"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Overcoming Rhetoric

I've somewhat wondered where the "society" publication is for American Eugenicists.  They must have a club or association of some kind.  It seems all professionals do--birds of a feather and such.

This country in particular has striven to plan its future on a very grand scale.  What better way than through forced education (for the good of the citizen) to manage a population--to funnel people into appropriate roles for levels of servitude?  It is not unlikely that many experts among us will call this a social reality that has no moral value (it's a "fact") and likely commend it as a utilitarian good.  ("The world needs ditch-diggers, too.")

Utopia v Dystopia.  These bear no difference that makes a difference.  That is, one man's meat...

This nation of commerce and media has done the best job of convincing its population that there isn't a caste system, that there is social mobility even among the "not-caste" classes.  With the proper education you can be X or X.  And yes, even you can be the leader of the world.  This illusion appears grafted in the very founding of the state.  It is constantly reinforced by instigating mass deliriums of the highest order and "intellectual" coordination.

Once communication became instantaneous this became a rather easy game to rig.  The idea that instantaneous communication makes it more difficult to rig misses the psychology of the human who is keyed to a "local" version of this illusion from day one and lives still a local existence regardless of the "nearness" of China or Iran or Brazil.

Interestingly, this immediacy has led to a further flattening of the historical imagination.  We now can see the route Columbus took and read the details of the "success" of his voyage by clicking a "button." This makes our thinking coeval with the past and what we can ascribe must have the benefit of our progressive understanding.  That is, our judgment of history is on par with our judgment regarding any reality show "star."

We can also pick and choose our historical perspective as there's one for every ideology.  That's lucky.

Perhaps it was the industrial revolution that corrupted the "enlightened" minds.  A scholar notes that the majority, if not nearly all, of the world's population has never entered the stage of the Enlightenment.  If this is true, and one senses that it must be, those that have entered such a stage bear an immense burden for the state of the world.

Dickens, with great satirical gusto (and also with great anger), illustrated the error of the followers of the enlightened thinking in Hard Times.  A horse must be described by its parts in a pseudo-scientific jargon.  We can all parrot this kind of learning, and do.  We are as capable as monkeys in this regard.

Huxley offered the "natural" evolution of this process in Brave New World.  Humanity is ordered according to exact biological recipes.  Each human is only a replicated part of what might be the best whole.  And the parts serve the "most whole" in society.  A machine runs this way.  This is Hard Times on growth hormone.

Thoreau, when exploring a way to live apart from the dictates of social corruption (money and fashion--which he rightly notes is "understood" as a manipulation and as a whim by merchants, but not consumers) looked to ancient China.  One must discipline one's living through study and a constant effort toward virtue.  The best way to subvert the lower intelligence of the body is through study.

Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, posits a society where there are no men and the world is ordered to promote and develop the best human possible.  There is indeed "sameness" across the land, but that is only true insofar as the material expression of living beings.  Each is loved and prompted to develop a higher vocation within, a seeking after communion with the order of nature.  Each is rich in intellect and each has all necessary comforts while none has more than any other.

It is true that in Herland the society is very intentionally structured to foster this outcome.  It is true too that Gilman posits all social activity should be centered around raising the best human beings to carry on the best kind of human life.  These values are not contentious and there is no competition.  Further, the children are raised cooperatively and it is believed that some have greater gifts as mothers and if there is one "striving" in the book it is after the role of mother.  It is a great honor to be a mother to the society (it is not an honor to be a biological mother as that is simply a fact of existence); and if this needs emphasis, a teacher of the future of the species.

When can we admit that cities with high-rise ghettos have been developed as a kind petrie dish for caste eugenics?

When can we admit that food stuffs are developed to serve the least among us with chemical pleasures that are increasingly demonstrated to be something of developmental toxins?

When can we admit that schools serve this particular society of inequality?

When can we admit that laws serve the same?

Thoreau opens "Resistance to Civil Government" with this observation: The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

What is public education but an arm of the standing government?

This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves.  I'll confess that "wooden gun" a revelation.  I understand that wooden gun to be the very Constitution to which we pray; for what is parchment but another form of wood, and what is the law but another form of coercive force?

The law organizes the "people" as an imaginary body under the rule of law imposed by the makers of that law.  And the single "men" fail to be individuals when they allow this conglomerate sense of society and themselves.

This is an abdication of conscience.

The school takes your children and determines their future--their social being is ordered there as it becomes their locus of development.  That is to say, the state takes your children.  And as we have seen, the state is bent to the will of the few.

Every day we perform the scene in Twain's Huck Finn where the two cons, the "Duke" and "Dauphin," pull a scam on the prominent men of a town, and when the ruse is discovered, instead of informing the next audience about the scam, the men, one of them a local judge (crying "Sold!"), decide to promote the ruse so that all others are tarred as gullible so that they will not be the only suckers.  This is the reality of our "pay it forward" ethos.

A prominent horrible man who was a politician and who continues to be allowed to manipulate the public "mind" via media outlets very recently suggested that children in poverty ought be made school janitors so that they learn their place and duty.  Quote: You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine," Mr. Gingrich said. "You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I've tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising.

That surely needs no comment.

How do you suppose we come by the content of our thinking?  None of the rhetoric of our Departments of Education and our Masters for Market Morality begins to address the idea of what is a good life (and its personal characteristics).  Neither does it address the vast amount of time wherein the legally coerced must listen to curricular propaganda and be socialized in the glories of the exceptional chimera called America.  It is a commonplace that we educate conformity as the highest good.

Instead our rhetoric is "faux-libertarian" and "faux-economic."  There is no freedom; there is no mobility.

I've recently imagined that music education ought to have a prominent place in schools to replace the abstract math curriculum that 97% of the world must consider useless to living (and the other 3% find useful in creative destruction).  Music, we have come to understand, promotes a mind primarily mathematical.  Immersed in beauty, children might develop capacities toward a particular way to think about problems.

However, if immersed in numerical abstractions, there is little room for considerations of beauty (outside the mystical beauty of the pythagorean imagination); further, there is little room for conscientious thought, for moral considerations, to understand that we must remain ignorant of morality in order to say "yes" to our commercial and imperial values.

If time is our limitation spending hours on useless numeracy means losing valuable time to become socially conscious.  This seems, as we now like to say, a feature not a bug of the institution which is tasked with educating "citizens."

That is to say, why do we not focus on reading and writing as the primary mode of education or, rather, human intellectual growth?  You may say that we do focus on reading--that is we focus on learning to read "content" for facts that help us answer test questions.  That is, we teach "informational literacy" at best (and I see no evidence that this is even accomplished to any good purpose).

The human is best characterized as unique by its use of language.  Further, we can, I think, go so far as to say the human IS language.  We can only be the person we think we are.  We only conceive of ourselves in language.  It has been said that language thinks us.  We do not direct the logic of language but rather we are always embodying our analogies.  But only if we have words for this.

To raise a being as profoundly manipulable as the human means one must be extremely aware of what the mind "reads" in its environment.  If there is limited recourse to greater language resources then there are limited response options and very limited ways to defend against a more sophisticated delivery system of coercive ideas.

We are trapped in a limited existence while the great universe floats all about us and within reach.

Our idea of literacy is rather an illiteracy.  If we seek out "information" and seek to categorize the form of its delivery then we learn a conveyance of polemics only, a reading and writing for position-taking where honesty is as quaint as the Geneva Conventions in the "real world."

Emmanuel Levinas tells us that justice coincides with overcoming rhetoric...which is ruse, emprise, and exploitation.

That might be a lesson all of us should take to heart.

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