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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

restructuring public education « Previous | |Next »
July 22, 2011

John Bellamy Foster in analyzing the crisis in public education in the context of the ongoing crisis of capitalism refers back to the insights of Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis in Schooling in Capitalist America.

Foster says that their broad political-economic approach to public education allows us to perceive the underlying logic governing the development of capitalist schooling in the United States and elsewhere. He says, in summarizing the above text, that Bowles and Gintis argued that:

the forms of consciousness and behavior fostered by capitalist schooling are designed to reproduce existing classes and groupings, and thus are meant to reinforce and legitimize the social relations of production of capitalist society as a whole. Working-class students and those destined for working-class occupations are taught rule-following behavior, while those arising from the upper middle class and/or destined for the professional-managerial stratum are taught to internalize the values of the society. (Those between these two groups are mainly trained to be reliable, in addition to following rules.)

He adds that very little of the schooling at the elementary and secondary levels is oriented to developing actual skills, much less knowledge:
Schools are, then, less about education than a kind of behavioral modification, preparing the vast majority of students for a life of routinization and standardization, in which most will end up employed in essentially unskilled, dead-end jobs. Indeed, most jobs in the degraded work environment of monopoly capitalist society—even those set aside for college graduates—require precious little formal education.

The highest quality elementary and secondary education in the United States, meanwhile, lies outside of the public schools altogether in a very small number of extremely elite private schools devoted to the education of the children of the very rich, whose goal is to generate a governing class.

Capital has concluded that the schools had not been doing a good enough job giving employers what they now needed. Australia can no longer afford the unproductive waste embodied in our current public schools. Under a neo-liberal mode of governance we have the undermining of public education system in order to open it up for privatization. This restructuring of public education by the corporate education movement involves attacks on teachers’ unions, school choice, promoting alternatives to public education and placing the sole responsibility for “closing the achievement gap” on the schools themselves.

The inference is that the achievement gap is the fault of “failing (ie., under performing) schools" whilst the new standardized testing systems are aimed first and foremost at teachers, as they constitute the main weapon in the attempt to wrest control of the practice of education from teachers. These testing systems involve the reduction of schooling to test preparation and the use of student test scores to judge teachers affect all public schools, their students, and teachers.

In Australia the Gillard Government's education revolution has seen the ALP abandon social democracy for neoliberalism: control schools through tests, extensively fund private schools, and and replace long-term, often unionized, teachers with a steady parade of short-timers, particularly in urban, low-income areas. What the education revolution agenda appears to mean means is a relative dumbing down of schooling for working people and the narrowing of the capacities of managerial strata .

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:13 PM | | Comments (4)


You could argue that privatising education would improve outcomes for more kids and be better for the country in the longer run. At that rate, you'd also have to accept the inevitability of public school ghettos for poor kids.

That would also involve ignoring the ways private schools achieve and maintain better outcomes. They can rejects kids who fail to meet their behavioural standards more easily than public schools, and use various means to exclude lower test scoring students from exams that contribute to their stats. That's on top of the cost of private education.

The unequal distribution of advantage stays pretty much the same.

In a paper for the Schooling in Capitalist America Revisited symposium in 2000 Bowles and Gintis say that research by us and others using far better data than was available in the early 70s has entirely vindicated our estimates of high levels of intergenerational persistence of economic status, the unimportance of the heritability of IQ in this process, and the fact that the contribution of schooling to cognitive development plays little part in explaining why those with more schooling have higher earnings.

Must admit, have run across many Americans on FB,o mainly Democrats and some I would rate rather special people,of the sort you'd find here. But from a distance, you also have the sense that most are operating within their own conditioning without much idea of its existence, what that is and how it works through everyday culture in inculcation and outworkings.
Given our similarities on different levels with Americans, you wonder how far out of the loop many of us are also in seeing a way forward for ourselves, due to social and media conditioning as to our view, as with enviro as exhibited in the carbon tax and also the subjectivity at work on refugees.

I have no idea of how to get in touch with Gary. I can't find an email address or other way of getting in contact.

The following has link has nothing to do with this topic, but I thought it was important...