Well, capitalists are permanently engaged in the search for value, or more specifically, surplus value. They can get that globally by drawing more of the population into capitalist production. The big issue is how much longer capitalism can continue to appropriate value from human labour power when the workforce globally can no longer expand sufficiently. Συνέχεια
Despite ongoing debate about the benefits of massively open online courses (MOOCs), such courses have been greeted with unabated enthusiasm by administrators at financially strapped public universities. The State University of New York, the Georgia Institute of Technology, San Jose State University (SJSU), and many others have signed agreements with the for-profit start-ups Udacity and Coursera, and the non-profit edX, to offer MOOCs through their systems. State legislators have also jumped on board, proposing bills in Florida and California that encourage public universities to use MOOCs as part of their curriculum. But problems with these high-enrollment online courses have come to light. Last week, SJSU announced that it was putting its experimental MOOC program on hold, after the first term of such courses resulted in a low pass rate. On the national stage, some administrators are voicing concerns about the hasty adoption of this new and a largely untested system. Συνέχεια
Technology is transforming American education, for good and for ill. The good comes from the ingenious ways that teachers encourage their students to engage in science projects, learn about history by seeing the events for themselves and explore their own ideas on the Internet. There are literally thousands of Internet-savvy teachers who regularly exchange ideas about enlivening classrooms to heighten student engagement in learning.
The ill comes in many insidious forms. Συνέχεια
The U.S. working-class was slow to respond to the hard times it faced during and after the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Finally, however, in February, 2011, workers in Wisconsin began the famous uprising that electrified the country, revolting in large numbers against Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to destroy the state’s public employee labour unions.
A few months later, the Occupy Wall Street movement, which supported many working-class efforts, spread from New York City to the rest of the nation and the world. Then, in September 2012, Chicago’s public school teachers struck, in defiance of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to destroy the teachers’ union and put the city’s schools firmly on the path of neoliberal austerity and privatization. Συνέχεια
The world economy has experienced four systemic crises since the emergence of capitalism as a global system; the years 1873, 1929, 1973 marked the commencement of the first three. As Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy write: “Each of these earthquakes introduced the establishment of a new social order and deeply altered international relations.” However, it is less clear whether, as they also claim, “the contemporary crisis marks the beginning of a similar process of transition”.1 The end of neoliberalism has been proclaimed several times before, often by the same people on different occasions. For example, the late Eric Hobsbawm regularly produced obituaries for it throughout the 1980s and 90s, lastly in his 2002 autobiography.2 Hobsbawm refrained from making a similar pronouncement in 2008, even though it would have had greater plausibility than its predecessors. For states throughout the developed world—including those like Britain and the US which had been most committed to neoliberalism—bought massive and in some cases dominant stakes in failing banks, using levels of public spending we had previously been told were no longer available or which could not be used without distorting the market. Συνέχεια
IF America’s medical schools were failing to offer their students the academic content and practical experience necessary to provide high-quality health care, we would be outraged.
But that’s exactly what happens in most undergraduate and graduate schools of education. According to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality — which was funded by 62 organizations, led by the Carnegie Corp. and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation — too few aspiring classroom teachers receive the training and support they need to be effective. And that disconnect has alarming implications not just for them but for the future of K-12 public education. Συνέχεια
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released the latest results from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) on December 11, 2012. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed (2012):
Given the vital role that science, technology, engineering, and math play in stimulating innovation and economic growth, it is particularly troubling that eighth-grade science achievement is stagnant and that students in Singapore and Korea are far more likely to perform at advanced levels in science than U.S. students. A number of nations are out-educating us today in the STEM disciplines—and if we as a nation don’t turn that around, those nations will soon be out-competing us in a knowledge-based, global economy (p. 1). Συνέχεια
Did you know that U.S. banks have more than 1.8 trillion dollars parked at the Federal Reserve and that the Fed is actually paying them not to lend that money to us? We were always told that the goal of quantitative easing was to “help the economy”, but the truth is that the vast majority of the money that the Fed has created through quantitative easing has not even gotten into the system. Instead, most of it is sitting at the Fed slowly earning interest for the bankers. Back in October 2008, just as the last financial crisis was starting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the Federal Reserve would start paying interest on the reserves that banks keep at the Fed. This caused an absolute explosion in the size of these reserves. Back in 2008, U.S. banks had less than 2 billion dollars of excess reserves parked at the Fed. Today, they have more than 1.8 trillion. In less than five years, the pile of excess reserves has gottennearly 1,000 times larger. This is utter insanity, and it will have very serious consequences down the road. Συνέχεια
No one can doubt anymore that we are in the midst of the most massive transformation in public education since its creation. The question is whether there is anything we teachers can do to reclaim the conversation and turn back the on-going privatization and corporatization of public schools.
