By Clem Blakeslee
Typically, I begin a paper by remapping the scholarly streams, springs and rivulets that feed my intellectual pond. Previous presentations of mine reveal that my ideas are shaped by figures from many disciplines representing a wide range of interest. Furthermore, it is my tendency to express perspectives which are both historical and anthropological. The bibliography for this paper will in no way be a complete reflection of the sources of ideas which have become a part of me. I am, however, attaching an addendum to this paper which broadens the references considerably. It is an unpublished paper which I wrote a few weeks ago, entitled, Schools In Society, Social Investment Or Social Control? Furthermore, there are four more works which I have recently acquired which have added very greatly to my current thinking. They are: Systems Of Survival, Jane Jacobs; Strategies In War And Peace, Paul Kennedy; A Pedagogy For Liberation, Ira Shor & Paulo Freire; Marva Collins' Way, Marva Collins. However, the work which will be the primary basis for my discussion around the dialectic model is by this point rather old, but still quite interesting. It is Schooling In Capitalist America, Bowles and Gintis. whereas the recursive model will largely be drawn from Jane Jacob's new book, Systems Of Survival. Nevertheless, references throughout the paper will indicate that several other authors feed this discussion in one way or another.
The Dialectic Model
The work mentioned above by Bowles and Gintis constitutes a clear, articulate and persuasive analysis of the dialectic model applied to education in the United States. It is my opinion that most people would regard this work as a straightforward functional study of American education from a Marxian perspective. In chapter two of Daniel Liston's book, Capitalist Schools, he commits an extensive thrashing of Bowles and Gintis for being facile functionalists--that is, according to him, Bowles and Gintis get their causal relationships inverted. (For more extensive discussion of this point, see the addendum to this paper, the subsection entitled "Liston's Contribution to the Debate".)
As I indicate in the addendum, I am not persuaded that Bowles and Gintis are guilty of being facile functionalists. In my opinion, as functionalists go I find them extremely persuasive and wonderfully articulate. Their grip on the Marxian dialectic strikes me, at least, as being as sophisticated as any scholar. Throughout the entirety of the argument put forward by Bowles and Gintis they reiterate a set of functional connections that are explicit and rigorously sustained. The argument goes something like this; In a capitalist society such as the U.S. the school system is now and always has been a subservient institution to the interests of the marketplace and especially of the corporate elite within society. They maintain that the content of the curriculum, the style of the pedagogy, the classification of the students, constitutes a straightforward effort to prepare the child population for specific occupational functions within the marketplace.
Further, they argue that racial and ethnic minorities, the rural and urban poor, social marginals and women are systematically disadvantaged by the educational process. The marketplace uses the school to direct these people into unskilled work, dead-end service occupations and an endless array of "McJobs" at minimal pay. It is well understood that in the United States nearly 50% of the student population continues their education into and through the post-secondary system. Whereas, the bottom slab of the American population either does not finish the secondary program, or finishes the program with relatively unmarketable skills. Bowles and Gintis go on to argue that as long as the capitalist system maintains the current elite and the current marketplace the schools cannot and will not change for the benefit of the total student population. They go on to argue that any serious effort to significantly raise the skill, talents and capacities of the base population will only result in occupational frustration and increased social marginality. Only a change in the structure itself, especially the elite, will liberate the schools and allow for a meaningful enrichment of the intellectual resources within the base population.
At this point it would be well to offer a few quotes from Bowles and Gintis to provide the flavor of their thinking regarding the argument sketched above.
traced directly to the moving force in the capitalist system: the quest for profits. Capitalists make profits by eliciting a high level of output from generally recalcitrant work force. The critical process of exacting from labor as much work as possible in return for lowest possible wages is marked by antagonistic conflict, in contract bargaining and equally in daily hassles over the intensity and conditions of work. The totalitarian structure of the capitalist enterprise is a mechanism used by employers to control the work force in the interests of profit and stability.
In the next quote the authors offer a paradox which must be troubling for Marxist thinkers; that is, a state controlled marketplace manifests the same repressive control mechanisms that are present in the American society.
