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Give me a child until...

[ The modern school system was forged in the US in the era of coal-powered industrialisation, and refined through the era of oil. Whether you consider the process 'conspiratorial' or inevitable and organic (really there's no clear distinction) the outcome was the same – a schooling system which produces dumbed-down boredom-tolerant industrial workers, and technical-problem-solving professionals who have difficulty thinking holistically or questioning the greater purpose of their efforts. That's you, me and most people of affluent nations, many of us now recovering. This schooling system was more or less 'necessary' for a bold new age of growth and industrialism. But an era of global contraction will demand relocalisation and decentralisation, and with it better educated people with less institutionalised characters. Without even considering the cruelty or loss of human potential of the current forced schooling system, it's obviously dysfunctional for our times. Richard Embleton's essay below makes the strong case for viewing the school system as a form of forced indoctrination. I've made a few notes following it about existing alternative models. -AF ]

How will we ever get a critical mass of awareness and willingness to change and prepare for a post-peak, post-meltdown, relocalized world when we are all indoctrinated from cradle to grave into supporting and being part of industrial growth culture?

Where is the line between information, education, culturation and indoctrination? What someone views as indoctrination would seem to be any attempted or, particularly, successful dissemination of an ideology or philosophy that differs markedly from those ideologies and philosophies that person holds and follows. Generally the person levelling the accusation of indoctrination seems not to understand that the ideology they adhere to was also acquired through indoctrination. Bertrand Russell, in The Impact of Science on Society, said, "....the populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated .. education should aim at destroying free will...." 33

In an article titled, American Indoctrination -- The harsh reality of public school, in Liberty Forum it is summed up this way:

Indoctrination. Forced conformity. Government worship. A blending of Christianity with "patriotism." The wholesale assembly-line production of jingoistic, unquestioning drones, assaulted at their most impressionable time in life. 14

In Are Lady Liberty's Books for Education or Indoctrination? Guy T. Sturino states, "Probably most, by that time, have adopted the political party and social attitude of their parents or peers without a second thought. The result is that the majority of the working class does not have sufficient foundational education to even be concerned about what is happening around them – or to them." 15 In The Central Fallacy of Public Schooling, Daniel Hager states, "When parents send a child to a tax-funded school, they sacrifice their autonomy to alien interests. The state has goals of its own that are distinct from those of parents. The price of tax-funded schooling is that parents give up their children to become instruments of the state." 16 Such statements simply reinforce for me my belief that it is impossible to separate education, even at the most basic level, from indoctrination.

How can we expect or assume that students entering high school and university or, afterward, adult life, are prepared for critical assessment and constructive dissent and debate, reasoned thought and assessment, or independent thinking, when they have spent the first eight years or more of their education in an environment which neither fosters nor tolerates dissent, disagreement, questioning or debate, or independence of thought? In High School Indoctrination, Sol Stern claims, "The younger the students are, of course, the less likely are they able to withstand – or even detect – attempts at social and political thought control in the classroom." 18

The K-8 public school system teaches and trains children by the strict rote of the school curriculum in which daily repetition and environmental manipulation reinforce in those children a belief that authority is right, that authority must be obeyed, that authorities decide what you will learn and when and how, that the student must respect, obey and rely and be dependent on that very authority. Many behavioral scientist favoring the "nurture" theory of character development "believe that people think and behave in certain ways because they are taught to do so." 30

American psychologist John Watson said, "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select...regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors." 30 The old Jesuit saying, "Give me a child..... until he is seven, and I will give you the man" 6, displays a clear recognition that the earlier you can gain access to a child's mind the stronger control you have over the formation of that child's character and beliefs.

Could any person, after eight years of even the level of indoctrination in our public schools emerge from that process without being affected and without their character being molded to that desired by the system from which they are "graduating"?

