Tuesday, July 15, 2008

School Monopolies and Monoculturism

This post has two sections: an examination of the Tolerance Paradox and a part on the rise of the Public School Monopoly.

The Tolerance Paradox

My last post was about the accusation that America, as a whole, was monocultural. I argue that the United States has been far more accomodating of cultural diversity than other nations. In being accomodating of other cultures, we have also been accomodating of the prejudices from these cultures. Notably, the European settlers in the United States tended to maintain their European bias.

BTW, one of the many examples of the reflexive paradox is the observation that a tolerant government would be tolerant of individual prejudices. It is also the nature of Democratically elected governments to reflect the collective prejudices of the people. It is not uncommon for politicians in a free society to encourage the development of prejudices to gain political power. BTW, there has never been a political party that was free of prejudices in some form or another. Anyone foolish enough to believe their political group is free of prejudice is deluded. Those who are intolerant of intolerance are, themselves, intolerant.

On the issue of paradox. Paradoxes lead immediately to conflict. The tolerance paradox means that there is a conflict between American ideals and the actions of individuals. There is not a resolution of the tolerance paradox. We can and should denounce politicians who try to use intolerance (it is myriad of forms) to gain political power. Yet, we must realize that one never achieves their ideals.

The Public School Monopoly

Last week the Cato Podcast had a conversation with Neal McClusky (right click and select "save" to download MP3) notes that a driving factor for the establishment of a progressive public school monopoly was a belief that a democracy must have a monoculture to survive. The type of thinking that led to the establishment of the present public school monopoly was very much in sync with the thinking of Hegelian/Marxist mindset that dominated Europe in the 1900s and led to two world wars and vast killing fields.

For that matter, the desire to socialize children and give them all identical educations is routinely used in arguments against charter and private schools ... as we saw in last year's voucher debate.

The American founders did not include instructions on how to set up a public school monopoly in our Constitution. For that matter, one could argue that the present day politically charged public school monopoly is anathema to the beliefs of the founders.

The odd thing is that the public school monopoly, which from its inception was set up to establish a monoculture, markets itself as a bastion of multiculturism, and attacks mainstream America for monoculturism.

The marketing isn't that odd. Exxon/Mobile advertises itself as a bastion of environmental concern and has spent more money on environmental remediation than any other company. The odd thing is that so many people fall for the line.


A free society will never rid itself of intolerance. (Free people are free to point out prejudice when they find it, but there is no way to force people from holding intolerant positions without intolerance.) A tolerant society seeks to protect its citizens, but does not seek to control their minds.

As for the state of tolerance, Americans have been fared better than the majority of cultures throughout history. We are still far from our ideal and there is room for improvement.

As for the charge of monoculturism in America, I would point out that the leading source of monoculturalism today is the public school monopoly. Claims that the school monopoly is a source of multiculturalism is the same as saying that Exxon is the standard bearer of environmental action.


Scott Hinrichs said...

In fact, to become a state Utah was required to develop a public education program. Educators that came from out of state to establish the new bureaucracy freely admitted to colleagues that they were going to Utah to re-educate Mormon kids. Some were so bold as to say their mission was to destroy Mormon culture over a generation. They wanted to bring Utahns into the mainstream.

Today the educational industrial complex works not to culturalize kids into the American mainstream, but to remake the American mainstream in the image of a different world view.

And elitist 'intellectuals' wonder why the public holds them in such low regard.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, here with this writing I am actually not so much in agreement.

For instance, in the Netherlands long considered to be extremely tolerant of immigrants, and highly tolerant of practically anything, and the main reason I suppose is for trade and trade alone. However, recently this very tolerant culture has relented against a backlash of Muslim immigrants who are extremely intolerant to the already established tolerance of different beliefs and ways of carrying oneself. So yes, perhaps a tolerant government is for a time tolerant of individual prejudice, but in the Netherlands I would argue that this paradox or what have you is on the decline, as the Dutch are attempting to educate these new immigrants that if they don't like the Dutch way of life, a bastion of tolerance, then they might as well pack up and leave.

As for monoculturalism being caused by public schools I must disagree, and I'm not entirely sure how you came to this reasoning. I would contend that public schools contribute no more than any other school institution. I will however point out the song by Pete Seeger "Little Boxes" as a prime example of the standardization of American values and forcing the so called "American Dream" on citizens as if it were the only acceptable way to live life. Despite the conformity that schools bring about, they do without a doubt highlight standard cultural values, as all schools should. I contend that public schools propagate monoculturalism no more than a private school at any rate. Again, I agree that there is an attempt to force conformity to societal ideals, but I fail to see how you come up with the idea that public schools create monoculturalism. I might be more apt to agree with you if you felt that colleges promote monoculturalism, but it would have to be a strong argument, to contradict more than just conforming to societal ideals.

Some friendly disagreement for you.
Whoops! My apologies I got carried away and wrote far more than was necessary.

y-intercept said...

First, my comments on public schools are really a reaction to the perception that public schools are the primary source of diversity. I put up a link to a podcast by Neal McClusky arguing that a primary driving force behind the establishment of public schools was to set up a common culture and a common language.

The main reason for this post is that most of the dichotomies pushed forward are false dichotomies. The politically minded often try to frame debates with statements like "I am for tolerance and my opponents are intolerant," or, "I am for multiculturism while my opponent is monocultural."

This type of argument is really nothing more than labeling.

Neither issues work as foundational issues for a society. Both issues lead immediately to paradox. In many cases they lead to cycles of action and reaction, or to nihilism.

The Netherlands realize that the Muslim voting block might someday rise and take over their country. The action of hyper-tolerance leads to a choice of nihilism or reaction.

I see that Lost Professor is interested in Spanish and Portuguese.

Neither languages would have existed if it were not for rebellion against the Moors and the Reconquista.

The classical liberal ideal is that people and groups should be free up to the point where their freedom impinges on the freedom of others.