the bullying ethos

John Jensen: Bullying and the American Ethos | Education News:

John Jensen looks at bullying as it relates to evolutionary as well as contextual influences in a strong and important post. The fundamental power dynamic of compulsory schooling plays a huge role in bullying behavior and Jensen grasps that fact. Schools greatly accelerate peer pressure and peer group identification in young people, even more now that the social capital outside schools has diminished greatly since the early 20th century.  Jensen understands the underlying power dynamic of schools:
Is it not ironic that in a planned society of controlled workers given compulsory assignments, where religious expression is suppressed, the press controlled, and all media of communication censored, where a puppet government is encouraged but denied any real authority, where great attention is given to efficiency and character reports, and attendance at cultural assemblies is mandatory, where it is avowed that all will be administered to each according to his needs and performance required from each according to his abilities, and where those who flee are tracked down, returned, and punished for trying to escape–in short in the milieu of the typical large American secondary school–we attempt to teach “the democratic system”?

Yes, that describes our own schools. Our style of pedagogy has yet to align with our ideals. The governing assumption, without which we apparently are unable to educate, is that those with more power control those with less of it. The national ethos continues with every new day at school: “You will do what we say, or else!”

And this, too:
Entire school bodies—staff and students—would do well to re-instruct themselves in a cooperative version of human society capable of sustaining civilization–if we are to improve on the primitive, instinct-driven model in use now. A school might examine its exercise of power, how power is channeled constructively by negotiation and cooperation, how big people can exercise power more considerately over the little. School should be an island of safety for all, where people appreciate rather than dominate, where cooperation rather than control is “what we do.” We identify the strivings for significance that each manifests, and provide rules for a field within which emotional needs can be satisfied, and a longer-term direction for the expression of personal power.

Compulsory Attendance is a Power Structure
We will have to change the underlying power fundamentals of schools to attain real change. That power structure is built on compulsory attendance and it shows in everything that schools do. It is not a democratic model and as schools have become ever more central to the common economic experience, the antri-democratic nature of the school show more and more.

We do not have to use compulsory attendance as a model. Homeschooling is a social movement that counters this approach by reaffirming the value of families as a social world for children. It is not that the family is an ideal, as some religious people believe, but rather that an institution that is structured to diminish the family is hurting the child. And in a society where almost everyone has been indoctrinated in mass schools, envisioning a different way means that people have had to get out of the system and experience learning in a new context. That has been happening now for 40+ years and technology like the Internet only accelerates the change.

We can move toward making schools service-oriented toward their communities, a model that is democratic and offers families more control and input. It is unnecessary to compel people to attend and the goals of mass schooling could be achieved using a model like the public library. Compulsory attendance for brief years in the early 20th century when the large majority of jobs were still in agriculture and unrelated to schooling, may have seemed necessary to ensure that skills were gained across wide segments of the society. But we face entirely different issues today when children are over-processed, poorly socialized in excessive mass peer groups for ever longer periods of time.  Today, the school experience itself has become the problem. Schools now create a core amount of illiteracy by mangled instruction and management which is then exploited by remediation industries.

Compulsory attendance was a quick fix. The pasteurization of milk was a quick fix that was easier than the alternative which would have been inspection, education and support for small producers. But pasteurization was only the first technocratic step toward homogenization, ultra-pasteurization and genetic manipulation of milk and cows and all of this has damaged the core constituents of milk as a food. Wheat that is hybridized to ensure output, made pesticide-resistant, and genetically altered has lost some much of its digestibility and nutrients. These solutions generated many more problems which organic agriculture, and raw milk movements, are trying to address. They are not dissimilar to the problems in education.

And so, compulsory attendance for a few years has now been extended through 12+ years,  currently recommended 14+ years of school, with a programme of grading, sorting and testing that has become the problem itself. The entire social context surrounding this system that supported kids and families has been eroded.  Schools as learning centers that families could access as they need would alter this core flaw and allow us to begin addressing some of the damage to our social and intellectual lives. 

If kids and families are bullied into schools, bullying will remain an issue. 
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