Thoughts on the ‘assembly-line life’ and the ‘assembly-line scholar’, with remarks about “the environment of truth”

Here’s a thought I had:

In a conversation recently I spoke of the fact that we are in the era of the ‘assembly-line scholar’.  That is to say, they have made it so that scholars or, rather, students, are coming out of the schools and University as if from a factory.  In fact, I was once waiting for a relative of mine to get out of high school.  I sat and watched the kids walking out and remarked, “shouldn’t they be coming out on an conveyor belt . . . isn’t that all this place is, a place to mass manufacture programmed people with the proper information and thought patterns?”.  School is no different than a factory to me.  I know . . . I was there!

These ‘assembly-line scholars’ are “designed” for certain things:

  • To think a certain way
  • To interpret things in a certain way
  • To know certain and specific facts and information

In reality, its more akin, at least as it appears to me, to a “programming” than any sort of learning or education.  In this, way, the ‘assembly-line scholar’ is no scholar at all but a “programmed person”.  In fact, its bringing scholarship down to a whole new level, in my opinion.  Talking to many of these kids is like talking to a robot with ready-made answers and points of view.


The ‘assembly-line scholar’ is a reflection of a greater condition, of what I often joking call the “new American lifestyle”:  ‘the assembly-line life’.  In other words, life revolves around things like:

  • Conformism:   the producing a people that will behave a certain way.  Isn’t that basically what so-called ‘teaching’ and ‘education’ of kids is nowadays.
  • Controlled conditions:  creating conditions where things will be a certain way Everything is controlled and “as it should be”.

In other words, things are directed to a certain specific end:  a directed behavior for a directed result.  This gives this lifestyle a quality, at least to me, of an assembly line in which everything is pre-determined and pre-fabricated, including the people.

As a result of these, there is an absence of things like:

  • Originality
  • Genuineness
  • Spontaneity
  • Depth
  • Individuality

Life becomes like living in the belly of a machine or, rather, a computer.  Everybody does the same thing, knows the same things, thinks the same things, come to the same conclusions, acts the same, etc.

The main focus of the ‘assembly-line life’ is generally directed to “things” like:

  • Money.
  • Material items.
  • Accomplishment.
  • Prestige or social status.
  • Some form of power.

If one has achieved at least some these “things” then they are considered a “success” and their life has “succeeded” . . . attainment is the measure of “success” in life and that’s the motive in life.  As a result, they have created a lifestyle based and rooted in the attainment of these things.  Generally, this quest for the attainment of these things is at the expense of other things.

One interesting aspect of this is the turning of the kids into ‘machines of the economy’ (I wrote an article on this called “Thoughts on an aspect of the youth of today . . . the creation of “the machines of the economy”“).  Almost everything involving kids nowadays is rooted in work (with success in mind) as part of their upbringing.  Kids, nowadays, are really being “groomed” to be the ‘machines of the economy’ of tomorrow.  This is all their taught and directed in school and society as a whole.  Other countries, on the other hand, teach their kids belief systems, right and wrong, social structure, etc., which are all lacking in the ‘assembly-line life’.  They are left out and absent.  This shows how America has created a lifestyle that leaves out anything that does not promote the attainment of the “things” described above.  In so doing, America has left out so much of life and, as a result, has created a narrow and restricted way of life which has created a narrow and restricted outlook on life . . . its turned life into an assembly-line.   

Life, in this sense, has been turned into something more like a business.  In many ways, the ‘assembly-line life’ is a reapplying of business perspectives onto everyday life.  It shows that American ideals are rooted very much in business, more than many of us realize.

Not only that, the worship of the attainment of the “thing” gives it a quality of a religion and, for many people, it is a religion, all that life revolves around.  For many people this fact seems to satisfy a religious need in them.

The result of this is that the U.S. has, in effect, turned life into a factory.


The ‘assembly-line life’ is the inevitable result of the situation America has created.  In many ways, where else would it go?  Elements of this American situation include:


  • The catering to and emphasis on business, success, etc.  This caters to America’s ideals, making it appear the ‘correct’ thing to fill the void.
  • The worship of success and achievement.  This gives is an almost religious devotional quality to it.
  • The fact that America has undermined and destroyed so much of human life and society.  It has undermined or destroyed authority, morality, religion, belief, culture, the family, and even things like sexual identity.  After all this undermining there’s not much left . . . something has to fill the void left behind.   

In many ways, the ‘American way’ is nothing but to turn everything into a form of business and business success.  It has made life based in the production of this ideal.


In many ways, the ‘assembly-line life’ is a continuation of the ‘class struggle’ and its attitudes.  Basically, this is the viewing of ones class, or economic situation, as the basis of life.  It seems, to me, that the U.S. gets this mentality from the British, who founded the country.  In that way, its a continuation of the British ‘class struggle’.

Interestingly, once a ‘class struggle’ is created there are often attempts to destroy or replace it by a new “class” that comes up.  This has appeared a number of times and ways throughout history:

  1. The aristocracy.  This is the first “class”.
  2. The merchant class.  As a group, they laid the foundation for the next group.
  3. The entrepreneurs.  They established success in business by the individual.  This primarily happened in the 1800 and 1900’s.
  4. Business success by anyone.  This is where anyone can make a business, however small.  This primarily happened in the mid-late 1900’s.
  5. The ‘assembly-line life’.  This is a way of life created by the former group where everyone must be “programmed”, go to college, get a fancy job, etc. to such an extent that it defines society.  This really gets established after the cold war ends in about 1990.

