A question has been nagging me for clarification. The traditional role of the educator is to impart basic academic knowledge and cultural norms. This implies two definitions the first is a definition of “basic academic knowledge”. The second, “cultural norms” is more difficult to define and varies from constituency to constituency across the United States. There are, however, in a capitalistic society, a certain small subset of cultural norms that are embedded in capitalism.
Read more after the jump:
We are assailed by references to "culture". It is one of those words that is used as if everyone understands what it is and how it applies to everyday life. If one examines the following series of definitions from the Merriam Websters Dictionary online, one characteristic is common to all. It is that culture is a result of training or "cultivation". Culture as a social construct, is no more than a current moment reflection of ideas, practices and traditions acquired by a population through history, training and cultivation. In our society this is done through familial influence and from educational experiences in our schools.
Definition of CULTUREi
1: cultivation, tillage
2: the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education
3: expert care and training culture>
4a : enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training b : acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills
5a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time culture> culture> c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization culture focused on the bottom line> d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic culture> culture of materialism will take time — Peggy O'Mara>
6: the act or process of cultivating living material (as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media; also : a product of such cultivation
Upon consideration definitions 1 and 2 clarify the roles of educators while 5a sets out the type of information to be imparted. The sixth definition of culture, seems particularly on point regarding method. I would guess that school children qualify as "living material" at least as much as "bacteria or viruses" and I have no doubt that the politicized public schools, by law populated with our society's youth, qualify as "prepared nutrient media". I intentionally skipped 4a because it is this definition by which certain segments of society differentiate themselves and self declare superiority.
Definition 5a is the set of values that are to be imparted.
The US is a society that generally adopts the concepts of capitalism for commercial interactions between parties in the society. This feature has come under attack by various groups since approximately 1848 when the “Communist Manifesto” was first published by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
A unique characteristic of our capitalistic society is the integration of the concepts of Darwin into the fabric of society. Darwin observed and formalized the concept of “survival of the fittest” in the “Origin of Species” published in 1898. The actuality of evolution antedates the emergence of Darwin himself, whose success was to identify and describe this naturally occurring phenomenon.
Darwinism observes that if an individual fails in his primary mission the punishment is deprivation of the rewards of that mission. If this occurs in a survival essential mission the punishment is death. In society, if the mission is business essential the punishment is deprivation of money and status. While "Darwinism" has been much maligned since the early 20th century it nevertheless is an essential and integrated part of our economic and social fabric.
According to Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel Prize winning economist, capitalism is an evolved as opposed to a designed system. Thousands (perhaps millions) of years of interactions between human individuals and groups has resulted in a naturally occurring phenomenon known as “capitalism”. This evolved system of trade interaction is a result of the necessity for individuals and groups to acquire items, materials, permissions and other perceived necessities from individuals and groups. The key assumption is that humans will always act in their own best interest in any interaction between parties. Capitalism also incorporates valuation principles that have evolved. The rarer a skill or commodity the higher its value. The higher the risk in acquiring a skill or commodity the greater the value. Hayek observes that the rules of such interactions are a result of evolution and present day capitalism is the highest evolved form of the system.ii
"Marxism" was an attempt by Marx to redefine the rules of Nature during the industrial revolution and use the massed humanity, the worker class, assembled for production of manufactured goods to neutralize the power of the perceived predators in society and seize control for the “workers”. Unfortunately Marxism, in its attempt to “design” a system that would ultimately create a worker's utopia, tends to ignore that man is a predator and when competition among predators is weakened, weaker predators are enabled to wreak havoc as well. It is interesting that in every significant Marxist revolution one of the first acts has been liquidation of the educated, business and middle classes.
Hayek has referred to this attempt to substitute “design” for “evolution” as the “Fatal Conceit” that will always end in disaster, death and destruction because it ignores evolved systems and is unrealistic about the nature of man. The fall of the Soviet Union is widely viewed as the triumph of Hayek and Capitalism.
