Re: Power In Education & Foucault

well, beyond the metaphysics of a "prescient criticism," i feel that
Mr. Casey, you have taken a few of my little metaphorical flowers and
crushed them beneath your metaphorical hobnail boot. but I recognize
that your target is Foucault and not me. Since my Foucauldian
influence is mostly metaphorical, shaded and shadowed from memory of
grad school studies in the 80s, let me try to be crystal clear about
the problematic of public education, particularly in the high schools,
that is foucault-esque IMHO.

my work over the
last four years has put me in high schools, involved with many of the
stakeholders in high school education.

also, for reasons not necessarily work-related, i have a relatively
intimate experience with a few jails and a coupla prisons.

the forces of regimentation,the language relations, the power-stance of
those in authority is similarly total in the high school as in prison.
students are interrogated by school officials and expected to respond in
a powerlessly, docile & transparent manner. students' behavior is
interpreted with total power by school officials. what is deemed
inappropriate is punished without fail. personal vendettas against
students take place everyday thru-out the public schools of this
country by school officials in a similar manner to the kind of abuse we
hear of in jails and prisons.

most of the curriculum breeds a deadening of the mind: just as behavior
must be completely docile, a teacher-dicatated product from
students replaces teaching them to think critically. Many teachers
would love the opportunity to teach and to see students thinking, but
mostly they are made to weed and track students into well-prepared
standardized placements, a parallel of education with "rehabilitation."

The politicians involved in issues of public education nation-wide
speak of the value of making our young people into "productive
citizens." That is why, beginning at about the 4th grade, when
children are about 10 years old, the public schools begin to weed and
track students into certain categories that work in tandem with the
standardized assessments of their skills and "potentials." It also
is correlated around the needs of the Market. (pardon the use of
a metaphysical term)

by the way, what is a "total institution"? does that convey some
assumption that an institution stands pristine & unencumbered by
association with other disciplinary institutions to spread the network
of power relations in greater and more complex dispersements against
the individual?

since the build-up of the media's interest in making children
killing children into a seductive and entertaining spectacle, the
outlook is for more and more similitude between the school and the
prison, and less and less between the high school and college.

i note, though, that some ivy league undergrads are pining for in
loco parentis. those are the well-regimented success stories from the
high schools. so, really, the creep of prison-like institutions grows
even into the irrelevent and hollow minstrations of higher education.

mr. casey, you intimate
that you have a better stance for
observation than those whose view
you assume is obscured by height and ivy.

perhaps you do: when was the last
time you were in a public high
school classroom, assembly hall, or
"media center"? when was the last
time you spoke with high school
teachers, or students, or parents, or

I grant that lethal injection has yet to make its way into the
detention hall. but the detention hall makes its way into the
lives of more and more students. that is the simple point. you may
see the more complex point as a mere quibble of semantics:
that teaching critical thinking rather than "productive citizenry" is a
distinction between just how "authoritarian" our institutions are
required to be in order to "serve" the society. i don't agree.

On Wed, 17 Mar 1999 16:55:05 EST LeoCasey@xxxxxxx wrote:

> I suppose that one might complain that I simply don't have the ear for the
> poetry that speaks of "the music of their spheres," but I would like to take
> up the question of the application of Foucault's analysis of power to the
> school and education. Once we move beyond the metaphysical language of
> "devoured souls," what exactly do we have here?
> Yes, some of the techniques of power which Foucault analyzes in D&P are used
> in the educational setting, and it is important to have a grasp on how they
> work. A fascinating study could be done on how standardized educational
> testing functions as a technique of normalizing power, for example. But the
> conclusion that the school and the prison are homologous
> structures/institutions of power, drawn as a corollary of the observation that
> both utilize similar techniques of power, reminds me of a prescient criticism
> Michael Walzer make of Foucault some years ago: his analysis is unable to
> distinguish between authority and the authoritarian, and between the existence
> of a total institution in a generally open society and totalitarianism. The
> facile equation of the high school and the prison, especially when announced
> from the ivy-covered halls of an institution which likes to delude itself that
> it is outside of disciplinary power, seems to me to be the logical extreme of
> this flaw in Foucault's analysis.
> Leo Casey



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