Education – A Means of Social Control and the Common Core


As a means of finding ways to improve what they do, teachers are expected to reflect on their practice to find things they can do better. Nothing sounds particularly alarming about that, I’m confident many other occupations encourage self awareness and improvement, but when a teacher is constrained by the standards set by a government ones reflection can become considerably restricted. Most teachers start off as idealists, after eleven years I still have my moments, moments when I feel ‘I can make a difference’. New teachers want to open up the eyes of their students to the abundance of opportunity that awaits them in the world. Over time this enthusiasm is slowly and painfully drawn out of the teachers soul, eventually leaving a hollow shell, stripped of dignity denuded of hope and with only self loathing for company. Many methods are used to achieve the complete demoralization of a teacher, but by far the most frequently used is change. Constant change to how you do something eventually leads you to conclude that you are always doing everything wrong:

We trained hard … but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.

Common Core State Standards

A little like the result of a game of Chinese whispers, the Common Core initiative was a by product that resulted out of the motivation behind the American Diploma Project (an attempt to standardize the quality of high school diplomas). In an article for the Washington Post New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the year, Carol Burris identifies what she calls ‘4 Common Core Flimflams’.                                                           Flimflam (n): nonsensical or insincere talk.                                               “I suppose that you suspect me of pseudo-intellectual flimflam”

  1. Flimflam # 1: The Common Core standards are internationally benchmarked and grounded in research.

I am forever being informed that the common core standards are grounded in research, Burris argues strongly against this assertion, whilst also admitting to be at a loss as to which countries benchmarks they may have used. To read her three further flimflams see the link below.

In the Common Core knowledge is cut down to the essential need to knows that everyone will be taught, with teachers likely to teach to the standards not beyond them. Some might call this creating a level playing field, others the beginnings of a path to mass social control. Teachers will have a framework and a standardized rubric in which to teach and assess their students ability to think critically, something they will all have to do the same way, they will conform in their criticality because that is how to get good marks. Ultimately we will have a society that won’t be afraid to rock the boat because everyone will agree that the boat needs to be rocked. We will have a population of sheep, to serve the best interests of a small minority. 

This mass production of people is not reserved purely for the working class, in his book ‘Excellent Sheep’ William Deresiewicz postulates how education at all levels is mass producing graduates to fill predetermined roles in society.

It’s a bleak and soulless scene. But nobody protests. Any doubts are allayed by presidents and deans, who tell students before they arrive and repeat after they graduate that they are the most dazzling, brilliant, gifted young people ever to enter whichever college they attend. And any crises of conscience or conduct are averted by a system that cuts the chosen ones endless slack, penalizes no misconduct and sees to it that all have prizes at the end.

Standardizing testing, standardizing curriculum if only we could standardize students and tattoo bar codes on the back of their heads. meat-grinderPeople are not standardized and to force people through a one size fits all meat grinder of education, can be in nobodies best interests, with the exception of the ruling elite perhaps.

I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the surprise you have in store when you discover that the elaborate system of social control official schooling represents has been a vigorously worked out idea for at least 400 years. The real question you should be asking is why, in all the years of school incarceration you suffered, did nobody bother to let you in on the secret?

J. T Gatto Weapons of Mass Instruction

social control
Yes; we are all individuals.

Often regarded as a loose canon by his peers, Gatto (New York City teacher of the year 1989,1990, 1991 and New York State teacher of the year 1991) refers to what is called ‘the hidden curriculum’, what might also be perceived as education’s hidden agenda. The hidden curriculum to which Gatto originally referred to with suspicion is today however accepted and the importance of the role schools play in socialization is being increasingly recognized;

Education is a process of socialization. It prepares the child for social living. It reforms the attitudes wrongly formed by the children. Thus a family may make the child superstitious; education will correct his beliefs and remove his prejudices. It teaches him value of discipline, social cooperation, tolerance and sacrifice. It instills in him the qualities of honesty, fair play and a sense of right and wrong. The importance of education for creating right social attitudes among youth cannot be overlooked.

With education in the west focused on standardizing itself and striving to produce standardized people, that fit neatly into a standardized society. And with much of the rest of the world receiving education through the medium of English, it’s not too hard to perceive a future hive mentality. As Huxley suggested humans of different castes all conforming to the society’s need for that caste, all consuming all asking the questions they have been taught to ask. Our standardized society is nigh.

Brave New World Finished

Gonzo symbol

Teaching English as an Additional Language – A 10 Year Odyssey in Search of a Correctly Conjugated Verb


It all started a long time ago in a land far far away. Like minded people gathered asking questions, they would seek out teachers who would help them to better understand the world and their lives. From Socrates to Pericles, to Plato and Aristotle education began with the noblest and purest of intentions. Socrates refused payment for his teaching as he believed that knowledge should not only be given just to those who could afford it.