The market and property institutions in the United States define the legal rights and obligations for all individuals involved in economic activity. The most important of these institutions are; 1) private ownership of the means of production, land, resources and capital goods, according to which the owner has full control over the their disposition and development; 2) a market in labor, according to which (a) the worker does not own, by and large,the tools of his or her trade, and (b) the worker relinquishes formal control over his or her labor time during the stipulated workday by exchanging it for pay.
It is the interaction of these market and property institutions which leads to the prevailing pattern of dominance and subordinacy in production. By no means does private ownership of capital alone lead to the overarching power of business elites to control economic life. Indeed, ownership is merely an amorphous legality. Thus is state socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, many of the patterns of economic control found in the United States are observed although private ownership of capital is non-existent. Indeed, the degree to which education is similar in capitalist and state socialist countries can be attributed, we believe, to the similarity in their respective mechanisms of social control in the economic sphere. For markets and private property give economic elites a degree of power in the United States comparable to that enjoyed by state socialist elite through direct political channels. The decisions of U.S. business leaders become operational only insofar as a natural resources and labor can be quickly, effectively, and cheaply drawn into their sphere of control. To this end, flexible and responsive markets are necessary in a private ownership economy, although hardly sufficient in themselves. Finally, the market in labor will not operate when workers have attractive alternatives to wage employment. The fact that workers do not own the tools and equipment they use and the fact that there is an absence of alternative sources of livelihood insure that most individuals must offer their services through the labor market.
The next quote is a beautifully clear expression of the theme of the entire book.
In our analysis of U.S. education, we want to compare the social relations of the work process with those of the educational system. But what is the nature of day-to-day work relationships? Understanding market and property institutions alone cannot elucidate the experiences of individuals within factories and offices.
The authors' concern for the designed inequality of American schools to serve the class system is captured in the next quote.
The humanity of a nation, it is said, can be gauged by the character of its prisons. No less can its humanity be inferred from the quality of its educational processes. In the initiation of youth, a society reveals its highest aspirations, tempered less by the weight of tradition than by the limits to which the social relationships of adult life can be pushed. We believe that in the contemporary United States, these limits are sufficiently narrow to preclude the educational system from simultaneously integrating youth into adult society and contributing significantly to economic equality. In promoting what John Dewey once called the "social continuity of life," by integrating new generations into the social order, the schools are constrained to justify and reproduce inequality rather than correct it.
The intractability of inequality in the U.S. system as it exists is succinctly stated in the next quote..
The educational system, basically, neither adds to nor subtracts from the degree of inequality and repression originating in the economic sphere. Rather, it reproduces and legitimates a preexisting pattern in the process of training and stratifying the work force. How does this occur? The heart of the process is to be found not in the content of the educational encounter--or the process of information transfer--but in the form: the social relations of the educational encounter. These correspond closely to the social relations of dominance, subordination, and motivation in the economic sphere. Through the educational encounter, individuals are induced to accept the degree of powerlessness with which they will be faced as mature workers.
Because of the self-destructive nature of capitalism through its inherent irrationality the capitalist system is doomed according to the authors. A small glimmer of hope is offered in the next quote.
A revolutionary transformation of both education and economic life in the United States is possible because the advanced capitalist society cannot solve the problems it creates. A social system which generates or awakens needs in people which it cannot fulfill is surely vulnerable to social upheaval. This is all the more true when the means to the satisfaction of people's felt needs are clearly available.
Another scholar who views education through the dialectic model is Basil Bernstein. Like Bowles and Gintis he sees the school as a sorting mechanism to maintain the class structure. He focuses particularly on kindergarten and early elementary experiences. In the article entitled, "Class and Pedagogies: Visible and Invisible" from the anthology, Power And Ideology In Education, Bertstein develops the idea of the invisible pedagogy. He argues that through the invisible pedagogy the life experiences of the child and the educational future of the student is profoundly shaped regardless of the nature of the formal pedagogy. Because of the informal pedagogy the child's view of self and the society become so entrenched that only a few will break through the barrier. The cultural milieu of the working-class family and the subtle expectations of the middle-class teacher cripple the capacity of the lower-class child to benefit from formal pedagogy, thus the class system is sustained and reproduced through the educational process. A quote from Bernstein's article mentioned above captures the spirit of this argument.
