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Feb 21 2009

Qui a coupé le fromage?

What would blogulation be if readers didn’t persistently and selflessly give of their intellective powers to correct the blogger on all points large and small?

I doubt we’ll ever know, for a post without a nitpicky comment is like a day without patriarchy: nonexistent. Think your typo will go unremarked? Tink agin! Feel like misquoting Shakespeare for thyself a pleasure? It foretells a tempest and a blustering day! Expect to get away with a puerile malapropism from junior high French? A helpful reader will be on your case before you can conjugate “péter.”

These minutiae are insignificant, and one learns to chucklingly accept that there exists a species of blog reader who values pedantry (!) over actual discourse, and who finds irresistible the competitive zing of being the first to expose to an awed web-based audience what she perceives as the blogger’s technical failings.

No biggie, as my pal Jovita says. Few, if any, of us have escaped a lifelong indoctrination compelling us to demonstrate our individual superiority whenever the opportunity presents itself, even if the demonstration only rises to the level of besting some anonymous Internet smartypants on the definition of an obscure Latin verb. Patriarchy-blaming blogs, when they are authored by all-knowing spinster aunts, appear to be ideally suited to these demonstrations, although it should be noted that glory-basking of this nature is, as the science of patriarchy-blaming explains, a by-product of the culture of domination.

Of course the spinster aunt will admit to enjoying a bit of grammar-sparring from time to time.

But there’s another order of blametarian admonition, the kind toward which the blogger actually cocks an attentive ear. I allude to the “j’accuse!” comment.

Into this category fall remarks expressing the idea that the spinster aunt is not, perhaps, so all-knowing as she jokingly pretends. These comments suggest that the blogger is perhaps a racist, an ableist, a damned carnivore, a transphobe, an anti-redheadite, or some other species of bigot. Unless these accusations are very silly (“You hate babies/ mothers/ prostituted women/ men/ women who wear skirts,” etc.) one gives them a moment of one’s time, if one isn’t a total ass.

You know. You ascend a Tibetan peak, fire up a fattie, and contemplate the merits of the case against you, your purported deviation to the Dark Side, and whether, despite your best intentions, you might have colluded with the oppressor. You do this because, according to your own Twistifesto, in a patriarchy one’s intent has little bearing on how one’s fast and loose metaphrasery may be experienced by a member of an oppressed class; the onus is on the privileged to cut it the fuck out, not on the aggrieved to toughen the fuck up. A Twistifesto, if it is to mean anything at all, pretty much oughta reflect the governing principle of its own author.

It is in light of the above that I bring you today’s post. Today’s post goes like this:

I recently made a remark that caused a little stink. The remark was “Don’t imprison [kids] in some bleak concentration camp of a school.” It was part of an abridged list of the patriarchy-replicating shit that people commonly, often as a matter of tradition, perpetrate against young persons.

When I wrote “don’t imprison kids in some bleak concentration camp of a school,” the notion that anybody could, in a million years, find fault with the sentiment wasn’t even on the Twisty radar. Who in their right mind could argue that you should imprison kids in some bleak concentration camp of a school? It seemed obvious to me that any sane person would gladly paint signs, hand out pamphlets, sing simple, irritating anthems, and more or less rally with gusto behind any scheme that would liberate our beloved tots from state-sponsored mind control and intellectual death.

Well, maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t, but I’ll never know, since the gist of my remark became vastly overshadowed by my controversial word choice.

By now you will have surmised the truth: I had offended teachers, schools, Jews, Jewish teachers, and the mothers of Jewish teachers when I used “concentration camp” as a metaphor for “school.” The remark was perceived as both anti-Semitic and a denouncement of “dedicated teachers” — a dreaded “double whammy.” One commenter even suggested that taking a dim view of the school system is tantamount to misogyny, since “most teachers are (overwhelmingly) women.”

As an aside, let me come right out and agree with the hypothesis that most teachers who are women are indeed overwhelmingly so.

That joke made, the task now before me is to sort out whether I am a misogynist teacher-hating anti-Semite.

