Education For Whom and For What?

Education For Whom and For What?

September 8, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


[MUSIC PLAYING] Good evening, everyone. My name is John
Paul Jones and I’m the Dean of the College of
Social and Behavioral Sciences. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. On behalf of the
College’s faculty, staff, and students I
want to welcome all of you here tonight for the first
annual SPS Annual Lecture and, without a doubt, this is
going to be a very hard act to follow. Before we get started, I
have a few people to thank. The first is Al Bergesen, head
of the Department of Sociology, who recommended
this series as a way to showcase the best of the
social and behavioral sciences to our local community. [APPLAUSE] Second, I’d like to
thank two faculty who have been long associated
with Professor Chomsky and who helped make
his appearance here tonight possible, Massimo
Piattelli-Palmarini and Thomas Bever. [APPLAUSE] Both teach in our world-class
Department of Linguistics. [APPLAUSE] And, in fact, there are so
many faculty with research ties to Chomsky in the
Department of Linguistics that this department
is sometimes referred to as MIT West. [LAUGHTER] I’d also like to thank
the head of the Department of Linguistics, Simin Karimi,
as well as the many faculty, staff, and students
from the department who have been working
so hard on this event. On the screen behind me is
a list of some of the donors who have helped sponsor
tonight’s lecture. I would especially like to thank
our co-sponsor, Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry and
its director, Javier Duran. [APPLAUSE] Financial support has also
come from members of the SPS Magellan Circle and
tonight’s event is especially underwritten by Magellan Circle
member, Elise Collins Shields and her husband,
Creston Shields. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] I’d also like to thank the
support of the Arizona Daily Star, the College of Education
and its dean, Ron Marks, and the College of
Humanities and its dean, Mary Wildner-Bassett. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Others contributing
to this event include the School
of Anthropology, the Cognitive Science
Program, the Department of Communication, the
Department of Computer Science, the School of Geography
and Development, the Department of Gender and
Women’s Studies, the School of Government and Public Policy,
the Department of History, the School of Journalism,
the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the School of Middle
Eastern and North African Studies, the Department
of Psychology, the Department of Sociology,
and the UA bookstores. [APPLAUSE] And thanks to everyone
in the dean’s office and in SPS development and
the Centennial Hall Group who have put all
of this together. Thank you all very much. Well, now, what can I say
about tonight’s speaker? Who, after all, has been as
intellectually influential as Noam Chomsky? The author of 100 books
and countless articles, he is the founder of
modern linguistics. His ideas have not only
revolutionized linguistics, they have indelibly
shaped anthropology, cognitive science, childhood
education, computer science, the languages, mathematics,
psychology, philosophy, and speech. In fact, you can find
self-described Chomskyites in every field that
asks the question, what does it mean to be human? If there was a Nobel Prize for
social and behavioral sciences, he would have won it long
ago with his original book, the first book,
Syntactic Structures, which appeared in 1957. He is, according to
the Chicago Tribune, the most cited living
author and he’s third most cited in the
world behind Plato and Freud. [APPLAUSE] Professor Chomsky gave a
research talk yesterday to a small group–
1,200 faculty, students, and community members and
the US Student Union– and I have to say, I was
overwhelmed by the response. Tucson, by all rights,
you have a claim on the title the
Athens of the West. And, of course,
there is Chomsky– the public intellectual, the
self-described libertarian, socialist, and
anarchist, a critic of established politicians on
both the left and the right. [APPLAUSE] An activist who has
influenced millions, Professor Chomsky is well known
for his relentless critiques of US foreign policy
from his outspoken stance against the Vietnam War and his
first political book, American Power and the New Mandarins,
to his forthcoming 2012 volume, a collection of essays titled
Making the Future, Occupations, Interventions, Empire,
and Resistance. [APPLAUSE] The topic of tonight’s
lecture, education for whom and for what, draws on
another line of critique. One based on a
lifetime of thinking about education’s role in the
pursuit of democracy, justice, and freedom. For us at the
University of Arizona, these issues are of
utmost importance as we grapple with how to
maintain quality and access in the face of over $180 million
of budget cuts in recent years. Today, only 16% of the
total university budget comes from the state,
a figure that is half of what it was 10 years ago. Of course, these cuts have
occurred not just in Arizona, but in all states
and they go directly to the question of whether
higher education should be a public good, a common
investment in our children’s and our state’s
futures, or, instead, solely a private matter
left to would-be students and their families. Professor Chomsky’s remarks
tonight will undoubtedly spark reflection on this and
many other questions related to education. And now I’d like
to say a few words about tonight’s proceedings. Following Professor
Chomsky’s talk, we have allotted approximately
30 minutes for a question and answer period moderated
by Arizona Public Media’s Christopher Conover who
was up here a minute ago. Mr. Conover has over 23 years
of experience in broadcast journalism and has been a
mainstay at KUAT and KUAZ since 2005 and I’m very grateful
to him for his help tonight. [APPLAUSE] Finally, throughout
the evening I ask that whatever your opinions,
you respect those of our guest and your neighbors in
the audience for tonight we have a unique
opportunity to engage in thoughtful, civil discourse
with one of the greatest intellectuals and public
figures of our time. Please join me in giving
a warm Tucson welcome to Professor Noam Chomsky. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very much. Mic check. Mic check. Mic check. Mic check. Thank you– Thank you– — for supporting– — for supporting– I can’t hear what
you are saying. [INAUDIBLE] [APPLAUSE] I’m truly glad you
came to say hello. [INAUDIBLE] Sorry. I couldn’t hear it, but I’m
sure it was very important. So I hope everyone else did. [LAUGHTER] Well, I’m going to concentrate
mostly on higher education, but that can’t really
be disconnected from what happens
from infancy so I’ll say some words about
early education too. In the background, there
are contrasting conceptions of whom education is
for and what it is for, so let’s take a look
at whom it is for. There are two fundamental
views that go far back. One view is that higher
education is basically for the elites,
for the privileged. The rest of the
population should be dumbed down, maybe allowed
entry into vocational schools to learn trades. There’s a more
general conception that lies in the background
and which, strikingly, holds across the mainstream
political spectrum. It’s more instructive
almost always to focus on the left
liberal extremes, so I’ll keep to that–
the less harsh extreme. So, for example, the
leading public intellectual of the 20th century,
Walter Lippmann– who was kind of a Wilson,
Roosevelt, Kennedy liberal. His view was that we
have to distinguish between the
intelligent minority, called the responsible
men, and what he called the ignorant and
meddlesome outsiders– that’s the general population–
who have to be spectators, but not participants in action. And the responsible
men– incidentally anyone who ever discusses
this is always part of the intelligent
minority by definition– so the intelligent minority,
the responsible men who are in charge of
decision-making, they have to be
protected, in his words, from the roar and the trampling
of the bewildered herd. He developed the concept
of manufacture of consent– it’s a new art of
democracy, which has to be used to keep the
ignorant and meddlesome outsiders from interfering. He was actually relying
on his own experience– these were writings
in the 1920s. Incidentally, they are
called progressive essays on democracy. He was relying on his experience
in the first and, in many ways, only official US propaganda
agency, the Committee on Public Information, a term that
Orwell would have liked. It was the Creel Commission
established during the First World War to try to drive a
pacifist population into raving warmongers and it worked
pretty successfully. It was led by the responsible
men, the intelligent minority who were, more or less,
unaware that they themselves were the targets of an earlier
propaganda agency, the British Ministry of information–
another Orwellian phrase which was essentially
designed to control the thought of American elites. So they would,
therefore, participate in the great task of bringing
America into the First World War on England’s side. Another member of
the Creel Commission who was also very impressed
by it was Edward Bernays. He’s one of the main founders
of the modern public relations industry and his views
were about the same. There has to be an intelligent
minority in control and we have to have a
technique– he called it engineering of
consent– to make sure that the rabble
stays in their place as spectators, not participants. The basic view goes
back much farther. So, for example, long before
this Ralph Waldo Emerson was considering the question
of why political leaders are interested in having
public education– mass public education
was just beginning– and he said that the ground on
which eminent public servants urged the claims of
popular education is fear. That in their words,
he says, this country is filling up with thousands
and millions of voters and you must educate them to
keep them from our throats. Meaning, educate
them the right way, keep their perspectives
and their understanding narrow and
restricted, discourage free and independent
thought, and frighten them into obedience. That’s something that is done
over and over in the schools as well. We’ve all experienced it. If you go back still
farther to the framing of the Constitution, it
was based essentially on the same principles. James Madison, the
major framer, his view was pretty much the same. He said we have to make sure
that the public is marginalized because otherwise
there’ll be trouble. And in fact, if you read the
speeches at a Constitutional Convention, he
urged the Convention to think about what would happen
in England– that was obviously the model. What would happen in
England if they really had a democratic vote? He said, well, what
would happen would be that the majority
of the population would use their voting
power to take away the property of the rich– to
carry out what these days we would call land reform
and obviously that would be unjust– so, therefore, we’ve
