Thinking Our Anger Roderick Long at Center for a Stateless Society (Tuesday, February 19)
“Thinking Our Anger“ was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of Formulations formerly the Free Nation Foundation now published by the Libertarian Nation Foundation, written by Roderick T. Long. This talk was delivered at the Auburn Philosophical Society’s Roundtable on Hate, 5 October 2001, convened in response to the September 11 attacks a month earlier.
The events of September 11th have occasioned a wide variety of responses, ranging from calls to turn the other cheek, to calls to nuke half the Middle East—and every imaginable shade of opinion in between. At a time when emotions run high, how should we go about deciding on a morally appropriate response? Should we allow ourselves to be guided by our anger, or should we put our anger aside and make an unemotional decision?
D. H. Lawrence once wrote:
“My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. What do I care about knowledge? All I want is to answer to my blood, direct, without fribbling intervention of mind or moral, or what not.” (Quoted in Brand Blanshard, Reason and Analysis (La Salle: Open Court, 1962), p. 47.)
At the other extreme, the Roman philosopher Seneca argued that we should never make a decision on the basis of anger—or any other emotion, for that matter. In his treatise On Anger, Seneca maintained that if anger leads us to make the decision we would have made anyway on the basis of cool reason, then anger is superfluous; and if anger leads us to make a different decision from the one we would have made on the basis of cool reason, then anger is pernicious.
This disagreement between Lawrence and Seneca conceals an underlying agreement: both writers are assuming an opposition between reason and emotion. The idea of such a bifurcation is challenged by Aristotle. For Aristotle, emotions are part of reason; the rational part of the soul is further divided into the intellectual or commanding part, and the emotional or responsive part. Both parts are rational; and both parts are needed to give us a proper sensitivity to the moral nuances of the situations that confront us. Hence the wise person will be both intellectually rational and emotionally rational. Emotional people whose intellectual side is weak tend to be reluctant to accept reasonable constraints on their behavior; they are too aggressive and self-assertive for civilized society—too “Celtic,” Aristotle thinks. They answer directly to their blood, without fribbling intervention of mind or moral, and much hewing and smiting ensues. But intellectual people whose emotional side is weak are often too willing to accept unreasonable constraints on their behavior; they lack the thumos, the spirited self-assertiveness, to stand up for themselves, and so are likely to sacrifice nobility for expediency, ending up as the passive subjects of a dictatorship like the ancient Persian Empire. According to Aristotle, feeling less anger than the situation calls for is as much a failure of moral perception as feeling more. Only a full development of both the intellectual and the emotional aspects of our reason can yield an integrated personality fit for freedom and social cooperation. (Aristotle notoriously tries to turn all this into a justification for enslaving Celts and Persians; but let us graciously focus our attention on the Maestro’s smart moments, not his dumb ones.)
Reducing Students to a Commodity stuartbramhall at The Most Revolutionary Act (Tuesday, February 19)
This is the third of a series of guest posts by Dr Danny Weil from an article (World Class Standards: Whose World, Which Economic Classes and What Standards?) he originally published in Daily Censored.
In this third section, Dr Weil traces identifies the conservative ideologues and corporate leaders who were the chief architects of the “standards” movement and Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation. He underscores their emphasis on “no frills’ education and “quality control,” treating students as products, rather than human beings.
(I have bolded points that deserve special attention.)
Linking the Discussion of Standards to Education Purpose (continued)
By Dr Danny Weil
Economic conservatives and neo-liberals, however, go even one step further, arguing that there is now a need to eliminate what they term “frills” in education, to narrow the offerings in curriculum, to increase the number of required subjects, to standardize schools across the board so that they are barely distinguishable from community to community, and to support and promote a culture of private accumulation of wealth and individualistic choice. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Ron Unz recently made this point:
“The problem isn’t what schools lack but what they possess in abundance, namely half-baked educational fads produced by elite educational theorists. The list is quite long: whole language, bilingual education, inventive spelling, fuzzy math, constructivist science, endless self-esteem programs and other wrong headed pedagogical experiments. According to numerous studies, this educational machinery produces students with the highest self-esteem but the lowest academic test scores of any of their global peers. (“Voucher Veto,”The Nation Magazine, p 67).”
