14 April, 2011

Why the US Is Destroying Its Education System

Chris Hedges, at Truthdig, on “Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System”:
A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind.  It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy.  It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money.  It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state.  It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers.  It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.  [...]
Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence.  This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations.  They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions.  They want them to serve the system.  These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs.  The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them.  They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority.  Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.  [...]
Those who can ask the right questions are armed with the capacity to make a moral choice, to defend the good in the face of outside pressure.  And this is why the philosopher Immanuel Kant puts the duties we have to ourselves before the duties we have to others.  The standard for Kant is not the biblical idea of self-love—love thy neighbor as thyself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you—but self-respect.  What brings us meaning and worth as human beings is our ability to stand up and pit ourselves against injustice and the vast, moral indifference of the universe.  Once justice perishes, as Kant knew, life loses all meaning.  Those who meekly obey laws and rules imposed from the outside—including religious laws—are not moral human beings.  The fulfillment of an imposed law is morally neutral.  The truly educated make their own wills serve the higher call of justice, empathy and reason.  Socrates made the same argument when he said it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.  [...]
As [Hannah] Arendt pointed out, we must trust only those who have this self-awareness.  [...]  We must fear, Arendt warned, those whose moral system is built around the flimsy structure of blind obedience.  We must fear those who cannot think.  Unconscious civilizations become totalitarian wastelands.
“The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing can hold them back,” Arendt writes.  “For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur—the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation.  The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.”

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