"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A View of The Future

It is encouraging to see various groups open their eyes to the problems in our education system and in the reforms currently being pushed. Both conservatives and liberals are beginning to see the dangers involved in centralized planning of curriculum and collection of personal data by government bodies.  Someday, hopefully soon, the rallying cry of "It's all for the little children"will send chills down people's spines rather than warm fuzzy feelings. But we're not there yet. There is no massive public push back to Common Core Standards and the SLDS. To understand why, we need only look at those who have gone before us and see what happened to them.

In his book "It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway", David Satter looks at modern Russia and tries to explain to the Western mind why, given their history, there is no widespread revolt by the Russian people against the oppressive regime. Through interviews with average citizens, Mr. Satter shows the world through the eyes of people who have lived under the Soviets and seen their mutation into a hybrid capitalist/fascist government. What he writes could be an interview with an American in 2025.
"Did anyone walk about the Stalin-era terror?"

"I didn't hear about it except from my mother.  The attitude was that there was no point in discussing it.  There was the 'Cult of Personality.' During the Cult of Personality there were certain abuses. That was it.  Nobody knew the extent of the repression because nobody had read Solzhenitsyn at that time."
Under Stalin, political enemies disappeared in the night never to be seen again. Everyone knew someone who had been sent to the gulag. Some estimates say as many as 12 million people starved to death on the collective farms, forbidden at gunpoint to take any of the food they grew.  It was all meant for the party members in the cities. Today, nobody talks about these things and the history books were scrubbed of their mention. Euphemism is used to soften the horror.

As America gleefully heads into fully digital teaching texts, how quickly will the party in power be able to scrub our history? With everyone being taught the official state version of history, who will know anything different, or if they do, who will believe them? What politically correct language will be used to "pretty up" what is happening to us now so that our children will no longer resist the power of their rulers?

Some of us (mostly those over 40) vaguely remember Communism as being bad. When we were in school, they were still teaching about the horrible things that happened in Russia under the Soviets. There were a few defectors here and there, but there was never a widespread revolt after 1917. The assumption for the common westerner was that the Soviet government was so powerful that they had everyone cowed into submission to their will.

This thought gives peace of mind to many here in America today because they believe we will never allow our government to have that kind of power.  It can be debated whether or not it already does, but it still does not explain the widescale acquiescence to Communism. Satter exposes the other element that allowed the Communists to rule and will enable similar control in our own country. A portion of the population LIKED what communism offered.
Communism appealed to Russians for several reasons. First, it provided security, minimizing the individual's need to worry about his own fate. It also provided a universal idea that gave Soviet citizens a feeling of mission and filled a basic spiritual need. Finally, it appealed to the chauvinism of the ordinary man, who compensated for his personal impotence by identifying with a powerful state.

The secure life under Communism was not a myth.  A Soviet citizen was guaranteed a job (it mattered little that, in many cases, his "job" required no real work), medical care, an education and a pension. All of this led Soviet citizens to boast that, unlike citizens of the West, they had "no fear for the morrow."...
With few exceptions, everyone lived, looked, dressed and thought alike.  Disparities in wealth existed but were not strikingly evident. Tranquility was valued and anyone who disturbed the peace was quickly suppressed. In a restaurant, cafe or other public place a diminutive babushka could impose her authority on a potential troublemaker because she knew and he knew that she could call on the full force of a repressive society at the first hint of resistance to her demands...
In the Soviet period, after a person finished school, he would go to the institute, and then after the institute, he would be assigned work as a young specialist and given a free apartment. A person had a future. The collective was everywhere....
'In the Soviet times,' said Grushnin, 'any family could receive a free education, independent of religion, income or profession.' ...
'Most important,' said Nikolai, 'there was no unemployment. Every person was defended by the party organization. He could not be fired, even if he was lazy.' ...
All of them expressed nostalgia for the security of the Soviet Union
This system sounds great.  The average person has no worries. He doesn't even have to try hard. The party/government provides him an education and a guaranteed job. Sounds an awful lot like school-to-work or 21st century skills goals where the government will use data to figure out which career path they are going to send you on so when you get out of college there will be a job waiting for you. There will be people here who LIKE those programs and will resent efforts to put responsibility for their lives back on them.
"Money didn't matter," Maria said. "Now you need money for everything. What does a simple person need? He needs a roof over his head, work where he know they won't fire him tomorrow, money for the education of his family. In the Soviet period this was all accessible."
A system that does not ask (or even want) you to think for yourself is a self perpetuating system. Breaking free from it is very difficult.
The nub of the matter is that people in Communist society, because of their education and the obvious conditions of their personal fate, have to accept whatever limitations apply to their behavioral freedom or unfreedom as something natural and self evident.  They are brought up to live within these limits and grow accustomed to them from childhood. They accept the form of life that is foisted upon them, having no other choice, and they themselves foist it on others." The Reality of Communism - Alexander Zinoviev
Substitute the words "American society" in the above paragraph and you can easily see someone from 2025 making this statement here. Those working to stop the advance of school-to-work education philosophy must not only work against bureaucracies dead set on this path and those who see personal power in such a system, but also against the human weaknesses of fear (of the unknown future) and laziness which causes them to welcome such shackles with open arms.

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