Schooling Your Child in Violence
By Hwaa Irfan
How are the summer months after the school year been treating you? Have these summer months met you with relief from the tensions of the school year. That might be the feeling for both student and parents alike, and teachers might be feeling more than shaken by it all, but In the summer break leading up to the new school year, is the time to consider what kind of education you would really like for your child, and by this I don’t mean more money.
School violence is becoming a common occurrence these days; the problem is that it also might be becoming all too acceptable. It is only now that the study into U.S. school violence has been released for 2003-5 by the National Center for Education Statistics. A frightening 2,911.000 acts of theft were carried out, and 1,852,000 were violent. Of the violent acts 54% occurred within the school building and 82% of all incidents were not reported to the police. Of the violent acts:
– Guns were used in 14,100 incidents
– Knives were used in 68, 400 incidents
– A blunt object was used in 42,100 incidents
Before jumping to stereotypes:
– 714,600 of the offenders were white
– 324, 4000 of the offenders were black
– 96,300 of the offender were male
– 25,000 of the offenders were female
We can look at American society, and say unequivocally that America is a society founded in violence, and has always been violent. This is of course said here under the assumption that it goes without saying that the U.S. has a problem with school violence. It might have even come to attention a few news reports about school violence in European countries. This may not be on the same scale as the violence in American schools, but on a European scale, it is still considered a phenomenon. In the cosmic law of things, to know the essence of something one has to first know its opposite, like knowing what it is to be thirsty in order to know what it means to be without thirst, so if public reaction is an indicator, we have clearly allowed the unacceptable to become acceptable forgetting what is unacceptable.
U.S. – in the case of Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 where 32 people died, there was the normal national outcry, increased security measures, a national debate about firearms which always takes place a result of which nothing is done, and a tribute to the dead and their families.
Poland – A 14 year old girl was sexually attacked by three male classmates in front of the whole class in 2006. It was filmed on a mobile. This only came to light because she committed suicide. Even though there was a zero tolerance policy in place on school violence, the minister responsible for looking into the incident, whereby a teacher was not present in the classroom for 20 minutes by proposing a ban on the spread of pornography, improved methods for hunting drug dealers, to make it easier to dismiss unreliable teachers, a decent school dress code, a new hierarchy of reward and punishment for students, a curfew for students aftetr 10.00pm.
The fact that the children involved had reached a level of underdevelopment seems to have surpassed the national debate in both countries to the extent that they came from families, whom we know nothing of, who had raised children who could carry out such acts, is not a reflection on the families alone, but is a reflection on the societies to which they belong. An act is carried out whatever it may be because the environment has given some kind of consensus that there is some level of permission. The school is a microcosm of that environment, and so too is the individual, and the family unit.
Blame the children, Blame, the teachers, Blame the parents, blame everything else but what about the nature of schooling itself given that it is a tool of the state.
Schooling – is used to refer to the system of mass education or factory education which provides one method to a large number of students.
Violence – is the act of harm against one’s self or another. The intent to cause harm is forbidden in Islam.
The Growing Concern About Schooling
Educationalist Clive Harber has developed much concern of what he observed as a growing problem with schooling and violence. Initially his concern was not one of schooling and violence, but one of schooling and politics. Harber became convinced that schooling is responsible for the initial violence, and for “reproducing and perpetuating forms of violence” in society at large. This arose out of his observation as a teacher in Nigeria, where the inherited system of schooling was British, and corporal punishment was a standard practice. This notion was affirmed when looking at the colonial system of education and the resistance to them in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, South Africa, and Namibia.As an educationalist in the U.K. his reason for concern continued there.
“When we respond to violence in schools, if we respond at all, it is to the children who are violent. When a child forces another to do his or her bidding, we call it extortion; when an adult does the same thing to a child, it is called correction. When a student hits another student it is assault; when a teacher hits a student it is for the child s own good . When a student embarrasses, ridicules or scorns another student it is harassment, bullying or teasing. When a teacher does it, it is sound pedagogical practice.”