I shall examine some of the assumptions and the cultural context of a particular form of preschool/infant school pedagogy. A form which has at least the following characteristics:
1) Where the control of the teacher over the child is implicit rather than explicit.
2) Where, ideally, the teacher arranges the context which the child is expected to re- arrange and explore
3) Where within this arranged context, the child has apparently wide powers over what he selects, over how he structures, and over the time scale of his activities.
4) Where the child apparently regulates his own movements and social relationships.
5) Where there is a reduced emphasis on the transmission and acquisition of specific skills.
6)Where the criteria for evaluating the pedagogy are multiple and diffuse and therefore not easily measured.
The means by which the invisible pedagogy performs its informal function is succinctly sketched in the following quote.
We are now in a position to analyze the principles underlying the selection of theories of learning which invisible preschool infant school pedagogies will adopt.
1) The theories in general will be seeking universals and thus are likely to be developmental and concerned with sequence.
2) Learning is a tacit invisible act, its progression is not facilitated by explicit public control.
3) The theories will tend to abstract the child's personal biography and local context from his cultural biography and institutional context.
4) In a sense, the theories see socialisers as potentially, if not actually, dangerous, as they embody an adult focused, therefore reified concept of the socialised.
5) Thus the theories can be seen as interrupters of cultural reproduction and therefore have been considered by some as progressive or even revolutionary. Notions of child's time replace notions of adult's time, notions of child's space replace notions of adult's space. Facilitation replaces imposition and accommodation replaces domination.
This article of Bernstein's is not only Marxist in flavor but also anthropological in its essence. I find his insights not only useful in the preparation of new teachers but also useful to those educational leaders who want to devise a truly innovative school which allows children to escape from their cultural traps.
A series produced and published by Deakin University in Australia entitled Theory And Practice In Educational Administration contains a number of individual publications of great interest. The one I intend to discuss in this paper is entitled, Philosophy, Common Sense, And Action In Educational Administration. This volume contains contributions from two scholars who contribute to an understanding of the educational process by way of a dialectic model. I found both John Codd and B.A. Kaufman fresh and insightful in each of their articles. John Codd's contribution is a more hopeful view. He does believe that the dialectic can work in such a manner that intellectual liberation for the whole student body can be achieved. Before this happens, however, he argues that one must understand the essence of the dialectic. Through understanding one can harness the dialectic such that the trap of the past can be overcome and real educational liberation achieved. According to Codd:
Moreover, because social action is constructed and constrained by the logic and beliefs of common sense, it is through the critique of common sense, grounded in a dialectic of theory and practice, that social action can become liberated from unchallenged ways of perceiving and interrupting the world.
B.A. Kaufman also approaches the dialectic as a vehicle for hope to reform education by way of liberating the creative potential of students. As Marxist analysts go Kaufman does not reveal the usual despair evidenced by scholars such as Bowles and Gintis. Again, like John Codd, Kaufman believes that the dialectic through the understanding of it can be harnessed to liberate both the faculty and the student body of individual schools. His view of the dialectic is typified in the following quote.
. . . the theoretical foundations of capitalism and behaviorism are mutually exclusive to the theoretical foundations of socialism and constructivism. Capitalism and behaviorism emanate from a more general materialist model while constructivism and socialism have their genesis in a dialectical model. It was argued that any form of educational practice derived from a categorical flow of model to theory to practice is also mutually exclusive.
Another work which explores the dialectic model in a more optimistic vein is co-authored by Ira Shor and Paulo Freire. The book is entitled A Pedagogy For Liberation. These two educators offer an extremely lucid and vibrant dialogue in this work. As a team they are fascinating because they come from utterly different cultural contexts and societal environments and yet are so intellectually connected in a co-creative context. Paulo Freire is a 72 year old Brazilian educator who believes that the rural and urban poor of third world societies can be educated sufficiently to allow them to escape the trap of grinding poverty and endemic ignorance. Through basic education he believes that the predatory exploitation of the poor by the elite can be remediated to the point that society can be fundamentally changed. Ira Shor is a 48 year old college teacher on faculty at New York City University. As a post-secondary teacher he has dedicated his career to the Puerto Rican and Black student youth of the Manhattan ghettos. He, too, believes that an intelligently and responsively designed pedagogy and curriculum can assist a liberating experience for ghetto students who might otherwise remain in the trap.
