Saturday, October 11, 2014

Do We Need a Conspiracy Theory about Education?

"How Bad Are the Colleges?," Christopher Benfey's article in the latest issue of The New York Review, provides a reasonable account of how badly higher education has deteriorated at even the most elite universities (while, at the same time, skewering the book he is reviewing trying to make the same case). He does this without even adding the student debt problem to the mix. However, these days I tend to apply follow-the-money logic to any major problem; and this leads to a question that neither Benfey nor the author he is reviewing dares to ask.

Unfortunately, the question has all the earmarks of a conspiracy theory: Could it be that those moneied powers behind every policy decision our government makes want to undermine the entire framework for education, at all levels, in our country? After all, those powers live by the sword of consumerism: They prosper when people buy their stuff, whether it is breakfast cereal or health insurance; and, as a corollary, their revenue stream benefits most from those who buy on impulse. The very idea that people should be capable of reasoning skills behind the decisions they make in matters such as how they see to their medical care, what they eat, what they drive, and, yes, what kind of education their kids get, is anathema to impulse buying.

Back in 1951 Cyril M. Kornbluth wrote a science fiction story entitled "The Marching Moron." He envisaged a dystopian future in which the intelligent do not produce as rapidly as those referred to in the title and, for all intents and purposes, go extinct. As I see it, this would be an ideal world for those who make their money off of impulse buying. So could it be that there is a strategy in play aimed at achieving the extinction of intelligence through the planned deterioration of our educational system?

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