democracy and Education in the 21st Century and Beyond

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political critic and activist.

He is an institute professor and professor emeritus in the department of linguistics and philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years.

Daniel Falcone, History educator, interviewed Noam Chomsky, on June 1, 2013 in his Cambridge office on May 14,  for Truthout:

D.F: I wanted to ask you some questions about education in the 21st century.

Chomsky: Not sure the topic exists.

Falcone: Before I would go into discussing the 21st century, can you comment on this country’s history with education, and what tradition do you think we have grown out of in terms of education?

Chomsky: That’s an interesting question. The US was kind of a pioneer in mass public education. Actually, this here is land-grant university which is part of the big 19th-century expansion of our education through federal grant. And most of them are out in the West, but this is one. And also, just-for-children mass public education, which is a pretty good thing. It wasn’t a major contribution, but it had qualifications. For one thing, it was partly concerned with taking a country of independent farmers, many of them pretty radical. You go back to the late 19th century, the Farmer’s Alliance was coming out of Texas and was the most radical popular Democratic organization anywhere in history, I think. It’s hard to believe if you look at Texas today.

And these were independent farmers. They stick up for their rights – they didn’t want to be slaves. And they had to be driven into factories and turned into tools for someone else. There’s a lot of resistance to it. So a lot of public education was, in fact, concerned with trying to teach independent people to become workers in an industrial system.

And there was more to it than that. Actually, Ralph Waldo Emerson commented on it. He said something like this: he hears a lot of political leaders saying that we have to have mass public education. And the reason is that millions of people are getting the vote, and we have to educate them to keep them from our throats. In other words, we have to train them in obedience and servility, so they’re not going to think through the way the world works and come after our throats.

So, it’s kind of a mixture. There’s a lot of good things about it, but there were also, you know, the property class. The people who concentrate wealth don’t do things just out of the goodness of their hearts for the most part, but in order to maintain their position of dominance and then extend their power. And it’s been kind of that battle all the way through.

Right now, we happen to be in a general period of regression, not just in education. A lot of what’s happening is sort of backlash to the 60s; the 60s were a democratizing period. And the society became a lot more civilized and there was a lot of concern about education across the spectrum – liberals, conservatives and bipartisan. It’s kind of interesting to read the liberal literature in the 70s, but there was concern about what they called, at the liberal end, “the failures of the institutions responsible for indoctrinating the young.” That’s the phrase that was used, which expresses the liberal view quite accurately. You got to keep them from our throats. So the indoctrination of the young wasn’t working properly. That was actually Samuel Huntington, professor of government at Harvard, kind of a liberal stalwart. And he co-authored a book-length report called The Crisis of Democracy. There was something that had to be done to increase indoctrination, to beat back the democratizing wave. The economy was sharply modified and went through a liberal period, with radical inequality, stagnation, financial institutions, all that stuff. Student debt started to skyrocket, which is quite important. But that’s a technique of indoctrination in itself. It’s never been studied. Important things usually never get studied; it’s just putting together the bits of information about it. One can at least be suspicious that skyrocketing student debt is a device of indoctrination. It’s very hard to imagine that there’s any economic reason for it. Other countries’ education is free, like Mexico’s, and that is a poor country.

Finland’s, which has the best educational system in the world, by the records at least, is free. Germany’s is free. The United States in the 1950s was a much poorer country. But education was basically free: the GI Bill and so on. So there’s no real economic reason for high-priced higher education and skyrocketing student debt. There are a lot of factors. And one of them, probably, is just that students are trapped.

The other is what’s happening to teachers like you. They’re turning into adjuncts, temporary workers who have no rights, you know. I don’t have to tell you what it’s like, you can tell me.

But the more you can get the graduate students, temporary workers, two-tier payment, the more people you have under control – and all of that’s been going on. And now it’s institutionalized with No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top; teach to the test – worst possible way of teaching. But it is a disciplinary technique. Schools are designed to teach the test. You don’t have to worry about students thinking for themselves, challenging, raising questions. And you see it down to the lowest level of detail. I give a lot of talks in communities and places where people are concerned about education and I’ve had teachers come up to me and say afterwards, you know, I teach sixth grade. A little girl came up after class and said she was interested in something that came up in class, and wanted to know how to look into it. And I tell her, you can’t do it; you got to study for the test. Your future depends on it; my salary depends on it.

