I am posting another great RSA animation, this time Barbara Ehrenreich on forced optimism and social control.  I would add another factor/cause/aspect to her discussion:  forced mass schooling.  The almost complete success of forced mass schooling is supposedly linked with economic success but the side effects of this new idea may prove more debilitating to developing democracy and governance in the nation-state than was first thought when the Prussian educational innovations were adopted by the wealthy, Victorian Americans who created and fostered mass schooling in the US.

Peer pressure, peer dependence, acculturation to authoritarian structures, acceptance of hierarchical ranking, the increasing dependence on schooling for jobs, the decline of social capital and its moderation of schooling's social effects ---  all these factors produce negative social consequences on many levels.  In addition, research for the past 50 years strengthens earlier intuitions that there are side effect to literacy, the most cherished of values.

Even for students in calm and productive mass schooling environments, the psychological effects are a kind of tone-deafness, a far easier acceptance of the role of force and authority in society and a widening of their tolerance of ranking/grading/division and, in this generation, inequality.  Schools provide lots of training in learning to countenance ranking according to perceived ability, unfair competition, and authoritarian structure.  When schools were within strong communities whose majority did not rely on schooling for a vocation, there were limits to the effects, ways the negatives were offset that have dropped away in this generation.

We are told that changing our lives takes positive thinking rather than real social change.  But anti-depressants rarely fix families broken by income inequalities, many embedded in an educational system using Victorian ideas of human motivation and psychology, ideas disproved in the 20th century.

Forced optimism and social controls are also part of our educational experiences where, even today, we hear phrases like achievement gap and accept them without thinking, blaming the victim. It is all about achievement, the exception, the one who does something extra .... we do not have a system that is about our children and their gifts and talents and supporting the massive amount of human energy available.

It is about portioning out positions and awards and titles in a hierarchy which can only maintained by excluding ever greater numbers of people.  It's like a gymnastic act whose family is now far greater than the act can manage.  Maybe they should allow a few more acts on stage.

Anyway ...

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