The ‘assembly-line life’ promotes a class structure in itself.  It hides a class struggle behind the idea that “anyone can do it” suggesting that there is no class struggle.  But, of course, the people who succeed become the “upper class”, so to speak.


The ‘assembly-line scholar’ plays a major role in the ‘assembly-line life’ and, in a sense, defines it.  Before, a person was successful if they had a business that works.  Often, these businesses were created by the people themselves.  After WWII, in particular, the entrepreneurs and businesses that were created became big massive businesses.  Generally, a person cannot create a business to compete with these massive businesses.  As a result, success – the ideal of America – was no longer found in creating a business but in getting your foot into an already existing massive business structure.

Because these businesses were already organized, like a machine, a person had to know “what to do” in that machine.  They had to “know things” so they could get in a particular slot in the company organization.  This fostered the need for schooling.  As a result, having a degree (that is, schooling) became a matter of success, it got your foot in the door, and not by being an entrepreneur or starting a business (though they did continue to some extent).  Knowing “what to do” required schooling, hence everyone now had to go to school, the University, and be “programmed” so they could fit in a slot in the company organization . . . the ‘assembly-line scholar’ is born.

Having to go to school has been drilled into kids, nowadays, since they are probably in pre-school.  As a result, it has created was a bunch of people who were “indoctrinated” that they need to fit in a slot in a company organization and that this is what life is about.  In addition, they are all “programmed” with the proper information and patterns of thinking.  Whole generations have now been created who are not only “programmed” but believe in the idea of “being programmed” because, remember, “being programmed” means knowing “what to do” which means success which is what this society is all about.  As a result, the requirement of schooling for a job has created a lifestyle based in a “programmed” mentality. This establishes a close relationship between the ‘assembly-line life’ and the ‘assembly-line scholar’.  One could probably say that they are dependent on each other.


The ‘assembly-line scholar’ has had a great impact and, in my opinion, has done a lot of damage.  Some effects include:

  • It has turned knowledge into an ultra-organized system
  • Its made knowledge cheaper and shallower
  • Its created a power-structure rooted in knowledge (in other words, power is what’s important, not knowledge)
  • Its brought in ulterior motives, such as that its all about success . . .  knowledge is a means to an end
  • Its created a body of knowledge whose value lie in succeeding in the economic system, not in “truth”
  • It has created prefabricated knowledge which robs people of thinking for themselves
  • Its destroyed the individual and person
  • Its undermined belief

In effect, the ‘assembly-line scholar’ is not a scholar at all but a social climber or opportunist who is using knowledge as a way to “get ahead”. For example, when I was at the University I never saw one person who was interested in the knowledge itself . . . they were primarily interested in the money it would give them and/or the social status they’d receive.  Knowledge was nothing but a means to an end.


Watching the effects of the ‘assembly-line scholar’ has caused me to greatly question things like:

  • The purpose of knowledge
  • What knowledge is used for
  • The nature of knowledge

Its become clear that there are different forms of knowledge.  Most certainly, the ‘assembly-line scholar’ has created a specific form of knowledge that is specific to its function.  Its purpose is to serve its function.  That is what makes it valid and the source of its power.  Some of the qualities of the knowledge created by the ‘assembly-line scholar’ include:

  • It is based in a system.  This refers to the existing knowledge system that it has created over the years.
  • It is based in powerThis refers to how it depends on power (money, success, social status, the existing economic power structure, etc.) to make it valid.
  • It is based in programming prefabricated knowledge and thinkingThis refers to how people must be “programmed” with its form of knowledge.

What this means is that the ‘assembly-line scholar’ has created a body of knowledge that is relevant only to its conditions, the system its created, and the power structure it depends on.  If these were to change the knowledge it created will probably no longer be true.  This means that the bulk of the knowledge coming from the Universities, research companies, etc., which are largely run by ‘assembly-line scholar’ mentality, are specific to specific conditions and are not discovering the “truth” as is often thought.  They are only discovering the “truth” created by the conditions of the ‘assembly-line scholar’.


For me, this has put knowledge, as a whole, under question.  I have a saying:

“The conditions dictate the truth.”


The conditions dictate the interpretation.”

In other words, the conditions of the situation end up determining the interpretation and what is true.  If those conditions change the interpretation change and so does the truth it preaches.  This is no different with the ‘assembly-line scholar’.  It means that a lot of what I thought was “truth” is not truth at all, but an interpretation dictated by the conditions.  This fact changed how I view things.

When I hear some “truth”, or knowledge, I look at the conditions surrounding it, such as:

  1. The conditions that created it.  Why was this important at all?
  2. The conditions that keep it relevant.  Why does it remain relevant?
  3. The conditions that make it relevant to me.  What makes it relevant to me?

In other words, when I hear of a “truth”, or knowledge, I try to look at the “environment” that surrounds it as well.  I speak of this as “the environment of truth”.  I ask myself about the three conditions described above.  To me, this is often more revealing than the knowledge itself.  See my article Thoughts on the “environment of truth” – how knowledge and truth is dependent on conditions).

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education, learning, and over education, Modern life and society, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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