Friday, June 14, 2013

America's Attack on Syria: A Look at the Logic Behind American Intervention

Today the United States declared that it will begin arming the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an umbrella group of belligerents who oppose the current Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. The Obama administration justified the policy by claiming that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on several occasions, crossing a “red line” in its conduct of a civil war which has lasted over two years and in which almost 100,000 people have perished.

This is very bad news. Far from having the best intentions of the Syrian people at heart, the U.S. government has decided to further sacrifice them and their country so that it can redraw the map of the Middle-East to suit its own political objectives. For Obama and his cronies, Syria is nothing more than a spot on a chessboard, a position to dream and drool over while “playing war games” from the comfort of a White House map-room. As for the Syrian people, they are irrelevant – expendable pawns which can be tossed into the flames without a second thought.

The stated justification for arming the FSA, i.e. the purported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, is an interesting one. As of yet, the U.S. government has failed to provide any concrete evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, a fact which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has noted in his opposition to the new American policy.

What makes the logic of American intervention particularly bizarre, however, is the existence of previous evidence which suggests that the FSA, the group which the U.S. backs, previously employed chemical weapons. Last month Carla Del Ponte, a top UN human rights investigator, said that the UN investigators had “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” adding that “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”

Such evidence is certainly more concrete than that which the U.S. government is currently (not) offering. If Obama et al. were really preoccupied about protecting Syrians from chemical weapons then they would already have intervened in May – that is, against the FSA which they plan to arm and already have been providing other means of support. The decision to accouter the FSA with arms is, consequently, a move that is premised solely on shared political interests, not humanitarian motives. 

What only adds to the insanity of the “red line” rationale offered by the Obama administration is the recent history of chemical weapons in the Middle-East, a blood-drenched tale in which the U.S. has been the chief arms supplier (and hence moneymaker).

The first use of chemical weapons in the Middle-East began after WWI by the British in Iraq. After the war, both Britain and France carved up the former Ottoman Empire into spheres of Western exploitation. In a stunning act of betrayal, both European powers had reneged on their wartime promise to allied Arab nationalists that after the war the former Ottoman territories would be allowed self-rule. Instead, the British and French conspired in the formation of the now infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement, a secret pact which divvied up the Middle-East between each power.

Winston Churchill, then British colonial secretary, had a keen interest in Iraq, especially the oil-rich region of Mosul. On his initiative the British navy had converted from coal to oil-based power. While this guaranteed the maintenance of a cutting-edge navy, it also meant that oil as a commodity dramatically increased in value. Yet the subjugation of Iraq did not go as easily as the Brits anticipated.

Inflamed by the European perfidy, Iraqis revolted against their new overlords in a popular uprising, one which is resonant of the “Arab Spring” today. Needless to say, this chagrined Churchill and the other imperialists to no end.

Never one at a loss of ideas, however, Churchill decided that the best way to subdue the “niggers” would be to use chemical weapons and the newly formed Royal Air Force (RAF), a solution which he believed to be both efficient and scientific. Subsequently, if an Iraqi town did not pay its taxes or failed to kowtow to British rule, the entire village ran the risk of being mowed down by planes or suffocated in a cloud of mustard gas.

Since its introduction by Western powers chemical weapons, gases in particular, have been a mainstay of oppression in the Middle-East. Outside observers would do well to remember that the most vivid images of Western authority that have been etched into the minds of Middle-Easterners are those of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the occupation of Palestine.

Back in the 1980s the U.S. supplied chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein for his war with Iran. This cynical policy – one which is not all that different from Obama’s in Syria – was meant to bleed both Iraq and Iran, neither of whom the U.S. government liked, in the most senseless and profligate way imaginable. In the end, millions of lives were silenced, mangled or otherwise ruined. I guess you could say that U.S. arms-makers really did make a “killing” out of the affair.

More recently, photos of Palestinian protestors being assaulted by the Israeli Wehrmacht continue to inflame the region’s popular consciousness. Invariably these peaceful demonstrations are broken up with the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons; and, just as predictably, the gas canisters bear the signature “made in the U.S.A.” on the bottom.

