Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

He Who Has Never Despaired Has Never Lived

This post's title paraphrases Goethe and responds to an oft heard shout-out (as in the shout-and-respond tradition of black churches and R&B lyric structure such as Sam & Dave's "Hold on I'm Coming") by the honorable Cornel West.

The He in the title refers to Chris Hedges . Hedges has been a major prophetic voice in America and the world. Hedges speaks (and despairs) regularly and fearlessly about matters that if discussed if at all are muttered sotto voce by mainstream media. I describe (again with a nod again to a Cornel West habit of usage ) Hedges role and his fearless public act of speaking truth-to-power as the purest sense of that designation.

There is a wealth of Hedges material (written and video form) on the net. And it is well worth seeking out for its educational and galvanizing effect.

I recently ran into an April 2011 piece by Hedges on the
apace corporatization of education in the US. The piece is well argued and speaks to my experience with counter-productive and demoralizing corporate-like changes in the tertiary education sector. Since NZ appears to track (with a short delay) social/political developments in the US....what Hedges is talking about is in the near future of Aotearoa. Charter schools are the thin end of the wedge.

Article begins:

Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System

Posted on Apr 10, 2011
By Chris Hedges

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.

Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.

“Imagine,” said a public school teacher in New York City, who asked that I not use his name, “going to work each day knowing a great deal of what you are doing is fraudulent, knowing in no way are you preparing your students for life in an ever more brutal world, knowing that if you don’t continue along your scripted test prep course and indeed get better at it you will be out of a job. Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both

see complete article HERE