And that’s happening all over. And it has the obvious technique of dumbing down the population, and also controlling them. And it’s bipartisan. The Obama administration is pushing it. Also, an effort to kill the schools – the charter school movement vouchers, all this kind of stuff is nothing but an effort to destroy the public education system. It claims that it gives the parents choices, but that’s ridiculous.

For most people, they can’t make the choices; there are not any. It’s like saying everyone has a choice to become a millionaire. You do, in a way: there’s no law against it.

Falcone: You have indicated in some of your writings the effects of Taylorism – a management method that breaks tasks down into small parts to increase efficiency – as a form of on-job control. Does our educational system foster a form of on-job control?

Chomsky: Off-job control. Actually, the term is sometimes even used – Taylorism – by the business press. Taylorism gives on-job control, but we have to be careful to have off-job control and there are a lot of devices for that: education is one. But advertising is another. The advertising industry is a huge industry, and anyone with their eyes open can see what it’s for. First of all, the existence of the advertising industry is a sign of the unwillingness to let markets function. If you had markets, you wouldn’t have advertising. Like, if somebody has something to sell, they say what it is and you buy it if you want. But when you have oligopolies, they want to stop price wars. They have to have product differentiation, and you got to turn to diluting people into thinking you should buy this rather than that. Or just getting them to consume – if you can get them to consume, they’re trapped, you know.

It starts with the infant, but now there’s a huge part of the advertising industry which is designed to capture children. And it’s destroying childhood. Anyone who has any experience with children can see this. It’s literally destroying childhood. Kids don’t know how to play. They can’t go out and, you know, like when you were a kid or when I was a kid, you have a Saturday afternoon free. You go out to a field and you’re finding a bunch of other kids and play ball or something. You can’t do anything like that. It’s got to be organized by adults, or else you’re at home with your gadgets, your video games.

But the idea of going out just to play with all the creative challenge, those insights: that’s gone. And it’s done consciously to trap children from infancy and then to turn them into consumer addicts. And that means you’re out for yourself. You got the Ayn Rand kind of sociopathic behavior, which comes straight out of the consumer culture. Consumer culture means going out for myself; I don’t give a damn about anyone else. I think it’s really destroying society in a lot of ways. And education is part of it.

Falcone: Do we as a nation have a reason to fear an assault on public education and the complete privatization of education?

Chomsky: It’s part of the way of controlling and dumbing down the population, and that’s important. Much has to do with the catastrophe that’s looming, mainly environmental catastrophe. It’s very serious. It’s not generations from now; it’s your children and your grandchildren. And the public is pretty close to the scientific consensus. If you look at polls, it will say it’s a serious problem; we’ve got to do something about it. Government doesn’t want to, and the corporate sector not only doesn’t want to, it’s strongly opposed to it. So now, take for example ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s corporate funded, the Koch brothers and those guys. It’s an organization which designs legislation for states, for state legislators. And they’ve got plenty of clout, so they can get a lot of it through. Now they have a new program, which sounds very pretty on the surface. It’s designed to increase “critical thinking.” And the way you increase critical thinking is by having “balanced education.” “Balanced education” means that if you teach kids something about the climate, you also have to teach them climate change denial. It’s like teaching evolution science, but also creation science, so that you have “critical thinking.”

All of this is a way of turning the population into a bunch of imbeciles. That’s really serious. I mean, it’s life and death at this point, not just making society worse.

Falcone: What do you think are important attributes of a school? What constitutes a good school?

Chomsky: Well, I’ll describe the school I went to when I was kid. It was a school run on Deweyite lines, an experimental school run by Temple University, which had a very good education department, a progressive education department. I was in it from about 2 to 12. Then I went to an academic high school – Central High in Philadelphia. You may know it. It was a boy’s school, probably not now.

Falcone: Yeah, co-ed now.

Chomsky: Which were all college- oriented kids. So, until I got to Central High, I literally didn’t know I was a good student, because the question never came up.

Everybody was a good student. The kids were just encouraged to do what they like to do and what was best, and there was a structure; there was a program. It’s not you ran around doing anything you felt like. I skipped a grade, but I didn’t pay any attention and no one else paid any attention. Just that I was the smallest kid in the class, but the idea that somebody is a good student; somebody is not a good student – it just never arose. There were tests, but they just gave information about what’s going on. This is something we ought to be doing better.

