"Being a teacher is like being a prison guard"

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fort-da game
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Jun 8 2010 19:32
Choccy wrote:
There is a qualitative difference between a teacher and a prison guard.

There certainly should be. My son first punched a teacher at four... a terrible experience for everyone concerned, and yet the cause of it was fear and total confusion about what was expected of him, i.e. sit down, shut up, face the front. Since that time, despite his great intelligence, wit, grace and beauty he continues in the remedial classes at school (he is 8) – no matter how we try it has been impossible to communicate to teachers what an amazing person he is, for them he is simply a problem and disruptive influence who must sit next to the teacher, at the back of the class, or even in the corridor.

I live on an estate where perhaps 50% of the children (most often boys) are in some sort of revolving programme of exclusions from school and other forms of special disciplining because they just don't get what is expected of them. It is easy to predict how these children will end up in 10 or 15 years, it is easy because the production of such children is systematic.

I went to a secondary modern where our only preparation for life was military style drilling and learning by rote for working in the local mill (which then shut)... all of my life I have been surrounded by people who have been designated as failures by the education system. I have escaped my being sorted into the discard pile because I have the theory to enable me to understand how the education system was wrong about me (and all the others). But when I go back home and see the state of my old school mates, then I see how badly things could have gone – in the words of Hans Eisler, they are very much middle aged failures in loving, failures in living. They have been broken. Within any totalising system, some will always escape but escape to what exactly? But most do not escape at all and find it almost impossible to challenge the categories of success and failure which have been instilled into them.

I do not blame teachers for this situation, but just as doctors' organisations have absolutely nothing to say about the objective production, and their maintenance, of depression in this society, so teachers' organisations have nothing to say about their role in capitalist reproduction... this failure to articulate the complicity of social managers by those managers indicates the identification of their true interest, their demarcated status within the system.

Pro-revolutionary critique must begin from the point where the damage is being done – it begins with putting into words that traumatic experience which otherwise passes unspoken (how is it that teachers so often fail to put themselves in the position of the children who are bewildered and exhausted by the environment of school?) All this pain, all this mental illness, all these addictions and sense of failure and emptiness and boredom and worthlessness begins at school – because school is where you are prepared for work.

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Choccy
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Jun 8 2010 19:42
fort-da game wrote:
I do not blame teachers for this situation, but just as doctors' organisations have absolutely nothing to say about the objective production, and their maintenance, of depression in this society, so teachers' organisations have nothing to say about their role in capitalist reproduction... this failure to articulate the complicity of social managers by those managers indicates the identification of their true interest, their demarcated status within the system.

Education workers groups DO have something to say about their role under capitalism. The members of LEWG is explicitly critical of the role of educators as they currently exist, but the solution revolutionaries who want to transform society seek should not be one of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
As critical as we are of aspects of the medical and pharmaceutical industry we don't call for the abolition of medicine, or doctors, or nurses. We recognise that their roles as they exist under capitalism contain contradiction and tensions that such workers must confront - but the goal should be for workers to seize control of those industries in the service and the interests of all of society, not just the few.

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888
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Jun 8 2010 19:44

So are tour guides and holiday camp motivators also middle class managerial-type because they supervise people for long periods of time?

mons
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Jun 8 2010 20:05

There are three things here I think.

The first is what the role of education is in our society. I think most people would agree that it has a mixed role. On the one hand it is geared towards creating a population suited to the demands of capitalism; a compliant workforce, and one with the skills necessary to participate in the kind of production that goes on in the part of the world you live in. On the other hand, it clearly does do some good. We are given, even if pretty shit, understandings of basic ideas, etc.

The second issue is on the class status of education workers. The opening article calls them "middle class...social managers". The reason given seems to be because of the repressive role the education system plays in people's lives. Let's suppose the education system plays a thoroughly bad (it doesn't in my opinion, but let's just pretend for the sake of argument) role, even an repressive one. That doesn't make education workers middle class anymore than miners, farmers, social workers, etc. are middle class - all industries you think should be discontinued with communism. If everybody doing work which contributes to the shitness of this society is not working class, the working class is pretty damn small. There's one pretty basic reason, that they're all jobs we have to do not because of their utility but because of the nature of wage labour. But I think to give the article some more credit it recognises this, maybe anyway. It says that teachers are actively repressing people, rather than just performing a destructive function. But teachers are given a remit, the content of which is beyond their control, to which they must teach. Also, as noted some teachers do deviate as much as they reasonably can, and provide more liberatory roles for students.

The third issue is about whether education should continue in communism. Despite having just finished my schooling literally a week or so ago, and by and large hating it, I'd answer definitely yes. Obviously I think it'd look radically different in an ideal situation - start later, focus off exams and quantifying progress, greater freedom for students, etc. And loads of stuff that it's useless speculating about now, because to be honest we don't have a clue. I think the idea of the role of teacher as being inherently repressive is literally madness, and hardly worthy of engaging with.

mons
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Jun 8 2010 20:17
Quote:
(how is it that teachers so often fail to put themselves in the position of the children who are bewildered and exhausted by the environment of school?) All this pain, all this mental illness, all these addictions and sense of failure and emptiness and boredom and worthlessness begins at school – because school is where you are prepared for work.

