Education and the nature of success

Education and the nature of success

The first full blog post from Croydonian anarchist, describing (and critiquing) a talk recently put on by his school about being "successful".

So, here is my first post. This may turn out to be a mad rant but I hope it contains some good political criticism from an anarchist position and some funny bits. Some bits may make it seem like I really hate school but in general, I’m fine with it, most of my teachers aren’t pricks to me most of the time and some of my friends are there. Enjoy

Alright, so this post is going to be in retrospect as there is nothing that happened recently that has captured my attention at school that would be relevant for this blog. However, I will now keep my eyes peeled so this blog can be updated as frequently as possible. This is going to be about when a big boss high up in BSkyB, David Tinney, came in for a seminar about being “successful”. I found a post I had made about the event in the libcom.org forums which was dated late May 2011, which would mean he came in when I was nearing the end of year 12 (students in year 12 are 16-17). The memory is still vivid, I remember storming into my history lesson afterwards muttering expletives under my breath and ranting to friends who thought I cared way too much, which I probably do

But before we get into the details of what happened in that hour and what I’ve managed to find out about the guy on the internet, I think it’s worth talking about just why a school would pay for a man like David Tinney to come in and have the opportunity to spout propaganda about the myth of a romanticized meritocratic capitalist democracy to an audience of silenced youth for an hour.

The answer lies in the function of a modern school, in this capitalist society. Schools, and in general the entire education system, are not made to teach people how to develop into individuals that question things and are capable of looking at things in a critical, rational and analytical manner. Instead, it is made to simply churn out ready wage slaves, equipped with qualifications that show nothing except that the individual can remember the curriculum for an exam, that know how to shut up, obey instructions, and submit to whatever authority they are confronted with in later life, whether it be the bank, the boss or the bastards that are in government. Maybe even the bishop if we include faith schools. The system is engineered to produce clones destined for a working life that eventually pays off for a more than un satisfactory pension, regardless if you’re in the private or public sector, a reality that some millions of workers have been trying to fight recently.

The format of the seminar David gave revolved around separate concepts or tips to help to become successful. From his website, I have picked up on some of these points. One such concept he talks about is the ability to ask effective questions. I can bet you that the question is more to do with tedious bureaucracy about self evaluation than it is to with organising with co workers to get pay rises or improved working conditions. Another thing mentioned is the simple yet vague command of “take action”. Again, I have a strange hunch this does not refer to direct action and class struggle. Perhaps he should add “(take action) but only of the in effective type through the accepted channels”.

On the home page of David Tinney’s website, in big letters, the over guiding principle is displayed proudly, “you are your own services company". In his seminar this one of the first things he talked about. He tried to get some crowd participation going, as he tried to show he was ‘cool’ and ‘in the know’ by asking us who had an account on facebook or twitter or linkedin. David was met with deafening silence as we refused to entertain his request. It was quite cringe worthy, and whilst it was funny there is a hideous under current to the statement “you are your own services company". In my opinion at least, these idea reeks of a capitalist perspective that totally de humanizes people and reduces them to be nothing but economic assets. I could even go as far as to say this represents the commodification of humans themselves. This is was what stuck with me and what most filled me with disgust after the seminar

It truly reveals what a capitalist David Tinney is. To aid the un veiling of his bourgeois character, he mentioned in passing that he had been involved in the higher echelons of a political party, the name of which he did not mention. Although I did try to ask at the end when he was taking questions to be sure, I would give no prizes for anyone guessing which party David Tinney was likely to of been referring to. And finally, as the seminar drew to a close, which had included a small section that he called “world view” where he tried to give the illusion that he had some global moral conscience (as if he cared about all the people he most certainly would of exploited to get where he is today), he casually told us he would be giving away signed copies of his book quickly, pretending this was not all a promotional/profit driven activity.

His book, called "The Advanced Power State” and sub titled “to make you successful in life”, also has a section devoted to it on his website. Even the front cover is telling, as it displays cogs turning together like clockwork, whose rotation is made smoother by the greasing that every workers blood sweat and tears provides. A well oiled machine. Once again, the web page bullet points the subjects the book will cover, which includes “motivation and behavior training”. This sounded very sinister to me. If the book was not so well disguised as a harm less self help publication, in this chapter it would provide comment on the fact that the sole motivation is monetary, about life being all about climbing the ladder whose rungs might as well be the outstretched, trodden on bodies of the proletariat dead or alive. You can see his website here at http://www.advancedknowledgesystems.co.uk/

To conclude what has been quite a long melodramatic ranting, I thought I would try to end on a more positive note. David Tinney’s book, seminar and indeed what seems to be his entire life, is about success. In his mind, success is about the accumulation of wealth. In mine however, success is not about this at all. Sure it will be nice to be able to live fairly comfortably, with a nice amount of cash to dispose of how I wish, but this is not all there is to life. All too often it comes across through the media and education that what we call life should be reduced to being born, going to school, going on to university, getting a job, getting married, having kids, retiring, and then dying, leaving a modest amount of money tied up in an estate that will be inherited by your offspring. I consider success to be less about career options and bank balances and more about happiness and personal fulfillment. If ticking the boxes I mentioned before constitutes fulfillment for you, whilst I would consider that to be somewhat depressing, I would have no right to insult the way your life. But I think most people secretly want there to be something more to life. I know that I certainly do, and I hope that anarchist communists do to.

