"Being a teacher is like being a prison guard"

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Boris Badenov
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Jun 20 2010 01:48
fort-da game wrote:

It is okay to ask silly questions as in a Brechtian manner it allows you to provide the wise answer. However, if the modern state was developed to administer the unprecedented circumstances of the capitalist productive relation. And if this unprecedented formation strategically formulated a number of specialised institutions (which had never existed before – there had been no prisons, no education system, no health service, no police force, no professional army)

Why do you insist on the point that the education system is just like the institutions of imprisonment, state healthcare and policing? It's simply not true, and I wish you would address the significance of this difference rather than just keep reiterating the opposite. The institution of education, is very much in the service of capital, like any institution, but unlike most, it is one that has a history stretching back for millennia, and you cannot ignore it and say "yeah but none of that matters because schools are mainly for indoctrinating workers in training." The school also, if only as a side effect given its current configuration, creates an environment (usually outside the lecture hall in my experience, but within the school) for genuine dialogue and learning. This is because the school still contains a fragment of that initial community of learning that was wiped away by capitalist "modernization," unlike the wholly corrective institution that is the prison or the court.
That is not to say that I am a worshiper of institutions even when they are not capitalist. I think you have overemphasized the degree to which "libcom" fetishizes the formal institution. I for one agree with Benjamin's (rather emotional but nonetheless true) statement that "All these institutions are nothing but a marketplace for the preliminary and provisional, like the bustling activity in lecture halls and cafés; they are simply there to fill the empty waiting time, diversions from the voice that summons them to build their lives with a unified spirit of creative action, eros, and youth." [http://libcom.org/library/life-students-walter-benjamin]. By the way I'd be interested to know what you think of his "Life of Students."

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You seem to be agreeing that the education system is a corrective institution here. But the ‘humanitarian’ work of army and police, and educative work of the prison system is as present in these institutions as discipline is in education which makes the various roles in other institutions to be comparable to the role of teachers...

So because the army does humanitarian work and because there is some degree of discipline in schools, that means the army and the school are the same? That is some spectacularly twisted logic, but if you mean what I think you mean, then my answer is no I don't think discipline is as present in schools as it is in prisons and the army. This is clearly an exaggeration and trivializes the experience of those prisoners who are subjected to the most inhuman and debasing kind of treatment. If you think solitary confinement and torture is the same as the teacher not letting you leave the classroom, I think you have a problem.

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at a lower level such institutions are all parts of an overall strategy which both corrects/compensates/ameliorates excesses in the economic system and also enforces the ‘rules’ of the system. But at a higher level, all of these modern institutions combined as a totality (the state is not divisible from its institutions) defend the existing ownership of means of production (this is another objective reason for investigating the compatibilities between institutions and between the various roles within the institutions.)

If I understand correctly, and without wanting to sound hostile I must say that your wording often seems unnecessarily verbose, all institutions are the same and they are doing the same thing. Again, I see absolutely zero proof for this claim. I have tried to include in my argument for why education in capitalism is not essentially the same as the prison system, examples of what I think are significant historical trends, and I am willing to go deeper into details, but you haven't really so far qualified your thesis that all institutions are identical, except through abstract argument. I'd like to see some concrete proof please. The last real example you offered is that of your son's negative experience with a teacher, but that is far from being sufficient.

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The reason I insist on the question of the self-identity of prison guards is that Libcom has already made clear its support for prisons.

If you mean that prisons thread then I think you are once again using a very broad brush to paint "libcom's" supposed official stance. Most of the "pro-prison" people in that thread seemed to be making a clear distinction between the purely correctional jail that exists today and the community based and humanely designed means of dealing with anti-social behaviour that would undoubtedly be present in a communist society, unless you think all crime will ever be abolished. That doesn't mean a "support for prisons" just the realization that there can never be a perfect utopia where there is absolutely no crime of any sort. I suggest you reread that thread before you accuse "libcom" of supporting state-enforced torture.

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(Now that you know this, you may want to revise your opinion about prison guards, to fall into line with this.)

Thanks for giving me the benefit of a doubt, but no I'm not going to change my position because I'm not part of libcom (I just post on this message board) and I have no party line to toe. My opinion is that not all non-property related crime will disappear in the event of a communist revolution, and therefore communes will have to decide on some way of solving the problem of anti-social behaviour, not in purely corrective terms, but not by careless laissez faire either.

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I meant that in popular and anarchist political sensibilities there was at least a continued trace of a discourse which considered that those in prison were people who lived according to different rules and that they were in prison because of the imperfections of society. In the past, anarchists used to say that their publications were free to prisoners. In the same vein, the anarchist black cross rejected the argument in favour of ‘political prisoners’ because ‘all prisoners are political’. This type of approach has long faded

What do you base this assertion on? ABC still exists and hold the same position on prisons AFAIK.