Most likely because it's a tough job, some people don't have the sympathy, others do but find it too hard to act upon, others still do manage to act on it. I entirely agree with your criticism of the education system though. I've had friends who have dropped out, got into heavy drugs, crime, etc. because of the education system's brutal 'efficiency', and just the general lack of stimulating things. I hugely sympathise with you and your son's difficulties with school. And almost all of us have had self-confidence shattered, and "sense of failure and emptiness and boredom and worthlessness" definitely resonates. But this is a criticism of education specifically under capitalist society. You wrongly equate contemporary education in capitalist society with education. It's not really any different to the technology thread discussion. The primitivists say hey, look at all these shit things technology does, technology is bad. But actually it's about the way technology, education, etc. are organised under capitalism that makes them bad, and there is nothing inherently harmful about the thing.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 8 2010 20:27

An argument against organized education per se makes absolutely no sense. It is the same logic that is at work in anti-civ/primmo "critiques," i.e. "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" (as Choccy points out).
Libertarians have had a fundamental role in challenging bourgeois education since the earliest days of the movement (or what used to be a movement in any case). I suggest the contemptuous naysayers should take a look at the legacy of Ferrer (or even Pestalozzi who pretty much invented libertarian education in the West) and the Modern School movement for an example of how you can still have a formal school, but one that is dedicated to imparting a love for and understanding of the arts, science and so forth, rather than to serving as a factory of workers.

Armed Sheep
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Jun 8 2010 21:33
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Libertarians have had a fundamental role in challenging bourgeois education since the earliest days of the movement

And school just keeps getting worse. They've even stopped posting escalating drop-out rates out of sheer embarrassment. Every evaluation I've seen of homeschooling in the U.S. suggests better performance on mainstream expectations (level testing). The alternative school movement from the '70's showed a lot of success precisely because it was non-directive and gave students "control" over the daily classroom agenda. Unfortunately, graduates of alternative schools went on to become radical scholars and critical artists. Today, at least here, the alternative school is a joke. It is a holding pen because the state does not look favourably upon mass expulsions.

cantdocartwheels wrote:
Of course they ''manage'' children, children need to be taught right and wrong and they need structure to learn. Unless you think 6 year olds should run their own classrooms or some crazy nonsense like that.

I can't do cartwheels either but I can recognise moralistic sophistry and tautology (and I didn't learn those words 'til I left school!). The necessity of classrooms is provided by the fact that there is no family at home. They're off being proletariats and managers.

There is a real fear of chaos, which is just the unknown. Perhaps a little experiment with hallucinogens (or reading Kropotkin) will lend an appreciation of the beautiful patterns which can emerge from chaos. It's not about throwing babies out of bathwater at all. Those things we currently value we will still (hopefully) do. Just outside of capitalist institutions. They may become communist institutions if the aesthetic is shared. Who knows.

The traditional definition of civilisation includes the centralised state. Capitalism has only followed a long trend. If the state and hierarchy is removed, we can no longer call it civilisation, by definition. Of course, most mean "culture" when they say "civilisation". This is a predictable over-generalisation from the inability to see passed the city walls. Successful adaptation means one's own city is already utopia. In the real world (ours), one cannot reform monsters, as Chairman Mao discovered with his re-education camps.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 8 2010 21:57
Armed Sheep wrote:
And school just keeps getting worse. They've even stopped posting escalating drop-out rates out of sheer embarrassment. Every evaluation I've seen of homeschooling in the U.S. suggests better performance on mainstream expectations (level testing). The alternative school movement from the '70's showed a lot of success precisely because it was non-directive and gave students "control" over the daily classroom agenda. Unfortunately, graduates of alternative schools went on to become radical scholars and critical artists.

I'm sure that's not the only source for their demise; a big part was played by the attack waged on these alternative schools by the state education system. If free schools were recognized fully and therefore could offer the same chances to their students as public or state schools do, I think there would likely be a resurgence of the free school movement. But that is not likely to happen, esp. in Britain where it appears that the policy of giving fancy rich schools all the funds, while letting the other ones fend for themselves or die off (not to mention the new plans for outright restricting access to higher education) is gaining more and more ground.

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Jun 8 2010 22:09
Armed Sheep wrote:
For example, fifteen years ago I was a middle/high school counselor. I was universally blacklisted after only one year for advocating for the students. In the U.S., that is not part of the job description, despite what the colloquial wisdom thinks. In administrative circles, this is called "trouble-making" or "not a team player". There was in fact a demonstration by students and parents in attempt to retain me, to no avail. Many took their 'kids' out of school in protest. That is the only good which came out of the situation.

This is definitely true.

Quote:
If a pro-revolutionary works as a teacher they should oppose that role as much as if they worked in a factory – if there are pro-communists working as teachers and they are not calling for the abolition of such education then they do not have even the basis of a critique of the capitalist social relation.

