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Does the American Elite Want Real Public Education?

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This Real News Network segment tackles the ugly topic of whether the deterioration of public education in the US is by design. You might also want to see the earlier shows in this series, the first on Obama’s educational policies, the second on Romney’s.


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129 comments

    1. Jane

      George Carlin – the voice of reason. That is one of my favorite all time rants of his. Thanks for the memory!

      1. nonclassical

        …from those of us who have actually taught in U.S. (inner-city Seattle) and in Europe, I am personally SICK of repubLIEcon LIES regarding education. RepubLIEcons conflate international “test scores” to show U.S. public schools are failing, this after having attempted for years to end Dept. of Education in D.C.

        While fundamentalists attempt to paint U.S. test scores a disaster, they completely and totally avoid any and all discussion of HOW those “other industrialized nations” “do better”…and there’s the story-I taught in Germany, where after 8th grade (for example) students end general ed., and focus upon strengths=aptitude…when narrowly (LYING) discussing failures in U.S regarding science or math, anti-education fundamentalists are comparing those whose APTITUDE determines continuation beyond 8th grade, in science and math, with ALL U.S. students, who are required to continue such.

        Fundamentalist attempt to drive public schools to charter schools is a middle-step to control of curriculum via internet=end of teachers teaching messy (for fundamentalist) history..much as media controls message today nationally. Expect U.S. students to be taught WHAT to “think”, rather than HOW to “think”,
        when this shift has been made permanent-expect also teacher’s unions, and retirements, to end county to county as economic depression caused by Wall $treet is scapegoated upon education as “provider of opportunity”-it was NEVER
        “educational opportunity” people desired for their youth-it was ECONOMIC opportunity…

        Stats for states Washington, Oregon, Idaho, circa 2005, showed average gross wage necessary for average existence for family of 4 to be $45,000.00 per year=figure $65,000.00 today, as wages are dropping. BUT, actual number of jobs in these 3 states paying $45,000.00 per year was 20% of total jobs available-this is reason both parents work today.

        The 20% of “jobs available” relates to actual number of U.S. grads from 4 year university or vocational equivalent circa 2005=20% (dropping today). This compares, internationally, with Germany where I taught, with around 70%+ grads from 4 year university or vocational equivalent, where said education is FREE-in attempt to create “fully educated workforce”, with a goal of workers paying taxes over a lifetime.

        I can only conclude U.S. resistance to “fully educated workforce” relates to demand for “cheap labor force”…

    2. Susan the other

      This was probably Greorge’s last performance and he knew it because the setting is a cemetery of headstones.

      The king is dead. Long live the king.

  1. Middle Seaman

    The video seems to miss the significant points about education and society. About 50 years ago, when I was a middle school kid, my father said to me: “the rich and the government don’t want people to be educated.” We were solid middle class lacking nothing. There was no service industry then, the rich were poorer and fewer. Yet nothing changed.

    The rich want to be in control, they don’t want you to prevent them from poisoning the water. They want you to be happy with crumbs. The government is almost the same. It doesn’t really need democracy, educated voters and control by the population.

    This is the case in Egypt, El Salvador and in the US. The only difference is the size of our current pie. It’s huge, the rich are hugely rich and they want to keep everything they enjoy as is except democracy. The uneducated pretend liberal who vote for Obama made him president. He wants their ignorance (of history and discourse analysis) to stay the same. Why would he do anything for education? After all he is ignorant himself.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t know where you lived growing up, but for instance, the areas where Scandinavians settled were serious about education, even for kids who were clearly not getting a college education. In fact, Upper Michigan is the only place I encountered working class intellectuals in the US (not sayin’ there aren’t other pockets, just sayin’ they are the only ones I found(.

      1. Lord Koos

        I have long believed that the “dumbing down” of Americans has been intentional. The baby boomers in the USA were the largest and best-educated generation in the history of the world, and they were not buying the establishment’s propaganda, threatening to upset the apple cart with women’s rights, civil rights, etc. The anti-war and civil rights protests were an anomaly that TPTB did not want to see repeated, and it’s been dumb and dumber ever since.

        1. Foppe

          I hate to break it to you, but there is a problem with your claim about the importance of education. As I see it, Baby Boomers are currently in power both at the world’s largest banks, in quite a few parliaments, and at quite a few of the world’s larger firms. As such, it seems to me that their possession of all that ‘knowledge’, and the ability to think critical thoughts, isn’t all that troublesome to the powers that be — if only because they are TPTB..
          (That said, it seems to me that, even with the ‘dumbing down’, there are quite a few intelligent people — of all ages — who could contribute to the making of better societies; the problem isn’t that they aren’t around, but that they’re kept out of positions of power.)

          1. Klassy!

            Good point. Those in charge get to be in charge by going along and maintaining the status quo.

          2. JamesW

            I don’t really think it’s generational, as the dumbing down process is dynamic and goes across the age-spread.

            The Baby Boomers, of questionable integrity, are just now being appointed, but David Rockefeller, Peter G. Peterson, Hank Greenberg, etc., are definitely not Boomers, but WWII — to just after — group.

            Someone like John Boehner, who washed out of Navy boot camp, then falsely claimed military service during Vietnam when he first ran for office, is typical of the quality of “boomer” today.

            The standout types like Chris Hedges, who is honest and moral, run into neverending problems with the powers-that-be, who screw the rest of us.

            Recommended reading on how we got this way:

            Battling Wall Street: The Kennedy presidency, by Donald Gibson

            (People forget what progressive programs were put into place by the Kennedy administration, but later dismantled — far too much revisionism has been peddled since his murder, including those claiming to be on “the left” like my nemesis, Noam Chomsky.)

        2. Knute Rife

          Um, no. A relatively few members of the front end of the Baby Boom stirred things up a bit in the 60s, but when the draft ended, they settled down to desk jobs and suburban lawns. The back end of the Baby Boom, including Yours Truly, came of age after the wheels had already fallen off the wagon when the Yom Kippur War and the oil embargo showed the American Dream had roots about as stable as Birnam Wood’s, and the whole Rube Goldberg contraption began spinning in.

          It isn’t so much “dumbing down” as lack of reward for “smarting up.” College used to be a ticket to the middle class. You needed absurd luck or family connections to get higher, but college made you middle class and kept you there. No more. College gets you a commission-based job, a consulting job, or some other hand-to-mouth job with no benefits and no prospects. College gets you a mountain of nondischargeable debt. No matter what you know, it won’t be enough to provide any kind of secure living. Security comes only from being born to parents who belong to the right country club.

      2. rur42

        see eric hoffer on working class intellectuals

        i’ve found many…successful individual farmers (tho rare these days) to be surpisingly bright well-informed if not classically “intellectual” whatever that is….

        1. JamesW

          LOL — please see also Hoffer’s True Believer, where you’ll find a passage on “hope and change” which reads remarkably like a president’s platform????

      3. Susan the other

        Upper Michigan is doing well. Detroit not so much. Detroit is going to turn its bankruptcy into a “zombie park.” This might be considered a parody of the trust that allowed an all out betrayal of the auto industry. I like it.

        1. Nathanael

          Upper Michigan is not doing well, unless you mean the UP, which is basically a tourist trap with minimal population.

      4. jake chase

        I graduated in 1960 from one of the top two or three public high schools on Long Island. Those at the top of our class were bored senseless by the relentless dumbing down of math and science and the replacement of history and literature by ‘citizenship’ and grammar lessons. We only managed to learn calculus in our senior year because our brightest student taught the class while the moribund math teacher (who at least was a good guy) retired to the back row to pick his nose. I don’t know when public education went awry, but it’s been screwed up for at least fifty years and I shudder to think what it must be like now.

        1. Knute Rife

          I graduated from a typical, rural public school in the Midwest. We had grammar for a quarter every year, which meant I was the only person in my college foreign language classes who knew what conjugations and declensions were. We had science labs. We had a surprising amount of reality in our history and government classes. I was accelerated in English and math and took two years of calculus. Decline from some Golden Age of US public education isn’t the issue. The problem is what to teach and how. We aren’t training farmers and factory workers anymore, and we haven’t figured out how to transition from that. Our tech skills programs have always been haphazard and have now been largely turned over to for-profit outfits along with continuing education for adults. In my not-so-humble opinion, our problem is that, although continuing education and retraining are now critical, we’ve left them to for-profit facilities that have little interest in their “product.”

    2. Richard Kline

      It has been argued, soundly in my view, that liberal democracy is a direct outgrowth of mass education. The rich have always understood this, and have always opposed education and political participation of the poor. It is not a coicidence that the US was amongst the first countries anywhere to pursue mass _public_ education as a matter of policy, since initial European settlements in the parts of the USA where that was pursued had much smaller class distinctions than Europe as a whole, and in particular had relatively few truly rich individuals. But even in that regard, ‘men of property’ in the US have never supported public education as an entire class.

      —And they were right! When a better-educated population got the mass franchise, the rich were never more humbled and constrained by liberal government regulation than come the mid-20th century. The rich have done everything in their power since to undermine the conditions of said liberal democracy over the last fifty years. Even so, propertarian rich would have had less success in that program without the extreme hostility of an American know-nothing minority who, for their own socio-religious reasons revile both liberal democracy and the public education and public support programs involved.

      It was the evil genius of the wealthy propertarians to gain the mass to succeed by manipulating the envious know-nothing contingent which made the present outcome what it is. The elite could not have succeeded by themselves. The elite could not have succeeded openly, since public education has a substantial majority support in the US even now. That could all change tomorrow supposing that the ‘liberal democratic majority’ decides to fight for what they believe in. . . . I’m not holding my breath, most are too gutless to believe in any contest so vigorous. That’s how fascism wins; not because it is popular or a majority but because the large number who lose out to it slink into their cubicles and cells convinced of their own timid righteousness but unwilling to defend their putative principles. [I could go on in that vein, but I'll stop right there.]

