Lately I have pondered the place of teachers in America, and especially intellectual independence.
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Teaching cannot fail to be regarded, on the face of what it is, as a noble and worthwhile profession. It is the general populace, worldwide, that gives credit to the importance of teachers as axiomatic. Yet there is a crippling factor somewhere that is interrupting our work while we try to explode the limits of our students' minds. The impedence is powerful; it doesn't simply come down to the distractions young people have today. I'm thinking, on this occasion, about all the teachers a child has: parents, family, community, teacher, media, government, peers. Between all of these sources of education and information most American children are being intellectually stifled and brutally limited in their ability to objectively seek truth and challenge paradigms, to evaluate what is true or false, what sources are trustworthy and how objective they themselves are when they form an informed opinion.
I made the point of teaching my senior students a short unit on 'informed opinions'; they for the vast part had no idea what an 'informed opinion' was. I'm glad I mentioned it! I eventually had them writing 'informed opinions' after reading several different sources of information on single topics so they could learn to seek out information on their own volition and could determine for themselves what they would think, not the media. In that regard, I also discussed with them the quality of different entities in the media and their trustworthiness. This was one of the most successful and interesting lessons I've ever taught.
How many parents and teachers do this? I'm sure many consciencious educators touch on this - but the parent is the first teacher of any child. For a child to come to the twelfth grade and not understand these things IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is OBSCENE and possibly FATAL FOR THE NATION.
I point out that very recently, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has been making a name for itself as a news source in America; in fact the BBC now has a channel specifically for Americans. This is being lauded as an enriching contribution to American journalism, and I'm inclined to agree: people in Europe have so much more access to world opinion and knowledge of events than Americans, whose access is truly controlled: we get mostly sweet stuff, very little meat. In Asia, Europea, Africa, South America... anywhere, people expect to be informed objectively and expect to be enabled by free information to develop opinions on their own, in congress with an education of depth and breadth and a respect for the intellectuality of the media consumer.
In America, this is not always the case. This is a Nation with an anti-intellectual streak that has characterized its entire history, including all of the time before Independence. Americans have always talked loudly about thinking for one’s self, independence, standing up against the odds – all those things we like today to see in the heroes of our action movies. Yet, Americans, while naturally and correctly distrustful of government, are not attracted to intellectuality as a trait in any person, whatever their role. To Americans, intelligence is ‘geeky’; only recently, with the advent of the computer-driven information age, are ‘geeks’ seen as valued. Yet Americans do not typically choose ‘geeky’ or highly intelligent presidents. In fact, Americans will choose safety and ignorance over freedom and understanding, because understanding takes education, and that's too much work.
On can have the intelligence of a genius and sell himself short on the education necessary to use that intelligence. In fact, as I write this, I find myself behooved to define ‘intellect’ as a combination of intelligence and knowledge; untrained minds can boast raw power but without the focus and the analytical benchmarks provided by knowledge (which is gained by education of one kind or another), such minds will never meet their true potential.
The American People even fail to truly pursue intellectual independence in higher education. Many colleges are simply not much more than degree mills when students emerge from them proudly parroting the indoctrination society often promotes even at that level. With more Americans graduating from college than ever, are we seeing, yet, an increase in progressive thought? Not truly, considering the persistence of all the traditional problems America has continually faced and evaded.
Our society still looks like Jim Crow all too often, and we still have virtually all the social diseases of the past, sometimes in new forms.
Thus, while being herded through a college ‘grinder’, young Americans are still just being updated with work skills for a more technical workplace to benefit the ever-shrinking yet ever more-powerful Boss class. The mission of liberal arts institutions has largely failed.
How did this happen? It was easy to accomplish – the Bosses did not need to tailor these institutions to fit this purpose. The young people who matriculated to these schools chose only to internalize what was practical to increasing their future wage, as they had been trained to do in high school and before.
American society is deletionist, which is to say that it teaches a disregard for anything or anyone who doesn’t advance one into a ‘power loop’. For example, knowledge of a religious philosophy such as ‘liberation theology’ will not help one quickly become a billionaire, thus learning its precepts even for the purpose of debate is unimportant in the minds of most Americans. They would immediately ‘blacklist’ it from their own corollary as being ‘foolish’, ‘outmoded’, ‘subversive’, ‘propagandic’, ‘left-wing’, and ‘communistic’ because certain words typically used in any discussion or definition of ‘liberation theology’ pushes certain ‘buttons’ in the mind of the American who observes it. Who needs Big Brother when Americans are so highly imitative or self-censorious? The fact that Americans are also highly coercive is also a worthy topic of debate. Again, who needs the Agents of Big Brother when you’ll do it to yourself?