Therefore, it would seem that in American society one cultural norm, consistent with capitalism and evolution that should certainly be passed on by educators, is that success should be rewarded and failure should carry the traditional penalties.
FAILED SCHOOLS AND DARWIN IN WISCONSIN
Consider for a moment what the teachers in Wisconsin public schools are supposed to accomplish as their most basic mission. The skills that are the desired end result of cultivation should include:
- Literacy. The ability to read and write in a functional manner. A necessary skill that will enable a successful student to read written orders and provide written responses and thereby, in computer terms, "receive and send" information to an employer enhancing one's ability to provide for himself.
- Critical thinking: Usually reflected in the ability to structure an argument into a thesis and supporting statements toward completion of a written exercise. To do this one must be taught to consider the source of information, gather conflicting points of view and use reasoning skills to make a choice.
- Basic mathematical skills: This is actually an extension of critical thinking communicated in symbolic language for use in dealing with measurable phenomena.
Unionized teachers in Wisconsin tout this 85% graduation rate (a statewide average) as a great success and deserving of economic and societal rewards.
Presumably these unionized teachers effectively impart training and acculturation to students. The presumption is incorrect. While they are 92% effective at training white students, they are only 40% successful with black students and 54% successful with latino students. Those most in need of education and acculturation are not getting it.
The "living material" this "spokesman" and his union are charged with training arrive in the system requiring different levels of training. He and his organization do well with those who are already acculturated, the 84.6% of the population that is white and has been in Wisconsin for a long time but they are an abject failure with those most in need of training, those who are most likely to express their failure of education and acculturation in criminal and anti-social ways. For example, Blacks, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program are 2.35 times as likely to be arrested for a serious crime. It is clearly minorities being penalized most for the failure of these union members.
I was recently listening to a union spokesman in Wisconsin claim that what the union demonstrators are doing is "defending democracy" as they raucously demonstrate, propagate death threats to elected officials and demand that their rewards and benefits remain untouched by the legislature.
The spokesman is 36 years old. As a teacher and union member he is richly rewarded. He works fewer months a year, makes approximately 1.5 to 2.0 times the average wage of non-governmental employees in Wisconsin and enjoys greater job security and health and retirement benefits than private sector workers. He is rewarded by the State which extracts its ability to grant rewards from taxpayers. He is articulate and verbose. He says: "It is a crime that rich people and corporations (people and organizations successful in the private sector) are making millions of dollars and they should be taxed" (to continue rewarding us at the current level).
These demonstrations are not in quest of higher salaries and benefits. They are in opposition to an attempt by their employers and the greater society for whom they work, to reassert the right to determine the value of their services, to define success and failure and to reward success and penalize failure.
According to Darwinian concepts, when an organism fails in its basic mission (food, self defense, imparting basic academic skills and cultural norms,etc) or the environment it is adapted to changes, it dies or must adjust its expectations of societal rewards.
These public school teaching jobs are generally secure, payment is guaranteed by the State, there is low physical risk, regulations make physical demands low, skills are relatively easy to acquire and relatively common. This spokesman and his cohorts are, empirically measured, failing at the most critical part of their job and yet they are being rewarded lavishly.
This is counter intuitive to say the least and wholly in conflict with the ingrained cultural norms of the United States.
HOW HAVE THEY AVOIDED EXTINCTION?
It is apparent that this avoidance of Darwinian extinction, is only possible because the unions have managed to attain leverage over the political culture by pooling votes and very efficiently collecting dues to be used to influence the political process. In essence, by pooling 350,000 votes and enough money to corrupt just about anyone, the leaders of the teacher's unions have established themselves as the 4th branch of government.
Oddly this is consistent with the practice of capitalism. They, the unions, identified a group of individuals who had the power to grant their wishes and amassed trade goods (votes and funds) that would allow them to acquire what they wanted. Elected leaders were targeted, supported successfully and rewards were duly distributed to them.
