(un)common ground

a commonplace book

Althusser’s Cynicism re: the Educational Apparatus

Of course, many of these contrasting Virtues (modesty, resignation, submissiveness on the one hand, cynicism, contempt, arrogance, confidence, self-importance, even smooth talk and cunning on the other) are also taught in the Family, in the Church, in the Army, in Good Books, in films and even in the football stadium. But no other Ideological State Apparatus has the obligatory (and not least, free) audience of the totality of the children in the capitalist social formation, eight hours a day for five or six days out of seven.

Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation),” 1970

Speaking of the Ideological State Apparatus of schools.

Althusser’s rip on schools had me chuckling. It is no mystery that education in all its forms is, at its core, an instrument of acculturation, socialization, and idealization. Discipline and punishment in such educational discourses are as often about “unacceptable behavior” as they are about “incorrect answers.” Criticisms of home schooling (that is, combining the familial and scholastic ISAs) are more often about socialization than about intellectual achievement (especially since statistics tend to skew high in studies of homeschooler test scores). The same could be seen in criticisms of private schooling. In short, even if I were to be skeptical of Althusser’s more universal claims about ISAs, his evaluation of schools as ideological apparatus of the state (as superstructure) is still quite believable. And a little daunting.


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This entry was posted on November 1, 2015 by and tagged , , , , , .
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