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The shifting baseline effect has been present in the ‘revolutionary’ left for many years... at some point, perhaps in the early ‘80’s the idea of total transformation of society and the critique of state institutions was dropped by the left and replaced with an ideology of reactionary defence. It was suddenly ‘naive’ to call for the abolition of state institutions when capital seemed (and this seemed is important because nothing of the sort was going on) to be attacking them – instead of social transformation we had to ‘defend’ the health service, education public services because they were ‘ours’. At this point the alleged phenomena of ‘neo-liberalism’ induced within the left’s discourse the idea that society was indentical with state institutions and was permanently under threat (in fact state institutions have continued to expand). The entirety of the left’s politics has become reactive and defensive rather than transformative. State institutions must be defended and anyone who doubts that is mad... (there is no other game in town).

This is an interesting point, but I don't think that the left as you describe it here included, or includes, libertarian communists. I don't think any of the anarchists organisations in Britain during the 70s and 80s, advocated that people should identify with state institutions because "they're ours." But there is after all a real material gain to be had from a minimum of guaranteed state health care, and fighting to maintain this gain does not necessarily imply a willingness to identify with the institution. Ditto on the unions. So lumping the reformist left together with communist revolutionaries seems a bit disingenuous imo.

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Tiqqun’s phrase, ‘the state of exception becomes the rule’ is apt... society is managed on the basis of permanent threat of collapse and the left (and some libertarian communists) have adapted their baseline perceptions to take this into account and have accordingly adopted a ‘defensive’ attitude to state institutions which previously they simply denounced.

Yes, there is something to that phrase, which as the various "continuity of government" schemes show was coined long before Tiqqun by the state agents themselves, but that doesn't mean we should shirk from "reactionary" defensive struggles that involve vital material gains for the working class. Most struggles, save for the general strike, pose no real and immanent danger to capital as a whole, but they are not irrelevant either, because the class struggle is, as experience shows, not an inexplicable explosion of popular will, but an incremental and arduous process.

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Vlad336 wrote:
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Because I focus on individual experience and oppose the role of institutions I am an individualist?

I believe that is the literal definition of individualism actually.

I believe you are mistaken.

Well according to the dictionary, individualism means "A doctrine holding that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the state or social group." Needless to say I don't oppose individualism from a pro-state pov.

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Individualists consider society to be constructed from the interactions of individuals who pursue their personal interest as if it is constituted by them alone. My definition (such as it was) concerned a phenomenological basis for communist consciousness which places the multiple mediations between individual and society at the centre of its concerns (the communist understands that the realisation of the individual is the goal of society and the realisation of society is the true interest of the individual).

Phenomenology alone cannot inform any serious social critique (it is no wonder indeed that austrianists and their ilk place such importance on phenomenology while lacking any understanding of social processes). Obviously one should not on a crude reductionism that ignores individual experience, but to put the individual experience at the center of the "communist realisation" seems pretty short-sighted imo.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jun 20 2010 11:20

Personally i find the idea that libcom is somehow especially harsh on anti-prison and anti-education arguements just demonstrates exactly how out of touch with reality some people are.

If i were to walk into a pub or my work staffroom, and start talking about how i wanted a world based on cooperatives, then i'd get a mixed response, some would agree but think it was utopian, others would disagree with it politically, and a lot of people would just think i was being naive and a little bit of an oddball. Not too many people i can think of would find such ideas 'offensive'', unless i started going on about ''the anarchy'' and talking about ''smashing'' this that or the other, then some people would start thinking I was a bit of a twat.
Generally though people think we have a justifiable political set of ideas, albeit one that a fair number of people won't have come across, and one that a lot of people will think are naive or just plain wrong. Partly of course this is because of pre-conceptions of anarchists as bumbling weirdos who have a naively positive view of ''human nature'' and who want to live in isolated rural communes and small communities and thus offer no alternatie when it comes to an industrialised society, both of which can be evidenced on this thread.

If i were to walk into a similar social situation as above and tell people i thought some nonsense like ''all prisoners are political prisoners'' and that we should free them all and live in a world without prisons, then most people will just find those views offensive. Frankly If a relative of mine had been raped, and you met me shortly after and started harking on about how the perpetrator was a ''political prisoner'' and how he should be freed from prison then i'm 99% sure i'd react fairly badly.
Only in the ghettoised ''i question everything just for the sake of it because i'm just such an individual'' world of anarchism are views such as 'free all prisoners'' treated with a modicum of respect or in some class war esque circles ludicrously regarded as the norm, because as someone once said, if anarchists will tolerate themselves, they'll tolerate anything.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 20 2010 13:20
cantdocartwheels wrote:
If i were to walk into a pub or my work staffroom, and start talking about how i wanted a world based on cooperatives, then i'd get a mixed response, some would agree but think it was utopian, others would disagree with it politically, and a lot of people would just think i was being naive and a little bit of an oddball. Not too many people i can think of would find such ideas 'offensive'', unless i started going on about ''the anarchy'' and talking about ''smashing'' this that or the other, then some people would start thinking I was a bit of a twat.
Generally though people think we have a justifiable political set of ideas, albeit one that a fair number of people won't have come across, and one that a lot of people will think are naive or just plain wrong. Partly of course this is because of pre-conceptions of anarchists as bumbling weirdos who have a naively positive view of ''human nature'' and who want to live in isolated rural communes and small communities and thus offer no alternatie when it comes to an industrialised society, both of which can be evidenced on this thread.

