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Ideology & Conflict — A New Perspective?

The commodification of education – a phenomenon best characterised as a neat packing of educational provision as a product for a cost, with the added perks of ideology stuffed in there as a surprise additive. While we have established the oppressions of this commodification of education, as in it leading to inequality of access, deprivation and subsequently conflict – there’s an added aspect to it which is usually overlooked or oversimplified, i.e., the aspect of ideology. I claim this case because while I understand that ideology has been part of the discourse surrounding education and conflict, as in when it’s theorised how commodification of education has allowed for ethnic exclusion as in the case of the Maoist insurgency or as in when it’s allowed for people to actually see through their own oppression, (even while being a valued commodity) and escape the ideological status quo, as in the example of Kwame Nkrumah getting inspired as a revolutionary while studying in the US and experiencing the black nationalist movements. But I consider this an oversimplification of the aspect.

In many of the articles shared before, and in much of the discourse surrounding education itself, one idea that has taken hold is that of how education provision has no more been restricted to education in the classroom, but also to the forms of prevalent media. That makes sense, owing to how much we see mass media being heavily indulged with elements and machinations of ideology-formation and manifestation. But ideology, despite being an implicit and a largely invisible system at play, has always had the need to be defined as it enters the social sphere, such as when Hollywood openly takes on themes and castings that are more diverse, in an overt attempt to promote diversity of culture or when Ashir Azeem produces Maalik, a movie that openly criticises the role of the military establishment in Pakistani politics and so on. Thus, by the aforementioned elaboration, I can conclude that there have been two broader areas of inquiry when it comes to the role of ideology in (non-traditional and traditional) conflict – first is within the conventional institution of the school, whereby in light of our discussions on content and structure of schooling, we can discover a multifaceted nature and role of ideology in education and conflict.

But here’s the catch. The idea that I find understated in conventional discourse.

Ideology in all these contexts is referred to as existing somewhere between things, with an inherent value to it, which allows it to be basically functional (i.e., usable to achieve certain objectives) and nothing more. Ideology causes ethnic exclusion within education that in turn, causes conflict, ideology causes a certain brand of self-realisation that has the potential to lead to conflict etc. But what if we start looking at ideology as not being a means to an end but as a structure itself? One very easy-to-grasp example is this, as quoted by Slavoj Zizek. Today, academia is constantly called upon to imbibe students with increasingly technical, “objective” knowledge (STEM, quantitative knowledge/skills etc.). This leads to an increased focus on making sure that maximum number of technical “specialists” graduate. Just like the process of commodification which defines the value of products as transfixed, even of education, ideology too runs its process of definition. Thus, we see how the rising call is for more “urban development specialists” or “data analysts” or “UI professionals” who tiptoe between quantitative science and psychology – all providing fixed solutions for problems created by those who hold hegemony over knowledge-production itself. I think, and agree with Zizek, that the need is for the public theorisation of ideology’s place in education (and conflict), so that we forgo the abstractions of culture wars, and start on with the first step of theory, that is not to provide answers, but to actually provide questions.

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