i've said this before, but now i'm saying it again, drawn by teaching through james c. scott's beautiful book seeing like a state. standardized testing is an excellent example of what he's talking about; designed to provide a reliable child-product into college and the workforce. that's why bill and melinda gates are writing the national curriculum; they need to fill their cubicles, hence the kids their bubbles. it's like 'taylorism,' like german scientific forestry in the 18th century, like corbusier's nightmare design for paris.
i'm up on splice, arguing again that compulsory education is unconscionable. indeed, in my view 'compulsory eduction' is a contradictio in adjecto. if pressed i will half-assedly unfold the voluntaristic alternative. really i think families and children need to band together to educate one another and themselves: we've got to stop conscripting children into authoritarian institutions. if your response to this is now to picture ghetto black folks or rural trailer trash and their dysfunctional cultures, which you propose to ameliorate via removing the children from these homes: then you are what i'm attacking. and just first off: we've been at it a hundred years, and has the effect been to ameliorate these cultures by your own standards or has it not been? and second: you know neither what people do know nor what they need to know. any second now there'll be universal pre-k.
150 years or so into universal compulsory education, we might ask: what was the justification for it, and how has it turned out? perhaps the justification was egalitarian. to what extent has it closed gaps of race or class in this country? i'm talking about reality, not yapyap. i attended dc public schools in the 1960s and '70s. they were an incomprehensible useless disaster then, and they are now. they're just about to get it right, though: have been since 1881. perhaps the idea was universal literacy? perhaps indeed, but the people who have tried to make that happen are at best semi-literate themselves. or put it like this: even if margaret spellings or arne duncan can, strictly speaking, sound out the words on their telepromters, they are under a terrible misapprehension about what literacy actually is. their vision is that by the time you reach 18, you should be able to mechanically produce a five-paragraph essay, like a parrot or an idiot. they've failed even at that.
i can't imagine that these are the actual motivations, because then people would register that the means are grotesquely incompatible with the ends, and that the results are nothing at all like the professions, over a very long trial. i think the purpose was subordination of populations; i think compulsory education is merely authoritarianism. it is explicitly authoritarian, for it is compulsory. i think you might want to consult your own statutes on child labor and kidnapping. to a great extent, we've done to everyone what we did to american indian children: snatch them and try to 'integrate' them into the dominant culture: to control them and reshape them, because parents and communities don't share the values of the dominant culture. the form that takes now is that we're not adequately filling cubicles, so let's let bill gates write a universal curriculum. i think the purpose is to shape and control minds, as in forced labor camps in the cultural revolution, to destroy sub-cultures, to make everyone as much like 'us' as possible.
i think the motivations are racism, classism, and cultural imperialism intended to result in cultural destruction or 'assimilation' or 'integration.' the other side is internment for the unassimilated, as in high-rise housing projects and mass incarceration. this combination is summarized by urban public education. i think the goal of compulsory education overall is to produce a uniform american child to feed into the maw of the state-capital octopus, dropping all others into the dark dimension where they can't be seen. other than that, though, it is a very inspiring vision.
i think you'll find that many of the same people who were pushing universal compulsory education were advocates of eugenics. one intended effect of 'universal literacy,' and of standardized testing, and of compulsory education, is to wipe out what deleuze calls 'minor languages': slangs, dialects, etc. language is central to culture; destroying vernaculars is cultural destruction. however, major languages are dead without them, as arne and margaret and hillary so vividly demonstrate. and in all this, the progressive people effortlessly, with no self-consciousness or self-reflection, took themselves to be obviously the normative people: just what all people should be, should be compelled to be. with little variations, they're still right there.
a couple of lessons from the obvious century-long failure: if you seek to produce egalitarian outcomes by authoritarian means, you simply produce more extreme hierarchy. that should have been obvious to everyone all along. the history of american progressivism has been a history of effortlessly deploying white bourgeois norms, regarding them as universally valid, and using them ('unconsciously') as instruments of renewed or more thorough oppression. race was at the heart all along, i believe. the idea was that black people and poor people (in appalachia, perhaps) were not capable of raising their own children, that they could not be trusted with their own children, that their communities and families were 'dysfunctional' or 'pathological' and that we could help. help=make them more like white middle-class people. this made it hard to distinguish between cultural uplift and cultural annihilation. even by the standards of the progressives themselves, the results have been disastrous.