Unz goes on to propose that the problem be corrected not by adding to the curriculum, but by subtracting from it. He continues:
“Instead of more money, more teachers, more programs or more days of schooling, we should be reducing as much of the burdensome nonsense in public schools as possible. If a straightforward academic curriculum seems to work reasonably well in nearly every other major nation, the burden of proof is on those who say that it can’t possibly be tried in America’s unique society (ibid p7).:
Some of this “nonsense” can be found in such “frivolous pursuits” as recess in elementary schools. For many elementary school students, recess and student play has been eliminated in favor of rigid, authoritarian and regimented learning. Joy, relationships with others in the world and about the world become educational add-ons that threaten the authoritarian structure of education. Even kid pleasures seem to be under attack as “cheap frills” (Aronowitz, Pedagogy of Freedom, 1998, p6). And of course the main culprit, as defined by these elite voices of industry, rests with public schools and public education.
From the economic conservative and neo-liberal perspective, educational assessment and world class standards must be linked to what it means to be successful in the new global economy. Through their efforts, they have created standard and assessment think-tanks, such as Achieve Incorporated, a non-profit creation by a group of CEO’s and the National Governors Association that is currently co-chaired by IBM’s Chief Executive Officer, Louis Gerstner Jr. and Governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, as well as the National Education Goals Report, launched in 1989 as a result of the controversy over the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk. The Goals Report announces its mission as:
“By the year 2000, American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern society (National Education Goals Report, 1991).”
By adopting what they like to call “world class standards”, these corporate and business leaders are working to identify what post-Fordist skills will be necessary for the workplace of the future (Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory,1997). The clamor to define world class standards and skills has been linked to America’s presumed continued dominance in the world economy and both economic conservatives and neo-liberal policy makers have tied the development of these standards to American market competitiveness.
Diane Ravitch, recognized as one of the darlings and chief architects of the modern standards movement, has stated the economic conservative and neo-liberal rationale for standards:
“Americans expect strict standards to govern the construction of buildings, bridges, highways, and tunnels; shoddy work would put lives at risk. They expect stringent standards to protect their drinking water, the food they eat, and the air they breathe…Standards are created because they improve the activity of life (Ravitch, National Standard in American Education, 1996, p8-9).
For conservative standards advocates like Ravitch, it seems that human educational standards can be equated with “quality control” in industry, assuring that the product conforms to industry standards.
(To be continued.)
Dr Danny Weil is a public interest attorney who has practiced for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California. He is no longer active as a lawyer but has written seven books on education, has taught second grade in South Central LA, PS 122, taught K-1 migrant children in Santa Maria, California and Guadalupe, California, taught in the California Youth Authority to first and second degree murderers and taught for seventeen years at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, CA. in the philosophy department. Dr. Weil holds a BA in Political Economics and Philosophy, a multi-subject bilingual credential in education (he is fluent in Spanish) and has a PhD in Critical Thinking. He is a writer for the Truthout Intellectual Project.
The Stammering Century Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule (Tuesday, February 19)My review of Gilbert Seldes' The Stammering Century is now online at the Reason site. Check it out!
Data-less Trend Story of the Year Rad Geek at Rad Geek People's Daily (Monday, February 18)
I know, it’s early, but I feel like this one is going to be hard to top. Last week, in the pages of the New York Times, we learn, from a completely impressionistic, completely dataless smattering of interviews that some vaguely-defined mass of
are starting to ponder the unthinkable: a move to the suburbs,and beginning an as-yet completely undocumented
mass exodus from BrooklynNow if you read through the story you will find that this reporting is based on a series of interviews with a handful of married couples, several of them with young children and almost all of them in their late thirties, punctuated in the middle by an interview with a professional realtor who has a direct financial and self-promotional interest in talking up the trend. Now of course neighborhoods and boroughs are constantly changing and it’s perfectly possible that something interesting is really systematically going on — actually there are a few different interesting things that might be systematically going on. Or it might be nothing. In either case this would certainly be an interesting topic to get some systematic data on.
However, what we get from the New York Times is, instead, a colorfully illustrated discussion of the stunning news that when a subcultural demographic was partly identified and defined by the fact that they are young, then eventually they will get old. And when they get older — especially once they get into their mid- to late-30s, and especially if they get married and have kids — then many of them will move out of the big city and into the suburbs. And when people of a particular age reach the particular age where some of them start moving to the suburbs, it turns out that those who do take their fashions and their market niches with them.
Also, this reporter has discovered that people who are now in their late 30s and raising children find the city they’re living in
no longer feels as carefree as it didwhen they were young, unattached, and had fewer responsibilities.
