SciEd In-Dispositif

Science Education Assimilated into the Capitalist Dispositif

Although each of us may think of ourselves as autonomous beings, there is much evidence and argument to suggest most of us are assimilated – more or less – into a network (like The Borg™) consisting of myriad living, non-living & symbolic entities (‘actants’) that, collectively, act to support a set of goals, perspectives, practices, etc. It also may be considered to be a dispositif – i.e., an assemblage of actants serving one or more purposes. Although this assemblage may be considered to connect all entities in the universe, many think of it in Earth-centric ways – such as those supporting the Gaia Theory, conceiving all living & non-living things on earth as a single ‘being.’ A recent – and apparently rapidly-expanding (and problematic) – phenomenon is the Internet-of-Things, electronically connecting living & non-living things, largely for profit. Given importance of fields of science & technology for profit generation, it seems clear that their educational counterparts are greatly assimilated into the pro-capitalist ‘Borg.’ This page provides some elaboration, with examples, of this claim – with more detail here.

Networked Humans

The Capitalist Dispositif

Although we each have many different influences on our lives, it seems clear that a dominant one is capitalism; that is, elite controls of means of production of for-profit goods & services. In about the last half-century, with some recent shifts towards nationalism and acknowledging variations noted in the video at right/below, a dominant form of capitalism is neo-liberalism; that is, facilitation of capitalist goals through influences of governments, transnational entities (e.g., WTO) and others in ways that infuse capitalist ideologies across global networks of living, non-living & symbolic entities. This network appears to be similar to The Borg, assimilating almost anything into its sociotechnical array.

Pro-capitalist Education

Given power of pro-capitalist dispositifs to engulf nearly everything, it seems clear that a prime actant for capitalist successes is education – which, of course, can have considerable influence on thoughts and actions of individuals & groups. Pasi Sahlberg, in Finnish Lessons (2011), suggested that there is a Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) that – like a virus – has ‘infected’ many educational system worldwide, leading – as he suggests in the video below – to much teacher & student alienation from education. Meanwhile, Sir Ken Robinson claimed – as in the video below – that such education is modeled after industrialism, narrowly-focused on identifying & educating a few students who may be financially-useful, while compromising education of many or most other students. He recommends, instead, education modeled after agriculture – creating environments to enable each different student to flourish.

Pro-capitalist Science & Technology Education

As elaborated here, school science & technology (and ‘STEM‘) educational systems appear to largely focus on identifying potential ‘knowledge producers’ (e.g., engineers, scientists, etc.) to serve capitalists and, often as a by-product, generating masses of people who, to varying extents, are useful to capitalists as ‘knowledge consumers,’ in terms of compliant workers and as enthusiastic & unquestioning purchasers (& disposers) of for-profit goods & services. This system seems to be contributing to extreme wealth inequalities and extreme threats to environmental viability. I elaborate on some of these seemingly-entrenched themes in the 2005 video at right/below. More recent elaborations are provided below.

Science Education as ‘Selection & Training Camp’

School science systems (e.g., government, textbooks, administrators, etc.) – including recent STEM education initiatives – often are like athletic ‘selection & training camps,’ aimed at identifying future scientists, engineers and other knowledge producers who are capable of developing & managing production & consumption of for-profit goods & services on behalf of capitalist owners. Selection processes often are like a survival of the ‘richest’ experience, in which survivors are more intelligent and richer in cultural & social capital – able to quickly understand or ‘discover’ (via inquiry-based learning) abstract laws & theories. Such processes are similar to being able to ‘see’ a particular image in this photograph.

Science Education as an ‘Apprenticeship for Consumership’

Although most money appears to be made in recent years through financial capitalism (e.g., market speculation), much of it continues to be made through promotion of consumerism; that is, obsessive for-profit consumption & disposal cycles – as depicted in the video at right and in The Story of Stuff. School science (& STEM) education appears to contribute to such consumerism in multiple ways, including through: i) Idealization; e.g., sanitization of NoST and STSE (e.g., via compromising education about STSE Harms), making school science function as an ‘infomercial’ for professional science (& engineering); and, ii) Disempowerment; e.g., via threats to intellectual independence (e.g., A, B), such as through losses of expertise & confidence via excessive TD/CE lessons/activities and via learning challenges from IBL and rapid knowledge, skill acquisition expectations.

Seeing The World Through Critical Lenses

Realization that each of us is, more or less, engulfed in a pro-capitalist dispositif is like being able to see the world through ‘magical’ glasses used in the film, They Live (as at right/below). In actor-network theory terms, using such ‘lenses’ allows us to de-punctualize phenomena – to ‘see’ that they are not singularities; but, rather, actants within larger networks. As McMurtry (1999) suggested, we are intertwined in a network of living, nonliving & symbolic entities that are largely conditioned (as normalizing power) to serve capitalists – service that appears linked to numerous STSE Harms. Recognition of such power relations can enlighten and invigorate us to work towards promoting more socially-just & environmentally-thriving worlds – as discussed here.