i am telling you that the average american school is run like an eastern bloc dictatorship. i assert this flatly and seriously. i would ask the administrators, those grotesque little martinets: in virtue of what do you think you have the right to tell human beings how to dress, what to say, where to gather, and so on? and i'd just point out that attendance is compulsory. and then i'd gesture at the standardized testing regime, for there is nothing else left in american education. we are brainwashing people in a totalitarian system designed by authentic idiots. and then i would add also that the baby authoritarians are rocking the colleges now with their unthinking intolerance and their constant appeals to authority, and that this is incompatible with citizenship in a democracy, or with any of the ideals that america has ever professed. i do recommend a rebellion, within each of these interment camps, if there is anyone left in them who is capable of experiencing their own continual, palpable oppression. resistance is a moral obligation.
most everyone has finally got to the oops, sorry phase on no child's behind left/total-immersion standardized testing as a national strategy for achieving control over children's neurology. it really did have its successes, though: i'd say every year for the past decade the mind of the average college freshman is more mechanical than the last. so, anyway, maybe we made a mis-step. right. it was a mis-step that coincides roughly with my 15-year-old daughter's entire life. now, if i were personally picking out a moral crisis of our moment, it wouldn't be climate etc; it'd be government education. you can't envision any alternative. but it's just (a) literally kidnapping (look up the statutes), (b) a direct attempt at consciousness-formation applied largely for economic reasons to entire populations, and (c) a matter of surrendering your children to real idiots, mediocrities and cant-yappers like say arne duncan or margaret spellings who have done nothing in decades-long careers but utter cliches and administer repulsive bureaucracies, to say nothing of fuckwads such as george w. bush, bill clinton, bill gates, or barack obama. those people are themselves now 're-thinking' what they before pseudo-passionately advocated with their meaningless catch-phrases and tried to force on your baby. i don't know how people look at folks like that on tv and think they know what they're doing or that they have ever had an idea. maybe they wear good clothes or something.
i swear to god what drove the whole thing was a sheer combination of nationalism and capitalism. seriously, read the tom friedman education columns from the 90s and even unto today: our kindergartners are in competition in a globalized economy with the kindergartners of finland and sigapore, a competition we always lose. so what we need is the world's richest man to write a common core curriculum. then leftists are all: i'm an advocate of public education! yes, and neo-liberalism or whatever else you call that.
but, at any rate, making the choice to snatch children from their families is making the decision to turn them over to people and institutions who are no smarter and no morally better on average than these families themselves, to put it gently. but in contrast to these families, there is no moral justification for these people's involvement. (perhaps you think you can give a rational justification for public compulsory education. the only reason you think that is because you've never faced any skepticism, because i'm telling your argument is a tissue of fictions.) really i think we ought to implode all these internment facilities.
the good part is that education isn't what most people, or most politicians, think or say it is. even with many hours every day for whole childhoods, actual persons prove profoundly recalcitrant in a thousand dimensions to your alleged knowledge and your discipline. education has effects, but you can't make people over into whatever you please. the idea that we can, however, has been the fundamental thought behind educational theory since plato. that's more or less why education is always, always in a 'crisis.' it is always failing, never satisfactory. thank god.
there is nothing sadder than american progressivism. first of all, it was never coherent: the only plan was to help people by subordinating them. all day every day for what's coming up on centuries now, the left gets a bunch of experts together to tell us how to fix...black people. it has not changed in decades; there are no ideas, no imagination, just autistic repetition. de blasio is going back to the high-rise housing project. the first time around, it was a straight-up reservation system, and the indian reservation was also a progressive program for the uplifting of a backward race riddled with pathologies. the basic model of the 'great' 'society' was the internment camp, built by demolishing actual streets, houses and communities. in this case it was the imposition of a completely state-dominated concrete environment designed by evil cretins, i.e. experts: just the sort of people who rise in our meritocracy. then you wondered why the residents tore the place up. let's see...it must be their pathologies! we need professors to tell us how to fix them again. and again. and...
or how about some forced residential integration? in both these cases, allow me to point out that community cannot be imposed on people through sheer prescription, backed by force or even incentive. perhaps there is a bit of energy on the left just now. i am just begging y'all not to use this energy to run backwards to the same old disasters. also i am saying this to you straight up: you don't know how people do live, and you don't know how people ought to live, and the only decent situation is one in which people decide that for themselves, not where harvard professors decide it for them. the first datum for any actual movement toward social justice has just got to be this: people's autonomy must be respected. it's their account to themselves of themselves that matters; to think anything else is just to perpetuate the privilege to which you purport to be opposed: your own privilege, bill de blasio; your own, rahm emanuel.
