The "covert curriculum"
Built on the factory model, mass education taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects. This was the "overt curriculum." But beneath it lay an invisible or "covert curriculum" that was far more basic. It consisted -- and still does in most industrial nations -- of three courses: one in punctuality, one in obedience, and one in rote, repetitive work. Factory labor demanded workers who showed up on time, especially assembly-line hands. It demanded workers who would take orders from a management hierarchy without questioning. And it demanded men and women prepared to slave away at machines or in offices, performing brutally repetitious operations.
The child has no time at all in which to be his own person. But of course this is politically highly desirable. People bred to constant fitting in with structured groups and very low capacity to form personal relationships, are passive, docile people, easy to govern, easy to influence. Especially it's desirable for people to be well used to fitting into structured groups constantly & continually - which are led by those bigger and more powerful than they are. That way we become accustomed to the idea that we need bigger people, authority people to tell us what to do.
Letter in the Irish Times from Emmet Healy
SCHOOLING FOR LIFE
It is the sad reality of our current second-level education system that it focuses mainly on academic subjects that many students will never come across again once they walk out the school gates for the last time. Here's a radical idea: Why not include in our school curriculum topics that students may find useful in their future lives? Why not teach them how to drive properly, how to apply First Aid in an emergency, how to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STDs, how to choose the right career path, how to stay healthy, wealthy and wise - and indeed, in some cases, how to read properly?
It does not matter what the teacher teaches so long as the pupil has to attend hundreds of hours of age-specific assemblies to engage in a routine decreed by the curriculum and is graded according to his ability to submit it. People learn that they acquire more value in the market if they spend more hours in class. They learn to value progressive consumption of curricula. They learn that whatever a major institution produces has value, even invisible things such as education or health. They learn to value grade advancement, passive submission, and even the standard misbehavior that teachers like to interpret as a sign of creativity. They learn disciplined competition for the favor of the bureaucrat who presides over their daily lessons, who is called their teacher as long as they are in class and their boss when they go to work.
The hidden agenda in all this has to be our own personal insignificance and powerlessness to change or make our own unique contribution to the world. You make the argument that since I can't change the world, the least I can do is help people cope the best they can with it as is. The trouble with this is that not only does this create a self fulfilling prophesy, but it also determines a different quality of life as an outcome of giving up any kind of a struggle to change that which is wrong and is harming people. It is living a kind of fatalism which isn't some invariable necessity but could have pressure exerted upon it to change. What kind of a life is it knowing that this and that in the world is inappropriate, choosing to disengage with it, but remaining powerless to create a better, more appropriate and responsive environment?
It seems perverse and immoral to me to have an analysis of the environment as harmful, yet accept it as a given as if it were the weather or something when clearly it is not, and should be subject to change.