Sunday, January 27, 2013

State, Church, School, Charity, Part 4

Succeeding Part 3.

The Ease of Church-States

Churches are relatively easy to figure out. It angers and befuddles modernized westerners why and how exclusionary churches, with their history of racism, sexism, classism, and political meddling have been allowed to keep getting tax-deductible money. As soon as the Greatest Generation is gone, and enough people get educated on avoiding the dogmas of the elder faiths, the old style of church should vanish--so goes the conventional belief in progress.

School-State For The Win

The school is scientism's answer to the church. It was created, like the church, as a way to protect elite money laundering in the safest place possible: in plain sight, ergo safer from discoveries and scandals that might lead to revolution. The story of the morph from "church" to "school" is recorded firmly enough in history that, unlike the creations of the original Church-States, the wicked motives of the School-States are in recent record, broadly accessible, and even a part of the common curricula of their middle-ranked servants. While most students at seminary don't learn about what a genocidal horror Augustine was, humanities PhDs commonly spend some time learning about how the Mathers, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Fords, et cetera, gave birth to the School-State. Then, they talk about how education is evolving and improving--but at least they don't try to conceal the early horrors of the school system quite so much as do the proponents of the Church-State.

This one will quote lengthily the lovely Dr. Furiosa, for her apt reference to Horace Mann (the Rupert Murdoch of western K-12 education):

Compulsory education in the United States began roughly around the same time that the Industrial Revolution took root on its shores. That is when the industrial capitalists whose names are so familiar to us now (such as Carnegie) were building their fortunes.

What they wanted were workers who had enough skills to do their jobs but not enough to argue with their bosses. So schools were designed to fill their kids' heads with random, atomized facts but not to help them develop the skills necessary to synthesize those facts in any meaningful way.

That meant, among other things, dividing the students against each other. One thing that my years of teaching has taught me is that even though young people learn to accept differences in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other traits, divisions can still be created among them on the basis of social and economic class.

It seems that Horace Mann and others who helped to start mandatory public schooling in the US had an uncanny understanding of that aspect of young people's psychology. So, the public schools they created were so divided--internally as well as externally. On the basis of tests--which, of course, favored the children of the socioeconomic elite--the descendants of poor Irish and Germans (who were most of the immigrants of that time) were "tracked" into vocational or general education, while the Main Line and Beacon Hill kids were steered into classical liberal arts programs.

How could such a setup fail to produce alienated, disrespectful kids? How could it not exacerbate whatever resentments young people might have already felt toward each other? And, if children are being taught to be, in essence, cogs in a machine, how are they going to learn respect for anyone else, or for life itself?

Well put. The conception of western pedagogy that she describes is intriguing, because it is so damning, yet also so un-controversial. It's barely (if at all) an academic argument anymore that western education is built the way she describes. Even nuclear-weapon developers still try to maintain their lies about the necessity of bombing Nagasaki, but the argument over the original sin of the western School-State has passed into stone.

This represents the evolution of the extractive model: the old "State" was honest about its exercise of raw, unfair power, based on force. The Church-State developed that to an illusory split between Church and State, while the School-State has gone one step further: it admits that School and State are one, and it admits that School and State became one for all the wrong reasons, yet by confessing its sins publicly, it creates a narrative where that very confessional proves that the School-State alone has the honesty and changeability necessary to meet the challenges of the future.

You can trust me, says the School-State, because I've told you exactly how bad I was. You can trust me, says the School-State, because I used to drag children away from their families, off their farms, and beat them with sticks until they would learn how to mortgage grandfather's land and work in my factories. You can trust me, says the School-State, because I taught you how to hate spics and niggers and Reds and dreamy artists and musicians and queers, and then I taught you how bullying is wrong and everyone should be accepted for who they are as long as they work hard and go to a good college and save and get a good job and move away from all the lazy poor people.

But, that's beside the point. What does the School-State do? As promised, it is far more advanced than the Church-State we saw in Part 3.

Shiatsu Massage Chairs For All - What Do Schools Really Do?