      1. colinc

        Precisely! That’s why, for more than a decade, whenever I hear/read someone saying “There are too many people” I correct that statement by inserting “ignorant, ill-informed and irrational” between “many” and “people.” Alas, a great many of those are “graduates” of Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral programs! Moreover, regardless of “education-level,” the masses who rabidly listen to, salivate over and heed every utterance from Limbaugh, Beck, Blitzer, Matthews, Falwell, Roberts, Obama, Romney, W, Boehner, Inhofe, McConnell et.al. ad infinitum. THAT is why more than 6 billion people will no longer exist in less time than most are capable of imagining. After all, it is far, far easier and much less time-consuming to “believe” rather than attempt to “understand.”

        1. JamesW

          A beautiful young lady once pointed out to me a discrepancy in the thinking of many on education (a Ms. Dolce), that we tend to forget America has historically had a capitalist education system, meaning the local or regional property tax base dictates the available education and educational resources — the one slightly different fluke was immediately after World War II with the GI Bill, while not absolutely boasting equality, it was a step in the right direction.

          (Ed Hume’s Over Here, a fascinating book on the GI Bill and its effects.)

          A truly meritocratic system would be one where everyone has equal access to similar top-level education — instead we have the elite school model, but not really staffed with elite thinkers?

          1. colinc

            I’m not completely certain I get your point, I have known for many years how and why much of the inequality in “education” exists. However, that does not account for how an abject dullard like G.W. Bush even got into Yale or Harvard, let alone “earn” a degree from those [deceitfully] “prestigious” schools. So please, elucidate on how someone who has, and will have, no ability to exhibit an IQ above 85 (I’m being too kind and overly generous) or demonstrate a 4th-grade level of “education” can obtain “degrees” from both those schools unless everything we’ve been told to believe about them (and “education” in general) is an egregious lie.

  2. Alex McCandless

    A good video, and a good conversation, but too simplistic.

    Elites don’t care about public education? Which elites? Maybe industry. But high tech elites? High tech elites are terrified by the degradation of the US education system.

    And elites are forcing out critical thinking and peoples’ history? When did we teach those things in our public schools? I wasn’t taught peoples’ history. My parents weren’t either. Critical thinking (in terms of education) didn’t come until college.

    I agree with the critique of the education system, but the conspiracy theory is too simplistic.

    1. G3

      “High tech elites are terrified by the degradation of the US education system.” Hmmm NO. Actually Bill Gates is in the forefront of dubing down education. So was Steve Jobs. They pretend to care about education while in fact they are concern-trolling and want to privatize education, de-skill teaching and turn teachers into temps. Here is something on Gates foundation :
      http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=3781

      And we need to understand that Bill Gates was the leader in pushing for H1B visa workers (who are more compliant workers because they don’t have much rights as their visas are dependent on their employers). All under the false pretext of “lack of skilled workers”.

      George Carlin said it best on the elites’ plan for education (among others) :
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q

      1. LucyLulu

        “And we need to understand that Bill Gates was the leader in pushing for H1B visa workers”

        Is that why Windows was always so buggy?

        The H1B workers are okay for writing routine code but can’t compete with American programmers when confronted with the big problems or when elegant solutions are needed. In fact, they’ll come for help (or ask for different, i.e. easier, assignment). (waving flag)

        1. vlade

          Good grief. Do you really believe it or are you (in your words) H1B1 programmer?

          Some of the worst software I ever saw was written by Americans, and some of the best software I saw was written by “aliens”. And vice versa, for the matter.

          I can’t speak for US, but here I interviewed English Oxford math PhDs who could do briliantly at highly technical, but routine, tasks, and failed to apply multiplication and simple maths that required some creative (but still very simple) thinking.

          Education (or lack of it) used to be a valuable signalling for employers. Now it’s to all terms and purposes useless as a filter – but unfortunately due to the stickiness still gets used.

    2. Hiram Bilgewater

      High tech elites want people who are capable of knowing which buttons to push on their machines. But they don’t desire any sort of liberal education for the masses; that is, in effect, an education that teaches its pupils to reason from first principles and to ask difficult and potentially dangerous questions.

      1. Bev

        When Sputnik launched, for reasons of national survival, public education became important and urgent (I wish I could find the quote). When societies are threatened, education is a survival necessity. Then Russia fell in the late 80′s, and public education also started to decline on purpose.

        More people ask better questions who have analytical minds instead of simpler, vulnerable to propaganda intuitive minds. The rote memorization required of “leave no child behind” takes away from the time to teach analytical and higher order thinking skills.

        I love that Einstein who had a photographic memory, refused to commit to memory information that he could easily look up and so had the time to turn to other more important “thought exercises.”

        So to improve public education during the 1950′s the middle class was intentional built up, expanded and supported during the Great Compression–a time of raising the bottom and lowering the top (with high tax rates) to more meet in the middle. This created better cared for kids at home and at school who had higher standards of fairness, justice and tolerance reflected in the civil rights, labor rights, womens’ rights, gay rights, and environmental rights movements. This was a golden age of the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s.

        Now there is the attempt and success of undermining public education, unions, jobs, the middle class, civil rights, and the laws which protect all people and the planet. The middle class has been undone on purpose.

        Perhaps public education funding is being undermined for for this or other reasons:

        Californians and perhaps other states’ and nations’ citizens need to follow what has been reported by Carl Herman at washingtons blog and elsewhere–big, big amounts of money in California while calling for austerity and scaling back public services.

        http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/07/cafr-so-called-pension-funds-engorge-wall-streets-biggest-banks.html

        July 12, 2012 by Carl Herman

        I documented that California’s so-called “pension fund” of $460 billion contributed just $1 billion (4%) of the state’s $27 billion pension cost, and the total $600 billion in retained taxpayer assets are lied-in-omission removed from the $16 billion budget deficit claimed as “forcing” austerity.

        Now Clint Richardson has hit another home run in documenting California’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) as funding Wall Street’s biggest banks by the billions, including $2 billion directly into the very same mortgaged-backed and asset-backed securities that were fraudulently created, fraudulently marketed, and fraudulently rewarded through taxpayer so-called bailouts.

        And remember the big picture: the state’s CAFR is dwarfed by ~14,000 various intra-state government agencies, whose data-sampled CAFR data reveal $8 trillion in total surplus taxpayer assets. This figures into a staggering $650,000 of retained assets per California household.

        So we now know how Wall Street’s biggest players get their positions of power: they work to overtax the 99%, call it “investments” mostly into a “pension fund,” and thereby transfer trillions into their own corporations.

        I see three obvious solutions that will require on Occupy-like victory. So far, law enforcement told me CAFR fraud is not a crime, and my state representatives after five weeks of opportunity are lying and resorting to “no comment.”

        I’ll see if local media interest will help persuade our state representatives to make an ethical response in public service, rather than act as 1% minions.

        ……

        http://www.examiner.com/article/cafr-summary-why-can-t-a-600b-fund-fund-27b-pension-16b-budget-deficit

        CAFR summary: why can’t a $600B ‘fund’ fund $27B pension, $16B budget deficit?

        Politics
        June 18, 2012
        By: Carl Herman

        ………..

        Link to see:

        …Clint Richardson has hit another home run in documenting California’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) as funding Wall Street’s biggest banks by the billions, including $2 billion directly into the very same mortgaged-backed and asset-backed securities that were fraudulently created, fraudulently marketed, and fraudulently rewarded through taxpayer so-called bailouts.

        http://realitybloger.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/cafr-school-how-corporations-are-funded-by-taxpayers/

        1. Bev

          to quote from

          http://realitybloger.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/cafr-school-how-corporations-are-funded-by-taxpayers/

          What Could Happen?

          To put this into perspective, a horrific thought just occurred to me…

          As of this moment, in July of 2012, these pension systems are owned and operated by local, state, federal government municipal corporations, and administered by their corporate boards for what they claim to be “on behalf of the employees” that contribute to them under federal and state pension laws. And like any private pension system out there, these corporations are at risk of bankruptcy, government raids, credit risks, or other purposeful mismanagement’s that might befall the public, government owned and controlled pension system.

          So what would happen to all of these direct ownership stock investments in a worse case scenario – if the government decided to raid and kill the pension system all together?

          What would happen to those stocks, and what would become of the debt that these private corporations owe the government (the people) if all of a sudden the whole thing came crashing down?

          The answer to these questions, in this authors perspective, would be the final nail in the 4-decade long efforts to completely privatize our government. It would mean that those stock certificates that are held by each of these pension funds would either be transferred into private hands, or they would be sold off for pennies on the dollar in a false-flag depression scenario to the worst of either these private corporations or to some other individual or country. In short, it would mean the largest transfer of wealth out of the public’s hands in recorded history, including real estate, foreign currencies, stocks and bonds, precious metals, and the many other assets within.

          But that’s not all folks… for all of those corporate bonds would also change hands, being transferred or sold off – possibly to the very private banking institutions that were the beneficiaries of those corporate bond and securities-type loans in the first place. In other words, the debts would never come back to the pensioners/taxpayers that loaned it in the first place (the public), but instead would be paid back by the corporations to the corporations themselves, ultimately equating to a grand theft of massive proportions via the loss to the taxpayers as the corporations pay themselves back for the debt against themselves as owners of their own debt… a paradox, and yet quite reasonable to these organized criminals.

