Public School as an Authoritarian Warehouse

“Contemporary schools are all about social reproduction. They are absurd authoritarian warehouses designed to churn out industrial workers and docile citizens, to sort kids into winners and losers, inculcate them with appropriate nationalist narratives and dampen their spirit.” from Matt Hern’s blog http://www.mightymatthern.com/

This above statement is as close to my heart as any. School as an authoritarian warehouse. Absolutely TRUE!!.

My wife, who was not raised in this country would remark when we drove past NYC schools, that they looked like prisons. Bars on the windows, cops at the doors. It feels like parents are putting their kids into a factory and hoping what comes out is tolerable. Fortunately, there are some of us who have our eyes opened to this carnage, and have acted to build something outside the system. Fortunately we can still do this without leaving the country.

On Thursday, I spent an entire day at our school, Brooklyn Free School, and the level of academic activity that was taking place was astonishing. Chinese, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, Biology, French, Drawing, and Music Theory with interspersed normal childhood activity of ball playing and tag. I was sitting in a class discussing the meaning of Intelligence with 14 and 15 year old’s, and their view points were extremely lucid, and their minds were truly opened to the possibilities of truth.

Compare this with the morose, glazed over look I see in many teenage eyes (not all) and you have to wonder if this particular strategy by our corporate run government is not doomed to catastrophic back fire. I think that by prefacing the  above statement with the adjective ABSURD is right on the mark. I have referred to this approach as Bizzaro World, meaning a place where everything is the opposite of what you intended.

Every morning I accompany several other parents on the public bus, who are stressed in getting their kids to school on time. They do not want them marked LATE. As if this is some kind of life threatening stigma. The fact that parents have been corralled into this, is the prime reason the authoritarian mode has been so effective. If parents obey, so soon shall their children.

My day in school showed me that young minds are more like sponges then we could ever have imagined. If our young people are left alone, not bothered to do anything, but watched carefully and without judgment, there is this possibility to assist the birth of an incredible mind coupled with a humane soul. If you were to ask any decent person on the streets if that is what they would want from education, you would likely hear more yeses than nays. But how we get there is where the differing opinions arise.I have seen something that works, right before my eyes. I have seen minds, spirits and souls transformed within a short time period. But that transformation took dedication and patience to accomplish and fortunately we have the staff and community to accomplish that.

The America I hope for can return to innovation. I would love to see the US lead the world into the next millennium, not militarized, but in a way that is improving the prognosis for the planet. I fear that we are outnumbered by ignorance, greed, and epidemic stupidity. We are living through a dystopian nightmare. Is there no place for Utopia? Utopia exists in us, and in our children. We just need for more intelligence to emerge among people, and begin to ask the right questions. So that one day we can look back at this period in history, and refer to it as the Dark Ages.

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One Comment on “Public School as an Authoritarian Warehouse”

  1. Katie Harrell says:

    First of all, it makes me extremely relieved to hear that there are schools like the Brooklyn Free School, which offer such a wide range of academics but interspersed with a “recess” of sorts. Once I went to middle school, the lack of recess made my life miserable. I’m especially happy to hear that the subject of music is set next to science and language. That is a formula for academic success.

    I suspect that there are many factors for such an authoritarian approach. Being a product of the Florida education system, the FCAT was always a huge stressor in the academic lives of teachers and students. Basically, if a student didn’t pass the FCAT, they wouldn’t pass at their grade level. And if teachers couldn’t properly prepare their students for the test, the school’s funding would get cut due to low test scores. I’m not completely against a need for a state-wide assessment, but that the needs of the school, students, and teachers shouldn’t be dependent on such things. Teachers can’t be teachers with these huge monkeys on their back.

    The economic times only irritate the already poor situations of many low-budget schools. I’m sure that many authoritarian schools are run in such a way out of fear.


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