There is a constant anxiety that eats at me about Education, learning, and schools. I feel I have no choice but to live with the contradiction of knowing what is right, but having to serve what I know is wrong. The wellness of our grade schools is diseased by an overtly corporate culture that teaches consumption and employment as the end-all of learning. The freedom to pursue higher education is constricted by costs and class divisions. The richest in finances often have the means to attain the best minds, though not all the best minds are wealthy. We trash good minds of the poor and our institutions function to keep a status quo of the haves having and the have-nots not having, especially in Obama’s Race to the Top (RTT). This uncivilized condition, this focus on ignoring the facts that we are seeing a grotesque devaluation of the working class, this greed for capital to flex power over markets and reign the consumers under a yoke of servitude to credit debt is destroying the American Democratic principles through an erosion of citizen capabilities.
We are well trained to stand in lines when the teacher blows the whistle. By the time we get to college, we have controlled our impulses and curiosity in order to sit passively and take orders from a professor. I see the students struggling in English class with the mere request that there be a community of learners sitting in a circle facing each other and helping one another to participate in learning. They struggle to engage themselves because of the unconscious scars that grade schooling had inflicted on their learning minds. They fear speaking, sharing their writing. They fear looking on their own and realign their desks into nice neat rows. Many fear failure as if one test or one class was the make it or break it test or class of their future success-filled life. They cringe in real anxiety about following orders so much so that they have passed the class while failing to learn.
We have come to see students as lowly and base creatures, while telling them that student-hood is a magically mystical experience. We negate their natures and favor the stick over the carrot, imprisoning them in rules, policing them, and punishing them for not cooperating. Stickers as rewards are replaced with pizza parties or field trips. If you are good you might get an early or longer recess from the confinement. Later, the rewards are a well paying job, but you must be patient and sacrifice time, finances, and wit. The job is there waiting for you. You cannot live without it, so go to school and submit.
Are students good or evil?
We send our children to school to get them out of our hair, so we can work. We shuttle them out everyday while looking at a clock to make sure they spend the requisite time in age segregated facilities in the custody of the authorities who meet out punishment to discipline compliance and conformity to mediocrity (in the original derivation). This is all wrong, but I teach and I am expected to act as though my students need me to be the authority, to tell them what to do, when to do it, and how to do as if they were incapable of going and doing it on their own. I wonder whether students would go study for themselves. Is it possible that a student could seek knowledge without coercion? Why do we assume they need to be schooled to learn? It is like we think that students are lazy, unmotivated, and downright corrupt and that teaching them is forcing them to do what we tell them to do. “Go to school! Sit down! Be Quiet! Don’t touch Jimmy! Face forward! Raise your hand! Go to the bathroom when I say!
So students have become evil rebels resisting the teacher’s orders to any extent that they can. They come to resist school and learning and say things like, “I don’t want to go!” or “I don’t like school.” We justify our forcing the youth into classrooms because we see that they do not like school. Many complain that they don’t like English (reading, writing, and speaking), the very thing that allows them to have consciousness and all the pleasures of their world. It seems they see no value in it, except the basics for a job. If there is no grade that will help them to get a job, then learning is tedious and distracts us from the superbowl party. It is an obstacle to our pleasure because school is not about fun, it is about following orders, and we all know that.
We create the dislike and then force them to sit still and take their medicine. Unfortunately, the medicine that we are forcing them to take is the very medicine that forces them to rebel. It is circular logic on poor suppositions. The supposition that students do not want to learn is a tragic falsehood that is taken as a truth to justify crushing students under inhumane standardization, the factory model of education. If you left us with confidence in ourselves to pursue what we want with understanding and encouragement, we will ingest a great deal more knowledge and be all the wiser for it. Sadly, I can hear the detractors repeating the false premise, that students don’t learn unless they are forced or schooled.
