Learning for Success; Ahem—Excuse Me—for Service

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 to Charles Yancey, 1816

When Thomas Jefferson refers to a state of civilization, one assumes he has his own in mind; that is western civilization, of course. Why, then, should an ignorant nation never expect to know freedom? Perhaps, as he penned this letter to Charles Yancey, Jefferson had in the back of his head the approximately 6,000 years of scorched earth policies that, within this state, were perpetrated by and for the vector of western progress. The institutions comprising western civilization, he concluded, predisposed agents of history to depravity and conquest. Therefore, it must be so, that the people enjoy the fruits of access to the voluminous amount of data available during any given epoch. Abraham Lincoln, while in office, echoed his forbearer, saying “let the people know the truth and the country is safe.” Like never before do the masses have access to a wealth of information. Many key players in the political and corporate arenas, recognizing this, are positioning themselves and events so as to make a case for further restriction of the internet, while increased supervision in the classroom is on the agenda under Obama.

As the world enters the dog days of summer, families have by now taken their annual financial vacations. The kids have been home from school, work and sports fill up the calendar and finances have been put on the backburner. In the fall, without having sifted through financial statements for three months, parents return to the monetary details of their lives, oftentimes aghast at the holes they had dug for themselves in so short a time. Aside from money shambles on the second leg down of the economic crisis, what can parents, and children, expect this coming fall at their public schools?

Close analysis of Obama’s education policies divulge that, like many other policy areas, no new course will be pursued. Rather, just as the administrations financial policies expound the amount of clout his main financial supporters flex over a woefully command and control economy—Goldman Sachs, for example, controls somewhere in the ballpark of 35 percent of all program trading, which makes up around 50 percent of all activity on NYSE—so too will Washington exacerbate totalitarian trends in the classroom. Basically, the plan for education will lead to more state intervention in school life, continued marketisation, managerialism, standardization and testing, external accountability, intervention in family life, and a modeling of education in such a way as to further the goals of the state-enterprise apparatus—among which stands, first and foremost, centralization of goods, governance and services—as opposed to the consciousness raising and therefore general welfare of the public. ((Standish, Alex. Under Obama: No Child Left Unmonitored. Spiked Online.))

First, the continuing budget crisis will precipitate more cuts in school funding. Due to budget cuts limiting the amount of pay allocated to faculty, legislation in California already permits schools meeting certain requirements to reduce the school week to four days. This in a state, of all places, where currently only 43 percent of six million students are considered proficient in reading and 41 percent in math. Furthermore, a recent National Science Foundation report foresees that California’s elementary schools will fall short of reaching their Adequate Year Progression targets by 2014. ((All Students Proficient on State Tests by 2014? National Science Foundation, 25 September 2008.)) The California education outlook, while dire due to the state’s advanced stage in the financial crisis compared with smaller economies in the union, is hardly a black sheep: in the coming months, similar developments will be played out across the country.

The Obama Regime maintains that teachers “should not be forced to spend their academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests.” Their plan, however, reflects the overall Orwellian nature of the contradictory propaganda/measures taken dichotomy thus far employed by the regime in Washington, and increases the amount of standardized testing and externalized accountability by introducing “a broader range of assessments that can evaluate higher-order skills, including student’s ability to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present and defend their ideas.” This portends the implementation of tests not only for basic literary and math skills, but also vocational and analytical skills. ((Barack Obama and Joe Biden Plan for Lifetime Success Through Education))

The trend of externalized accountability—a euphemism for externalization of authority, away from the teachers and students, and into a vertically executed federal system—will be further extended to the job of teaching. More and more, instead of being certified through a process based on one’s proclivity to creativity in the classroom, measured by one’s ability to inspire a healthy learning environment, teachers will become accredited by way of a checklist of designated competencies. Currently, accreditation is optional for teacher education institutions; under the Obama plan, however, all teacher education programs will be required to endure the accreditation process. The premise of such measures, naturally, is that the interlocked art of teaching and learning is no art at all, but rather a uniform process with no variation across personalities and geography. Historically, the universal application of religions, which have their origin in unique times and places, has meant the debasement and consequential uselessness of those religions. The same logic applies to education, an outcome of its socio-historic roots, as well as a cultures cognitive orientation.

