Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Rise Up and Kill the Popular Kids!

We all knew it. We all understood that it would only be a matter of time before another kid took a weapon and killed classmates, teachers and school personnel. The deaths of these people at the hands of Jeff Weise in Red Lake, Minnesota is horrible with out a doubt.

We must look deeper into this issue. Michael Moore would have you believe, in his 2002 movie Bowling for Columbine that the issue at hand is our prevailing "gun culture" and the inherent violence in the American psyche. It is too bad that Mr. Moore forgot what he said in his 2001 book Stupid White Men.

In that book, Moore spoke briefly about the terrible ordeal that high school has become for children in America. His analysis was right on the money. High school is not an institution for learning and helping the individual grow. High schools today have more in common with a prison or work camp than with the Academy of Athens. The emphasis is on discipline and punishment (Michel Foucault reference certainly intended) not on academics, activities or anything else. The first responsibility of all students is to follow a list of restrictive rules and also some unwritten rules. Wether you do well in school is your own problem; follow the rules or else.

I am sure that there are some good high schools with good teachers and administrators out there. It is just that I have never seen one. Having gone to high school, student taught in a high school and coming from a friend/family group that includes a lot of teachers, I think I can say that high school sucks for almost everyone.

Think about it. Jam a bunch of people going through weird hormonal things in a small building, force them to compete with each other, expect them to form into rival social groups and hope all goes well...

In the Columbine case and now in the case of Jeff Weise, I cannot condone the actions but I do understand part of the motive. I was somewhat of one of the "outsiders" in school. I was a smart, socially awkward kid who felt better alone or among my own kind. I had a small group of similar people, clinging together for mental survival. It is always the smart, weird kids who are marginalized and shut off from the dyslexic vision of high school that is the "party line" of faculty, administration and the "average" kid.

What can be done about these kids and their issues? They need to be treated like human beings and not be afraid to express their opinions, no matter how unpopular (this is why hate speech rules are rather misguided). In high school, kids make decisions and try to figure out who they will be as adults. We need to support this.

That would truly define "no child left behind."


Kate said...

Schooling, all the way back to Athens, is a mode of domestication, not education. The culture of the school is fully necessary toward its aim: to keep the system living and the people obeying.

It is unfortunately a mistaken notion that there is anything that could be done to fix the situation. That would assume that school has, at its roots, some benevolent goal. It hasn't. It's a created institution hell-bent on keeping power in the hands of the patriarchy (yeah, yeah; I know...).

Young people need to be treated like human beings in all their environments, not just school. A rethinking of stereotypes, a rehashing of memes (hateful word, but there isn't a good synonym) and a healthy lashing of the folks who think young=stupid and underage=property.

Aaron Cynic said...

I wrote a big piece on things of this nature once. You can read it here: http://diatribemedia.com/essays/education.htm

Funny how today I was reading "Prometheus Rising" by Robert Anton Wilson and discovered the following quote:

"Are traditional schools very much like mini-prisons? Do they stifle imagination, cramp the child physically and mentally, and run on various forms of overt or covert terrorism? Of course, the answer is an unambiguous yes; but such schools are necessary to train people for roles in the ordinary office or factory or profession, which are also very much like mini-prisons, stifle imagination, cramp the person physically and mentally, and run on terror (threat of loss of bio-survival tickets, in the form of paychecks or tenure)"

Synchronicity is one of the spices of life...