got to guard against democracy. Actually it’s kind
of interesting that whether consciously or
not, Madison was reformulating an argument that goes back
to the first main major study of political theory,
Aristotle’s book, Politics. Aristotle reviewed the
many forms of government there could be and
didn’t like any of them, but decided that democracy
would be the least bad. He is, of course, mostly
thinking of Athens, but he raised the same dilemma. He said this same
problem that Madison did. He said that one of the
big problems of democracy is that the majority of the
poor would use their voting power to take away and divide
up the property of the rich, which is unjust. So Madison Aristotle
faced the same problem, but they drew
opposite conclusions. Aristotle’s conclusion
was we should eliminate inequality– make
everyone middle class, more or less. And he proposed actual
measures for this– what we would call today
welfare state measures– and that would
overcome the problem. So reduce inequality,
overcome the problem. But Madison’s solution was the
opposite– reduce democracy. So design a system in
which the public will not be able to exercise
the kind of free vote that would threaten one of the
main goals of government, which he said is to protect the
minority of the opulent against the majority. So same problem, but opposite
conclusions– reduce democracy. And if you look at the
framing of the Constitution, that’s the way it’s designed. So, again in Madison’s words,
the constitutional framework has to ensure that power is
in the hands of what he called the wealth of the nation, the
responsible men, the men who have respect for
property and its rights and, therefore, will ensure
that the opulent minority is protected from the majority. And that’s why, in the original
framing of the Constitution, power is primarily in
the hands of the Senate– the Executive at that time
was kind of an administrator. So power is in the
hands of the Senate– which, remember,
people didn’t vote for. That was much later. And the Senate, he said,
would be the wealth of the nation, the
people who would make judicious and
responsible decisions. Actually in
Madison’s defense, it should be mentioned that he was,
at this point, pre-capitalist. So his model of the
wealth of the nation was some mythology about Rome,
where distinguished gentleman and benign aristocrats
devoted to the public good would make all the
right decisions. He soon learned differently,
but that was the model. That’s the original
intent of our constitution for those who are interested in
original intent, originalism. To go back a little bit
further and go back to, say, David Hume, one
of the first great modern political philosophers. He wrote a book called The
First Principles of Government and in this– I’ll quote him. He wondered at “the easiness
with which the many are governed by the few; and the
implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments
and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means
this wonder is brought about, we shall find that
as Force is always on the side of the government,
the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. ‘Tis therefore, on opinion only
that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the
most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the
most free and most popular.” And, in fact, in the more
free in the more popular where force is
less available, you get the most
sophisticated development of the notions of
manufacturer of consent, engineering of consent, public
relations industry, and so on. And the educational
system has to be enlisted in this enterprise. It’s a very conscious
policy– I’ll return to the way it works
in the modern period. Well, that’s one point of view
about whom education is for. Another alternative point of
view, including high culture, is that it’s for
everyone and there’s interesting work on this. One book I’d strongly
recommend if you have good eyesight– it’s very
tiny print, unfortunately– is a scholarly book
by Jonathan Rose. It’s called The
Intellectual Life of The British Working Classes. It’s a monumental study of the
reading habits of 19th century British workers and
it’s pretty remarkable to see what they were reading. Rose contrasts– I’ll quote
him– “the passionate pursuit of knowledge by
proletarian autodidacts” with “the pervasive philistinism
of the British aristocracy.” There is good evidence for
it and pretty much the same was true in the United States. In Boston, let’s say,
in the 19th century if a blacksmith could afford
it, he would typically hire a young boy to read
to him while he’s working and reading meant
reading classics– or contemporary
literature that we now consider classics–
in the factories that were the mills that
were just beginning to be built in the early days
of the Industrial Revolution. A lot of the workers
were young women from the farms– they
were called factory girls. Now there was a
pretty lively labor press at the time– very
interesting to read. The factory girls had
plenty of condemnations of the industrial
system into which they were being forced–
I’ll come back to it in a little bit–
but one of them was that it was taking
away their high culture. They were used to reading
contemporary literature, classics, and so on. When they were driven
into the mills, that was taken away from
them and this continued. I’m old enough to
remember the 1930s. At that time, there was lively
programs of workers’ education and some of the
leading scientists and mathematicians
wrote popular books intended for worker education. Mathematics for the
Million, things like that. George Gamow later, One, Two,
Three– Infinity, JD Bernal, another well-known scientist. There were educational courses–
my own family, my relatives, were mostly unemployed
working class, but they were deeply
immersed in high culture even though some never made
it through elementary school. They were what Rose calls
proletarian autodidacts, although they were helped by
workers’ education courses and things like free
Shakespearean plays in Central Park and so on. Well, those are two views
of whom education is for, two contrasting ones. Then comes the question
what it is for. And here too, there
are contrasting views. The contrast is
actually discussed during the Enlightenment
and there’s imagery associated with it. One image is that education
is like pouring water into an empty
vessel and, in fact, it’s a pretty leaky
vessel as you all know from your experience. So you’re pour
water into a vessel and, of course, all of
us have been through this and you remember nothing. The other alternative
is that teaching should be like laying
out a sting along which the student can explore and
progress in his own way. That image comes from
Wilhelm von Humboldt who was the founder of the
modern university system, also one of the founders of
classical liberalism. I’ll get to John Dewey,
America’s greatest social philosopher
a century later. He wrote that it is “illiberal
and immoral” to train children to work “not freely
and intelligently, but for the sake of the
work earned, in which case their activity “is not
free because not freely participated in.” And as he also pointed out,
it will be a leaky vessel. Those contrasting choices
are very sharply drawn today. I’m sure, again,
that most of you have seen it in your own
experience– I certainly have myself. It has very definite
policy implications, right now in fact. There is just some very
recent and very pointed discussion of this, which
I’ll quote the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, a main scientific organization. It has a regular journal,
The Journal of Science, and in the last couple of
issues, the editor– biochemist Bruce Alberts– sets forth
these alternatives very clearly. He’s discussing science
education in the schools, but it generalizes. So one approach he discusses
is, in fact, the Enlightenment view– that teaching is laying
out a string along which the student progresses
in their own way through discovery
and exploration. And his version of
it is that “our goal is to make it much
easier for teachers everywhere to provide their
students with laboratory experiences that mirror
the open-ended explorations of scientists, instead of
the traditional ‘cookbook’ labs where students follow
instructions to a predetermined result.” And then he contrasts that
with actual practice, which is of course is pretty much
the opposite– concepts taught with an overly strict
attention to rules, procedures, and group memorizations. And then he goes on to quote his
own testimony to the California Standards Commission, his
testimony opposing such ideas as teaching the periodic table
of the elements in fifth grade which is totally
meaningless to the student. Incidentally, he points out
he was unsuccessful in this– it is taught that way. And what he says is, “When we
teach children about aspects of science” that they
cannot yet grasp, “then we have wasted valuable
educational resources,” “produced nothing of lasting
value,” and much worse, “we take all the enjoyment
out of science when we do so.” And he discusses
DNA, his own field. He says, “Unfortunately, most
students today are taught about DNA at such an early age that
they are forced to merely memorize the fact that”– he
gives a quote from a textbook– “‘DNA is the material from which
genes are made,’ a chore that brings no enjoyment or
understanding whatsoever.” And much later he says, “when
they do have the background to understand both the
structure of the DNA molecule and its
explanatory power, I fear that the joy
of discovery has been eliminated by the early
memorization of boring DNA facts. We have spoiled a
beautiful story for them by teaching it at
the wrong time.” Then he goes on to
the college level. He says, “For example, in an
introductory biology class, students are often required
to learn the names of the 10 enzymes that oxidize
sugars– but an obsession with such details and obscure
any real understanding of the central issue,” leaves
“students with the impression that science is impossibly
dull,” causes many of them drop it. “Tragically, we have
managed to simultaneously trivialize and complicate
science education. As a result, for far
too many, science seems a game of the recalling
boring, incomprehensible facts– so much so that it
may make little difference whether the factoids
about science come from the periodic
table or– a movie script. He gives some examples. Again, I’m sure you’ve had
your own experience about that. Just to interpolate,
I certainly have. I remember when I was
a 16-year-old freshman at the University
of Pennsylvania, I had to take a
general chemistry course with about this many
students in the audience. It was insufferably
boring and furthermore, it was completely obvious
what was going to happen. So if you read the
textbook, you knew exactly what was going to
happen so I never went to class. But, I got an A, it was OK. I actually had a friend who
took notes– that helped. But the worst part was
that they had a lab and I knew perfectly well
that if I went to the lab and carried out the experiments,
none of them would work. That’s automatic, so I