Consequently if there really is a “red line,” as Obama would have us believe, it is one which permits the use of chemical weapons by certain groups such as the Israeli Wehrmacht and other pro-U.S. dictators in the area. Or perhaps the real “red line” that Obama is referring to is the sales marker of American weapons makers, those manufacturers of death and hawkers of war who are only all too eager to see the U.S. further intervene in Syria. Unlike other businesses, the “red line” for arms manufacturers does not denote business losses; rather, it signifies soaring arms sales whose profits are stained with blood. 

Now that we have examined the chemical weapons canard, let us look at the other components of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Syria.

As one would expect, America’s efforts to provision the FSA have been framed in humanitarian terms. Arming the rebels, we are assured, will bring peace to Syria by providing the rebels with the necessary means to decisively end the conflict.

Unfortunately, Americans have been deluged by such nonsense for so long that many fail to even question the most ridiculous parts of this proposal. For starters, the idea that introducing more bombs, guns and bullets into a warzone will bring peace is akin to saying that the best way to stop a fire is by adding gasoline. Yes, the conflagration will burn out eventually but so will everything with it -- in other words, the civilians whom the Obama administration is supposedly trying to save.

Rather, the real reason the U.S. has now decided to channel arms to the FSA is because the Assad regime, excepting such an intervention, will likely manage to defeat the rebels. During the past several months the Assad regime has managed to secure several unambiguous victories over the FSA, and with the assistance of Hezbollah and Iran it seems improbable that the FSA can continue to hold on without an infusion of outside aid.

Despite the fact that the U.S. collaborated with Assad during its 2003 invasion of Iraq and has long outsourced torture to the regime, American hawks have never felt at ease with the current government. In recent years this mistrust has compounded into outright enmity, especially after the Iraqi government became dominated by Shiites – largely because of U.S. bungling in Iraq – allowing relations between Shiite Iran, Iraq, Syria and Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon to become more fluid.

The consolidation of this “Shiite Crescent” has perturbed U.S. officials ever since they made it possible. This displeasure is, contrary to popular belief, not because these countries hold pro-“terrorist” policies but because they do not uncritically back U.S. policies in the Middle-East.

When some countries question Washington’s sponsorship of Israeli concentration camps and its colonization of Palestine, America's illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the West's backing of regional despots, serious people like Obama knit their eyebrows and raise their voices to tell us that these countries are full of “terrorists.” 

Now it is true that these counties' opposition to American excesses have generally been confined to the rhetorical level, and are generally tinged with hypocrisy or employed to channel domestic discontent away from their governments' own corrupt policies. Even so these countries, like all sovereign entities, should be allowed to pursue their own policies independent of U.S. interests within the framework of international law. Otherwise they cannot claim to be free and we cannot claim to value freedom.

And speaking of “terrorists,” it is well known that some fighters who are part of the FSA are supported by al-Qaeda. Contrary to popular pronunciations, the U.S. does indeed "negotiate" with “terrorists.” In fact, it gives them weapons. 

Lastly, the recent past has conveyed in grim detail the sad truth that the U.S. government really could not care less about the lives of Middle-Easterners. To say that the U.S. is aiding the FSA because it cares about the lives of Syrian civilians is hence a boldfaced lie and an aberration of language.

While reading about the U.S. decision to arm the rebels for "humanitarian" reasons I could not help but recall the cultural awareness lessons which some American soldiers were given before they entered Iraq. The lessons were an entrée to Middle-Eastern culture as only the U.S. government could offer.

Depicting the lives of the Middle-Easterner as that of another species, the lessons focused on the subject of the “Arab Mind,” predictably concluding that Arabs are violent, inclined towards mischief and incapable of prolonged intellection. The overall impression was not unlike that given by General Westmoreland of the "Oriental" after the Vietnam War, when he said that, ''The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."

Unfortunately, it seems that on some level most Americans have assimilated this same worldview. The failed U.S.-NATO intervention in Libya completely destabilized that country, allowing not only for the free reign of religious extremists but the deaths of countless Libyans. Instead of paying even lip service to the disastrous effects of Western aggression in Libya, however, Americans are preoccupied about the administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Once more the lives of non-white, non-Western and, simply put, non-American people are considered irrelevant. As thousands of Libyans die the only remarks that Americans make about Libya are in reference to the plot of turf that the U.S. “owned” there, the U.S. lives involved and the U.S. interests vested in the country.