Land Control

State by state, any given plat of land made available for development has a certain portion set aside for school use. County controllers lay out the plat ahead of time with their friends, so that by the time any new set of land records goes public, connected developers know where good commercially- and residentially-zoned properties will be located, and they've already invested in them. Grocery stores, gas stations, and satellite shops move into the leases near high-traffic school areas; low-quality eateries and drinkeries (heehee) are all ready to serve students, staff, and family members.

Elite residential development arms move in "family" communities at a proximate distance from the school. Instantly, they've achieved the "location, location, location!" mantra necessary for any good real estate transaction.

Construction

Any school needs, well, a school, so a reliable, established construction company needs to be contracted to build it. Administration buildings, schoolrooms, outbuildings, recreation facilities, and parking lots need to go in, to the tune of millions of dollars--maybe dozens of millions, if we're starting from scratch in a higher-rent area. Reliable, established landscaping and facilities maintenance companies need to maintain those buildings and lots.

How are people going to get to those schools? We'll need some new turn lanes, of course; some new stoplights, some new stop signs, bigger intersections at major travel points, a few broadened nearby roads--a few more when enrollment picks up in a couple years, but let's not plan ahead (we can have the crews tear out that median in a couple years if it actually comes to that!). Oh, and buses. A reliable, established auto manufacturer will need to spit out a dozen buses at around $80K each; they'll need to be insured, maintained, and driven. And, we'll need to requisition some extra land to store and secure them and their extra parts.

This is all done, of course, in the public interest: ensuring that schoolchildren have room set aside for schools in which to grow and learn. The actual teachers, coaches, road crewmen, janitors, and crossing guards get tiny salaries, while massive gluts of taxpayer money move, yearly, to the owners and/or senior officers of the companies that fund the companies that manage the holdings of the companies that clear land, build buildings, build roads, and subcontract faculty and bus-driver employment.

Every several years, buildings need to be renovated, expanded, or retooled, so the gift keeps on giving. Everything bad you might've once thought about "charter" schools already happened under the guise of "public" schools: to pay for the extravaganza, taxes are increased, and new taxes--"property" taxes--are imposed by counties to fund school and road construction.

Publishing

All those schools need books--and those books need to be modern and "in touch." The financiers of a nation filled with mandatory schools with libraries have the opportunity to build entire industries of publishing and printing based on the guaranteed, rigged-bidding contracts for school supplies. Teachers are often required to pay for their own photocopies, pencils and markers, but taxpayers have no option: every year they must buy dozens of millions of dollars of textbooks from the owners of intellectual property rights in hundred-year-old descriptions of beginning algebra and colonial times.

IP owners contract the actual "writing" of these books out to any given doctor/bachelor, who receives a tiny fee for updating decades-old material, which the publisher then sells to school districts across the country at the discounted bulk rate of $39.99 per hardback. (If the school district wants to "control costs," it can pass the cost of mandatory textbooks directly onto consumers, requiring parents to shell out $60 or $80 for the latest high-school biology textbook/lab packet combo.)

Technology and Job Training

The billions of dollars spent putting computers, PowerPoints, emotional anti-drug movies with copyrighted soundtracks, and handheld response systems in front of children are only the latest permutation of the way it all began. Decades before that, in response to the evolving demands of office-based professional employers, the School-State sent the message across the land: future employees need to learn how to type.

...and we don't want to pay for it.

In selfless service of the greater good, school boards across the country, almost as though they were coordinated, pushed typing programs on their students. And a generation became ready to type letters, load paper, and fix broken typewriters for its future masters.

The Destruction of Apprenticeship

From its inception, the School-State has been designed to destroy the concept of professional apprenticeship. Once, learning a trade meant having a stake in it, akin to stock options: if you were to be a blacksmith, you'd apprentice to a blacksmith, build your name and reputation from your work, learn what the blacksmith did, and eventually, take over. In the meantime, you'd be fed and housed, and as your utility increased, you'd be paid. As part of the cycle of life, when you became a master, you'd know that your working days were numbered. Who would go on after you? When you were old, who would care for you?

