The Null Device

2003/10/14

A former teacher blows the lid off the real functions of schools; sounds somewhere between a Situationist pamphlet and a New Waver sound collage: (via NWD)

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.

This part makes some sense (and reminds me of a claim I heard that the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was behind the modern education system's emphasis on unstructured rote memorisation of facts rather than critical analysis; the former makes useful worker drones, whereas the latter can breed revolutionaries and troublemakers. Mind you, it wouldn't surprise me if the source of the claim was some Marxist or anarchist pamphlet.)

Point 5, however, is a bit more paranoid.

5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.

Granted, school is a brutal, high-intensity pressure-cooker environment that brings out the worst in its inmates, and I can buy the theory that it conveniently serves the purpose of instilling conformity and social cohesion (though, these days, TV, short attention spans and medication also help); however, the claim that it's designed to act as a system of psychological eugenics to keep the unfit from breeding is a bit harder to swallow.

authoritarianism brainwashing conformism education eugenics indoctrination paranoia school society 9

A new system allows the blind to see with sound. The vOICe system consists of a headset with a camera and headphones, which translates images into "highly complex soundscapes", which are then played over the headphones. I wonder what it sounds like, and how long until the sound-art scene latches onto this and shops like Synæsthesia start stocking CDs of 18-minute glacial noise sculptures which actually resolve to images when heard by an appropriately trained listener. (via FmH)

(Actually, I wonder how long until some troublemaker releases a double CD of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster converted into vOICe soundscapes, just in the interest of testing the boundaries of art and copyright violation?)

blindness prosthesis synaesthesia 0

2003/10/13

The new big thing among New York's hipsters is hating Radiohead: (via VM)

"You have to have a very concrete opinion about why you like or dislike Radiohead, and maybe a lot of people are afraid to say they dislike them because they're afraid that their only answer is going to be 'it seems too smart for me.' "
"Hating Radiohead is the hipster's dirty little secret," says Franzman, the entertainment guide editor.
"There's definitely now a symbolic value to saying you hate Radiohead - even Kid Rock makes a big deal about hating Radiohead. He even has a video where he's literally using toilet paper with the word 'Radiohead' embossed on it."

Hang on; if Kid Rock is leading the I-hate-Radiohead bandwagon, could it be that the hip thing is ironically hating Radiohead, in much the same sense as wearing a mesh trucker cap?

backlash hipsters radiohead 4

Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back translated into Latin, with a literal English translation beneath each line. Champagne comedy, folks.

mehercle!
(By Hercules!)
Rebecca, ecce! tantae clunes isti sunt!
(Rebecca, behold! Such large buttocks she has!)
amica esse videtur istorum hominum rhythmicorum.
(She appears to be a girlfriend of one of those rhythmic-oration people.)
magnae clunes mihi placent, nec possum de hac re mentiri.
(Large buttocks are pleasing to me, nor am I able to lie concerning this matter.)

(via jwz)

awesome baby got back humour juxtaposition latin sir mix-a-lot translation 4