          This would be no different than the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) happening all over the country now, where parking garages, toll-roads, bridges, and other public infrastructure has been sold or “privatized” into the hands of banks and other private corporations – who now operate and collect the tolls and taxes for the infrastructure that was built by our forefathers and our children.

          One could go crazy thinking about this…

          For it would not take much at all to accomplish this feat. For federal pensions, as part of the Executive branch, a simple executive order might be signed by the president directing the liquidation of the pension system to pay for the “national debt”. On the State and local levels, simple bankruptcy proceedings would do the job, and the people and pensioners would be left out in the cold. After all, the taxpayer portion of the pension system is government property.

          This extremely viable possibility could easily be implemented as the solution to the reaction to the problem of the lie that is continuously perpetrated on the American public – that the pension system is on a whole entirely underfunded. In two years of looking, I’ve yet to see a pension fund that meets this criteria, per the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This lie stems from the actuarial projections (educated and purposefully misleading guess) on the future potential of pension funds. It has nothing to do with reality, and this is easily verified in the CAFR.

          The following capital gains for 2010 were stated by the following public pension systems:

          New York State Retirement System – $23.3 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.

          CalPERS – $22.7 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.

          CalSTRS – $11.3 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.

          Texas State Teachers Retirement System – $7 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.

          New York City Retirement – $3.4 billion gain in net assets after all benefits paid.

          The pension system is, as you can see here, responsible for globalism at its finest. It is responsible for war, for famine, for disease, and for hunger. The whole world could be fed and clothed 100 times over with just the over $260 billion of investment wealth found in the CalPERS pension fund.

          But while the pension system is responsible for these things around the globe, it is the people of America that are responsible for the funding of pension funds. Looking the other way in ignorance and greed must come to an end before the worst happens. The people must take responsibility for their own investment concerns, not relying on government to do it for them. The people must invest in what will benefit all people – from alternative energy to real cures for disease. Personal responsibility is the only solution we the people have left; and if we don’t choose to take responsibility for our own lives, our mother who calls itself government and calls us “customers” and “dependents” will continue down this road until just a few conglomerate corporations remain – as government privatizes and merges its investment held corporate structure into one giant United Nations IMF World Bank holding company.

          In the end, I can only ask you to look at this report, and to see where your pension and taxpayer money is being invested… I can only ask:

          What will you do tomorrow, knowing that your pension contributions are funding poverty and the the global war machine?

          On a mission to document our enslavement to ourselves by our own consent…

          .

          –Clint Richardson (realitybloger.wordpress.com)
          –Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

        2. Nathanael

          If you’re right, than the coming threat to species survival — global warming — will spur a new push for education from the elite.

          But it damn well won’t be coming from THIS elite, who are busily denying global warming, because they’re short-term-thinking psychopaths. So we’re back to the problem of overthrowing the psychopathic elite. I think it can only be done by another power group who has a chance to become an elite. That group might well approve of education.

        1. Bev

          As I understand it, Einstein’s memory was more cinematic like films/plays than photographic like two dimensional pictures/book pages. His thought exercises were a method of rearranging his memory files of situational plays until the parts fit his notions.

  3. LucyLulu

    The same three-tiered educational system existed back in the 60′s and 70′s when I went through school. The best educations were gotten at private preps schools and the black public schools doled out inferior ones. The difference today is that the standard of the best public schools has deteriorated, and even some of the private schools. I’m not so sure the elite want an uneducated public as much as they don’t care if they are. There’s a selfishness today, an attitude of “I’ve got mine, I’m happy.” Ditto for health care, food, housing, and everything else. They don’t want these things for others if it means they have to pay for them. It’s everybody out for themselves. Let them pay for their own damn education if they want it.

    Add to that any data about all the increased spending on education with declining results, which adds fuel to the arguments. Nobody gives teachers allowances for how much harder their jobs are. It is rarely mentioned that when the schools from the poorer districts results are removed, our results are very competitive. Childhood poverty, which has been increasing, does a number on learning. Fix the poverty and the scores would climb.

    I do see a trend towards workers knowing one specialized job and nothing else. It’s scary. What happens when technology or market factors makes their job obsolete? Companies are no longer providing job training.

    I didn’t watch the videos on Obama/Romney’s education plans. But Obama has been no advocate for the African-American cause. I don’t know why they are so loyal to him. Other than going to bat over voter’s rights (clearly out of self-interest), what has he done for them?

    1. Roman Berry

      The difference today is that the standard of the best public schools has deteriorated…

      Yeah…no. That’s really a myth, promulgated by everything from talking heads on cable and radio to pols pushing an agenda. The best public schools, at least in states that adequately fund their schools, are as good or better than ever. The biggest obstacle facing public education is the hordes of pols and other agenda pushing money grubbers who are not educators doing all they do to “improve” it.

      1. LucyLulu

        Having taught at the college level, we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether education has deteriorated.

        Next time you run into a college English professor, ask them how many of their students can write a simple paper? Because I taught computer science, I required one two page paper, and would try to be liberal in overlooking grammar and spelling because it was not an English class. I couldn’t do it. Most of what I received ranged from barely passable to atrocious. Many could not write comprehensible sentences. With the exception of perhaps 20%, what is written on the blog is far superior to the writing ability of my students.

        1. Capo Regime

          Yep. There is NO RELATIONSHIP between funding and qualtiy of eduction. Lots of research show this to be the case. Washington D.C. has some of the best funded schools in the world and probably among the worst outcomes. New York City is the same case. Nebraska and Iowa do fine with low levels of funding as does say Ireland and Italy.

          1. John F. Opie

            If anything, there is an inverse relationship, becuase too much money draws the wrong type of people needed. Of course, given Washington’s predilication to simply throwing money at problems, rather than actually doing something, has significantly added to the problem.

        2. weinerdog43

          In less than 30 days, our Fortune 100 company will eliminate ‘free form’ letters that go out to the public. To replace them, we have set up hundreds of ‘template letters’ for various situations. While the official company line is that we wish to make have a more uniform and customer friendly approach, as an old guy and attorney who would review letters, I can tell you that a significant reason has to be because our younger employees cannot communicate using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. Your point is well taken, Lucy.

          I’d be willing to wager that my company is not the only big employer that sees this.

          1. gundar

            Your company decided to use form letters because it is more cost effective to do so. Individual responses en masse is labor intensive and time consuming.

          2. JTFaraday

            “Isn’t it great that you know more about him company than he does?”

            Yeah, in fact we do.

            I have seen people in jobs where they have had to write and couldn’t. But that does not happen often. So, it is not the reason for standardized form letters that are instituted for the literate employees who are in most communication heavy jobs.

            Labor saving is one big reason. The other is for better ensuring legal and policy compliance.

            More generally, I find most young, inexperienced white collar employees to be technically literate but they don’t necessarily have the background required to think through the implications of what they’re doing as they’re in the process of actually doing it. This is only amplified with the heavy workloads people are expected to shoulder these days.

            If what your institution actually puts in writing doesn’t have any real meaning, which is not the case most of the time, then I guess you can have lots of free-range chickens at every level of the institution and in every position.

      2. Eric377

        I got to say that I have seen no diminishment of accomplishment levels of publically educated members of my family over the past 3 generations; in fact, just the opposite. The youngest generation attended school in exactly the same districts as their parents and grandparent and got significantly better educations. They clearly were getting high school instruction in mathematics, physical sciences, life sciences, foreign languages, American history and probably other areas of study that were equivalent to what my generation (~1975) got at college undergraduate levels. I won’t brag about it since that ought to be the natural course of events, but I do not recognize what the “experts” are talking about here.

        1. LucyLulu

          Wow. Your family is lucky to have such high quality public schools. I’m sure they exist in some places. I thought I got a pretty good education in my schools (class of ’75) but was shocked my first year when I got to college to discover studying and keeping up was required for some of my classes to get good grades. My high school classes were not nearly the same level as my college ones (except calculus, had excellent teacher). My younger sister, who was her class salutorian, went on to an Ivy League school and said that she felt less prepared than those who had attended elite prep schools. That is what I base my conclusion that prep schools provided better educations upon…….. along with info two future brother-in-laws subsequently shared with me about their education, who attended those elite prep schools.

          I don’t regret my public education however. In fact I/sisters fought to stay there when desegregation came and my parents wanted to transfer us to private prep schools due to safety concerns with unrest and violence (in south), convinced them that the kids I knew who attended them all did drugs. I wanted my children also to be educated in public schools, for the same reasons, exposure to more cultural diversity. Unfortunately, my eldest was floundering by 9th grade. Despite having earned an A in advanced English, and above average intelligence, she had zero writing skills. Upon transfer to the Catholic high school, they transferred her out of advanced English to regular, where she proceeded to earn D’s. But by the time of graduation, she wrote well. My younger daughter remained in public school, being conscientious enough to extract the most possible (and pitching a fit about any transfer, with her temperament it would have been counterproductive to force the issue). She did well in math and science but her writing skills are still mediocre at best (took ACT’s last year before writing was required, phew). Fortunately she’s in pharmacy school where writing skills aren’t important.

          Private schools have a distinct advantage of not having to deal with behavioral issues. If a child becomes too much of a problem, they expel them. Thus teachers can focus on teaching and not crowd control. The teachers earn substantially less money at private schools but this was the reason they told me they had chosen to take the pay cut. To them it was worth it to be able to do what they had been trained to do….. teach. The parents are more involved as well. I see the same dynamics in play at charter schools, which I suspect is in large part responsible for their success. I also saw my childrens’ long-time teachers, good teachers, from public schools taking early retirement, telling me that teaching conditions had become too hostile.