Funding for early learning allows parents more time to work or take part in other activities, especially in the inner city, at which many of these programs are targeted. Most of the programs are offered to children in the cities, and not their suburban counterparts. Obama and Biden argue “the failure to address early learning needs is most apparent with disadvantaged children.” Early learning, they continue, is an economically sound policy, for it leads to a “decreased need for special education services, higher graduation and employment rates, less crime, less use of public welfare systems and better health.” ((Barack Obama and Joe Biden Plan for Lifetime Success Through Education))

The line of reasoning will indeed be furthered, that the purpose of education is the service of the economy. The Obama Regime has outlined a “rewarding and training” system, whereby 40,000 “service scholarships for “high-need” (for the economy) subjects are to be allocated, with main emphasis put on science and math, upon which “over 80 percent of the quickest growing occupations are dependent.” ((Barack Obama and Joe Biden Plan for Lifetime Success Through Education)) The intermixing of private and public education, one must deduce, will create a feedback loop promoting the increase of overlapping interests between the economy and the socialization process. This is demonstrated by the fact that Obama and Biden support charter schools under the guise of parent freedom to choose one school over another. Charter schools are independent and oftentimes focused on religion or owned by a private entity. In the name of diversity and choice, Obama and Biden champion these available options, and though it is true many private schools have been a relative success, leading to innovative initiatives etc., the furthered privatization of the socialization process would mark a fraudulent overlap in interests. The privatization of education in the United States, as many analysts have pointed out, seems inevitable considering that nation’s bankrupt debt-equity ratios.

What might turn up increasingly throughout the country has already in some places. For instance, at Jefferson high school in Portland, Oregon, the basketball team the Portland Trailblazers, in a partnership with the NBA and Toyota funded the building of a new Community Resource Center at the school. The project is one of 15 community service initiatives spearheaded by funding from Toyota Project Rebound. While it is great that the school is receiving a new venue for meetings, etc., Toyota advertisements now adorn the inside of an Oregon public school. ((Press Release: Trailblazers, Toyota Unveil Community Resource Center at Jefferson High School. Submitted by Sentinel news Service, 3/30/2009.))

This agenda, aimed primarily at working-class or lower-income families, allows the state a more far reaching hand in the upbringing of its subjects, especially those who, otherwise, would be in the hands of the historically more discontented elements. This logic extends to absurd lengths, even encroaching on the turf of ancient documents, such as the Magna Carta, wherein it states that a man’s home is his castle. Obama and Biden would like to “expand evidence-based home visiting programs to all low-income, first-time mothers.” This is gateway legislation: Creeping intervention on behalf of the state which further erodes the family and the bedrock of openness on which the Republic was founded. ((Barack Obama and Joe Biden Plan for Lifetime Success Through Education))

In other school-related news, school-age children, it has been reported by the Washington Times, “will be a key target population for a pandemic flu vaccine in the fall.” The students would be vaccinated in a mass campaign paralleling that of efforts in the 1950’s against polio. Pregnant women, adults with chronic illnesses and health-workers would join children as the first in line. The federal government expects to receive approximately 100 million doses of vaccine by mid-October, assuming the current production, by only five companies, continues as planned. However vaccine for wide use, by about 120 million “especially vulnerable” people, will not be available until later in the fall. ((Brown, David and Hsu, Spencer. Students first in Line for Flu Vaccine. Washington Post, July 10, 2009.))