And why do you think that is? Why do you think "the people" have that image of anarchists? Is it just a bunch of punxx lifestylists dumpster diving, or is it also that your common sense man at the pub actually believes some pretty fucking reactionary shit when you come down to it?
Why don't you ask these working class heroes whether they think race is a fundamental difference between human beings, and if they're all men, whether they think women are "better fit" for some jobs than men, and whether they think all migrants, legal or not, have a right to be in the UK as workers and enjoy the same protection of their livelihoods as British workers. I think you'll get just as mixed a response if not more so (since it's easy to agree to some theoretical shit that you've never experienced).
I think you're just taking for granted here the opinion of the "common Joe Voter" as if it was just "common sense" and not influenced by any kind of ideology. That is very naive to say the least.

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If i were to walk into a similar social situation as above and tell people i thought some nonsense like ''all prisoners are political prisoners'' and that we should free them all and live in a world without prisons, then most people will just find those views offensive.

Again why? If you said you wanted to live in a world without borders, which presumably you do, they would also find that offensive. Is it because it's a silly idea, or because the prison, crime and the nation state play such a central role in capitalist ideology?

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Frankly If a relative of mine had been raped, and you met me shortly after and started harking on about how the perpetrator was a ''political prisoner'' and how he should be freed from prison then i'm 99% sure i'd react fairly badly.

So? I suppose if a relative of yours was shot in a robbery you'd also react badly. But robbery is a crime specific to a society based on property ownership, and if you did away with that system of organization, the crime would most likely disappear. So if someone told you that that there wouldn't be a prison for robbers after capitalism, they'd be right, and you'd be a total dick to "react fairly badly." Rape may be a special case, but it doesn't in the slightest invalidate the anarchist criticism of prisons.

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Only in the ghettoised ''i question everything just for the sake of it because i'm just such an individual'' world of anarchism

Yeah I do question "everything," and if I'm convinced of the need to have a communist revolution it is because I arrive at this conclusion every day of my working life, not because I accept it as blind belief. If I was into blind belief I'd probably find some better beliefs than anarchy, like that one where you go to heaven after you die and everything is grand.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jun 20 2010 18:10

Yeah Cantdo your positioning of the "common man" is every bit as reductionist and irritatingly patronising as Hughes using it to defend social democracy on the other thread. Obviously we have radical propositions which are a bit out there, the trick is to find the right way of expressing them.

Garco
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Jun 21 2010 12:01

Firstly, in reply to Farce, yes, I am still reading this thread, and will read it especially closely when it has dried up. At that point it may be possible to bring out elements from it for some sort of organised article of sorts, which would certainly be worthwhile in my opinion. In regard to Spoofversion, I have one single copy; I will try to scan it for you. The writers were myself, for everything apart from “Moving Statues”, written by the writer of “Anti-Parliamentary Communism” (who also co-produced the whole thing with me), and Knightrose, who wrote a piece about the history of Subversion. The zine went down really well and from the proceeds most of bought villas on the Costa del Sol, from where we now contribute to Libcom, and enjoy each other’s company for a Sunday game of soccer.

But back to the grist:

Spikeymike says:
“I think at a basic level the points made by Red Hughes in post 94 and Mike Harman in post 99 are entirely valid in concluding that teachers are, by one important definition at least 'working class' and that their experience as 'wage slaves' in an increasingly 'proletarianised' organisation of the capitalist education industry provides them with a material interest in abolishing their status as such and creating the conditions for their development along with the rest of the ex-working class as free human beings in a free communist society.”

This is interesting. Spikeymike says, for teachers, that: “their experience as ‘wage slaves’ in an increasingly ‘proletarianised’ organisation of the capitalist education industry provides them with a material interest in abolishing their status as such and creating the conditions for their development along with the rest of the ex-working class as free human beings in a free communist society.”

I would point out two things in regard to this. One is that there is a current push to ‘professionalise’ the teaching profession. There is a view in Education that the past was full of wishy-washy, liberal, lax teaching and that the present should be full of accountability and professionalism and such… What is described by Spikeymike and others here as ‘hardship’, which they describe as ‘increasing proletarianisation’ is therefore, nothing of the sort, but a drive to make the profession properly professional (yes it is hardship, but not ‘proletarianisation’). It is similar to the turning of barber-style surgeons into a proper surgeon profession. Education bosses want to make teaching an assessable thing; this should not be a surprise to anyone. It is not, however, a sign of ‘increasing proletarianisation’, the reverse, in fact. (Will it work? Who cares? Not me, anyway.)

The other thing I would like to point out is this. Say we take a member of the working class such as a postal delivery worker… would you say that they have the same interest as a teacher in the terms described above by Spikeymike, i.e., capitalism provides them with “a material interest in abolishing their status as such and creating the conditions for their development along with the rest of the ex-working class as free human beings in a free communist society”. If this is the case then posties want to destroy their role as posties, and teachers want to destroy their role as teachers. Let us think about this for a while.

