BY TODD SCHOLL
Tyranny takes different forms. It can be overtly evil, but often there are stages prior to the overt ones where humans fail to take a stand. Piece by piece tyrrany can be constructed and strengthened.
Such is the case for our system of public education. For decades, small groups of people, most of whom have little of no background in education, have created policies that are forced upon schools, slowly creating tyranny.
Policies created in the name of advancing American interests, leaving no child behind, or racing to the top have resulted in a command and control environment. Through the years, we have seen the locus of control shift from the bottom up.
These policies largely ignore input from the human beings they impact most. As a result, the policies serve the needs of the powerful rather than those of teachers and their students. Test and punish. Test and punish. This paradigm dehumanizes our schools, turning the educational process into a mechanistic process, modeling businesses. Instead of maximizing profits, the raison d'être is to maximize test scores.
While countless teachers find ways to work brilliantly and compassionately within this tyrannical system, too many are resigning, or living, as Thoreau eloquently put it, "lives of quiet desperation."
And too many students find schools to be drudgery. At best, they view school as a means to get where they want to be as adults, so they do what adults tell them, without any meaningful criticism or pushback, and jump through the hoops needed to reach their goal.
But how many students COULD have reached their greatest potential if schools were set up to listen to students first, follow and foster their natural curiosity, unbound from rigid standards, schedules, grades, and requirements?
And how many students "made it" only to find themselves reaching that adult goal, feeling empty, also resigned to lead lives of quiet desperation?
How many vacant classrooms would we have if we listened to teachers, paid them well, and provided them the autonomy to innovate and follow their students' interests without being tied to rigid curricula, pacing guides, and other demands of testing?
We have become so used to this top down model, that many don't even see it as tyranny. It's just the norm.
Now we have a state department that wants to control what books are in your local school's library.
This is all about control.
Neil Postman wrote that public schools create a public, and this system is all about creating a compliant public, one that doesn't think critically or question authority.
In a country where income inequality has exploded, the only way to prevent revolution is to ensure the next generation is incapable of imagining or demanding anything better for themselves. Make them limit the vision of their life's purpose to how they can best fit in to the machine of hypercapitalism.
In this top down system, the top will continue to look for ways to increase their power and control. They want to control curricula, books, rules, structures, ideas, and money. Citizens capable of critical reasoning and more interested in self-actualization than being a cog in the machinery that enriches the billionaire class would disrupt this control.
That is why we will continue to see them seize more control: school vouchers, book bans, consolidation, etc.
If the bottom does not rise up and take that power back, I fear that future generations will be doomed to a much darker form of tyranny. I hope we wake up before it is too late.