Education as Enforcement: The Militarization and Corporatization of Schools.

 Kenneth J. Saltman & David A. Gabbard, Editors. RoutledgeFalmer,  332 pp., $55  2003.

 (Book review provided courtesy of Peter Curtis, with thanks).

Peter indicates " I am particularly interested in the concerns and issues raised in this book and the whole question of 'post-modern' education.  Notable names are Henry Giroux and Peter Mclaren.  The review does not do the book justice, but I hope it gives you a sense of its value.  I recommend the book as essential reading.")  Down the barrel of a gun?  "To assist teachers in teaching to the standards, we have developed curriculum frameworks, programs of study and curriculum models...based on training models designed by the Military Command and General Staff Council....Increasingly, we have built collaborative relationships with the private sector."  This comment by Paul Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and now the CEO of Philadelphia Public Schools, underscores the importance of this volume of essays for both teachers and activists. Headings from the twenty-four contributors give the flavour: 'Imprisoning Minds'; 'Commentary on the Rhetoric of Reform'; 'Freedom for Some, Discipline for "Others"'.  Despite the reactionary character of the U.S. administration, some of the most exciting questions about education are being posed in the U.S. of A. By making education into an antidote to a world dominated by those who persist in defining us as expendable commodities, a new dissenting academy is finding the methods that can engage with the concerns of people everywhere. Maybe it has something to do with looking down the barrel of a gun.  Decisions made by Australian politicians and administrators about the whys and the wherefores of education often draw on U.S. pedagogical experiments. Cultural imperialism - 'soft power'- goes beyond Hollywood , a Coke and KFC. The imperatives of commerce, corporations and the military under the auspice of the nation-market-state fashion the character of not only school culture but the social environment that produces schools. Formal education is the distillation of values and skills deemed necessary to recreate the future as defined by the militarised corporate-state. This is the contextual ground for the judgments that Education Departments make about, and for, teachers. David A. Gabbard's essay. 'Education IS Enforcement!', goes to the heart of the matter through his analysis of 'The Centrality of Compulsory Schooling in Market Societies'. He makes the point that "compulsory schooling has provided the state with an increasingly vital ritual for enforcing the market as the only permissible pattern of social organisation".  Education as Enforcement recognises that "any struggle to make schools more democratic and socially relevant will have to link critical citizenship with an ongoing fight against turning schools into testing centres and teachers into technicians." How we interpret and change the world are the book's fundamental concerns, thereby suggesting critical ideas and tasks which teachers and activists might heed. How do we establish values and make political judgments in the 'post-modern' cultural ambience of social fragmentation and disorientation while contending with ruling classes who aspire to grasp power absolutely? In the opening chapter, Noam Chomsky suggests that "Real education is about getting people involved in thinking for themselves - and that is a tricky business...catching people's interest and making them want to think...want to pursue and explore.'  Although written primarily for a North American audience, albeit with a left-hook, this book does allow glimpses of other worlds. Julie Webber's reflections on the Columbine High School shootings explore the domestic consequences of U.S. militarism and foreign policy, while Haggith Gor explains how children in Israel are educated to accept war as a natural factor of life. Discussions provoke thoughts about how we might respond, to 'a world ...deprived of political alternatives, to corporate capitalism, neo-liberalism and global social inequalities".  These concerns deserve a considered response from those of us elsewhere suffering the impositions of the 'bover boys' who give a hand to Washington 's global aspirations. The authors penetrate the Washington mind-set. Equally, they remind us that there are radical currents in the U.S. , thereby alerting us to the dilemmas of working against the grain of plutocracy and its massification of people's culture. Such threats to democracy and education are central to all our concerns. Making judgments about what knowledge is essential, and for whom, means that teachers and activists must struggle for the right to listen to our students as well as to speak up for them, to act in our school communities as well as to re-educate the managerialists. Education and democracy have meaning only if this is so.