June 30, 2009

The Age of Enlightenment on its way out

There’s not a lot of agreement on what it means to be “enlightened,” but for starters we could look at back to the middle of the 18th century.

That would be a couple of decades before a handful of truly enlightened souls cobbled together a declaration of independence, and about 150 years before these united states committed to an education system funded by the public purse (1870).

Voltaire, according to some, thought the appeal of the new way of thinking boiled down to seven social and intellectual phenomena:
— the autonomy of reason
— perfectibility and progress
— confidence in the ability to discover causality
— principles governing nature, man and society
— assault on authority
— cosmopolitan solidarity of enlightened intellectuals, and
— a disgust with nationalism.
(Gerhard Rempel, Western New England College)
I could argue that the corporatist siege squeezing the moral life out of this country, perpetrated by heavily lobbied facilitators at every level of government, has maneuvered us in totally the opposite direction. We’ve abandoned all of Voltaire’s phenomena.

The Age of Enlightenment is well on its way out, and the ignorance, social chaos and repression of the Middle Ages are making a big comeback.

The campaign against Reason is spearheaded here in New York City by the mayor and his five-star general Joel Klein. They command a whole army of hastily trained-up staff sergeants from the Leadership Academy and a slew of corporate players bidding for pieces of the education pie.

BloomKlein campaigns best when the rest of us are overworked, apathetic or comatose. Shuffling things around under the guise of reform, they’ve come up with ill-conceived reorganizations, a perverted school grading system, falsified testing analyses, and some very strange notions of quality education.

These are the fabrications of an unenlightened oligarchy.

They don’t seek to understand or fix the underlying problems of the system — like overstuffed classrooms, too few experienced certified teachers, not enough school buildings, arts and phys ed programs, or services for special needs. They don’t listen to educators or parents, they intentionally place blame where it doesn’t belong, and they show little respect laws that get in their way.

Thumped for half a generation at least, we’ve learned how to keep taking it on the chin. We're becoming un-enlightened.

Across the country, being educated, articulate, and rational in thought has somehow become a bad thing. We’re still reeling from a federal administration that put nationalism at an all-time high and the ability to reason at an all-time low.

Nevertheless, the reasoning people among us are forever confident in the ability to discover causality, so we should be able to think this one through:

Oligarchs grab power when society allows them to. Enlightened people need to get out in the streets and stop them.

That’s what they did two hundred years ago, and that’s what they need to do now.

Just like what they've already been doing:
at P.S. 57 in Manhattan . . .
at P.S. 160 in the Bronx . . .
at IS 218 in East New York . . .
at IS 278 in Brooklyn . . .
At Bethel Church in Harlem . . .

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