Do teachers think they are doing anything useful? In most cases I would say they do.

Do postal workers think they are doing anything useful? Yes, a lot of them would say that they are doing something useful in society (or society as it is presently constructed), but I think that if they were pushed then they would say that anyone could do their job; and, furthermore, it was the job of a robotic functionary, in essence.

If we pushed teachers to the same level then I think that we would get a different kind of answer. What do you think?

My thought is that, while teachers are more likely to defend the institutions of capitalism, for various reasons, a postal worker is less likely to, for various reasons. What do you think?

Please read all previous posts by myself and fort-da game if what I have said makes any sense at all.

It is the shortest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, and the longest in the Northern…

Mike Harman
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Jun 21 2010 12:26

The difference between the answer of the postie and the answer of the teacher (although I'm not sure all posties, or all teachers, would answer as you predict) is more the difference between a skilled job and a (relatively) unskilled one.

For some more examples:

* Tree surgeon
* Precision welder
* Software developer
* Ambulance driver
* Firefighter
* Plumber

All of these require a degree of training, are socially useful at least some of the time, may well have a degree of independence/creativity compared to highly repetitive / rote jobs, may or may not include public service mindset, most workers in those jobs would (rightly) predict disaster if you to replace them with someone with no or very little training, and may well feel that not everyone is suited to their line of work.

You might come back and say that the reasons for the answer are different, that may well be so, but again, nothing in your argument supports the singling out of teachers.

Also you didn't ask whether the postie would defend the education system if pressed wink

Mike Harman
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Jun 21 2010 12:31

And also, I think the identification of posties with Royal Mail as a public sector institution is at least one of the things which weakens their position during disputes - for example there's no initiatives at either a grass roots or union level to make links with postal workers in competing companies (the former might force the latter, the latter might happen as a response to dwindling membership maybe).

So we would all, I think, agree that professionalism and public service ethos are a real barrier to class struggle - part of why so many companies try to impose those values on jobs where it makes little sense - but that doesn't mean that workers in jobs which especially promote that are somehow more reactionary due to their class position...

cobbler
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Jun 21 2010 14:07
Garco wrote:
I would point out two things in regard to this. One is that there is a current push to ‘professionalise’ the teaching profession. There is a view in Education that the past was full of wishy-washy, liberal, lax teaching and that the present should be full of accountability and professionalism and such… What is described by Spikeymike and others here as ‘hardship’, which they describe as ‘increasing proletarianisation’ is therefore, nothing of the sort, but a drive to make the profession properly professional (yes it is hardship, but not ‘proletarianisation’). It is similar to the turning of barber-style surgeons into a proper surgeon profession. Education bosses want to make teaching an assessable thing; this should not be a surprise to anyone. It is not, however, a sign of ‘increasing proletarianisation’, the reverse, in fact. (Will it work? Who cares? Not me, anyway.)

As a slight aside, I would not concur with this assessment. From what I see of initiatives in schools in the UK, teachers are being increasingly turned into technicians, not 'professionals' in the true sense of the word.

They used to have some autonomy to teach their subject but begining with the introduction of the National Curriculum, moving on to Literacy and Numeracy strategy the autonomy of many has all but disappeared. Delivery or pre-set schemes: much more technician than professional.

I'm not sure what that contributes to the current debate though.

Samotnaf
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Jun 21 2010 14:35

For those who read French:
A text attacking schools and modern education, written by some women in Paris, including a teacher:
http://infokiosques.net/lire.php?id_article=427

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Rob Ray
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Jun 21 2010 16:27
Quote:
What is described by Spikeymike and others here as ‘hardship’, which they describe as ‘increasing proletarianisation’ is therefore, nothing of the sort, but a drive to make the profession properly professional

Tbh I'm not sure the two are as incompatible as you suggest - for example in terms of workplace power and respect journalists have lost status, wages and independence over the last couple of decades, all of which would I think count as a process of proletarianisation in practice, but in terms of professional qualifications they are required to hold more than ever before, including the NCTJ, an NCE and usually a degree is expected on top of that.

In this case professionalisation is actually designed in part as a method of driving down wages and free thinking, with trainees holding 'just' degrees in say, history or English entering the industry as trainees on as little as £12k a year, then paying for an NCTJ course of up to 12 months to get up to the next rung followed by a workplace NEC or NVQ to get senior staff status and full pay.

Both of these courses are expensive and mostly teach journalists to 'do it by the numbers' - actively depressing innovation rather than encouraging it. Worse than this however is the way in which senior subs with decades of experience are then ousted from jobs on the grounds they don't have training in these 'modern methods' — allowing employers to replace them with malleable kids whose wages start lower and end lower, and who don't have the expectations of editorial freedom and space to investigate that their predecessors had.

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Jun 22 2010 00:14
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So? I suppose if a relative of yours was shot in a robbery you'd also react badly. But robbery is a crime specific to a society based on property ownership, and if you did away with that system of organization, the crime would most likely disappear. So if someone told you that that there wouldn't be a prison for robbers after capitalism, they'd be right, and you'd be a total dick to "react fairly badly." Rape may be a special case, but it doesn't in the slightest invalidate the anarchist criticism of prisons.