Control Your Local Police Dave Hummels at Center for a Stateless Society (Monday, February 18)
While reflecting on recent episodes of police misconduct in my community and beyond, I began to think about how much law enforcement agencies resemble the Catholic Church. And no, this is not a pre-St. Patrick’s day Irish joke. Consider the following: The Church and police departments have both become safe havens for criminal abusers of authority. Both are allergic to accountability. Both are hierarchical institutions that value blind obedience and discourage internal dissent. Both focus more on covering their posteriors than they do on removing criminals from their ranks. Finally, neither of these entities truly value input from their respective communities.
I do not mean to single out the Catholic Church here. I also could have compared police agencies to Goldman Sachs, Penn State or the White House, I suppose. The root cause of the problems in these entities is not “a few bad apples,” it is structural. The consistent failures of these bureaucracies is intimately linked to the culture of authoritarianism, yes men, corruption and cover-ups created by pyramid shaped organizations all over the world.
But it is particularly dangerous and disturbing when our increasingly militarized police show themselves to be lawless. Criminal cops are more of a threat to us than the average street criminal because they have advantages that common thugs generally lack: Power, influence and, in many cases, qualified immunity on the job. We are, it seems, at their mercy.
This is why it is important that people stop making excuses for “cops gone wild.” The police claim they are here to serve and protect us. They claim that they wish to work in partnership with the community. So let us hold them to these claims, in spite of our skepticism. Let us pull no punches when a member of the “brotherhood” abuses the public trust. They are not simply wayward cops that succumbed to the pressures of the job. They are traitors and enemies of the people. And until decent police officers stand up to these enemies of the people in greater numbers, they too should be considered suspect. Let’s stop falling for the pernicious lie that a person is a hero just because they wear a uniform and a badge. Indeed, moral cowardice is rampant in policing.
More from Horwitz and Skwire at ISFLC13 Matt Zwolinski at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (Monday, February 18)
And here’s the rest of the interview with Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire from ISFLC13, courtesy of The Libertarienne Show.
Are Schools Creating Citizens? Or Workers and Consumers? stuartbramhall at The Most Revolutionary Act (Monday, February 18)
US schools train kids for jobs that have been shipped overseas
This is the second of a series of guest posts by Dr Danny Weil from an article (World Class Standards: Whose World, Which Economic Classes and What Standards?) he originally posted at Daily Censored.
In this section Dr Weil challenges the assumption that the sole purpose of schools is to train future workers. He also stresses the profound effect globalization and the supremacy of multinational corporations over western democracy has had in transforming Americans from “citizens” to “consumers.” He makes the following critical points:
- Our current K-12 public education system is preparing our youth for jobs that no longer exist because they have been shipped overseas.
- For neo-liberals, the only purpose of schools is to serve national interests and market forces, rather than the students themselves.
- The goal of neo-liberal educational models is to boost productivity, forge a stronger national identity and create a new class of disciplined consumers for the “new world order.”
(I have bolded points which deserve special attention)
Linking the Discussion of Standards to Educational Purpose
by Dr Danny Weil
Reporter: Mr. Ghandi, what do you think of modern civilization?
Ghandi: That would be a good idea.
Perusing the newspaper or listening to television or radio, one would walk away thinking that we are all in agreement as to what educational standards should be adopted and what they should assess. The debate has been cast as a national debate and yet as a nation, we as people have not been involved in theorizing the debate or developing its actualities. There is no discussion as to how the current standards proposals have been designed, who designed them, or for what purpose. Leaders and elites have designed the discourse, tailored the contents, and dictated the terms of debate.
Yet the current national debate regarding standards is important for it points to the fact that it is not the debate we should be having. Debating standards is putting the cart before the horse. The real debate would ask us to incorporate into consideration such questions as what is good teaching, how does one learn, what is intelligence, whose interests does it serve, and how is it achieved? It would be a debate that invited community, parents, students and teachers to engage in discourse about what it means to be human, how to act in and with the world, and how to make sense out of personal life in light of historical and cultural change.
There are many points of view regarding the role or purpose of schools in society and the aspiration of this article is not to give a prolonged or detailed characterization of the myriad frames of reference on the subject. However, I think that by characterizing at least some of these points of view in terms of how the debate is currently viewed, is essential to engage in a truly meaningful dialogue about assessment and standards. Currently, popular political debates regarding literacy, standards, and assessment continue to concentrate on anecdotal evidence and attention seeking headlines that really do little or nothing to help teachers, their students or their students’ parents move towards a genuine curriculum of thinking and learning. Furthermore, many parents and community members continue to labor under old paradigms of what it means to be literate, intelligent and assessed; paradigms fueled and nurtured by an ignorant and demagogic media that continues to separate assessment from learning while seeking to frame the complex issue of education in either back-to-basics or outcome-based education—public schools or private schools.
