- Capitalism and Alternatives -

An opinion

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on October 07, 1999 at 16:51:07:

In Reply to: odd posted by Gee on October 07, 1999 at 15:11:31:

: : It would appear that the respected elitist cliches of the class room, Jocks, Cheerleaders etc. just more or less oppress everyone else, curry favour with the educational establishment and control things, such as, the year book, a real parody of how big money interests curry favour with the state, oppress everyone else and control the media.

SDF: Well sure, there is a power struggle between students in the modern high school, but this is probably a result of the failures of the power struggle between students and teacher for control of each classroom situation, as accumulated in each student since Kindergarten.

: It strikes many as more of a result of forcing 2000 individuals together in a 'community' with which their relationship is neither revocable nor provisional.

SDF: Public suburban high schools such as Columbine High (I've taught in them, briefly) are not communities for reasons going way beyond "forcing". As communities, the teaching corps usually decides that each teacher is to run his or her classroom as a dictatorship according to a "laissez-faire" non-pattern, as long as the teachers follow District rules. And, in the American high school, each student gets to be under the command of six different teachers, each for a single period of about fifty minutes each school day. So what each student sees each day is six different dictatorships predicated upon six different, uncoordinated, patterns of rule. This hardly conjures up the idea of democratically coordinated rule, since it is neither democratic nor coordinated, and it does even worse in preparing students for participation in democratic society. (A footnote: such practices will not change by privatizing public schools, since the private schools are no better in this regard -- I went to a private high school that was run according to the same pattern.)

And the teacher control of these classrooms is not always guaranteed. Usually these classrooms are very spare in their furnishings, such that the only thing that can be done in them is "seatwork," the reading of books, the listening to teacher lectures, the writing of notes and the taking of tests. Clearly, such spare environments do not motivate academic excellence in all students, and so student revolt against it takes the form of "delinquency" as projected upon social institutions in Michel Foucault's DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH. What doubtless happened at Columbine High was a form of "delinquency" that went ignored (since it was so common in such situations) until it blew up. Furthermore, practices (common to such high schools) such as competitive grading and class ranking guarantee the failure of the bottom percentile of each class to be sure. See, for instance, Michelle Fine's book FRAMING DROPOUTS for a vivid portrait of the losers in such a system. And compare this with the schooling practices advocated in B. F. Skinner's "Walden Two," which Barry Stoller once advocated. By contrast, traditional schooling appears as a deliberate attempt to create communities that do not care for all of their members. Schools could do worse than adopt the model of Summerhill.

: Combined with what many people see as a deliberate anti-intelligence culture (whose source is discussed by Barry Stoller, in striking parallel to many libertarians ironically, see also Borgs post about state education and Dewey) who places 'jockness' above mental ability, who makes uniform the standards of 'success' and derides everything outside that.

SDF: The relationships between people (such as I have described above) are far more important to social outcomes than any identification of culture or individuals.

: : What is far more worrying is that the underclass has demonstrated that their oppression leads them to further subdivided and ape their masters in trying to fight and oppress each other, take the racial sub divides.

: Odd, an Englishman once told me "there is no one more bigotted and intolerant of non comformity than the working class" - I wondered what he meant. Perhaps this is connected.

SDF: If one wants things to stay the same, one looks for an object of blame, a scapegoat, rather than trying to understand the operation of the capitalist system.

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