Sure that crime would disappear, but just because that is the case I don't particularly advocate some sort of general amnesty for violent property related criminals or members of gangs and organised crime syndicates. I mean i think torture and war crimes would disappear too because you know we wouldn’t have wars, but i'm not going to ask for an amnesty for war criminals, its just stupid year zero gibberish.

And no, rape, paedophilia and child abuse will still exist and drink driving and passion fuelled or some types of anti-social crimes won’t just disappear as they often aren't economic in nature/structure, people who end up committing such acts would need to be removed from society and punished and thus put in a prison. This doesn’t invalidate a critique of prisons as they now stand, but it does invalidate the idea that we should somehow want a world without a legal system, a prison and an investigative force. There are an estimated 40-50,000 rapes a year in Britain many of which go unreported, and this is a country with in relative terms reasonably progressive gender relations.

I could wax lyrical on the failures of our education as it stands, I watch kids squashed by it everyday, but to adopt the view that we will not have a classroom or a school or trained security checked staff, is just the sort of infantile idea that means most people in the UK think anarchists are a bunch of degenerate hippies who want to live in ''small isolated communities'' or something equally appalling.
Frankly the more i hear these idiotic arguments, the more I just want to drop the label anarchist completely just so i don’t have to be associated with this utter garbage.

Mike Harman
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Jun 22 2010 02:16
Rob Ray wrote:
Tbh I'm not sure the two are as incompatible as you suggest - for example in terms of workplace power and respect journalists have lost status, wages and independence over the last couple of decades, all of which would I think count as a process of proletarianisation in practice, but in terms of professional qualifications they are required to hold more than ever before, including the NCTJ, an NCE and usually a degree is expected on top of that.

This is the same for certification in software development - certification courses cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and only allows you to get jobs that you could previously have got anyway (before the particular certification existed which you're now required to take). It's definitely a move away from professionalisation towards a standardized labour force, with the end goal being no labour shortages (which there often are for certain technologies) and lower wages.

martinh
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Jun 23 2010 21:35
cantdocartwheels wrote:
And no, rape, paedophilia and child abuse will still exist and drink driving and passion fuelled or some types of anti-social crimes won’t just disappear as they often aren't economic in nature/structure, people who end up committing such acts would need to be removed from society and punished and thus put in a prison.

While I think some of this is true, in the sense that certain behaviour will need to be stopped, I don't think you candraw a broad brush like you are doing. Why would an anarchist or lib communist society want to lock people up? It could only be because they were dangerous. Crimes of passion don't fit into this category, because they are a one-off. I can't see what use "punishment" would be in this instance. Likewise, if someone drinks and drives, the answer is to stop them - taking away their car makes much more sense than taking away their liberty. You don't appear to take into account the corrupting effect of merely having a prison, let alone populating it.

I think you are allowing your reaction against the "anything goes" branch of anarchism to get the better of you here, and I'm not sure that this line of argument shouldn't be a separate thread anyway,

regards,

Martin

Boris Badenov
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Jun 23 2010 22:02
Martin wrote:
Crimes of passion don't fit into this category, because they are a one-off. I can't see what use "punishment" would be in this instance.

Bit off topic, but I can't believe anyone would use "crimes of passion" as a legitimate category. I mean what it does is trivialize serious crimes (usually against women) as not really criminal but a consequence of misguided "passion." Attacking someone for no legitimate reason whatsoever is a crime pure and simple. I mean would someone like OJ Simpson get off scot free in an anarchist society if they pleaded "crime of passion"?
I actually agree with cantdo that violent crime should be quarantined and not treated as a harmless freak occurrence. The fact that the state currently punishes rapists and stabbers and so forth by putting them in an environment where they are literally forced to continue being violent in order to survive, doesn't mean that it is impossible to conceive an environment in which anti-social recidivists would receive not cruel punishment, but treatment, insofar as it is possible, or at least humane and safe conditions. Is this is a prison? Call it what you want, but it's better than ad-hoc mob justice, and probably infinitely better than the current penal system.
Where I think cantdo is wrong, is, as you point out, in his knee jerk reaction to anything goes type thinking.

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automattick
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Jun 25 2010 03:41

As a former teacher, I can say that I did my best to fight against the countervailing tendencies of ideology where I worked. I introduced critical thinking to teenagers (which is easier said than done) and tried to promote an open, tolerant classroom which didn't threaten any one student's ideas in particular; I tried to get them to think beyond their nation-state/religious paradigm they were infused with by teachers before me. Some actually changed their views to less on their own, and that is really what it is all about: having the student come to the realization that life isn't just about "king and country."

Teaching can be at times a very stressful job, and those teachers who actually care about their students work themselves 24hr/day trying to teach basic skills or at least open their ideas to another world apart from the one they're living in. There is little thanks involved, and the thanks you get is like a fresh breath of air in the midst of otherwise negativity. At my school I had to sit through 3-4hr faculty meetings while my vice principal and principal droned on about providing quality education to the students, parents' complaints, failing students, standardized testing, behavioral problems, etc. There were some of us who seemed to only care about themselves, and there were others like me who wanted to think and act more collectively for our interests and those of the students.