daniel patrick moynihan, let's say, was what we might term an internal colonialist, bwana in a pith helmet on safari to uplift the dark continent within and bring to it the blessings of civilization.
probably folks like those think that they have devoted their careers to remediating the hierarchy they are themselves perched atop, and they propose to remove it specifically by its ever-more thorough exercise. they are enjoying it, claiming it, and imposing it. and simultaneously they are identifying it as the problem they're trying to fix. spend the next few generations in withering self-examination instead of other-examination, alright?
black people and poor people or trailer trash or whomever you're thinking of: they are far more qualified than robert reich to decide how they should live, and unlike robert reich they have a right to. i'm serious: there is no ph.d. that will help you know how people should live; there are no ethical qualifications, no certifications, no expertise except living your life with other people in your place. for example, cass sunstein prescribes the nudge, but the whole thing just effortlessly assumes that people like cass sunstein understand what each of us should be nudged toward. there are no experts on that but each of us. and you should contemplate the extreme arrogance of people who simply take it as a given that they know how everyone should live. that's an ethical failure, a golden rule violation. but it also just shows the breathtaking incomprehension, self-regard, and unconscious evil of the privileged, and helps reproduce the structure of that privilege generation after generation. and the program is supposed to be egalitarian. no doubt they're off rocking davos on behalf of the oppressed.
people like reich and sunstein exemplify the ways class and race are articulated or actually made now: they move back and forth from academia to think-tank to state, through the archipelago of social-science expertise, epistemic prestige, and real power. (and i am telling you that even rahm and bill are future distinguished professors at the kennedy school of government or whatever as they wait to cycle into the cabinet.) but reich and sunstein, for example, take on the neutral voice of the social scientist and they are chock full of statistics. this voice is an extremely central example of the 'unmarked' position of privilege: they do not implicate themselves in their advocacy. but the social sciences - overlapping with a medical model of pathologies and also a criminal-justice discourse - have been the nexus of racial and class construction since the early twentieth century. (before that they measured your skull and tried to fit your people into the sequence of evolution: somewhere between slug slime and nature's crowning achievement rutherford b. hayes.)
all the state-implemented racial transformations, each layer of new welfare and housing programs, each new war on poverty and discrimination, has been justified by the social sciences. many have been unalloyed disasters, but expertise always gets it right this time, by its own account.
the thing about expertise, especially the (pseudo-)scientific variety: you ought to be silent before it: you have to bow to the facts; the claim is to a special power to declare what is real. and yet the categories of the statistical tables just recirculate and reinforce the wretchedly problematic race and class taxonomies, and the whole thing presupposes that we have a right to gather information on them so we can address their problems: their problems as named by us. the power dynamics are completely inbuilt, the numbers a kind of spectral emanation of the a priori stance and categories. and a long century of this has left us fundamentally untransformed. these hierarchies are more extreme and intransigent than when y'all started. how have democratic administrations done at ameliorating income inequalities, for example? i will say again: that's because the solutions and their rhetorics are imposed by direct exercises of domination by the very people who are the problem, from the very top of the power hierarchy. that just is not going to have liberating effects: not last time or the time before that and not next time.
[note to post-marxists: guess what? political hierarchies and hierarchies of knowledge are as real as economic hierarchies, and in general they coincide. it is not necessary for robert reich to be the richest man in the bay area for him to be a person of tremendous privilege in more or less every dimension.]
how are we going to get better on race and class and so on? start by giving up. you have no status that entitles you to re-locate people or re-educate them, to watch or cure or name them. until it's their own voices, not the experts and political authorities speaking on their behalf, it's all sheer cultural domination or even annihilation. let go. let people make their own lives.
i was at a faculty meeting today discussing a possibly wide-ranging change in our curriculum. one theme was how in the world to deal with, or as one of my colleagues put it, 'treat' the kids who are coming out of k-12 education. everyone nodded as people said things like, "they just want to be told what to do, all the time in every respect". "they think education is just jumping through hoops". "they have no intrinsic interest in the material; they don't even know what that would be like.' it was not me, believe it or not, who described k-12 education in this period as 'profoundly authoritarian'. 'they regard teachers as mechanical information-delivery systems.' 'when you really look at the common core, it's all designed to take the last shreds of autonomy from teachers'. and so on.