This more optimistic view of the dialectic sees education as a social investment which can liberate the base population in spite of a predatory or exploitative economic structure and a backward-looking social elite. Their understanding of education allows for a tension between the educational institution and the marketplace. This tension provides for a liberation of the base population and through that liberation a fundamental change in the marketplace and the social order.
In other words, Shor and Freire use the dialectic model to make an opposite argument to Bowles and Gintis. The essence of Bowles and Gintis' argument is that the social order must change before a school system can revitalize and liberate itself. Freire and Shor argue that the school system can experience revitalization and liberation in spite of the social order. Through the teacher as a liberating agent on behalf of students trapped in the underclass, society can be renewed and the social order made more humane and less predatory.
Much of the dialogue in this book is devoted to the nature of teaching and the personal quality of teachers. Although they clearly understand that teachers can be front line agents of autocratic and exploitative societal mechanisms, they do not believe that teachers need be this way. Quite the contrary, the moral and ethical requirements of teaching as a professional calling demands that the teacher co-create with the student a liberating and civilizing atmosphere of education. As Paulo says:
In the liberating perspective, the teacher has the right but also the duty to challenge the status quo, especially the questions of domination by sex, race, or class. What the dialogical educator does not have is the right to impose on the others his or her position. But the liberating teacher can never stay silent on any social questions, can never wash his or her hands of them.
The Recursive Model
The authors I explore in this section do not belong to a school of thought such as the Marxian dialectic. In fact, as far as I know they do not refer to themselves as being recursionists or those who use a recursive model for social analysis. However, to my mind their approach is so multi-dimensional, so full of causal feedback loops, so enmeshed in a cultural web of a seamless nature that they do, at least implicitly, avail themselves of a recursive style of analysis.
Both recursion theory in mathematics and chaos theory in physics provide a pervasive new paradigm in scholarly pursuits extending far beyond the fields of math and physics. It seems to me that all of the authors in this section are new paradigm thinkers which distinguishes them from those functionalists who use the Marxian dialectic as their epistemological and ontological framework. Whether Marxist or not, the old paradigm analysts are inclined to be mechanistic, reductionistic, materialistic and philosophically positivistic. This Cartesian/Newtonian paradigm has served science well for 300 years, but for today's needs its epistemological and ontological limitations are becoming too troublesome.
The new paradigm scholars tend to explore causal connections as an elaborate web of reciprocal causal forces that can best be understood through a philosophical approach freed from philosophical positivism and an excessively analytic empiricism. In the new paradigm qualitative analysis is perceived as important as the classic form of scientific empiricism.
The recursive model avoids single causational explanations. Furthermore, it avoids the mechanistic function of the dialectic model. There is no doubt that the recursive approach is messier, more qualitative and more focused on an open-ended system. They are less prone to individualistic models of analysis and more likely to entertain the totality of the cultural context with its elaborate network of rational and irrational, functional and dysfunctional, valuable and worthless, ethical and immoral strands of reality. Such analysts tends not to focus so much on the structure of society, but give greater emphasis to the intricate tapestry of values, attitudes, mythic themes, grand purpose and organizational viability. The recursive model tends to view organizational culture and collective effort as being amenable to repair, to revitalization, to redefinition, to reconstruction without resorting to revolutionary upheavals.
Phillip Schlechty, in his book, Schools For The 21st Century, seems to me an analyst who wishes to fix education rather than demolish Capitalism. He does not see any fundamental incompatibility between the marketplace of today and a quality educational system of tomorrow. Through healthy, vital leadership the school can become an revitalizing agent for society and a liberating agent for the student. It can best do this through a healthy understanding of the marketplace so that the purpose of education can be more clearly articulated. Students whose skills, talents and capacities are maximized are best positioned to benefit from the marketplace and to contribute to the civility of the marketplace.