In my experience, education rarely comes in the classroom; it comes from truly interested students who see you after class and ask for book recommendations. Since I worked at a boarding school, we as teachers had a unique relationship with our students and could really have a strong impact in their lives; it was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had as an adult. I organized reading groups which were held usually on the weekends or right before the school dinner time, where--without the pressure of a classroom setting--the students were able to vent their frustrations about society, politics, the dimming hopes they had for the future. We read articles by theorists and grappled with the language and the content. While I was passionate about my views, I always allowed them to challenge them, so long as I could challenge theirs as well. In that sense, they taught me something, and I taught them. It was really education at its purest in my opinion, free from deadlines, mandatory assignments, archaic testing and the embarrassing enforcing of behavioral conduct in the classroom.

The administration didn't particularly appreciate some of my efforts; I prefer to think that they tolerated them. We were, however, given so much autonomy and little oversight that we actually controlled our cirriculum, which made for a more dynamic learning environment. As I mentioned before, there are some teachers who do just think in terms of themselves and that is unfortunate. They tend to have little regard for much else apart from themselves, brown-nosing and ratting on other teachers who they felt weren't living up to our principal's bogus standards of indoctrination and/or promoting orthodox pedagogy.

The transmission of ideology was still apparent in the school, but certainly not in my classroom. I know there are others out there like me who are doing the same thing, with varying degrees of success.

Garco
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Jun 26 2010 02:01

I was reminded by a friend recently that an old-fashioned way of telling if a job was middle class or working class was whether it was paid hourly (i.e., the hours are added up each week and the worker gets a wage each week), or if was paid in the form of a salary, meaning a monthly, set wage. When I were a nipper this was a pretty foolproof way of identifying distinctions between expert, managerial or professional jobs and those jobs that were not expert, managerial or professional, or what could be described as supervised.

Thus a supervisor (or low level manager) in a 'factory condition' workplace can be paid a salary, and earn less each month than a supervised worker who has access to overtime rates. Thus a worker who is beginning their career in an 'office environment' will often earn less than an unskilled or partially skilled labourer, but still be paid monthly.

Another thing that I would like to mention is that in my experience the work life of a low, middle and even upper manager is worse than that of a supervised worker. Managers may get more money (but not all the time) but they have to contend with constant pressure from those below them as well as from those above them. This makes their working day very messy and difficult. It is much easier to be at the bottom rung and to only be giving and receiving hassle in one direction.

For a clear conscience and a happier worklife I advise only taking a job as a supervised worker with no requirement to boss anyone else around.

petey
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Jun 26 2010 06:46

nice post from automattick, it's fairly similar in places to my current job condition.
2 pts in particular:

automattick wrote:
I introduced critical thinking to teenagers (which is easier said than done)

i've found that they actually relish getting into critical discussion/debate on life-affecting issues - well, some of them do but the atmosphere of the whole section certainly livens up

automattick wrote:
We were, however, given so much autonomy and little oversight that we actually controlled our cirriculum, which made for a more dynamic learning environment.

i'm fortunate to have this too, in fact i chose my current position b/c it gave me almost full autonomy of a four-year sequence. it makes all the difference when you can focus on the things that are important.

Spikymike
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Jul 4 2010 16:26

Garco,

Please read my earlier post from which you quote selectively again more carefully and note:

1. That I have agreed with your conclusion about the diferent responses of teachers and other professionals as against postal workers and the like in current circumstances. but that..

2. I have tried to explain the difference between 'basic' and 'fundamental' common interests capable of providing a basis for common action in the right circumstances and the right time which all workers share from the different interests as recognised by different sections of workers in the immediate situation.

raize
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Jul 5 2010 02:36

This may be worth another thread but...

Why exactly is a prison guard understood as being fundamentally a bad thing? While I can see the argument that it is fundamentally repressive many (or at least some of the most vocal) on this board appear to accept the fact that some form of corrective/rehabilitation/detainment institutions need to exist and therefore isn't a prison guard similar to a teacher in as much that it is possible to support them without necessarily supporting the role they fulfill in current society?

Not trolling but it just seems to a a priori assumption for this thread that I would like to be more explicit, either so i can understand where people are coming from or so I can disagree wink

RedHughs
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Jul 5 2010 22:39
Quote:
Why exactly is a prison guard understood as being fundamentally a bad thing? While I can see the argument that it is fundamentally repressive many (or at least some of the most vocal) on this board appear to accept the fact that some form of corrective/rehabilitation/detainment institutions need to exist and therefore isn't a prison guard similar to a teacher in as much that it is possible to support them without necessarily supporting the role they fulfill in current society?

I will just say I'm fairly vocal on the board and I'm opposed to"corrective/rehabilitation/detainment institutions" of whatever stripe. I'd say "the board" is "deeply divided" on this subject as well as many other - its a BBS and not an organization.