didn’t go to the lab. There was a manual where you
had to fill in the answers to the results of
the experiments and, again, entirely obvious
what they were going to be. So I filled it in and
got an A and so on. But then I had a very
unpleasant experience. I had to register
for the next semester and when I tried
to register, they insisted on my paying a fee
for breakage in the laboratory. I’d never been to
the laboratory– I didn’t know where it was. But obviously couldn’t
say that so I had to pay $17, which was a lot of money
in those days for the breakage in the lab that I never
attended and, of course, I don’t remember a
thing from the course. I’m sure many of you can
duplicate this experience. Actually, this approach
generalizes– even has a name. It’s called No
Child Left Behind. [LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE] I see you’ve experienced it. Actually, it’s been going
on for about 10 years. No reported progress,
which is no surprise. Serious education is
radically different. It’s what Alberts
was recommending and it’s the way science
is actually taught at the advanced levels–
take my own university, MIT, it’s a research university. There is a world-famous
physicist, the late Victor Weisskopf, who– like a
lot of senior faculty– taught freshman courses. And he used to say
that when he came to the first session
of his freshman course, students would ask, what are we
going to cover this semester? And his routine answer was it
doesn’t matter what we cover– it matters what you discover. And maybe you’ll discover that
what I’m teaching is wrong. That would be great– that’s
the kind of thing we want to do. This goes on right through
the graduate level. In a serious university,
that’s all there is– it’s the whole curriculum. And that’s actually possible all
the way down to kindergarten– there are examples. In fact, Alberts in
this series of articles gives a good example. He talks about a
kindergarten class which won some award in the sciences. These five-year-old
kids– the task that was given them–
each kid in the class was given a dish that contained
seeds, pebbles, and shells. And their task was to figure
out which ones were the seeds. So the kids got
together in what they called a scientific
conference and they each had ideas about how
you might do it. They exchanged the
ideas, suggested some ways of testing it, and
finally carried out the tests. They finally got somewhere
with a little teacher guidance, but they are basically
figuring it out for themselves. It ended up at the point
where they figured out what were the seeds and they
were dissecting the seeds. They were given magnifying
glasses and could look into it and locate the embryo, which
was the source of sustenance. That’s learning– real learning. That’s Enlightenment
style leaning, not No Child Left Behind. It can be done and sometimes
is like in this case, but far too little. Well, let’s take a brief
look at the history. Not surprisingly, the US
system of higher education has evolved along with
broader socioeconomic changes. Actually there was
very sharp change at the time of World War II. Everything changed
after World War II– it was a very dramatic
event for world history. The United States was the
richest country in the world, but it wasn’t a major
actor in the world scene. The major actors were Britain,
primarily France, Germany– but not the United
States except regionally. But after World War II, it
was all different– totally. The United States
emerged from World War II with a position of
global dominance that had absolutely no
precedence in history and no precedence since– it
began declining shortly after. The United States at the
time had literally 50% of the world’s wealth. Other industrial societies
had been seriously harmed or devastated. For the United States, which
was untouched by the war, the war was a tremendous
stimulus, a huge government stimulus to the economy. The industrial
production quadrupled and it already had been the
richest country in the world. It also had an overwhelming
position of security– nothing remotely like it. Well, this affected the whole
culture, including education. Prior to this,
higher education– at least elite
education– had been a kind of gentlemen’s club. And, indeed, it remained so
at the elite schools well after– again, personal
experience again. I was a student at
Harvard in the early ’50s and that’s exactly what it
was– It was a gentleman’s club. But the US had also
pioneered mass education through colleges. In fact, that’s a very
important achievement of American society. It was motivated in part by
just what Emerson talked about. It was motivated
by the transition from an agricultural society
of free, independent people to an industrial society. It was necessary to turn
free farmers into disciplined factory workers. And since they
didn’t like it, you needed the kind of education
that Emerson was talking about. The kind of education that will
keep them from our throats. And it was dramatic– I
mentioned the labor press– and it was very
interesting to read. Factory girls, artisans
from the town– they have many complaints
about the system they’re being driven into. It’s worth reading–
it’s available now. The industrial
system, they said, was crushing their culture,
their dignity, their freedom. It was turning them into
something like slaves. In fact, a century
and a half ago, a very common belief–
so common that it was a slogan of the Republican
Party supported by Abraham Lincoln– was that wage
slavery is different from chattel slavery only in
that it’s temporary, but other than that it’s the same. You’re being forced–
you’re working on command, not under your own initiative. So they wanted to
get rid of it– worker ownership and so on. I think the most interesting
element of their critique was their condemnation
of what they called the new spirit
of the age– remember, this is 150 years ago. The new spirit of the
age is gain wealth, forgetting all but self. Adam Smith had
talked about that. He called it “the vile maxim
of the masters of mankind.” All for ourselves,
nothing for anyone else. And the new spirit of the
age– a century later– was to try to drive
this deeply inhuman idea into people’s heads. It was a very sharp break
from traditional societies that valued trust and
solidarity and mutual aid for common purposes. In our own tradition,
the standard example should be the English commons. We’re going to celebrate–
probably won’t– but we should be commemorating the 900th
anniversary of the Magna Carta, The Great Charter, in
a couple of months. It is forgotten. The Magna Carta, as
everyone ought to know, is the foundation of civil
liberties– presumption of innocence, trial by jury,
due process, and so on. But it’s sort of
forgotten, interestingly, that there were two charters. There was a Charter
of Liberties and there was a Charter of The Forests. The Charter of The Forests
was about preservation of the commons. The commons–
including the forests– were the possession of everyone. They were the source of food,
of fuel, of building materials. They had been
carefully cultivated with mutual aid and mutual
support for centuries, so they were very
complex ecosystems which everyone had access to. And The Great Charter calls
for preservation of the commons from the predatory acts
of the kings and nobles. Well, that’s been forgotten,
so nobody talks about that anymore. And that’s a very
serious problem. In fact, the failure to
attend to the commons is going to destroy us. That’s the environmental
crisis which we’re marching towards with utter abandon. If some extraterrestrial
observer was watching, they would think
we’re all lunatics, but it is going on right now– [APPLAUSE] — and unless this conception
of preservation of the commons and the values that were part
of it– unless that’s restored, we’re in trouble. Well, shortly after
that with the beginnings of capitalist
industrialization, there’s a move towards making
everything a commodity. And it then becomes
necessary to inculpate the new spirit of the
age– gain wealth, forgetting all but self–
and reverence for what Adam Smith condemned
as the vile maxim. Actually there are major
industries devoted to it. The public relations
industry– advertising, marketing– it is
probably a sixth of the gross national
domestic product– is devoted pretty much to this. It’s devoted very consciously–
interesting to read the literature their
own literature. It’s devoted to what’s called
creating wants– fancy needs, stimulating consumerism, turning
people’s attention to what are called the superficial
things of life, like fashionable
consumption, and away from real human values. And enormous work goes
into this– keep people from our throats, again. That new spirit of
the age is so inhuman so that over 150
years of effort, there still is
always resistance. So in the early 1970s, as an
outgrowth of 1960s activism, there was a very important
series of labor striket– young workers mostly. Many of them were
Vietnam veterans, others just young people
getting into the workforce. The most famous one was
at Lordstown and very significantly, they were
not striking particularly for wages and benefits, but for
human dignity in the workplace. That was also the
time when women were becoming organized
and active– chicanos, farm workers, black
unions, and so on. All of this was
beaten back and it’s been beaten back for a
generation, but it’s there. In fact, the Occupy movements
that are spreading all over are reviving it. [APPLAUSE] I think it is a
main significence. And a lot hinges on whether
the new spirit of the age– 150-years-old and, in fact, in
England going back centuries to the destruction
of the commons– it is a very
important to determine whether this new
spirit can be overcome. If not, we’re just lemmings
walking off the cliff and soon. There’s a lot to say about
that, but I’ll put it aside. Well, again, after
World War II– going back to that– there
was a another new spirit, a spirit of triumphalism. Before the Second World
War, the United States was a kind of cultural,
intellectual backwater. If you want to study a science
or philosophy or the arts or be a writer, you went to
Europe– Germany, Britain, France, someplace like that. But after World War
II, that all changed and it led to just a
different attitude. I remember very well– I
was just becoming a college student at the time. The atmosphere
was that we should shed all of this
old world baggage and lead the world to
a bright future– what was called an American century. European scholars– many of
whom were emmigrating here fleeing Nazi Germany–
they were feared because they were
too good and they were disdained because that’s
the old fashioned baggage. And the two were
at the same time. There were many
very ugly incidents. I could tell you about some
of them, which I remember. From a student
perspective– like what I was in the 1940s in
philosophy, linguistics, psychology– they just
had to start afresh. Disregard all of this old
nonsense from Europe– biology too in fact. Forget it all,
don’t talk about it, and start from the beginning. We’re going to create a new
age– and a lot of contempt and a lot of ignorance. There are many
