Laundromats are churches where we people without washing machines gather silently and understand that we all sweat, stink, and become clean again together. There is no class, race, or time in a laundromat, just people in their last pair of cleanish underwear listening to the hum of a dryers and waiting.
0058: On Silence, Education, and the Community
#school #community #silence
I am always amazed by the responses I get from people when I tell them what I do. All I do is teach children who are invisible in our society. Thy are part of an underclass of people that have been segregated into their own schools and neighborhoods so the safe and wealthy don’t have to see them. They’re neatly tucked away and punished with excessive testing and remediation so they will never see the light of the great white world. Beyond testing and a second rate education they are criminalized. Many enter seventh grade with a parole officer and a healthy criminal record. Some of these records began with a fight at school that could have been avoided with a little more supervision, or had other measures been taken ahead of time to address the problems that result in violence. Or, we could choose not to send little kids away in a cop car. There are no 7 year old criminals, maybe assholes, but not criminals. The odds are brutally stacked against these kids. And, the fact that many people don’t bother to understand that these are people with tough lives and not criminals making their own lives tough doesn’t help matters. Prejudice is strong in our world. So is ignorance, and it doesn’t belong to the poor people of our neighborhoods. The ignorant are the ones who choose blindness, and perpetuate the mentality that people are divided into us and them. We gotta open our mouths and open our eyes.
“Our merciless silence is deafening, and threatens the longevity of our social history.”
- from ‘Teachers as Cultural Workers’ by Paulo Freire
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?