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ERIC Number: ED548774
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 199
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2676-7694-8
Political Economy of American Education: Democratic Citizenship in the Heart of Empire
Falk, Thomas Michael
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, The Ohio State University
Chief among the goals of American education is the cultivation of democratic citizens. Contrary to State catechism delivered through our schools, America was not born a democracy; rather it emerged as a republic with a distinct bias against democracy. Nonetheless we inherit a great demotic heritage. Abolition, the labor struggle, women's suffrage, and Civil Rights, for example, struck mighty blows against the established political and economic power of the State. State political economies, whether capitalist, socialist, or communist, each express characteristics of a slave society. All feature oppression, exploitation, starvation, and destitution as constitutive elements. In order to survive in our capitalist society, the average person must sell the contents of her life in exchange for a wage. Fundamentally, I challenge the equation of State schooling with public and/or democratic education. Our schools have not historically belonged to a democratic public. Rather, they have been created, funded, and managed by an elite class wielding local, state, and federal government as its executive arms. Schools are economic institutions, serving a division of labor in the reproduction of the larger economy. Rather than the school, our workplaces are the chief educational institutions of our lives. Here we spend the bulk of our time and efforts. Our jobs constitute our deepest point of political impact upon society. As Adam Smith and Karl Marx both recognized, people are formed by their ordinary employments; our daily habits and modes of association determine who we are. Thus the character of our workplaces, whether democratic, autocratic, or theocratic, serves as the best barometer for the character of our culture. Since the late-19th century, capitalist industry has sought to transform the worker into the beast of burden whose primary life function is to labor for the enlargement of capital. Hence the education of daily working life, subservience to those who control our access to food, shelter, and healthcare, reproduces docility and political apathy. The rat race to "succeed" in our culture by becoming wealthy enough to escape this servility, amounts to a Spencerian contest of survival of the fittest, with capital prefigured to increase its power over the herd-like working class regardless of the contest's winner. Emancipation begins in the habits and relations of daily life. Capacity for democratic citizenship issues from participation in horizontal and egalitarian social structures at the local level. Therefore the educational task of our time is to create such forms, build democratic lifeways into our schools and workplaces, and prepare to challenge the autocracy of capitalist industry. In the democratic future, freed from mechanical toil and the tyranny of imminent destitution, we will experience a new renaissance and discover the genius of our species. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A