So, it's not hard to see what Americans really think of teachers. On one level of their minds they trust them to teach important skills to their children; on the other they are disrespected and ignored except at the minimal amount of attention necessary to deliver the most essential survival information; the teacher who tries to deliver enrichment is generally ignored. In its reporting of the challenges and problems present in America's educational system and community, the press has been, in general, unhelpful and even subversive. It has repeatedly attacked the educational community when the problem was happening in their end of town. They didn't want to criticize the politicians who have often gutted the educational system for funds for their other agendas and wouldn't do the leg work necessary to help schools find the sources of problems and solve them.
What will be the end result in the citizens we train in these schools, in their present and worsening condition?
I recently read a magazine interview wherein an American musician disparaged the work of Noam Chomsky because it was (paraphrased: ) ‘left-wing dribble’ and because it ‘made no sense to him’. Thankfully, the background I have in education and longtime exposure to the precepts of the Left provided me the prerequisite understanding to see that this man simply lacked the education level to comprehend Chomsky’s consistently scholarly writings. He was resistant to giving any credence or serious attention to Leftist ideas, largely due to indoctrination, which he even edified in himself via the reinforcement of seeking points-of-view strictly agreeing with his existing thought. Who left him like that? I read in the same interview that this man dropped out of school at sixteen. It's hard to say whether he had uninspiring teachers or the school was in a state of disarray or his family wasn't supportive. Still, who was there to teach him to diversify his sources of information and to guarantee openness in his mind to paradigms outside of America's Glass Box?
It seems Americans fail to teach their children much of anything once they are already conditioned to reject incoming information as ‘undesirable’ or ‘unworthy to know’. An example: by indoctrinating the American People into believing that Black Americans have made no contribution to America, while making contrary information difficult to obtain – or worse: mention a fact or historical event and the population complacently shows no interest in deeper knowledge – and no grand mechanism of indoctrination nor miseducation is necessary. It will be socialized into their intellectual complacency and therefore reinforce their intellectual slavery.
This describes America, and Americans. This is what I’m up against every day I teach, and in my relations with other citizens-on-the-street, sometimes even those in the Left.
How can this state of induced intellectual self-sublimation be reversed?
Unfortunately this characteristic – yes, not so much a phenomenon – is deeply rooted in Americans and is actually one of the values of the culture, so it would require Americans’ removal from the culture to effect a cure. (I give as an example immersion in the far Left via working class consciousness, or alternately, insulation from the mass media and social reinforcement from similarly diseased individuals.)
Interestingly, the people of privilege in America, as elsewhere, do not subject their children nor themselves to the unspoken/unpronounceable mantra of anti-intellectualism; they don’t hear the drone of anti-educational conformity and sociopolitical complacency and misplaced trust. These families eschew public schools and live in a completely different environment, isolated from the destructive effects of America’s culture, misguided schooling and poisoned media. Thus, a class of people has been perpetuated that holds the true freedom of information and can manipulate us for all time because of the multitudinal impedences working against all of us who try to keep our childrens' minds open and strong, with an ethic of objectivity and even-handed curiosity. It has come to the point where the children of the working class are being herded into a mentality that only appreciates the entertainment press; they're being entertained into intellectual oblivion while their future masters, the children of our current corporate masters, learn the techniques of their subvertive rule over everything and everyone.
The ruling class has created the perpetual Privy Circle of Rulership. They have all the money and power to maintain this insulation; they are thus able to transmit to their successors a more pro-active and truth-privileged mental paradigm. Thus they continue to have all the money and power, and it continues ad infinitum until they either finally screw it up or we find a way to overturn it.
In other words:
(Of course, you’ve already heard this from George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Malcolm X and many others – now start listening to your true teachers and break the Privy Circle of Rulership - )
OVERTHROW THE COMMERCIAL MEDIA AND YOU WILL POWERFULLY UNDERMINE THE GOVERNMENT.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN THE WORKING-CLASS CONSCIOUS, INDEPENDENT THINKING OF THE RADICAL LEFT AND YOU WILL SOON MOBILIZE THE PEOPLE.
GET EVERYONE TO STOP WORKING FOR THE BOSSES AND PAYING TAXES TO THE GOVERNMENT OR SERVING IN THE MILITARY OR POLICE AND YOU WILL SOON OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT AND THE BOSSES.
If the people are, by then, educated enough to work together as a class, we will successfully rebuild society into something we’ll all control and live in prosperity and peace - because we will be thinking for ourselves without a coercive, deceitful institution doing everything for us while yet parisitising us instead of leading society to betterment.
Go see Fahrenheit 9/11 !!!