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April 22, 2007



Very interesting.

I hope you don't mind, but I have linked to this in my journal - I think it would resonate with a lot of people out there!

Laban Tall

This is one facet of the left-right individual/communitarian split you blogged on. A social conservative has few issues with compulsory education, or even with state education - it's what's taught that's so depressing. Both left and right communiatarians probably agree that state schools should teach 'the lore and language of our tribe' - but the left would teach human rights, our inglorious history, and that the tribe is a social construct.

Laban Tall

sorry - an addition - uniforms etc ARE attempts to suppress individuality, but only to a degree. Like most things it's more or less, not either/or. If we are both individual and social beings, in some settings our social nature can be emphasised.

And it stops poor kids being dissed for their Lidl trainers, cheap sportsgear etc.

Fabian Tassano

Let me subvert your four ways, if I may.

1. Mediocratic schools inculcate a culture of cultural "absenteeism", i.e. disaffection with bourgeois values, by showing a contrast between theory (enforced attendance, "education does you good") and practice (skiving, anarchy, soul-destroying boredom).

2. Mediocratic schools normalize pseudo-individualism. You are encouraged to regard yourself as the same as everyone else, although you can choose clothes/hairstyle to distinguish yourself.

3. Mediocratic schools teach that success depends upon playing in with phoneyness, and subordinating yourself to the dominant ideology.

4. Mediocratic schools help legitimate selective anti-authoritarianism, i.e against private authority figures, but in favour of state agents (social workers, doctors, etc.).

The "viable alternative" is to get the state out of education - there are *no* good economic arguments for the state to be involved.

tom s.

"To New Labour, people must change to meet the needs of the economy, rather than vice versa."

This has nothing to do with New Labour or school uniforms - at least the trend is just as strong in wear-what-you-want Ontario. To the extent that it is New Labour, it is a ceding of the educational agenda to private industry.


"It is only after you become a skilled worker that you realize this to be a fiction."

I have never knowingly become a skilled worker. However, I have still found myself in numerous positions where I have realised that my boss is a dick. This, I suspect, is a situation encountered by approximately 101% of the working population (give or take 1%).

Marcin Tustin

Well, the alternative is shutting government schools, and allowing people who matter (universities, emplyers) to say what qualifications they want from people. You could give kids some kind of voucher to help them buy education.


and I thought that part of a good education was about learning how to negotiate the crass requirments of institutions such as school rules and still keep your individuality. Isn't this what public shools do?


There is education, and there is schooling. Schooling is what we have:

Luis Enrique

I don't understand what any of these - debatable - points have to do with capitalism. In whatever non-capitalist society you envision, how would schools differ from what we see today? How do schools in actually existing socialist societies score in respect to the charactersitics that you list?

for sure you can think of many ways to change schools - no uniforms! pupils don't have to turn up to classes that they don't want to! but we could introduce such things today if we wanted to, without being any the less capitalist.


On your point 4: In well-run schools, it is not a coincidence that the teachers have both authority and superior knowledge: a good teacher doesn't need to use their authority because the kids respect them - and they respect them in part due to their own upbringing, but also in part due to the superior knowledge of the teachers. Labelling this as a "coincidence" is just nonsense.

As to the second part of this, certainly when I was at school the children had an utterly acute knowledge of which teachers were competent and which were not, and the incompetent ones were those that had to deal with children acting up more, because the kids knew they could get away with it. So it's not only when you become a skilled worker at all.


The role of the teacher here probably explains why Labour are so keen to press their ideas of citizenship into the curriculum.

A pedagogue talking down to an infantilised and subsurvient mass pretty much sums up the attitude of our current government to its electorate, so best to reinforce that idea from an early age.

Matt Munro

Suggest you read Vygotsky on cultural immersion. He takes your general point - that education conditions subservience to and co-operation with "the system" - a step further. The self is not just infleunced by but is formed from the culture around you, so over 10+ years of education you are moulded to become part of the system rather than it's compliant subject. Under nulab this is especially noticeable as hundreds of thousands of graduates are channeled into public sector middle management jobs - where they become agents of the same state controls they were subject to as children.
It's not a coincidence that education is the most PC of all state institutions.

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