School reform is written and talked about very frequently in the media. People are supposed to think satisfactory alternatives to the zombie reforms – reforms that were worthless, that died, as it were, after being punched to death, those deceptive, ineffectual modes – not different actually, from the previous mode; being done again and again, repeatedly, over and over, called by different names, Common Core, for one –that those are alternatives; that those – any of them – will at all repair the damage that is school.
People are supposed to think that, from so much talk, so much installation of what we’re told are new ways to teach, that it must be that satisfactory alternatives are being put into place.
Your suspicion, though, that nothing’s changed by the reforms is correct.
Because what I tell you here, over and over, again and …. well, you get it,… What I tell you flies in the face of all the accepted ways to perceive the system in which we live. So it’s necessary for me to say to you at the beginning of this reading, that the other way to live needs to be constructed from the ashes of the old system; built in the midst of the flames of revolutionary struggle. Our children, like us, all students, all teachers, will be with us studying and teaching at the barricades. That’s how it works. That’s how self respect and learning happen. That’s how people see we claim our lives for us all, by us all.
The other way to live will be the function of building it. And being it’s utopian, we will never be finished fitting it to our tastes and needs. Our modifications, once we hold our power, will continuously display directions for updating the effective modifications, or for implementing other ideas altogether.
You expect that. You know it from the past struggles for justice – the Soviet, the Cuban, the many attempts to put our power into our hands, out of the profiteers’; ending capitalism, substituting socialism, social – our – control for our benefit, no profit – no accumulation of excess by expropriation of others’ labor.
What I’m arguing as I talk about schooling, is the overall structure we need to build daily and at the same time, grow into, the variation away from the profit system. I’m urging here that we guide that direction in ways that are satisfactory, pleasant for us – all; not painfully submissive.
Our Owners want us to see revolution as a sudden clash, a win or a lose, living through it or dying in it. But that’s not how it goes, does it? You know that even each of those storms vanish – and return, and raises its winds, and becomes calmed by us, again and again.
Day to day? … Talk about it. That’s the most essential thing to do now. Don’t accept the formations – capitalism’s institutions and derivatives, bent oppositions and resistances – imposed on us. And tell everyone to oppose them. Devise the other ways with other people. If you can, resurrect some community, some family, some friends, some comrades with whom to talk about the idea that school is not a good device for us, and the rest of these ideas that you like, if you do. Saying these ideas – yours and maybe mine as well – with people will build our liberation. Teachers will understand why and how they’re persecuted, and that the community knows that as well.
Most importantly in this regard, children!!! (are not kids -a delimiting term) will have the impossible burdens lifted from them as they’re told school, those lessons, those ways of gathering are not acceptable. Those tests – no more. Those playgrounds – no more.
Building this resistance is the ally to building the resistance to fracking, or to wars, or to having that brutal football overtake the culture. And better, you, parent, person who takes care of children, will be building that place where we’re not forced to live our day separately from each other, the original hurt. We will coddle each other, cradle each other instead. Children will just be in the community, coming and going like the rest of us in an altogether opposite arrangement of our streets and housing and production sites.
The idea that children must be separated from parents – sent away from them for the good of both! when neither of them, parent or child.. or neighbor!…wants that to happen, must be abided by. I remember yet, I’d already gone to nursery school; I’d been institutionally away from my mother and father on many occasions before I was five. But when I was left at Kindergarten I cried so hard ?in fear and powerlessness – I had no explanation of that for years – that I vomited. I do remember those tall windows in the school room – but I can’t tell why I was so discomfited, why I so much wanted to stop my mother from leaving me. It must have pained her greatly, to leave while I was crying so hard, begging her not to go – the teacher insisting she do. And that was so unnecessary even then. A wholly other way would have mollified the situation. Surely that could have been found, had the rigidity not had to be employed in order to arrange 30 children – and their parents. There certainly wasn’t space to do a separate thing for the different children who needed the other care.
What a wrong attitude, showing the child its painful lack of control in this painful circumstance.
I know alternatives now are sought; the result, though, remains the same. Children still cry when they’re brought and left at the child care arrangement. Even older children, do.