Schools and teacher training institutions do fall flat of expectations. While these systems are in desperate need of overhaul, the policies on which Obama and Biden plan to embark will limit the range of critical topics discussed in the classroom. What they offer are tested insights in regards to education, many of which are proven failures and work towards social engineering goals at the expense of learning and enlightenment. Representative of the failing US public education system, is a recent study calculating that one-third of American college students must enroll in remedial classes. These efforts cost colleges and taxpayers between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion annually. Tuition at US universities and colleges, moreover, is reaching levels which threaten the ability of the middle class to afford higher education. Many institutions maintain they are embarking on cost-shifting programs, whereby the more moneyed students—able to pay or take out loans—will subsidized through their tuition a poorer colleague. Some colleges and universities, nevertheless, are experiencing financial difficulties which severely limit their ability to offer quality educations. ((Pope, Justin. High School Failing Colleges Now Spend Billions on Remedial Classes for Freshmen. Huffington Post, September 15, 2008.))

In early may the Obama administration proposed its first full education budget, funding a plethora of new programs, despite a net decrease for minority-serving colleges and universities; that is, for typically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions. The administration plans to terminate 12 small federal programs costing $550 million, among others. This new budget should also save $4 billion by way of reducing bank subsidies for federal student loan programs.

Justin O'Connell blogs at The Handshake Times. He can be reached at: justin@libertycpm.com. Read other articles by Justin.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Tennessee-With-Zelaya said on July 16th, 2009 at 12:26pm #

    Vladimir Lenin

    We have said that our movement, much more extensive and deep than the movement of the seventies, must be inspired with the same devoted determination and energy that inspired the movement at that time. Indeed, no one, we think, has until now doubted that the strength of the present-day movement lies in the awakening of the masses (principally, the industrial proletariat) and that its weakness lies in the lack of consciousness and initiative among the revolutionary leaders.

    However, of late a staggering discovery has been made, which threatens to disestablish all hitherto prevailing views on this question. This discovery was made by Rabocheye Dyelo, which in its polemic with Iskra and Zarya did not confine itself to making objections on separate points, but tried to ascribe “general disagreements” to a more profound cause — to the “different appraisals of the relative importance of the spontaneous and consciously ‘methodical’ element”. Rabocheye Dyelo formulated its indictment as a “belittling of the significance of the objective or the spontaneous element of development”.[1] To this we say: Had the polemics with Iskra and Zarya resulted in nothing more than causing Rabocheye Dyelo to hit upon these “general disagreements”, that alone would give us considerable satisfaction, so significant is this thesis and so clear is the light it sheds on the quintessence of the present-day theoretical and political differences that exist among Russian Social-Democrats.

    For this reason the question of the relation between consciousness and spontaneity is of such enormous general interest, and for this reason the question must be dealt with in great detail.

    A. The Beginning of the Spontaneous Upsurge

    In the previous chapter we pointed out how universally absorbed the educated youth of Russia was in the theories of Marxism in the middle of the nineties. In the same period the strikes that followed the famous St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896 assumed a similar general character. Their spread over the whole of Russia clearly showed the depth of the newly awakening popular movement, and if we are to speak of the “spontaneous element” then, of course, it is this strike movement which, first and foremost, must be regarded as spontaneous. But there is spontaneity and spontaneity. Strikes occurred in Russia in the seventies and sixties (and even in the first half of the nineteenth century), and they were accompanied by the “spontaneous” destruction of machinery, etc. Compared with these “revolts”, the strikes of the nineties might even be described as “conscious”, to such an extent do they mark the progress which the working-class movement made in that period. This shows that the “spontaneous element”, in essence, represents nothing more nor less than. consciousness in an embryonic form. Even the primitive revolts expressed the awakening of consciousness to a certain extent. The workers were losing their age-long faith in the permanence of the system which oppressed them and began… I shall not say to understand, but to sense the necessity for collective resistance, definitely abandoning their slavish submission to the authorities. But this was, nevertheless, more in the nature of outbursts of desperation and vengeance than of struggle. The strikes of the nineties revealed far greater flashes of consciousness; definite demands were advanced, the strike was carefully timed, known cases and instances in other places were discussed, etc. The revolts were simply the resistance of the oppressed, whereas the systematic strikes represented the class struggle in embryo, but only in embryo. Taken by themselves, these strikes were simply trade union struggles, not yet Social Democratic struggles. They marked the awakening antagonisms between workers and employers; but the workers, were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social-Democratic consciousness. In this sense, the strikes of the nineties, despite the enormous progress they represented as compared with the “revolts”, remained a purely spontaneous movement.