I think we would all know much more than we do if we are in charge of our own learning. 12 years of grade school and most students have not learned to read, write, and think for themselves. They passively wait for the teacher to show them, but they don’t do it for themselves. All the information and lessons are on the internet, but they insist on paying and following orders to have a piece of “credit” without realizing that much of the credit is useless without the actual knowledge. We should say to students, “You can avoid the (de-)grading school and learn things more fully if you follow your passions. You can learn anything and everything you want and we will help, now go figure what you want to know!”
Our schools have blinded our students to the pleasure of mastery. We have distilled pleasure out of learning and bottled in the classroom apathetic spirits. In the classroom there is an intoxication occurring in the children. They are intoxicated by the social race to become the next definition of happy, successful consumers with appropriate apparel to legitimately claim that they’re profitable and fashionable, but what they are conforming to is the power structure that propagates the circular logic on poor suppositions. “Get in line you lazy, good for nothing students! How dare you think for yourself, we will teach you!”
Shakespearean spirits pour from our teachers, but the students are drinking at the labels of their classmates’ shirts, inebriated with measuring their self on material objects. We attend the libations of materialism because we are told that to be without material things is to be in an unhappy place. We are bullied by corporate influences into delivering our children into the hands of the state to be bullied into teaching our children that money is success and things are the way you show it. Our bullies no longer have to lay hands on us, rather they lay schools on us while they deliver punishing blows to children who are resisting the despotic control of their lives. Today, it is standards that the government lays on us to make us all equal by crippling the enabled by shifting resources. The most obedient state to the Federal Governments’ measures is the winner in the race to make us measurably alike with the same standards of Obama’s Race to the “Money” (Top). If we race to the money, we will create whatever standards look profitable. This is the nature of standardized tests. We no longer trust ourselves with our children’s education. We now trust the government to know what good education is and to dictate who has it and who doesn’t by competing for money on elements that have little to do with with students’ knowledge and capabilities.
We have decided to force a structure and drug the kids or abuse their psychs so they can fit into a business model of education. It appears we can’t do otherwise as the demands of capital requires us to labor so much so that we can have little time to parent, little time to explore and interact with various experts, little time to share, little time for student questions, and little time for genuine community. The word school originally came from the Ancient Greek is “skhole” and was defined as leisure. Our schools are the opposite. We say, “Hurry through to get to the job and ignore the values of everything else!” We are rushed from class to class and rushed into careers in the name of progress and profit. We all know our cultural messages. Besides, we don’t have skhole, leisure. We have confinement to a preset measurement of labor time, it is 9 to 5 or the 8 hour day, 40 hour week. Our schools are timed to this measure, and if we are not timed, we may not have the production of commodities for industry and corporate development. We are led to believe that the factory model is the optimal.
We have turned to an education lead by corporations, rather than an education led by the family or the community. We have administrative bloat choking the development of organic learning environments by applying their business model degrees to the “business of education.” We must see that the corporate model creates a prejudice against the ADHD students and encourages over medication of students for the economic benefit extended to the pharmaceutical industry and as a warning the the normal students what will happen if they don’t follow the rules.
We have boiled our students down to measurable numbers and cut out the immeasurable arts that challenge us to see differently and test differently. We are doing this so we can govern schools like a business, rather than developing the apprenticeships and mentoring (the relationships) that is the praxis of education. We are doing this in the name of economics. Students must be forced to endure the prison of age segregated classrooms, because we do not believe that we are capable of learning without schools. However, we know this truth, “Teachers can be found everywhere and students find themselves learning when the knowledge coincides with their interests and their interests can be much broader and deeper than the curriculum of schools.” But, our society echoes the argument that students will not learn without a system of schooling that forces them.
A history of literacy will show that schools have diminished the motivation of students to engage the thinkers of our time. A history of American education will show an increasing trajectory of disciplining compliance to the institution’s dictates in the name of an assembly line production of labor. We force students to be cogs because they will not choose it of their own. It is in our nature to select freedom, so schools are necessary to make us unfree.