Economic Conservatives and the Neo-liberal Argument
“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people…. We have, in effect been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” – A Nation at Risk (1983).
The prevailing point of view at this juncture in history, one that is embraced by both economic and neo-liberal assertions and resonates throughout the media, seems to be that school is merely a training ground for the necessities of market civilization—i.e., preparation in school is preparation for work.
Fundamentally, this means that students go to school for the purpose of learning how to compete in a capitalist global society where they are taught job skills they are told are essential to get ahead. The National Skill Standards Board, containing appointees by President Bill Clinton, adopts this position in their discussion of standards:
The National Skill Standards Board is building a voluntary national system of skill standards, assessment and certification that will enhance the ability of the United States to compete effectively in the global economy.
From this point of view, education, beginning in primary school, should be designed to create producers and consumers who accept and adapt to the business models inherent in capitalist society as well as the power relations that govern them. The new political discourse of conservative neo-liberalism discusses education only as it relates to markets, national identity, global competition, increased productivity and unbridled consumption. Nothing is said about helping students relate to the world in critical ways. For economic conservatives, schools serve national and market forces—not people. Even for those CEO’s and neo-liberals who bemoan the current state of education as an antiquated testimony of the past and talk about the need for critical thinking, their goal is also clearly tied to the bandwagon of individual economic necessity, as illustrated by an educational speech made by the former CEO of Apple Corporation, John Sculley, at Bill Clinton’s 1992 Economic Conference:
“We are still trapped in a K-12 public education system, which is preparing our youth for jobs that no longer exist. A highly skilled work force must begin with a world class public education system which will turn out a world class product. . .It is an issue about an educational system aligned with the new economy and a broad educational opportunity for everyone. Our public education system has not successfully made the shift from teaching the memorization of facts to achieving learning of critical thinking skills. …It’s America’s choice: High skills or low wages.”
According to the new gospel of neo-liberalism, there is a need not only for a different kind of production under Post-Fordism, but for a different kind of worker—the knowledge worker. This is the worker who is adaptable and amenable to multi-task work environments, who has a theoretical understanding of systems and how they function, who can work in teams, accept new managerial authority, form data into patterns and then interpret this data for the good of company profits; workers who can operate within wider frames of reference, who seek out new information from multiple sources and who can solve business problems and make business decisions. For neo-liberals and their economic conservative counterparts, the new millennium is foisting upon us new market-driven-cognitive demands, different productive relations, and schools must be ready to accept and meet this challenge if one wants to get ahead and if America is truly able to compete.
Former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, makes similar arguments in his book, The Work of Nations (1992):
“We are living through a transformation that will rearrange the politics and economics of the coming century. There will no longer be national economies at least as we have come to understand the concept. All that will remain rooted within national borders are the people who comprise the nation. Each nation’s primary asset will be its citizens’ skills and insights.”
For neo-liberals like Reich and Sculley the rhetoric is clear: less desirable jobs will not exist in the US but will be shipped overseas to third world countries—the new assembly line of global capitalism. More complex, intellectually challenging work, they argue, will become the norm in the United States and of course, there will be winners and losers. However, this time the winners and losers will not only be within nations, but will actually be nations themselves. The message the neo-liberal agenda promotes is very clear: global economic necessities demand an educational system tied to the skills and training necessary to compete in the new millennium of a cybernetic global capitalism. Critical thinking is important only as it relates to creating critical mass—designing better products, boosting productivity, fashioning better customer service, creating stronger national identity and creating a new class of disciplined consumers—preparing citizen-consumers for this “new world order” becomes the raison d’être of education and educational sites.
(To be continued)
Dr. Danny Weil is a public interest attorney who has practiced for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California. He is no longer active as a lawyer but has written seven books on education, has taught second grade in South Central LA, PS 122, taught K-1 migrant children in Santa Maria, California and Guadalupe, California, taught in the California Youth Authority to first and second degree murderers and taught for seventeen years at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, CA. in the philosophy department. Dr. Weil holds a BA in Political Economics and Philosophy, a multi-subject bilingual credential in education (he is fluent in Spanish) and has a PhD in Critical Thinking. He is a writer for the Truthout Intellectual Project. He prefaces his Daily Censored post with the statement that this article was written fourteen years ago – before NCLB and the criminal Bush presidency.
