Corporate Education

Chomsky On the Big Business and Universities

I will shamefully admit to having never read anything by Chomsky other than the above article.  I know that he is a polarizing figure.  I think the above article is very interesting and insightful.  It is about how the universities are being run more and more like corporations and how that is adversely affecting education in this country for the worst.

Key quote:  That ought to be the purpose of education. It’s not to pour information into somebody’s head which will then leak out but to enable them to become creative, independent people who can find excitement in discovery and creation and creativity at whatever level or in whatever domain their interests carry them.

When I went back to school over a year ago I remember feeling deeply disappointed in the education I was receiving, despite the fact that I was technically going to a better school than the one where I got my first degree.  It seemed much more worker bee oriented.  The first time I went to school, in the late 90’s, I was young and naive and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I did not make the most of my education.  This time around I thought it would be different because I have developed a true love of reading and learning.  I expected heady discussions and challenging ideas.  For the most part I found group work, silly projects, and peer to peer learning, instead of being pushed to think and question things by professors. This is not true across the board, but it seemed to be more the case than not.  I spoke a lot with my girlfriend about having a similar experience in the same timeframe.  My mom was a grade school teacher and my Dad is a college professor.  We constantly talk about how education is moving further and further away from critical thinking.  Critical thinking seems to be low in this country in general.  In a democracy having a population that can critically think is the most important thing to having a government that works on behalf of the populace and not just for those in power.  If you feel troubled by the events unfolding in the world, but can’t quite put your finger on it, my first response would be to start going to the library.

The Brothers that Created Modern America

For any of you interested in American history, and understanding how we got to where we are now, I cannot recommend the book The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War enough.  It was written by Stephen Kinzer, who is the national cultural national cultural correspondent for the New York Times.  This book is incredibly fascinating and very well written. 

John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State under President Eisenhower and Allen Dulles was the head of the CIA.  Both worked for the corporate law firm Sullivan & Crowell.  Their father was a minister.  They brought together the interests of big business, interventionist foreign policy, and especially in the case of John Foster Dulles, missionary religious beliefs, in a way that had never been done before. 

Their grandfather, who was also Secretary of State, was the first Secretary of State to help overthrow a foreign country.  He helped bring about an end to the reign of the monarchy in Hawaii.  They grew up in the realm of the exclusively white patriarchal ruling elite.  Both brothers went back in forth in their careers between representing large corporations and representing our government. Both believed that the US had a role in shaping the world.  Often their policy beliefs were in line with what the interests were for large corporations. 

I am only partially through the book at this point, and I want to read more before I say too much.  However, if you want to understand how the modern world was created in the world after World War II, I already know that this book is essential reading. 

I was a History Major for most of my college career before finally graduating in American Studies.  The wider you cast your net when learning history, the more time and people you cover, the harder it can be to understand the specifics of what was happening and why.  That is why a class concerning the history of the Civil War is so much more interesting than a broad American History class.  You are able to get down into the nitty gritty of things.  By focusing on the Dulles brothers, who were fundamental in shaping US policy, this book makes understanding this period of history easy to those that might not be well versed in it.  However, this book is full of revelations even for those of you that might have read different texts concerning this time period.  If you are interested in our history, or troubled by the current US, I can already say that this is essential reading. 

The Long Hard Climb to Change

I just read a troubling article that puts the chances of Republicans winning the Senate at 60%.  The Democrats, for whatever problems you might have with them, are still a party interested in actually governing.  The current GOP is not your grandfather’s Republican party, or even your father’s.  They are a bunch of extremists whose only principle seems to be use the US government as a trough for corporations.  Anything that doesn’t benefit corporations such environmental regulations, higher wages for workers, a safety net for the unfortunate, and on and on, is to be dismantled.  It is an unholy alliance of big money and the fundamentalist right.  Even those Republicans that dare compromise are often challenged and disavowed by a large amount of their own party. 

You’ve probably heard this rant a million times by now, but that makes it no less true.  I’ve talked about this before, but those of you that are conservative from a religious standpoint should watch the movie There Will Be Blood.  In the movie the main character, played by Daniel Day Lewis, who represents big business, makes an uncomfortable alliance with a preacher.  However, once he has everything he needs he beats the preacher to death with a bowling pin.  Once big business has everything it needs, once it has used up all of our resources, has people working for as little as possible, and no longer needs religion as a Trojan horse for its agenda, it will beat it to death and be done with it too. 

The Supreme Court just decided that there should be no limits on campaign contributions.  That to do so would be to limit free speech.  If you think you dislike politicians now, wait till you see what might be coming down the road!  The era of the middle manager is upon us.  We will be overwhelmed with dull minds that don’t question things as long as the money keeps rolling in. 

If you care at all about this country and where we are headed, then contribute in some way.  You should give money, even if it is a little, volunteer, talk to your friends, write or create something that points to what is going on, etc. 

And to all of you that think all politicians are the same:  You are fucking crazy!  Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are light years apart.  Sure the system can at times occasionally grind even the best politicians down to mere shadows of themselves, but there is a difference.  If you don’t vote you are just accepting defeat. This is no time for apathy.  I am no fan of Obama’s drone policy, but if McCain had won we would probably be knee deep in at least a couple of other wars by now! 