at one point, someone said, "well, i guess we all agree that these kids are being abused. the question is, what can we do to treat them or cure them of what they came in with, or of what our culture is now?"
you should really understand: this is a consensus in a faculty that is also more or less 100% left, people who to a person except me, might describe themselves as great proponents of public education, and who as a default position probably support most things the obama admin does. but look, we are all college teachers and there are certain things you just cannot see, every day. so what i wonder is: what in the world can be done about this? like universal surveillance - to which it is related in various ways - it flows on indifferently through democratic and republican adminstrations. well, both parties have deeply authoritarian basic orientations. and also, if you like, this approach is being driven by a particular economic vision, a particular version of technocratic capitalism, in which children are cogs. the personalities they are with some success attempting to manufacture cannot be and will not be citizens of a democracy, but of a squishy totalitarianism.
empathy varies inversely with power. i'd say that's something we all know by experience, though it's nice to have some evidence. perhaps you have actually dealt with high school principals, policepersons, judges, irs officials, very rich persons, or senators, for example. i'd explain it as follows: people who seek power are morally worse, on average, than those who do not (this is true more or less by definition, as though i said: people who try to accomplish evil are worse on average...), and sometimes people who seek power get it, while people who do not rarely do. and second, power makes you a worse person, which is actually the conclusion of the piece. now, if you do not draw anti-authoritarian, anti-hierarchical - indeed anarchist - conclusions from this, you should try. and what i would really recommend is that people stop lionizing the powerful, worshipping barack a la 2008 or clinton or gore or bill gates or whatever it may be. powerful people should be under continuous suspicion, should be regarded with continuous skepticism. the only real point has to be to hem them in, mitigate their disastrous effects, or tear them down. the human desire to be subordinated just puts us in the hands of the worst among us. that we want the exploitation, poverty, and rape that we receive from authorities, however, does not entail that the authorities aren't evil.
on the other hand, the piece does that silly brain thing, where they say that, though some people think that powerful people need others less and hence attend to their feelings less, the authors have a different hypothesis: 'we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.' now first of all, why aren't those alternative descriptions of the very same thing? and second, what the heck do you gain by retreating into the brain? it's just doing no work. 'my brain is making me less sensitive' or 'my brain is changing me': how much sense or content is there in claims like that? or maybe i am making my brain less sensitive. when my brain affects me (how surprising!), what is affecting what? this same let's say casual line of thought might identify my self with my brain, which would make it very strange indeed to say that my brain is changing me. is it supposed to be explanatory to say the x is the cause of x? but it does suggest that power and interactions with others in general can be reduced to internal brain states, which is just counter-productive. actual interactions of your brain and the rest of you with other people and the outside world are actually occuring. the problem is interpersonal, not intracranial. but if it were in your brain, power and its effects could possibly be treated with drugs or psycho-surgery, which would be good, and might keep us from having to open internment/re-education/labor camps for assistant principals after the revolution.
the common core is an extremely good political issue, or an extremely good reason why atomic weaponry should be available to every consumer, every parent, every teacher, and every child. dirtier the better. now, the rhetoric around the damn thing is egalitarian. it was written by the bill and melinda gates foundation, or in other words the egalitarians are turning your child's head over to the very richest man in america. why are they doing that? because egalitarians such as arne duncan and barack obama measure merit in cash money. indeed, the other purpose, besides the 18 billionth disingenuous attempt to equalize us all, is to crank up our capitalism so's we can compete with china. the picture is 'meritocratic' where merit means 'filled in the right little bubbles, so can work for microsoft'. you probably think this is progress!
ah, the common core. the thing richly justifies violent revolution, which i would definitely recommend if it cannot be blown up through electoral politics. now i realize that there's an emerging demographic progressivism, and that women, black people, latinos, and gay folk unanimously want to be personally subordinated by idiots. only white het guys don't want a personal overseer following them around and telling them what to do all day: a symptom of our privilege. on the other hand, slavishness is one possible result of being oppressed. who, they ask, will duct-tape my child to a chair and force her little hand to move, in unison with all the other little hands, as some numskull prescribes? you've got to think about the collective, not just the individual. if there was someone who could tell us all what to do all day, and with the guns, money, and internment facilities to make it stick, we would be as one. but perhaps somewhere there are non-masochists even in these groups and we can cobble together an anti-sadist alliance.
