Should the United Nations act as a World Government?

I’m not going to answer the title question.  I have a confession to make.  My oldest child goes to public school.  It is not what I would have chosen for her.  She decided last summer that she wanted to go to high school.  I looked into private school, and we just can’t afford it.  I struggle with the feeling that we are sucking off the government teat because other people’s money is paying for my daughter’s education.  It is true that we have paid enough in property tax, which funds education, over the years to make up for any taxpayer money she is getting currently, but I still don’t like it for my own philosophical reasons.  She could be educated at home at a price we could afford. I felt she was old enough to make the decision, and she chose public school over home schooling.

As a result of her choice, I have a window into current public education that I have not had before.  Her Geography/World History class has raised a number of flags for me.  The current flag comes from a lesson on the United Nations.  Below is a copy of the text from her book titled Introduction to Geography: People, Places & Environment:

The United Nations represents one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century, if not human history.  The United Nations brings together almost every country on Earth to cooperate on issues fundamental to all of mankind.  As explained in the opening of its Charter, the United Nations seeks “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” “to affirm faith in fundamental human rights,” to establish the conditions for justice, and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”  It has certainly made progress on all these goals and helped millions of people once ruled by empires to gain their independence.

Old Politics, New Problems The United Nations is, however, non-democratic.  The special powers granted to the U.N. Security Council to use military force to end war ultimately belongs to the “Big 5” permanent members that have veto power over Security Council decisions: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France.  Their interests dominate the most important discussions of war and peace at the United Nations–other countries have very little influence.  It is important to remember that the United Nations is only as effective as its member states allow it to be.

The United Nations is not a government and does not have its own army.  It cannot take action on its own.  When the United Nations is ineffective–for example, stopping war crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda–it is largely because some of the Big  5 will veto action.  By 2050, this organization will be based on a world order over a century old.  Certainly the world has changed–should the United Nations?

Perform Proposals  Demand for reform of the United Nations have grown louder in recent years.  Some proposals have sought to limit the power of the Big 5 by taking away their veto power or adding more permanent members to the Security Council. Countries such as Brazil, India, Germany, and Japan are populous and economically important countries that exert leadership in their regions.  Other proposals would replace or temper the Security Council with a more powerful General Assembly, which has been a largely symbolic body.  The distribution of the world’s population in 2050 suggests that countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America should have a larger voice on important matters at the United Nations.  Could the Security Council and General Assembly become more like a world parliament?  Might the United Nations of 2050 work more like a world government?  Only if states allow it to do so.

In paragraph one, do you see how this textbook states the UN is good as if it were a matter of fact?   And it isn’t just good, but one of the greatest achievement in human history!  Why can’t they just explain the UN. Explain how and why it was formed and its attributes and leave it at that.  Leave it to the reader to form their own opinion as to whether or not they think it is good or bad.  I do have my doubts that a freshman in high school would even think about whether or not the UN is a positive or negative thing without prompting.  They may even automatically think of it in a positive measure, because it sounds good in theory.  That would still be better than giving a freshman the impression that it is basically the crowning achievement of mankind.

The following two paragraphs go on to discuss all the flaws in this most important human achievement, without ever even alluding to the continual regional conflicts since its inception.  Sure, we haven’t had a World War.  That could have been the case without the UN given the horrible devastation from the first two world wars.  I do not think anyone really wants a repeat of that.

The last paragraph encourages the reader not to question the existence of this fabulous but flawed human institution, but instead question whose interest should dominate world affairs. Apparently, it is an appeal to aristocracy, as one of the qualities seen as desirable to lead is being economically important.  Particularly troubling to me is the suggestion to the student that the UN could work as a World Parliament or World Government.  It smacks of an agenda.

I wonder if the authors think that they are being even handed, given that they criticize the UN.  I wonder if they even recognize their own bias in this matter.  They seem to take for granted that the UN is good and that some countries should dominate world affairs.  Those things need to be questioned.

An Educated Populace

My kids’ history book attributes this to Plato, “A democracy had to have an educated people in it.”  The authors left out that Plato didn’t really like democracy, but this book was written for young kids, and as such,  it can’t really go into detail about political philosophy.  The book is an overview, more or less.

Since it is just an overview, I was dismayed that it decided to explain why this dumbed down quote from Plato was correct.  The kids thought the explanation was ridiculous, that it didn’t make sense.  The book gave a silly tale of how a kid could be defrauded by not knowing the laws.  It put forth a scenario where an older kid told a younger, uneducated kid that on Wednesdays, young kids must turn their money over to older kids.  It had the younger kid willingly turn money over to the older kid because they were unaware that such a law didn’t exist.  My kids thought common sense would prevent the younger child from just rolling over when they didn’t know the laws.

