16 May 2012

War is the Health of the State


Using data from the last 150 years in a small set of countries, and from the postwar period in a large set of countries, we show that large investments in state primary education systems tend to occur when countries face military rivals or threats from their neighbors. By contrast, we find that democratic transitions are negatively associated with education investments, while the presence of democratic political institutions magnifies the positive effect of military rivalries. …
We study historical panel data on education spending and enrollment – for Europe since the 19th century and a larger set of countries in the postwar period – to assess the correlation between military rivalry (or war risk) and primary education enrollment (or the occurrence of educational reforms). … [Our models] show a positive and significant effect of rivalry on primary enrollment, a negative direct effect of democracy, and a positive and significant interaction term between the two. Overall, our empirical results indicate a causal relationship from rivalry to primary educational enrollment.

And:

In Prussia, France and Japan … military defeats and/or perceived military threats appear to have prompted an otherwise reluctant ruling class to invest in mass primary education. …In most countries of the sample a war preceded the educational reform, while a democratic transition rarely occurs before the education rise … Most often, the democratic transition instead takes place *after the education reform period.

That public schools are used to basically propagandize children into having a strong love for the state should come as no surprise given the biases of those who operate the schools.  There is an obvious self-selection bias for teachers, in that it is likely that any given state-paid teacher believes that the state has a legitimate role in education and, more broadly, that the state is a generally good thing.

Naturally, this attitude will be passed on to students in some way, and students will told/propagandized into believing that their country is good, awesome, great, and superior to other countries.  Furthermore, students will also be told that any foreign resentment of their country is due to other countries’ jealousy (e.g. “they hate us for our freedoms, and totally not because we’re constantly using military force to order them around”).  As such, students grow up believing that their country is the bees’ knees, and worthy of support and sacrifice.

Instilling this attitude is thus the prime directive of schools, at least unofficially, since there is no way the state will have a laissez-faire about the attitudes students develop towards the state.  Kids may be able to graduate from high school without being able to solve a math problem with an exponent in it, and they may be functionally illiterate, but they will know that their country is the awesomest place in the world.  Some may even be willing to kill for it.  Some may be willing to die for it.

Thus, as educational standards get flushed down the toilet, one standard remains in place:  love thy country, no matter what.   Therefore, there is no point in calling what goes on in schools education; it is more properly called indoctrination.  And all this indoctrination ensures that we will be able to fight wars.

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