Revolution #184, November 29, 2009

Reader Correspondence:

The Sham of This Educational System…And the Need for Revolution

We received the following correspondence from a teacher in Texas who has worked for many years in inner city schools. This was inspired by what is said about the educational system in "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have"

"And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some 'elite' schools there is some encouragement for students to think in 'non-conformist' ways – so long as in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system – on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful..."

— From "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have – A Message and Call, from the RCP, USA"

I can confirm with concrete examples ad nauseum, until the cows come home, until Gabriel blows his horn, about how true that quote really is, concerning big lies told to youth.

They tell them, "you can work hard, keep your nose to the grind stone, get a good education, and you'll get a good job." In practice, the reality doesn't come anywhere near what they espouse. Administrators talk about "no student left behind," but when it comes down to it, the education system under capitalism-imperialism doesn't provide the means for each student not to fall behind.

For example, overcrowded classrooms are a concrete barrier to people learning. It's been shown that small classes are more effective, yet administrators insist on cutting teachers positions and maximizing profits by filling up fewer classes with more students. The bottom line is that schools get more tax money.

They don't spend money on things to meet the needs of the students. For instance, in my school air conditioning is something that you would take for granted. This summer was record breaking heat in Texas, but when school started, only about half the classes in my school actually had decent air conditioning, The rest need repair, but they hate to spend money on it. I worked for 3 weeks without air conditioning, with up to thirty students in miserable study conditions, where the temperature was probably around 85 degrees. They said the air conditioner had been checked and that it didn't need repair since it was blowing at 56 degrees. They finally fixed the air conditioning, but the assistant principal assured me that it would probably break down again sooner or later, implying that they fixed a broken leg with a band-aid.

They won't let you open the doors or windows to cool it off "for security reasons." They expect you to suffer in there in these inhumane conditions. It's not a surprise that kids can't concentrate, want to get up, go to the bathroom, get some water, wash their face, whatever. It causes disruptions that they say they want to avoid. Students have to deal with this on top of all the other problems they have before they even get to school.

And when they do get to school, as soon as they get off the bus, the first thing they have to do is line up single file and subject themselves to a thorough search, including their backpacks and book bags. Students have to go through a metal detector in search of not only weapons, but also cell phones, iPods or any electronic devices that aren't computer calculators for math class. Can you think of anything any more dehumanizing than being told you have get a shave before you can go to class? At first you think the big lie, that metal detectors can make the school a safer environment, so students can feel safe and secure in their classrooms, but really its just a form of crowd control and strips students of their humanity and self-esteem. The metal detectors are situated strategically around 5-6 major entrances, and every teacher is coerced at some point during the week to fulfill this duty. Teachers are forced into the position of playing policemen, making sure that every male student has his shirt tucked in, not wearing earrings, no gang related bandanas, and they got to be clean shaven. Literally thousands of students are herded like cattle through these metal detectors in a short period of time – about 15 minutes! – before moving on to their first classes. The metal detectors are just another example of the dehumanization they face every day. Many students accept these conditions as the way things are and unchangeable. Others put up some resistance, breaking rules and rebelling against the system. This leads a lot of kids to drop out of school.

Military presence at my school is overwhelming. Not only in the sense that there's always police present on campus, the schools even dedicate classroom space to police offices. The ROTC program is super strong. Recruiting agents are very active recruiting students to the army, navy, or marines way of life, painting beautiful futures, including full college scholarships and promising careers. School programs and campus presentations always include impressive ROTC drills and demonstrations. Recruiters have regularly scheduled visits to high school campuses. We know what the military really has to offer youth – death at an early age and imperialist destruction all over the world. It prepares you for imperialist war and expansion, not for any kind of future that you would want for even your worst students.

Textbooks and textbook distribution are still another example of how the educational system under capitalism robs students of a real education. First of all, textbook companies and testing agencies are multimillion-dollar corporations. The textbooks are written from a bourgeois perspective that supports the system, with the intent of indoctrinating students to accept the system as unchangeable. Ideally, students would get a textbook to take home, and then have access to a class set at school in their classes. In my school, after the first six weeks, only about 50-60% of the students have received their books, while the rest are still waiting. I can't check out a class set of books, because the textbook czar, a secretary/clerk who runs the bookroom, said someone decided that if my students can check out books, then I can't get a class set. So half the students have textbooks, half of them leave the book at home, so I'm basically teaching the class without a textbook.

Then they blame the teacher. It's a bitter insult for teachers as well as students. The educational system is a sham. It's built on lies, designed to fool people, not to bring about any changes. The only way is to overthrow the system, and fight for revolution.

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