consequences, some of them right to the present. It’s very striking in the
behavioral sciences, in fact, but also elsewhere. There were also
changes at that time– crucial changes– in the
way the economy functioned and the state role
in the economy, which had a huge impact on the
universities, higher education particularly. You go back to the
colonial period– Adam Smith gave advice
to the colonies– the greatest
economist of the day. And the advice he gave was
the standard prescriptions that the World Bank and the IMF
and the US Treasury and others give to the poor
countries today. Pursue your
comparative advantage, don’t try to import
more advanced goods from the advanced
countries, don’t try to control your
resources– everything will be better if you do that. Well, the United States was
independent by that time, so they were able
to totally reject the rules of what are called
sound economics and they did. If we had accepted them, we’d
be a third world country. But, in fact, that is
how the third world was pretty much created. But the colonies
could reject it. The so-called Hamiltonian system
introduced very high tariffs to block superior
British manufactures. There was a lot of
stealing of technology– what is now called piracy. And the United States
began to develop and this went from
textiles, the early stages of industrialization,
then right through steel and on pretty much until the
First and Second World War. A huge role of the
state system and state sector in developing
the economy– mass industrialization was
developed, for example, in armories because there
you could control things. The railroad system was managed
by the Army Corps of Engineers and so on. Well, after World War II, that
took a major leap forward– huge. There was massive funding
for science and technology, mostly through the Pentagon. And was done through the
Pentagon for the usual reasons. You have to inspire
fear and you can get taxpayers to pay the
Pentagon to protect us from various imaginary dangers. But the money that went
through the Pentagon ended up creating
the high-tech economy that we’re now living in. So computers,
internet, satellites, microelectronics– a
whole array of stuff comes out of decades of mostly
Pentagon funding and research. My own university, MIT, was
right in the middle of it. And the net effect
is to socialize cost and to privatize profit. And it’s a standard device–
interstate highway systems, another example. It’s not what it’s
claimed to be. It was sold on the
basis of defense. It was really part
of the mass subsidy to automobiles, energy
corporations, rubber corporations. The idea was to make us
a society that massively wastes fossil fuels
with consequences we’re now in the middle of. There was also a rapid
expansion of the student body through the GI
Bill, which brought a whole new sector
of the population into higher
education– people who never could have gone before. That a very positive
impact on the colleges and on the general society. That’s incidentally
a course that’s been reversed in the last
generation– I’ll come back to it. The sharp increase in
funding was mainly directed to science and technology
but, of course, there was a spillover
into other domains. 1957– the Russians
sent a satellite into space, Sputnik,
and the laments about how the US is falling
behind, going to be destroyed, and so on. The scientific community knew
that this was total nonsense, that the achievement
was essentially nothing. We could duplicate
and go way beyond it any time we wanted to,
but it was exploited. It was exploited
pretty cynically, I should say– I
remember it very well. And it was exploited to give
an enormous additional input into higher education
and also K to 12. That’s when you get the
start of the kinds of things that Alberts is deploring,
like new math for example. I have to say– I had
young kids at that time– we had very amusing
experiences with watching my young children, nine,
10-year-old children, try to learn new
math from teachers who didn’t understand
a word about the said theoretic basis for it but
were trying to teach it. And the kids were
making up their own– I’ll just give you one example. When my youngest daughter
was maybe 10 or so, I had a visit from a friend,
an Israeli logician– he’s an old friend. Yehoshua Bar-Hillel,
some of you know. He came and stayed
with us for a while and he saw my daughter doing
her work and what was called Boolean– they are
called set theory, actually Boolean algebra. And he was interested
because he’d been trying to teach it
to junior high school students in Israel and they
are having a hard time doing it and she seemed to
be doing it fine. So we started
asking her questions like if you have three things,
how many sets are there? You know, like a milk bottle and
a cup and a book or something– and she said right
off, eight sets. And then he asked
her to list them. She listed them,
including the null set. And he asked, which set is
included in all the others? She said, the null set. And I couldn’t believe
it, so I asked her, how do you know the null set
is included in all the others? So she said, well, to have a
set what you do is draw braces and you put the
things inside it. And if you look
carefully, there’s always a little
space between them– that’s where the null set goes. So what in fact had
happened is she was doing something quite sensible. She was making up
a physical model which happened to work for
these principles and, of course, had absolutely nothing
to do with what they are trying to teach her. This was going on all the time–
that’s No Child Left Behind. In the ’60s, there were major
social, cultural changes– the Civil Rights Movement,
moves towards diversity, women’s rights, all sorts of
things– and the universities were greatly enriched
by that as, indeed, was the whole society. By the end of the
60s, there was also a fair amount of political
activism developing and it became a major force. Again, at my own university,
MIT– mainly a science university– it had an extremely
conservative and passive right through the 60s. People are absorbed
in their work, But by the end of
the 60s– by 1969– activism had gotten to the
point that a day was set aside, formally, for the whole
Institute to consider the question of the role
of technology in society. Amazingly, a question that had
never been asked– you just do it. And that led to a
lot of consequences which, in fact, brought
about a permanent change in the Institute. And similar things were
happening in other places, even abroad too– it
is a general movement. And it had a real civilizing
effect on the whole society. Well, that civilizing
effect of the 1960s aroused deep concerns all
across the mainstream spectrum. That’s why it’s usually
called the Time of Troubles. It was civilizing the country
too much and that’s dangerous. And it’s kind of
interesting– I’ll talk a little about the reaction. It has very strong effects
right to the present. On the right, one
striking example was an influential memorandum–
which is worth reading, you can pick it up on the
internet– a memorandum by Lewis Powell who
was a corporate lawyer. He was later appointed by
Nixon to the Supreme Court. At the other end
of the spectrum, there’s an important
study– also worth reading– by the
Trilateral Commission. These are liberal
internationalists from the three major industrial
regions– Europe, United States, and Japan. Their general outlook
is indicated by the fact that the Carter
administration was drawn almost completely
from their ranks– that’s who they were. And both of them
merit attention. They provide a good insight
into the ideological aspects of what has, in fact, been
a major assault on democracy and on rights that
was beginning to take shape 40 years ago–
escalated pretty sharply in the Reagan-Thatcher
years and continued and it’s now
reaching new heights. And they also provide insight
into how this assault targets the educational system. So let’s start with
Powell’s Memorandum, 1971. This was sent to the
US Chamber of Commerce. That’s the main business lobby. The title was “The Attack on
the American Free Enterprise System.” And it’s worth reading,
not only for the content, but also for the tone, which
is totally paranoid, which is characteristic of the major
criminals, who were Ralph Nader, with his consumer safety
campaigns, Herbert Marcuse, who was preaching Marxism, the New
Leftists were on the rampage, but primarily their naive
victims, who dominate the universities, the
schools, television and other media, the educated
community, and virtually control the government,
if you haven’t noticed it. I’m incidentally
not exaggerating. That’s exactly what it said. I urge you to read it. Well, the takeover of the
country by these devils is a dire threat to
freedom, he said. Because the only alternatives
to free enterprise are varying degrees of
bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom ranging
from moderate socialism to the leftist and
rightist dictatorships. Actually, if any
of you are watching the Republican
debates, the same thing is being repeated right
now with the center, right, Obama administration, and
Marxist radicals, and so on. Actually, Powell
was very familiar with another alternative
to free enterprise, namely the system in which he
and his Chamber of Commerce associates thrived. He was an influential lobbyist
for the tobacco industry. And he was surely aware of
the huge, federal subsidies for the production of
this leading killer, which not only kills the users at
a scale that vastly exceeds the targets of the mostly
farcical drug wars, but also kills many others. Deaths from passive
smoking– collateral damage, just being around
when somebody’s smoking– way beyond those from hard drugs. And he was surely aware of the
great successes of lobbyists like him in assuring
that for many decades, the government would help– not
only subsidize the industry– but help it conceal
what they all knew. They knew about
the lethal product that they were peddling. And there are huge
mounds of corpses to show for their achievement. They’re still piling up rapidly. But that didn’t keep him
from wailing in his memo that I’ll quote, “As every
business executive knows, few elements of
American society today have as little
influence in government as the American
businessman, corporation, even the millions of
corporate stockholders, in case you hadn’t noticed.” And that, again, is considered
is pretty characteristic. And the reason is that
there’s an assumption that for the state to
support, subsidize, private power, that’s
just the natural order. Any disruption of
it is a catastrophe. And he then drew the
obvious conclusion. He was talking about
the universities. He said the campuses from
which much of this emanates are supported by tax
funds generated largely from American business
and contributions from capital funds controlled or
generated by American business. The boards of trustees
of our universities overwhelmingly are composed
of men and women who are leaders in the business system. Most of the media, including
the national TV systems, are owned and
theoretically controlled by corporations which depend
on profits and the enterprise system to survive. And therefore, these
