Previous posts in this discussion:
PostEducational Indoctrination (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 11/09/17 1:48 pm)
Very good points in the post of José Ignacio Soler (November 7th).
From my experience, the longer that you stay in school and university (especially the Humanities), the more brainwashing you receive. In my case it was from the fifth grade all the way to university and daily through the media.
Of course this process did not work with me, but it worked very well with most of my friends.
I'd also like to underscore this point from José Ignacio: "There is no more radical ideological fanaticism than that of converts." I found that there is no more American nationalist than those who just became citizens. The second generation in turn learns to appreciate the old country. Probably it is true all over the world, and this may explain the Islamic terrorists of the second generation in Europe.
JE comments: Ah, the zeal of the convert. Legend has it in New York City that Mayor Bloomberg cracked down so hard on smoking because he was a former smoker. Regarding education and indoctrination, I see my role as "liberating" students from brainwashing. I strive to teach them to think for themselves. Or on deeper thought, do I want them to think like I do?
Sundry WAIS Topics; from Ric Mauricio
(John Eipper, USA
11/11/17 11:13 AM)
Ric Mauricio writes:
Wow. What a wealth of discussions we've enjoyed on WAIS. Gun control. Saudi consolidation of power. Catalonian independence. And of course, China.
Since JE ventured a guess that Chinese stocks (H or otherwise) may have not done well in recent years, I will give my two yuans' worth. Since 2006 (why 2006, you ask? That is the start of the global meltdown and I like to measure from peak to trough to YTD in order to include both extreme bear and bull markets; mutual funds in their advertising often pick the period that shows their best performances), the S&P 500 has averaged a 10% total return, while the ETF (exchange traded fund) that I positioned myself to invest in China has averaged 18% per year. Yes, that is an 80% outperformance over almost 11 years. While everyone celebrates the US stock market's historic performance this year (up 17% YTD), my Chinese ETF is up 43%. I am not cherry-picking. There are other Chinese ETFs that are up 50%+.
Why is that every time I see a post from the UK and a post on the subject of Spain next to each other, I keep hearing the phrase "the rain in Spain"?
Re: A. J. Cave's post of November 10th: From the Saudis to Iran, from the People's Republic of China to Russia, and of course, our own US, it seems there is a trend towards power consolidation.
I found Eugenio Battaglia's post on educational indoctrination extremely thought-provoking. His post stated that his educational indoctrination started in the fifth grade. I would venture to say that his and our indoctrination started way before that, perhaps in kindergarten (we just didn't know it). I would venture to also say it is not only our educational institutions that indoctrinate (brainwash?) us, but our cultures and especially our religious institutions. Tor Guimaraes and I have been in discussion on how challenging it is to challenge the religious indoctrination. Extremely challenging. The compelling reason why we are so susceptible to indoctrination is fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of Hell. Fear of not getting a job.
On the subject of gun control, and especially in the Texas massacre, I believe there already is in place gun control. It's just that it wasn't enforced. And Istvan Simon is correct in pointing out that one can purchase guns in a neighboring state to perpetrate the crimes in Chicago. So, OK. Why don't we do away with gun control in Chicago and arm the citizens of Chicago to "protect" themselves (I believe that the Texas AG has suggested more guns in churches), we would have less crime. Uhuh. Yeah.
JE comments: I believe Eugenio Battaglia was in fifth grade in...1945.
Fear of rejection, fear of Hell, fear of not getting a job: Has Ric Mauricio summed up the modern condition?
Educational Indoctrination, and a School Play
(Istvan Simon, USA
11/12/17 10:17 AM)
I found the "brainwashing" thoughts of Eugenio Battaglia not representative of United States education. Judging by my own 3 children and one step-daughter who all went or are going through California public school educations, I'd say nothing is further from the truth.
A few weeks ago I was present at a theatrical presentation at my 10-year-old son's 5th grade class on the history of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. The children were divided in 3 groups: One represented the Rebels, one the British, and a third a group of Americans somewhere in between. The children represented many of the significant figures in these historical events. They were in costumes reminding of dresses and customs of two-and-a-half centuries ago. From time to time they would be called and say "who they were" and their ideas. For example, something like this: "My name is Benjamin Franklin. I think that..."; "I am Lafayette, a French general, etc..."; "I am George Washington," "Benedict Arnold," and so on. It was a superb theatrical play that encouraged deep independent thought on these historical events, the very opposite of "brainwashing." I was moved to tears by some of the stories of sacrifice related by these children as well as by the singing of our National Anthem at the end of the play.
Though I am a student of history, being also an immigrant, I did not go through an American secondary education. So I did not know many of the stories that were related in this play. I did not know for example the personage of my own son, one of the less famous Founding Fathers of our country.
The superb moderator in the play was not a teacher in my son's school. A beautiful enthusiastic young lady in her 20s--she was the employee of an organization that does these plays in American schools. The children were prepared and taught their lines in the play ahead of time by their teacher in the school, but the presentation was led by this fantastic young woman, who saw the children for the first time on the day of the presentation I witnessed. The children were encouraged to ask questions and they did. Altogether a fabulous event that shows the depth of an American education, and which tears to shreds Eugenio's brainwashing thesis.
