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Hegemony in education

Our educational system is presently a mess. Governments have long lost sight of what education actually is and it is mainly replaced within formal 'educational provision' by systems of indoctrination. Just how has this come about?

"An educational system which exclusively aims to transform people into commodities for consumption on the labour market must treat them in turn as passive consumers. The curriculum will consist of objects to be possessed in the form of facts and skills rather than objects of thought: situations, problems and issues which are capable of challenging, activating and extending natural powers of being". [1]

So where has the system become lost? Why is the educational system still based around pedagogy? Knowles gives us a historical context for pedagogic transmission. He states the Greeks invented Socratic dialogue as an aid to learning, where a member of the group would pose a question to be explored by the 'group mind'.  The Romans were more confrontational and developed polarities in argument which we can still see in our political and educational systems today.

"Starting in the seventh century in Europe, schools began being organised for teaching children -primarily for preparing young boys for the priesthood - hence they became known as cathedral or monastic schools. Since the teachers in these schools had as their principal mission the indoctrination of students in the beliefs, faiths and rituals of the Church, they evolved a set of assumptions about learning and strategies for teaching that came to be labelled as 'pedagogy'......This model of education persisted through the ages well into the twentieth century and was the basis of organisation of our entire educational system". [2]

It saddens me that the following extract from Lindemann (found in Knowles) was written as long ago as 1926:

"We shall never know how many adults desire intelligence regarding themselves and the world in which they live until education once more escapes the pattern of conformity. Adult education is an attempt to discover a new method and create a new incentive for learning; its implications are qualitative not quantitative. Adult learners are precisely those whose intellectual aspirations are least likely to be aroused by the rigid, uncompromising requirements of authoritative, conventionalized institutions of learning". [3]

In a book called 'Free to be Human' the author claims we are held in 'powerful psychological chains' which severely limit our capability to see:

"This is a book about freedom, and above all about the idea that there is often no greater obstacle to freedom than the assumption that it has already been fully attained. While in the West few individuals today suffer physical restraint by the state, we are still constrained by powerful psychological chains - which in many ways are far more effective, if only because they are so difficult to perceive.
Free to be Human shows how the same filter system (corporately controlled mass media hegemony) distorts our understanding of many personal, ethical and spiritual issues, ensuring that we remain passive, conformist, confused and uninformed - and willing to accept the irrational values of corporate consumerism. David Edwards argues that, in order to counter this continual process of disinformation and disempowerment, we need to master the arts of 'intellectual self defence' and so become able to challenge the deceptions of a system that subordinates people and planet to the drive for profit
". [4]

David Icke, much ridiculed because of his far-fetched claims, asserts in his book 'The Robot's Rebellion, that the system has no intention of educating people, it exists to turn out fodder for the system, 'to become the next generation of robots' [p.185]. Although good teachers exist within the system and attempt to lessen the indoctrination they are in the minority and subject to the limitations of increasing government control.

"This is their [the government's] way of finding some illusion of security in a mythical 1950's utopia in which everyone had their place and everyone knew what it was. This back to basics policy when applied to education, puts an emphasis on 'talking at' teaching, and expansion of tests and exams and, to quote one former Education Secretary, a return to teaching a fear of God. Give me strength". [5]

Icke has found many enemies because of his non-conformist stance. The Church in particular admonishes his viewpoint that 'God is within us all' rather than some external force, and the media leapt on this to twist his message into a claim that Icke claims he is 'Son of God'.

Icke claims that he has been viciously marginalised because his message opposes that of the status quo and that all non-conformists are turned into 'folk devils' by the system. Icke's arguments are suprisingly convincing even given a tendency towards sweeping statements, and the conspiracy theory he outlines is a popular one echoed in the media by many movies. 'The truth is out there somewhere and they're keeping it from us'. Icke's demonisation demonstrates that the historical connection between Church and State still has influence. An easy disclaimer to the conspiracy theory is to claim that the person expressing it is just paranoid, to which any self respecting paranoid would reply, 'It's not that I'm paranoid, they are plotting against me'.

As a non-conformist in today's world though, its easy to think like this. As the government once again take control of our curriculum for an 'upgrade' many teachers must be considering whether it will be worth all of the effort. But now more than ever we need our education systems to turn out non-conformists who are able to think for themselves and question the irrational values of corporate consumer capitalism and find the alternatives that work.

1.    Eliot J. Action Research for Educational Change. OU Press 1992. p144
2.    Knowles M. The Adult Learner, A Neglected Species. Gulf. 1990. p28
3.    Lindeman E.C. The Meaning of Adult Education. in Knowles (above p.30)
4.    Edwards D. Free to be Human. Intellectual Self-defense in an Age of Illusions. Resurgence Books.1995 (blurb)
5.    Icke D. The Robot's Rebellion, The Story of the Spiritual Renaissance. Gateway Books 1994. p 314  

Posted Feb 3, 2006