marginalized groups who are being destroyed should
organize to defend themselves, instead of just
watching passively while business and our
fundamental freedoms are destroyed by this
Marxist onslaught from the media and
the universities. Well, Powell’s memo
expresses the concerns elicited by 1960s activism at
the right end of the mainstream spectrum. But much more
revealing, I think, is the reaction at the
opposite extreme, the Liberal Internationalists. And these are spelled out in
the Trilateral Commission report that I mentioned. It’s called, “The
Crisis of Democracy.” It’s not easy to
find, incidentally, because they mostly
took it off the market when people started reading it. But it’s there. Actually, I should say
that MIT– I read it when it came out. And I figured this isn’t
going to last very long, so I bought a lot of copies
from the MIT library. So if you can’t find
one, MIT library has maybe a dozen or so copies. And then, it did
go out of print, I should say, very quickly. The crisis of democracy
that they were talking about is, literally, that
there’s too much democracy. The problem, they said–
this is leading figures, major political scientists from
Harvard and so on– the way that democratic order
is supposed to work, the public is supposed to
be passive and apathetic. The Lippen, Bernays, Emerson,
Madison model, or Hume, they’re supposed to
be passive, apathetic. But in the 60s,
they were beginning to organize to
press their demands. That’s what was being
done by what are called “the special interests.” The special interests are
women, young people, old people, workers, farmers– the
population, in other words. They are the special interests. And when they press
their demands, there’s too much
pressure on the state. The state can’t deal with them. Therefore, they have to
moderate their demands. Now there’s one group
that isn’t mentioned– the corporate sector–
and that makes sense. Because they represent
the national interest, not special interests. Just like the far right, the
Liberal Internationalists assume that their extraordinary
power, and their control of the state and
other institutions, is just the natural order. A primary concern of
the Trilateral Scholars, just like Lewis Powell, was the
failures of what they called, and I’m quoting,
“the institutions responsible for the
indoctrination of the young. The schools, the universities,
the churches and the like, they’re not carrying
out their duty to indoctrinate the
young properly.” And that’s why we had
this time of troubles. In general, they said, we
have to have more moderation in democracy if the national
interest is to be protected, including much more successful
indoctrination of the young. Well, the Powell memo,
and the Trilateral study, spell out the concerns
at the opposite extremes of the dominant,
ideological spectrum. These are largely
shared concerns. And they’ve led
to vigorous action to restore order, as often
happened in the past. One consequence of these
and other developments has been a pretty sharp attack
on public education taking many forms. I’ll mention a few. About a year ago,
I went to Mexico to give talks at the
National University, UNAM. Quite a good university. It’s a very poor
country, of course, but quite a good, impressive
university, high standards, good faculty, lively discussion,
reasonable facilities, not like a rich
American university, but quite reasonable. I also visited a
City University. There’s a City University
in Mexico City. Incidentally, UNAM is free. No tuition. About 10 years ago,
there was an attempt by the government to raise
just a very low tuition. That led to a national
student strike. The country practically
closed down. The government
withdrew the proposal. There actually still
on the UNAM campus is an administration building
that was occupied at the time. And it’s still occupied. And it’s used as a kind
of activism center. The City University
is not only free, but has open admissions
with compensatory options for those who need them. And it’s also a
pretty respectable. I was quite impressed to see it. Well, I went from Mexico to
California, maybe the richest place in the world. There, the public
education system, which is just the best public
education system in the world, is being destroyed. It’s being privatized,
for the rich, of course. For the rest, there’s some level
of mostly technical training. And that’s quite a contrast
between a poor country and, in many ways, the
richest place in the world. And that’s happening
all across the country. In most states, like
here I just heard before, tuition, in most states,
tuition covers more than half of college budgets. That’s also true of most
public research universities. Pretty soon, only the
community colleges will be state financed. And even they are under attack. I’m quoting a recent study. Analysts generally
agree that the era of affordable, four-year,
public universities subsidized by the
state may be over. That’s one important way
to implement indoctrination of the young for a very
good, simple reason. Students leave in a debt trap. College debt has reached
the astonishing level of over a trillion dollars now. When a student leaves
college with a big debt, they don’t have many options. Indoctrination is working. That’s true of social
control, generally. It’s also an important feature
of international policy. Well, as the
Mexico-California comparison illustrates, the reasons for
the conscious destruction of the greatest public
education system in the world in California, and
comparable things elsewhere, the reasons are not economic. There are many other cases,
including rich societies, so Germany, to mention one, or for
that matter, the post-war US experience. Much poorer country than we are
now but it wasn’t totally free. But tuition was very low. So for example, when I went to
the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, it
was literally $100 a year. That might be $400 today. It’s not an economic reason. But as a technique
of indoctrination, it’s very valuable. Well, if they’re not
publicly supported, how are universities
going to survive? They don’t produce
commodities for profit. And that’s the dominant
value under the New Spirit of the Age. The funding issue raises
many troubling issues. These would not arise if
fostering independent thought and inquiry were
regarded as a public good as during the
Enlightenment model, that is, having intrinsic value. The traditional ideal
of the universities were flawed in practice. And there are major
attempts to change that. So crossing the
ocean, in Britain, the right-wing government
is now challenging what’s been for centuries
called the Haldane Principle. It’s a century
old principle that barred government intrusion
into academic research. Whether they’ll succeed in
overturning it, I don’t know. And well, there’s
another kind of assault on intellectual culture
that you can read about it in this morning’s newspapers. The Cameron government has
announced that it’s not going to apologize. It’s not going to give an
apology for essentially murdering one of the
great mathematicians and scientists of the 20th
century, Alan Turing, who apart from being a major
intellectual figure, also happen to be a war hero. He was crucially involved
in decoding the German code, something which saved Britain. They killed him, basically,
drove him to suicide. Cameron, the prime
minister, said they’re not going to apologize
because Turing broke the law. He was guilty of the
crime of homosexuality, which is a violation of law. This should be a major scandal. I mean, I don’t know
how to describe it. But we’ll see if it is. It isn’t so far. Well, in the United
States, for say, research institutions like
my own– MIT– the way the problem was being
dealt with is by a shift to more corporate funding. And that has several effects. First of all,
there’s more emphasis on short-term, applied work. Funding from, say, the
Pentagon, or the NIH, they’re concerned with
the long-term future of the advanced economy. That, incidentally, means
also the profitability of the corporate
sector long afterwards. So we develop computers
and the internet for a couple of
decades, and it ends up being profitable for the private
corporations that feed off it. That’s the socializing costs,
privatizing profit principle. Well, that’s government funding,
Pentagon funding, for example, very free, best funder there is. I was funded by them
for a long time. In contrast, the
business firm typically wants something it can use
and not its competitors. And it wants to be able
to use it tomorrow. I don’t know of a
careful study, but it appears that the shift
towards corporate funding, in fact, does lead to more
short-term applied research and less exploration
of what might turn out to be interesting and valuable
for the longer term future. And another consequence
of the shift from, say, Pentagon funding to corporate
funding is more secrecy. During the Pentagon-funded
era at MIT– I happened to be on a
faculty/student committee which examined it carefully–
decades of Pentagon funding, there was no secrecy on campus. One exception was the
political science department. But in the sciences,
there was no secrecy. Literally true, they were
involved in the Vietnam War. So none in the physics
department, engineering department, and somewhere else. That’s not true today. Corporate funders, they, of
course, cannot force secrecy. But they have an
indirect way of doing it. They can threaten
non-renewal of contracts. That’s led to some scandals,
some of them severe enough to have landed on the front
page of the Wall Street Journal, involving MIT. Corporatization can also
have a considerable influence in other ways. Corporations, by their nature,
focus on profit making. That’s what they’re for. And they seek to convert
as much of life as possible into commodities. There’s a lot to say about
this topic and no time, but one particular
consequence is the focus on what’s called “efficiency.” Efficiency is not a
simple economic concept. It has quite crucial
ideological dimensions. For example, if a business
reduces personnel, it becomes more efficient
by standard measures with lower cost. But quite typically, that
shifts the burden to the public. It’s a very familiar phenomenon. And the costs to the
public are not counted. That’s not a choice based on
economic theory, but ideology. And that applies directly
to the business models for the university. Increasing class size and using
cheap, temporary labor instead of full-time faculty, graduate
students, for example, and other measures
like that may look good on university budgets,
but significant costs are transferred to the
students and to the society generally as the quality
of instruction is affected. There’s furthermore
no way to measure the human and the social costs
of converting the schools and universities into facilities
that produce commodities for the job market. Abandoning the traditional
ideal of the universities, encouraging creative
and independent thought and inquiry, challenging
perceived beliefs, exploring the horizons free
of external constraints, it’s an ideal that’s undoubtedly
been flawed in practice. But nevertheless, it is a