so, bill de blasio and the whole dem party is shifting to the issue of economic inequality. quite the urgent issue, not that it's atypical of any large state-dominated society in the history of the world. but i do not believe that what they are proposing - insofar as they are proposing anything - can have any effect on structural inequalities, and i suggest that this is as demonstrable as anything along these lines can be. so what do you suggest? more food stamps? longer-term unemployment benefits? do these things change people's basic social or economic status? (right, it is important that they might enable hungry people to eat!) going to try again or pretend to try again to equalize education across poor and wealthy communities? what in the world would make you think that this has any effect on the basic structural or relational situation? has the welfare state or compulsory public education redressed structural inequalities? i would like to see the evidence. i would point you toward a century of dicking around with education to no effect. giving poor people more benefits can slightly ameliorate their situation. but it does nothing to change the structure, and indeed i suggest that it freezes the situation into place, that it and also public education, for example, makes the basic structure chronic. public education has been a caste system and a reproducer of the class structure in the next generation since it was instituted. if you look squarely at the real history of these programs, i believe that's what you see. well, maybe you are going to do them better this time. no, you'd have to actually do something comepletely else.
we're in another wave of our babies vs the babies of singapore in a standardized test duel to the death. i cannot believe that twenty years later they are still thinking and talking like this. look one problem is that your kid might end up like tom friedman: a collage of buzzwords without a mind in his profoundly unpretty, hideously swollen head. i've done this so many times for so long that i can't even pause to make the goddamn arguments anymore. your picture of childhood is sick. it is abusive, enslaving. your picture of education is grotesquely false: there is no distinction on your position between knowledge and sheer idiocy. i actually have to try to teach the little mechanical minds that now emerge from american public education: all they want is to be told what to do: they want a guide to writing the essay sentence by sentence, including the actual opinions. (there are exceptions still, thank god.)
i have no idea why, but your whole thing is built on wacky economic nationalism: friedman is always like: wait til you don't understand the accent of your chinese boss. it might as well be: you don't want to be ruled by negroes or women, do you? if negroes or women do well, then 'we' do badly. if immigrants do well, then 'americans' do badly. it is the same argument, or the attempt is to pit us against them in order to drive your other agendae: your technocratic/surveillance/dependency state, e.g. the idea is that if the finns do well economically, then we do badly. you don't even understand your own capitalism. bizarrely, friedmans actually oppose globalization, or they oppose it insofar it doesn't have the current form: a world economic hierarchy with america at the top. or maybe that's just the rhetorical strategy (threaten you with the notion that foreigners are getting uppity or getting to be better than you, so you'll accept 24 hours a day of mechanical learning labor for your children), in which case we needn't worry about it at all. if friedman is coming to study your school in singapore, you obviously should not let him in: the whole program is he wants to steal your ideas in order to beat you: it's a zero-sum game for friedman, and the whole program is to keep all the money flowing toward here, and keep it from flowing there. if you took their jive seriously, it'd be like going to study the red army, so we could eventually use their techniques to conquer china. the whole usa has devoted decades to doing nothing but improving test scores, and failed miserably. if they had succeeded, however, that would be meaningless. i hope y'all think about your own children this way: little capitalist engines competing with chinese kids: think of them as mere instruments to be devoted to the use of the american economy and the american state. and i hope your children eventually grow large and clear enough to beat you down like the pinheaded wretches you are.
once again: if you conceive children as little economic units whose job is to drive forward the society's wealth by generating their own, then compulsory k-12 education violates child labor laws. it violates laws on the books and constitutional amendments against slavery, to which it subordinates the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society. it removes them from their families in order to serve the state and the corporation, like missionary schools kidnapping indian children. how else are they ever to become productive members of american society? i. mean. this. stuff. literally.
i often hear it wondered: if there was something happening now like slavery in, say, the 1820s, would i recognize it as evil? would i try to do anything about it? or would i just think it's the way things are and listen to the authoritative voices of senators or newspaper editors that are telling me that it has to be this way, because of the nature of the people we are enslaving, or because of the economic necessities, the very viability of the american economy? well here is such a something.
