Re: Power

In a message dated 01/05/2000 9:18:30 AM Eastern Standard Time,
hwsholar@xxxxxxxx writes:

> Back to my daydream of domination. In order to control, or powerfully
> shape, people's mental processes, I would seek to turn America's
> schools into labor training facilities that discourage the herd of
> idiots who populate the classrooms from entertaining any silly notions
> of self-rule and self-management. In other words, I would try to snuff
> out all critical thinking.
> Instead of laying out a curriculum that focused on the connections
> between math, language, science and even playing, I would
> compartmentalize academic life so the students failed to see the unity
> of all knowledge, which is the best way to douse the embers of natural
> curiosity. I would want the kids to sit in algebra class, for example,
> asking the question that I and most of my classmates posed with
> exasperation: "What does this have to do with real life?" And,
> undoubtedly, I would want to make the most efficient use of rewards and
> punishments.

There is no denying that there is a power dimension in the educational
institution, but whether it is coercive or manipulative is controversial.
Here, the poster seems to say that the problem is the curriculum. No doubt,
curriculums have a bit of arbitrariness to them.
But, I have never felt that there was a teacher or educational
administrator that intentionally expectd students to refrain from
self-organization. Instead, in most educational contexts that I have been
in, the means for assisting students to organize are provided with the only
expectation being that it is done properly. Many students buy into these
kinds of arrangement. The difficulty comes from the way that students are
organized outside of schools by influential subcultural organizations
to believe that reality is nothing but a fearful, alienated and chaotic
locus. Students that are uncooperative often demonstrate traits of
resistance and hostility to the educational enterprise. These traits are
apparently fed by a media gone haywire with violent images and plots, and law
enforcement agencies (private armies) 'worldwide' that frequently and
heinously violate basic human rights. If the beef about power in education
is the curriculum, then I will agree, many aspects of the curriculum are
top-heavy with unrealistic and unnecessary expectations. But, when students
enter schools as excessively passive, resistant, or hostile due to the
effects of other governmental agencies, then the power dimension of education
becomes one of a protective service, or providing merely custodial protection
from the dangers of the outside world. Organizing large groups of students
to merely co-exist without any
dangerous or violent events, with a minimum of coercion or "power" becomes an
overwhelming mission which few are able to accomplish in sync with academic
achievement. Over and over again, safety considerations are the main issue
in running schools; considerations which are exacerbated by grading policies,
authority relations in the school, and interpersonal conflicts between
students, but by far the
most damaging aspects of power come from outside of the school. Let's face it,
the 'culture' is not exactly pro-education!!! If any influence has been
upon educational contexts, it is the legal profession which has all but
hogtied and muted pedagogues from exercising authority. Instead of
discussing power in education, perhaps we should discuss the lack of power.

Fred W.

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