Age of Ignorance

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Fairgoers cheer for Sarah Palin while she appears on the Sean Hannity Show at the Iowa State Fair, August 12, 2011

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business. Συνέχεια

A College Degree Sorts Job Applicants, but Employers Wish It Meant More

FROM ‘MARKETPLACE’

Internships Make the Difference

For some employers, on-the-job experience may matter more than a student’s major or grade-point average.

What Companies Want

Employers say that recent graduates often don’t know how to communicate effectively, and struggle with adapting, problem-solving, and making decisions.

FROM THE SURVEY Συνέχεια

Strategy for American humanities: blow them up and start again

8 November 2012

A declining, out-of-touch discipline and its vocational counterpart must merge to offer a thriving third way, argues Toby Miller

 

Strategy for American humanities: blow them up and start again

Credit: James Fryer

The humanities in the US are finished. They are unpopular with students, politicians and bureaucrats.

Students vote through enrolment. The humanities’ share of majors stands at 8-12 per cent of the nation’s undergraduates. That’s less than half the figure in the 1960s and the lowest point since the Second World War, apart from Ronald Reagan’s recession.

Between 1970-71 and 2003-04, English majors declined from 7.6 to 3.9 per cent of the national total, other languages and literatures dropped from 2.5 to 1.3 per cent, philosophy and religious studies fell from 0.9 to 0.7 per cent, and history decreased from 18.5 to 10.7 per cent. By contrast, business enrolment increased by 176 per cent and communication studies shot up 616 per cent. Συνέχεια

The politics of ‘anti-politics’

Wednesday, 11 December 2013 19:58

Written by Elizabeth Humphrys & Tad Tietze

After Russell Brand’s attack on the political system, Elizabeth Humphrys and Tad Tietze of the Australian blog Left Flank offer some thoughts on ‘anti-politics’

Russell Brand at Anonymous protest. Photo by @sparkers7Russell Brand at Anonymous protest. Photo by @sparkers7

‘At a certain point in their historical lives, social classes become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organisational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognised by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression.’

—Gramsci (1971), Selections From The Prison Notebooks, p. 210

‘If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e. is no longer “leading” but only “dominant”, exercising coercive force alone, this means precisely that the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously, etc. The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’

ibid, pp. 275-6 Συνέχεια

Contempoaray education reform and a cult of ignorance

By Paul L. Thomas, Ed.D. | Originally Published at the Becoming Radical. March 31, 2013

Writing in Newsweek (1980, January 21) in the cusp of America’s shift into the Reagan era of conservatism that included the roots of the current education reform movement built on accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing, Isaac Asimov declared the U.S. “a cult of ignorance,” explaining:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Συνέχεια

The University in Ruins Bill Readings

It is no longer clear what role the University plays in society. The structure of the contemporary University is changing rapidly, and we have yet to understand what precisely these changes will mean. Is a new age dawning for the University, the renaissance of higher education under way? Or is the University in the twilight of its social function, the demise of higher education fast approaching?

We can answer such questions only if we look carefully at the different roles the University has played historically and then imagine how it might be possible to live, and to think, amid the ruins of the University. Tracing the roots of the modern American University in German philosophy and in the work of British thinkers such as Newman and Arnold, Bill Readings argues that historically the integrity of the modern University has been linked to the nation-state, which it has served by promoting and protecting the idea of a national culture. But now the nation-state is in decline, and national culture no longer needs to be either promoted or protected. Increasingly, universities are turning into transnational corporations, and the idea of culture is being replaced by the discourse of “excellence.” On the surface, this does not seem particularly pernicious.

The author cautions, however, that we should not embrace this techno-bureaucratic appeal too quickly. The new University of Excellence is a corporation driven by market forces, and, as such, is more interested in profit margins than in thought. Readings urges us to imagine how to think, without concession to corporate excellence or recourse to romantic nostalgia within an institution in ruins. The result is a passionate appeal for a new community of thinkers.

Digital diploma mills: The automation of higher education by David Noble.