I wonder about other children’s ‘bratty’ behavior, behavior that looks like what mine did, then. The last thing I was was bratty. This was so exceptional for us – for my folks, for me.
Planning how to come out from under the 100-200+ year old device, compulsory education, envisioning what our lives would look like, … very difficult. So the PTA meetings and school board meetings will have to be to identify the forms that so discomfort us, schooling as we know it, irremediable. To the degree possible we’ll stop doing them. Where we have to work against the State mandates, we will, to the degree we can – children (not kids) with each other and us all. That’s education.
This is a tremendously difficult vision to obtain, to see, especially now when the central effect of capitalism has so taken hold. Capitalism does not allow for full employment; and it only allows for employment by our Owners – for jobs permitted by our Owners.
Our Owners have long gathered production entirely for THeir profit, and us into THeir cities, …us, the work force.
The difficulty here is that we’d realize we’d want our children – and everyone – able to do some work, to be a literally productive member of society – to make-produce-do a social necessity. So people would be working alongside each other; not imitating work – which is what happens in the classroom.
The restructuring of production so it’d be ours, controlled by us, for the benefit of us all – a huge challenge envisioning that. All people doing ‘work’, doing what we need <em>and like</em> to do; 1 year olds and 90 year olds.
We don’t adhere to the advisory ‘from each-to each’ …from each according to his ability to each according to his need. Instead we all work to provide us all sufficiency, plenty. Work is changed to be what we do to maintain ourselves and to enjoy ourselves, to feel satisfied within our community, and perhaps even rejoicing at having done a work; … no real separation between those two. Work arises from our existence, from our sense and feeling of what to do. And we just do it. The idea of working in order to get housing and food and all subsides to being, living. It includes playing ball and the piano and going for a walk, holding someone’s hand, and seeing ideas together, and all that we do.
We’d not be being influenced by TV shows focused on our excretion experiences and our sex parts’ activities. These would not be the basis of the hysterical laughter produced in order for us to be trained to find those lines funny. Our humor would be on a high plane. We’d get and give respect instead of having to be entertained by shallow derision, code terms at which we have to laugh, timed spaces – here; laugh; it’s time to laugh; now laugh again – it’s time; now again…
Please do not tell me these are already being done. They’re not. Do not tell me they need to be done in a different time. (You know what we say to that – about ‘now’.) Do not tell me these ideas are wrong.
Make them right.
I hope what I say follows Marcuse, and Erich Fromm, and Gramsci, and Shulamith Firestone, and of course, Marx, and … and… Loving – being allowed to love each other and Earth …without threat of brutal structures snatching those away. Do not tell me of the good times, the good experiences you had in school, as though those make it alright. As it said in my Book of Jewish Humor, from my aunt, when I was 18 – how do people KNOW these things – know to give me that right book, from which I’m still quoting 60 years later! in which the introduction said; ‘how, given the horrors, can a Jew laugh?! A worm in a horseradish jar learns to laugh’. Those good times get snatched up, retrieved out of the bad time of having to regulate ourselves to fit the requirements in order to get along – as do workers at jobs. Our system, our self, requires we try to make the best of our times. People in solitary confinement find some way – not all of them – to survive mentally.
We, people, deserve to laugh from a place of comfort, a place that has the meaning we seek, not a place where we’re constantly compromising, rationalizing in order to make ourselves content with the role foisted on us – student, teacher, any role.
These ideas point to ideal times. Meanwhile, these ideas are meant to relieve us from the standard thinking about the society that contains us so cruelly. They are meant to relieve our children from the burden they bear in this system, a burden which we suffer with them. Knowing together is a great comfort. Working to take control from our Owners, by us all is a long struggle, to build the world that is comfortable for us all. They kill us as we try. We try to defend against them.
If we don’t recognize the capture of our minds by our Owners, we cannot begin to advance our newly recognized ideas. Somewhere, here and there, we can begin to interject formations that carry us toward our objectives. You will have the ideas, the suggestions that are about what we want. You will build that unity and strength.