I was pleased that they were so willing to poke holes into their history book.

I then poked my own hole.  I brought up how the Athenians had slaves.  For all their education, they could not see the inequity of slavery.  How could their education lead them to make good laws when their very society was based on slave labor?

One of the boys imagined a foreigner, from somewhere without slaves, entering the city.  He thought that the foreigner would be appalled by the vast acceptance of slavery.  I said that was an interesting thought.

If we count on the state to educate everyone so they can properly participate in government, what happens if the state teaches them to govern in a way that is not conducive to what is best for the populace?  What if the kids are taught that slavery is acceptable?

Howard Zinn writes in his book:

A People’s History of the United States, excerpt from Chapter 11

Joel Spring, in his book Education and the Rise of the Corporate State, says: “The development of a factory-like system in the nineteenth-century schoolroom was not accidental.”

This continued into the twentieth century, when William Bagley’s Classroom Management became a standard teacher training text, reprinted thirty times. Bagley said: “One who studies educational theory aright can see in the mechanical routine of the classroom the educative forces that are slowly transforming the child from a little savage into a creature of law and order, fit for the life of civilized society.”

It was in the middle and late nineteenth century that high schools developed as aids to the industrial system, that history was widely required in the curriculum to foster patriotism. Loyalty oaths, teacher certification, and the requirement of citizenship were introduced to control both the educational and the political quality of teachers.

Other authors have written on the public education system, and it is fairly well documented that it is used as system of control of the population.  Rage Against the Machine’s la Rocha raps about it in Take the Power Back:

The present curriculum
I put my fist in ’em
Eurocentric every last one of ’em
See right through the red, white and blue disguise
With lecture I puncture the structure of lies
Installed in our minds and attempting
To hold us back
We’ve got to take it back
Holes in our spirit causin’ tears and fears
One-sided stories for years and years and years
I’m inferior? Who’s inferior?
Yeah, we need to check the interior
Of the system that cares about only one culture

The public school system has repeatedly been used to train the public to accept various things. I imagine la Rocha and I have different complaints about what the schools train kids to think, but there may be some overlap there.  With Zinn, I think there is definitely some overlap because I have found many of his criticism of the crony capitalist state to be spot on, even if we would disagree on the way to resolve it.

I think there are a number of things that people would not accept unless they had grown up in a system that told them that not only is it okay, but it is the correct order of things.  Just as an average child would not give up their spending money to a trickster, average people wouldn’t be so willing to support state solutions for everything if it had not been inculcated in them from a young age that that was the way problems are best solved.  If you doubt that schools promote state solutions to problems, you may want to pay closer attention to what your child is learning and the kinds of questions they are answering at school.  Here is an actual question asked in biology at our local school:

Which of these is a way in which governments can protect ecosystems:

a. introducing invasive species

b. setting aside areas of public land

c. increasing fish harvests

d. cutting down forests

Notice that it is a given that it is the role of government to address a thing like protecting ecosystems.

Let us go back to the idea that a democracy needs an educated populace, and forget for a minute that we are supposed to have a republic with democratically elected representatives.  Does there really need to be an educated populace?  I am all for education.  I love it.  I love learning with my kids, I love learning on my own.  I can’t get enough of it.  I want everyone to love it, too.  I think everyone benefits from expanding their minds, expanding their knowledge.  The problem I see with education is when the state is the entity doing the educating.  The schools are too easy to co-opt by those with power to push their own agendas.

People on the left and the right all know this happens.  They are keenly aware of it when an agenda shows up in the schools that contradicts their own views.  Yet neither side would ever consider not having public education.  One of the main reasons given, especially by the left, is that we need an educated population because we are supposed to participate in government.  I say this is one of the many reasons the government shouldn’t be in the education business.  Only a certain set of ideas get put across to the kids, and it serves to keep the status quo going.

Education could and would happen if there wasn’t a public school system.  I’ve yet to convince anyone of this.  Countries much poorer than ours have private schools systems were most of the children are taught.  Suggesting that we don’t need public education is tantamount to condemning children to a life of poverty.  The bias is strong in favor of state school systems, even as people understand the power the school systems hold over the youth.

On the bright side, more and more people are pulling their kids out of public school to home school.  Less people hearing the agendas being pushed means more resistance to them.  It means more voices countering bad ideas.  Technology is making home schooling much easier for the average families, so I have high hopes this trend will continue.