Education Is Political


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This post on education philanthropy by Megan Tompkins-Stange could give us a lot to discuss, but the most alarming point for me is the total failure of the technocratic people to accept the legitimacy of the political. Of anything political. Of course education is deeply political, since it is (among other things) training for life in the polis. There really is no separating the question “what is a good education?” from “what is a good social order?”; they are distinct but interdependent questions.

But not for some:

For example, when asked about the foundation’s work on the Common Core, Bill Gates told a Washington Post reporter, “These are not political things,” he said. “These are where people are trying to apply expertise to say, ‘Is this a way of making education better?'”

Note he’s not saying that his education philanthropy is not political, which might be taken to mean that it doesn’t arise from a partisan preference – which is probably true. What he’s saying is that education itself is not political.

And of course, as we have known since Plato, the failure to recognize the political nature of political questions is only a way of concealing the tyrannical exercise of power over politics. The tyrannical nature of the action is disguised by defining it as “not political.”

Think I’m exaggerating? Tompkins-Stange draws our attention to this:

In a much-circulated piece in the Wall Street Journal last fall, founding Facebook president Sean Parker described “hacker philanthropy” as “a desire to ‘hack’ complex problems using elegant technological and social solutions, and an almost religious belief in the power of data to aid in solving those problems.” As an example, Parker proposed funding private militias to conduct peacekeeping operations rather than government armies.

She notes that “in response, Princeton historian Stanley Katz wrote: ‘I teach public policy, and I’d be very concerned about a graduate student who told me that he felt confident that private militias should replace government military forces in troubled parts of the world. Wouldn’t you?'”

2 Responses to Education Is Political

  1. George Mitchell says:

    Recall that Gates ditched vouchers after concluding it was too contentious. And then he completely misread common core politics.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Good point. Heaven forbid that reforming the way our social order treats the rearing of children should require us to get involved in arguments about the nature and purpose of the social order!

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