          I suspect that instead of throwing money at the public school system, a more effective solution would be to address the poverty levels of the families in the failing school districts.

          1. Ian Ollmann

            In my experience, the elite prep school advantage was transitory. It usually lasts one year, wherein the prep school kids are seeing material for the second time and public school kids for the first. From the second year onward, everyone was on a more or less even footing. Outcomes after four years seemed to be essentially the same. It mostly boiled down to whether you were smart and could tame your demons enough to be a self motivated student. Those that could went on to grad school. Everyone else got a job.

            …Not that grad school is necessarily the best or most efficient use of your time.

          2. Eric377

            I would qualify that as they got instruction in high school commensurate with what introductory courses were when I went to university. Differential calculus for example, with an exposure to integral. Language instruction was at a much superior level – I think after two years of Spanish my niece was approximately where I was in my fourth year. A lot of US history, with much longer reading requirements. And it didn’t seem to my family members that the students not taking AP designated courses got much inferior instruction. As far as I can tell it was not the result of some revolution, but rather, as the years went by, the district responded to pressure from parents
            to provide more challenge for their kids. I really don’t know what to make of this post and most of the comments since my experience is that public education is observably more effective than 15 years ago, 30 years ago and so forth.

    2. jake chase

      A major problem with public education is that it wastes time kids might spend actually learning. They have no time to read anything worth reading or develop critical or creative faculties. Rather, they are kept endlessly busy on routine exercises designed to produced numerical test results justifying the sinecures in the education bureaucracy. Half the kids are bored stiff and the other half are totally bewildered. All live only for recreation, junk food and sex in an obscene corporatized kiddy culture that provides the only serious education they get, as obedient consumers of shoddy goods and propaganda. George Carlin had it right. None of this is happening by accident.

      1. Eric377

        I’ve been stunned over the past 15 years at the amount and diversity of reading required at public high schools my younger relatives have attended. And they live in districts without magnet schools. In her senior year my niece was given 10 or more pages of French to read practically every school night – and not the big print with photos kind of reading, either.

  4. bmeisen

    Thank you Yves. This a very helpful series. May I add that the widespread belief especially among American youth that education is primarily a personal choice contributes substantially to the decay discussed here.

  5. Foppe

    Graeber:

    The working class condition had been traditionally seen as a way station: something one’s family passes through on the road to something better. ‘What makes American democracy possible’, Abraham Lincoln used to stress, ‘is that we lack a class of permanent wage laborers.’ At the very least, one passes through a stage of wage labor to eventually buy some land and become a homesteader on the frontier. What matters is not so much how much this was really true, as whether it seemed plausible… Every time that road is broadly perceived to be clogged, profound unrest ensues. The closing of the frontier lead to bitter labor struggles, and over the course of the twentieth century, the steady and rapid expansion of the American university system could be seen as a kind of substitute. Particularly after World War II, huge resources were poured into expanding the university system, which grew very rapidly, and all this quite developed quite intentionally as a means of social mobility. The Cold War social contract was not just a matter of offering a comfortable life to the working classes, it was also a matter of offering at least a plausible chance that their children would not be working class.

    From the point of view of the governing elites, there are a couple obvious problems with this approach. First of all, a higher education system can’t be expanded forever. Second of all, there quickly comes a point where you end up with far more educated people than you can employ — that is, unless you want to have thousands of extraordinarily literate receptionists and garbage collectors. At a certain point one ends up with a significant portion of the population unable to find work even remotely in line with their qualifications, who have every reason to be angry about their situation, and with access to the entire history of radical thought. During the twentieth century, this was precisely the situation most likely to sparks urban revolts and insurrections — revolutionary heroes in the global South, from Chairman Mao to Fidel Castro, almost invariably turn out to be children of poor parents who scrimped and saved to get their children a bourgeois education, only to discover that a bourgeois education does not, in itself, allow entry into the bourgeoisie. In the US, we’ve never had the problem of hundreds of unemployed doctors and lawyers, but it’s clear something analogous began happening in the ’60s and early ’70s. Campus unrest began at exactly the point where the expansion of the university system hit a dead end.

    What we see afterwards, it seems to me, is best considered as a kind of settlement. On the one hand, most campus radicals were reabsorbed into the university (in the late ’70s and early ’80s it often seemed all liberal disciplines were dominated by self-proclaimed radicals). On the other, what those radicals ended up actually doing was largely a work of class reproduction. As the cost of education skyrocketed, financial aid and student loan programs were cut back or eliminated, the prospect of social mobility through education gradually declined. The number of working class kids in college, which had been steadily growing until the late ‘60s or even ‘70s, began declining, and has been declining ever since. This is true even if we consider the matter in purely economic terms. It is all the more true when one considers that class mobility was never primarily a matter of income. Class mobility was about the attainment of a certain sort of gentility. Consider, here, the phenomenon of unpaid (or effectively unpaid) internships. It has become a fact of life in the United States that if one chooses a career for any reason other than the money—if one wishes to become part of the word of books, or charities, the art world, to be an idealist working for an NGO an activist, an investigative reporter—for the first year or two, they won’t pay you. This effectively seals off any such career for the vast majority of poor kids who actually do make it through college. Such structures of exclusion had always existed of course, especially at the top, but in recent years fenceshave become fortresses.

    Roughly: No, they don’t want to, but they kinda had to, and then they found other ways of preventing other-than-their-own children from attaining high social status jobs, via the market (and by making it impossible to shed student loans).

    1. skippy

      Fantastic contribution Foppe.

      “Class mobility was about the attainment of a certain sort of gentility.” – D.G.

      skippy… fashion makes the human! DownsSouth where ever his cantankerous ass is… would love it.

      1. Foppe

        Graeber’s written two other articles (republished in the bundle Possibilities) called “Manners, deference, and private property in early modern Europe” and “Turning Modes of Production Inside Out; Or, Why Capitalism is a Transformation of Slavery” that nicely complement the point you quote here, so allow me to rant a bit.
        In the first article, one of the things he does is to trace part of the historical development of the guild system into what you might call early capitalism; while one of the things he does in the second is to trace the history of wage labor contracts: how they were first used to streamline the process of buying labor time from slaves, to being used almost everywhere. At first, however, the fact that you were working for a master craftsman as a kind of slave (because apprentices had really very few rights, given up in the understanding that they would be ‘raised’ to adulthood/autonomy by the master, leading to the problems we are all familiar with nowadays) was not at all considered harmful, but rather kind of socially desirable, associated as it was with becoming an adult. Because even though ‘everyone’ was expected to work as a wage laborer during the period of their apprenticeship, this was accepted precisely because people understood it as a transitory phenomenon, which led to the apprentice becoming a journeyman becoming a ‘master’, and gaining autonomy, maturity, and social respect (‘gentility’). It became problematic, however, because of changes associated with the rise of early capitalism (and cottage industry), as these changes lead to apprenticeships lasting ever longer, eventually turning into a more or less permanent condition (caused by a refusal of the guild masters to allow more than a few apprentices/journeymen to attain master status). Which, socially, meant that the attainment of autonomy and (self-)mastery would be deferred ever longer, while becoming accessible to (relative to the overal population) ever fewer people.

        1. JTFaraday

          I always figure people of a bygone era better equipped than us to know didn’t call it “wage slavery” for nothing.

          And yet from our perspective in the era of big capital, and now big capitalist state austerianism, we are keenly aware of the hazards of trying to be the craftsman or the petit bourgeois businessperson.

          Like, where oh where is our national health service? (This might be a better use of Goldman Sach’s printing press).

    2. bmeisen

      Have read better exerpts from Graeber. Is he in fact arguing the elites’ point of view? He cites a couple of points and he doesn’t refute them. “A higher education system can’t be expanded forever.” What does that mean? Is this what the elites think and does Graeber differ? If so, please make the argument. It’s a banality that a system of higher education, like a system of government, a system of waste removal, a system of health insurance provision is designed to address specific needs, needs that evolve, devolve, transform, change. The issue is not expansion, eternal or mortal. A system can in theory evolve, devolve, transform and change as needs change. Graeber should be able to make this point. Maybe he does later in the text.

      “There comes a point where you have far more educated people than you can employ.” Is this the flawed view of the elites or the flawed view of Graeber? Is Graeber endorsing a hyper-capitalistic model of the labor market? Does Graeber hold that all mortals would earn PhDs if we were only liberated?

      I’m wondering if Graeber’s anarchism is messing with his sense. Does it limit his ability to appreciate achievememnts of social democracy? Education is fundamental to democracy. The Jacobins established it as a right before public education took hold in the USA. Viewing education as a right, the state is compelled to do more than respect it. The state must promote it to the extent that each citizen is given an opportunity to obtain the formal qualification that she is capable of. Here the notions of education and qualification dovetail. The inter-relatedness of the two is critical to social (liberal) democracies with large populations. Survivalists and similar libertarian comedians have argued that the BA/BS is irrelvant. Especially in the US where the variety of paths to professional qualification is limited and where the labor market is notoriously fluid, the BA/BS is a powerful weapon with which labor can defend itself from the attacks of predatory capital.

      1. Foppe

        It seems to me you are misreading the points he is making, for reasons that elude me. Would suggest that you read the underlying document, as pretty much all of the questions you ask are answered there.

        1. bmeisen

          I am misreading? You’ve invited us to read text and the text turns out to be incoherent. Save me from reading Graeber’s 62 pages: What does he mean when he says “education can’t be expanded forever”?

          1. colinc

            there quickly comes a point where you end up with far more educated people than you can employ — that is, unless you want to have thousands of extraordinarily literate receptionists and garbage collectors.