kind of a measure of the level of civilization achieved. Well, there are related
consequences for the K to 12. There’s a major assault on
the public schools underway. And the main reason is
the New Spirit of the Age. Public schools are based on
a very dangerous principle. They’re based on the principle
that we care about one another. That’s a violation of the
New Spirit of the Age. Me, for example, I don’t happen
to have kids in the schools anymore, obviously. So why should I pay taxes? I mean, I’m not getting
anything out of it. Therefore, let’s get
rid of public schools and just do things
for ourselves. The attack on Social Security
has pretty much the same root. It’s based on the
principle that you’re supposed to care about the
disabled widow across town. You’re supposed to care she
doesn’t have food to eat, see? Why should I care? I’m doing fine. There are various
pretexts offered, but they collapse very
quickly on examination. The real source of these attacks
on just humane public values and public goods, I think,
is the passionate effort to instill this hateful and
destructive principle, this New Spirit of the Age,
going on for 150 years, and long before that, the
attack on the commons, and instilling it
has enormous profits to concentrated, private
power, very harmful, and human effects. There’s a related
campaign to destroy those parts of the
educational system that enrich the lives of
students and enable them to follow the
string that’s laid out for them in the enlightenment
vision of education. That interferes
with indoctrination, with control, with imposing
passivity and obedience, with subordination to the
principle of caring only about oneself. A major struggle
about that right here is– you know
better than I do– the destruction of the
flourishing, Mexican-American studies program. And even– [APPLAUSE] –even the removal
from classrooms of books that are
used in that program has become a national
scandal, incidentally. Classics, like Paolo
Freire, the history of Chicanos in the Mexican
civil rights movement. It looks like we’re
rethinking Columbus, even Shakespeare’s Tempest. This is all reminiscent
of precedents that we don’t like
to think about, but they’re worth
thinking about. And it’s particularly dramatic
that it’s happening right here in the midst of what
could properly be called “occupied Mexico” conqured in– [APPLAUSE AND CHEERING] We all know, and we
don’t have to go into it, it was conquered in a
brutal war of aggression. Well, I don’t know
any simple answers to the dilemmas that
constantly arise in trying to develop and
sustain an educational system of independence and
integrity, a one that strives for the Enlightenment ideal,
and to do this within societies that are dominated by
concentrations of power with very different
values and goals. But at least one thing
seems clear enough– efforts to do this cannot
progress very far in isolation from much broader struggles to
protect what has already been achieved– and a lot has
been achieved– from severe, ongoing attacks and to carry
them forward towards a world of greater freedom and justice. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] Come over there? Should I go over there? Yeah. Thank you so much,
ladies and gentlemen. As we get ready for the question
and answer part of our program tonight, a reminder. We only have about
30 minutes for this, and I can imagine a lot of
you, if you had, paper as I do, would have a lot of notes
and a lot of questions and a lot of comments
for Professor Chomsky. So as we get into this
question and answer, let me lay out some ground
rules, some housekeeping, if you will. We have two microphones
in the aisle. We’ll alternate back and forth. As Dr. Jones mentioned
at the beginning, make sure you respect
others’ opinions. We want a thoughtful and civil
discourse, as he talked about. There may be a few differences
of opinion in here. Also, the ground rules for this. We’re not going to do
follow-up questions from our people in the
audience because we want to get as many questions as we can. So please try and
keep your questions as succinct as possible. And we’ll get through
as many questions as we can in about the
next 30 minutes or so. I should say, I
don’t hear too well, so you may have to translate
the questions for me. Yeah. That’s fine. Am I supposed to use this? Yeah. OK. As you line up for
the questions– and we will have
staff there– I’m going to ask the first question. I’m going to take moderator’s
privilege here, if you will. Professor Chomsky, you
were talking about, towards the end, corporate
influence, corporate funding, and the idea that
the universities, in the corporate eyes, need
to turn out “commodities.” MIT, your home institution,
now has a new program called OpenCourseWare
that I know is getting a lot of
information given out about it. For those of you that
don’t know what it is, there are many forces at MIT
that the materials are now available free and
online for the public. Talk about that a
little bit and how that may be going against
that corporate idea. I think it’s– actually, one
of my close friends is more or less running it. But I think it’s a
great idea, you know. And I think it’s just
what ought to be done. I mean, of course
that means it’s available on the internet, so
not only here, but everywhere. All over the world you could
hear leading scientists, scholars, others, are
delivering their lectures. You can hear the
classroom interaction. I mean, it’s not like taking a
course in a serious university, because you’re not part
of the interaction. Like, you can’t stand up
and say, that’s wrong. There’s a better way to do it. You know? Which is a large part of
what real education is. It’s supposed to encourage
independent thought. That means challenges. And a lot of what we and
everybody else is teaching is wrong, that’s why you don’t
teach the same thing every year unless your field is dead. Because you’re learning,
and a lot of learning comes from what
students are doing. They’re part of the
educational process. And you don’t interact
with other students. I’m sure all of you know that–
just from your own experience– that what’s enriched your
educational experience is peer interchange,
talking with other students, arguing about things,
trying to work things out together, and so on. I’ll take my own university
since I know it best, but if you walk around the
floors of the departments, students are talking
to each other, working together,
writing joint papers. And a lot of very important
stuff comes out of that. Well, if you’re
watching OpenCourseWare, you’re not part of that. So it is necessarily
kind of passive. Actually, there are
efforts being made– and it’s tricky– to develop
modes of more interaction. And it’s not impossible,
but it’s hard. And I hope that
it’ll go to that. But the general idea
is great, I think. All right, I will
abide by our own rules and not ask a follow-up, as
badly as I would like to. Let me start on this side. And, again, let’s
keep our questions fairly short so we can get
through as many as we can. Hi, Professor Chomsky. The first thing I want
to say is thank you for visiting the
University of Arizona and thank you for
such a great talk. Thanks. [APPLAUSE] I wanted to ask about the
two documents you mentioned, the Powell Memorandum and
the Trilateral Commission. Do you consider that the
major reason for the increase in intuition? And what other factors
come into play? Well, I don’t really know
of any study of this, so I have to speculate. It’s kind of surprising that
there isn’t– as far as I know– there isn’t any
study, because it’s a major phenomenon. But if you just look at the
timing and the thinking behind it, and other things that are
happening in this society, it’s hard to doubt that the
concern about what they call on the liberal end “the
failure of the institutions to indoctrinate the
young”– their phrase– the failure of this, which
showed up in the civilizing effect of the ’60s, it
was followed very shortly, and not only by the beginning
of the rise in tuitions, but by lots of other things,
even university architecture. So university architecture
began to change. If you look at universities
that were built and designed– this is world-wide,
incidentally. You know, Japan, United
States, everywhere– that are designed in
the ’70s and the ’80s, they usually don’t
have public places. They don’t have anything
like Sproul Plaza in Berkeley where students get together
and have discussions, demonstrations, and so on. So there are paths
from here to there, but not places for
students to get together. That is conscious. I’ve talked to
architects about it. And I suspect that the
same is true of tuitions. Actually, it’s a
good topic to study. I don’t know of any studies,
but it looks very plausible. Again, there can’t be an
economic reason for it, for the reasons I mentioned. It’s got to be an
ideological reason. Thanks for your question. Now I’ll come over to this side. Thank you for coming,
Professor Chomsky. I just wanted to ask,
I think a lot of us here are in that
group who would say that education is for everyone. So in light of things
like No Child Left Behind and the HB2281
Anti-Ethnic Studies, my question is about hope. Where should we
find inspiration, a lot of us being
educators in here, to kind of go forth
with hope for education? Well, for one thing, there’s–
take, let’s say, Mexico. It’s right nearby. As I say, we’re basically in it. [LAUGHTER] The– [APPLAUSE] It’s a poor country. It’s not a rich country like us
for reasons that have something to do with us, as you know. But anyway, it’s a fact. And what they do in the
higher education system is quite impressive. Actually, I should add that
this city college and city university, open city university
in Mexico City, is not old. It was instituted
by Obrador when he was the mayor, left-wing
mayor, of Mexico City. He started it and it’s been
apparently flourishing since. As I say, that visited
and was pretty impressed. Things like that,
that’s an inspiration. Or you can look at the student
movements over this hemisphere. I mean, from Chile
up to here, in fact, there are very lively,
vibrant student movements. In Chile, it’s amazing. It has just revitalized
the country. There’s been student protests. Remember, this is protests
against the lingering effects of the dictatorship
that we imposed on what in Latin America
is called The First 9/11. It’s kind of striking that
people here don’t know what that means, most of them. But the first 9/11,
9/11/1973, by any dimension that I can think of was much
worse than what we call 9/11. [APPLAUSE] And not just in Chile. It had a very global effect. And the dictatorship
has formally been gone for about
20 years, but there are lingering effects,
just as there are in Spain. There are lingering effects
of the Franco dictatorship right now. And the young people protesting
there, the Indignados, as they’re called, are
trying to undermine the very serious lingering
effects of the dictatorship. They’re very real. Well, that’s Chile. And there are similar
things going on through the hemisphere. In fact, abroad. And, in fact, right here. The protests about the
