Exploring the Social Imagination

Monday, March 6, 2017

Education Radicalized in the Occident Social Imagination

Education in America has to be viewed on a timeline of social thought. Firstly, there was the Prussian education system which worked up until it was attacked by the Frankfurt school - literally, a neo-facist movement bent on restructuring education in America in order to build a more socialist progressive liberal society rather than the already in place - capitalist economy united as a Republican Democracy. You can argue all you like, but many people in The United States, like the idea of self determinism afforded by capitalism and the liberty enjoyed in a representative 'Republic'.

One might ask, "Isn't the Republican party a neo-facist organization as it is framed to be....a radical nationalistic authoritarianism?" Well, if we are talking about the original idea of Republicanism being conservative government operationalized by the will of the people and not by a top down run State, then No, the Republican party is not a neo-facist party. Rather today's liberal democrats are. But to be fair, its a combination of members of those two parties who have taken a liking to a certain ideology.

The ideological roots of fascism can be traced back to the 1880s in Europe based on a revolt against materialism, rationalism, positivism, and against democracy. It was born of the fin-de-siècle generation which supported emotionalism, irrationalism, subjectivism and  vitalism. The fin-de-siècle mindset saw civilization as being in a crisis that required a massive and total solution.
The fin-de-siècle intellectual school considered the individual only one part of the larger collectivity, which should not be viewed as an atomized numerical sum of individuals.They condemned the rationalistic individualism of traditional as in classic liberal society and the dissolution of social links in what they considered bourgeois society.

That intellectual school of thought was the foundation for the Frankfurt school 'movement' in Europe. Now, in the United States, that kind of thinking was not prevalent but perhaps discussed in dark coffee houses on a couple of elite university campuses. In the early days and up until the 20th century, America was let's say an old fashioned kind of pro-liberty believing in the Republic which was a representative democracy (with regards to its simple and solid Constitution); largely, grass roots organized in many respects. People were encouraged to take risks necessary to pave the way for future Americans. Perhaps, that is why the educational system that first took hold was the Prussian educational system and not one based on fin-de-siècle which begot the Frankfurt school of thought. 

America as a relatively young nation found the Prussian educational system to be attractive. This system of education was established in Prussia (a German state) as a result of educational reforms put forward directly after Prussia's defeat in 1806 the early stages of the Napolenonic Wars. Not long thereafter, compulsory education of the Prussian example was mirrored in Scandinavia, and the United States. Early American adopters included: Daniel Coit Gilman, who set up The General Education Board, later renamed The Rockefeller Foundation, and first president of Johns Hopkins, John Dewey at the University of Chicago, James McKeen Cattell at The University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

The Prussian system had by the 1830s attained the following characteristics:

• Free primary schooling, at least for poor citizens
• Professional teachers trained in specialized colleges
• A basic salary for teachers and recognition of teaching as a profession
• An extended school year to better involve children of farmers
• Funding to build schools
• Supervision at national and classroom level to ensure quality instruction
• Curriculum inculcating a strong national identity, involvement of science and technology
• Secular instruction (but with religion as a topic included in the curriculum)

The Frankfurt School was an ideology formed during the interwar period, and came against the Prussian system firstly in Europe and then in the United States. Why? Because, it was thought to be the answer to what appeared to be growing crony capitalism and fascism. How could that be? The Prussian system, encouraged solidarity but that was all. It got people thinking and building up their life in their local community a micro version of the nation. So, it could easily be used for any kind of indoctrination.

The Frankfurt School theorists also like solidarity, and they spoke with a common paradigm in mind; they shared the Marxist Hegelian premises which were radically anti-capitalist, seeking idealistic equality through controlled social justice. As mentioned above, it was birthed by
fin-de-siècle. Such ideology did not take into consideration that the Prussian system simply a regime application as in daily discipline and structure that was meant to serve the majority creating a strong well-adjusted 'integrated' and educated society of like mindedness. Or, perhaps, that is exactly what they saw as attractive about and could easily use it toward their agenda. 

Yet, there was a real difference between the Prussian system and the Frankfurt school of thought. The Prussian system was not about control of the masses as much as it was about preparedness of the masses. It came out of the experience of defeat. In preparedness, it is best to have as many men able to think like each other and thus also for themselves than not. It was not about ensuring that all men had their fair share but that all men were prepared to take part in building up their right to share.

You see, as much as man tries to engineer a 'fair' society, the real experience of fairness is not that all are rich or living the good life, but all suffer living to serve the State, an abyss that can never be satisfied. One could say, 'but isn't that they Prussian system'? Yes, in a way. But the Prussian system was not to serve the State but to prepare the people in the state to protect what they have - liberty!


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