The trade-off between master and apprentice was an occasionally-wonderful cycle that alleviated not only the problems that the School-State created in order to fail at solving, but also many other advanced, modern problems. Here's a model of how it works, still using "blacksmith":

Blacksmith Bob has a problem. He would like to free up some of his time spent performing basic tasks so he can focus on finer tasks. He knows he is getting old, and worries about who will take care of him when he is too old to work any longer. His greatest asset, a smithy, is essentially useless without a smith, and he can't sell it or he'll have nowhere to live and work. He has no connection to the younger generation and his wisdom might die with him.

Apprentice Allison has a problem. She would like to learn a trade so she can eat. She also needs somewhere to live. Yada yada.

Bob and Allison solve both their problems by Bob hiring Apprentice Allison. Allison begins helping out around the forge, watching Bob, tidying up, and eventually making simple things. She learns, over the years, everything Bob does. When Bob is ready to be done, Allison is mistress of the forge. Bob moves out of the big bedroom upstairs, and into the little room at the end of the hall. Occasionally, he still putters around the place.

The basics of the apprenticeship system are fun and easy, but consider the oft-missed portions of the system that the example draws out: land transfer, elder care, and middlemen in general. The system of apprenticeship, by connecting Bob to Allison through mutual need, frees Bob up from needing a bank to facilitate his transfer of his greatest asset--the smithy--to a willing buyer. It frees Allison up from needing a bank to facilitate her purchase of a productive, yet highly expensive, asset--still the smithy--from a willing seller. Through the bonds of years spent working together, Bob and Allison are able to transfer this major asset without the interference of an extremely expensive, controlling usurer-middleman.

When he's ready to retire, Bob can mortgage the property off to Allison on the condition that he gets to keep living there, gets to be an old crank, and gets to criticize Allison's work whenever he feels like it. Allison gets a smooth transition to mistressing her own forge, not missing a step as she inherits all of Bob's business, which has spent the past several years dealing with Allison anyway.

The security of the transaction is far greater than that offered by a bank's lien: if Bob throws Allison out, he is too old to teach anyone else how to be a smith, and therefore, provide for him. Allison, not yet owning the smithy, can't throw Bob out, so she's forced to put up with him and keep him around. Old Bob has to respect Allison's vigor, because it provides for him: they need each other now as much as they did at the beginning of the relationship. When Bob dies, Allison is his "next of kin," e.g. the nearest person at hand, so she inherits the forge and all the hammers--along with a really good example of how she should train her own apprentice to help take care of her and the forge in her old age.

No banks, no papers, no 3 years of contract litigation possible. If Allison gets tired of Bob and poisons him, she loses any tidbits of wisdom that he might possess to help her with a problem she hasn't yet faced. If Bob gets annoyed with Allison after a couple years of apprenticeship, he has wasted two years, and has to start over with a new apprentice. Legions of potential problems and misbehavior abound, but not even the tenth quantity of what happens when the system is replaced.

Once we convince Bob and Allison that they can't trust each other, the usurers appear: banks, accountants, lawyers, judges, and police, all ready to tabulate numbers, scribble contracts, write testaments, express obligations, and enforce personal or mandatory state promises. Extensive social marketing convinces Bob and Allison that they can't trust one another without the State and its officers as middlemen, protecting them from each other for an incredible fee that never ends.

The School-State, by pulling young people out of the job market at the point of a truant officer's club, destroyed the last vestiges of the apprentice system. Kept in school until 18, younger humans were forced to learn standardized skills, along with civics--a reverence for the governing documents of the School-State, which are necessary for protecting people from one another. When they're finally released from school in carefully-staggered waves at 18, they find an unnatural supply controlling access to a job market. Myriad other things have already meddled with that job market, but we'll stick to the "school" side for now.