The kids weren’t ranked; there were no grades. There’s a lot of cooperative work and cooperative projects and they encouraged us. You know, study, challenging questions, and it was extremely successful. I remember everything very well. I went into the academic high school and it’s kind of like a black hole. I was able to get all As and a scholarship to go into college. I might well not have gone, except for what I learned on my own.

And that’s what school is. And there’s no reason why it can’t be done everywhere. Actually, just today, I had lunch with a faculty member here I’ve known for many years who works on designing educational programs for high schools, science programs. He’s describing the programs, and they are programs like one of the programs that they’re trying to get high schools to use around the world, incidentally – not just here. So he described one in which it starts by asking the question, “How can mosquitoes fly in the rain?” And then, but why is there a problem? Well, you study the force of the raindrop hitting a mosquito – it’s like a person being hit by a locomotive.

So how come they don’t get smashed to pieces? And what makes them stay up? And then a million other questions come. You start looking into these questions. You start learning physics, biology, all kinds of things. And there are things that the students can do so that they can ask questions, and pursue them, and do experiments and so on. I mean, that’s education. It’s not just you learned how a mosquito flies in the rain, but you learn how to be creative and why it’s exciting to learn things and create things and make up new things. And that can be done from kindergarten on.

For example, one kindergarten program, it was described in Science Magazine: they had a series on why the educational system is destroying interest. There’s a kindergarten program where the kids were given dishes which had in them a bunch of objects and pebbles, shells, seeds and others. They had a problem, which was to figure out which ones were the seeds. So they had a scientific conference, and kids get together and figure out ways, things you can try. Teacher is in the background guiding it, but mostly independent. Finally, they figured out what the seeds were. At that point, each kid was given a magnifying glass and the teacher opened the seeds and took a look inside. They could find the embryo that makes it grow. Those kids not only learned some biology; they also learned that it’s fun to understand things and to discover things. And that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter how much you learn in school; it’s whether you learn how to go on and do things by yourself. And that can be done at any level. I know graduate school is kind of like, automatic; that’s all you do at a good graduate school, but like here in graduate school, you don’t have grades. They don’t pay any attention to that.

But it can be done in kindergarten. And that’s how good schools are made; that’s where everything is possible.

Falcone: And these are natural impulses?

Chomsky: Kids are naturally creative, and of course, you don’t have to beat it out of them. That’s why they’re asking, “Why?” all the time.

Falcone: A fancy suburban high school that is rich in resources: sometimes they’re still faced with apathy and indoctrination, a narrow ideological spectrum. Is this a cultural condition in your view, or is this inherent in our school system?

Chomsky: It was true even in the school that I went to in Philadelphia, in a day of much less corporate control of society. I don’t think it’s inherent in anything. They can perfectly well have schools that have programs like the kinds I was just talking about. But not just in science – in every other area as well … Take American history. I have a friend who was a school teacher in Lexington, where I live, who taught sixth grade. She was a really good teacher, very successful. But she described to me once how she ran a section on the American Revolution. And a couple of weeks before the section was going to begin, she started imposing arbitrary restrictions on the class. Like making the kids do things that they didn’t like and that didn’t make any sense.

And finally after a while, they got pretty resentful and they started getting together to get her to stop doing it somehow. But when it got to that point, she introduced the section on the American Revolution, okay? They understood what was going on.

Falcone: That’s clever.

Chomsky: There’s no level where you can’t do things like that if you’re a teacher who has control of what you’re doing. Then if there’s some respect for teaching, so you’re allowed to have control. But that’s what’s being destroyed: teachers’ control of the classroom, like worker control of the shop floor. You can’t allow that; you have to have Taylorism.

Control from above, control by the administrators. No respect for the working person, whether it’s a teacher or machinist. And it’s amazing how this is done. I mean, there’s a great study done by faculty members here. David Noble, who worked on the history of technology. He studied the machine tool industry in the 1950s and 60s. There was a move towards computer control of machines. Numerical control of machine process, big advance.