this war between the children of america and the children of finland has gone on long enough, and i propose a final resolution, so that friedman isn't back with the same column in 2023: let's, in the traditional manner, boldly put the issue on single combat. we of america will select our champion rambo kindergartner; the finns select theirs. they can square off with machetes, maybe. whoever wins gets all the world's money.
i'd rather be ruled by illiterate peasants than by harvard j.d.'s. how do you get a harvard j.d.? by following the rules better than anyone else, by mastering, with tutorial help provided by your parents, the standardized test. i do not believe the average harvard jd is more intelligent than the average person on the street. and i am certain that overall the moral quality of the latter is superior to the former, partly because the deepest need of the average schlumph doesn't consist of dazzling worldly success achieved by total conformity. i don't believe we live in a meritocracy. i believe we live in a frozen class hierarchy. all my life, i have been hanging out, for example, with ph.d.'s and with barbers. i don't think the ph.d.'s are any smarter, but they certainly often are more conventional thinkers, sheer wielders of ideological buzzwords, geniuses of the empty phrase, etc. when you get them to politics, they all say the same sentences in the same order, and they congratulate one another for their intelligence as they do, and sneer at anyone who doesn't. they haven't reflected on their basic beliefs since they were born, and one of the functions of the institutions in which they rise is to require that and call it excellence.
sat scores are declining. now, didn't y'all just spend the last fifteen years devoting all of american education, and all the innovative thinking of great human beings such as arne duncan and the bill and melinda gates foundation, to doing nothing but increasing sat scores? didn't you, in a series of initiatives from no child behind left to race to the top, base your entire conception of education at every level on the sat? isn't that why every child in america spends days every single year now doing sat-style tests? even according to the insane model of education that you yourselves deploy - according to your own arid mechanical minds - you are failing. but i don't think you were ever trying to educate anyone, just producing thingamajigs to enhance american competitiveness in the global economy. that is what you said you were doing, actually. dude, you can't even do that. time for a whole generation of educational visionaries, reformers, and experts to dissipate like a poisonous mist.
it took, say, the new york times fifteen years to hop off the standardized-testing fad. a lot of other people too. so here's what i suggest: the next educational fashion that comes along with its droning experts and jive-ass 'data' etc: just snicker and oppose. alright, so maybe 2000-2013 doesn't seem that long. well, it is the entire life of my daughter, her whole education absorbed by your idiot mistake. arne duncan, margaret spellings, michelle rhee and the like should just admit it: no one has any idea how to educate anyone, and that is really not the point of the whole enterprise anyway, which is to acclimatize children to carceral institutions. in virtue of what, exactly, do you claim the right to form the consciousnesses of other people's children? eh? because you are capable of chanting the word 'accountability', and will soon display the ability to chant some other word? because this time you finally figured out how education works, so we should ignore all the bullshit you put down in the etc 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50,s, 60, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s? out my face, ace.
the other day i was being confronted yet again for the craziness of my anti-statism, and someone asked me: do you think people have a right to an education? well, i don't know. sure. problem is that no one has the right to educate them under compulsion. to read their right to be educated as your right to form their consciousness by force just shows everything dishonest and evil about your political philosophy, which is basically a bunch of la-di-da euphemisms for coercion to create a hierarchy with people like you at the top. your claim to know what they should know and how they should think is an attitude of incredible arrogance and elitism. the political philosophy of american liberalism is as hierarchical or more hierarchical even than, say, laissez-faire capitalism or hereditary aristocracy. but here is one difference; on the leftish side, the extreme enthusiasm for hierarchy is justified by egalitarianism. that is an amazing cognitive accomplishment.
if the tea party continues to protest the common core curriculum, they can expect me to join right up. one thing about the tea party: somehow it literally makes liberals insane. they start arguing that dissent is never legitimate in a democracy, and then they just go crazed ad hominem: just throwing insults and shit like that's a reason. they can do this because they're only talking to their own demographic, where everyone nods along. right, these are ignorant white people. you fucking trailer trash! oh no actually they are the middle-class servants of capitalism. well, on this matter they are opposing bill gates, exxon-mobil, and so on. probably you who condemn them think you are yourself opposed to capitalism, which would indicate that you literally have no idea what you're doing or why. actually, we don't live in a capitalist society, we live in a squishy totalitarian state/corporate merger. but it is capitalists who are driving this thing: they want to churn out american children as a uniform product; it's quality control. i picture the next generation as an army of sexually and racially diverse yet intellectually cloned bureaucrats who make rurality a crime and who literally are incapable of understanding how or why anyone could possibly disagree with them. no particular person among them will have to think at all, because they'll all be thinking together!