Mass Job Training...and we don't want to pay for it

What to do while in school? For post-industrial employers, disempowering individual mistresses and masters, and killing the system of "apprenticeship," means that far fewer (or no more at all) mistresses and masters are available to teach apprentices. So, if jobs need to get done, someone needs to train people to do it.

Masters trained apprentices as a form of barter--the unmediated exchange, where a middleman manager does not get to claim credit for the final task or meddle in the process, and a middleman state does not get to extract a portion of the currency paid from student to teacher. In order to turn this human connection into an opportunity for extraction, the School-State made apprenticeship impossible, then used the resulting dearth of job skills to justify the School-State. It's the standard thief's lie, which appears "ironic" or "mystifying" when naively studied:

1) Kids are removed from innumerable fields of job training to be educated in school.
2) Kids finish school unprepared for jobs and the world outside school.
3) People realize that kids are unable to perform jobs and function in the world outside school.
4) Therefore, schools need even more resources and time to work with kids on skills pertaining to the world outside school.

It would be less dizzyingly tragic if it hadn't been a setup. In actuality, the School-State K-12, and the later development of the public university system,was created to subsidize actual job training. By licensing professions, socially stigmatizing the unlicensed, taking away the ability of independent mistresses to respectably instruct apprentices, and using police to force younger apprentices out of the job market entirely, schools forced the use of their own products and services.

Now, students and their families pay for their instruction. Elites own all the smiths and forges, and control what teachers may teach to students. Teachers receive pittances from distant overseers for parceling out pieces of curriculum to students, who may expend dozens of thousands of dollars, and 16+ years of their lives, to be granted a generalized degree that may or may not allow them to engage in a profession. The powerless teacher has no ability to transition the student into a job, while employers disavow any responsibility for what the student may have learned in "school." The powerless student has no recourse against, or connection to, the education received.

Actual Job Training In Schools

Real job training does, nonetheless, occur in schools. Major employers--owned by the same people who control county zoning, building, and curriculum development--rely for their entire workforce on the nationwide network of schools subsidized by the tax base. The years of rudimentary training in reading, writing, schedule-keeping, quiet-sitting, deference to authority, and basic computer skills required in the modern corporate office are paid for by hundreds of millions of proles, forced by police and taxing authorities to constantly fund and maintain yearly crops of office-ready employees.

If a blacksmith can't make all the horseshoes she needs to fill an order, then she needs to train someone to help her. In exchange, she gets assistance, and someone else gets an eventual career. If Apple needs programmers, though, it can now rely on public-subsidized colleges to sell programming instruction to student-consumers, who may then independently apply for the job. See again Dr. Furiosa on the subject. 99% of the cost necessary to train employees to work at Apple have now been externalized from Apple stockholders onto the public at large. Don't expect any reimbursement. (As employers grow even more brazen, the remaining 1% of skills necessary to do the job now come not while working for a paycheck, but while working at an unpaid "internship.")

A few other minor benefits go along with schools. Schools require the registration of addresses, participation in current immunization plans, registration for selective service (the military draft), and provide a captive population for military recruiters and job recruiters. Mandatory testing justifies stupendous expenditures for the scripting, printing, transportation and grading of tests, the dissemination of local political culture--and, going into the ways that market researchers use captive school populations as testing subjects would involve books on its own, and break the direct economics of the model we're focusing on here.

Education Is Good

Any objections to this system are met by implying a unity of the interests of elite land developers, booksellers, and employers with the interests of bright-eyed children who want an education in mathematics, history, reading, science and the arts. The initial State, imposing a tyrant-king on his people and taxing them via thug-collectors, would counter objections by asking, "Do you want hordes of barbarians raping you and stealing everything you own? No? Then pay your taxes and shut up." The Church-State did the same, with the addition of eternal damnation. Saving souls from hell, and maintaining a protective hierarchy of authority to avoid the descent to barbarism, justified the special status of the church, as it had the king.