Et Tu, Iceland? Thomas L. Knapp at Center for a Stateless Society (Monday, February 18)
Over the last few years, Iceland has provided a bit of counter-narrative to the anarchist critique of political government.
Most western democracies declared their pieces of the international finance sector “too big to fail” and bailed them out at taxpayer expense after the 2008 bank collapse. Iceland took the opposite tack.
Voters in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, elected an anarchist mayor, and six members of that mayor’s “Best Party,” to the city’s 15-member municipal council in 2010.
Voters in Iceland’s South, Southwest, Reykjavik North and Reykjavik South districts sent members of “The Movement” to the Althing (Iceland’s parliament, the oldest on Earth). Of particular interest is Reykjavik South representative Birgitta Jonsdottir, a Wikileaks volunteer and press freedom activist whose Twitter records were subpoenaed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (Iceland’s Interior Minister courageously refused to cooperate with the FBI’s harassment of Wikileaks).
Not bad, I have to admit, as states go.
Alas, something is rotten in Denmar … er, Iceland. That same Interior Minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, is pushing an Internet censorship agenda in the name of protecting children.
Halla Gunnarsdottir, one of Jonasson’s advisors, is out front with the usual bait-and-switch: “This move is not anti-sex,” she says. “It is anti-violence because young children are seeing porn and acting it out.” In fact, the initiative is neither anti-sex nor anti-violence: It’s just anti-freedom.
Thankfully, some heroes can be counted upon to remain heroic: Birgitta Jonsdottir opposes the scheme. She assesses its chances of passage as “near zero” and its chances of working if it did pass as even lower. Her only sign of weakness in the matter is that she sympathizes with Jonasson, musing that maybe he just doesn’t know any better.
Be all that as it may, Jonsdottir puts her finger on the big problem with political government, even in such an enlightened nation as Iceland: “The fact is that this bill has already made many companies think twice before hosting their business in Iceland — not because they support porn, but because they fear the country’s laws could transit into the kind of full-blown censorship commonly attributed to countries like China and Saudi Arabia.”
Proudhon on the State in 1861 Shawn P. Wilbur at Two-Gun Mutualism & the Golden Rule (Sunday, February 17)You might expect that Proudhon's theory of the state would be most succinctly expressed in one of his essays on the subject of the state, like "Resistance to the Revolution" of the "Small Political Catechism." There are certainly key elements of the theory there, and more in The Theory of Property, but the clearest explanation appears to be tucked away in Proudhon's book on taxation. These are the relevant passages, and it is truly striking stuff:
A bit about bourgeois libertarianism Thomas L. Knapp at Center for a Stateless Society (Sunday, February 17)
Quote of the day: Jim Henley on a cultural chasm between brands of libertarianism:
[A]nti-anti-sprawl libertarianism will exist so long as there are libertarians who hate hippies more than they hate central planning …
Someone — I think it may have been J. Neil Schulman — slapped me around awhile back for referring to “bourgeois libertarians.”
My use of the term was meant to diverge a bit from Kevin Carson’s “vulgar libertarians” label, which he characterizes thusly: For vulgar libertarians, “[i]n every case, the good guys, the sacrificial victims of the Progressive State, are the rich and powerful. The bad guys are the consumer and the worker, acting to enrich themselves from the public treasury.”
I’d say that my “bourgeois libertarians” are a sub-set of Kevin’s “vulgar libertarians.” I’m using “bourgeois” in the sense of “conforming to the standards and conventions of the middle class” (Source: WordNet).
Vulgar libertarianism may, in many cases, be a failure of theory or ideology — its adherent may be incorrectly applying principles, or may be ignorant of this or that historical fact which is important to the issue, or whatever.
Bourgeois libertarianism is a failure not of theory or of ideology, but of imagination: Bourgeois libertarians simply can’t get their heads around the idea that a real free market or a real free society might produce outcomes or phenomena that they aren’t already familiar and comfortable with.
The bourgeois libertarian’s Libertopia is the same house he lives in now, on the same suburban street that house is on now, with the same brands of clothing in the closet and the same shows on TV (minus Keith Olbermann, perhaps).