Harber reminds us of the historical context of mass education, which is evident today was to maintain social and political control over the then growing working population which sprung up as a result of industrialization. Some Americans might be experiencing this reality as certain states endeavor to curtail the practice of homeschooling.
“Hard Times” written by Charles Dickens serves as a brutal reminder of education then, which was to enslave the imagination, and to appropriate the human being from his soul. A 2000 report to UNESCO by J. Esteve, The Transformation of the Teachers Role at the End of the Twentieth Century: New Challenges for the Future highlighted the intrinsic nature of mass education is one that increased teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil violence. He adds, the authoritative mechanisms employed to control pupils no longer work as effectively as they did as students are challenging the fact that they have no power in any form within a system which causes them harm.
This was demonstrated in the Harry Potter film “The Order of the Phoenix, whereby children who once had some level of control over their environmental, had this removed by the ministry which enforced the same method of learning from one book on the entire school, without reference to experience. Of course the students revolted. The happily married couple we were sitting next to were horrified.
– A systematic approach by asserting that all students of the same age can learn one thing in one particular way causes harm (a feeling of failure in one form or another).
– All children are unnaturally forced to sit behind desks to absorb not learn as the learning environment has been eliminated in the process.
– A child is forced to keep up in a class of up to 30 -50 other students is harmful (low self esteem, and likelihood of illiteracy).
– The teacher is forced to control the classroom in a military like fashion.
– The teacher is expected to get the entire class through on a single method.
– That single method is overly competitive setting up situations for intimidation, bullying, prejudice, humiliation, depravation.
– A child is being forced to see the world through one particular view, which excludes their own view/experience
– Everything a child does is monitored and directed.
Just like cities, the individual in a large school loses their identity to something bigger and more demanding. It is impersonal and does not care about your potential or your likes and dislikes. The lack of familiarity breeds a community of strangers, which lead to the feeling of alienation, and being invalidated. Without that sense of belonging, in real terms there is nothing to really be accountable to except a series of laws and by-laws which do not even care if you as the pupil exists.
“Pupils will do things when they are not known, to people whom they do not know far more readily than they would to those whom they do know” is the conclusion of the 2002 Department for International Development report “Towards Responsive Schools”
Most of those who have questioned the virtue of mass education have been former teachers. One would think they these teachers should have remained in teaching to change the system, but if the system is intrinsically wrong, change is not possible, especially if the Administrators think that there is nothing wrong. One of those former teachers is John Taylor Gatto, who authored the Book “Against School”. How many times have you come across a child who is against school, without realizing that there is a justifiable reason to be against school. Gatto reflected:
“I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom. Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn’t seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren’t interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were”.
Jealously, my daughter referred to the students who graduated to become lecturers at the same university they were students of. Why jealously, when she is not in her graduation year is something else. She commented on going to their study room for some advise, and noticed all the reminders they had pinned up on the wall about being a good teacher. My response questioned the purpose of those reminders when they themselves have only gone straight from university into teaching when in fact they were not taught. What do you mean was her shocked response. I replied:
“They have not experienced life, let alone their subject in life, so how can they teach it”.
Gatto pointed out that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln were not products of a mass education schooling system, and they never graduated from high school. Inventors like Edison, industrial leaders like Rockefeller; writers, Mark Twain and scholars like Margaret Mead were never schooled. And to add to that list are the long list of Muslim scientists that have left a large legacy to the modern world.