I've already mentioned that I find Forte's willingness to treat "the board" as if it were a single subject with a single opinion to be deeply dishonest. He knows full well there is a fair range of opinions on a number of subjects among the people who regularly or irregularly post things here.

Anway, I posted links on this thread to earlier threads on the subject of prisons and laws.

Sean68
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Jul 5 2010 22:48

The Times Education Supplement is currently running a thread on the recent news item about the 15,000 'incompetent' teachers that need flushing out.

I put this up, perhaps other people on Libcom should get over there to move the debate forward... and engage with people who haven't engaged with Marxian ideas for a long time, if ever...

"Comprehensive schools are modelled on factories. Factories, as a form of organising labour, have, largely, been exported overseas to places like China and Vietnam. It is unusual to find such labour intensive organisations within modern Europe anymore. So why does our education system continue to organise our secondary schools along the lines of labour intensive factories, despite their obviously outmoded and archaic form?

It has to be remembered that the capitalist system is based upon value creation (Marx). This means actual human needs are way down the list of priorities.School is an inhuman system of life. It is unnatural and the technological advances made by capitalism undermine it. But the way we organise our system - value creation as the priority - means we cannot abolish the forms that serve value creation. In our case, school as factory.

Remember, workers in some of the biggest factories in China have been committing suicide at an astonishing rate. Factories are an inhuman system. But they serve capitalism well, hence they survive into the 21st century.

My point is: some teacher's will crack under the strain of working within such an inhumane organisational form as a factory - usually it is especially those with the most fully developed imagination for seeing the possibility for a different kind of way of living life.

Our job should be to call for the abolition of this inhumane form of schooling (factory based education). Don't let muppets like Chris Woodhead and the Libcon racket take our eyes off the fact that other, more humane ways exist within our power to organise for children's growth and development. We shouldn't allow children to become a phantom conduit for an economic form that has outlived it's sell by date.

fort-da game
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Jul 8 2010 15:20
RedHughs wrote:
I've already mentioned that I find Forte's willingness to treat "the board" as if it were a single subject with a single opinion to be deeply dishonest. He knows full well there is a fair range of opinions on a number of subjects among the people who regularly or irregularly post things here.

Dear Mother Hen,
Desist your deeply disapproving clucking. It is not even shallowly dishonest, at most it is merely provocative. Unless you subscribe to a variety of contract theory you know very well that the presence of an organisation is not reducible to the occurrence of agreements amongst its users. If we were talking about an ordinary town's ordinary central square where people come and go and socialise as they please then that would be another matter (although of course, even there there are levels of control) but this (side) issue which you insist on pecking at concerns a privately owned, designed, selective space, administrated by a group of individuals that function at a higher level of organisation to the group of individuals that 'use' the space. As you also very well know, an organisation is never simply identified at the level of the interaction of user-individuals as there is always disagreement amongst them... but rather, it is constituted at the level of the interaction between a present activity bound with accumulated capital resources – the user interface is a result not a cause of this structuration.

The discussions that are held within this space are framed, formatted and directed according to an established bias... this is entirely normal for any media organisation. It is as true for Libcom as it is for the BBC. The latter hosts many discussions amongst many different viewpoints, none of which specifically articulate the BBC's own ideology but nonetheless the institutional bias persists in its influence upon those discussions. It would be absurd to claim the BBC is not an organisation with an ideological agenda and it is absurd to claim Libcom is not an organisation with an ideological agenda. My intention in bringing this bias to attention here is both to explain why I/we have lost the argument even though we have made the better arguments and, like all losers, to find the reasons for why it is that the best team has lost. The question of to what extent the users of an organised space can effect changes within it is another matter entirely – as it is, there is no Libcom users' union and no mechanism by which its priorities may be forced through against the will of its owners.
yours,
Renard

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Khawaga
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Jul 8 2010 15:57
fort-da-game wrote:
My intention in bringing this bias to attention here is both to explain why I/we have lost the argument even though we have made the better arguments and, like all losers, to find the reasons for why it is that the best team has lost

So it is you who decide who's got the better arguments, not the people reading them? So you're always right?

FWIW, I think that both "sides" in this debate have at times had the "better" argument.

Garco
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Jul 9 2010 00:44

Dear Khawaga,
I find your response above (post 235) very disappointing – and I think it may prove that Education really does need smartening up, with a much stronger focus on Comprehension (I would put a smiley faced emoticon here if I knew how or could be bothered to find out how… another failure in the Education system, no doubt…).

Firstly you seem to miss the central point which fort-da game is trying to make (about Libcom being like the BBC [remember that the word was ‘like’]) and then you go off on a tangent based, I think, on misunderstanding. When fort-da game makes his point about losing the argument, is he really deciding for others how to think? Is he really saying he is always right? Do you really think that is what he is doing or saying? Some might say that, in the above post, he is defending and developing a position or argument which is in opposition to other positions and arguments and he is examining how his argument has fared and the reasons for which he thinks it has failed in this arena.