What follows are my thoughts following ten years of prostituting off my mother tongue to the highest bidder around Southeast Asia. For many of my experiences the setting has almost always been in schools, but sadly the subject has seldom been education.

Native English Speaking Teachers – A Soldier in an Army of Linguistic Missionaries

The teachers you get coming to Southeast Asia are some of life’s most unique individuals. 95% of them fall in to one of the two following categories. Type ones come to teach in Southeast Asia to avoid debt or custodial sentences, they are too far gone to hang on to the coattails of social acceptability in their native countries, too introverted, too extroverted or just too perverted to fit in anywhere else. They wander through the countries of Southeast Asia with a head full of confused grammar and loose morals. Then you get those poor bastards who come here unaware as to just how depraved and twisted this place is. They leave behind good jobs, with good prospects, and find themselves teaching in an educational vacuum, desperately trying to cling on to the values they know to be true, but they dare not utter. Right away these people know they have entered an environment where knowledge is not just ignored but aggressively attacked. It is a place where black can be white, where sometimes two plus two does equal five and where it can be considered just too damn dangerous to have fire drills.

In ten years I have seen many different types of teachers pass through schools, I’ve seen a few passed out in classrooms too. At first being an expat and working in a school was weird, it was like mixing the most mind bending twisted holiday at night, with a responsible job during daylight hours. Needless to say such compartmentalization of these two disparate worlds was not always possible. On one occasion I recall a teacher turning up for work at three o’clock in the afternoon because they had an appointment with the principal about the renewal of his contract. Exactly when he’d started drinking and if indeed he had actually stopped, it was impossible to tell, he had to look for work elsewhere.  Ten years ago you were unlikely to find a teacher sober before lunchtime, indeed you would be lucky to find many teachers in school prior to lunchtime. A decade ago you could and did do anything, drinking until three in the morning when you started teaching at eight was nothing unusual.

Times have changed, things have become more serious. Maybe I’ve just changed and become sober.

Globalization, Indoctrination and Linguistic Imperialism

Why is there such a need for English to be taught around the world? Why is English the lingua franca? Why is it  that these countries must have native English speakers teaching their children, after all when I learned French I did so from an English person? Could it be that it is all bullshit?

There has been a long held belief that a western education is better. In turn there is that western teachers must also be better. These are beliefs that are consistently reinforced through linguistic imperialism,  defined as:

the dominance asserted and retained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages.

Phillipson, Robert (1992), p 47.

English is the language of capitalism and a vital tool of the global hegemony. The ceaseless reinforcement of the importance of the English language through the pervasive international marketing of American brands, and rhetoric used by institutions like the British Council. English is accepted by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as the common language. It is reasonable to expect that in a world of such international trade that there must be a common language, in this case English, but that in no way means that native English speaking countries provide the best education nor necessarily the best teachers to teach the English language.

Last years report by the  Organization for Economic and Cultural Diversity (OECD) showed how these five countries fared against one another:


Literacy Maths Science
Singapore 3 2 3
Japan 4 7 4
Korea 5 5 7
United Kingdom 23 26 21
United States 24 36 28

For the full list see the link below:             

Obviously these results  are unflattering to the two major English speaking countries, even more so when you consider that Singapore’s language of instruction is English and they severely out performed both the United States and the United Kingdom in literacy. This raises the question would Singaporean English teachers be more effective teachers of English to Southeast Asian children? Simply the answer is yes but they would command huge salaries.

So why are native English speaking teachers still in so much demand throughout Southeast Asia? There remains a belief, that still carries some truth, that a degree from the west is of greater value than a degree from a Southeast Asian country. Whilst this may be true the only thing that prevents Southeast Asian students from getting a degree from a western university is the cash. Nowadays having the financial resources is more important than having the academic ability. Western Universities are run like businesses and they charge a premium for foreign students. This brings us back to where we started and Socrates refusing to be paid as knowledge should not only be given to those that can afford it. Truth be told though no knowledge has to be given, nor often is, just a degree certificate that proved you paid to attend a university for three years.

Education, in particular English Language education in foreign countries has become an industry, which feeds off of, and reinforces the beliefs of linguistic imperialism. What must be held as most important is what a student is capable of learning, not what language they are capable of learning it in.

The truth is nobody but the students should profit from education.

Looking upon my 10 years in Southeast Asia I can state categorically that Linguistic imperialism rocks, it has allowed me to live for a decade, the first half of which was spent indulging in such hedonistic debauchery it would have made Nero blush, comfortably in Southeast Asia. Yes there might be some moral questions that remain unanswered, but so long as I’m alright I’ll just keep turning a blind eye and a deaf ear.