Noble did a detailed study and it’s very striking how it worked. There were two tasks that could be followed. One was letting skilled machinists run the system with their detailed knowledge and ability to fix things that went wrong and make up new ideas and so on. The other was let the managers run it. And there were studies, and the ones where the machinists ran it were successful and profitable and everything else, but they picked the opposite way. And they picked it for a very simple reason: they got disciplined workers. Even if that overcomes profit, it’s much more important to have a disciplined, obedient workforce. Not workers who can do things for themselves, for pretty obvious reasons. If they can do things for themselves, they’re pretty soon going to ask, why do we need bosses? And then you’re in trouble. Kind of like sit-down strikes, that’s why they’re so dangerous. This happened, and that’s the same in schools.

You can’t let teachers control the classroom. That’s teaching to test; then the teachers are disciplined. They do what you tell them. Their salaries depend on it; their jobs depend on it. They become sociopaths like everyone else. And you have a society where it’s only, “Look after me; I’ll forget everyone else.” And then they can get rid of Social Security and get rid of Medicare. And why should I pay for the kid across the street going to school; my kid is not going to school. Why should I care about disabled widows? Etcetera.

Falcone: And these are bipartisan efforts?

Chomsky: Oh, it’s bipartisan. Obama suggested cutting back on Social Security. But then they pretend to be surprised at the outcomes. Like there was a really comical story in The New York Times the other day on the front page. Part of the new Medicaid program is having private companies contract to give care for the elderly and the disabled and so on. And there was a study that looked into it and found that what they’re doing is having yoga classes for well-off people, and all kind of stuff that makes money. And how come the private companies are trying to make money instead of help people? I mean, did you ever think for a second, is a private company in business in order to help people or in order to make money?

Falcone: How about the arts and music? We see cutting of …

Chomsky: It cuts creativity, it cuts the independence. I mean, that’s a phase in which kids, in fact grown-ups, express themselves. You know, they learn about themselves. It’s important to cut that back.

I grew up in the Depression. My family was a little, I’ll say employed working class, but a lot of them never went to school in the first grade, but [were familiar with] very high culture. The plays of Shakespeare in the park, the WPA performances, concerts, and it’s just part of life. The union had worker education programs and cultural programs. And high culture was just part of life. Actually, if you’re interested, there’s a detailed scholarly study of working class people in England in the 19th century and what they were reading, and it’s pretty fabulous. It turns out that they didn’t go to school, mostly. But they had quite a high level of culture. They were reading contemporary literature and classics. In fact, the author concludes finally that they were probably more educated than aristocrats.

Read more: Democracy and Education in the 21st Century: Part 1, Daniel Falcone Interviews Noam Chomsky, June 2009

“State Designing-in Failure”: Young Indoctrinated to Obey? How?

Chomsky wrote on April 4 (with slight editing):

“Public education is under attack around the world, and in response, student protests have recently been held in Britain, Canada, Chile, Taiwan and elsewhere.
Forty years ago there was deep concern that the population was breaking free of apathy and obedience. Since then, many measures have been taken to restore discipline.

California is a battleground. The Los Angeles Times reports on the campaign to destroy what had been the greatest public higher education system in the world: “California State University officials announced plans to freeze enrollment next spring at most campuses and to wait-list all applicants the following fall pending the outcome of a proposed tax initiative on the November ballot.”

Similar defunding policies are under way nationwide. The New York Times reports: “In most States, it is now tuition payments, not State appropriations, that cover most of the budget: the era of affordable four-year public universities, heavily subsidized by the State, may be over.” Why?

There has been a shift from the belief that we as a nation benefit from higher education, to a belief that it’s the people receiving the education who primarily benefit and so they should foot the bill,” concludes Ronald G. Ehrenberg, a trustee of the State University system of New York and director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

Community colleges increasingly face similar prospects – and the shortfalls extend to grades K-12.

A more accurate description is “Failure by Design,” the title of a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, which has long been a major source of reliable information and analysis on the state of the economy.

The EPI study reviews the consequences of the transformation of the economy a generation ago from domestic production to financialization and offshoring.  By design: there have always been alternatives.

One primary justification for the design is what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz called the “religion” that “markets lead to efficient outcomes,” which was recently dealt yet another crushing blow by the collapse of the housing bubble that was ignored on doctrinal grounds, triggering the current financial crisis.