Schlechty sees the educational enterprise as a web of cultural strands that are an integral part of the total societal tapestry. Education is at once an expression of the total society and a recursive feedback loop within society which contributes to the total flux of change. He sees the marketplace and the school as integral to each other in an elaborate web of causation and counter-causation which in my opinion can only be called recursive. Both arenas are plagued by dysfunction, irrationality, ethical shortcomings and a host of other difficulties. But also they are generators of creativity, innovation, revitalizing forces and adaptive mechanisms.
The forward to Schlechty's book was written by Bill Clinton, when he was governor of Arkansas. His understanding of Schlechty's work is captured in the following quote
School reform is an issue that concerns many more people than just those directly involved in the field of education. Since the Nation At Risk report was released in 1983, much has been written about the crisis in public education. Some have used gloom and doom language to urge change in schools. Others have focused on specific changes that should be made. There has been no dearth of descriptions of exactly what is wrong with our schools.
In Schools For The Twenty-First Century, Phillip Schlechty describes the current state of American education from a unique perspective. Drawing on his background as a sociologist, he provides perspective on why schools are the way they are--and presents not a criticism of what schools have done in the past but a formulation of what they must do now to prepare for the future.
Schlechty summarizes his work in a straightforward fashion. It should be noted that although he appears to be a rationalist at a superficial level, he is the first to acknowledge the random, the irrational and the perverse in human life. However, he does believe in the enrichment of human resources through education and the enrichment of education through leadership. As he says in his concluding remarks:
For what it is worth, I continue to be impressed with the nonrational components of human action. I recognize that chaos and confusion are more apt to define the reality of most leaders than are predictability and reason. On the other hand, I believe that the act of leadership is, in part, an effort to impose order on chaos, to provide direction to what otherwise appears to be adrift, and to give meaning and coherence to events that otherwise appear, and may in fact be, random., Concepts and theories are intended to organize and simplify experience so that future experience can be better managed.
As Phillip Schlechty argues in the book mentioned above, you cannot understand the educational system as an institution separate from the total social fabric. Education is co-mingled in every dimension of the social order.
Another educator of considerable interest to me is Marva Collins. She co-authored a work with a journalist, Civia Tamarkin, entitled Marva Collins' Way. This book was originally published in 1982 and was slightly revised for a second edition in 1990. The book describes a private school in the Black ghetto of Westside Chicago. As a Black educator, Marva Collins is deeply dedicated to devising an educational program which can effectively liberate America's children trapped in ghetto environments.
In both personal and scientific terms I am more than a little familiar with the rural and urban ghettos of the U.S. I have had first-hand experience with Black, Chicano, Native and so-called Hillbillies in both the rural and urban context. When these groups are agglomerated along with other marginal elements of American society they constitute a very large part of the U.S. population. Although each of these populations have given rise to their own middle-class who are more or less integrated in the upper half of American society, the bulk of these populations are still trapped in the ghetto-like communities of both rural and urban life. As mentioned before, nearly half of the American population is occupationally marginal and educationally crippled.
The day-to-day lives of these people is pervaded by a poisonous network of addictions of every nature. Family life is either fragile or totally disorganized, and they experience very little residential stability. The most tragic dimension of these neighborhoods is that they are systematically plundered and predated by organized crime. Their health conditions are routinely characterized as being more like the third-world than like the first-world. The school boards serving such neighborhoods are notoriously and massively underfunded and served by administrators and faculty of weak professional status.
The strategy worked out by Marva Collins in her Westside ghetto school addresses these pervasive problems of the American poor. Her front line efforts have been so successful that she had gained an extremely high profile national and international reputation. The famous Black author, Alex Haley, describes her profile in the forward to the book.
The challenge that motivates Marva Collins is to prove that something positive and constructive can be done about the deplorable rate of dropouts, which is preceded by an attendant level of scholarship among most minority youth.
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Time and again Marva Collins has issued this bold challenge. "Give me any class in any city. Give me the lowest achieving students, those who have done poorly. Tell me nothing about those students, not even what they're studying, and I can go into that classroom and connect with those students."
