The chapter below is a translation of the Chapter "Maligne Wiederholungen II: Die Erosion der Schule" (pages 679-685), from the book: Peter Sloterdijk, "Du musst dein Leben ändern : Über Anthropotechnik " by Peter Sloterdijk. http://www.amazon.de/mu%C3%9Ft-dein-Leben-%C3%A4ndern-Anthropotechnik/dp/3518419951
Translation by Wim Glas (with help of translate.google.com)
Malignant repeats II: The erosion of school As the disintegration of the culture of practice and the consciousness of discipline in the education of the second half of the 20th Century is concerned, it is the latest chapter in the long history of antagonistic cooperation between the modern state and the modern school. I have shown how the Liaison and the contradiction between state semantics and school semantics, starting at least from the 17th Century Europe, elicited chronic tensions between the differentiating >>subsystems<<. If the traditional state notion to the school, to provide useful citizens, is compiled, by the school, into an order to train autonomous individuals, a permanent friction is inevitable - both as creative dysfunctioning, as well as source of chronic disappointments. In summary it may be stated: The bourgeois civilization emerged from the surplus of the school humanism on top of the state's educational mission. One can almost speak of a felix causa of the older civic educational system: It gave its talented pupils infinitely more cultural themes than they would ever need in their civilian functions. In this context, it could make sense to mention that some samples of the greatest spiritual excess phenomena of recent intellectual history, Johann Gottlieb Fichte as the new Finder of the theory of alienation and Friedrich Nietzsche as Modernizer of the Christian super-human thought, visited the same school namely the Thuringian Pforta in Naumburg, Fichte I774-I78O Nietzsche 1858-1864 - which in its time was one of the most rigorous high schools in Germany. It would not be necessary to explain, that the Thuringian Pforta has exceeded its educational contract by delivering pupils like Hölderlin, Hegel and Schelling. When asked what the student Karl Marx, graduation year of 1835, owes to his formative years in high school of Trier, the former Jesuit College Trinity, the revolution historiography rather responded with reserved information.
In the recent phase of school history, the creative Maladaption of the classical schools in many places turned into a malignant Maladaption that may be called modern, as far as they result from an epoch-typical dysfunctioning of the role model functions and the related decline of the practice-consciousness. In its follow-up, school approaches to a point at which it implodes twice, producing neither citizens nor personalities.
It steers towards a condition that is beyond conformism and beyond excess production, neglecting all aspects of direct utility and creation of indirect consequences.
Year after year, she releases more and more disoriented cohorts of students, of which increasingly clear can be seen adapting to a maladaptive errant school system without the individual teachers and students having the slightest guilt. Both are united in an oecumenism of disorientation, to which one can barely find the historical equivalent, at least if you do not want to point to the long night of education between the collapse of the Roman school in the 5th century and the re-emergence of a Christian-humanist school culture in the wake of Alcuin Carolingian reforms in the 8th century.
To diagnose the malaise it would be needed to show in detail, how the current school participates in the process, that is called the differentiation of the subsystems by Niklas Luhmann. Differentiation is the establishment of strictly self-referential structures within a subsystem. F.e. a "field of practice"-in evolutionary terms: the institutionalization of Selfishness.
It was Luhmann's ingenious pulse, to show how the performance growth-of sub-systems of modern "society", whether it comes to politics, economics, law, science, art, church, sports, education or health, lies in the steady increase of their self-reference , up into their settling in the state of complete self-referential unity. In moral theoretical terms, this implies the forming of Selfishness at the level of the subsystems into a regional virtue. For the "society" Critique it follows: that in the place of protesting weakly against the cynicism of Power, systemic enlightenment is put in place, ie clarification of the Enlightenment.
The systemically induced reversal of values requires the de-diabolicallizing of the self preference, the way one can observe in the writings of European moralists between 17 and 19 Century. Therefore, it is not surprising to run into a neutralized perversion in the center of each subsystem. Not only the offensive deviation of the "wicked person "of the moral norm can be seen as perverted, the openness of the confession, that the slave system is ultimately caused by oneself and not by possible mandates in the context of something bigger, can be seen as even more perverse. Therefore there is a close link between cynicism and perversion - the cynicism always in the form of enlightened false consciousness, tells the truth about the wrong thing, in so far as it is helping the un-morality to complete honest openness. The earliest breakthrough in the complete bald honesty - the Aletheia of the systems - arrived in the field of politics, as Machiavelli disclosed the autonomy of political action and recommended -long perceived as scandalous- emancipation of the general morality.