            Do pray tell, how ya’ gonna keep’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?

          2. Foppe

            Yes, “the higher education system cannot be expanded forever” is an imprecise claim. You could even construe it as a meaningless claim, as you do here. What I do not understand, however, is why you *do* construe it in this way, when the problem is purely that you think the claim makes no sense when read out of context. Is it really that hard to accept that my (perhaps sloppy, perhaps not, as I might simply have found the claim you take issue less problematic) excerpting text might lead to a lack of completeness? Or to open the file and read the quote in context? Because all you have to do to find that context is to open the file, copy some of the text cited, and search. Is this really asking too much?
            And neither do I understand why you suggest I am forcing you to read 62 pages of “incoherent” material. When exactly did you decide that all that Graeber has written here is incoherent? Is this just an (imprecise) figure of speech on your part?

          3. colinc

            @Foppe…

            Because all you have to do to find that context is to open the file, copy some of the text cited, and search. Is this really asking too much?

            I dare not presuppose that bmeisan has this affliction but I can unequivocally assure you too many AmeriCONs would be exceedingly offended to be asked to do so much! Moreover, WTF is “so hard” about even doing a broader search through Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.? I am incessantly amazed and appalled by the legions of so-called “humans” who seem possessed of an innate aversion to “learning.”

          4. bmeisen

            Thank you Foppe for your response. “Incoherent” is inaccurate. The first paragraph is coherent. The third works until the notion of “gentility”. I enjoy reading Graeber, learn a lot from him and take issue with his anarchism. Maybe I’m wrong but I have perceived in his posture a rejection of social democracy, which I understand to be far from anarchism, far from direct democracy. Social democracy is hierarchical, party-based, corporate in a benign sense of the word. I perceive with regard to education that Graeber struggles with the use of elaborate, hierarchical, in many ways non-democratic structures, i.e. universities, as central instruments of public policy. Social democracy has a strong record of success in the real world using structures like these. Furthermore structures like these are not, in my opinion, the cause of decay in American higher education. So throwing an excerpt from Graeber into the chat here gets me going.

          5. Foppe

            Sure, but the nice part about the education system is that once educated, you are assumed to be the equal of your teachers.. He or she might still have more experience, but that’s technically a different measure. (Certainly it is true that this equality does not amount to much if you’re unemployed while others are not, but that, too, is a different issue.)

          6. Foppe

            As for your other points about social democracy: I’m not really sure where I stand here. I don’t think institutional structures, even (mildly) hierarchical ones, are as offensive or problematic as you think. Again, the point with education is that the unequal relationship you start out with (at least in university) is transcended by working your way through it, in a way quite unlike most other hierarchical relationships you enter into.

      2. JTFaraday

        ““There comes a point where you have far more educated people than you can employ.” Is this the flawed view of the elites or the flawed view of Graeber?”

        No, he is saying that for education to expand with purpose, “the elite” would next have to transform “the labor market”– which is THE thing they DON’T want to do because they (and their children) would cease to be elites.

        This is so self-evident to me from what Graeber said– “elites sought to favor their own children”– that it sounds like you just have a thing about anarchists, and its inhibiting your reading skills.

        Note also, that he is effectively talking about the baby boomer elite here. And, true to form, post-babyglut, there are a lot of over educated, under-employeds out there and a lot of their “successful” children are (sometimes unwittingly) on the front line of their attack on the public.

        This is one reason I find Marshall Auerbach’s cut-rate minimum wage guaranteed slave-stock plan– in the absence of any and all other ideas about improving the labor economy– so repulsive and out of touch with reality.

        (Just had to add that, and it is very much on-topic).

      3. JTFaraday

        “The Jacobins established it as a right before public education took hold in the USA.”

        oh, puhleeze!! The New England Puritans were waaaaay ahead of the Committee of Public Safety.

        It’s called the Olde Deluder Satan Law.

    3. jake chase

      Good stuff, but I think you need to be a little careful lumping university education. A good many of those who acquired superfluous educations in the 60s and 70s were dilletantes adrift in the humanities: psychology, sociology, race and gender studies, Marxism, colonialism, etc. Good preparation for a life of discontent but not terribly useful outside academia and perhaps not even there except for a handful of tenured social critics. Somehow these largely middle class children of the sixties and seventies lost sight of the idea that one ought to learn to actually do something except gas about the failings of society, something that creates value for somebody else. How many experts on slavery do we really need, and for what? I’m exaggerating of course but perhaps someone can help with this.

      1. LucyLulu

        “A good many of those who acquired superfluous educations in the 60s and 70s were dilletantes adrift in the humanities: psychology, sociology, race and gender studies, Marxism, colonialism, etc. Good preparation for a life of discontent but not terribly useful outside academia and perhaps not even there except for a handful of tenured social critics.”

        I hear this quite a bit, esp. among conservative libertarian types and this is a debate, IMO, we need to have. What kind of education should universities be providing? Should they be focused on providing training for employment or should they be focused on graduating a student who is well-rounded and well-informed citizen. I would argue the latter.

        When I look back upon my 7 years of higher education, what I am grateful for are not the courses specifically related to my career choices, but the courses that have helped shape my perspectives on life, politics, government, society, culture, place in history, etc. Most of all, I cherish how my higher education broadened my horizons and allowed me to see that my worldview is not the only valid one there is. What I observe among those who have not been lucky enough to get a college education is, while they may be equally intelligent and well-informed, a sort of narrow-mindedness, an inability to see the world through any lenses other than the ones they use themselves. It’s the tell that makes them stand apart. I attribute it to such things as being required in universities to vigorously defend positions, often ones that are foreign to the ones we hold, and getting feedback as to where our faulty reasoning/logic falls short or we making unrecognized assumptions. To me, that was where the real value of my education was found, and I got it in my ‘humanities’ type classes, not ‘logic circuits’ or ‘compilers’. If I’ve decided not to pursue programming, it doesn’t lose its value.

        1. Ian Ollmann

          “What kind of education should universities be providing? Should they be focused on providing training for employment or should they be focused on graduating a student who is well-rounded and well-informed citizen. I would argue the latter.”

          Universities are hired to do a job, and that is the job they should do if they know what is good for them. A central problem in education is that the customer is to some extent not the student. The student is neither paying the bills and may not be a qualified judge of the quality of what he is getting. So expect some distortion here.

          Universities are hired to:

          1) get Billy out of the house and cut the cord
          2) teach Billy to earn a living, without which #1 will ultimately fail
          3) Maybe meet a girl and get married — grand kids! (need 1and 2 for this.)
          4) turn boy dullard to something a little closer to the mostly sane people we meet in working life — someone you might actually want to talk to.

          Item 4 is optional as long as you succeed in #1. While #4 is the one you’d put first — probably because 1-3 are not your worries — I’d wager that most parents will settle for the first two and be delighted to get the first three.

          Some day, I look forward to my sons pointing out to me that I am full of sh__ and correctly and articulately enumerating why in exquisite detail. (I certainly am!) I figure I will have done my job then. Alas I don’t expect it until they are in their 30′s. I think it will take more than college to get them to that level.

        2. Nathanael

          Personally, I never use them in daily life, but my comprehensive biology courses were the most valuable part of my liberal education.

          Once you truly understand why we know that evolution is true, it changes your entire perspective on everything, including human behavior. (Stupid plains apes…)

      2. JTFaraday

        I disagree. I think the worst thing about educated Americans is that they are all too willing to single mindedly consign themselves to a kind of vulgar pragmatism that renders them incapable of conceptualizing the possibilities for social, political, and economic renewal.

        This is increasingly the case, and yet, such renewal is what we most need.

        Now, I don’t want to completely dismiss vulgar pragmatism as it often yields happy results. I won’t even dismiss single minded vulgar pragmatism when practiced by an individual– there are only so many hours in a day– but never in an entire society.

        Because it seems to me that the happy results of vulgar pragmatism of all sorts frequently doesn’t last very long.

        And, in a society in transition– to what, we’re not even sure– vocational education is all too often one such short term investment.

        So, it doesn’t even make economic sense, a lot of the time. The biggest rip off in “higher education” are highly practical specialized degrees and certificates for which jobs or may not exist and which cannot even be transformed into a general education credential, like the traditional BA/BS.

        So, while an individual might choose to jettison the whole thing, unfortunately that’s often not very practical either.

        1. JTFaraday

          I agree that this last dilemma is a social problem requiring a social solution, but we are certainly not going to get one as long as we keep thinking that the solution is to keep narrowcasting people into dumb downed roles where they can’t make any trouble and from which they can in turn condemn people who refuse to so consign themselves– until their time is up and they fall flat on their own righteous ass, with a dearth of individual resources that would better enable them to drag it back up the step ladder.

  6. Not bob

    The degradation of education is the result of the purposeful migration of content from free-to-fee for the benefit of educators

  7. par4

    Looking at the state of the nation I don’t see any evidence that education is doing much good.

    1. Foppe

      Looking at Earth from my orbit around Jupiter, I don’t really see what problems global warming causes either. (The point being that making vague blanket statements really isn’t all that interesting.)

  8. Capo Regime

    The answer to Yves rhetorical headline is of course: No.

    John Taylor Gatto (once New York Teacher of the year) wrote the definite text on the realities of U.S. education: http://johntaylorgatto.com/underground/

    While some excellence to be had at Uni level in U.S. (I was once a prof) it has to a large extent been stupified. Credentialism is the the creed–witness the rise of the for profits, Kaplan is the WaPo’s online education cash cow and its of coure the case that the publisher lobbied congress on the wonders of subsidizing online for profits.

