November 24, 2017
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The Inevitable Rise of Trumplandia: Market Ideology Ate Our Democracy

By Paul Thomas, Medium | Op-Ed | Truthout.org


Writing in 2000 specifically about education reform, Michael Engel [1] acknowledges: "Market ideology has triumphed over democratic values not because of its superiority as a theory of society but in part because in a capitalist system it has an inherent advantage."

Nearly four decades before Engel's claim, Raymond E. Callahan [2] confronted what he labeled the cult of efficiency in education:

The tragedy itself was fourfold: that educational questions were subordinated to business considerations; that administrators were produced who were not, in any true sense, educators; that a scientific label was put on some very unscientific and dubious methods and practices; and that an anti-intellectual climate, already prevalent, was strengthened. 

What is disturbingly clear here is that despite the enduring claims that universal public education  --  often attributed to the idealistic foresight of  framer of the Constitution Thomas Jefferson  --  serves our democracy, public schooling has in fact worked almost entirely in the service of market ideology: sorting children for the workforce and instilling compliance in those young people become good and compliant workers [3].

And here we have a subset of the entire country.

While many are wringing their hands about the post-truth US, our newly minted Trumplandia is not anything new, but the logical outcome of who we have always been  --  a belief culture skirting by on mythologies and false narratives to mask the ugly facts of our essential commitments to competition, consumerism, and capitalism.

Donald Trump is the best and most accurate personification of who the US currently is, but also the embodiment of who we have always been.

Founded as a revolt against monarchy, the framers of the Constitution used the rhetoric of freedom as a veneer for a few privileged men truly wanting the doors to exploitation, not closed, but opened just a tad wider so they could cozy in.

The newly founded free country allowed by law the enslavement of humans and the relegation of women to second-class citizenship.

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" was post-truth.

Or at least only the sliver of truth for a select few white men already clutching power.

All you have to do is to listen now or to the record of black voiceswomen's voices, the voices of the imprisoned and impoverished: "(America never was America to me.)" [4]

Just as the robber baron era of US history was no blip on the country's radar, but who we really are, the current ascension of Trumplandia is simply a more full unmasking of our complete failure at democracy and human liberation.

Trump's apparent cabinet appointments, his claims he doesn't need daily briefings, and the brash blurring of celebrity and huckster business acumen  --  these are the US laid bare.

We have always been mostly branding  --  meritocracy, boot straps, upward mobility as marketing lingo with little basis in fact.

Political leaders have always sold the US public a bill of goods wrapped in the American flag; George W. Bush sold a war on repackaged lies, and there were essentially only consequences for the soldiers, the US public, and the victims of that war.

But the warmongers remain essentially unscathed.

And thus, Trump as Teflon blow hard reality TV star/business huckster is just a few notches past Ronald Reagan as Teflon actor.

The ugliest paradox of all is that in our lust for consumerism we have allowed market ideology to eat our democracy, and as the metaphor requires, the excrement has really hit the fan this time.

Footnotes: 

[1] Engel, M. (2000). The struggle for control of public education: Market ideology vs. democratic values. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

[2] Callahan, R. E. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency: A study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

[3] See Education Technology and the 'New Economy,' Audrey Watters:

Although there is some lip service paid to learning computer programming in order to deepen students' thinking and expand their creativity, much of the conversation about computer science is framed in terms of developing students who are "job ready"  --  the rationale for teaching computer science President Obama gave in his final State of the Union address in January.

[4] “Let America Be America Again,” Langston Hughes