Friday, August 9, 2013

Real democracy and education

From my last comment in the IPS integral anti-capitalism thread:

I introduced a link to Chomsky in this post. It has a wealth of quotable material beside what I previously provided. Here is some more relevant to topics already discussed above.

On the democratization of all aspects of society:

“Dewey himself comes straight from the American mainstream. […] For example, not only did he agree with the whole Enlightenment tradition that, as he put it, ‘the goal of production is to produce free people, -- ‘free men,’ he said, but that's many years ago. That's the goal of production, not to produce commodities. He was a major theorist of democracy. There were many different, conflicting strands of democratic theory, but the one I'm talking about held that democracy requires dissolution of private power. He said as long as there is private control over the economic system, talk about democracy is a joke. Repeating basically Adam Smith, Dewey said, Politics is the shadow that big business casts over society. He said attenuating the shadow doesn't do much. Reforms are still going to leave it tyrannical. Basically, a classical liberal view. His main point was that you can't even talk about democracy until you have democratic control of industry, commerce, banking, everything. That means control by the people who work in the institutions, and the communities.”

On dealing with people where they are:*

“What you're describing as inane questions usually strike me as perfectly honest questions. People have no reason to believe anything other than what they're saying. If you think about where the questioner is coming from, what the person has been exposed to, that's a very rational and intelligent question. It may sound inane from some other point of view, but it's not at all inane from within the framework in which it's being raised. […] You may be sorry about the conditions in which the questions arise. The thing to do is to try to help them get out of their intellectual confinement, which is not just accidental, as I mentioned. There are huge efforts that do go into making people, to borrow Adam Smith's phrase, ‘as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be.’ A lot of the educational system is designed for that, if you think about it, it's designed for obedience and passivity. From childhood, a lot of it is designed to prevent people from being independent and creative. If you're independent-minded in school, you're probably going to get into trouble very early on. That's not the trait that's being preferred or cultivated. When people live through all this stuff, plus corporate propaganda, plus television, plus the press and the whole mass, the deluge of ideological distortion that goes on, they ask questions that from another point of view are completely reasonable.”

On how people got where they are due to indoctrination versus education:

“You paraphrased Russell on education. You said that he promoted the idea that education is not to be viewed as something like filling a vessel with water, but rather assisting a flower to grow in its own way.”

“That's an eighteenth century idea. […] Humboldt, the founder of classical liberalism, his view was that education is a matter of laying out a string along which the child will develop, but in its own way. You may do some guiding. That's what serious education would be from kindergarten up through graduate school.

But most of the educational system is quite different. Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. That was its primary purpose. And don't think people didn't know it. They knew it and they fought against it. There was a lot of resistance to mass education for exactly that reason. It was also understood by the elites. Emerson once said something about how we're educating them to keep them from our throats. If you don't educate them, what we call ‘education,’ they're going to take control – ‘they’ being what Alexander Hamilton called the ‘great beast,’ namely the people. The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow. […] As freedom grows, the need to coerce and control opinion also grows if you want to prevent the great beast from doing something with its freedom.”

* I don't see that he addresses framing to redress this. He seems to be under the common illusion that just explaining the better ideas in rational terms will do the trick. Lakoff is convinced that this notion is itself part of the false reasoning that has led liberals to be not so effective in persuasion and voting manipulation until recently. One reason might be that when Lakoff split from Chomsky they were engaged in bitter "linguistic wars." Lakoff via embodied linguistics frequently criticized Chomsky's version, accusing him of false reasoning. Chomsky though is far better at social criticism.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.