He still mails out checks for services — they go to private contractors instead of government tax collectors, but the services are probably pretty much the same. The more efficient market means those checks represent a smaller percentage of his income, though, so maybe he’s added a sunroom to the back of that house, has a couple of extra pairs of Nike® shoes in that closet, and watches a 52″ plasma screen TV instead of a 26″ CRT model.
The Libertarienne Show at ISFLC13 Matt Zwolinski at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (Sunday, February 17)
Featuring interviews with our own Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire!
Taking Back Our Schools – Part I stuartbramhall at The Most Revolutionary Act (Sunday, February 17)
This is the first of a series of guest posts by Dr Danny Weil, a public interest attorney, prolific writer and staunch advocate for public education. He has given me permission to reprint an article (World Class Standards: Whose World, Which Economic Classes and What Standards?) he originally posted at Daily Censored. He has republished this article he first wrote fourteen years ago to warn people of the disastrous educational and political consequences of the federal mandate (supported by both Bush and Obama) which has forced a regime of educational “standards” and standardized tests on all American public schools.
In his introduction, Dr Weil makes the following critical points:
- Teachers, parents and communities have lost control of US public schools.
- The current debate over testing standards is a political discussion that has nothing to do with education.
- At present the main purpose of American schools isn’t to enhance either learning or democratic participation but to facilitate the corporate elite’s domination and control over the American public.
- Before teachers, parents and communities can take back control of public schools, they must first ask themselves what it means to learn and to educate and why society even bothers to educate its citizens.
(I have bolded specific points which deserve special attention)
World Class Standards: Whose World, Which Economic Classes and What Standards?
by Dr Danny Weil
“If educational goals and core values are developed by a few educators in isolation from their communities, no matter how well thought out they may be they will not create the conditions needed for change.” — Tony Wagner
How Schools Change
Several years ago, while at an inservice day with elementary and middle school teachers in the state of Washington, I heard many teachers comment that if we are going to teach for thinking we had better develop new, authentic methodologies, theories, standards and instruments for assessment. As the teachers began to discuss, question and attempt through dialogue to develop a clear vision of critical thinking and what it means to be an educated person in today’s society, it became apparent to them that the standardized tests predominant in education today are simply not able to meet the challenge of quality assessment of student performance and what it means to be a human being. In fact, almost all of these primary and middle school teachers agreed that the standards debate in this country was little more than a hindrance to real educational reform as teachers consistently complain that they must prepare their students for assessment instruments that test for simply basic skills and rote memorization. These teachers remarked that standards, or assessment in American education, continues to be linked to a form of anorexic bulimic learning whereby students starve themselves until test time only to stuff themselves with skills, facts, and details to be regurgitated without the benefit of intellectual digestion. Laced to this, they argued, was the teaching and assessment of basic skills divorced from meaningful tasks and critical inquiry.
As we sat and discussed the necessity for authentic assessment, as opposed to the inauthenticity of standardized tests, almost all teachers, especially in elementary school, commented that their students never asked them how they performed on the standardized state tests once they were completed; nor did their parents seem to use the information the scores provided to develop a clear idea of what their children were able to do as a result of the time they spend in schools or what it really means to be educated. For other than political pundits, real estate agents, and bureaucrats, the test scores were of limited use and represented little more than a collection of anonymous numerics linked to issues of bureaucratic control and power, as opposed to wedded to critical sensibility, self-assessment, and achievements in performance.
While listening and participating in the dialogue with these teachers, it became clear to me that these teachers were becoming aware of the ideological nature of the current testing debate and what it implies for teaching and learning; they were beginning to see that the controversy over standards and assessment, in fact the question as to the purpose for the entire enterprise of education itself, was a political discussion. Realizing that the debate over education was in fact a political debate that included issues of class, race, culture and gender, afforded these teachers the capability to begin to move towards an understanding of what Paulo Freire so aptly characterized as “education as an act of freedom as opposed to education as the practice of domination” (Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed p75). It also afforded them the ability to connect education and its purposes to larger issues in society itself and begin to formulate their own perspectives as to the role of education, intelligence and what it means to be an educated person.
Many, if not all of these teachers, had never been afforded an opportunity to discuss the role of education and what it means to be intelligent. Their work was defined as a “divorce from conception” as they executed methodological techniques and practices most of which they had never even been asked to think about. As teachers, they had been told in “training” programs that learning and knowing were neutral acts separated and divorced from ideology and socio-historical, economic, cultural and political dimensions of life. The schools of education that “train” teachers as opposed to “educating them” (Dewey, 1997) produce teacher-technicians who have never been asked to think about the philosophical act of teaching, why they teach, for whom and what purposes knowledge and education serve, or how educational practices relate to dominant and privileged theories of learning.
