Education can, and usually is, used by oppressors to control the population. Think about the most obvious examples that you know: you’ll notice that the first thing despots target is the educational system to spread propaganda. Nazi Germany is a good example, but, often, we don’t think of our own education systems as falling under this possibility. This isn’t really a fair view to have: the assumption is that, because we’re “good” and the Nazi were “evil,” they would do it and we wouldn’t. This is exactly like the issues of terrorism: “if they do it, it’s terrorism, and, if we do it, it’s counter-terrorism.” We like to believe that when we replicate the behaviors of other individuals, nations, cultures, etc. that we find disgusting, that we do it for “righteous reasons,” when, in a lot of cases, we’re not exactly any better.
Think about all of the knowledge they don’t teach you in American History (as a very simplified example): how much of the history of Native Americans, African-Americans, and Latinos gets erased? How many times did you hear about the “birth of freedom” through the Revolutionary War, but subsequently heard very little about how this freedom only applied to white men (at the time)? Think of more obvious cases: religious groups that want to teach Creationism in classrooms.
The argument is that our education systems are designed to perpetuate the status quo, which in our capitalist society sees the perpetuation of the protection of the interests of the people in power (the rich). The reason this generally happens is because education, in many places, has become a system of “depositing information” while giving little room for communication/discussion of issues (and when “discussion” is “open,” it actually is within a very measured spectrum to create an illusion of free thought). This gives students very little creative freedom and freedom to ask questions, to question how the system functions. This generally creates a system that is less about learning than it is about molding children and young adults into obedient citizens that support the system of oppression that currently exists.
Noam Chomsky actually speaks about this very often:
“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum…”
”The aura of alleged expertise also provides a way for the indoctrination system to provide its services to power while maintaining a useful image of indifference and objectivity. The media, for example, can turn to academic experts to provide the perspective that is required by the centers of power, and the university system is sufficiently obedient to external power so that appropriate experts will generally be available to lend the prestige of scholarship to the narrow range of opinion permitted broad expression.”
It’s control through domination of knowledge, and, specifically of erasing the knowledge of anything that doesn’t promote the status quo, the removal of anything that threatens the power and “legitimacy” of the people at the top, the punishing of people who do not fit within the current concepts of the system, etc.
Dealing, specifically, with poverty: the argument is that the people with power are the people who control education, and the people who do so make sure that it benefits them and grows their power, while weakening everyone else’s power to create even larger power gaps. In the case of capitalism, the people with power are the ones with the most capital, and the ones with the least power are the ones with the least capital. The people in power, generally, want to remain so, so they use education as a means of control. They perpetuate the system through it, and this means that it is inherently difficult (or impossible) for education to provide an end to poverty in a system where the rich own control over education. Ending poverty would result in changes in power in the current way things work, and, so, education cannot usually be used as a way to escape poverty because it’s built to perpetuate poverty. This is why there is actually very little social upward mobility in places like The United States, despite common belief.
In talking with some compas I am confident I’ll write a Part III to the series being discussed here (Read Part I & Part Two of “What if I told you trying to eliminate poverty through “education is bullshit?”).
I should clarify though, that in Part I I am dealing (rather quickly) with two of the obstacles that education alone cannot overcome in eliminating poverty because they are issues institutionalized within our education system. These are the structured inequities of race and class. I make the case that because education is framed within capitalism, an inherently racist, classist system, education cannot be separated from its framework, and thus it inevitability will be inadequate in dismantling poverty. Remember, poverty is not some random phenomenon; it is engineered. As such, it can be engineered out of existence too, but not with the same oppressive tools that created it.
In Part II I wanted to go a little deeper, albeit I need to and will go more in depth (Tumblr has a bad tendency to TLDR anything over a few hundred words, so shorter installments seems a better vessel for generating discussion). I wanted to address the fact that how we teach our children today is itself inherently oppressive. The ways of knowing the world that we are taught are the ways of knowing used to suppress and erase other ways of knowing throughout the world. As we continue to value only one, or a few, way(s) of understanding and coming to truth – that is, specifically, the Western mode of thought derived from the Enlightenment, positivism, empiricism, which value only logic and rationality – then we will continually repress other dimensions of human knowledge while replicating our own oppression at the behest of our oppressors.
It is clear to me now that I need to revisit more clearly how our current way of knowing the world (our current education system) evolved directly from the oppressive ways in which colonial powers dominated indigenous peoples. In Part III I’ll deal with that more fully and answer how this system of oppressive “education” has maintained its hegemony over modern discourse in a myriad of ways.
Do you ever think about the fact that the US has created and legitimized a system of institutionalized inequality by funding schools through property taxes? That basically a child’s education is only as good as the value of the property in their neighborhood. Funny how education is so often viewed as an equalizing factor when there is nothing equal about it.
AYEEEEE LOOK AT THE HOMIE THO!!!!!
lower-income people tend to be “hoarders” and richer people are able to do more “minimalist” living spaces. if u don’t have much, you will hold onto any little thing that comes across your way. you got a new tv, but you still keep the old tv because you know things can break. you keep extra boxes of macaroni and cheese lying around because there will be a week when you don’t have money for groceries. you hold onto your stacks of books and clothes for dear life. those are your assets. physical evidence of where your money’s gone. it’s hard to get rid of it. the bare wall is terrifying when you don’t have much.
forever reblogging this because it is so so so true and this post was actually rly an a-ha, revelation kind of moment for me.
white women voluntarily choose to engage in “empowered” and “fulfilling” sex work, organize it around said parameters, are successful in doing so because they’re university students or middle class or whatever, and then talk about their “lived experience” of sex work, it’s like a snake eating its tail
of course if “sex positive” sex work is created it will conform to its own rules but what about the women who are undocumented underage trafficked or otherwise vulnerable?
they’re 90% of sex workers and they don’t have tumblrs or internet access or the social capital to articulate their experience so no shit all the sex workers on tumblr will talk about how great it is, nobody’s letting trafficked women from Moldova write articles on Jezebel