this is a recurring nightmare. tom frigging friedman is still insisting that you compare your toddler to finnish and chinese toddlers, as though that means anything. and now you can! in the technocratic dystopia manufactured by, say, al gore, or friedman, or arne duncan, children are the merest commodities, manufactured by and for global capitalism. the only question is: how can they - and here this means every single child anywhere in the world - be manufactured as uniform product, and rendered maximally profitable to people with economic and political power? i've certainly whined about this many times, but let me point out a couple of things: if you are a parent, and you think it's relevant to your relationship with your child, or relevant to your child's life, that her school compares poorly on standardized tests with some school in helsinki or sichuan, i think your child should be removed from your custody and given to a human parent. these ass-monkeys seem to be internationalists, but they are screeching economic nationalists: all that matters in the argument is the american economy in comparison with that of other nations, which we have to out-compete. and their vision of anyone's economy is a nightmare. they seriously, literally are intent on enslaving children to the vision of multi-national corporations and nation-states. the collision of extreme nationalism and internationalism is just one of many dimensions in which the position is riddled with demented contradictions. the bland reasonableness is a millimeter-thick surface over the real roiling evil. their vision of the world, and their vision of childhood, is a horror, and to some extent they have succeeded in implementing it. their envisioned totalitarian future of capitalist automatism is worse than no future at all, worse than species annihilation.
so it turns out that 11% of american children have been diagnosed with adhd, and the figure is twice that for high-school age boys. there are many theories, evidently, including something in the water, overdiagnosis, and so on. but i am going to explain this to you clearly and, i believe, decisively. even though psychologists want to go with 'chemical imbalance in the brain' and so on, with the usual completely vague scientific-sounding hooha designed to flummox and reassure us and establish their epistemic authority, adhd is not a condition of the brain. it is a condition of a person in a context. what has changed, i propose, is not anyone's brain, but the institutional context in which those brains are embedded. the american educational system has become ever-more authoritarian, rigid, mindless, and unconnected from anyone's actual body. the dedication to standardized tests means that sitting still and doing the prescribed task in exactly the same way everyone else does it at the same time are more or less all that's left. my daughter, who's in seventh grade, does not have recess. etc etc. 'adhd' the supposed dysfunction or illness or imbalance, would be perfectly normal or useful in a less structured or authoritarian context, or in a context that deployed any basic understanding of or connection with children as human beings. these institutions are really merely diagnosing themselves.
let me just remark that by a state of perfect chemical balance or health, these people just mean capitulation and extreme passivity. psychologists, far from being scientists of any sort, merely reflect the authoritarian institutions from which they emerged and the effortless self-subordination to authority which they literally define as health. say you're an inquisitor. the harder you crack down, the more sinful everyone appears, the more heretics you detect. you are manufacturing heretics by your definitions and the way you conduct your church, but then you think, as you define your arbitrary dogmata ever-more narrowly, that society is degenerating because there are more and more heretics. that's exactly as scientific, as reasonable, and as reflective as this.
on top of all the other objections to compulsory education, there is the little matter of the fact that it is run by dolts. if that were going to cease to be the case, there would have been some glimmers by now. what you have to do is to start conceiving people to be fundamentally equal. you're not liable to be better than that person over there in any dimension; you're not liable to be smarter or really to know more. you know neither what they do know nor what they need to know. so if you think, say, that people like yourself should obviously be able to tell people like that how to raise their children for their own good, etc., well, i don't recognize your claim of superiority, alright? also i don't think you're being honest when you say you're doing this for equality. you're doing it for the sake of a hierarchy of power which you and your ilk sit atop. and i also say that in this particular case your lack of superiority has been concretely demonstrated beyond quibble. but worse than thinking you are qualified to control them is to delude yourself into thinking that that's not what's happening at all; it's some kind of abstract entity that's raising their children on behalf of the truth, or it's all of us, working together, that really are this institution. no, excuse me: there are people inside it and people outside of it and the people inside are tremendously empowered over the people outside. otherwise it couldn't be compulsory, for one thing. all of us together have no reason to compel all of us together, sweetie, even if such a thing were comprehensible.