The School-State develops the argument just a little bit further, using the goodness of educating children to justify siphoning colossal wealth from non-elites to elites. All of the buildings, books, tables, chairs, chalkboards, vehicles, soccer balls, and metronomes are guaranteed sales from the capital ventures of those who made the schooling mandatory. Within the system, students or teachers can shine; can actually carry out the "learning" or "teaching" or "mentoring" that the theme of the whole thing suggests they're supposed to be there for. Some prison counselors actually reform prisoners, too, and some prisoners think about what they've done and then live a better life upon release. The School-State takes credit for these people, just as the Church-State took credit for individual acts of pure charity, and just as George W. Bush took credit for some 19 year old kid who died trying to keep an IED from blowing up the rest of his squad.

As did the School-State over the Church-State, the Charity-State gets worse. Like more complicated tax regimes, further complexity in the selfless designs of the Powers That Be is Not A Good Sign. It is in the Charity-State that we see the billionaires and their adherents preparing the continuing salvation of their rape. Continued in Part 5.

5 comments:

  1. Lovely Dr. Furiosa's point about the blue-bloods getting the classical education is most important, and, naturally, nearly unmentioned in "responsible" educational circles.

    Discussions about education in the media pertain almost exclusively to vocational training; what little discussion can be found about classical education pertains to philosophy grads working at Wendy's under a ton of crushing debt.

    Lost, therefore, is any consideration of the loss of critical thinking skills to the laboring classes, and the increased docility to established power structures that such decreased critical thinking implies.

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  2. Ah, in how many contexts do I find myself coming back to that old Paul Graham essay, Why Nerds Are Unpopular. Here, you focus on rather the "official" lessons being taught, where Graham focuses on the feral culture that the school system promotes. Fittingly, one feeds the other in a nice little cycle.

    The homeschooling (and, especially, the un-schooling trend) is a sort of answer to all this; but conveniently, the large majority of homeschoolers are already bound up in other social control structures, particularly, the first one you mention here: the church. And unschoolers still have to contend with finding their fresh-minded, critically-thinking, lesson-synthesizing youngsters a place in the job world owned by the state-school structure (and competing with the produce of such schools for jobs). So, unless their parents own a business for them to inherit (apprenticeship model), the system claims them anyway.

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  3. "Lovely Dr. Furiosa" (She blushes.)

    What I have learned so far has shown me that conflating any institution with the state is dangerous and repressive. Some might argue that twining the church to the state is the most perilous coupling of all, but I think that hitching schools to the state can be just as treacherous and damaging. There's nothing like being accused of not caring about the welfare of children when you question the whole Government-Financial-Educational complex.

    The end of State-Church and State-Education agglomeration is really the same: It siphons power and wealth up to, essentially, the same group of aristocrats and plutocrats. That is accomplished by, as Akra points out, taking away common people's abilities to provide for themselves and train others to do the same, and instead forces them to go to rulers (whether in government or business) for permission to do those things or to beg for their charity.

    Horace Mann and the founders of the modern compulsory education system in the US got their ideas from the Prussian system of the early 19th Century. Ironically, of all industrialized countries, Germany seems to have the system closest to the apprenticeship system Akra describes.

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  4. Fantastic essay as usual, but the forthcoming parts on charities is what's going to be Epic. (I can feel the goose bumps and the rage already.)

    As for schools, in having had the misfortune to argue with soccer moms, I can see exactly what Chomsky meant by saying that he sees some on the left as "proto-fascists". They so fully and uncritically embrace the mantra "education is good" in general (and respectively - that you question any aspect of the system - you are evil uncaring bastard) and its specific dysfunctional aspects (e.g. the increasing prison-like day to day management, the complete lack of concern for the huge discrepancy in quality between poor and suburban schools), that the only thing that really distinguishes them from the rabid far right is the specific issue they've chosen to commit to.

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  5. Nice series. I find it amusing that the people most likely to view organized religion with extreme suspicion are often the same people who uncritically worship at the altar of the school system. Although in light of these posts, I guess it makes sense--yet another manifestation of the artificial left vs. right death match.

    I'd go a bit further and say that any objections to this system are met by implying that you hate those bright-eyed children and want to see their dreams crushed.

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