    Pirmary and Secondary are a joke of course. Is it the elites per se ruining it or is it a convergence of ideology, politics and insitutional path dependence–unions, and of course the unwillingness to accept not all kids have the same abilities–bright kids held back by being the ones tutoring the less bright ones and of course smart kids getting beat up etc……

    1. howard

      gatto’s book is excellent. he correctly describes the goal of socialization and social control as having been the primary goal of compulsory schooling from the beginning in the us (late 19th-early 20th century).

      there was a time when american industry required a workforce that was educated enough to work in a factory. even an assembly line worker needs basic arithmetic skills, needs to be able to read and comprehend a service manual. and a middle management workforce needs a set of skills that the majority of high school grads used to routinely gain.

      back in that day, local businessmen would be involved in local school boards, advancing that agenda. further, when the cold war/space race heated up, there was recognition for the urgent need for science education to provide workers for the military-industrial complex. presto–the money thrown at the problem was actually effective (unlike all the money thrown at the system in recent decades) because there were active, effective political forces demanding our school system meet these needs.

      as our economy shifted from one of industrial production, to one of consumption based on debt, a conspiracy was not required to bring about the change in the education system. all that was needed is the absence of the prior political/social forces that demanded 18 year-olds with a real high school education. those businessmen stopped running for school board. presidents stopped making real challenges (like put a man on the freaking moon barely a decade after first launching a satellite into space) and paying lip service to ‘education’.

      other political/social forces filled the vacuum. to feed poor children. to diagnose and treat mental conditions. to broaden the social indoctrination to include tolerance and boost self-esteem. all good things, but (as above) goals that detracted from the readin’ writin’ and ‘rithmetic that industrial america needed.

      you don’t need a top-down conspiracy to explain the non-critical thinking, non-understanding of compound interest, emotionally responsive product of american secondary education of the past 40 years. the perfect unthinking consumer started to be churned out without specific mandate from the corporate class. by dilution. by absence of influential forces demanding otherwise.

  9. i

    To put it bluntly, the rich want slaves. Universal education makes that very difficult, particularly in a high-tech society where some not too bright fellows can fly planes into buildings.

  10. Capo Regime

    One wonders what has happened to dictionaries. Do public schools provide socialization (indoctrination), training, education, or care and feeding. Its probably Drucker who first pointed out that when an organization increases the goals it purues the primary goal suffers. Schools now entrusted with health, counseling, career advice, advancing political goals (no failure) advancing affirmative action and so forth among ranks of teachers and admin, advancing new social views (heather has two momies), of course the hyper egalitarianism where a math degree holder is paid the same as the elementary ed major will inevitably decrease the number of math and science trained teachers and encourage ed college grads to fake their way through teaching algebra (universities pay different fields more–math prof gets paid more than a history prof, but thsi not the case in schools.

    Of course, in years of being in U.S. I can honestly say I have never heard of parents demanding more homework, tougher grading and more math and intense reading. You do hear protests for better sports facilites and better stuff–classrooms, computers, cafeterias and gyms and even to get their kids to behave better and of course to have the shools tutor them and blame school when kids flunk out. Social failure–we are all to blame.

    1. ambrit

      Dear C. R.;
      I concur. Even though it seldom shows, I keep a Websters New Collegiate Dictionary at our computer desk. However, I am ‘Old School,’ (in more ways than one.)
      My take on declining educational outcomes, (are they really declining, I’m curious about that,) is that it is, as it always has been, a matter of social pressures, generally speaking. Small, close knit communities tend to do better at it is my guess. When mom and dad push education, and not just the ‘traditional’ institutional kind, but real individually based general inquisitiveness, the emerging person becomes more wholly rounded. My admittedly imperfect observation as to the driving force behind all this is a social and cultural tendency to focus ones’ efforts. A positive feedback loop is then developed and deployed. The rest follows organically.
      Thanks for letting me rant.

      1. Min

        If education is declining, why are kids smarter than their parents and grandparents were? (See the Flynn Effect.)

        1. Capo Regime

          They are not smarter–they merely score higher on IQ tests. Not the same thing. Also, research has provided an explanation for the Flyn effect. a.) people are getting better at taking tests and the tests have changed. b.) kids mature earlier and thus they are not smarter but rather acquire test taking traits earlier.

          Despite the Flyn effect (which is a mean) the SAT Scores both Math and Verbal have been declining since the 1970′s. Similarly, both relative and absolute PISA scores for U.S. students have been declining since the 1970s. Maybe its all the HFCS.

          So no, they are not getting smarter.

  11. René

    “Coexistence on this tightly knit earth should be viewed as an existence not only without wars… but also without [the government] telling us how to live, what to say, what to think, what to know, and what not to know.”

    —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from a speech given September 11, 19731

    “Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead.”

    —Aristotle, 384–322 B.C.

    “The human brain should be used for processing, not storage.”

    —Thomas A. Kelly, Ph.D.

    The Effective School Report

    http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/MomsPDFs/DDDoA.sml.pdf

    1. colinc

      Very nice! Thank you for reminding of some “favorite” (but oft forgot) quotes and the link. By your leave, permit me to add my most recent go to quote…

      Sapere aude.

      — Horace, Kant, Foucault

  12. jsmith

    I think the answer to the title question from the neoliberal fascist elite point of view really begins and ends with the word “public” and not “education” as “public” anything is an anathema to a class that wishes to turn all public goods into profit-generating enterprises.

    Sure, the “education” children will receive at privatized schools will be even MORE sanitized versions of the propaganda they receive now but that is just a natural byproduct of the neoliberal fascist paradigm – much like extra arsenic in your water and prions in your meat.

    What needs to start happening is that the populace needs to be taught about socialism and class consciousness through the creation of home or Sunday schools were ideas that will more clearly and accurately depict the world they live in are promulgated so that society can progress forward as a whole.

    Schools and education of this type were offered by socialist organizations in the early 20th century in both the U.S. and Europe – e.g., the Fabian Society (minus the eugenics, thank you) – and the rise of said schooling would only help to combat the shite that is poured into our heads every minute of every day.

    Instead of grieving about how a citizen is not able to get an education and then waiting until the neoliberal fascists cook up some scheme by which to mollify society’s anger over said unfairness, why not combat this injustice by communicating to said people the ideas truly needed to understand WHY they are not receiving the education they want and why this won’t change until they clearly and accurately see the nature of the fascist system they live under.

    People need to begin being educated about the corrupt and rotten nature of the ENTIRE system and about how all people who are not of the elite classes are being screwed.

    It doesn’t – and wouldn’t – take very much education as most already have a premonition that what is happening is not fair or good.

    People only need grasp a few over-arching ideas so that they can see that what is occurring here is happening to their neighbors, is happening to their friends and is happening to the person on the other side of the globe.

    More than fearing a “too-educated” populace what the elite really fear is a “class-educated” populace.

    1. Capo Regime

      Possibly one could advance the idea that the fairly rigorous education system in Russia from the perspective of the leaders made people too clever by half. The system may have in part collapsed due to large portions of the populace being well educated and the fact that propaganda was not as advanced as the u.s. or the credit system to create illusion of proseperity. You make interesting points.

      1. Capo Regime

        There is certainly confusion in the U.S. between being credentialed, trained or educated. As for recieving an education, I do not think its something that is received but rather something that is pursued and gotten. Frankly, with the internet and libraries and stores of books all about there is little reason one cannot be educated. There is an element of learned helplesness and looking to institutions and leaders to show the way. If you have some intelligence and enerby nothing is stopping anybody from reading all of shakespear and if you want physics and classical greek for that matter….If my 8th grade educated mother can read and enjoy the harvard classics and cervantes we can too.

        1. colinc

          Outstanding observation! Analogously, “You can lead a horse to water…”

          In the mid-to-late ’80s when I returned to college, after 15 yrs working in factories/construction/Great Lakes Shipping/real-estate/and a few other “industries,” I was asked by many of my classmates for help in math/physics/chemistry/programming/electronics/etc. When I sat down with any one (or more) of them and said, “Show me what you have so far,” invariably I would be “answered” by blank papers/screens/looks. Invariably I would then ask, “Well, where/how do you think you should start?” Again invariably, the response would be “Oh, I have to go to the bathroom/get coffee”/”There’s [some M/F] that I have to go talk to”/ or some equally lame excuse. Then, still invariably, they would return and upon seeing that the aforementioned medium was still blank, ask me, “Why isn’t this done?” To which I’d reply, “Go fuck yourself” and leave the cretin’s presence.

          1. LucyLulu

            Colin,
            Having gone back to school in the 90′s, I know EXACTLY what you mean. The problem is that kids have no idea how to start. If its started though, they are quite good at following through. In math and science, they find ‘word problems’ bewildering, which are the problems presented in real life. I audited a calculus class, having not taken math for over 20 years. The class failed one of the tests because it had word problems. The professor promised not to put them on future tests. I got an A. I love word problems (but make careless mistakes on the routine parts). I was stunned one time when the instructor asked the class what the limit of 1/x was as x approached 0, and almost everybody pulled out their calculators to graph it. (Me, I was still trying to figure out how to work the damn calculator! They weren’t yet around when I took calculus in the mid-70′s.)

            In my last year of the program, I was the class go-to on how to start the homework problems in ‘numerical analysis’. They were drawing blanks. It worked out. In turn, they helped me finish them since I didn’t remember all the rules for integration, had no recollection of matrices, and such. The professor would give full credit on tests if you demonstrated you understood the problem, even though it was the wrong answer, so I lucked out.