Recently performing in Cairo, Benjamin Zephaniah peformed at the Alzhar Park. A rasta, who writes and performs poetry for the betterment of humanity, and makes a good living traveling the world, was a rebellious pupil in and out of trouble when he was at school. Deemed uneducated, he was told as a child that he was a oorn failure. He told Al Ahram Weekly reporter Ingy Al-Kashef:
“My uncle sat me down once, after I’d been in trouble with the ploice and thrown out of school. I was 13 or 14. He said: ” Look, you’ve got to behave yourself; you’ve got to conform more” So I said: ” What do I do?” He said, “You get an apprenticeship after school, get a job, find a nice dark-skinned Jamaican girl, and then you get married, get a mortgage and a house, and you make some babies”. Then Zephaniah paused and asked “And then what?” and then he said: ” Then you die.” Then I remember coming back from the meeting saying if that is why I am here, if that is the meaning of life, if I can’t find anything etter, I’m going to kill myself.”
Benjamin Zephaniah received and rejected an OBE from Queen Elizabeth for his work.
Gatto became curious about the purpose of secondary education when he read the book The Child, the Parent and the State.” This book was written by James Bryant Conant who was president of Harvard University for 20 years, executive of the atomic bomb project, and WWI poison gas expert. Written in 1959, Conant referred to a book which was the basis of the American education system. Written by Alexander Inglis in 1918 (after whom an education lecture is named after at Harvard), which is to:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority.
2) The “integrating function”. Like the “integration” debate on Muslims in European countries, it is not about pluralism but conformity. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The “diagnostic and directive “ function. School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role.
4) The “differentiating function”. Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further.
5) The selective function. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes.
6) The “propaedeutic” function. An elite group of caretakers is required.
Hands up to anyone who can recognize any of the above! If you felt, but did not know that this is what was being done to you, how would you react? What if you knew that the understanding behind black psyops/psychological warfare, is the knowledge that people are more reactive, and more confused when they do not know what is happening to them? In the Israeli war on Lebanon, Hizbollah countered Israel’s black psyops, y making sure the people did know what was going on, and the Lebanese ended up more sane, and more unified (across faiths), than any other operation.
Now we have witnessed how violence is perpetuated from the emotional and psychological harm that transfers to physical harm. It is natural to a child, to learn, to evolve, to develop and explore. Education from the Latin means to draw out the latent powers of an individual. When a person is being prevented from doing so, the result is only natural. One might assume that well that’s rubbish, I did well; and maybe academically you have done well, but the harm is also emotional and psychological, so I ask you, are you leading the life you want to lead or is it being led for you?
• Massification vs. personalization
• Uniformity vs. variety
• Conformity vs. creativity
• Fragmented vs. holistic
• Theory vs. practice
• Time rigidity vs. time flexibility
Where are you and your child midst these opposites?
We live in opposites, it is from opposites we are to learn, to grow as humans, and become more harmonious, but if we are deprived of the opposite, if we are told in so many ways that the opposite does not exist, then harm is being done, because we are being prevented from establishing the natural patterns of our lives which exists between opposites.
Given the above then how can modern schooling/mass education/factory education provide the following for your child:
• Social cohesion
Instead isn’t schooling:
• Removing your child from the family sphere of influence including values, ethics, and faith
• Making your child too competitive, thus argumentative, feelings of inferiority, internalized racism/sexism
• Turning your child into a stranger
Then look at the children that do, do well – what do they have in common! And in 5 years time, what do they have in common!
Ruddy, S. et al. A Profile of Criminal Incidents at School. U.S. Dept, of Education http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2010/2010318.pdf
Anabel, R. B. School Violence in Spain http://www.ijvs.org/files/Revue-10/04.-Rodriguez-Basanta-Ijvs-10-en.pdf
Ammermuller, A. Violence in European Schools
Gatto. J.T. “Against School: How Public Education Cripples Our Kids, and Why.” http://www.spinninglobe.net/againstschool.htm
Kowzan, P. “Teachers and School Violence: A Comparative Study of Danish, American and Polish Phenomena”. Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences ( 2009) Vol 1, No 3, 736-747
Harber, C. Schooling as Violence: How Schools Harm Pupils and Societies 2004. Routledge and Kegan Paul, U.K.
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