Yet the lives of those in the Middle-East do matter, just as the lives of all human-beings. And while Obama and his cronies would have us believe otherwise, their lives are not all that different from our own. It is only by recognizing this reality which rests before us in plain sight that we can hope to transcend the “red line[s]” of prejudice and hate. And it is only by transcending the fixations of power, violence and war that we can hope to achieve that which humanity so badly needs but seems to forever elude our grasp. Peace.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Obama, Orwell and "Modest Encroachments" of a "Classified" Kind

Imagine a society in which every key stroke, telephone conversation and online transaction is recorded by the government. This information is sifted at will and out of sight; there is no oversight of the program save for the presence of a few token monitors who are tolerated only to lend it a veneer of legality.

And while there are episodes of sudden lucidity, these are few and far between, an occasional aside offered to lull the grazing herd back to sleep. Do not worry, they are told, Big Brother is watching over you. With his soothing voice lingering through their ears, they forget that this is precisely what they should be worried about.

No, I am not writing about a fictional dystopia or communist society of the forgotten past. I am talking about the America of today.

This week President Obama acknowledged, albeit elliptically, that the U.S. government has been spying on the American public through the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA, a sprawling bureau whose activities are clouded in secrecy, has been illegally monitoring the communications of American citizens and who knows else. And Obama admits it.

What’s more, instead of opposing these illegal activities Obama has chosen to expand them. As president, Obama – an expert in constitutional law – has decided that in order to safeguard democracy in America the government must transgress democracy’s every principle. 

But let us try to enter his world for a bit.

 Like a schoolmaster, the President lectured the audience that “you can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy.”

This is a very difficult mathematical theorem to wrap one’s head around. Judging by the recent Boston bombings and school shootings, we must still enjoy at least some "privacy" from this decades-long program. Or am I mistaken?

But then again, he did say that the surveillance program was directed solely at foreigners.

So the greatest threat to national security is – contrary to all existing evidence – not the troubled people among us whom we have neglected, but those people out there. We should not worry about rehabilitating people at home but, rather, fear those evil people lurking out on the dark horizon. Yes I know, I have never actually seen, met or spoken to one of those people, but I have heard they exist (Mr. Obama told me). And they are out to get us!

Not so quick, though. Lest we get the wrong idea, professor Obama stepped in to assure us that evil does lurk amongst us because our borders are not totally impermeable to foreigners. We must guard against people whose very existence is “illegal,” to use the political term now in vogue. “Illegal” immigrants, with their “illegal” existence, simply cannot be trusted.

They grow our crops, build our roads and – gasp – even pay taxes! Look at all the opportunities they have to wreck our finely tuned democracy. We must thank Obama for his great foresight and steadfast leadership. Remember, anyone whose skin is not white is suspect; that is, anyone except Mr. Obama. 

I would continue this parody, or rather, exposition of Washington-style logic, but the rest of Obama’s presentation was farcical enough and too important to leave unaddressed.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the speech was the word choice, it being strewn with contradictions that Orwell would have appreciated.

To cite a typical example, Obama took pains to emphasize that the surveillance program was not a cloak and dagger set-up. On-lookers were assured that the agency’s investigations were not “secret” but “classified.” The significance of this semantic difference was not satisfactorily explained. Perhaps it too is “classified.”

Then Obama went on to say that far from offering the American people a simple “trust me” the program is regulated by “congressional oversight and judicial oversight.”

That same day Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the congressional intelligence committee, stated that all the success stories touted by the President all could have been solved by traditional, that is to say, legal methods:

“As far as we can see, all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods that do not violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans.”

Wyden and another member of the intelligence committee – the “congressional oversight” that Obama referred to – have repeatedly denounced the NSA program as an assault on basic civil liberties that runs counter to the ideals of democratic governance.  

There was a senator on the intelligence committee, however, who staunchly backed the necessity of NSA surveillance. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the committee, stated that there were cases which definitively show that the “program has worked.”

This happens to be the same Senator Feinstein who several months ago expressed surprise upon hearing that the operative definition of “combatant” in American drone strike attacks includes any male of adult-age. Her shock was untimely, seeing as ‘The New York Times’ had prominently published this information months earlier.

Perhaps Senator Feinstein should study the existing open-source literature before making sweeping claims about the American intelligence system, a system which she apparently knows very little about. 