There is still reason to hope though.  Look at the advances that have been made in the last few years with how we treat gay people.  Although the battle is not over many people have woken up to the fact that they are people too and deserve to be treated with dignity.  Bringing about positive change can be a long hard climb, but once you reach the summit it is amazing how quickly the whole world can look different. 

To Conservatives

 

Pardon my French, but I’ve been going batshit on Republicans lately.  I want to explain.  I think it’s important, if we ever want to get anywhere in this country, to try to understand people that have different beliefs and not exclude them as a matter of fact, just because they feel differently then us.  Some of my nearest and dearest friends are Republicans. 

While I have tremendous political differences with conservatives, I do understand some of their ways of thinking and think that they are not always wrong.  There is a need at times to reduce the size of government, although I would disagree on how and where.  There are issues of personal freedom, like guns for one instance, where I would probably be somewhere between the far left and the far right.  I am not a religious person, but I know there are churches that do much good for the poor and downtrodden. The world is full of mystery and wonder.  As long as people temper their belief with doubt, I think that religion should be a matter of personal choice.  Who is to say that I am right and they are wrong and vice versa?  If you look at conservatism from a historical perspective, although again I might not agree with the how and the why, I could probably find many outcomes of agreement. 

However, what I will rail against completely is what I see as the new conservative.  This is the kind of conservative that is represented by Fox News and the current members of the House.  This is the combination of the Christian fundamentalists with the corporatists.  The new conservative, which I differentiate from the older kind, the kind that my own grandfather was, is one that ignores science and reason whenever it does not fit their rigid worldview.  This is the kind that wants to destroy government, not to reduce it.  On the religious front this is the kind of person that believes that they have the one and only truth and have no patience for those of different beliefs.  Economically these are people that only care about their own personal gain, and care nothing for their fellow man.  People like Rush Limbaugh and Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin are full of nothing but the most insane ignorance.  If they are not ignorant then they are completely cynical.  Neither thing bodes well. 

If you follow the money, and in politics you should always follow the money, what I believe you are seeing is the extreme rich using tribal allegiances and fear of a changing world to their advantage.  People are being fleeced.  I feel for those that have seen their jobs go overseas, that have seen their schools decline, and have seen their traditions become less sacred as meaningless entertainment invades every aspect of American culture.  People have a right to be angry.  I just think that their anger is being misdirected.  The gap between rich and poor is growing in this country. 

Look I believe that hard work should be rewarded.  There should be incentives for people to tow the line, to try hard in school, and to contribute to society.  However, no one does anything on their own.  Just by being American we have won the lotto compared to someone that lives in a place like Somalia.  If you were born in a good family, or had a good teacher, or were at the right place at the right time, then you should thank your lucky stars.  This is not to discount any hard work that you might have done.  I’m just saying be humble.  Realize that if we are going to reward hard work, then there are going to be losers as well as winners.  People only have one life.  While everyone might not get to live in that mansion on a hill, they should at least have access to a doctor if they get sick and have some kind of food on their table.  If we disagree on how to get there that is Ok, but we can at least have a debate and a conversation about it. 

The new conservatives that have emerged are extremists.  They are religious fundamentalists or shameless self promoters that are backed by big money.  They pedal the exact kind of culture destroying nonsense that they pretend to abhor.  I’m a liberal and I don’t believe that Obama has done everything right.  If you say that everything that he has done is wrong, then somewhere along the line you have lost the thread. 

Sometimes I paint with a large brush to make a point sail home.  I know that there are different kinds of Republicans out there.  They just don’t seem to be the ones that are on TV and in the government. 

I hope this explains where I am coming from.  If I have offended you then read something else.  If you think you have a better way for less people to suffer than currently are, then have a go at it.  I’m telling you straight up that I intend to volunteer, give money, write, speak my mind, and do anything I can to see that these extremists don’t wreck this country.  Despite many things that drive me crazy about modern American life, I tend to like it here.  

There Will Be Blood: Big Business and Religion

Spoiler Alert:  Do not read if you don’t want the end of There Will Be Blood to be ruined.

The movie There Will Be Blood, probably intentionally, makes me think about the current relationship between religion and big business.  In the movie oil magnet Daniel Plainview, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, and preacher Eli Sunday, played by Paul Dano use each other to get what they want.  Plainview wants to get to the oil that is below the ground that Sunday owns and Sunday wants to get money to fund his church.

Ever since at least the Reagan revolution there seems to be an unholy alliance between big business and religion in this country.  Look at how Koch Industries, with the help of the religious right, not only try to get anti-climate science put into classrooms, but also try to get anti-evolutionary science put in as well.  Koch tries to get the ideas that will help their business continue to flourish put into place.  The religious right tries to get their fundamental literal interpretation of the Bible put into school systems.  That most of these Bills that are introduced are done so under the guise of “academic freedom” should come as no surprise.   This is true Orwellian doublespeak if ever there was some.  That these bills have largely failed so far should not be of too much comfort.  These people have the money and time to go back to the well again and again.

However, the religious right should take a lesson from the movie There Will Be Blood.  At the end of the movie, once the character representing big business has everything that he wants; the preacher is beaten to death and left in a pool of his own blood.  In reality, big business is likely to do much the same.  It’s not advised to baptize someone in a river that gives you cancer.