Saturday, July 31, 2010

Harper's know-nothingism. . . . .

For those people who are surprised by Harper's recent attack on the long-form census, you probably haven't been paying attention to his personal past nor to his political tradition. The foundations of modern Toryism are rooted in the British reactions to the Revolution in France.Ever since that time conservatives have been particularly afraid of ideals and ideas.  Fearful Tories and aristocrats saw the roots of the revolution and Jacobinism in the exposure of the People to ideas of thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau. Men like William Pitt and Edmund Burke were particularly fearful that if average Englanders were exposed to too much education and too many ideas, revolution would be the inevitable outcome and chaos would ensue. The British Conservatives were already armed with an English tradition of reactionary attitudes as they displayed in the Gordon Riots in 1780 when crowds of people were whipped into a conservative frenzy of hatred and violence that left hundreds dead and wounded. Soon after the revolution in France the British Conservatives made it a central tenant of the political modus operandi to whip up fervent feelings against intellectuals and dissenters such as the great Joseph Priestley whose house and laboratory was destroyed by one such mob. Ever after the events in France many conservatives used fear of intellectualism and dissent as primary political motivation for their followers. Hitler was particularly adept at targeting intellectuals as people who corrupted and destroyed traditional (read conservative) values. Many conservatives were particularly opposed to universal education because they feared that there is nothing more dangerous than an educated working-class who would never be satisfied with their lot in life if they gained an education and a knowledge of social possibilities.

Harper is a modern personification of these kinds of attitudes. One of Harper's earliest moves as PM was to end almost all federally funded adult literacy programs. Like Mike Harris, Harper and his crew only see education as valuable when it is entirely functional, results oriented, and serves very basic needs of corporate labor demands. Any ideas, information, or education that does not conform to the simplest elements in the Conservative agenda are to be banished as unnecessary, or even dangerous. Thus if opposition members want to discuss the overall strategies or potential abuses in the war in Afghanistan they are branded as Taliban dupes. If statistics emerge that suggest that the Conservative 'tough on crime' agenda is a meaningless, politically motivated effort at gaining votes at the expense of billions, then those statistics must be 'unreliable' or even 'fabricated.' Ideals and ideas have long been the enemy of men like Harper and this is the way it will always be. If Conservatives have their way they will soon have a Fox-like television station in Canada which will promote its own brand of Canadian know-nothingism and they will fill our airwaves with ignorance and lies.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Education is a provincial responsibility. Harper's defunding of adult literacy programs speaks more to his ongoing efforts to decentralize the federation (or rebalance it) than to any other purpose.

-Leo

kirbycairo said...

No Leo - It will not do to attempt to confuse the issue in the proverbial Canadian argument about provincial/federal responsibilities. Particularly when there has been a pattern of ending funding for so many organizations (both local and national) which represent anything that empowers people who normally lack empowerment. As well as ending funding for aid organizations that Harper perceives possess political leanings that don't conform to his dispensationalism or general ideological outlook. Your argument might have some teeth if there were not an identifiable trend.

Anonymous said...

But as you say "Harper and his crew only see education as valuable when it is entirely functional, results oriented, and serves very basic needs of corporate labor demands."

Certainly "Adult Literacy" falls into this category, as these types of programs are geared a functional living, not thesis writing.

Ideologically, then, wouldn't it make sense to fund these programs? Someone who can read or write at an eighth-grade level is a better customer, a better laborer, and yet doesn't have any idea what dispensationalism means.

Unless, of course, the ideology in play is one concerned with dismantling the central bureaucracy.

-Leo

kirbycairo said...

Dear Leo - First; there is no question that ideology is playing a role here because while you know that educated people make better customers, people like Harper know that uneducated people are easier to fool with tough on crime agendas etc. Second - you don't appear to know much about literacy programs, at least at a conceptual level. While indeed many literacy programs do indeed involve 'life-skills' issues, they also seek to make people more politically and socially literate and many adult literacy programs in Canada in recent years have been modeled on a 'popular education' approach (originating with Brazilian educator Paolo Freire)And this brings forward two important issues - One is that these programs tend to empower people and often 'radicalize' them. Second - these kinds of programs very seldom have 'measurable results' because they are often peer tutored and involve no formal testing, and this is one of the primary excuses that Baird (who was the minister at the time) cut the programs.