"After pupils have left school," Bertrand Russell adds in The Impact of Science on Society, "they will be incapable .. of thinking or acting otherwise than their schoolmasters would have wished." 33

One of the most insidious student control tools being employed in recent decades, of course, is Ritalin and similar psychological control drugs. In 18 Ways Public Schools Can Hurt Children and Parents and many other sources we are told:

Public schools pressure many parents who have bright, normal children to give their kids potentially dangerous mind-altering drugs like Ritalin to make the bored kids "behave" in class. Over four million normal but allegedly "unruly" school children take Ritalin every day. Methylphenidate (sold as Ritalin) and cocaine are both listed on "Schedule II" of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's Controlled Substances Act (CSA). 28

In recent decades, with the ever-increasing outflow of jobs from the industrialized world to the lower cost job markets of developing nations like China, India, Taiwan and Indonesia, there has been an increasing, though perhaps confused, belief that the school systems in our industrialized nations are not turning out workers that are competitive with those graduating from school in developing nations. Much of this belief, however, is being fostered by corporations who are actively and energetically campaigning for an ever-increasing role in our public schools, institutions which came into being for the purpose of, and are still focused on, turning out standardized workers for business and industry. In Government Can’t Run Schools Like Businesses, Thomas L. Johnson, professor emeritus of biological sciences at University of Mary Washington takes a decidedly pro-business and anti-government stance in stating, "If freedom is to survive in America, it will be necessary to eliminate the psychologically crippling and mentally debilitating authoritarian socialist public-school system that inevitably inflicts upon all of its students a long and thorough indoctrination in authoritarianism and convinces them that government force is a valid and necessary means to achieve virtually any desired ends." 13. He would, instead, have corporations doing the indoctrination.

In Nightmare Awaits Under Globalization - effects on public school system in Canada, Rick Sawa states "Corporations want governments to get out of the way of business when it comes to education. They feel that decisions must be taken by a school system for good business reasons, with a minimum of public intervention." 17 In Smaller Learning Communities: Preparing Workers for a State Planned Economy, Edwatch states, "Goal 6 of Goals 2000 states in part, “Every major American business will be involved in strengthening the connection between education and work." It is a philosophy, and it is the focal point of the new restructuring of American society. It is a means for appointed bureaucratic central planners to link government-directed education with government-directed economic development and government directed workforce preparation systems. Children are, in practice, human resources for a centrally planned economy." 12

It was not meant to be this way, of course. As we are reminded in the article Indoctrination and Filtering:

The founders of our country saw that a well educated citizenry is essential to preserving Liberty. Yet they also knew that education ought not be centrally controlled. For no matter who is in power, those persons will inevitably impose their particular propaganda onto the schools. For this reason, the federal government was forbidden (by the Tenth Amendment) from involving itself in education.

The article goes on to remind us, like so many others, "Rather than teaching honest self-reliance, the system seduces our children into dependency." 19

In Echoes of Corporate Influence, Dorothy Shipps, assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University writes, "Corporate leaders have assumed the unrivalled moral authority to define the purposes and methods of public schooling in response to the new technology-driven global economy." 4 In Public Schools: Enforced Social Conversion & Parental Denial, tireless education and home schooling advocate, Nancy Levant, states, "Children all over the world are being converted to social compliancy and servitude. ..... No parent in the United States has any excuse, whatsoever, for ignoring the political-corporate take-over and manipulation of knowledge and learning." 7

Such government and corporate manipulation of the education system is and will continue to be aimed at not just pushing corporate agendas on the school system but preventing opposing agendas from gaining a foothold in that same system. In Science a la Joe Camel Laurie David reports:

The producers of An Inconvenient Truth, decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. Thanks but no thanks, they said. ..... Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.