This breakthrough was followed by the economic theory after the introduction of the means of production in the form of machines in the late 18 Century. The first few liberals like Mandeville and Adam Smith had already understood: First payback, then morale. The industrial system recognized -without covering up- that its mission is to bring its operators profits in order to service their loans, to make new investments and being able to carry labor costs. In short: "Social effects" can, system internally, only be considered via side-effect calculations.
The argument that the economy is most profitable for his contemporaries, if it is focused on what it does best, namely produce profits, is - convincingly true - but does it with an added cloudy plausibility, because of the fact that, with the evident success of one side, the opposite side will also get a growing evidence: namely that the Selfishness of the economic system passes over too many other areas of interest, whether these could be described as those of the whole or not.
The other subsystems, are by nature much more forced to occult their Selfishness and to justify themselves by using vague holistic rhetoric. This does not change anything to their actual training for selfish system. Each of them produces so-called experts to explain the surrounding world why things have to run as they are known to be running. They have to explain to a skeptical audience why the all too visible self-interest of the subsystem is outweighed by the benefit for the total. After all, nor can one imagine a medical system that expresses openly that it serves primarily its self-reproduction. Also from churches we will not hear that their only objective was the preservation of the churches, although for people of the church being honest should be a virtue. Even less can be expected that one day a school system will be perverse enough to confess, its only task was somehow, to keep itself going, to bring its profiteering people, namely teachers and administrators, in the enjoyment of having a safe job and to bring solid privileges.
Where confessions are not to be expected, diagnosis will have to help further. Diagnoses transfer perversions into structural problems. The problem of today's education system is evident in the fact that it not only cannot comply to the state contract to deliver citizens because the definition of the objective, given the demands of today's professional world, has become blurred. This is articulated even more clearly in the letting go of its humanistic and artistic excess, to devote itself to the more or less dumbfounded operation of pseudo science-based pedagogical routines. Because the school during the last decades, did not muster it's since the 17th the Century consistently proven courage to dysfunctional behavior, she turned into an empty selfish system, which is exclusively oriented to the standards of its own holding up. It produces teachers who only remember of teachers, subjects, reminiscent only of subjects, students reminiscent only of students.
In addition, school becomes "anti-authoritarian" in an inferior way, without ceasing to exercise formal authority. Because the law of learning by imitation can not be switched off, school runs the risk of making its own unwillingness to be exemplary, into the example that is repeated in the next generations. The consequence of this is that in the second, third generation, we will almost exclusively have teachers who will only be celebrating the self-referentiality of the lessons. Self-referential is the teaching that takes place because it is the nature of the system to let it take place. With the differentiation of the school system a state is entered in which the school has only single main subject, which is called "school". This corresponds to the single external Learning goal: the completion of the school(study). Students leaving such schools, have learned all long thirteen years, to not take the teachers as role models. By adapting to the system one has learned a learning that does not care for internalization of the matter, one has, almost irreversibly, practiced to go through educational material without the practicing of that material. One has mastered the habit of a learning-as-if, that is ,in fact, learning things for one's own defense, in the inherent right conviction, that the goal of all education/pedagogy is: the ability to adapt to the prevailing forms of education. In view of these phenomena, radical school thinkers have raised the demand for the dissolution of the entire system, be it with Ivan Illich in the form of the postulate for " de-schooling the society", be it by contemporary education/pedagogy reformers, by proposing to dismantle the ingrained system of subjects and to convert the school during the formative years in an open training camp for the polyvalent intelligence of young people. Such demands match with the great upheaval of the book-culture to the Internet-culture that took place in the last two decades. In practice, this would lead to a kind of setting free (in the wild) of intelligence that could be described as controlled jungle education/pedagogy. In this context, findings are remarkable, that high-training effects are observed in the intelligent handling of information garbage with adolescents that spend much time playing computer games and have a lot of Junk communications. Steven B. Johnson summed up these trends under a title, that makes parents and systems theorist sit up: Everything bad is good for you. From this, one can deduct the thesis that almost any form of strong enculturation is better than the playing along in a maladaptive selfish system that only brings about parodies of former education. The problem of the false teachers, that I have explained in philosophical context with Sartre ,comes back at the systemic level as the problem of the false schools.