As we continued our discussions and questioning over time, pondering about our work and critically problematizing and examining the theories that guided our practice, we became aware that it was important to first broach the fundamental question rarely discussed: what is the purpose of education and why should we educate human beings? Of course, depending on ones’ point of view, the answer to this question can vary considerably. Yet we all concluded that before we could even think about what it means to learn or what it means to educate, let alone delve into the role of standards and assessment, the fundamental question of what we are trying to assess and why must be tied to the deeper question of why society even bothers to educate its citizens.
(To be continued.)
Dr. Danny Weil is a public interest attorney who has practiced for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California. He is no longer active as a lawyer but has written seven books on education, has taught second grade in South Central LA, PS 122, taught K-1 migrant children in Santa Maria, California and Guadalupe, California, taught in the California Youth Authority to first and second degree murderers and taught for seventeen years at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, CA. in the philosophy department. Dr. Weil holds a BA in Political Economics and Philosophy, a multi-subject bilingual credential in education (he is fluent in Spanish) and has a PhD in Critical Thinking. He is a writer for the Truthout Intellectual Project.
Deadly Contradictions: Patent Privilege vs. “Saving Lives” Nathan Goodman at Center for a Stateless Society (Sunday, February 17)
In his 2013 State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama claims that the U.S. will help end extreme poverty “by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.” Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the president directly contradicted these goals earlier in his speech by pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP is typically presented as a “free trade” agreement, but there’s one type of trade barrier it proposes to strengthen: “Intellectual property.” Patents and other forms of “intellectual property” restrict trade by granting monopolies on the sharing of an idea or the manufacture of a product. “Intellectual property” makes it illegal to use your own personal property to manufacture a product and sell it on the market once the state has defined the very idea of that product as someone else’s “property.”
“Intellectual property” harms consumers by raising prices. For some goods this is just an economic cost. But when it comes to medicine, the price increases associated with pharmaceutical patents cost lives. As Judit Rius Sanjuan of Doctors Without Borders says, “Policies that restrict competition thwart our ability to improve the lives of millions with affordable, lifesaving treatments.” Or, as Center for a Stateless Society senior fellow Charles Johnson puts it, “Patents kill people.”
And not just a few people. Fire in the Blood, a documentary that premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival, reveals how patents have killed millions. As Amy Goodman explains, “major pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as the United States, prevented tens of millions of people in the developing world from receiving affordable generic AIDS drugs. Millions died as a result.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership would expand these already deadly patent monopolies, further restricting access to lifesaving medicines. Tido von Schoen-Angerer of Doctors Without Borders wrote in 2011 that ”leaked papers reveal a number of U.S. objectives: to make it impossible to challenge a patent before it is granted; to lower the bar required to get a patent (so that even drugs that are merely new forms of existing medicines, and don’t show a therapeutic improvement, can be protected by monopolies); and to push for new forms of intellectual property enforcement that give customs officials excessive powers to impound generic medicines suspected of breaching IP.” Each of these provisions would use government force to prevent poor people from accessing medicine.
Hey, Ann Coulter Jason Brennan at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (Saturday, February 16)
William Gillis’s “From Whence do Property Titles Arise?” on YouTube James Tuttle at Center for a Stateless Society (Saturday, February 16)
“Who is the Somebody?” James Tuttle at Center for a Stateless Society (Saturday, February 16)
“Somebody gets the surplus wealth that labor produces and does not consume. Who is the Somebody?” Such is the problem recently posited in the editorial columns of the New York Truth. Substantially the same question has been asked a great many times before, but, as might have been expected, this new form of putting it has created no small hubbub. Truth’s columns are full of it; other journals are taking it up; clubs are organizing to discuss it; the people are thinking about it; students are pondering over it. For it is a most momentous question. A correct answer to it is unquestionably the first step in the settlement of the appalling problem of poverty, intemperance, ignorance, and crime. Truth, in selecting it as a subject on which to harp and hammer from day to day, shows itself a level-headed, far-sighted newspaper. But, important as it is, it is by no means a difficult question to one who really considers it before giving an answer, though the variety and absurdity of nearly all the replies thus far volunteered certainly tend to give an opposite impression.
