0115: To train and control or to teach and learn: is there a choice?
#education #revolution #SOS #occupyedu
It seems that the goal of institutions is dominion over mankind. Organizations function to tame wild spirits and make them act civilly. This is not a terrible thing— people acting civilly. But, do the rulers act civilly? Not just the grand rulers, the government, corporations, etc., but the smaller rulers. Those who have dominion over few. Teachers might fall into this category. Are we just miniature tyrants? Are we forced to be? Expected to be? If we are, or aren’t do we have a choice in the matter?
The choice is often a matter of rebellion. Our institutions, which stand to standardize the masses, require a certain level of tyrannical behavior for those who work within their walls. My power as a teacher, in this system, is based on how well I manage behavior and control the flow of information. The flow of information and behavior are tied together. In a system such as our where we deposit arbitrary and minimally useful information into learners then there must be a system of behavioral management. When you colonizing a mind, there must be sanctions to prevent and/or quell rebellion. To teach there must be learning. To deposit information there must only be classroom management and training.
To return to an earlier question: do we have the choice, as teachers, to not behave as mini-tyrants? No, not “succeed” in this system. Learning for a test or standardization or massification requires some sort of coercion, whether positive or punitive, it requires an external force to motivate the learner. Tyranny is required to extend or impose tyranny. There is a choice however, and it isn’t between “success” and “failure”. The choice is between teaching and training. One requires an act of open rebellion. The rebellious and radical teacher will choose to not function as an extension of the hand of tyranny that works to dictate the goings on within a classroom, and more poignantly the minds of the recipients of said education. Our form of education, that focuses on mass standardization at the cost of neglecting the curious human spirit, forces us to choose between doing our job and teaching children. We can train and manipulate automatons or we can teach and learn with humans. Your choice.
0085: Unpacking the phrase “education is your ticket out of poverty.”
#teaching #revolution #literacy #education
I heard the phrase “education is your ticket out of (insert situation)” used by teachers, principals, parents, counselors, etc., etc. I’ve used it. I think it is often spouted thoughtlessly in the attempt to focus students on the task we choose for them. It positions education as a panacea and me, the educator as the distributor of that all important cure. This phrase, when used like this, turns into a tool of oppression, forcing students to focus on the falsehood that I, the teacher, have something that they need, and will withhold it until they bend to my will. This statement asks for non-critical compliance. By saying, “education is your ticket out”, it is implied first that the learner is already in an undesirable situation. Judgment is passed, the learner is told that he or she is inferior and needs a way out, the way which is provided by the educator or the education system. Second, the statement implies that the alternative is better. By leaving one class of people, the family, friends, and neighborhood the recipient of education will suddenly better off. They will then be the haves, having left the have-nots behind. This language does not encourage transformation; rather, it encourages blind abandonment. It serves to turn the underclass and the oppressed into oppressors themselves. Additionally, it positions teachers or the education system itself as the catalyst for change or even as savior. As long as the oppressed believe they require a savior they will always be oppressed. Transformation must be the aim of education, not forced dependence.
I do not mean to say that education is not a tool for transformation or even transcendence. It is. Unfortunately, it is often poised as a means to “leave those poor people behind”. As long as education is just a ticket out then there will be no transformation of the rapidly growing underclass in our country. Education should benefit the community not just the individual. As teachers, we must be cognizant of our language. We must do our best to empower learners and communities to do what’s best for them. If that means leaving, so be it. If it means uniting to become better educated, and to reduce crime, and build their own economy, then let it be. As long as teachers function as missionaries who drop in, feed the ailing and runaway, then there will be no change. True education is not a ticket out, it is a tool for transformation.
0054: Am I an Unintentional Imperialist? What am I really doing?
#teaching #learning #revolution
I’m coming to a point where I don’t believe. I’ve told myself “education is a tool for transcending any obstacle”. I’ve told students, parents, and teachers that. I’ve been an education evangelist. But, my faith is running thin. I’m preaching, but I’m not believing. And, this disagreement between word and belief is grinding my soul to a halt.