JE comments: Teaching the Foundational narratives of US history has one goal: creating a community of good citizens. If not exactly brainwashing, this is undoubtedly a process of nation-building. One might ask if the Catalonian schools (which inspired this discussion) aren't attempting to do the same.
Istvan, was your son's activity part of the Reacting to the Past series? We have done similar things at Adrian College.
American War of Independence from the UK Perspective
(David Pike, France
11/13/17 3:38 AM)
I am intensely interested in this epic of the American War of Independence. I presented the story at my University in 2015, under the title "The King versus the Constitution," on the occasion of my 85th birthday. It was filmed, and I have totally forgotten if I sent the film to WAIS.
A similar presentation was given in Minnesota when I was the guest of my good WAISer friend Enrique Torner. My best performance was the one to the English-Speaking Union, because I respond best to a large audience, but that one was not filmed. None of these presentations satisfy me because I did not give enough time to the role of Edmund Burke. That is why I plan to do it again on video in England in the spring.
What I've noticed in all places is the surprise, both among Americans and Britons, to find that there was such strong support in the UK for American resistance, with an antiwar movement in England so similar to that against the war in Vietnam. I would like to suggest to Istvan Simon (12 November) that I send my new version to the moderator who serves in the organization supplying material to American schools. In England I am presenting it to my old school, and while it's not for young children, it's certainly suitable for high school students.
JE comments: David, we need to upload your talk to YouTube. Americans fail to realize how much the antiwar sentiment in Britain helped the independence cause. Historians don't do hypotheticals, but it's a safe bet that had England been willing to commit as many resources as necessary to subdue the Colonial rabble, it could have done so.
- Instilling Values, Persuading, Brainwashing (Istvan Simon, USA 11/13/17 4:26 AM)
Regarding JE's question if my son's historical play was part of "Reacting to the Past" series, I do not know. The company that moderated the presentation of the play did not have this in its name.
John Eipper also commented on my post that the "goal of the 5th-grade play was nation building." One could say that the aim is to instill American values in our children, but there is nothing wrong with teaching history and our values. The point of my post was that this was not accomplished by a bunch of empty slogans, but something that invited independent thoughtful questioning about our history.
The British, for example, were not vilified. The Boston Tea Party was presented fairly, and its point "no taxation without representation" has its lessons for today's GOP "tax reform" being debated in Congress as we speak, which is nothing less than giving huge tax breaks for the most privileged and richest segment of our society--people like Secretary of Commerce Ross, who keeps much of his billions in off-shore tax havens, and who kept his Russian business interests intact, or President Trump, this disgraceful politician, who paid no income taxes for 20 years on completely fraudulent tax loopholes. By so doing these billionaires of the Trump administration left to much less wealthy people like me the support of our military, the building of roads, the funding of the government, etc. Yet Trump has the audacity to wrap himself in the flag, whipping up controversy over the First Amendment rights of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL football players, who decided to "take a knee" during the performance of the National Anthem in NFL games, to call attention to the routine frequent murders of our black citizens by the police.
No, we do not need fake "patriots" like Ross and Trump. We need patriots that pay taxes like me, or even bigger true patriots like retired Marine General Michael Sullivan and many other military WAISers who served our country, and risked their lives in doing so.
My son's play had the goal of teaching our history and values, but it sought to do so by persuading, not by brainwashing. If I may insist on an analogy, I do the same in teaching mathematics and computer science in my classes. Any good science teacher has the goal to teach the truth of science, but we do not do so by appeal to authority or blind faith. The burden of proof is on us to persuade, not to brainwash. We welcome being challenged in any aspect of our teaching. We invite our students to challenge the truths we are teaching, to try to disprove the statements we are teaching. We persuade; we don't brainwash.
I would like to bring up one more analogy. Because I play the violin I have been invited by many churches to perform during religious services in churches of various denominations. I am not a religious person, so for me there is a certain "price" to be paid by my playing at these events--the price of having to endure the religious services while waiting for my turn at music. One of these events was at the Presbyterian Church in Pleasanton, California. At this service, we performed the sublime "Ave Verum Corpus" by Mozart, a motet that I deeply love.
This Church is so wealthy that they have not one but several pastors who took part in the service. One of them was the youth pastor and his "teaching" of children was what I would call brainwashing. He kept saying Jesus wants you to do this and that, and every second word of his was Jesus. While he was engaged in his "teaching," I kept silently thinking, "how do you know what Jesus wants us to do? Did you get a telephone call from Jesus?" Then came the turn of the main pastor and he gave a sermon about the greatness of Joseph, for accepting that his wife Mary had a child without his active participation. Now here was something I could relate to. As much as I hated the youth pastor's"teaching," I loved the main pastor's sermon. One invited reflection and thought. The other blind unthinking faith.
JE comments: Istvan Simon draws a clear line between instilling values and brainwashing. Some might see the distinction in fuzzier terms. Take the Pledge of Allegiance as an example. I intoned it as a child without knowing what it meant. Why is the US "indivisible," and what are the historical and present-day implications of the adjective? And how about the "under God" part? No one in my elementary school was encouraged to question these concepts.
