S&T Education Analysis

Science & Technology Education Assimilated into the Capitalist 'Borg'


Although each of us may think of ourselves as autonomous beings, there is much evidence and argument to suggest most of us are assimilatedmore or less – into a network (or dispositif, like The Borg™) consisting of myriad living, non-living & symbolic entities that, collectively, act to support sets of goals, perspectives, practices, etc. (e.g., of capitalists). Although this assemblage may be considered to connect all entities in the universe, it often is considered in Earth-centric ways – such as with the Gaia Theory, conceiving all living & non-living things on earth as a single ‘being.’ A recent – and apparently rapidly-expanding (and problematic) – related 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 of this claim – with more detail here.

The Capitalist Dispositif

Although we each are influenced by many factors, it seems clear that a dominant one is capitalism (also here); i.e., as Marx suggested, elite controls of means of production of for-profit goods & services. Since about the mid-1970s, with some recent shifts towards nationalism and 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. Among key entities of capitalism are corporations – which, partly because of their official status as ‘individuals’ and mandate to profit shareholders, seem pathogenic.

Pro-capitalist Education

Given power of pro-capitalist dispositifs to assimilate nearly everything, it seems clear that a prime actant for capitalist successes is education – which can have significant influences 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, more organic and holistic forms of education – 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 elaborated on some of these seemingly-entrenched themes in the 2005 video at right/below. More recent elaborations are provided below and here.

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, ‘trashed’ here, 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.

Problems with STEM Education & Inquiry-based Learning

STEM education & inquiry-based learning (IBL) have become normalized and, in doing so, appear to assist capitalists in identifying & educating knowledge producers and conditioning knowledge consumers. Regarding the schema at right/below, student ‘research’ tends to stratify society by sorting students according to factors like their intelligence and cultural capital; while STEM education initiatives and pro-capitalist media tend to limit knowledge to simple cause-effect relationships, systematic research & development methods and celebration of for-profit commodities (e.g., via Idealization, as above).

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 – which appears linked, with much government assistance, 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. This is the prime motivation behind STEPWISE pedagogy.