I can only presume that either you really do think he is deciding for other people how to think (though I wonder how this would be possible!! – if that was the case then everyone would now be agreeing with him: “Ah yes, that fort-da game is right again! He is a maestro!” He is right, of course, and he is still right after all these postings, but by saying these words am I deciding for other people?)

OR you have fired off a quick, possibly angry, and rash response - if this is the case then what was the point of that? What are you defending? What are you attacking?

As I have said several times since joining Libcom, we should always try to ensure that all our efforts here are thoughtful and thought out, if they aren’t then they are definitely wasted efforts. By the way, what does ‘FWIW’ mean? I am often confused by these acronyms. There is another one that I have seen recently, something like, ‘tbhf’, which I have no idea of the meaning of, so I just read it as ‘to be sure’ in an amorphous Irish accent.

Anyway, this has given me the opportunity to repeat something I wrote a few posts ago, which garnered no responses. I don’t know if it was response-less because it was seen by everyone to be entirely correct and therefore nothing more needed to be said, or if people had missed it. Maybe it should become the beginning of another forum topic? (Or has this kind of thing been covered before?)

Stay on the Bottom Rung!

I was reminded by a friend recently that an old-fashioned way of telling if a job was middle class or working class was whether it was paid hourly (i.e., the hours are added up each week and the worker gets a wage each week), or if was paid in the form of a salary, meaning a monthly, set wage. When I were a nipper this was a pretty foolproof way of identifying distinctions between expert, managerial or professional jobs and those jobs that were not expert, managerial or professional, or what could be described as supervised.

Thus a supervisor (or low level manager) in a 'factory condition' workplace can be paid a salary, and earn less each month than a supervised worker who has access to overtime rates. Thus a worker who is beginning their career in an 'office environment' will often earn less than an unskilled or partially skilled labourer, but still be paid monthly.

Another thing that I would like to mention is that in my experience the work life of a low, middle and even upper manager is worse than that of a supervised worker. Managers may get more money (but not all the time) but they have to contend with constant pressure from those below them as well as from those above them. This makes their working day very messy and difficult. It is much easier to be at the bottom rung and to only be giving and receiving hassle in one direction.

For a clear conscience and a happier worklife I advise only taking a job as a supervised worker with no requirement to boss anyone else around.

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Khawaga
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Jul 9 2010 03:57

Garco, I think you're the one who need to improve your reading comprehension. Read what I have bolded in ftg's comment.

Quote:
My intention in bringing this bias to attention here is both to explain why I/we have lost the argument even though we have made the better arguments and, like all losers, to find the reasons for why it is that the best team has lost

Hence, my (first) question. You, Garco, only focused on the second one, which, I admit, I probably shouldn't have posed.

FWIW = for what it's worth
TBH = to be honest
IMO = in my opinion
tl; dr = too long; didn't read
and etc.

fort-da game
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Jul 9 2010 11:49

The 'why the best team lost' thing was just a reference to current world-cup themed soul searching... I was more interested in how structure sheds certain arguments whilst cleaving to others... despite their content.

P.S. I don't think I am right, but I have found it hard work to progress against, 'you are mad' and or 'dishonest'. I think truth (i.e. the result of discussion) is collective but it is difficult to know what that means; I do not think it appropriate that everyone thinks the same; I do not think it appropriate that everyone is a bit-part specialist each with their own territory; I do not accept solipsism; I do not accept an enlightened vanguardist position; maybe I think that it is the tension produced between different positions as they engage each other, but that only holds true if everyone accepts the objective content of the outcome of the discussion.

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Rob Ray
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Jul 9 2010 12:43

But the problem f-t-g is that you're basing your view of who "won" on a conflictual approach of "you and yours" vrs libcom. As has been pointed out (several times) this is a fallacious method of approaching the subject, as within the site there's a wide range of opinions, some of which are more widely held than others.

Most people have disagreed with the original posited question "are teachers like prison guards," but their justifications for doing so have not been the same and have on occasion conflicted heavily (for example when cantdocartwheels was widely disagreed with, but which you apparently decided represented part of the libcom "ethos."

Until you accept that people are individuals within this site and that tendencies of thought are not the same things as restrictions you are going to have trouble working through these kinds of arguments.

fort-da game
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Jul 9 2010 15:24

You are no doubt right. But my preference is for engaging with ideas than with who says what. It is preferable for me to criticise 'libcom' rather than overly associate certain ideas with certain individuals and thereby reduce each. I prefer a critique of institutions to a slanging match.

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Tojiah
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Jul 9 2010 15:39
fort-da game wrote:
You are no doubt right. But my preference is for engaging with ideas than with who says what. It is preferable for me to criticise 'libcom' rather than overly associate certain ideas with certain individuals and thereby reduce each. I prefer a critique of institutions to a slanging match.

In other words, you'd rather engage with a straw-man than what people actually believe in, or what arguments they actually present.

Yorkie Bar
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Jul 9 2010 19:03
fort-da game wrote:
You are no doubt right. But my preference is for engaging with ideas than with who says what. It is preferable for me to criticise 'libcom' rather than overly associate certain ideas with certain individuals and thereby reduce each. I prefer a critique of institutions to a slanging match.

Oh lol.