Friday, June 10, 2005

The Creation of A Gamma Class Redux, or, Friday Pink Floyd Blogging 

John Taylor Gatto, people!

Since this seems to be shaping up as Corrente's special week-long education edition, let's think about the great meat-grinder, as Pink Floyd envisioned it, that has utterly masticated the public mind and pushed us all out into the same big bowl where we lie suitably stupefied, awaiting our rescue at the hands of the most recent politico-media creation, who will lie to our faces while convincing us of our duty to approve his theft of the last of our nation's principles. Or, as the Heads asked, "My God, how did I get here?"

I beg your indulgence as I cross-post this piece I did at my own site, and which only a couple days ago I linked to in comments. Not everyone has seen it, and it still has relevance, and not just because the state has begun choking off education funds to poor and middle-income people. What's more important, it introduces John Taylor Gatto and Alexander Inglis, both of whom you should get to know in order to understand what education is in this country and how it became what it is. Follow the link to read the piece discussed, and to get to more of his writing. Here it is:


In a December 23, 2004 NYTimes article,"Students to Bear More of the Cost of College" Greg Winter notes that, thanks to George Bush's compassionate conservatism, at least 1.3 million recipients of Pell Grants, the fed's main low-income college scholarship, will be getting less money next year, and almost 90,000 will get nothing at all. Now, this is a grant of about $4000 a year, max, and is often given in lesser amounts. Given the average cost of college, ($12,841 for public and $27,677 for private facilities,) even the maximum Pell isn't going to go too far. And this at a time when education costs have become so overwhelming that current graduates will be living with a crushing and almost life-long debt, a problem that The Village Voice examined in a series of articles last week.
The "domino effect", Winter predicts, will render grants and loans from states and institutions even more difficult to obtain. This means there is a greater ikelihood of personal loans being taken out for college, and we all know what has happened to the banking and loan industries in the tender years since Reagan released the sharks to do their worst on the poor of America.

What happens when education is no longer within reach of the poor, or even the middle-class? Why, you get Coolie America, a ready-made serving class without recourse or hope, glad to get what ill-paid, benefitless work it can, dulled by exhaustion and lack of opportunity, and clueless as to what the world may offer beyond one's day-to-day experiences. How perfect for the growing retail/service economy that relies increasingly on the availability of employees who will accept the bare minimum of workplace amenities, and will place no burdens on their management, no inconvenient unions, no fair labor demands! How else to compete with the sweatshops of the world but to create sweatshops of our own, and an uneducated gamma class to toil in them?

But you don't have to go as far as denying higher education to people in order to soften them up for cooliehood. We've got the American education system for that, and it's had scores of decades to dumb down the children it absorbs. We've seen the result coming to full fruition the last 30 years, and nowhere in the developed world do you find the hatred and fear of intellect and learning that you do in the United States. Book-bannings and -burnings, accusations of "elitism" hurled against political candidates who make the mistake of speaking a foreign language or having a liberal education, knowledge held in suspicion by people who are proud of their benightedness both in the countryside, where it becomes painted as "city liberal", and in the inner city, where it is labeled "acting white".

Into all this comes John Taylor Gatto, a firebrand trouble-making radical, whose writings on education are informed with years of teaching experience, and inspired by a great anger at the results of a system he believes has been created specifically to dumb down and pacify its millions of participants. His "AGAINST SCHOOL: How Public Education Cripples Our Kids, and Why", was published in Harper's in 2001, and he makes the point that historically, dating as far back as the beginning of the 20th century, public education was conceived as a way to induce in students conformity and an acceptance of a pre-disposed role in society, and to isolate and nurture those few identified as the elite, whose education would be higher, and who would become the future "caretakers" of the rest of their poor befuddled contemporaries. In fact, the author he cites as one of the architects of the American education philosophy, Alexander Inglis, could have been the very inspiration for Huxley's Brave New World:
"Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor."
Eliminate meaningful education, eliminate the means to get one, and remove the books and other human communications that could enable one to get an education on one's own. Demonize the mere idea of being educated, and the people themselves will do the rest. The fat cats can sit back and let the money roll in, while the endless supply of coolies keep coming down the pipeline.

And so it goes, as Vonnegut used to say.

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