Friday, August 14, 2015

Education and Incarceration in the Brave New Nation

In a 1949 letter to George Orwell, Aldous Huxley wrote:
Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.
More prescient words have rarely been written.

Though nothing new, the kindness and cruelty our leaders use to persuade the populace is maturing into something frightening these days in the United States, where it rages like bi-polar twins at a family reunion.

Thanks to the Citizens United decision, the same billionaires who own the Big Banks and Big Media also own the politicians, and Huxley's "instruments of government" drip from drums of tear gas and glossy political ads.

Government officials around the country wave diseased olive branches and dollars in the face of the Opt Out Movement, for example, while sharpening arrows for anyone on the streets after dark.

In New York State, newly-minted education commissioner and Mrs. Doubtfire’s sister-from-another-mister MaryEllen Elia thinks parents and communities just don’t understand why the state must continue clubbing our kids and their schools with inane standardized tests.  The commissioner believes people can still fall in love with tests whose sole purpose is to enrich plutocrats on the sweat of students and middle-class workers.  The unelected Elia holds an olive branch in one hand and a fist in the other, threatening to coax people into submission if she cannot cajole them first.

With the number of students refusing to take the federally-mandated tests quadrupling in one year, the commissioner, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and even Governor Andrew Cuomo have to realize that the horses are out of the barn, but they will try—at least for now—to corral them using the pricey tools of public relations instead of the tools of incarceration. Charlatans like Jeremiah "I'm not an Educator" Kittredge from Families for Excellent Schools and Jenny Sedlis from StudentsFirstNY, for instance, will continue spewing forth commercials promoting Cuomo Core and fraudulent vulture charter schools.     

Try as they may, NYSED will not sweep away the Refuse movement.

Speaking of Cuomo and incarceration, t
he governor and other leaders for that matter have been silent about tactics within the state's prisons that would make Dick Cheney blush.  A recent report in The New York Times details what took place at the Clinton Correctional Facility in the aftermath of the infamous escape of two convicted murderers, when officials allegedly tried to beat information out of inmates, and yes, even threatened to waterboard them if they didn't comply.  

To make matters worse, during his jaunt through the jail, the Lobbyist for the Students was filmed talking to an inmate, and punctuated his monologue with his "best tough-guy stare", according to the inmate. 

Just hours later, the same inmate was handcuffed and bludgeoned in a broom closet by guards who wore no name badges.

"Right this way, sir."

When someone is tortured shortly after the state's most powerful elected leader stared him down, in the words of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, "that's not going to be good for anybody." 

Contrary to the whims of groups like the National Urban League—who recently gave Cuomo an award for “leadership in criminal justice reform", ordinary Americans face heavy-handed, heavily-funded efforts by Cuomo and others for opting out and speaking out.

And while Cuomo may be proud of shutting down some of the prisons his father opened, it didn't stop him from recently shutting down the mouth of activist Allen Roskoff. Roskoff, President of the Jim Owls Liberal Democratic Club, was arrested for disrupting an event where Cuomo received another bogus award, this time for his "progressive leadership."

Evidently, modern progressivism entails attacking public education and the First Amendment, among other things.

Roskoff ( 2nd from l.) was even more shocked to end up in a blue and white.  

Across the country, bullies abound. But they are not merely confined to buses and school locker rooms. They also lurk in state houses and corporate boardrooms, quick to shove verdicts and public policies down people's throats before they even smell them.

It is a lust for power like no other, since the technology of today is like no other. Huxley's "infant conditioning" and "narco-hypnosis" come standard on iPads and in bottles of prescription pills, after all.

And it is also not surprising that Commissioner Elia vows the tests will be embraced once they're computerized; technology has a knack for lulling many into submission.

And if they can't lull us into submission, they'll beat us.

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