Posted By

the croydonian ...
Jan 1 2012 13:48

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Choccy
Jan 2 2012 13:51

Spot on. These sorts of motivational 'seminars' are happening in schools all over the country, and not just for students.

A few years ago, we had a former Dragon's Den winner come in and give us a 'staff motivation seminar' about how we could get all these poor east London kids to achieve because he 'used to be one of them'. Of course it was total fantasy like 'everyone can make it like me if they just work hard'.

This completely neglected the fact that he now owned several companies and employed hundreds of people, therefore his success was dependent on the labour of hundreds, and so, structurally, it is literally impossible for everyone to get to his position. His position is entirely dependent on hundreds of other people NOT being in his position, but labour to produce wealth that he accumulates and controls, and give a few crumbs back.

It's depressing to think that your experience is not unique. But it's fantastic that you see if for the bullshit that it is. You should keep having those conversations with your friends, and never be afraid to be the 'zealous political one' in your group of mates. Anyone half way normal will find seminars like that boring as fuck in the very least, exploit that boredom and point out that it's a load of shite - it'll at least make your mates think wink

LBird
Jan 2 2012 14:04

The bastards keep pushing the ideology of 'individualism', don't they? 'Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps', Samuel Smiles and Self Help, eh?

Choccy
Jan 2 2012 14:20

I'd generally agree that most people in mamangement or who study business are genuinely incredibly thick, at least most I've met - it's the easiest way to 'get ahead in life' - abandon reason and critical thinking and regurgitate whatever managementspeak is fashionable.

New managers especially will uncritically swallow management jargon, spread it like their life depended on it, then hop on another business-bandwagon when another fashion comes along.

Schools are absolutely terrible for it, but I'd imagine most sectors are the same in terms of the pure unfiltered shite workers have to listen to.

Choccy
Jan 2 2012 14:35

massive apologies to LBird for accidentally editing his comment when I meant to just quote it. no idea how to fix it, sorry mate!
[/quotefail] sad

That said, I agreed with you smile

Joseph Kay
Jan 2 2012 14:44
The Croydonian Anarchist wrote:
The answer lies in the function of a modern school, in this capitalist society. Schools, and in general the entire education system, are not made to teach people how to develop into individuals that question things and are capable of looking at things in a critical, rational and analytical manner. Instead, it is made to simply churn out ready wage slaves, equipped with qualifications that show nothing except that the individual can remember the curriculum for an exam, that know how to shut up, obey instructions, and submit to whatever authority they are confronted with in later life, whether it be the bank, the boss or the bastards that are in government. Maybe even the bishop if we include faith schools. The system is engineered to produce clones destined for a working life that eventually pays off for a more than un satisfactory pension, regardless if you’re in the private or public sector, a reality that some millions of workers have been trying to fight recently.

Have you seen this?

Quite good I thought, although it doesn't go into the obvious reason why education is still set up on 'the industrial model' (i.e. producing wage slaves). I've been meaning to read Paulo Freire's 'pedagogy of the oppressed' for ages, which is where he gets the concept of 'the banking model of education' from I think.

Ramona
Jan 2 2012 14:49

Absolutely excellent piece, Croydonian!

Harrison
Jan 2 2012 15:50
Croydonian wrote:
The answer lies in the function of a modern school, in this capitalist society. Schools, and in general the entire education system, are not made to teach people how to develop into individuals that question things and are capable of looking at things in a critical, rational and analytical manner. Instead, it is made to simply churn out ready wage slaves, equipped with qualifications that show nothing except that the individual can remember the curriculum for an exam, that know how to shut up, obey instructions, and submit to whatever authority they are confronted with in later life, whether it be the bank, the boss or the bastards that are in government.

I would 100% agree with this. Education is not viewed as an end in itself, but only a supplementation to the jobs market and a method of disciplining the intellectual capacities of humans (and future workers) into being command-able from a central authority (be it a firm or a state).

Looking forward to more of your blog posts

LBird
Jan 2 2012 16:04
Choccy wrote:
massive apologies to LBird for accidentally editing his comment when I meant to just quote it. no idea how to fix it, sorry mate!
[/quotefail] sad

That said, I agreed with you smile

No problem - I'm just glad that someone agrees with something I've written on this site!

martinh
Jan 2 2012 16:23

Good piece, Croydonian Anarchist.

the croydonian ...
Jan 2 2012 16:50

I will take a look at that video later Joseph. And harrisson, surely education should be thought of as an end, I would think its best as an on going process through out life.