Claims are also made about the alleged benefits of the radical expansion of financial institutions since the 1970s. A more convincing description was provided by senior economic correspondent for The Financial Times Martin Wolf: “An out-of-control financial sector is eating out the modern market economy from inside, just as the larva of the spider wasp eats out the host in which it has been laid.”

The EPI study observes that the “Failure by Design” is class-based. For the designers, it has been a stunning success, as revealed by the astonishing concentration of wealth in the top 1%, in fact the top 0.1 percent, while the majority has been reduced to virtual stagnation or decline.

As  “the Masters of Mankind” have the opportunity, they pursue their vile maxim of “all for ourselves and nothing for other people,” as Adam Smith explained two centuries ago.

Mass public education is one of the great achievements of American society. It has had many dimensions. One purpose was to prepare independent farmers for life as wage laborers who would tolerate what they regarded as virtual slavery.

The coercive element did not pass without notice. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that political leaders call for popular education because they fear that “This country is filling up with thousands and millions of voters, and you must educate them to keep them from our throats.”

But educated the right way: Limit their perspectives and understanding, discourage free and independent thought, and train them for obedience.

The “vile maxim” and its implementation have regularly called forth resistance, which in turn evokes the same fears among the elite.

Forty years ago there was deep concern that the population was breaking free of apathy and obedience: The breaking free must resume and continue.

 

Is your spirit of resistance crushed? America youth: Fight back!
Do these practices strike a chord among the youth in America?
1. Student-Loan Debt,
2. Psychoanalyzing children, categorizing mental kinds of pathology in children, and Medicating Noncompliance,
3. Focusing on obedience and compliance in Schools,
4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top programs,
5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education seriously,
6. Surveillance methods and technology as normal behavior,
7. Eight hours in front of Screens of television, internet, computer, cell phone…
8. The daily subjugation to Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism
I have published articles on each one of these reasons that are meant to cow youth in America from getting on the march for serious changes.
I find it interesting to abridge and re-edit an article published, in July 3,1 by Bruce E. Levine in AlterNet “Eight Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance”
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“Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the “corporatocracy” can completely screw them and making them feel helpless to do anything about it.

For example, a 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?”

In the group of 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no.

Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy: Most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A.  You could earn a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt.

While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and and most developing States.  Schooling are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world.

The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000College graduates average closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt.

During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt.

In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life. (See note 1)

2. Psycho-pathology analysis of children and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD).

The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.”

Heavily tranquilizing anti-psychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010).  A major reason for this, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving anti-psychotic drugs have non-psychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy.

Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.”

A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.

The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students.

Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.”

The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society.

Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education Seriously. 

In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning.

That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”

The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class.

In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8% of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “sub-treasury” plan (had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population.

Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”. For example, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being under surveillance makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance. Why?

Beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes.

Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use).

Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).

Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see.  First, Fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy. Second, TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically.

While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism.

American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism.

Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance: It creates the basis for people to feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities.  This is the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see.

A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies.  When a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulative tendencies, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and to forming democratic movements.

Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity.

The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated).

As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

Note 1: In August 21, 2011, published this “education” article in The Atlantic “When Will the Bubble Burst? Student Loan Debt Swells 511 Percent”

“It’s no secret that American students are being crushed by student loans. We’re on track to cross the $1 trillion mark in total student debt, exceeding household credit card debt, sometime later this year. That sounds pretty insane, but thanks to our colleagues at The Atlantic we can see just how far out of hand the situation has spiraled.

The magazine tapped data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and found that total student loan debt increased a whopping 511 percent between the first quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2011:

student.loans

We all know how much havoc the housing bubble wreaked on our economy, but it turns out the growth of student loan debt was twice as steep as the growth of mortgages and revolving home equity from 1999 to the peak of the housing bubble in 2008.

One thing is for sure: if mass numbers of students start defaulting, or if they stop spending on other things because their money is going to paying off loans, a day of reckoning is surely coming. The only question is when?

Note 2:  Is the youth in America practically illiterate and are foreign to what is going outside their close surrounding?  Youth in Europe and in the Arab World are revolting, and successfully.  The latest ugly riots in England were preemptive warning to the government with the strong message: “You may balance the budget, but not at our expense”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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