          2. colinc

            Thanks for the supportive reply, Lucy! :D Alas, I was not auditing anything, everything was “for credit” as I was trying to “break-out” of my hitherto “blue-collar” employment. I received a degree in Mathematics, with honors, taking 18-21 cr.hrs./qrtr. and working 20-30 hrs/week as an aide in either the physics lab or one of the computer labs. (Do NOT get me started on the latter.) Moreover, I had more than a few “professors” who actually “called me out” in class, often, as being “the one” who “ruined the curve for everyone else.” That didn’t help establish any lasting “relationships,” either. Just to be clear, I incessantly had near-perfect test/quiz scores in everything from calculus to diff.eq and linear algebra as well as 2 yrs of physics, micro-electronics, more than a couple programming languages and robotics, not to mention similar scores in my humanities course-work. All that didn’t do a damn thing for my “bottom line.” So, now I have to conclude that most (all?) schools, from K-PhD, are as (or more) dogmatic as any religion that has ever existed and is more about “socialization” and “programming beliefs” than “true” education. After that, I really learned the depth and breadth of outright fraud being perpetrated by nearly every company, incorporated or not, in this country and most others. The entire system of everything is an utter joke and it is killing us all.

          3. colinc

            Apologies for getting off on a minor(?), tangential rant.

            I did not see any evidence exhibited by my classmates that they could complete any problem even if I had gotten them started. Regardless, here’s the rub, if one does not have any clue even how or where to “start” a solution, the problem will never be solved. Moreover, in life there is nobody to rely upon to help get a solution started. Furthermore, it takes exactly that kind of awareness to even realize there is a “problem” that needs a solution. So, without a certain level of perception and “understanding” we wind up with society comprised largely of dolts. So it has always been, so shall it be.

          4. Nathanael

            Having gone to an elite liberal arts college, I can testify that the situation is better there.

            About 50% – 75% of the students are actually interested in learning and capable of pursuing it on their own.

            Roughly 25% (maybe as low as 10%) still want to do things by rote and are useless in the real world, *at that level*. I can’t imagine what it’s like at less selective colleges.

          5. Nathanael

            I think one problem is that distinguishing a self-motivated learner from a worker ant is not possible in an automated fashion, at least so far. Another is that distinguishing a self-motivated learner who’s gotten stuck from someone who just isn’t interested in learning is also not possible in an automated fashion.

            This means that the emphasis on standardized tests — used even for college admissions — is better at finding people who know how to “work within the system” than it is at anything else.

    2. JTFaraday

      “I think the answer to the title question from the neoliberal fascist elite point of view really begins and ends with the word “public” and not “education” as “public” anything is an anathema to a class that wishes to turn all public goods into profit-generating enterprises.”

      I agree. This also covers the high tech industry concern trolling, which wants to sell tech driven pedagogy and content delivery.

      While they may not care if the money comes from the government– and let’s get real, the money will have to be rent collection from the government just like teacher’s salaries are now, only it much of it will go into their pockets instead of that of the undermined teacher– in order to do that, they need to change the public school culture and the primacy of the professional organizations in education, to include unions but not just unions.

      I don’t want be a luddite about educational technology, but it’s unlikely that educational priorities will top the money motive with Sillycon Valley leading the way. And the derogation of all teachers and all public schools toward such ends is all too transparent. People are susceptible to this logic, because they have a tech-fix as social, economic, and cultural cure-all.

      So, it’s not that they “don’t want to ‘educate,’” it’s that they want to siphon off a huge chunk of the public education pie from its once and future staff.

      The big joke is that all those nitwit conservatives supporting Scott Walker and Chris Christie will still paying for it. Only now their future daughters-in-law will make much less money, while they export their social security checks to Bill Gates’ golf buddies.

      Just another day in the life of America.

  13. dcblogger

    I just want to say that Daltan Delan and Sharon Percy Rockefeller own DC parents and students an on air apology for the shameless way the NewsHour hyped the hideous Michelle Rhee.

  14. Michael Fiorillo

    First, I’d like go thank you, Yves, for posting this. The hostile takeover of public education does not get nearly the coverage it deserves, and many so-called pwogwessive publications (The Nation, Huffington, Mother Jones) have allowed themselves to become vehicles for the 30-year propaganda campaign against the public schools (starting with “A Nation at Risk” under Reagan thirty years ago).

    As a public school teacher in NYC, my colleagues and I are on the front lines facing the hostile takeover of public education, which entails the elimination of democratic oversight through mayoral/executive control of the schools, the busting of the union and the reordering of labor relations, redefining what it means to be a teacher (ultimately a temporary, at-will employee forced to “teach” scripted lessons), constant rounds of disruption and so-called reorganizations meant to destabilize the system, and the diversion of resources and expropriation of public facilities for (private) charter schools. And, of course, all kinds of profiteering at the expense of classroom instruction and the education of living, breathing children.

    Professor Taylor makes an very important point about what he calls the “misery industries,” neoliberal metastases that have found ways to profit from human misery. What needs to be added is that corporate education reform is not just about enabling that, but actively monetizing the schools and kids, as well.

    The imposition of high stakes testing has been integral to this project, since, “That which can be measured can be managed.” High stakes testing, combined with mathematically impossible proficiency targets that guarantee that schools will be marked as failing, sets in motion the process by which schools are closed, their teachers scapegoated, children scattered to the four winds, and privateers allowed to take over what remains, whether through charters, vouchers, on-line courses, ever more tests (NYC plans to introduce high stakes tests for kindergartners in the near future), etc.

    The testing regime, which is ever-more punitive and authoritarian, is also necessary because the tests are the de facto curriculum. That’s right, they are not really intended to assess students’ grasp of a varied, interesting and rich curriculum, but rather to socialize them for the authoritarian, insecure workplaces (at least for those “fortunate” enough to find work) they will be entering in the coming years, workplaces based on tedium, minimal skills, constant productivity harassment and electronic monitoring.

    Finally, to Alex McCandless, it’s not about conspiracy, it’s about ruling class consensus. If you observe what they do, rather than what they say, you’d see this clearly.

    1. spooz

      In “Twilight of the Elites” Chris Hayes discusses admissions to highly selective Hunter College High School in Manhattan, whose admissions test is offered to students who score highest on citywide fifth grade standardized test scores. He points out that access to the outstanding education it offers is more accessible to those who have resources for private tutors and test preps, which has contributed to only 10% of Hunter’s students being poor enough to qualify for free lunch in a city where 75% of all public students do.

      Hayes quotes Hunter’s 2010 commencement speaker, Justin Hudson, a black kid from Brooklyn who feels none of the students there deserve their superior education while losers are cast aside:

      “Hunter is perpetuating a system in which children, who contain unbridled and untapped intellect and creativity, are discarded like refuse. And we have the audacity to say they deserved it, because we’re smarter than them.”

    2. Nathanael

      “The testing regime, which is ever-more punitive and authoritarian, is also necessary because the tests are the de facto curriculum. That’s right, they are not really intended to assess students’ grasp of a varied, interesting and rich curriculum, but rather to socialize them for the authoritarian, insecure workplaces (at least for those “fortunate” enough to find work) they will be entering in the coming years, workplaces based on tedium, minimal skills, constant productivity harassment and electronic monitoring.”

      Absolutely. However, this scheme is going to backfire massively. This scheme *could have worked* in a place like the Soviet Union where full employment was guaranteed.

      However, here, with rampant unemployment and random firings, there is no particular likelihood of getting the rewards associated with compliance. This trains the kids to do something rather different: it trains them to *pretend* to comply, while actually figuring out how to cheat the system.

      Kids who figure out how to cheat on the tests without getting caught are the ones who have learned the skills which will actually be rewarded in the current economy.

      This isn’t actually what the people implementing this intended; they didn’t coordinate with the people doing all the firings and offshoring.

  15. Gil Gamesh

    Americans don’t want to be well-educated (i.e. to gain a basic understanding of history, literature, and the arts and sciences in order to cultivate some life of the mind, and to thus function as a citizen in civic life). Americans want to be successful, that is, make a lot of money. Therein is the problem.

    1. Capo Regime

      Indeed its values and culture. As mentioned above the day that parents start clamoring for more challenging books, more homework and a system of true merit and frustrated in their requests we can say indeed the elite are conspiring against us. Hey teacher my kid is a junior why no calculus or plato? Oh the time is taken by the works of maya angelou and diversity awareness and twirling competition…….How does it go–we have met the enemy and its us.

      1. colinc

        Both GG and CR are spot on but I think “Ash” (Ian Holm, Alien) said it best…

        “Bring back the alienmoney, all other priorities rescinded.”

      2. Nathanael

        Not “more homework”.

        “Better homework”.

        Currently there’s a crapload of homework, but vast masses of it are crap, rote bullshit designed to keep kids busy and keep their minds turned off.

      3. Nathanael

        And you’re exhibiting some really dumb bigotry. Maya Angelou is very much worth reading, and if the kids actually understand what she’s going on about, they’ll be pretty poor corporate cogs….

    1. R Foreman

      Wasn’t Kansas the place where John Brown was running around killing all the settlers?

      1. Capo Regime

        He was an abolishonist active in Kansas, Ohio and ultimately in Harpers Ferry. Nice portrait of him in national portrait gallery in D.C. He does look nuts though championing a worthwhile cause. No protests for him–action.

  16. bluntobj

    I guess I’m confused about what qualifies as elites trying to undermine education.

    Is it the growth and flowering of anything that might be in the sphere of “political correctness?”

    Is it the suppression of judgement, evaluation, and reason (not talking about politically correct-type judgments), in favor of emotions and feelings?

    Is it the active removal of most methods of learning discipline and work ethic through regulation? (Think summer jobs for kids, corporal punishment, etc.)