destruction of the Mexican Studies program, for example. It’s important. And teachers are organizing. And they’re under a lot
of pressure, you know? Tremendous pressures against
public school teachers. You speak up, you’re
thrown out, and so on. But it doesn’t mean that
people are taking it passively. There are efforts to respond. There are journals where
people are writing about it. And there are the
struggles of the past. After all, we’ve achieved a lot. You know, this
country isn’t what it was 30 years ago or
a hundred years ago. There’s a lot more freedom,
justice, rights, and so on. Again, take my own
university, but it generalizes over the country. If you walk down the halls at
MIT when I got there, 1950s, you would have seen white males,
well-dressed, very passive, very conformist, doing
their work often very well, but that’s it. That was the Institute. If you work down
the halls today, it looks like this– half
women, a third minorities, informal dress– which
symbolizes informal relations– and a lot of
concerns and activism of all sorts of things. It didn’t happen by magic. It’s happened all over the
country, and, in many ways, all over the world. And that’s the
kind of inspiration that ought to suffice. I think it goes back to the
early days, the very earliest days, as far back as you
want to trace it in history. Thank you. Over on this side now. Hi, I’m Denise from Chicago. First, I just want to thank the
intergenerational audience that came tonight. From where I stand,
it’s so exciting, especially seeing all
the young people here. So thank you to both of
you for bringing that out. Two, I’d like to invite you,
Professor Chomsky, and anyone here to Chicago
May 19, a concert for troubadour Woody Guthrie,
who emulates many of the themes that you talked about tonight. And you could find info on
the Illinois Labor History web page, who holds the deed
for the Haymarket Martyrs. Do you have a question? The question, what do you
think of the super PAC and the decision by the
Obama administration to get into it with the–
you talked about lobbying, and now they’ve made the
decision to enter that fight. It’s obviously a
sell-out, but not the first one, incidentally. On the other hand, there
is an institutional fact that political figures
just have to live with. The structure of election,
the electoral system, has been shredded. I mean, it always
was under the effect of– there’s always a big
effect of campaign spending. If you want to learn about
it, the best work that’s done is by a political economist
named Thomas Ferguson, who’s a personal friend. But he has a book called
Golden Rule, which goes back a century studying in detail
the effect of campaign spending, not only on who’s elected, but
on what their programs are. It goes right through the New
Deal right up to the present. He’s extended it since. And I think it’s
pretty convincing. It’s what he calls the
investment theory of politics. It treats elections as occasions
in which groups of investors coalesce to invest
to control the state. Campaign funding is
one standard mechanism. And it doesn’t
explain everything, it doesn’t pretend that is does,
but it explains quite a lot. Now, that’s changed radically
in the last 30 years. The last 30 years, part of
this whole basically neoliberal assault on democracy
and justice– and that’s what it is. It’s worldwide, but
here, too– part of it has just been the sharply
rising cost of elections. And now, especially
since Citizens United in the Super PACs, it’s
gone through the roof. But it’s been going
up steadily, and it has a very definite effect. It forces political
figures into the pockets of those who have the money–
the private corporate sector. It’s increasingly
financial institutions. Incidentally, that’s not only
true of the president running for office or Congress
running for office, it’s even permeated
the Congress. I mean, it used to be the
case that if positions of some authority or
prestige in Congress, say, chair of an
important committee, that used to be the result of
seniority and service. By now, literally
you have to buy it. You have to pay money
into the party coffers in order to qualify for
a chair of a committee. Well, you can guess what the
effects of that are, obviously. And this has been
enormously changed by Citizens United
in the Super PACs, but it’s a process
that’s always been there. Actually, you go
back a century, there was a great, famous campaign
financier, the most famous of the era, Mark Hanna. He was once asked, what are the
important things in politics? And his answer
was he said, well, I can think of three
things that are important. The first one is money. The second one is money. And I’ve forgotten
what the third one is. That was over a century ago, and
it’s gotten a lot more extreme. So, yeah, this is a
sell-out on Obama’s part, but if he wants to run in a
multibillion dollar election, you don’t have a lot of choices. It’s the system that’s
rotten at the core, and not the choice of the individuals. [APPLAUSE] Good question. Thank you, Professor Chomsky. I’m a student from
South Korea, and thank you a lot for your writing
for the Village of Gangjeong in Jeju Island. It suffers a lot from the
military base construction. But I just want more of
your opinion about the tax expenditures on the
military expenditures instead of education. For instance, Korean
students are suffering a lot from the actual
increasing of tuition. And almost we are heading
towards the same way American students are being,
but still the government is expending lots of money
on the military instead of educating people
for better humanity. Yeah. Actually, that Jeju Island
construction that you mentioned is something very significant. We ought to know about it. Jeju island is quite
significant for Korea. It was the site of a
huge massacre in 1948 by the US-backed mostly
basically fascist state in South Korea. Horrible massacre. And the island, it’s been,
actually, designated, I think by the UN, as
an island of peace. It’s trying to be
an island of peace. And the US and South
Korea are building– trying to build a major military
base, a major naval base, on the island oriented
towards China. I think it’s 500 kilometers
from China, proximately. And it’s part of the kind
of encirclement of China, which is called
containment of China. Here it’s described
as protection of freedom of the seas. The Chinese see it a
little differently. There see it the
way we would see it if the Chinese navy was
building bases in the Caribbean. We’d blow them off the
planet if they did that. But the way the world
is supposed to work, we’re supposed to be
able to do it anywhere. In fact, if you read the
professional literature and strategic analysis,
security studies, they refer to the
Chinese/American naval confrontation as a
classic security dilemma. Each of the two sides
thinks that there’s kind of an existential danger. They just can’t give it up. It’s too important. So we think that it’s
an existential threat if the United States
doesn’t control all the oceans around China. And they think it’s
an existential threat if we send nuclear
arms super carriers into their territorial waters. That’s the security
dilemma, you know? What can you do? And in fact, the
US is trying hard to essentially encircle China
so that they can’t have access to the Pacific or to the Malacca
Straits, where a lot of trade goes and so on. Japan is part of this system. Japan’s a client state. There’s military bases all over
Japan, many of them on Okinawa. This is over the
strong objections of the people of
Okinawa, who’ve been trying to get those
bases off for 60 years, and they can’t do it. Recently the US basically forced
a Japanese prime minister out of office because he
was thinking about it. Well, Jeju Island in South
Korea’s another case. And it’s really serious,
and an important issue. There’s a lot of
protest on the island, civil disobedience, a lot of
arrests, violence, and so on. But your general
point is quite right. I mean, the vast
military expenditures are part of the– I don’t
think they’re the main reason. We had vast military
expenditures in the ’50s, and it still was
almost free education. And for GI Bill, totally free. And huge amounts of money
going into the research system and so on. And now it’s a
burden, undoubtedly, but I don’t– society has to
decide where you want to spend your money. Do you want to spend
it on classic security dilemmas in China’s
territorial waters with all the debt
that would lead to building naval bases on
Jeju Island and on Okinawa and so on, or do
you want to spend it building a decent society? And this question arises
all across the board. I mean, one of the
most striking cases– is doesn’t involve
education, but it does involve survival– is the
Canadian tar sands and shale oil throughout the country. In Obama’s State of
the Nation Address, if you read it carefully,
one of the things he said was that we’re now coming
to a position where we can have a hundred years
of energy independence by exploiting– using
high-technology techniques and fracking and so
on, to get previously inaccessible, and
incidentally very dirty, oil, with all sorts of local
environmental consequences. And this is all over. There was a recent
speech by the President of the Chamber of Commerce,
main business Lobby– I forgot. It’s Thomas Corcoran, I think. You can find it in the internet. It’s his annual speech
to the business world, and the first point
that he mentions, the most important point,
is that we can now move to, he says, several centuries
of energy independence by just tapping our own oil. You go to the most responsible
and serious newspaper in the world that I know of,
the London Financial Times, they devote a whole full page
to a euphoric description of the possibility
of the United States having a century of
energy independence and a century of global hegemony
by tapping these resources. There’s only one small footnote. If we use those
resources, we’re finished. You know? There’s no future
for your children and your grandchildren. That’s not discussed. You got to gain wealth
forgetting all but self. And that means my
profits tomorrow, not what happens 30 years
from now to my grandchildren. And that’s– [APPLAUSE] Meanwhile, you know, there are
alternatives like, ultimately, probably solar energy’s going
to be the main alternative. And it’s quite
striking to see what’s happening to the solar
energy industry that by now, about half the
world’s solar panels are being produced in China. Now, that’s not cheap labor. It’s not a
labor-intensive industry. They started the way all
manufacturing starts, very low-level manufacturing. Manufacturing provides
the incentive, the ideas, the design conceptions,
and so on that lead to technological advances. Very common. And slowly they’ve
been– not so slowly, they’ve been moving up the
high-technology ladder. They’re now producing the
most advanced solar cells in the world. Well, OK, that’s one way
to use your resources. We have choices. We have plenty of
choices, because we’re a very rich society. China’s a very poor society. We’re a very rich one, so
we have plenty of options. We have about 10
minutes left, so thank you so much for keeping