Exactly. I think teachers, like some professionals are expected to care about there jobs. So when we hear about workers sabotaging production lines we are supportive but where those workers are in health or education they are expected to put the interests of the consumers before their own, most do. Interestingly this is the same logic that capital uses to drag unpaid work out of these same workers.

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Jun 8 2010 22:13
Vlad336 wrote:
Armed Sheep wrote:
And school just keeps getting worse. They've even stopped posting escalating drop-out rates out of sheer embarrassment. Every evaluation I've seen of homeschooling in the U.S. suggests better performance on mainstream expectations (level testing). The alternative school movement from the '70's showed a lot of success precisely because it was non-directive and gave students "control" over the daily classroom agenda. Unfortunately, graduates of alternative schools went on to become radical scholars and critical artists.

I'm sure that's not the only source for their demise; a big part was played by the attack waged on these alternative schools by the state education system. If free schools were recognized fully and therefore could offer the same chances to their students as public or state schools do, I think there would likely be a resurgence of the free school movement. But that is not likely to happen, esp. in Britain where it appears that the policy of giving fancy rich schools all the funds, while letting the other ones fend for themselves or die off (not to mention the new plans for outright restricting access to higher education) is gaining more and more ground.

I always thought that the reasons for higher test scores was due to the generally higher level of income and education of the parents of home schooled children. Ideally a form of free schools would be a good thing but I still think that trained educators would be necessary.

Armed Sheep
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Jun 8 2010 22:17
Vlad wrote:
I'm sure that's not the only source for their demise; a big part was played by the attack waged on these alternative schools by the state education system. If free schools were recognized fully and therefore could offer the same chances to their students as public or state schools do, I think there would likely be a resurgence of the free school movement. But that is not likely to happen, esp. in Britain where it appears that the policy of giving fancy rich schools all the funds, while letting the other ones fend for themselves or die off (not to mention the new plans for outright restricting access to higher education) is gaining more and more ground.

Yes, precisely. And Mainstream education still puts a damper on anything novel or experimental. The teachers I knew relayed a common gripe. Even the new and interesting approaches they learned in college were nay-sayed by the established teachers and administration. Most first-year teachers either gave up trying in order to save their job, went on to other types of employment, or took night classes to become administrators themselves, usually for the bigger bucks and reduction of daily stress/frustration.

I was going to edit my post to add that A.S. graduates did not significantly contribute to the general economy. Home schoolers are generally prevented from entry into higher education. A new-age school principle told me there is more and more emphasis of integrating the pre- preschool within the public school system "to catch them when they're young". Research indicates institutionalised toddlers make for better behaved students.

Armed Sheep
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Jun 8 2010 22:30
jef costello wrote:
I always thought that the reasons for higher test scores was due to the generally higher level of income and education of the parents of home schooled children. Ideally a form of free schools would be a good thing but I still think that trained educators would be necessary.

Very often this is the case. However, remember that some of our so-called "greatest minds" were from poorer families and were autodidacts, self-taught. Einstein, Novatore, Buckminster-Fuller (who was a rich kid, sure, but dropped out because he couldn't take the regimentation. Actually, he was expelled).

"Educators" in free-schools are more like facilitators than teachers or baby-sitters. At least that's the theory. It's actually based on the theories of non-directive or "client-centered" therapy in psychotherapy, an experiment almost entirely negated by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. It's also a bit more of a "human" type of approach.

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Jun 8 2010 23:06
Armed Sheep wrote:
jef costello wrote:
I always thought that the reasons for higher test scores was due to the generally higher level of income and education of the parents of home schooled children. Ideally a form of free schools would be a good thing but I still think that trained educators would be necessary.

Very often this is the case. However, remember that some of our so-called "greatest minds" were from poorer families and were autodidacts, self-taught. Einstein, Novatore, Buckminster-Fuller (who was a rich kid, sure, but dropped out because he couldn't take the regimentation. Actually, he was expelled).

"Educators" in free-schools are more like facilitators than teachers or baby-sitters. At least that's the theory. It's actually based on the theories of non-directive or "client-centered" therapy in psychotherapy, an experiment almost entirely negated by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. It's also a bit more of a "human" type of approach.

I understand the idea of child-centred learning which I'm pretty sure predates 'client-centred' therapy. One of the disadvantages of teaching is that like writing and several other skills that many people seem to labour under the impression that anyone can do it. Although a child-centred approach is based upon following the child's interests and desires it is more effective when a good teacher to help create and harness these interests. I am in favour of a child-centred approach and that is one that the school system claims to support and actively prevents, however his does not negate the role of educators.

cobbler
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Jun 9 2010 00:16

Having read this thread there are points on both sides which I agree with. Yes, the structure of schools (and colleges) currently is controlling and requires a certain type of compliance. If sitting still in a room for 45 minutes on the trot doesn't suit you: tough, get used to it or reap the negative consequences. There is a little more flexibility in some places now due to the 14-19 curriculum opening up alternative routes, but it's not great.

Teachers find that they have no choice but to enforce 'the rules' and this is a contradiction to their impulses. Still, there are ways and ways.