Given how far discussions of education have been pushed to the right; given the complicity of mainstream media in bashing teachers, unions and schools of education; given the assaults on the public sector; given the stigma attached to taxes and government; and given the acquiescence of so many educational organizations and leaders in so-called educational reform, it may be too late. I hope it isn’t. But if we are to succeed, we must take more drastic action, and we must hold to a principle that until now has been given only lip service, a principle that, if truly embraced, would lead not to more educational de-forms but to educational revolution. What we must not do is rely on the usual strategies. Συνέχεια
Creating history through unfreezing it from neoliberal totalitarianism
by Angelo J. Letizia
What is history? History is only learned at the end, it is an artificial, man-made construct. It also may be our best hope, our salvation from barbarism. History does not descend from heaven, nor are we duped cogs in some grand scheme outside our consciousness. History is simply a story told by human beings about their origins. It is a record of what we as a species-turned-civilization have learned. History is a story told at the end, but in order for there to be a beginning, there must be education. History did not begin until we could learn. Many scoff at the idea of teleological history. Christians, Hegel and Fukuyama all tried to a divine a history. Others have argued that historicism is a western invention. Yet, I am not concerned with a single history, or a single interpretation of it, rather I am concerned with the notion of history itself. Perhaps I am nothing more than a Hegelian in disguise but I believe there is a pattern and meaning to history, but this meaning was not preordained from the start. It emerged with us.
Some, like American thinkers Francis Fukuyama hailed this as the end of history. At the conclusion of the Cold War, he argued that we were the last men and we had arrived at the end point of man’s ideological development. This end point was liberal capitalism. Any problems, (such as terrorism) were simply more primitive peoples trying to turn the tide against the movement of history. He believed overall that this system was the best for mankind; it could not be improved upon. But we now have the gift of hindsight, of history. The year 1991 proved not to be the end of history. It only inaugurated a decade of rampant and unchecked capitalism, and exacerbated global income disparity. Zizek argued that this capitalist induced mania was shocked out of its complacent state in 2001 with the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Zizek argued this was the first death of global capitalism (Zizek, 2009). For the next seven years, the global capitalist system, instead of examining itself and its effects on the world (especially the third world), led a war against terror to prop itself up (Zizek, 2009).
This war sought to galvanize global capitalism by creating a free market paradise out of Iraq and the rest of the third world, by “shocking” the rest of the world into globalization (Klein, 2007; Zizek, 2009). After the collapse of the global market in 2008, Zizek argued that global capitalism died a second death (Zizek, 2009). But this death was not tragic, it was comic. Zizek, like Marx before him, argued that things have to die a second time so we can see their ridiculousness and be ready to part with them (Zizek, 2009). So where are we now? Have we the courage to part with globalization and neoliberalism? Perhaps it cannot simply die, perhaps it must be killed. Perhaps 9/11 and the 2008 crash were not capitalism’s death, but spasms showing the world that it is ready to die, if we have the courage to kill it. Until that time however, until we are ready to kill it, it repairs its damage and strengthens itself. We must be taught that global capitalism can die and that we must kill it by dialectically surpassing it. This must become the next phase of the history we create.
There is no immutable dialectic. There are no pre-ordained patterns set for us to follow, no Christian God-shepherds leading the way. If there is some purpose or meaning to history, it has only been created through education. Since prehistoric times our ability to educate each other has set Homo sapiens apart from the other animals. It is our ability to think and create languages, political structures, our ability to love and cooperate and most importantly the ability to transmit our ideas to others of our kind so they can be preserved. Teaching in its barest sense is survival of the human race. This is the essence of any question regarding a meaning in history. This type of education, this radical humanist education however, is anathema to global capitalism and the powers that be must brutally stamp it out. It is radical humanistic education that has the power to kill global capitalism. This type of education must be pursued.
The radical humanist Ivan Illych made a crucial distinction between schooling and education. Schooling is the actual act of attending school, educational policy, the curriculum etc. Education on the other hand, is the radical awakening of the human spirit (Illych, 1971). Illych argued that in contemporary society, these functions have been separated. Schooling has become devoid of any transformative potentials, rather it was simply the arm of the capitalist order which rewarded the already well-off. This was true all over the world (Illych, 1971). So humanism and this radical education must be neutralized, it must be frozen by the powers that be. One effective method of neutralization has been the spectacle.
