“Is our children learning?” asked George Bush. He might have asked: “What are they learning?” The ideal of education is often taken for transparent and self-evident. In truth, there is as much opacity here as anywhere. What is transmitted in a classroom – what is transmitted generally – is never just abstract knowledge; but also a certain operating intelligence of structures and strategies – rhetorical, psychological, professional, social.

Marxist theorists like Althusser came to see this in the seventies, but, leaning too heavily on the notion of ideology, and the specter of the ruling class, their formulations finally leave something to be desired. What eluded them in particular was the game theory element – the way in which students are not simply looking to neutrally learn things, but also desire to learn how to control and manipulate them, so as to martial them towards their own ends. This much is evident in many academics and writers – and those claiming to serve higher ideals especially.

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