Anti-Intellectualism, Terrorism, and Elections in Contemporary Education: a Discussion with Noam Chomsky

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by Dan Falcone – Saul Isaacson
CounterPunch
June 3, 2016

Washington DC based History Teacher Dan Falcone and New York City English Teacher Saul Isaacson sat down with Professor Noam Chomsky to discuss current issues in education and American domestic and foreign policy issues. They also discussed the place of the humanities in education and how it relates to activism, definitions of terrorism, and how education impacts the perceptions of the political process in the US.

Dan Falcone: We are here again at MIT to discuss education, history, and politics with Noam Chomsky. Thank you for having us. I was just wondering if you could discuss some of the challenges you hear about from the friends you have in the educational field?

Noam Chomsky: A friend of mine was doing some interesting work in Falmouth. He works in a Falmouth school system. He was a Harvard cognitive scientist, but he’s now working with the schools. He started working with the kids that they have in a special track. I forget what they call it, but the ones who aren’t academically functioning. And when he began to look into it, he found that these kids come to school on a bus with maybe an hour bus ride. They haven’t had breakfast. But when they come into school they go crazy and he started doing some really simple things like giving them candy because he discovered that they have a low glucose level. And that’s having an effect, and when they come into school instead of starting in a math class he just puts them somewhere where they can just go crazy and run around. He’s gotten to the point that these kids are out-performing the main kids in the main schools.

Dan Falcone: Interesting, so just through simple techniques he’s been able to help these students. Shifting gears, I wanted to ask you about the place of the humanities in education. So, on the one hand I see this need to foster creativity and challenge prevailing business models of education or narrowing the technocratic mold of education –

Noam Chomsky: – I’ll give you an answer. This morning’s MIT newspaper there’s a wonderful article about the destruction of education in the United States but they are very upbeat about it. Take a look at the new majors.

Dan Falcone: MIT introduces four new majors, seven new minors. Business analytics, finance, mathematical economics, minor in computer science design, entrepreneurship –

Noam Chomsky: The four majors: Business First Management, Business Analytics, Finance, mathematical economics, which is trading. That’s it.

Dan Falcone: Yeah, I’ve seen this type of thinking before. The school that I’m in now is changing the department. It’s including more advanced placement test-driven subjects whereas it used to be a place where you could go to –

Noam Chomsky: – Think about things.

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