One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp." 1 In Influencing future decision makers, Dr Sharon Beder states:

This strategy [of creating confusion by challenging scientific evidence] is now making its way into school science curricula as corporations supply "educational" materials that promote clear cutting of forests whilst casting doubt on phenomena such as global warming and ozone depletion. For example, Procter and Gamble argued in their package that disposable diapers are no worse for the environment than cloth diapers, a claim based on scientific studies funded by Procter and Gamble. The company just happens to be the world's largest manufacturer of disposable nappies although this wasn't mentioned in the package. 3

But corporations, particularly large multinationals, have now seriously broadened their horizons. No longer content with having to push their agenda on a region by region, state by state, nation by nation basis, they have now set their sights on standardized global education. In an article titled United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in Edwatch, the broad brushstrokes of international corporate control of globalized education standards are revealed: "The international community now strongly believes that we need to foster — through education — the values, behaviour and lifestyles required for a sustainable future." 10 In a counter article entitled Education for Sustainable Tyranny: The United Nations Plan for Our Children, Michael J Chapman writes:

At the September 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, so-called “representatives of the peoples of the world” adopted a document called, “Agenda 21,” the global roadmap for SD implementation. ..... The Chapter Titles of Agenda 21 reveal the extent of government control necessary to implement SD, including goals to: Change Consumption Patterns; Promote Sustainable Human Settlements; Plan & Manage All Land Resources, Ecosystems, Deserts, Forests, Mountains, Oceans, Fresh Water; Agriculture; Rural Development; Biotechnology; Ensuring Equity; an increased role for Non-Government Organizations (NGOs); and even defining the role of Business and Financial Resources. ..... The United States is pleased to return to UNESCO… There and here, we agree that we must make education a universal reality. Our governments have entrusted us with the responsibility of preparing our children to become citizens of the world. 11

We who are involved in the peak oil movement have, as one of our greatest concerns, the apathetic lack of public awareness of the disasters that lie before us, not just peak oil but also human-induced global warming and a host of other potential or even probable catastrophes all the result of serious human overpopulation. We are all aboard a runaway train racing down the track toward a collapsed bridge, with the engineer and other staff on the train doing their damnedest to keep us ignorant of that reality. We are labeled as doomers because we insist on trying to push those future problems into the public consciousness. In reality, of course, we are trying to minimize the potential severity of those problems by raising public awareness and pushing society towards preparation. Is that ever likely to happen, however, with the current government and corporate control of our education system? We tend to focus our efforts on the adult population around us. But that adult population is a product of a school system that spent twelve years and more indoctrinating and brainwashing them into accepting and supporting the status quo. Only a small minority of the graduates of that system, I would suggest, are capable of breaking free of those years of mental programming.

Unless we can break the grip of senior governments and corporations on our school system neither the present generation of school students nor those yet to come will be able to break free and move away from the status quo and in a direction consistent with the needs for societal survivability in a post-peak, eventually post-energy, world. We know that our current resource-wasting society is not sustainable. We know that we are gradually but irrevocably destroying the earth's ability to support life, including our own species. And yet our children are spending their formative years in an education system that continues to reassure them that that is okay, that there will always be another technological solution, that it is okay for us to use up the last of the resources available because they are confident we will find other solutions when they have run out.