frankly, i think when they institute universal pre-school and the government comes to intern your toddlers, you should answer the door brandishing your bushmaster. now putting all that aside, universal compulsory education was supposedly intended to increase equality. i would like to ask: has it? it would be a very holey argument just to compare the degree of income inequality when it was instituted with that of a hundred years later (the first state to institute it did it in 1852, the last in 1917): of course there are many factors. but i intuit that compulsory education freezes inequalities in place or institutionalizes them or makes them ever-more chronic and structural. i would say the same about many welfare-type programs: public housing programs, for example. now would you measure the effect of a policy by what the people who instituted it or advocate it said or say they intended or intend, or by its actual effects? or maybe if it hasn't had the intended effect, that's an argument for reform? or would you regard, say, 150 years of reform efforts as enough of a demonstration that it's futile? what would you count as a refutation? i'd say public education has supposedly been in a 'crisis' for at least 50 years. still expecting a cure? i just expect more idiotic, futile fads, and self-delusion about the actual intentions and effects.
here's one problem with our authoritarian approach to education (and look, you can't make something compulsory and then enforce that compulsion and not be taking an authoritarian approach; but this is only one detail of the gulag; the whole machine of public education is dedicated to behavioral control): it is actually not wrong to defy, sabotage, or cheat a coercive social order, or one that you're embedded in but not by your own voluntary choice. it cannot be a violation of your personal responsibility to violate the percepts of such an institution: your consent isn't even sincerely solicited; you can have no obligation to hold yourself to arbitrarily imposed external standards. so, for example, it is not wrong for a slave to shirk, correct? it is exactly what you'd expect, because you're not worried in the whole system about the slave's internal motivations. if a slave escapes, that is right, not wrong, see? even if the master is relatively benevolent. this is why these institutions get into a spiral of sabotage/vandalism/slacking and crackdown. everyone understands that the most you can reasonably expect from a slave is a simulation of cooperation. the institution, precisely because it is authoritarian, or to the extent it is coercive, can impose no true responsibilties on the people embedded in it. this is a generalizable argument. but think also of what this means in terms of each person's relation to their own education, which becomes something external to themselves as opposed to a self-development. ignorance itself is a morally defensible response to pervasively authoritarian educational institutions.
speaking of longer school day, etc. if there is one thing that i could pull out of my anarchist program and actually institute, it would be an end to centralized and compulsory education. quite seriously it is child labor, child conscription, child slavery. my daughter doesn't even get recess, and she wears a uniform. we're operating on this extreme surveillance/standardized minds/quasi-military basis. and we're presenting education as a kind of national economic service in our bizarre model of inter-national economic competition. one sad effect is a segregation of children from adults, and it originally served the work model in the industrial revolution. who's the biggest public advocate of whatever may be the latest version of the eternal educational reform crap? it's exxon-mobil baby, and i'm sure they're lending their input to the dept of education as to the latest energy bill. i am going to say this straight up: you are better letting everyone find what they actually need to learn. there'll be holes and mistakes. but it will better than trying to impose someone's idiot vision of what human beings should be on every small person in the country.
if you are asserting that compulsory education has made this country more equal across class or racial lines etc, then i would like to see the evidence. have you ever been literally locked into an inner-city american school? i have. like many an institutionalization, it freezes the inequalities in place, makes them ever-more chronic.
the frame in terms of competition, where our little kids are competing in standardized tests against the little filipinos or whatever, is just one of the many ways to see that the basic idea is to put everybody's children at the service of global capitalism, or rather, the characteristic squishy-totalitarian merger of state and capital. right now this thing wants math and science, e.g., so that's the relentless or even exclusive emphasis. always, it wants pliability, and this is the real purpose of the whole machine: the architecture, the way bodies are moved around and articulated, the structure of authority. the modern school is a maker of souls. fortunately, it always features a buzz of resistance, and souls are not as easy to stamp as one might wish, while the strategies are often painfully transparent or just double the recoil. as you guide your kids through the gantlet of tests, test preps, high school applications, college applications, extra-curricular activities, and so on, you are just driving them forward on the path that exxon-mobil has laid out in cooperation with quasi-liberal professors and bureaucrats like arne duncan.
tell old pharaoh: let my babies go. seriously, you'd think they'd be running afoul of the child labor laws. or if it's not labor if you're not getting paid, surely there must be a statute about child slavery here or there. as for competing with the children of singapore and finland, i think we should go directly for a shooting war: our children against yours.