[Marxism] Chomsky 4 young People of all ages

mckenna193 at aol.com mckenna193 at aol.com
Sat Jan 4 10:13:23 MST 2014

Noam speaks frankly for kids (and us)

EXCERPTS from terrific interview:

The main body of the following questions were posed by younger folks and the age range of the questioners is roughly 12 through 20. Most of the young people with whom we spoke included in their questions the following: “What is the meaning of life?” 
CHOMSKY: The meaning of life is what you make of it. Life does not have any meaning apart from that, for a human, a dog, a bacterium, or anything else. It is up to you what the meaning of your life is. So, it is partially under your control. ... 

Actually, one of the most dangerous religious beliefs, maybe the most dangerous belief, is the secular faith in the sanctity and power of the state. We see that all the time. 

Take what is called “American exceptionalism,” the notion that we are unique in history; there is the fundamental benevolence of our leaders; they may make mistakes, but always with good intentions. That is one of the most dangerous beliefs. It is a religious belief and has no foundation in fact, and it is one of the most dangerous that exists. In fact, secular religions have been extremely dangerous. Nazism, for example, was a secular religion. 

Would you place market fundamentalism in that category?
Yes, it is. The belief in markets is a religious belief. Rationally, we know of all kinds of fundamental, what are called, “inefficiencies” in markets. But the belief that they can solve everything and that everything can have a value determined by the market, I think you can regard that as a religious belief. The other day I happened to be reading a careful, interesting account of the state of British higher education. The government is a kind of market-oriented government and they came out with an official paper, a “White Paper” saying that it is not the responsibility of the state to support any institution that can’t survive in the market. So, if Oxford is teaching philosophy, the arts, Greek history, medieval history, and so on, and they can’t sell it on the market, why should they be supported? Because life consists only of what you can sell in the market and get back, nothing else. That is a real pathology. 

The author of the article says, plausibly, that the government is trying to turn first rate universities into third rate commercial enterprises and also cheapen existence, weakens the society, turns it into some kind of a pathological creature, and people may adapt to it and decide, “that is the way I want to live” but then it is a sad society. It is just like societies of religious fundamentalists where people are really committed to the fundamentalist beliefs, to their own detriment and the harm of others. It can happen, and, in fact, is happening. ...

A student asks, “Our schooling is mostly about testing and preparation for tests. It is rather boring. What can we do as young people to fight back and create a more meaningful education system?” 
The idea of teaching to tests is a technique for creating people to serve in the Marine Corps or the equivalent form of conformity-to-orders in general society. It is not the way to create or allow the self-creation, of creative individuals living in a functioning democratic society. 

If you go back to the 18th century Enlightenment, these topics were discussed in a modern form for the first time. There were alternative models created of what education should be like. There was imagery used for them that was telling. One image was thinking of teaching as pouring a liquid into a vessel and then the vessel regurgitates it. That is teaching to the test. We all know that is a pretty leaky vessel and you don’t learn anything. You can take a course and study and memorize and pass the test and a week later you don’t remember what the course was about. 

The other model, which is the recommended one, is thinking of education as laying out a string along which the student pursues or follows it in his or her own way, maybe modifying the string. So, meaning some kind of structure, but then you investigate and you learn how to inquire and create. That is a big difference. ...

During this latest [FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN] farce in Washington, which astonished the world, there was a Chinese commentator who  said, “If the United States can’t learn to behave as a responsible member of the international community, then the world will have to be de-Americanized.” So, kick ‘em out and we’ll go on without them. That is where U.S. policy is leading. 

One of the major events in the United States in the post-Second World War era, late 1940s, was that China became independent. It separated itself from the U.S.-dominated world system. Notice how that is described in the United States, universally, as “the loss of China.” And it had a big impact on American society. It is the basis of McCarthyism. Who was responsible for the loss of China? The State Department was decimated by the elimination of the Asia experts because they were responsible for the loss of China. And it goes on for years and into the present. It is a big issue. The tacit assumption is “we own the world” and if somebody becomes independent, we’ve lost it. What is striking is that this is never questioned. It is never even noticed. ...

>From high school students. Do you see a difference between knowledge and wisdom? As young people we are often told that wisdom comes with age. Have you noticed a growth in wisdom as time has passed? 
I think children, even young children, can have very wise comments and insights. 

There is certainly a difference between knowledge and wisdom. For example, you have knowledge if you can repeat facts and they are accurate, but wisdom means understanding, perception, and ability to apply your knowledge in new situations and so on. That is very different. Theoretically it is supposed to come with age, but I think the evidence is not so clear.

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