Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Bully Bullshit

Kids are pretty smart and they're pretty good at knowing when we're feeding them bullshit.

We tell kids to avoid bullies and gangs, but then we send them to school where the biggest gang of bullies are on the payroll. The teachers and administration have one simple rule for kids: do as you're told or else! If that's not a bully, then I don't know what one is.

Kid bullies might cause temporary discomfort with wet willies, wedgies and purple nurples, but that's nothing compared to the punishment the adult bullies dish out with suspension, expulsion, failing grades, sitting in the corner, running laps and more.

When I was a kid, it didn't take me very long to figure out this was bullshit in its truest form. A lot of times, I had a better understanding of the material than my teachers. They'd been repeating the same data for so long that it ceased having any real meaning to them.

To me, it was new and exciting and I wanted to know more, but the teachers wanted me to follow their set pattern of exercises and tests and hoops and carrots and if I didn't, then I'd be in real trouble and then I'd get to see just how much of a bully these people were willing to be.

I wasn't very long before I said "screw that" and went my own way. My grades suffered horribly, of course, but learning was beautiful for me and I wasn't going to let these assholes, whose only concern was for me to shut up and do as I'm told, ruin it.

You see, life is easier for grownups if kids do as their told, whether it makes any sense or not. It's even in the bible. Leviticus gives parents license to stone children who don't obey. STONE them, as in: throw rocks at them until they're dead.

It sets us up for a life, even as adults, where everyone has a level of power where people with more power get to tell you what to do and you get to tell people with less power what to do.

We allow it because societies and classrooms must have some order to function and this is a fairly effective way to create and maintain order. There are other ways to achieve order, but they require more time and effort which generally boils down to more money, so we choose not to employ them, because they're just children after all and it's not like we get much return for investing in children.

It's not just about money though. I went to the most expensive schools in town, and even they were convinced this was the best model for teaching children. There are other models out there, but in the U.S. only people with extreme political or social issues use them.

Homeschooling and tutors are the oldest forms of education, but they require a pretty hefty commitment from the parents so they're the least employed. The European model requires the least commitment from parents. With fewer responsibilities at home, parents can then devote more time to the factories and fields, so most governments favor it.

Here's my proposal. We're far from full employment in this country. Most of these unemployed people could be pretty good educators with the proper training, and would do it if they could make a living at it. If we turned these people into educators, then we could tear down the militaristic European model educational system and build something that makes much more sense and works much better.

To pay for it would require a real commitment though. We could afford it if we reduced military and social spending by a third and ended the war on drugs. These are moves that would solve a lot of other problems as well.

None of this will happen for a million reasons though. I think the biggest reason is that people like the feeling of telling somebody else what to do. It makes them feel powerful, even if the person they're bullying is just a kid.

It's OK to keep doing what we're doing, you just have to always remember, there are better ways if we were strong enough to commit to them, and what we're doing now comes with a really big portion of steaming bullshit.

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