Much of education is increasingly geared to what employers want rather than what is good for the mind, for life, for free thinking etc and there is an area for pressure to be applied: for a more liberated curriculum, free of the enormous constraints of the national curriculum and multitudinous policies.

Education in and of itself is at a basic level essential, however it is delivered, and a great boon beyond that where it increases the person in thought, in knowledge, in ability to self determine.

Without it, we wouldn't be holding this discussion.

I thought I'd drop this into the conversation:

http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/pages/index.html

I imagine some of you are familiar with it already.

cobbler
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Jun 9 2010 00:28
Garco wrote:

What is all this about “Education Workers”?

Teachers are members of the middle class; they are social managers (they manage children, they consciously and actively transmit bourgeois ideology); their ‘industrial struggles’ are the same as any other professional body – their ‘industrial struggles’ do not attack the economy, they only serve to attempt to protect their own specialised, professional position within it.

I disagree. There have been disputes over the SATs, partly due to imposed workload but also in part due to their impact on pupils. There have been disputes over class sizes, with their detrimental effect on those in them.

Smaller local struggles are a fight by the workers against impositions from on high: much the same as other workers who fight exploitation.

Ultimately, the struggles in education, I would like to think, will be about the demolishing of the hierarchical system which permeates the whole of society and which any anarchist would oppose. And that's not just about hierarchy amongst those employed in schools, but also how young people (and all learners) are treated, which is why I disagree with this:

Quote:
As I see it the only people who could justifiably set up a group with such a name as “Education Workers”, would be those who undertake the non-supervisory roles within the education industry: the administrative staff, the cleaners, the teaching assistants, the maintenance workers.
petey
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Jun 9 2010 02:00
fort-da game wrote:
My son first punched a teacher at four.

expulsion, unless the teacher relents.
'first'?

cobbler wrote:
Teachers find that they have no choice but to enforce 'the rules' and this is a contradiction to their impulses. Still, there are ways and ways.

yes, and it's good to read at least one comment which seems to understand why teachers get into the business in the first place (the bolded bit). depends on the rule of course, i assume you're referring to the merely regimental stuff.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 9 2010 02:11
petey wrote:
fort-da game wrote:
My son first punched a teacher at four.

expulsion.

cobbler wrote:
Teachers find that they have no choice but to enforce 'the rules' and this is a contradiction to their impulses. Still, there are ways and ways.

yes, and it's good to read at least one comment which seems to understand why teachers get into the business in the first place (the bolded bit).

Yes Cobbler is right on that point, and I would add that not only does enforcing the rules contradict one's impulses (if one isn't a disciplinarian sociopath), but that not enforcing the rules, or making said enforcing conspicuous to the students ultimately achieves nothing. A teacher who is a "good guy" in the sense of very liberal with the rules, will find that he/she cannot get much done in a class because students interpret that liberality as weakness and inefficiency and so lose all interest. This is of course due to the fact that except for kindergarten, students come into the school already indoctrinated with the notion that a teacher is someone who forces you to do stuff.
Of course some teachers will inevitably be popular for a variety of reasons, but it's usually not because they are lax with the rules, rather because they are good at masking the fundamentally unequal nature of the student-teacher relationship by putting on a "cool guy" persona. From experience (as a student and as an instructor), the "cool teachers" are also the ones who are the most authoritarian.
What I'm getting at I guess is that the problem is structural and not just a matter of resisting the "middle class" managerial tendencies and treating students nicely. It is no more possible to change the system by modifying your behaviour as a teacher, than it is as a factory worker. Which goes to show that the regular teacher has no more managerial power of decision than any worker, which is why we speak of "education workers."
It's kind of strange that the OP author(s) start(s) with a moralistic denunciation of teachers as "bourgeoisifying agents," only to then admit that teachers aren't intentionally corrupting the youth but are forced to by the system. That is to me a contradiction. Either teachers have real managerial powers or they don't. Obviously everyone is forced to reproduce the fundamentally unjust social relations created by capital in their day to day lives, but I'm sure that Messrs. Dupont will agree that that despite of this there is a fundamental difference between the oppression that a capitalist manager experiences and that of a waged worker. The former has a significant degree of choice and freedom of economic movement that is not available to the latter. In this scheme, teachers clearly do not have the same freedoms as the capitalists who own their schools, so it is clear to me that they are in fact workers. Calling them "middle class" simply because their job requires the supervision of more people than a "genuinely" proletarian job, does not obscure this fact in the slightest.