If we are ever to gain serious momentum toward ending our suicidal destruction of this planet - our home planet, the only one in the universe we know to support life - we must start with our children. We must stop allowing them to be essentially brainwashed into supporting the societal norms that are responsible for our race to self-destruction. We must also reach our leaders and do what we can to get them to look ahead and realize that the bridge is out and get them to start leading in a different direction.Is either likely to happen? Not likely, but we must keep trying. I think the long-term of our species is worth the effort.For a more detailed review of the debate over the government and corporate indoctrination taking place in our public schools follow the links below.
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1) Science a la Joe Camel - By Laurie David
2) Software business profits from influence, good timing
3) influencing future decision makers by Dr Sharon Beder
4) Echoes of corporate influence
5) How Business Gained Influence over Chicago Public Schools
6) The Religious Policeman
7) PUBLIC SCHOOLS: ENFORCED SOCIAL CONVERSION & PARENTAL DENIAL
8) Fifth Annual Report on Commercialism in Schools / The Corporate Branding of Our Schools
9) New Education Initiative: Public Education as Transnational Corporate Welfare
10) United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (January 2005 – December 2014)
11) Education for Sustainable Tyranny: The United Nations Plan for Our Children
12) Smaller Learning Communities: Preparing Workers for a State Planned Economy
13) Government Can’t Run Schools Like Businesses
14) American Indoctrination -- The harsh reality of public school
15) Are Lady Liberty's Books for Education or Indoctrination?
16) The Central Fallacy of Public Schooling By Daniel Hager
17) Nightmare Awaits Under Globalization - effects on public school system in Canada
18) High School Indoctrination
19) Indoctrination and filtering
20) Political indoctrination seeping into private schools
21) Political indoctrination in the curriculum during four periods of elementary school education in Taiwan.
22) FIRE Has Never Been ‘Sheepish’ on the Danger of Confusing Free Speech with Indoctrination
23) The Road to Democracy Starts at the Schoolhouse Door; Teaching our Children Beyond the "Three Rs"
24) Brainwashing and Thought Control in Scientology -- The Road to Rondroid
25) Throw Out Your TV- Mass Mind Control
26) Public Schools Warned: Requiring Ritalin Is Unlawful
27) How Public Schools Coerce Parents Into Giving Mind-Altering Drugs To Their Children
28) 18 Ways Public Schools Can Hurt Children and Parents
29) Just Say Yes to Ritalin!
30) Nature vs. Nurture: Are We Really Born That Way?
31) Freedom: Transcending Enculturation and Choosing for Ourselves
32) Avatar and the Restoration of Free will
33) IS MANIPULATION REAL?
34) Propaganda
35) Pulling kids out of government schools
36) Central High School
37) Education or Indoctrination?
38) Bill Gates and the Corporatization of American"Public" Schools
39) Schools With a Slant
40) A Citizens Guide to Adopting Commercial-Free School Board Policies In Your Community
41) Curbing the Commercialization of Public Space
42) Naming Rights Sold -- This Time, at High School Field

Editorial Notes: Alternatives One of the positive things to come from this is the realisation that learning isn't a chore in the way many of us have come to think of it, nor are the we and the people around us so inherently stupid as we might think! While changes, as Richard point out, would be effective at the national levels, it's at the local level where the problem doesn't seem so overwhelming. Homeschooling, Montessori, or Waldorf methods offer alternatives. Also of interest, Brian Goodwin had the following comments on workshop style education, when interviewed by Rob Hopkins:
Education needs to be fundamentally transformed [for energy descent]. I’ve been in Universities nearly all my life, and in my experience University education has now become pretty thoroughly irrelevant to the training that people need to receive in order to make the transition that we are going through. We need a new education. So what is the image of this new education process? I have just been talking about local currencies, well education needs also to ‘go local’. Universities should serve their local communities and they should serve them with the ingenuity that comes out of this concentration of creative energy in Universities in terms of putting together new communities, developing new technologies, so that we develop what I like to think of now as something that Fritjof Capra has introduced into the dialogue here at Schumacher College, looking at the Renaissance, the period of Leonardo da Vinci, which had a workshop culture. A lot of people got their practical skills in workshops. I love this idea. If Universities and schools could become in some sense workshops, playshops, toyshops, whatever you want to call it, but where practical skills are developed for the whole person, and we don’t fragment the world of learning into specialized disciplines. We will still have specialized skills, because people will want to develop high quality abilities in different areas, but that’s up to the individual to choose, and that will give them the creativity to put things together in a new way. So those are the two things I would focus on, currency systems and the education process.
Even better, would be that we use such learning methods and begin to give meaningful projects to school-age people. For a brilliant summary of what might be the scope of a good education (as opposed to schooling) I recommend this talk (MP3) by John Taylor Gatto. -AF

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