In Marxist terms, the political leaders were “co-opted”. Douglas Soccio in his “Archetypes of Wisdom, an Introduction to Philosophy” pp381 in the Chapter entitled “Karl Marx” defines “co-opted” as follows:
“Marxists refer to this as being co-opted. You are co-opted when you are tricked, seduced, or somehow convinced to further interests that are to your ultimate disadvantage – and think that you do so willingly.”
Over many years, in addition to direct financial rewards, huge political and logistical advantages were provided to the unions by the wholly owned , thoroughly co-opted, political candidates they support that makes this state of affairs abnormal and destructive to democracy.
Unfortunately for the unions and their members, a majority of the taxpayers and citizens of Wisconsin, those who elected the co-opted leaders, have discerned the destructive economic and societal results of these actions and voted to remove and replace enough of them to take control of the legislature in the last election.
The new Government has begun to reassert the right to value services the government pays for, to rescind advantages previously granted by co-opted legislators to special interest groups and seek to cure the economic problems that were exacerbated by the actions of these legislators.
In Darwinian terms, the environment has changed and the Wisconsin “demonstrations” are the protestations of the dinosaurs that the unexpected comet actually hit in their swamp.
The new legislators are beginning to unwind the following advantages:
Closed shops: An employee must be a member of the union to work in the schools. The basic right of an individual in the US to choose his employment and associate with whomever he pleases is not available in a closed shop.
I think of it as a corollary to Radical Islam. One has three choices granted by the State. One can (1) join and gain employment and security for life (figuratively Convert to Islam); (2) Go to work at a private school and pay taxes that ultimately fund the teachers unions (pay the Jihzyah as a Dhimmi); or (3) remain unemployed (die).
Collection of Dues by the state apparatus: Public institutions collect the dues from the teacher's union members as a payroll deduction eliminating an individual's ability to choose whether or not to pay dues.
People in general are notoriously lax about paying their bills, on time or at all especially when they have been conscripted into an organization in the first place. What to do? Well, lets just get those nice folks at the State Capital to pass a law that will make our employers, in our closed shops, use their funds (taxes) to provide the organization, personnel, equipment and postage to collect the dues from all of these people that they already made involuntarily join up. Presto! 100% compliance and no late payments. Tie it with a bow... the Union can't lose.
What is the effect of these special advantages on public institutions? In Wisconsin, with approximately 350,000 public employees union members, with dues between $700 and $1000 per year, collected with 100% consistency by the State from union “members” who have no right to opt out of payment for political speech they disagree with, the unions have between $245 and $350 million per year to use for political purposes.iii
WHY IS THIS A NATIONAL ISSUE?
The party funded by the unions in the 100's of millions of dollars is the Democratic Party. This constitutes a long needed direct attack on the funding of the Democratic Party. If Wisconsin voters are successful and other states follow suit (Ohio and Indiana for example) the Democratic Party will be forced to compete with funds raised from individuals as is the Republican Party.
In Wisconsin, in return for all those dollars the Democrats, since the La Follettes took power in Wisconsin in the earliest days of the Progressive Movement, have granted unions special privileges in return for power and money.
Nationally, these wholly owned political properties, the subsidized, co-opted, candidates and legislators, pass laws, grant privileges, services, benefits, permanency and pay scales, to special interests that fund their political careers. Many of these grants are clearly destructive to any and all public institutions, local, state and national and ultimately to their own families.
The largest of these special interests today are the public employee unions.
If these politicians have been co-opted, they may have convinced themselves that they are serving democracy. If merely cynical, they are simply lining their pockets.
The United States is founded on principles that value the individual and individual rights. The co-opting of public officials and granting of special privileges to the unions subverts the rights and freedoms of the individual and subordinates individual citizens to the power of public employee unions.
And now the answer to the question regarding cultural norms.
The singular cultural norm which is being imparted via the teacher's unions is that Darwin was wrong and Marx was right. The individual is irrelevant. It does not matter what kind of job you do. If you can get a government job, join the union, co-opt the system and apply political funds liberally, you will be liberally rewarded.
None of the rest matters.
Marx would be proud.