Echoing Feinstein’s unsubstantiated claims, a former defense official said that “If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack.”

This statement, made by the former chief of staff to Leon Panetta, likely reveals more than the author intended. If the government truly is targeting only the information of foreigners than the amount of data they collect would surely amount to less than a proverbial “haystack.”

So there you have it, a former top defense official divulging the news that the U.S. is trawling through much more information than it currently claims – and indiscriminately so.

But Obama’s speech still takes the cake. It is not every day that you hear the President praise, and without even the slightest hint of irony, “modest encroachments.”

Yes, he admits, these activities may be illegal, antithetical to democracy and violate your civil liberties, but only in a “modest” way.

Perhaps there is a good reason for this apparent contradiction but Obama did not provide it. But then perhaps this too is “classified.”

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Education In Chains: Examining the Prison of the Classroom

        The following is an abridged version of my last essay as an undergraduate student. It was written for my modern political philosophy class and required that I use the ideas of one philosopher whom we had covered for the purpose of engaging a present-day problem. I chose education.
        Some of the essay, especially the theoretical stuff, may seem unintelligible or even crazy. To an extent this is intentional; the essay is supposed to be argumentative and engage education in a way that most people do not commonly think of it today. So while this piece is serious, it does address the issue with perhaps too broad of strokes at times. Unfortunately, I fear that I may be more right than wrong on this issue, at least as is articulated in this post. 
        Some advice. If you do not like political theory then just skim the big third and fourth paragraphs (section two). The rest of it is more straightforward and practical; it should read fairly smoothly even without much attention to section two. 
        So here it is, my last essay as an undergraduate student. For the sake of posterity and stepping on people's toes...

         Last month administrators at the University of Oregon proposed a six percent increase in the cost of tuition. While the proposal was met with tepid protest from a few quarters, the majority of students quietly tightened their belts upon hearing the news. It had been expected. Exhibiting unsurpassed administrative foresight, the University leadership had managed to surmount another barrier towards their accomplishment of an unparalleled feat – the doubling of tuition costs within a single decade.

        How are we to understand this unprecedented development? Contrary to popular belief, the proposed tuition raise is indicative of something deeper than the obvious issues of economics, student representation and administrative venality. Rather, it is indicative of a series of power dynamics which are deeply rooted in modern conceptions of education. Drawing from the philosophy of Michel Foucault, this essay seeks to provide a small glimpse of these power dynamics at work, taking a deeper look at the recent tuition raise in order to show that it is but the latest episode in a process of control and disempowerment that occurs within educational institutions. What becomes clear is the fact that institutions of education almost universally fall short of their mission statements which speak of fostering critical thought and a love of learning. And this is intentional.

        Foucault writes that modernity is characterized and, indeed made possible, by the exercise of a peculiar form of power which he terms disciplinary power. Its historical genesis is best observed in the European penal system’s transformation from one of stunning violence and rule by fiat to a system which prides itself for its apparently humane punitions and legal uniformity. This astounding development, Foucault suggests, did not arise out of thin air but, rather, was championed by specific interests and made possible by discernible socioeconomic developments. More specifically, “the economy of illegalities,” which had so incensed bourgeois interests with its competing courts and seemingly arbitrary character, was “restructured with the development of capitalist society” to suit the interests of the ascendant bourgeois class (Foucault 87). This exchange of a “bad economy of power” for a more rational one entailed a dramatic restructuring of the penal system (79). Consequently, a “double process” occurred in which the graphic “spectacle” of royal power was abandoned, followed by the “elimination of [conspicuous] pain” from the legal process (11). What arose in its place was a set of judicial norms which sought to assess “something other than crimes,” namely “the ‘soul’ of the criminal” (19). To put this differently, the penal system became an instrument through which the normality of an offender was measured and, consequently, this measurement functioned as “a technical prescription” for the “possible normalization” of the offender (20).