Collins does not approach her model of education from a traditional Marxian dialectic. On the contrary, she takes the power structure as it is with the conviction that if children are armed with relevant and effective tools they are equipped to escape the ghetto trap. More than that, children so armed can acquire post-secondary educations and can establish themselves in mainline occupations. She sees society as a multi-dimensional network with an elaborate causal web which allows for strategies to circumvent the glass ceilings experienced by the poor of America.
In regard to intellectual tools a sample of her philosophy is revealed in the following quote:
The book you give a child who is learning to read determines what he or she will read later on. If we give children the boring Dick-and-Jane type of stories how can we spark their curiosity in further reading?
The true essence of her work as a front line educator concerns the near-missionary zeal with which she approaches the concern for her students' self-esteem. Without self-esteem children are willing to behaviorly enact the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Her passionate belief is that if you massively enrich the self-esteem of a student he or she will actively refuse to accept failure as an option.
A succinct quote from Marva Collins is in answer to a question put by a teacher regarding the problem of creating self- esteem.
I believe in my children. If a teacher believes her students cannot learn, then her students will not learn. If a teacher believes that her children from underprivileged homes cannot achieve very much, then those children will not achieve very much. On the other hand, if you create a positive environment for your students you will see miraculous things take place. If you tell your students they are bright, intelligent winners, they will act like bright, intelligent winners.
One of the most creative giants of this generation has devoted her life to understanding the driving forces of a society and their relationship. Jane Jacobs is a professor emeritus from the Department of Economics at the University of Toronto. Although she is a 72 years old American she has lived and worked in Canada for the last 30 years.
I have read most of the books written by Jane Jacobs, and I regard her as one of the few fresh and original thinkers regarding the nature of society since the days of Marx, Dirkheim and Weber. Her latest book, Systems Of Survival, is stunningly original and extremely useful for understanding the functions of social institutions.
Although many current books are being written as dialogues among two or more scholars, (for example the book I referred to above written by Shor and Freire), Jane Jacobs has done something more original. Her book is a fictionalized transcript of an informal seminar populated by six clearly defined personalities. I would suspect that these six are personifications of Jacob's own mind. The devise is a fascinating one which provides the same compelling readability that a good novel would offer.
I cannot possibly do justice to her entire argument in a brief section of this paper, but her insights are well worth the attempt to summarize. Since the city-state was invented 5000 years ago the formal functional requirements of society have generated the need for two substantially different functional systems which must co-exist side by side. She calls these two systems the commercial syndrome and the guardian syndrome. It is interesting that she picked the biological term, 'syndrome' rather than such words as mindset, paradigm, world view or some other comparable term.
She sees these two syndromes as mutually incompatible as behavioral systems. Under each of these syndromes she lists 15 sub-functions which are arranged in pairs between the two syndromes. This is most assuredly NOT a good list/bad list. Rather these two sets of 15 functions are both essential for managing the total society and its sub-parts. Each organizational element of society must commit itself to one syndrome or other, but not both. She argues that if both become co-mingled in a single organization the resulting hybrid is a social monster.
At this point it would be well to quote from Jacobs and present her syndromes in her own words.
The Commercial Moral Syndrome
Come to voluntary agreements Be honest
Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
Use initiative and enterprise
Be open to inventiveness and novelty
Promote comfort and convenience
Dissent for the sake of the task
Invest for productive purposes
The Guardian Moral Syndrome
Be obedient and disciplined
Adhere to tradition
Deceive for the sake of the task
Make rich use of leisure
She regards this elaborate web of social functions as deriving their legitimacy from a sub-structure of moral/ethical requirements. An organization or society gets into dysfunctional difficulty when it fails to honor the moral/ethical requirements
A few words should be mentioned about the idea of a commercial syndrome and its social parallel, the guardian syndrome. As she sees the essence of human society, it is the human quality of modifying nature by making things and trading things. It should be mentioned that trading can be subverted by taking rather than trading. The many organizational elements of society must contribute in an effective way to the marketplace since social survival itself depends on a healthy marketplace. The more elaborate the society, the more elaborate are the organizational elements that inter-relate for the purpose of commerce. A society that treats the total fabric of commerce in an equitable, honest and flexible fashion will enjoy social good health and a better long-term position vis a vis its societal neighbors.