I think Walter Benjamin's "The Life of Students" encompasses pretty well how I feel about the education system (especially higher education)
http://libcom.org/library/life-students-walter-benjamin

Quote:
The perversion of the creative spirit into the vocational spirit, which we see at work everywhere, has taken possession of the universities as a whole and has isolated them from the nonofficial, creative life of the mind. The mandarin contempt for the activities of independent artists and scholars who are alien and often hostile to the state is a painful proof of this. [...] Yet the vocation of teaching – albeit in forms that are quite different from those current today – is an imperative for any authentic learning. Such a hazardous self-dedication to learning and youth must manifest itself in the student as the ability to love, and it must be the source of his creativity. But by the same token he must also follow in the footsteps of his elders; he must acquire his learning from his teacher, without following him in his profession. With an easy conscience, he can take his leave of the community that binds him to other producers, since that community derives its general form exclusively from philosophy. He should be an active producer, philosopher, and teacher all in one, and all these things should be part of his deepest and most essential nature. This is what defines his profession and his life. The community of creative human beings elevates every field of study to the universal through the form of philosophy. Such universality is not achieved by confronting lawyers with literary questions, or doctors with legal ones (as various student groups have attempted). It can be brought about only if the community ensures that specialized studies (which cannot exist without a profession in mind) and all the activities of the special disciplines are firmly subordinated to the community of the university as such, since it alone is the creator and guardian of philosophy as a form of community.
Armed Sheep
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Jun 9 2010 03:31

As I suggested above, I think the original poster could have inverted one phrase and some of the perceived contradiction disappears: teachers occupy a "bourgeoisifying agency". Their own motivations or personality are irrelevant. As you said yourself, they must play the game. They manage proto-workers who are in no position to cut and run. In most places, that would be considered illegal. Teachers also hold a kind of authority, at least the potential of authority unimaginable in any workplace outside the military. They, in collaboration with the school nurse, can (and frequently have in the states) submit a recommendation to an m.d. for a chemical lobotomy, a long term regimen of psychopharmaceuticals (designed and tested only on and for adults), over simple behavioural outbursts in the class-room. There is little parents can do but remove the child from school, and unless they have the bucks to consult a qualified independent mental health professional for a "second opinion", they become suspect of negligence. Teachers as well have the capability to call in the cops over minor infractions or conspire with court social workers to have the state remove the children from their families over something as absurd as mandatory vaccinations. I've witnessed all of these.

I agree on Benjamin's essay. And that was, I believe, 1914, before things got really bad!

Boris Badenov
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Jun 9 2010 03:55
Armed Sheep wrote:
They, in collaboration with the school nurse, can (and frequently have in the states) submit a recommendation to an m.d. for a chemical lobotomy, a long term regimen of psychopharmaceuticals (designed and tested only on and for adults), over simple behavioural outbursts in the class-room. There is little parents can do but remove the child from school, and unless they have the bucks to consult a qualified independent mental health professional for a "second opinion", they become suspect of negligence. Teachers as well have the capability to call in the cops over minor infractions or conspire with court social workers to have the state remove the children from their families over something as absurd as mandatory vaccinations. I've witnessed all of these.

Armed Sheep, I obviously don't wish to deny the validity of you personal experience, but I don't think teachers 'ordering' lobotomies, calling the cops for minor infractions (which are usually reported to the dean/principal/whathaveyou before any action is taken AFAIK), or having children removed from their homes because they refused vaccination, are by any means the norm, just like it is not the norm for most factory/office workers to scab, rat out their coworkers to management, be abusive of new coworkers, etc., although those things definitely do happen. Yes teachers may objectively have more authority over a greater number of people than other professionals, but in most cases that is a very limited authority, of which the worst effects usually are the utter failure to impart any meaningful knowledge onto the student and the potential sabotaging of the student's career if he/she proves really "uncooperative." This authority is definitely not the same as that of an actually middle class factory owner, who can easily deny workers the very means of their daily reproduction.
Again, this is not to defend the education system as a whole in any way, but I don't think one can extrapolate from what may indeed be outrageous cases of abuse, that all teachers are literally like prison guards (with better salaries). That is an unfair characterization I think (and I'm not saying you're doing that, but it is definitely a tendency that is visible in the OP).

Armed Sheep
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Jun 9 2010 04:09

Yes, and happily, it is not the norm. I have much more faith in humans than the Duponts.

The last factory owner I worked for was formerly a child psychologist, and a bigger dick than that I've not known since Nixon died. It was a dried flower processing plant utilising minors (a work-study program, legal if it was under eight hours a day or they had a permission slip from the folks) for sweat labour. So I get your point.

By the by, Another very good read on the general topic:
Modernism and Education by Layla AbdelRahim, who has a nice collection of her essays at http://layla.miltsov.org/

Layla AbdelRahim wrote:
If one compares the principles of learning and child development with the social reality to which the methods of education are supposed to respond and then with the reality that these methods create, a shrewd observer may notice a contradiction between words and deeds or between goals and ends or rather between hopes and reality.

Most people today believe that schooling is necessary and indispensable. When asked why they think so, they explain that without school children will not learn how to live in this world and therefore they will not be able to live or will not learn how to let others live (the eternal question of socialisation). Most often, when asked to define their language (define world, live, learn, etc.) the supporters of schooling, it turns out, have not understood what they themselves understand by these terms and mostly argue that "because everybody knows that this is so". Why? "Because everybody does this and so everybody knows". In other words, we are dealing with the irrational interiorisation of institutional thought.