In the age of the spectacle, all has been subsumed under the auspices of capital (Debord, 2011). Capital has taken on a life of its own, it is something above us. We are alienated from capital even though we have created it (Debord, 2011). Debord called capital in this form “the spectacle.” It is the monstrous behemoth of our daily lives which controls all. Baudrillard argued that the signs of the spectacle no longer correspond to any meaningful referents. He cited the advertising industry, government propaganda, the media, and the entertainment industry as examples of these signs. These signs, or simulacra as Baudrillad has termed them, take on a life of their own; they endlessly circulate (Baudrillard, 1994). Baudrillard maintained that all evolution and dialectical progression of history was now over because all was simulacra.
Since nothing can be represented accurately, no true historical motion is possible (Baudrillard, 1994). Within the spectacle, all signs are interchangeable; ugly is beautiful, left is right, communism is capitalism. There are no longer any true referents to guide the way. All information is afloat, not grounded to any referents or stable foundation. There is no directionality because “progress” is simply another simulacrum which has been co-opted by the spectacle. This is painfully obvious in our daily lives. The American Democratic Party, the party of supposedly progressives is complicit in the reign of neoliberalism and war mongering. “Communist” China is the lynchpin of the global capitalist system. Muammar Gaddafi, the onetime pan-Arab socialist, in time became one of neoliberalism’s dedicated advocates. Billionaires get tax breaks while public schools lay off teachers. “Socialism” is only accepted when huge bank bailouts are given to Wall Street. We are told to tighten our belts and do with less while corporate executives are raking in record bonuses. Some three billion people on this planet are poor, hungry and struggling to get by on meager wages while we as a society have the collective capability to feed, clothe and shelter everyone in the world. There are one-hundred million people in America that live in poverty or near poverty.
The development of cosmetics is pursued over cures at many universities. When cures are produced they are prohibitively expensive and reserved for the super-rich, despite the fact that much of the research that led to their discovery were funded by public tax dollars. Bill Gates, a ruthless businessman who stepped on others to create his empire is hailed as a philanthropist (of course this is advocacy philanthropy, dedicated to pursing neoliberal causes in education) and Mark Zuckerburg, another unscrupulous entrepreneur is declared man of the year. Illiterate sports stars and morally suspect celebrities are cast as the role models for American youth while their teachers are labeled as communist thugs. Soldiers who are pawns in imperialist wars are praised as heroes and college professors who have dedicated their life to teaching and research are branded as liberal, hippie communist subverters. The list unfortunately goes on.
Education is frozen along with history. The only voices neglected in educational policymaking are the voices of educators. The main institutions of the global market are multinational corporations such as Exxon-Mobil and General Electric to name a few, as well as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. The IMF, WB and WTO, along with massive backing from multinational corporations, have all helped to restructure education around the world, in both developing and developed countries toward a market driven entity. In line with (and usually backed financially by) the institutions of the global market; policymakers in the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa demand that students be able to compete in the global market. Education had been made impotent, useless and complicit. In addition, the IMF and the WB, as part of their assistance packages to developing nations, require these developing nations to completely restructure, in some cases wholly dismantle, their public education systems in favor of privatization and an education that promotes the priorities of the global market (Peet, 2009). While all policymakers sing the praises of the global market, they do not tell us that the global market is fundamentally un-democratic. It is staffed not by public servants but businessmen animated solely by the profit motive (Giroux, 2011). The voices of teachers and others concerned with enacting a truly beneficial education are silenced and branded as radicals. Education in the United States and the world over is reflection of the nonsensical system of neoliberalism and the global market itself.
In our frozen state of history, education has become a simulacrum, a referent-less sign. Students are forced to take a mountain of standardized tests despite the fact that the tests signify nothing. They do not represent learned material or acquisition of skills (Leistyna, 2007). And still, republicans and democrats alike urge accountability based solely on these test scores. Schools are punished based on these test scores. Privatization is hailed as the cure all for the woes of the public education system (McLaren, 2007). The public ethos and the system of public education itself is branded as socialist, backwards, inefficient and corrupt. It is dismantled and replaced with private schools, virtual for-profit schools and religious schools. All the while test companies such as Pearson rake in billions of dollars to produce tests that are not even scientifically valid.