The guardianship syndrome is more than the management of the military and of government although these are guardianship functions. The object of the guardianship function is to maintain the continuity of the society, the territorial integrity of the society and the political stability of the society. The guardianship function is not more important than the commercial function, nor is it less important. A healthy society must respect this function and sustain it with a sense of equity and justice. If the guardianship syndrome should subvert its moral/ethical requirements the resulting social dysfunction may threaten the existence of that society in any long term perspective.
I will discuss one more work before concluding this paper. This is a recent book by Paul Kennedy entitled, Grand Strategies In War And Peace. Although Kennedy is an internationally respected historian, he is recognized by the diplomatic community as one of the foremost analysts of contemporary and future international relationships. He does not limit himself to discussion of politico-military issues of society. In my opinion he is equally insightful in regard to economic, social and broad cultural issues. Although this book analyses a number of case histories from Rome to Napoleonic France, 19th century Britain and the U.S. of today, the real focus of this volume is the very survival of human society generally and Western societies particularly.
His concept of grand strategy goes vastly beyond the conventional military concept of grand strategy. Kennedy argues throughout his career that a military capacity of society is only as strong as the economic, social and political fabric of society. Therefore, a grand strategy includes all institutional elements of a society in terms of their focus or lack of focus in a common social purpose and a healthy sense of mutuality within the society. Societies that prey on their own or societies which have major institutional discontinuities are profoundly weakened by these problems and, in the long term, can be destroyed by them. Since I use his works in many of the classes I teach, I do regard him as one of the academic giants of today.
The health or dysfunctionality of the marketplace and the husbanding or the abuse of resources, human and otherwise, set the tone for societal survival. Wasting human resources is as deadly for a society as the squandering of capital resources. Kennedy consistently argues that the enrichment of human resources and the effective use of these resources is the most important element of the grand strategy for survival.
A couple of quotes from the preface clearly state the purpose of the work.
The chief purpose of the essays which follow is to present the reader with historical case studies of 'grand strategy"; that is to say, with assessments of the success or failure with which various powers of Europe sought to integrate their overall political, economic, and military aims and thus to preserve their long-term interests.
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The second purpose of this work is more contemporary than historical. It relates to the debate that is currently taking place about the proper balance of priorities--in other words, the grand strategy--that should be carried out by the United States in the world today.
Kennedy concludes the book with a statement which pulls the argument into sharp focus.
. . . the United States ought, while seeking to fulfill its peoples' peacetime desires, to maintain a reservoir of productive and financial and technological and educational strength . . .
Although I have argued that there is a difference between the dialectic model and the recursive model for social analysis, and although I prefer the recursive model for a more complete understanding of the society and its institutions, I have in no way intended to denigrate the dialectic model. In the hands of scholars such as Bowles and Gintis, Freire and Shor, Codd and Kaufman and Bernstein this model has served well for making cogent social analysis and a relevant exploration of education. As a recursive style analyst I like Phillip Schlechty, yet I feel he has little sensitivity for the educational requirements of the base population. His educational strategy is particularly relevant to a reasonably funded urban middle-class educational environment. However, this does not mean his book lacks value. Quite the contrary. It is an excellent source of educational ideas and programs.
Marva Collins does exactly what Schlechty fails to do. She focuses in a nearly single-minded fashion on the educational strategies most relevant and effective for the base population. She understands ghetto life and she understands the value of investing in children so that they may escape the ghetto. It is argued, and I would accept the argument, that her methods have transferability to middle-class and upper-class schools. Her understanding of the human spirit and mind make her an exceptional educator for any context.
The last two books by Jane Jacobs and Paul Kennedy are not specifically analyses of education, but they are extremely relevant to a better understanding of the educational institution and its societal purpose. The authors are concerned with survival, pure and simple and the social institutions that facilitate survival. The educational institution is central to social continuity and social survival, especially when it is effective for every stratum of society.