Steven.
Jan 2 2012 17:53

Yeah good post Croydonian. I agree with what you say about education. I wonder how I would have felt if I thought that at the time…

When I was at school we had a similar visit from some business muppet who was telling us about being entrepreneurs, and who were saying that instead of getting jobs like suckers we should set ourselves up as PLCs and hire ourselves out as independent contractors instead.

martinh
Jan 2 2012 18:04
Steven. wrote:
When I was at school we had a similar visit from some business muppet who was telling us about being entrepreneurs, and who were saying that instead of getting jobs like suckers we should set ourselves up as PLCs and hire ourselves out as independent contractors instead.

Which used to be widespread in IT, until the govt changed the rules so that ordinary workers who were contracting didn't get all the tax breaks that companies do. I used to work with one guy who defined his home as his office so was able to pay himself tax-deductible travel expenses to wherever he worked. Not sure if this is possible any more, but obviously that sort of benefit should only apply to big companies.

Regards,

Chilli Sauce
Jan 3 2012 10:53

When I was in secondary school I was given the "opportunity" to go teach year one students. What they didn't tell me was that it was a basic "economics" course sponsored by a business association which essentially amounted to capitalist indoctrination: exchanging money for goods and services, how wages benefit everyone--boss and worker, and hard work ensured that those who tried hard will succeed.

Sickening looking back on it, but at the time I was a liberal 16 year hoping to become a teacher, so I handled it all pretty uncritically. sad

the croydonian ...
Jan 3 2012 14:20

Gutted. That sounds horrible.

Choccy
Jan 3 2012 14:46
Chilli Sauce wrote:
When I was in secondary school I was given the "opportunity" to go teach year one students. What they didn't tell me was that it was a basic "economics" course sponsored by a business association which essentially amounted to capitalist indoctrination: exchanging money for goods and services, how wages benefit everyone--boss and worker, and hard work ensured that those who tried hard will succeed.

That sort of overt capitalist indoctrination is widespread as you'd imagine. In east London esp with the Olympics coming, schools are being filled with that crap. Two years ago we had workers from our sponsor come in to get kids to plan an imaginary Olympic games. But the planning had little to do with sport or anything it was all about budgeting, marketing, advertising, how many workers you need, cost of land etc etc

Lots of our other non-curriculum days were like that too - 'you could be the next Dragon's Den winner' 'what's your big idea?' blah blah blah

the croydonian ...
Jan 3 2012 14:57

We have plenty of those sort of day events that take a couple years off time table. And because we are a "business and enterprise specialist" school, its all businessy. Some that spring to mind were called "Card Shark", "Calendar Wars" and "Takeover" which was more of a war game. I feel like there is some material her smile I didn't realize what this stuff is. Looks like I'm going to spend the afternoon not revising and digging up the dirt. I'm like a fucking anarchist Julian Assange.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 3 2012 15:04

When I was a kid we had the "stocks game" where we were put into teams to buy stocks to see, over a year, whose investments paid the most dividends... wall

Ed
Jan 3 2012 15:08

When I was at school we played a game where we were split into different groups, all making 'shoes' for the benefit of the bank/company (who would sell us the materials we needed and then buy what we made). In the end, only the bank made any money while barely any of the groups where even able to survive financially.

That's how they taught us about the shoe industry in Geography. Dirty commie teachers.. wink

Chilli Sauce
Jan 3 2012 15:17

I know fucking evil Price Waterhouse Cooper sponsors a lot of "business days" around secondary schools in London. Disgusting.

Just think of what Ed's commie geography teachers would say... Randomly, Ed, I saw your old school for the first time just yesterday. Although a person we know in common ran into the NUT branch of said school on the N30 demo.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 3 2012 15:19
Quote:
In east London esp with the Olympics coming, schools are being filled with that crap. Two years ago we had workers from our sponsor come in to get kids to plan an imaginary Olympic games. But the planning had little to do with sport or anything it was all about budgeting, marketing, advertising, how many workers you need, cost of land etc etc

I've been experiencing this directly.

My favourite example of school lessons plans being dominated by marketing and advertising was a worksheet I came across. It listed products and target markets. I noticed one of the target markets was "unemployed people". The answer? Fucking "highest interest loans".

I actually kept it I was so fucking shocked.

the croydonian ...
Jan 3 2012 15:56

Fucking hell. Anyway guys, the next post is in the pipelines, just been gathering some material.

flaneur
Jan 3 2012 17:00
Chilli Sauce wrote:
When I was a kid we had the "stocks game" where we were put into teams to buy stocks to see, over a year, whose investments paid the most dividends... wall

Was it as fun as this?