And not just MesoAmerica!

This is important stuff! The roots of democracy run deep, and wide — ancient history was not all ruled by pharoahs, emperors, and gilded billionaires.

An article describes research I never heard of that shows that there was in fact quite a continuum from pure democracy to pure autarchy in past history — and if we look carefully at clues left behind in the archaelogical record, we can get an idea of how democratic (0r not) various ancient societies actually were.

I quote:

They come up with a scale of popular participation in government that runs from autocratic regimes to more collective or democratic regimes. In their causal model the internal or external origin of state revenues causes or determines the scores on the governance scale (see the diagram). In short, reliance on internal revenue sources leads to greater bureaucratization, greater popular control over rulers, and more provisioning of public goods. Rulers rely on their subjects for taxation, so they must treat them better. External revenue leads to the opposite pattern. Rulers get their revenue from elsewhere, so they have no incentive to treat their subjects well by providing public goods or giving them any say in governance.

Blanton & Fargher 2008: 254

Blanton and Fargher’s scale of rulership, which runs from autocratic to democratic or collective, is a major advance in understanding ancient states. Not all states were the same. Some rulers were despotic and seriously exploited their subjects, but other states had more collective forms of rule, which means that commoner subjects had some say in governance. They analyze the thirty polities in their sample on a host of variables, which are scored in various ways to produce three numerical scales: public goods provision; bureaucratization; and control of the ruler. The scores for these scales are summed to produce their governance scale, which runs from a low of 23.5 (Bakitara; Aceh, Nupe, and 12th century England are near the bottom) to a high of 52 (Classical Athens; also near the top: Republican Rome, Ming China and Lozi in Africa).

The Matthew Effect in American Education

(Another old post that never made it out, from August 2014)

What’s all this nonsense about American schools being designed for a “democratic society … united by our education system through common values, comprehensive curriculum … and free K-12 education for every child”? (Per )

There are many who don’t believe a word of that stuff about equal rights or common values. From well before the American Revolution, it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write. Many of our Founding Fathers owned slaves and most states limited the vote to those who owned property. The US invaded Mexico so that white Texan slaveowners could keep their slaves. A large portion of the nation seceded from the union lest they be unable to further expand slavery into those new territories.

It took a bloody civil war to smash the idea and practice that some people were so inferior that all their labor could be stolen from them and they had no rights even to live as a family or go where they wished. Of course, after the Confederacy was smashed, the war criminals and traitors who led that treacherous rebellion were eventually allowed back into power in the South; corporations in the North were given free reign to profit from the merciless exploitation of “free” laborers from all corners of the globe, while Southern plantation and factory owners were permitted to re-enslave black workers through Jim Crow vagrancy laws. (Please see )

Our system is in a constant war between the forces of democracy and the forces of the power elite (or the Ruling Class, or “the 1%”) and those who agree with them.

This is true also in education.

Can anybody doubt that the children of the wealthiest have always received the very best educations, with the best instruction known in the arts, music, foreign languages, sports along with the best in the sciences, writing, math, literature and so on — for the purpose of allowing them to think for themselves? And that the poor and working classes are generally given an education designed to weed them out or to toe the line and be obedient workers, blindly pledging allegiance to a system that basically disenfranchises them?

The “Matthew Effect”, as you can read in Wikipedia, means quite simply, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It comes from Matthew 25:29, and the KJV says “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.”

The nation’s billionaire education “reformers” are at it again. They claim that the best type of school for the poor and brown or black kids is one with a few temporary teachers and a lot of profitable computers, all in one room. Or a school where there is nothing but relentless force-feeding of math “facts” and “brief constructed responses” and SLANT in English. And kids who can’t handle this stultifying regime get bounced out back to the regular public schools.

While students at Choate, Chicago Lab School, Phillips Exeter, Sidwell Friends, and so on (where the 1% send their own kids) get the royal treatment.

It’s going to take a huge movement to stop this incredibly unequal treatment. Parents, teachers, students and ordinary citizens, please step up and be counted in that struggle!

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