        But why, one might ask, was there sudden preoccupation with normality? As the locus of power shifted from the monarchy to the bourgeoisie, young capitalist societies required a new type of subject if the emerging economic paradigm was to function smoothly. Thus the king's subject was molded into the industrialist's rational citizen, a denatured and interchangeable cog within a monochrome social order. In the legal realm this meant that the “expiation that once rained down upon the body” was replaced by one which “acts in depth on the heart, the thoughts, the will, the inclinations,” ever testing the limits of humankind’s malleability in order to produce a more perfect citizen. Foucault asserts that this obsession with uniformity, precision and, perhaps most notably, productivity has left an indelible mark on modern society, shaping all its facets through a diffuse “micro-physics of power” (26). This all-encompassing system of “indefinite discipline” is “exercised rather than possessed,” and based on the idea that the “body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body” (227; 26). Modern society is suffused with methods of discipline, ill-perceived but powerfully coercive means of conditioning our actions, thoughts and values for the purpose of maintaining economic productivity and existing social hierarchies.

        This genealogy of disciplinary power provides a useful theoretical framework for understanding education in the modern world. Apparent diversity in classes, programs and institutional philosophies mask the role of several coercive principles which are universally shared by academic institutions. Contrary to wispy statements about the value of critical thinking, schools are above all meant to achieve one goal: the subordination of all creative instinct and total integration of young people into prevailing social and economic norms. Foucault directly engages this reality when he writes about the Lancaster method of schooling, the quintessential model of industrial education. Styling itself as a “machine for learning,” the Lancaster method prepared children for the highly regimented world of the factory by instilling obedience as well as an unquestioning work ethic (165). A deep and profound respect for authority is inscribed on the souls of the students, and, as in the workplace, students are divided along the lines of rank and performance. There is a time for everything as, indeed, every moment of the school day is rigidly accounted for. There is time to read, write, count – everything except for time to freely think. In short, the Lancaster student is taught all that they need to know, that is, if they are to be a cog within the industrial order.

        While the inscription of obedience and industrial discipline on the souls of the Lancaster students may seem hardly analogous to the inner workings of present-day academic institutions, the two fulfill much the same function. One must remember that the Lancaster students were all drawn from the lower-classes and, consequently, the type of obedience instilled in them was meant to suite their particular position in the social hierarchy. While students who attend universities are generally from higher social strata, their education is nevertheless meant to instill a type of obedience to the existing economic order appropriate to their prescribed role. And though the manner in which university students are impressed into this order is different, it is no less insidious. In any case, it is certainly no less ruthless.

        The University of Oregon’s six percent tuition increase for the next academic year provides an illustrative example of how students are rendered docile and obedient to the status quo. In a nation of debtors, student debt has become one of the most outstanding financial burdens imposed on Americans – and essentially financially illiterate youth, at that. Yes, we can smirk while reading about the plainly authoritarian character of the Lancaster method, but one should not forget that today’s students are in their own way hammered into the preexisting socioeconomic order -- a hierarchal system which grips them by a chain of debt about five to six figures long. For the Lancaster students, there was never this degree of material leverage so they had to be controlled by immersion in a more palpably authoritarian environment if they were to remain docile. In striking contrast, the average university student today is animated by an additional mode of discipline: a form of debt-bondage whose combination of psychological violence and less refined forms of coercion grip them while employing the most questionable legal/economic rationale. It is a type of control which lies at the crossroads between Foucault’s conception of disciplinary power and power’s more vividly coercive modes.

        And as in the courts and industrial schools of the nineteenth century, institutions of education today are eminently concerned with questions of normality. That is to say, schools in a very real way function as laboratories in which the productive capacity, mechanical endowment and obedience of the student is measured for the purpose of crafting the ideal citizen. Today the measurements or “technical prescription[s]” for the “normalization” of the student are so obvious as to be unnoticed (20). Within the laboratory of the classroom the student is administered ‘tests’ as if they were a chemical solution within a ‘test’-tube. Any impurities are duly noted and a ‘grade’ which categorizes, classifies and ranks the quality of the student is assigned, much like determining the ‘grade’ of industrial steel. As Foucault explains, the “educational space” is not merely a “learning machine” but also “a machine for supervising, hierarchizing, [and] rewarding” (147). If the ‘grade’ is low then there may be hope of salvaging the material while it is still young; however, there is always the danger that the corrupted material will contaminate others. Thus at one point it may become necessary to quarantine the abnormal ones, especially if they will not stay confined to the cell of their desk, corrupting other impressionable material. Such students are sent to ‘detention,’ an auxiliary laboratory of sorts where pathologies are assessed as well as the prospect of the aberrant student’s reintegration into the ‘student body.’