First Monday, Volume 3, Number 1 – 5 January 1998
http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/569/490

 

Abstract
In recent years changes in universities, especially in North America, show that we have entered a new era in higher education, one which is rapidly drawing the halls of academe into the age of automation. Automation — the distribution of digitized course material online, without the participation of professors who develop such material — is often justified as an inevitable part of the new “knowledge–based” society. It is assumed to improve learning and increase wider access. In practice, however, such automation is often coercive in nature — being forced upon professors as well as students — with commercial interests in mind. This paper argues that the trend towards automation of higher education as implemented in North American universities today is a battle between students and professors on one side, and university administrations and companies with “educational products” to sell on the other. It is not a progressive trend towards a new era at all, but a regressive trend, towards the rather old era of mass production, standardization and purely commercial interests. Συνέχεια

A.D.H.D. Experts Re-evaluate Study’s Zeal for Drugs

Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times

Stephen Hinshaw, a University of California, Berkeley, researcher in an influential 1990s study, said skills training should be a priority in A.D.H.D. cases.

By Συνέχεια

As 2013 draws to a close, capitalist breakdown is intensifying

30 December 2013

The year has ended with no indication that, more than five years after the deepest financial crisis since the 1930s, the world economy is anywhere nearer to returning to what was once considered “normal” economic growth. Rather than an upturn taking shape, warnings of “secular stagnation”—characterised by permanent low growth, recession, falling investment, ever-lower real wages and persistently high unemployment—are proliferating.

The past 12 months have seen a series of unprecedented monetary policies, most notably the money-printing “quantitative easing” (QE) programs of both the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan, in which trillions of dollars have been provided virtually free of charge to the major banks and financial institutions. Συνέχεια

The workers’ government

Submitted by cboyd on May 8, 2012 – 10:00
Author: Chris Harman and Tim Potter

This article appeared in the International Discussion Bulletin of the British SWP 30 years ago. At that time some of the biggest far left organisations in Italy to emerge from the great wave of struggle from 1968 to 1975 changed their strategy to one of focussing on the formation of a ‘left’ government within the existing parliamentary set up. Such a government never materialised—instead the then-powerful Italian Communist Party accepted a subordinate role to a Christian Democrat government through the ‘historic compromise’, and the revolutionary left entered a terminal crisis. Nevertheless, the arguments used then have a great deal of relevence in relation to the attitude revolutionaries should have today whenthe question of government is raised—particularly in Italy, where Rifondazione comunista has entered Romano Prodi’s cenre left government and voted for sending Italian troops to Afghanistan and Lebanon and more recently in Greece with the growth of the radical left. Συνέχεια

3 Shocking Ways Inequality Keeps Getting Worse in America

The richest 1% have gained at least $6.1 trillion in the past five years.
December 29, 2013  |
  Anyone reviewing the data is likely to conclude that there must be some mistake. It doesn’t seem possible that one out of twenty American families could each have made a million dollars since Obama became President, while millions American famies’ net worth has barely recovered. But the evidence comes from numerous reputable sources.

Some conservatives continue to claim that President Obama is  unfriendly to business, but the facts show that the richest Americans and the biggest businesses have been the biggest beneficiaries of the massive wealth gain over the past five years. Συνέχεια

10 Big Wins For Public Education in 2013

Here are 10 great reasons to have hope that corporate education reform may soon be a thing of the past.

Photo Credit: Thomas Altfather Good via Wikimedia Commons

December 30, 2013  |

If what’s past is truly prologue, there’s a good chance 2013 will be remembered as the year the free-market education reform movement crested and began to subside. After a decade of gathering momentum, reform politics began to founder in the face of communities fighting for equitable and progressive public education. Within the year’s first weeks, a historic test boycott was underway, civil rights advocates confronted Arne Duncan on school closings, and thousands were marching in Texas to roll back reforms. Συνέχεια

Technology didn’t kill middle class jobs, public policy did

The story is that innovation rapidly reduced the need for factory workers and other skilled labor. The data just doesn’t support it

theguardian.com, Monday 25 November 2013 15.17 GMT

Bentley Motors factory worker

Unionisation has shrunk in the US from over 20% in the 1970s to less than 7% today. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A widely held view in elite circles is that the rapid rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades is an unfortunate side-effect of technological progress. In this story, technology has had the effect of eliminating tens of millions of middle wage jobs for factory workers, bookkeepers, and similar occupations. Συνέχεια

Three Inherent Contradictions Within the Corporate Ed Reform Movement

Modern man {sic} must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.

Vaclav Havel

1. By emphasizing “accountability,” and then “holding teachers accountable” to teaching content through high stakes testing, corporate ed reformers reinforce the artificial, all too rigid silos (math separated from science, etc.) of traditional curriculum and then complain that students aren’t prepared with “21st Century Skills.” Συνέχεια

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