Instilling Values vs Brainwashing, and the Jesuits
(John Heelan, UK
11/14/17 5:28 AM)
Commenting on Istvan Simon's interesting post of 13 November, JE reflected that Istvan drew a "clear line between instilling values and brainwashing. Some might see the distinction in fuzzier terms."
Me for one. I suggest the objective of brainwashing is to instill the values required by the ruling hegemony (outstandingly reported by George Zhibin Gu about life as a child in Maoist China-see George's post of 13 November). Gramsci taught us that "by Hegemony the ruling class can manipulate the value system and mores of a society, so that their view becomes the world view (Weltanschauung): in Terry Eagleton's words, "Gramsci normally uses the word hegemony to mean the ways in which a governing power wins consent to its rule from those it subjugates." In contrast to authoritarian rule, cultural hegemony "is hegemonic only if those affected by it also consent to and struggle over its common sense."
As a cradle Roman Catholic, I was indoctrinated (in the literal sense of the word) from the age of seven (taught by nuns), schooled (taught by priests), regular communicant (desired values reinforced on a weekly basis by parish priests) until I reached my mid-thirties, when I started to question things and became agnostic. That said, the brainwashed values persist, reminding me of the Jesuit boast, "Give me the child for his first seven years, and I'll give you the man." There is truth in that boast. I often contemplate whether I will have enough self-confidence to resist taking Pascal's Wager when the time comes. One wonders how many Muslims dying with "Allahu Akbar" on their lips are disappointed with the outcome.
JE comments: Yes, there are no atheists in foxholes. I've pointed this out before, but one brilliant move by US hegemons was the ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) act of 1974. By privatizing the retirement accounts of most of the nation, it forced virtually everyone into cheering for the capitalist, bourgeois order. Skin in the game.
Today is Weltanschauung Day on WAIS (see José Manuel de Prada, and now John Heelan). Wunderbar!
Brainwashing vs Persuasion
(Istvan Simon, USA
11/17/17 10:11 AM)
John Heelan (November 14) may be right about being brainwashed by his Catholic upbringing, but I don't see why he says that he sees the line between brainwashing and persuasion in fuzzier terms than I did.
I don't see any contradiction or distinction between his "fuzzy line" or the sharp line that (according to JE) I drew. To my mind they are the same line. The line is simple and not at all fuzzy. Brainwashing is whatever method is used that relies on authority or one-sided arguments instead of persuasion by reason alone. Persuasion invites reasoning, logic and challenge so it is not brainwashing. Anything else is.
JE comments: Is it the scientific vs humanist perspective? Or am I just a fuzzy guy? The best and most effective brainwashing cloaks itself in the mantle of persuasion based on logic. This is the whole notion of "cultural hegemony"--you're brainwashed without knowing it.
- Death of a History Teaching Grant (Brian Blodgett, USA 11/13/17 12:37 PM)
Years ago, somewhere in the 2008-2010 period, I was on a committee to review applications for the Teaching American History Grant. This grant, under the Department of Education, no longer exists, ending in 2011 when funding for it was not included in the 2012 budget or any since. It seems that someone did not see a need for spending money on American History.
The Teaching American History Grant combined school districts across the United States with sponsoring colleges, universities, libraries, museums, and non-profit history or humanities organizations (Teaching American History, 2012). I was a part of a team of three that reviewed a small number of grant requests. Each request had to have a three-year plan on what activities they were going to do in conjunction with their partner institution. Some of the schools were going to send educators to Williamsburg one year, Washington DC another year, and perhaps a series of Civil War battlefields in their third year. In 2010, $115.3 million was allocated to 124 school districts across America. The concept of the grant was to enhance teacher understanding of US history through professional development, study trips, mentoring by historians, etc.
I recall when reviewing the grants that the teachers had to provide information on the educational level of the teachers that would be involved, how many terms they had in college of US history (surprisingly the number was very low, with most having zero to three credit hours of US history) which at the time shocked me that we were having teachers educating our students who did not have any background in US history (this was at the elementary and middle school levels).
And we wonder why less than half of the US citizens living in the 50 states know that Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth (this according to USA Today), and so few of our citizens know very much about our own nation's history.
Department of Education. (2012). "Teaching American History". Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/programs/teachinghistory/index.html
USA Today (2017, Sept. 26). "Yes Puerto Rico is part of the United States." https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/09/26/yes-puerto-rico-part-united-states/703273001/
JE comments: A hundred million or so is chicken feed when you look at the priceless benefits: If we learn history we may not have to repeat it. Why is it that education and culture are seen as "luxuries" for the chopping block?
- Death of a History Teaching Grant (Brian Blodgett, USA 11/13/17 12:37 PM)
- Brainwashing vs Persuasion (Istvan Simon, USA 11/17/17 10:11 AM)
- Instilling Values, Persuading, Brainwashing (Istvan Simon, USA 11/13/17 4:26 AM)
- American War of Independence from the UK Perspective (David Pike, France 11/13/17 3:38 AM)
- Educational Indoctrination, and a School Play (Istvan Simon, USA 11/12/17 10:17 AM)