       It is also worth noting that the regime of power that schools embody is, as Foucault suggests, linked to the creation of knowledge and its dissemination. Just like prisoners, students are reduced to “objects of knowledge,” a preoccupation of scientific fields; and it is important to note that the exercise of power and production of knowledge “directly imply one another” (27). In fact, the complex interplay of power and knowledge is manifested most obviously at the level of the school. Not only are students assayed with the intellectual tools and technologies of discipline, but they themselves are simultaneously taught these same scientific powers with the intention that they will eventually take part in the maintenance of disciplinary power. To state this differently, even while the students are judged they are trained to become “subsidiary judges,” or people who perpetuate the system of coercive controls, especially those who are at institutions of higher education (21).

        It is hence to be expected that education has a corporatizing element behind it, which is to say that it is primarily meant to homogenize students for the purpose of maintaining existing socioeconomic arrangements. The exercise of individual liberty, and indeed the creation of subjectivity itself, takes place within this homogenizing process. One then should not be surprised that the most valued intellectual endeavors are limited to those with immediate economic utility such as finance, economics and the hard sciences; in school, there is a definite hierarchy of knowledge. Inversely, discussions of education inevitably engage the issue in terms of cost-benefit analysis, viewing education as primarily an economic ‘investment.’

        What's more, the ‘liberty’ the student is confronted with may be understood as the choice between what regime of discipline they shall be subjected to at school depending on their field of study. And when considering the relationship between school and work – for education is inevitably understood in terms of its economic function – students implicitly exercise their ‘liberty’ to choose what regime of discipline they will be subjected to in the workplace through their field of study. We must also remember that institutions of higher education have themselves become profit-driven businesses, legalized cartels which raise tuition costs to ever dizzying heights even while making the laughable claim that they are ‘public’ institutions. To paraphrase Foucault, it should not be surprising that schools are like businesses, businesses like prisons and prisons like schools. That most students remain quiet under the weight of such exploitation is a powerful indicator of the extent to which disciplinary power has instilled an acceptance or, at the very least, imposed a resigned obedience to this nasty process.

        Lastly, it is worth examining some of the technologies by which discipline is exercised in the classroom, ones which students of the Lancaster method would easily recognize. Perhaps the most obvious similarity between current and past methods is the calculated use of space and time. Whether desks are assigned to rows or other military-like formations, the classroom is a space in which education is to be maximized. Space and rigid class schedules are premised on the goal of “constituting a totally useful time,” rather than allowing for the exercise of creative power or deviation from the prescribed lesson (150). And as in earlier forms of religious schooling, the goal is the “gradual acquisition of knowledge and good behavior” (161). But how is this “knowledge and good behavior” to be acquired? Since the rise of industrial education the education model has been premised on the idea that knowledge is to be inscribed on the student by the teacher, whether by repetition or dispensation.

        The most notable example of this dogma at the university level is the lecture, the teaching format which has come to personify the university experience itself. At its basic level, the lecture assumes that the student will ‘learn’ a subject within a prescribed period by absorbing the information delivered through the teacher, almost as if the student is to gain knowledge across an osmotic gradient. The role of the student is inherently passive: the student sits as the teacher stands; the student listens as the teacher speaks; and the teacher sets the agenda for learning, not the student. In short, the student is taught that they are not capable of learning anything on their own power but, rather, require the help of a divine intermediary – the teacher. At this stage, however, the disciplinary process has reached a point of maturity. To most students, the fact that they are to sit quietly without making a sound, almost as if in a state of prostration, appears to be the most natural thing. For by this point they have nearly completed their transformation into the model citizen.

        Despite the pervasive power of disciplinary regimes, it is important to note that these regimes are never entirely successful. Even while the Lancaster method was in vogue, the landscape of Europe was punctuated by strikes and contoured by an undercurrent of dissent, sometimes revolution. And at present, a healthy skepticism resulting from the United States’ wars in the Middle-East and the Great Recession has electrified people towards acts of resistance, many of whom would previously not have thought about challenging the status quo. These observations remain true for education. Student debt, poor practices and authoritarian ideas continue to shape education worldwide, especially at the institutional level. In the face of these pressures, however, there are still excellent teachers, students who are hungry to learn and classes that encourage students to think for themselves...


Works Cited:

 Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977. Print.