Tag Archives: Psychoindustry

Education

People sometimes use the word education when in fact they mean brainwashing. I’m quite sure that most people who do that are not aware of the fact that they do so because they have been brainwashed themselves.

An example: “We should put more funding in education of African countries so that they can build a democracy from the bottom up”. Great idea, but how would this look in practice? Money would go to certain organizations, monitored by their funders according to Western standards. They would employ people to build education programs, benchmarked along Western thought, then train people to teach the deep truths that stand at the base our beautiful democracy, powered solely by light and guided by the highest ethics. Then, at the end, of course, they are checked for optimal performance.

Such structures provided by nation states are often seen as education. Mandatory programs, packages of concepts, knowledge that is transferred and tested, ranking the students into their overseeable life paths, may lift society to a different standard, but they are only a limited part, a controllable bit, of a collective learning process that could also be tuned to enlivening, respect and curiosity-driven exploration of whatever it is that the human mind is eager to find out. I would say real education starts at the point where teacher and student receive the space and the freedom to show each other their views on reality in all its colours.

Transmission of knowledge is important, but we should honour the pathway through which this occurs. That pathway would in my view be called mutual trust. The possibility that another might see something out there which you don’t, not because he or she is more or less capable or suitable to see it, but merely because that other stands on a different position. Exams and profiles undermine such trust.

To translate this back to the omnipotent West, perhaps indeed, there was a time when our long fought for ideals made sense and empowered society at large. But these ideals are starting to take the form of dogmas, heritage we should protect and keep in place with tighter rules and regulations. Our knowledge is growing old, expiring, starting to fail us and begging for fresh inputs from the same societies we have kept in the enlightened dark for centuries.

And yet more importantly, I think we should all allow our inner wise guys to sometimes shut up and listen to the voice of the weak and silent for a change. The fact that we still understand education in a top-down way, taking all these quality checks for granted, shows us a whole lot about our status quos. If only we could see that in the mirror…

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Psychoindustry – II

This is a school.

More precisely, it is a secondary Montessori school, which is one of the freer kinds of Dutch schools, where children are supposed to follow their own curiosity and where the role of the teacher is to facilitate that. This school hosts about 4000 people, who spend the majority of their adolescence here. It’s where their minds take shape.

In 1973, Edward Relph wrote his dissertation on ‘Place and Placelessness’. In it he worked out a theory on how the place we find ourselves in shapes our feelings, our beliefs and behavioural patterns. We identify with our places, and partially become them. The theory is used by some architects, and proof for it is accumulating in psychological studies.

Take a look at the school again. Straight, squared lines, regular shapes. The rooms enable just distribution of space, equal for all students. The place is fair, overseeable, easy to cope with, efficient and justifiable to whichever authority paid it. An efficient school to efficiently educate kids into efficient members of society. It does look a bit like an industrial grid, doesn’t it?

Without looking at important factors such as the educational rules and programs of this school, or the structure of society in general, I think this building has huge impact on the development of the personalities of the younger generations. To speculate: it may increase a person’s preference for a predictable life where he or she feels in control. It may subconsciously decrease creativity, openness to the unknown and innovative thinking, but strengthen skills such as the capacity to structure data, perceiving people as numbers and following rules. I believe that school buildings such as this one stimulate more machine-like, cold and lifeless attitudes than, for example, a school composed of little huts in a forest. More industrial minds, capable of more industrial decisions. In that sense, the building fits the age.

Psychoindustry

On february 13th, a group of students decided to occupy the Bungehuis. That building was just sold by the University of Amsterdam, who no longer wished to use it for education of arts and languages. Students did not agree with a debate night, they wanted commitments by the board. At the time the building was still being used by the UvA, and many people, including the press thought the occupation went too far. But the Faculty of Humanities supported them.

After several attempts to talk to the occupants, the municipality of Amsterdam ordered the riot police to evict the occupants at dawn of the 24th. They were taken to jail, where they were held for some days.

That afternoon, a different group of students hit the streets for a protest march against the eviction. 300 of them went towards the Maagdenhuis, the board office, and occupied that instead. They were visited by the Mayor, but did not leave. They presented their demands the nex morning: resignation of the board and democratization of the decision-making.

In the years after the crisis, there have been enormous government cuts on university subsidies. Students are no longer funded, research budgets have reduced and teachers no longer have time to attend the enormous amounts of students, a problem that has worsened throughout the years. Instead of being places for dialogue and reciprocal teaching, Universities are turning into psychoindustries where minds are bred and force-fed information without being able to digest it in a social or ethical context. This is what the students protest, and they are finding support.

The students are still there. Over 400 teachers and employees have already signed their loss of confidence in the board. There have been protests on similar topics all over the country. More are scheduled. Nationwide newspapers acknowledge the issue. Just now, as I write this the UvA has offered a plan to increase democratization, and pressurize the government.

It is no isolated movement, but it’s part of a global trend. It’s not just the universities that are being industrialized, it’s all of us, and all nature that surrounds us. We are letting it happen, and it’s going too far. It is for that reason that this simple impulse has triggered something so much bigger. The movement has not stopped, and will not until we liberate our psyches. Let this be a motivation for all of us.

The mental chains are cracking and with our effort they will break.