    Is it the active reduction of standards of achievement for the purpose of salary, advancement, program success, feelings, etc.?

    Is it the attempts to remove the stigma of losing, or the glory of achievement? Is the mindset of making everyone equal, i.e. removing challenge and reward, resulting in the reduced drive for success for young people?

    Are cynicism and apathy being ingrained in young people who look out and see a kleptocratic crony capitalist/power hungry politician world?

    Are the role models of so many “minorities” rap stars and gang members? If your music and art glorify pimpin, ho’in, bangin’, and taggin’, and all you are looking at is skin color, because you get beat down for “bein an uncle tom” (or worse), what’s that going to do to you?

    This last one you can sure see the effects of the elite, as the entertainment industry hollows out mindspace and laughs all the way to the bank.

    Most of the achievements here are considered “progressive” and desireable. I would then modify the original question: If the elites desire to undermine education, and most of those things that do a very good job of destroying the ability and incentive to learn can be considered “progressive”, does it then follow that “progressive” policies, in whatever form, are actually tools used by the elites to manage and control the population?

    (This is also true of many “conservative” policies, like taxation, minimal litigation, control of sex, etc.)

    1. Nathanael

      The attack on education is the elimination of Enlightment values (critical thinking, empiricism, rationalism, learning) in favor of “do what you’re told” authoritarianism and rigid (yet meaningless) standardized tests.

      Does that answer your question?

  17. commenter

    Yes in many urban education districts, the schools are genuinely underfunded.

    But another big problem is the complete non-reverence this country has towards education. NCAA is really a pro-sports league that has free labor.

    Many, many high school districts literally spend millions on astroturf-ed, pro-quality sports facilities while the arts/sciences/math funding is barely adequate. Parents drive their kids around for hours from game to practice to game but never take their kids to a museum.

    The craziness at Penn State reflects how out of whack our education system is. Are we the only nation that emphasizes school sports more than school academics? It sure looks that way.

  18. Susan the other

    There are two kinds of education – one is like a hobby: I like to read history; the other is vocational: I need a job so I will learn a technology. I don’t see how this is so offensive. The offensive thing is the question being begged. Why can’t people earn a living wage?

    Funny how the most important tidbit of information was glossed over at the beginning: In 10 years only the USA and Germany among the industrialized western countries will go on to be industrial players in this new century. Look to Germany for sane education protocols. But demand a decent living in the US.

    1. Capo Regime

      And it may not be a bad thing! The way schools are today it really is a towering social responsibility (if you can) to home school. Not for nutter’s anymore. Odd how the scandinavians start kids at age 7 (and don’t fixate on test scores) and finish it up by 15 being no worse for wear. In many countries you can go to law school and medical school right after highschool (or in some cases a year of uni prep. Last I checked, lawyers and doctors in Australia, France, Spain and many other places are not suffering from lack of competence due to shorter “schooling”–ie its not graduate study like in U.S., essentially 4 years are shaved off prior to joining these professions in many countries….Think of impact on lifetime earnings and costs saved! Lots of great models out there in the big world but heaven forbid we adopt something done in another country as we are so amazingly star spangled special..

      1. Foppe

        Yes, but speaking for the dutch case, you can only go study medicine at uni if you have done high school at the grammar school level (in NL, there are different school types with (near-)total separation between the different levels, so as to be able to offer different curricula to different children, depending on (estimated) ability). Becoming a non-specialized doctor then takes 6 years. After that, you have to pick the thing you want to specialize in (GP, throat/nose/ear specialist, surgeon, pediatrician, etc.), which takes another 2-7 years depending on your choice.

        In any case, I doubt the Dutch system would be considered “democratic” enough for the US, as the US school system seems to pride itself on putting the jocks and nerds in the same schools so that the latter can be bullied for a few years longer than they would’ve been otherwise.

  19. Hugh

    The deterioration of American education is part of the larger erosion of American society due to kleptocracy. If you are a kleptocrat, what is happening in American education is a bonus. You can loot the system via charter schools, or just straight up underfunding. You can set parents against teachers, and private sector employees against public sector ones (teachers). You can dumb things down because democracy requires an informed citizenry. You can corporatize higher education turning it into an adjunct of corporations. And you can load up college graduates with undischargeable debt that renders them docile and exploitable.

    What’s not to like?

  20. dopes

    The reasoned discourse here strikes me as miraculous. How did you people wind up educated? Was it institutions, or what?

    Critical thinking is really stigmatized. The furious resistance to the International Bacccalaureate is telling. It’s not just goobers fighting it – even in Fairfax county there’s resistance. And the elite aren’t making philosopher kings of themselves, either: when kids from different classes step on the conveyor belt to be made into elites, they wind up reproducing class distinctions. Good stuff about hierarchical indoctrination at the oligarchic pinnacle: St. Paul’s schoolmates are intimates but not equals, Khan says: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9294.html . Also, the highlight of Born Rich, Luke Weill, scion of a dynasty of bookies, telling how he learned that there was nothing he could do to flunk out of Brown.

    1. Winston

      “Critical thinking is really stigmatized.”

      And it’s the lack of that learned ability that is at the very heart of this nation’s problem’s.

      1. Nathanael

        The platform of the Texas Republican Party actually contains a plank officially opposing the teaching of critical thinking.

        They actually oppose teaching people how to think, and they’re admitting it.

    2. LucyLulu

      There is resistance to the IB program? Pray tell, what reason is being given? That is a strenuous, but excellent program, and allows h.s. students to legitimately earn credit for some required college courses. It’s tougher than the AP courses.

    3. Nathanael

      “And the elite aren’t making philosopher kings of themselves, either:”

      This is actually what worries me. When the elite gets deliberately ignorant, then we get REAL disasters, and we’re already there.

      Thorstein Veblen explained how this happens in _Theory of the Leisure Class_; the social values of the elite not only valorize fraud, they are actively hostile to “getting your hands dirty”, and at some point that becomes hostility to even knowing *how your business works*.

      We now have CEOs who do not understand any aspect of their business, not even the law and accounting parts of it (which are usually the parts the elite pay attention to after forgetting everything else). This is an elite which disapproves of knowing anything, sneers at actual education, and is going to get one hell of a violent comeuppance because of their idiocy, sooner or later.

  21. Winston

    “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

    - THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, January 6, 1816.The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 10, p. 4

  22. abprosper

    If you want your kids to be well educated, you have to do this yourself. Its been that way since prehistory save for the very rich.

    In fact I’d argue that American public schools are doing exactly as designed, giving a minimum education.

    Thankfully the tools to educate your own kids and a community of like minded people are more available than ever. All it takes is a few clicks of a mouse and every piece of knowledge a person could want for a kid from k-12 and beyond of every capacity for learning is there for you at little or no cost.

  23. Jim

    The decline of real education is a profoundly important issue:

    But what if the decline in real education cannot simply be explained by the logic of capitalism alone?

    What if progressive and Marxist interpretations of the decline of higher education tend to ignore political and cultural processes(for example, a broader nation-building program and an Americanization process) which may have precipitated the social disintegration necessary for the functioning of an unthinking consumerism and unlimited capitalist growth?

    What if,therefore, a type of cultural disintegration began to take place prior to the supposed manipulation of consciousness by the market (a manipulation assumed by the Left and many progressives to come first and be primary)?

    What if the creation and evolution of Big State in conjunction with the creation and evolution of Big Capital both helped to contribute to an earlier and then later, an increasingly intense, cultural disintegration of local communities?

    What if the more recent expansion of higher education over the past 100 or so years(from approximately 250,000 students to 15 million students) has allowed the State, through such initiatives as the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 and then later, the massive expansion of educational institutions under the GI Bill of 1944, the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the 1965 Higher Education Act to create a system that has penetrated (for good and ill) deep into our culture and politics and to mediate relations between millions of its citizens and their government?

    What if, through this process, universities became the most powerful certifying institution in the country were professionals of various types mastered an esoteric body of knowledge and then use that knowledge as their own cultural capital, to advance if they so choose, to positions of national power in the State and in their own professional organizations​?

    Would a populist hostility against the professional elites(with their cultural capital) and the 1% (with their real capital) be appropriate–taken our contemporary structure of power?

    1. Nathanael

      Nope. Bad analysis. The disintegration of local communities is primarily due to changes in transportation technology and communications technology (though the deployment of both by various governments and organizations, local and otherwise, is also an issue).

      I suggest you study the history of transportation and its links to local community disintegration, it’s a major topic of study.

  24. freedomny

    Went to a public school in a great community that had AP classes during the 80′s. My sis and brlaw are both mds and their kids also went to a public school (but not as good as the ones we went to). Their kids are doing great…ambitious and determined. Getting into super colleges and getting jobs before they graduate.

    Schools are one thing, but values imparted by parenting are another. So even if the school my nieces went to wasn’t as good as mine, they are fine because my sister and her husband were engaged…and were great parents.

    That being said….and I won’t say “conspiracy”. But is there a “path” to dumb down Americans in order to “keep them in line.”

    Well, I would not be surprised given the corruption of our government by the elite.

    And I believe….yes.

    1. Nathanael

      Dumbing people down to keep them in line often works — but it works *when* the elite keeps everyone fed, clothed, and housed, with access to entertainment.

      The elite has decided it doesn’t need to do this. This is mind-bogglingly stupid on their part, but as noted earlier, they don’t really value education themselves, so they’ve ended up being deeply ignorant.

      1. Nathanael

        Hence the frequent description of the current policy of the 0.1% as being “bread and circuses without the bread”.

        It doesn’t work without the bread, guys. Why are you too stupid to see this?

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