The Null Device

Darwin Junior High

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.

There are 9 comments on "Darwin Junior High":

Posted by: gjw Tue Oct 14 00:15:39 2003

I used to see a lot of stickers around that said "Schools are political indoctrination centres more than education centres". However, I always got the impression the stickers were circulated by neo-Nazi types, angred by the PC-ethics that seem to percolate through modern schools.

Posted by: Bowie Tue Oct 14 02:44:51 2003

yeah, because the kids that get good grades get all the sex...

Posted by: mark Tue Oct 14 04:40:53 2003

Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to thoughtlessness or incompetence... or however it goes.

I can believe school has (some of) these functions, but I very much doubt it's *deliberately* so.

Posted by: kenny Tue Oct 14 16:42:30 2003

or like maybe, never attribute to unintended consequences what can be ascribed to petty shortsightedness... credit where credit is due! or something :D

Posted by: Prentiss Riddle Wed Oct 15 02:15:59 2003

People used to say in all seriousness that one of the functions of schools was to "keep kids off the streets". When I was a kid I found that idea outrageous, but now as a parent I'm starting to come around to the idea that a safe place to park kids <i>is</i> an important function of schools, if not its highest one. Ask any working parent on one of those holidays observed only by schools and the Post Office, like Columbus Day just yesterday.

Posted by: kenny Wed Oct 15 05:00:06 2003 A Biological Theory of War: The Young and the Restless

"Two researchers at Toronto's York University have concluded that wars are triggered whenever societies accumulate a critical mass of young unmarried and unemployed men. Graduate student Christian Mesquida and Professor Neil Wiener argue that an oversupply of young males (aged 15 to 29) is "a necessary condition for the emergence of violent conflicts." A study of world conflicts suggests that wars and internal rebellions become more likely once a population of young, unmarried men reaches 35 percent of a nation's total. This has been the case in Rwanda, Sudan, Algeria, the Congo and the former Yugoslavia. York and Mesquida note that the proportion of young men in the US is approaching 30 percent of the population. They predict trouble ahead in China, where there will soon be one million more young men than young women. The biological theory applies only to offensive wars, York and

Posted by: kenny Wed Oct 15 05:02:13 2003

gah! All you need is love :D

" Finally they hit upon an idea. Why not simply marry them off? In other words, why not find a way to give these men—the most dedicated, competent, and implacable fighters in the entire PLO—a reason to live rather than to die? Having failed to come up with any viable alternatives, the two men put their plan in motion."

Posted by: Prentiss Riddle Wed Oct 15 12:01:48 2003

Is marriage the key, or is it enforced idleness and economic desperation?

Also, they don't say how many of those 30 percent in the US are unemployed.

Posted by: kenny Wed Oct 15 14:36:34 2003

well marriage in america at least is apparently falling off! (as is churchgoing?) to "nearly 80% in the 1950s to just 50.7% today."

also thanks to handy gov't stat websites:

(Numbers in thousands) Unemployed Men, 16 to 19 years: 715 Unemployed Men, 20 to 24 years: 954 Civilian noninstitutional population: 221,779

(715 + 954)/221,779 = 0.75%

not sure about marital status, but i think we'll be okay... altho if you add in "educated," i dunno :D