  2. Tennessee-With-Zelaya said on July 16th, 2009 at 12:30pm #

    Justin: but Nietzsche said that the more technology, the dumber the people get. In fact he claimed that XVII Century was a lot more advanced than XIX, becuase according to Nietzsche technology, industrialization and automatization like for example the telegraph in his time etc. and today computers, make people dumber and kill creativity. So i think that’s true, that today’s students are dumber than before there was internet.


  3. Justin said on July 16th, 2009 at 12:46pm #

    Much of Nietzsche’s philosophy strikes me as elitist, and i do agree that technology strips humans of many of their innate predispositions towards survival. Instead of doing the things we’ve done in the past, robots do it for us now. It is important to remember that it is the purpose of machines to displace humans in the factory so as to make possible severe depopulation programs. The robots will fill the labor void.

    I also tend to think that propaganda meisters and the social engineers have become very good at what they do. This might be because on the internet they can collect limitless amounts of data useful to eliciting responses out of their subjects.

    The internet is a somewhat free market insofar as it tends towards free. P2p, etc.

    In Nazi Germany, in Soviet Union, all opposition press was banned and all party newspapers pushed propaganda. Dissidents were atomized and then exterminated.

    The internet has functioned as a forum in which people can stumble upon new ideas, ideas that some desire be banned and eradicated from popular culture, or a place where people can get caught in the same entertainment realm provided by the TV and the powers-that-be.


  4. Tennessee-With-Zelaya said on July 16th, 2009 at 6:15pm #

    Justin: hi, i am an absolute Nietzschean and Leninist. And believe me Nietzsche was the opposite of elitism, in fact he claimed that the Caste of Lords and Supermen didn’t have any thing to do with military, political, and economic power. in fact he claimed that our the rich people in power are slaves really. For Nietzsche his Caste of Superman are revolutionary socialists, who would be strong enough to destroy old values and set up new values just like the left. He didn’t preach domination over others, but domination over old values and our old selves.

    About the internet i think its good, but i think that old fashion printed books are better for knowledge. The computers, laptops, nintendos, playstations, cell phones, ipods are really for the capitalist slaves, not for the true revolutionary marxists supermen


  5. Justin said on July 16th, 2009 at 6:58pm #

    Good to know about Nietsche. I have a book of Lenin writings and speeches that I’ve been meaning to leaf through. He realized quite early on that British, US and Japanese intelligence was–to varying degrees, of course–funding all sides.

    I agree that books are better. They allow for more creativty, perhaps. I maintain computers as excellent tools; the analog world needs to imitate some of the finer points on the internet–that tendency towards free.

    Bonhoeffer, a very influential theologist in Nazi Germany–you should check them out–said also that books must be the focus of ones reading; i.e. not the ‘newspapers’. He also said that the resistance had wasted too much time in talking and that what they truly need was action, action, action.

    I don’t believe in a violent revolution. I will defend myself, my family, my friends, my fellow humans. An emotional/intellectual stands as good a chance as anything, however.

  6. Tennessee-With-Zelaya said on July 16th, 2009 at 8:04pm #

    Justin: Hi thanks for your reply. I was reading an interview between Karl Marx and a Chicago Tribune Journalist. And Marx said that there that there are no real changes without violence, without blood and without assasinations. And indeed, he said that all real changes in this world have been full of blood and violence. Real changes don’t happen thru elections, thru reforms and thru diplomacy thru mediators of OAS and UN.


    It’s like The Beasty Boys song: “You gotta fight, for your right”