Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Do Schools Do?

From the comments on "So, seriously, what's your professional assessment of the changes in America over the past 35 years?"
R. Manhammer, moaner - 4:43 pm"

Assuming the questioner really was serious, I offered the following synopsis:

That shoulda been (and partly was) the subject of a (my) dissertation:

I maintain that we are living amid the most extensive, most expensive, most expansive most thoroughly 'mediated' (in all senses of the word), "internal, agitprop" propaganda campaign (See, Ellul, Propagandas, 1965) ever conceived or executed in the history of humanity, beginning with Eduard Bernays in the first decades of the 20th century.

Bernays was freud's favorite nephew, and sometime amenuensis. He recognized that Freud's insights, coupled with the emergent power of the centralized, corporate mass media, offered the very best chance ever in history for 'social engineering.' He is the soi disant "father" of the pseudo-academic discipline, Public Relations: "If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits." (Propaganda, 2005 ed., p. 71.) He called this scientific technique of opinion-molding the "engineering of consent." This theme is echoed and elaborated critically in Hermann & Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent" (1988).

Bernays was a Liberal of the Wilsonian/Leninst stripe: the educated elite/vanguard intellectual whose natural gifts and social advantages elevated them to a position of social superiority and (in their own minds) unassailable leadership. He created and then strenuously upheld the spurious difference between 'advertizing' and 'propaganda', which is the source of our own certainty that propaganda is "lies" intended "for others."

The "media" and the "school" work together, almost seamlessly. The schools, over the last 50 years at least, have become the sites at which children (but really, all exogenes) are indoctrinated into instructional apprenticeships for the construction of the consuming class which (probably around 1970) supplanted the 'citizen' as the legitemate 'product' for which schooling was conducted.

The purpose of schools today can be read backwards from the consequences of schooling (and not just the public schools): despite a lot of blather to the contrary about education being the teicket to social mobility, schools exist primarily to ensure that as few children as possible escape the socio-economic niches into which they were born.

The most telling statistic, imho, in all educational research is this: upwards of two thirds of all variance in the scores of individual students on achievement/placement/graduation exams is accounted for by one--and only one--variable: the socio-economic status of the parents

And as much as half of that is accounted for by one additional variable: the mother's attendance in (not graduation from) some form of 'higher education.'


R. Manhammer said...

It truly was a serious question. In my humble opinion, we Americans are in a serious situation. Our government and our very culture have been subverted by people who seem to have a vested interest in destroying us as a people.

My follow-up question is this:
Who benefits?

Who is driving this change in our schools, in our government, and in our culture?

When our major media are all singing the Bush-Dick tune, I have to ask myself why. I'm not liking my lippy answers. I'm hoping you have something better.

konopelli/WGG said...

Cui Bono?

the ultimate political question.

"Who is driving this change in our schools, in our government, and in our culture?"

without evoking echoes of conspiracy, it is difficult to answer those important queries. Foucault (a whole story in himself) made the case--convincinigly, to me--that there are always actions occurring in the life-world that are intentional and yet are incapable of being ascribed to a single person as author or source.

he called those 'discursive practices.' Power, or the will to power, usually spawns them, and individual actors engage in them, wittingly but eventually ineluctably.

so who profits?

the regimes of power do...
i'm pretty fried right now...if you're interested, there's a really good secondary source on Foucault called "Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics" by dreyfus and rabinow...
sorry, i'm fadin fast


sightunseen said...

WGG,, a bit (?) OT. You ever read the so-called,'New Mexico trilogy' by John Nichols ? I dove right in,, stated, as is my wont, with the third book, 'Nirvana Blues'. Being as you're the only person that i know of who lives in N.M., I was interestd in getting your take on the book.

BTW, thats some fine writing about the purpose of schooling. Somewhere in my attic, I've got pictures of students in an 'Indian school', set up in an before and after sequence.

Prior to the immersion, the kids varied in their dress, each, more or less, reaching for some internal vision,, the after picture? All of 'em
look the same, looking and feeling beat down while the white teachers exude confidence that they have taught the heathen their rightful place in the scheme of things.

R. Manhammer said...

Cui bono, indeed.

I'm perfectly willing to accept that this is not the work of a single maligant mind. To me, it has the smell of one of those class things where each member of the class does things to benefit the class as a whole while benefiting himself.

The class members could have benefitted from doing something that benefitted society as a whole, rather than their class, but they would pay a social penalty and, eventually, a much larger and more financially-oriented penalty as the class expelled the "class-traitor."

Perhaps I should reframe the question as, "Is there any shred of hope that the middle-class and lower classes will EVER get a clue that they have been bung-fucked for lo these past two generations?"

konopelli/WGG said...

"Is there any shred of hope that the middle-class and lower classes will EVER get a clue that they have been bung-fucked for lo these past two generations?"

no, because the middle and lower classes have been convinced that their interests are not mutually commensurable...t

and it's been going on a lot longer than two generations: fascism, the rebellion of the rich/privileged against their responsibility to the society which facilitates their gathering ot wealth, has been a fact in the USofA since at LEAST 1930...

R. Manhammer, annoying said...

Since 1930? This a reference to The Great Depression and all the incredibly inept economic mismanagement by the Republicans in the '20s? Rather like the current incredibly inept economic mismanagement by the Republicans, if I may say so without seeming to state the obvious.

I date my bung-fucking from the early 1970s, based on the Gooper retooling after the 1964 spanking of Barry Goldwater. Prior to the '70s, we seemed to be a nation stoked up on liberal and progressive ideas and ideals. From '73 on, we see the reduction in purchasing power of working people. We see ever more blatant foreign military adventurism in support of huge corporations.

But, to be fair, we've seen US military support the obscenely wealthy since the early twentieth century at least. I read Chernow's "The House of Morgan" and he had a great deal to say about that particular practice. It's repulsive, to say the least.

Are you asserting the "What's the Matte with Kansas?" premise? That somehow the Goopers have brainwashed people into believing shit that simply is not true on any reasonable scale of reality?

If so, what's the appropriate counter-measure? Presumably education, though I'd like to toss in a bastinado for culpable stupidity.