According to that logic, it follows that if the methods of integration and teaching how to live are successful and provide vital skills and knowledge that would allow people to harmonise with the world, then why is this harmony such a painful experience? If we are to trust the statistics on the increase of mental illness and other forms of alienation from healthy (i.e. harmonious) living, it becomes evident that suffering becomes the norm, suffering that is inflicted on children who are forced to learn to accept abandonment by their parents as normal because someone told the parents that children need to be socialised in order to learn how to obey. A method that instills in parents the belief that their children's screaming when left alone in the hands of strangers in schools is benign demands that the parents kill their ability to commiserate with their own kin. Lack of empathy with the children's terror and pain becomes the norm and that is the first lesson of school. If the agenda of schooling and of "civilised" parenting is to kill one's instinct to respond to someone else's suffering, to protect children who need our empathy, compassion, and skill not only to survive, but also to learn how to care about the world around, it becomes obvious that the curriculum is geared to kill and destroy rather than to harmonise and preserve, because, just like their parents, this is the first lesson that children learn in school.

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Tarwater
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Jun 9 2010 05:18

I wrote this as purely a response to Garco, and a lot of the discussion has probably surpassed my points...

Garco,
I must admit, I found the "trite, boring and wrong" thing to be pretty catchy/brutal and left it despite it being poor manners on a forum. I think that many posts made during debate must come off as harsher than intended, and mine will remain forever a good example of that. By "I like a lot of the Dupont stuff" I did not mean pictures, but that I found your arguments compelling, and appreciated the clear and lucid tone in which they were expressed. I don't think that rhetoric should hold as much sway over debates as it seems to in the internet age, when a caustic reply can obscure more logical arguments. However, I was tempted to reply in the manner that I did for two reason 1) being that, anecdotally, I did not find your post accurate and 2) I don't see how education workers' (specifically teachers, though I understand the maintanence workers and admin parts) interests are significantly different from that of the wider working class. Certainly their work demands things that benefit capitalism, but this is a qualitative difference that only robs the individuals of free agency within their job, to resist and work towards something better. Perhaps this fits into "nihilist communism"? Ultimately, workers that find they have a "gift" or avocation for working with children must be better off doing so with their perspective than an institution that is entirely made up of reactionary, conservative babysitters. At least, this is what makes sense to me from (once again) anecdotal and personal experience. There is nothing in my theory toolbox that can contradict this or lead me to any other conclusions, though I am open to other interpretations.

Quote:
An institution represents a synergistic effect so cannot be meaningfully altered by individuals within it. Nor are they individually to blame for the behaviour of the gestalt, whatever their motivations. Think of the logic behind historical materialism or even contextual influence. This is how tradition works. This is what is meant by the shackles of custom.

I feel that this argument, while compelling on some levels, spells doom for workers everywhere. We all work under the institution of capitalism, and while it certainly affects all of us on some level, to say that this institution is impossible to overcome is a miserabelist mindset that makes
all activity moot. The ability to fight for our own interests as workers is the only thing that can alter an institution, no? How would it be different in any capitalist venture for the workers to reject the mindset behind accumulation
to gain intermediary benefits at the expense of profits? Also, I find myself with the prospect of a child on my horizon and I wonder what I should do?
Everyone I've met who was homeschooled has been under-socialized and not properly prepared for "the real world". I can only hope that the teachers he or she will have in public school will instill and encourage a healthy skepticism for thing-as-they-are (as I was), but how is one to know? I feel that the only rational approach is to support education workers in all stations and hope that the increasingly compromising policies of the state will help radicalize the few workers who resist recognizing their roles in reinforcing capitalism and consigning their students to a future of...

Mike Harman
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Jun 9 2010 05:21

It's also worth pointing out that there's plenty of non-radical critiques of the education system which make similar arguments and observations as made here, except arguing that it's going to be short term damage to capitalism if there isn't widespread reform towards child-centred learning. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html is an obvious example. Obviously there's fuck all action behind any of those but I don't know why the carnage wreaked by the education system as it is is supposed to be such a revelation.

I've worked in education a reasonable amount and a few different bits of it, peripatetic music teaching in a school and saturday morning clubs, IT training at a drop-in centre for people on long term psychiatric care (usually just out of hospital), library at a sixth form college and training to be an ESOL teacher at that same sixth form college, and a back-office job at a university library doing their website.

The place where the contradictions were most obvious were at the sixth form college. While it was post-16 education, it wasn't really optional in any real sense for the people attending. Working in the library about 90% of the job was dealing with issues from noise and food, to fights breaking out, to trying to broker access to scarce resources like working computers and chairs with four wheels, to people nicking books (more books missing than in stock!). In that job there wasn't any real authority or disciplining attached to the job, not even that much for our supervisors and direct manager, certainly not compared to the teaching staff, so it wasn't much different to working in a shop even though there was some kind of conflict between us and at least some students pretty much every day.

However with the ESOL teacher training, I was supposed to be teaching a class a couple of times per week. If students turned up one minute late, you were supposed to mark them as such, and they'd lose their £30/week education allowance (which for a lot of students was the only way they could afford food and bus for the week) - the college itself had a 10 minute rule, since if they actually reported accurately, a large majority of the students would lose their allowances each week and likely drop out pretty fast, and then they'd lose funding, although I think this changes just as I was leaving. Also I never once had an actual register for that class so I didn't even know who was in it. But policies like that were the main reason I dropped out of the ESOL training since I couldn't face dealing with that level of bullshit all week. You could work around aspects of it, and in fact that particular college tried to unofficially at an organisational level, but it'd be very easy to turn it around so that the students got monitored closely, and then monitoring of the staff monitoring the students too. At the place the students got fucked over in all kinds of other ways though.