Going to work each day believing I’m making a significant difference in the lives of students is a thin lie that I have bought into. Beyond a lie, it is a paternalistic lie. I sweep down from some ivory tower with theories and practices designed to “liberate minds and souls”. I go to work as a missionary, fighting the sins of the “uneducated”. But, isn’t missionary another word for imperialist? Am I an unintentional imperialist? Is my actual job to tame an otherwise wild citizenry? And, by “tame the wild” I mean systematically align the thought processes of groups of children with an agenda designed to…I’m not sure, maybe not really function. Maybe not thrive. Maybe not make waves when injustices are committed against them or others.
Am I a part of an unstoppable system that functions only as an organ in the greater oppressive body that is our society, a body that keeps all its parts starved so they will be obedient.
I am a teacher, and I sneak little tidbits of rebellion into every lesson. I teach radically, and “teach for social justice”. I talk about amazing things. My students talk with me about these things. But who is transformed? Me? I live a middle class life. My needs are met. I am doing a job that pays me. That is wonderful. But each day, when the work is done I get to go back to my middle class reality. My things that keep me satisfied. My things that help me not worry so much about my neighbor across the bridge. Don’t get me wrong, I barely have enough to get by…but I have enough. I have to budget, but I have enough. I am a part of a system that doesn’t work. I need the system to feed me, so maybe I won’t stir any trouble. And if I do, I’m an alarmist or a fool. We are a part of a well oiled machine.
Each day I suppose I am chipping away at a wall. But, is sitting in classrooms talking about hope, or more realistically having algebra and grammar shoved down their throats really helping them transform their own communities?
We teachers try each day to do our best in a system that produces semi-literate people. There is no intention of making people thrive with education. If it was for that then people would thrive. People would be really literate and would be problem solvers. If people were really educated they would revolt. I don’t like being a part of a system that somehow starves people. People are straining for hope, and we give them algebra. I may be completely off base. If I am tell me. Help me see the light. I am missing it?
I know one thing, education is not the only problem. It does not function, but it seems it’s only one of many diseased organs.
0048: Education for the Prevention of Transforming Thought: Keep the Chain Short
#sschat #teaching #oppression
I wonder to what extent the elimination of social studies and civics in many schools has done to the detriment of our students. If it hasn’t been eliminated it has been downplayed by the fact that it is not a tested subject. The civics class has in many cases become a place to practice for the Language Arts portions of standardized tests. Kids in these social studies classrooms read page after page of arbitrary material and answers multiple choice questions in the format of their multiple choice standardized test.
The social studies classes I attended in my K-12 experience varied from involved and project based, to simply copying definitions and learning dates. The classes I see now do even less. The students I see each day are not learning history even. They learn a few factoids and discard them. There is no relation made to the students’ lives or concerns. It is, in many cases, a class with no meaning. I’ve found music class to be the perfect place to engage students in civic discussions, although when I taught Algebra for those years it was the perfect place. But, over the years I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern. Students know have not really learned anything about important social movements that are very important to the state of human freedom in our country. Additionally, they lack the language to engage in meaningful discussions about these events. The civil rights movement is limited to a single sentence definition and a date. Freedom is a word that is arbitrarily related to our flag. And, these are difficult concepts and require a lot of background knowledge and experience to fully grasp them.
What is wrong with the picture? Inequality is rampant in our schools and societal stratification. The people who need the ability to discuss inequality are not exposed to the language to do so. Perhaps, they are kept away from the language. Maybe everyone is kept from the concept so no one will bother intervening. But, intervention is only so powerful. The individual needs the power. The “interventionist” or teacher or organizer needs to be able to walk away quickly so the people will take over for themselves and do the things they need. So, denying our students exposure to these concepts in that classroom and school systems is preventing the question of say equality or freedom from ever being born. Is that the goal, or is it just an unfortunate side effect?