What are the ways by which men gain possession of property? Not many. Let us name them: work, gift, discovery, gaming, the various forms of illegal robbery by force or fraud, usury. Can men obtain wealth by any other than one or more of these methods? Clearly, no. Whoever the Somebody may be, then, he must accumulate his riches in one of these ways. We will find him by the process of elimination.
Is the Somebody the laborer? No; at least not as laborer; otherwise the question were absurd. Its premises exclude him. He gains a bare subsistence by his work; no more. We are searching for his surplus product. He has it not.
Is the Somebody the beggar, the invalid, the cripple, the discoverer, the gambler, the highway robber, the burglar, the defaulter, the pickpocket, or the common swindler? None of these, to any extent worth mentioning. The aggregate of wealth absorbed by these classes of our population compared with the vast mass produced is a mere drop in the ocean, unworthy of consideration in studying a fundamental problem of political economy. These people get some wealth, it is true; enough, probably for their own purposes: but labor can spare them the whole of it, and never know the difference.
February 16. at Ran Prieur (Saturday, February 16)
February 16. Thanks Jane for this inspiring article on The Street Kids of San Francisco.
February 14. at Ran Prieur (Thursday, February 14)
February 14. Something I've been meaning to post for a while, the user page of Erinaceous, who as far as I know is the smartest person who regularly comments on reddit.
Media Coordinator Update, 02/16/13 Thomas L. Knapp at Center for a Stateless Society (Saturday, February 16)
Dear C4SS Supporters,
It looks like I may get to go back to weekly media coordinator updates — we’re back above the five-pickups-per-week mark and the content is flowing! For this two-week period, I’ve submitted 23,514 op-eds to 2,762 publications world-wide and have identified 18 pickups (some of them not necessarily from timeframe — now and again a piece will be out there for awhile before I find it):
- “Aaron Swartz and Intellectual Property’s Bitter Enders,” by yours truly, ran as “Networking technologies,” in the Dhaka, Bangladesh New Nation on January 15.
- My piece “Gun Control for the Children? Sorry, No Sale,” made Arizona’s Sonoran News on January 23.
- Kevin Carson’s “Unequal Contracts, Unequal Power” appeared in the St. Joseph, Missouri Telegraph [PDF] and Los Angeles, California’s Eastside Press on February 7.
- Christiaan Elderhorst’s “The Corruption of Cooperation” was picked up by The Baltic Review on February 8, and appeared in the Dhaka, Bangladesh New Nation (date uncertain) as well.
- Kevin Carson’s “Bring on the Drones!” appeared in The Baltic Review (February 6), the Deming, New Mexico Headlight (February 10) and Before It’s News (February 12).
- My own “The New Political Asymmetry: Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide” appeared in the St. Martin (Netherlands Antilles) Daily Herald on February 10, and in the Libby, Montana Western News on February 14.
- David D’Amato’s “Coloring ‘Competition’” ran in El Librepensador (as “Nuestra Adaptacion a la Conquista”) and The Baltic Review on February 12, followed by the St. Martin [Netherlands Antilles] Daily Herald on February 13 and the Dhaka, Bangladesh New Age on February 15.
- “I Should Know — I’m the Sheriff,” by Kevin Carson, Appeared in the Deming, New Mexico Headlight on February 13, and in Florida’s Hernando Today on February 14.
- Kevin’s latest piece, “Why Import Evgeny Morozov When Tom Franks and Andy Keens are Out of Work??” went up at Before It’s News today.
Seattle Scraps Drones Program stuartbramhall at The Most Revolutionary Act (Friday, February 15)
In response to a major outcry from Seattle residents, last week Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the police department to scrap its use of drones for surveillance. According to the Associated Press, the two small drones the city obtained through a federal grant will be returned to the vendor. Lawmakers in at least 11 states are looking at plans to restrict the use of drones over their skies, amid concerns the vehicles could be exploited to spy on Americans. Last Monday, the Charlottesville City Council in Virginia passed a resolution imposing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones within city limits.
In response to a major outcry from Seattle residents, last week Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the police department to scrap its use of drones for surveillance. According to the Associated Press, the two small drones the city obtained through a federal grant will be returned to the vendor.
Lawmakers in at least 11 states are looking at plans to restrict the use of drones over their skies, amid concerns the vehicles could be exploited to spy on Americans. Last Monday, the Charlottesville City Council in Virginia passed a resolution imposing a two-year moratorium on the use of drones within city limits.