I'd like to see what Messrs Dupont think about this point:

Quote:
I disagree. There have been disputes over the SATs, partly due to imposed workload but also in part due to their impact on pupils. There have been disputes over class sizes, with their detrimental effect on those in them.

Smaller local struggles are a fight by the workers against impositions from on high: much the same as other workers who fight exploitation.

I'd add to that some of the joint campaigns/struggles by parents and teachers against Academies in the UK.

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madashell
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Jun 9 2010 08:57
Armed Sheep wrote:
jef costello wrote:
I always thought that the reasons for higher test scores was due to the generally higher level of income and education of the parents of home schooled children. Ideally a form of free schools would be a good thing but I still think that trained educators would be necessary.

Very often this is the case. However, remember that some of our so-called "greatest minds" were from poorer families and were autodidacts, self-taught. Einstein, Novatore, Buckminster-Fuller (who was a rich kid, sure, but dropped out because he couldn't take the regimentation. Actually, he was expelled).

I've not much to add to this discussion that hasn't already been said (I agree broadly with what choccy, jef and catch have said), it's not accurate to say that Einstein was an autodidact (or from a poor family for that matter), he actually had 21 years of mainstream education, including his three years at Zurich polytechnic, and got a diploma in mathematics and physics out of it.

sort it out frosty
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Jun 9 2010 09:48

Very interesting debate. Personally I think fort-da-da & garco are pretty spot on. Obviously many teachers are perfectly nice people. The question is not just that education is an industry we want to get rid but of a difference in class interests. In the same way sum managers are alright (well most are total cunts, but sum are ok "out of work") but their class position, there position in the structure of class society, is reactionary.

888 wrote:
So are tour guides and holiday camp motivators also middle class managerial-type because they supervise people for long periods of time?

Are managers "middle class managerial-types" because they supervise people for long periods of time? Yes.

Teachers may be as nice & lefty as you like but their job is to make sure kids do their work, dont bunk off, etc. This is a managerial, controlling role. Teachers are not a neutral force. In college I liked a few of my teachers but there could never have been solidarity between them & me (as far as they were teachers) because they were i authority over me. This is obvious stuff. Education is about "domesticating" the working class to fit into capitalism. You can't have kids running amock. If you did that as a teacher you'd get fired. Eather you try to calm kids down (soft cop) or you force them to do what you want (hard cop). This is a mediating position in class society. The teachers structural role in class society is a mediating (& often controlling) force to reproduce the social roles.

Kids burn down their school. Teachers demand more security. Kids resist schoolwork. Teachers demand more disciplinary powers or ways of coopting kids to do the stuff. This is a difference of class interest.

No wonder the strong holds of the Left are the NUT, NUJ & PCS as Leftism is the political manifestation of the "Coordinator Class" (as Michael Albert etc calls it) who structurally exist in capitalism to mediate between proles & capital. The managerial class manage class society’s day to day running as controllers of the working class thru institutions like the state, education, the media, popular culture and organised religion which stamp out our individual freedom and self-direction and (dis)organise us to serve the interests of our rulers. So structurally the class interests served by the NUT NUJ & PCS clash with those of the working/under class. I once had the General Secretary of the NUJ denounce me for "violence" against a "union member going about his work" (e.g. being a journo cunt)... but thats another story. This is about Gramsci's "march thru the institutions" - the Left have realised the working class isn'tt going tio side with them so they "bore from within" into the opinion-making classes - teachers & journalists.

To give you an example of what its like in my town the two main Marxist leaders are a sixth form teacher & a bureaucrat at the hospital. The teacher (on the local & national SWP central committees) tries to blag impressionable students into going on the fucking UAF/Stop the War/etc demos and buying the Socialist Worker. He is also a NUT big whig and on the Trades Council where he uses worker union dues to support various pet Marxist hobby horses like the SWPs UAF and the pathetic electoral front him and the hospital bureaucrat headed. All his students think hes a creepy wanker.

So I've nothing necessarily against teachers as individuals (sometimes) but I do oppose their position of authority & their role in controlling kids & instilling the ideology of class society. There is a article in Class War Cambridgeshire's "The Fen Tiger" about education (page 4):

Quote:
In school we are trained to fit into the various roles of class society and where the misfits are singled out and thrown on the social scrap heap. Education is prepares us and socialises us for lives in a hierarchical system of workers, managers and bosses. From and early age children are taught discipline, fear for authority, conformity and the ‘work ethic’. Rounded up by the state and locked into prison-like institutions of dehumanisation and control, kids are broken into class society. State controlled education is designed to mass produce loyal workers/consumers trained to obey the clock, the bell and the teacher. ‘Private’ education is monopolised
by elites and once again designed to reproduce social roles - managerial and capitalist.

