state socialization expands

The Persevering Boy, Project Gutenburg
Sheltered by compulsory attendance laws that completely restrict families from input or control, the massive education-industrial complex has expanded into areas not usually defined as education. Hence, the recent discussions about failure and grit:
What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? - NYTimes.comFor Levin, the next step was clear. Wouldn’t it be cool, he mused, if each student graduated from school with not only a G.P.A. but also a C.P.A., for character-point average? If you were a college-admissions director or a corporate human-resources manager selecting entry-level employees, wouldn’t you like to know which ones scored highest in grit or optimism or zest? And if you were a parent of a KIPP student, wouldn’t you want to know how your son or daughter stacked up next to the rest of the class in character as well as in reading ability? As soon as he got the final list of indicators from Duckworth and Peterson, Levin started working to turn it into a specific, concise assessment that he could hand out to students and parents at KIPP’s New York City schools twice a year: the first-ever character report card. [...]
Educational Leadership:Reading: The Core Skill:Got Grit?: "How and when to help students develop grit has been an exciting topic among my faculty. We begin by ensuring that every student confronts his or her limitations, often through rethinking how hard and where we challenge our students. For example, in addition to using multiple intelligences theory as a tool to help children learn through their strengths, we recognize that we can also require students to work in areas that are unfamiliar and less comfortable for them.
Parent education also plays an important role. We want parents to understand our rationale, and we need them to support us in our efforts to take their children out of their comfort zones.
In the industrial-educational complex, all families are assumed to be possible truants and compulsory attendance laws ensure schools have police power over families. All families. This structural bias has limited how schools have grown and what services they provide.

This design flaw in mass schooling also means schools are unable to adjust as families change. Blame-the-family has been the predominant approach for over a decade now even as the working-class family and its community is decimated. Schools have instead expanded their police power as working families have grown poorer and the system struggled to adjust without the tools it needs to work collaboratively with families. The main policy levers used with schools remain: truancy and raising compulsory attendance age.

The family is so restricted within our mass educational system, that schools want to teach families how to be families. Families are prodded to support extensive homework, fined and jailed for kids who miss too much due to illness, often required to get a doctor's note just to confirm a child is ill, contribute long hours to fund-raising and volunteer work, and blamed when children fail to achieve. The family is blamed even when the family has no role in the system by design.

Social Control
Steve Hargadon: A Student Bill of Rights: "The relationship of the student to a learning organization can reflect fundamental tenants that we believe are healthy ways of implement student agency; however to believe that any educational system trumps the rights of parents, no matter how much we may disagree with particular parental decisions, puts education on the slippery slope of social control. I believe that parentsand families have primary responsibility for their children, and appropriate influence cannot be through mandates but must be through example. If we wish to help families, we must model the good we hope they will see."
Now the educational-industrial complex wants to help kids in poverty by building grit, through the experience of failure. Why the massive experience of failure by the large number of kids who don't pass meaningless exit exams or who drop out or get low scores and low grades, why all this failure isn't enough failure, is hard to understand.

Vaught's Practical Character
, pg 42, public domain,
Internet Archive
Teaching grit is flat-out social control and it is far away from the skills training thought to be the role of schooling when it was begun. The problem with the way the factory model has configured the educational-industrial complex is that we have a huge and motivated private sector coalition with few limits. And now they want to fix the family. Schools want to train children in ways that have traditionally been done by families and this is a sign of the troubled relationship of schools to families.

The educational-industrial complex has deep roots and powerful resources: individual families have none. Grit research can be used to preserve the current configuration of the educational-industrial complex even when that system itself needs changing. Trying to get kids to fail within the current system is crazy. Letting kids explore and fail means removing some of the penalties that accrue to every little action; ending grading and allowing kids to take and explore courses on the basis of interest without punitive measures. It means allowing for child development.

After all, if we changed the system, few would need so much grit, now critical for poor kids to sustain the long K-16 hike of grading and ranking required. The grit students already have would be better appreciated, and other social skills would be allowed to flourish within a different structure, a structure that better supported children's health and well being and their family relationships. How many kids need a grit score more than they need nutritious food (not what most cafeterias offer it) and exercise.

It isn't that we shouldn't do research, far from it, families, educators and society benefit from this knowledge. And it isn't that within medical situations, specific techniques should not be used. What I am saying is that research supporting specific implementations of social control of children to conform to our mass education system, like a character score, should raise alarms in any citizen who values democracy and has even a rudimentary knowledge of history.

Support Families Directly 

It is also not in the interest of the nation-state to maintain institutions of social control instead of investing in a democratic and civil society. Already, the prison-industrial complex has grown to astounding proportions. The educational-industrial complex is on a similar path. We have problems that cannot and should not be solved by the educational-industrial complex and its many employees. Poverty should not be used to create educational programs to replace families and we should be exceedingly careful how we help kids apart from families.

Healthy cities, states and nations need families and stable social relationships at the grassroots level to ensure economic strength and human happiness. It doesn't require any specific ideology of the family to see that low-level social stability is important to a society as a whole and large institutional socialization programs are a danger. The challenge for the US is rather to strengthen family support, from sick leave to healthcare to wage support. Perhaps a basic income or funding for carework. Recognition of the value of investing in families is an essential first step.

Within schools, we need to begin deep changes in the school to family relationship. The factory model wants to make sure every child studies the same thing and the degree means this task was accomplished. A learning services model would allow schools to move away from a production-line mentality and toward better support of the actual children in their communities. Families that could pick and choose classes and services could strengthen themselves and their communities. Homeschooling already works this way. Families would be able, if informed and supported, to make better choices among possible paths, paths that are changing and various. Unlike, a hundred years ago, jobs are now deeply tied to schooling and few families are unaware of this fact. (The state replicates child protection services by using schools to ostensibly monitor families but to move to a learning services model, CPS will need deep change, since it too does not work with families but maintains a policing attitude with no transparency.)

Grit-building things kids could do include these five well-documented things. And why can't schools provide parents and communities more access? If I want to setup a music lesson coop for families with slim resources, I can't ask for space from my local school. Schools don't offer extracurricular program space and coordination: why aren't schools bringing in martial arts and sewing and other afterschool classes?

We should not be investing time and energy in having schools take over character training and make it a three-digit score: we need policies that enable families to thrive, schools that are more responsive to the needs of the people they serve, not by becoming the family or fixing families but by including families.

As the saying goes, if state socialization by the national security state, grading and generating a character score for your child doesn't scare you, you aren't paying attention.

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