Higher education is no better. Not too long ago, higher education had the power to promote beneficial social change (Newfield, 2008). The 1960s and 1970s saw students and professors challenge a racist, sexist and authoritarian America. But now higher education is largely impotent as well. State funding of higher education has been reduced drastically over the last thirty years. This is more than a budget issue however. Education represents a social contract with society (Lewis & Hearn, 2003). Society pledges tax dollars to educational institutions and in return educational institutions deliver more enlightened students who contribute to the political, cultural and economic vitality of society (Lewis & Hearn, 2003). Yet now the social contract has been restructured. A higher education is now seen as a product. As such it is only available to those who can afford it (Rhoads & Torres, 2006; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Higher education is supposed to drive the global economy and produce knowledgeable workers. In addition, many policymakers try to actively discourage the transformative and revolutionary tendencies of Higher education because it can lead to social unrest, challenge Christianity and American foreign and domestic policy (Stanley, 2007). As a result, education or more accurately schooling has been made impotent to face neoliberalism.
This stultifying of education is one of the main and most under examined factors in the freezing of history. How can any movement be possible in this morass? Nothing makes sense. The young, the students have to be the drivers of history, but without a truly transformative curriculum, without anything to really challenge them, students have become alienated (Janesick, 2007). Students are apathetic. They escape into worlds of drugs and sex and video games (Giroux, 2011). Some fall back into dogmatic and intolerant religion or culture. They have become fodder for the advertising industry and rampant consumerism (Giroux, 2011). I have also seen this first hand as a high school teacher and adjunct professor. Students are not engaged. They fiddle with their phones endlessly, play meaningless videogames, and obsess over shoes and cars. This is anecdotal of course, but the literature supports this as well (Giroux, 2011; Hill, 2012; Janesick, 2007; Leistyna, 2007). History is frozen because its participants can no longer think; their mental capabilities are in the process of being stunted by meaningless tests and workforce training. As Leistyna puts it, this alienation spans from suburban meaninglessness to inner city gang warfare. Students navigate this frozen wasteland the best they can and the only way they have been taught; by consuming its products. Consumption is the new morality in this frozen wasteland. We are what we consume, and what we consume is meaningless.
Education is the driver of history but education has stagnated. History has stagnated. And we exist in this stagnation, in this state of suspended animation. Capitalism and neoliberalism cannot afford history to progress because history and its thinkers, its students and activists will expose it for the sham it is, so it occupies them with consumer goods and false-prophet role models. Thus the advocates of neoliberalism must actively keep history from progressing. Marx saw it as inevitable that capitalism would eventually implode and destroy itself. This has not come to be, although we have come close. Unfortunately, capitalism is resilient. It has not imploded but hobbled along. It has galvanized itself with government policies (despite its abhorrence of government intervention). It has morphed into fascism, state capitalism (see the Soviet Union under Stalin), authoritarianism; it has come out of recessions and depressions (Wolff, 2012).
Its resiliency and success, and its victory over the “communist” Soviet Union in 1991 led Fukuyama to declare that we have reached the end of history (Fukuyama, 1992). And the last twenty years we have lived the supposed end of history, this free market paradise. As I taught this doctrine in my tenth grade World History (something assuredly not on the end of the year standardized test) a student immediately raised her hand. She asked: “Wait, this guy [Fukuyama] said that democratic capitalism is the best man can do for himself?” I responded, “Yes, that is pretty much the gist of his argument. That is what he meant by the end of history.” She scrunched her face and rolled her eyes — “But this world sucks! The rich nations take everything from the poor nations; so many people are suffering in this world. It sucks!” Many in the class agreed and no one argued otherwise. A fifteen year old girl can see through the sham that is the so called endpoint of man’s ideological development (Fukuyama, 1992). There may be hope yet. Roos argued that 2011 may have marked the end of the end of history. The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street protests and a host of other activist movements may be a sign that people are beginning to realize this is not the end of history, that there is a better world than capitalism (Roos, 2011). I would add that perhaps history and people are finally starting to thaw. History is not over, it has been frozen. A true education, and not mere schooling, can further this thaw. Capitalism is so resilient not because it is inevitable but because we allow it to be so. Populist rage can only take us so far however. We cannot simply rage against the powers-that-be and persecute the rich or worse yet sink into counterproductive xenophobia. Rather, a true and radical education must sustain the struggle and revitalize mankind’s movement which has been arrested by global capitalism. Education must once again begin to drive history and make it meaningful. If education does not take up this task, it will be complicit in the freezing of history and the emergence of a new global totalitarianism.