Education from primary school to university conditions the individual with the ideology of class and boxes us into this society.The is nothing liberating about education. Prison is an educational institution like the rest.
It is the educational institutions that our place in society is decided for us. From little children we are divided up, placed on a ‘track’, separated. The ‘trouble kids’ get diagnosed with socially constructed ‘conditions’ such as ADHD. Their place in society as an excluded underclass has been determined.

The ‘bright’ kids are going to be the successes it is decided. There are the kids that are good with their hands; they will become manual workers.
So the various roles are set in place, predetermined fates for individuals robbed of their individuality and freedom.

Children are naturally creative, inquisitive and have a true thirst for learning. Nothing kills and represses these human tendencies more than education. Think of all the kids that learn to read age 6, or younger. Reading, is often ruined for them and they will never read a book voluntarily in their lives.
The static and formulaic nature of education represses creativity and imagination. Instead of self-directed joyous learning, education is institutionalised de-individualisation. Instead of creating free individuals, free minds and free spirits, education stunts growth and moulds individuals to fit class society. Educational institutions deliberately create a ‘herd mentality’ fostering the psychology of fascism, regimentation and authoritarianism.

The question of education is one where the difference between revolutionaries and capitalism’s very faithful opposition, the Left, stand out. When the Left demands ‘full employment’ we demand full live, when the Left harp on about ‘free education’ and ‘education for all’, we say free lives and freedom for all. Forcing kids into bleak, soul killing, crushing prison institutions like schools makes sense for the Left. They want working class kids turned into hard workers and loyal citizens of the ‘workers state’. Us libertarians see it very differently. We want to live free.People, of whatever age should be free to develop their natural capabilities not caged in boring and spirit crushing institutions.

Life is learning. Education is to learning what wage slavery is to free work.
We don’t want longer chains, more crumbs, better management. We want freedom.

http://cambridgeanarchists.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/fentigerv211.pdf

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madashell
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Jun 9 2010 09:37
Quote:
Teachers demand more security...Teachers demand more disciplinary powers or ways of coopting kids to do the stuff. This is a difference of class interest.

Sorry, but this is simplistic as fuck. Were the teachers who took action against the SATS demanding more disciplinary powers? Were the teachers who joined the uprising in Oaxaca middle class managers?

This is the fundamental problem with the whole "coordinator class" analysis, it's completely at odds with the reality of how these things play out. And I say this as somebody who has a lot of sympathy with the idea that tensions and divisions within the class have to be faced head on.

sort it out frosty
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Jun 9 2010 09:53

Yes but those are just a few instances of teachers doing something good. doesn't change there position of authority. If a teacher tells my kid she has to do something she has to do it, even if the teacher is a lefty or an "anarchist", and if the teacher didnt enforce that authority they'd loose there job. Because there essential job is to control kids!

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madashell
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Jun 9 2010 10:00

They aren't just "instances of teachers doing something good", they're examples of the actual results of teachers fighting for their class interests.

I'm aware of the role that teachers play in reproducing capitalism, but it is, paradoxically, this role that gives them the ability to challenge capitalism.

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Rob Ray
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Jun 9 2010 10:59
Quote:
their job is to make sure kids do their work, dont bunk off, etc. This is a managerial, controlling role

More like a parental one. Children do need adult supervision because they don't know owt, and in the absence of a parent the teacher ends up performing that role, making sure the kids in their care are safe and learning things.

The state has a tendency to try and warp what's learned to its own ends as has been said by various people already, and attempts to extend the care role to "teacher as cop" through regulations, restrictions, changes to job specifications etc.

However none of that is integral and it can be challenged or overturned if a well-enough organised workforce pressures for that to happen. Afaic the best role for progressives of any stripe is to support and enable that process in the short term and agitate for far more radical changes in the long term.

Mike Harman
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Jun 9 2010 11:14
Quote:
If a teacher tells my kid she has to do something she has to do it, even if the teacher is a lefty or an "anarchist", and if the teacher didnt enforce that authority they'd loose there job.

So when a shop assistant tells someone they need to pay for something before leaving the shop, that must make them middle class managers too. It's pretty easy to argue that the 'essential job' of a shop worker is to enforce private property relations and commodity production, and I can't think of many jobs which don't have some kind of contradiction which puts you in conflict with the rest of the working class (as other workers, consumers etc.). Teaching (in schools - presumably you don't make the same argument for rock climbing, piano or martial arts teachers) may have more contradictions than some other jobs, but it makes very little to single it out.

Mike Harman
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Jun 9 2010 11:23

And yes, any situation where you have adult supervision of kids puts them in a position of 'parental' authority, the main exception with school is that it's compulsory and hard to change either class or even school for both the kid and their parents, but when my daughter attended pre-school the staff there had 'authority' over her, but it'd be very stupid to call that managerial supervision.

Also as soon as you get to post-16 education, that authority largely dissipates too, despite it being the same institution with the same aims (and the same teachers if it's a school with a sixth form) - although I'd say it felt more present in Hackney in 2006-7 than in Clacton-on-Sea in 1996-7.