your questions short so we can get through as many– That means I should
keep my answers short. I got it. [LAUGHTER] You’re the guest of honor. You can answer as
long as you like. Yeah. Hello, Dr. Chomsky. I’m a member of Unidos. And our question is– [CHEERING] In your opinion, what are
the larger implications of the decision by the TUSD
governing board and state superintendent John
Huppenthal to ban Mexican American Studies? Well, I think it’s a
particularly ugly part of the whole attack on
anything like the enlightenment ideal of education. In this case, to destroy
the diversity of richness of the educational system and
meaningfulness for students and so on, for a large
number of students. After all, it’s a big
Mexican community. So I think it’s just part
of the general attack on a free and creative
education that stimulates learning, discovery,
enriching one’s life and so on. And it’s trying to impose
indoctrination and conformity. A particularly ugly
case right here because of where it’s happening. It would be ugly anywhere,
but it’s particularly so right here. Thank you. Back to this side. Professor Chomsky,
I believe I speak on behalf of almost
everyone here, it’s an absolute
humbling honor to be learning from you in person. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I’m an Iranian-American
peace and human rights and environmental
activist, and I’m a participant in
Iran’s Green Movement, a supporter of the Arab Spring
Movements against dictatorship. And obviously I’m a
passionate participant in the Occupy Movement
in this country, which I believe has already
awakened incredible energy, and therefore I am
hopeful, but also fearful of what it may do wrong
in order to possibly waste this last chance movement. So please share with
us your wisdom about what is it that you think,
at this point in history, the Occupy Movement needs to
be wary of or be careful about? Well, like you, I think
the Occupy Movement has been quite a
remarkable success, way beyond what I thought. And the tactic has been very
effective for a lot of reasons. One effect that it’s
had is just changing kind of national discourse. In fact, even the
terminology and imagery of the Occupy Movement is
now sort of mainstream. It’s focused attention on
serious problems– inequality; like somebody asked before,
the purchase of elections; shredding of democracy;
the extraordinary power of financial institutions
which probably contribute very little, if
anything, to the economy. In fact, the most respected
financial commentator in the world, I
think, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times in
London is very conservative, highly respected correspondent. He describes the
financial institutions that have developed
in the last 30 years as kind of like a larvae that
destroys the host in which it’s embedded. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] I couldn’t get away with
saying that, but he can. And I can get away
with quoting it. And the Occupy Movement
has directed attention to foreclosures,
homelessness, a lot of problems that were there
but were kind of buried. Another major contribution
it’s made, in my opinion, is just overcoming the
atomization of the Society. The United States is a
very atomized society. People are kind of alone. You know, the ideal social
unit, from the point of view of concentrated
power, is a dyad. You and the screen,
nothing else. That’s a way to make sure
that everybody’s conforming. And there’s a lot of that. You know, children. It’s a real disease,
a pathology. And the Occupy
Movement’s overcoming it. It’s creating,
spontaneously, communities of people who actually are
reviving traditional ideals. I mean, if there were any real
conservatives in the country, they’d be applauding
the fact that they’re reviving the concepts of
solidarity, mutual support, sympathy, free
discussion, and so on that are just the most
traditional values we have. There’s been major
efforts to destroy them, and that’s being revived in the
communities of mutual support and solidarity that
are being created. Well, all of this is
really important, I think. But now, where do
you go from here? Well, first of all,
I don’t regard myself as any kind of an
expert on tactics. I’ve been wrong so many
times on tactical judgments that I usually shut up. And these are
important judgments. Tactical judgments
are those that have direct human consequences,
so they’re not marginal. But my general feeling
is that tactics have a kind of a half-life. They have diminishing returns. They may be very successful,
but it sort of declines. After a while, there’s kind of
a dynamism in which the tactic begins to overcome
the purpose, apart from beginning to
alienate other people who you’re trying to reach. So while I think that
the Occupy tactic has been a great success, I
think it has to be rethought, and moves have to be
made somehow to reach out into larger communities. Now, that’s been going on in
a number of interesting ways. Like one of the developments
in several cities, I know in New York and
Boston and elsewhere, has been what’s been
called Occupy The Hood. Neighborhood Occupy Movements,
which have, to some extent, integrated with the ones that
make the newspapers, Occupy Wall Street, occupy your
neighborhood in Brooklyn. Occupy other things. And those deal with
the immediate problems of the local people. And they can be very serious. I mean, it could
be something that sounds as simple as getting
a traffic light where kids have to cross the street. I mean, if people
can achieve that, they learn you can achieve
something by mutual aid and you can go on. That’s what successful
organizing is about. And if the Occupy Movements
can go in that direction, reach out to larger
sections of the population and engage the
working class, which they have yet really to do,
and that’s very significant, then I think they
have great prospects. But it’s not easy to do this. And we have a lot of repression,
violent repression sometimes, and power systems don’t
fade away cheerfully. They’ll do what they
can to control things, but I think that David
Hume was correct– “power is in the hands
of the governed.” There’s nothing– there’s no
weapon that the powerful have other than control of opinion. Attitudes, opinions,
beliefs, if they can make people feel hopeless,
dependent, passive, atomized, OK, then you can keep power. But the governed,
that is the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy
Movement, they have the power. But they have to get
organized, committed. And that’s the task
of people who want to devote themselves to this. [APPLAUSE] We have time for
one final question. It will come from this side. Hi, Dr. Chomsky. I met you first with
Daniel Berrigan. It’s a long time ago. But anyway, getting back to
your specific expertise in linguistics. It’s been troublesome to me
that the media will use words like “socialism,”
“class warfare,” but we never hear “fascism.” And from my studies of ideology,
state-supported capitalism, pretty much what you’ve been
talking about, is fascism. I know words have power,
and you know that, too. Are we too shy to talk about
what basically almost brought the end of mankind
in the last century? Or is it just the
media controls and you have to go to Link
TV or Democracy Now or– I don’t know. But they are not supported. They have to be supported
by people donating to them. Isn’t anyone aware? Well, the history of that
word is kind of interesting. Fascism obviously took on bad
connotations in the 1940s. But if you go back–
and, incidentally, the same is true of other words. Like take “propaganda.” The term “propaganda” now
is not used for information. In English. It still is in other languages. If you go back to the
1920s, information was just called propaganda. Like Edward Bernays,
who I mentioned, the founder of the public
relations industry, the book of his from which
I was quoting on engineering of consent and controlling
the masses and so on is called Propaganda. Propaganda is just
what you do when you try to control
beliefs and attitudes. Well, since the
1930s and the ’40s, you can’t use that term anymore
for its obvious connotations. Fascism is a very
interesting one. And we can learn a
lot about ourselves from looking at its history. Before the Second World War,
before the United States got into the Second
World War, 1941, fascism was not regarded
particularly critically. In fact, there’s a
very important book I urge you to read if you
haven’t called Business as a System of Power, by one of
the great political economists, Robert Brady, a
Veblen economist. It’s about the spread of fascism
through the industrial world. He points out that
in every country, all the industrial countries,
there are developments of basically fascist character. And he discusses them, and,
perfectly understandable, he was quite right, in fact. There’s nothing inherent
in fascism that says you have to have gas chambers. That’s a special
thing that developed. And in fact, say
Mussolini’s fascism was very highly-regarded
in the United States. Remember, that’s pre-Nazi. So FDR, Franklin Roosevelt,
President Roosevelt, he described Mussolini as “that
admirable Italian gentleman.” I mean, as late as 1939 he
was praising Mussolini saying, well, he’s been kind
of misled by Hitler, but basically doing
the right thing. And when fascism was
instituted in Italy, and it was pretty ugly, it
was praised across the board in the United States. Business Investment shot up. It also did after
Hitler came in. Fortune magazine, the
main business journal, had an issue in, I think, 1932. The title, you look at
the front page cover, big letters it says “The Wops
are Unwopping Themselves,” meaning the wops are finally
doing something right. You know, they’ve got a fascist
government, which works, and we like that. People on the left
were praising it. Same with Nazism. I mean, as late as 1938,
Roosevelt’s main advisor, Sumner Welles, went to
the Munich Conference. That’s the conference which
tore up Czechoslovakia. And he came back full of
praise for the Nazi moderates, who were going to help us
usher in a new era of peace. They’re the moderates kind of
protecting civilized values from the extremists of the
right and left and so on. I mean, George Kennan, who’s
very much honored and respected now– there’s a major
biography that just came out full of praise– if you take
a look at his actual record, he was the American Consul
in Berlin right through 1941. He was withdrawn, Pearl Harbor. And he was sending back
diplomatic correspondence to Washington
saying, you shouldn’t be so hard on the Nazis. They’re doing some things
wrong, but basically we can do business with them. They’re the right
kind of people. Well, a couple of years later,
you couldn’t talk about fascism that way. Fascism meant crematoria, you
know, gas chambers, and so on. So you stopped using the word. But your point is correct. As a social and political
order, Robert Brady knew what he was talking about. There are elements of this
kind of state capitalist order all over the industrial
world taking different forms. Thank you. Well, thank you all for
all of your questions and for your attention. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]