I do this for my personal edification. Normally I undertake such pursuits in the privacy of my own lime green recliner, but what the heck; this time the reader is invited along on this crazy roller-coaster ride of auntly self-doubt and self-discovery. She (the reader) will necessarily come to her own conclusions; I am not insensitive to the possibility that these will not precisely mirror my own. Such a contingency will sorely harsh my mellow, since I desire nothing more desperately than to be agreed with unconditionally by everybody in the world, Internet entities I don’t know and never will included, but, you know. Life’s a journey or something.

Let’s get started!

Do I hate women as a class?

I’m going to go out on a limb and acquit myself of the misogyny charge right off the bat. If, after even a brief perusal of my body of blogular work on this subject — the World Wide Web is home to well over a thousand of my essays explaining, exposing, and denouncing misogyny — there remains any doubt in the reader’s mind as to my advocacy for women’s humanity, it can only be concluded that we fundamentally disagree on the constituent philosophical elements of the concept itself.

Do I hate teachers as a class?

Jesus in a jetpack. If it weren’t part of the “double whammy,” I’d probably file this doozy in the “very silly” category and skip merrily off to happy hour. I never even mentioned teachers in my remark about imprisoning kids in schools, and indeed wasn’t thinking about them at all when I wrote it. Why should I be against teachers? They’re like any other group; one subset contains the selfless dedicated heroes and another the depressed sinister alcoholic sadists; the largest subsets comprise those falling within the “actively benign” to “mediocre but essentially harmless” range. Any antipathy toward the group as a whole would be unwarranted, although certain individuals might possess qualities that would preclude, say, whether I’d volunteer to spend the winter with’em.

But not so fast, there, Twisty! Could it be that for some members of the pedagogalogical profession there exists an equivalence of sorts between “teacher” and “school”? Such that when I take issue with the persistent existence of “school” I am simultaneously denigrating “teacher”? And that because a teacher might be offended, it therefore is contrary to the Twistifesto to object to “school”?

To this I say “pah.” I’m against school, not the women who work in them. I make a similar argument whenever I find myself in the unenviable position of having to explain patriarchy to an advocate of “sex work.” The assumption is that, because I curl the Twisty lip at male-driven businesses like pornography, strip clubs, and prostitution, I similarly disparage the women such businesses exploit. When only a chump would blame women for having to struggle within a dysfunctional system that gives them a crap deal and ultimately benefits the status quo. “Sex work” advocates are unanimously offended when I say, “Porn? It’s gotta go!” This is too bad, for them and for me; unfortunately I am not a teenage punk who enjoys offending people for the hell of it.

It is much the same with schools and teachers. Far from equivalent entities, the two are distinct to the point of having opposing interests. Teaching — at least from the “actively benign” echelon on up — is about enlightenment. Schools are about education, i.e. appeasing the state through indoctrination with a male-generated, patriarchal canon. A teacher who so strongly identifies with her profession that she cannot or will not grasp the underlying patriarchal structure of the institution to which she has devoted herself may well be offended when I say “School? It’s gotta go!”; this is completely understandable and, of course, regrettable. Still. School? It’s gotta go.

I don’t call her a bad teacher. I don’t suggest that she isn’t making a difference in kids’ lives. I’m not even saying she isn’t managing to squeeze a little actual enlightenment in through the chinks. I aver only that, because the interests of the megatheocorporatocracy — which megatheocorporatocracy is the American school system’s governing body — are not served by an enlightened citizenry, there will be no enlightened citizenry.

OK, what about this, then: could it be, because of the universal underpaid, undervalued status of the job, teachers are an oppressed class to whose oppression I contribute when I disparage the school system?

After some consideration, I conclude that, whereas individual teachers may otherwise belong to oppressed classes, teachers as a class are not oppressed. Members of their group are not singled out as objects of blind hatred, bigotry, harassment, slavery, discrimination, disenfranchisement, or violence based solely on their group membership.

It is true that while society casts the same benevolent smile upon the teacher as it casts upon other feminized professions (nuns, nurses, mothers) it doesn’t put its money where its mouth is; like nuns, nurses, and mothers, teachers are supposed to selflessly sacrifice themselves for the greater good while everyone else sits around like a lump, passively reaping the benefits. This is but one of the umptazillion reasons I advocate dismantling the school system.

Am I an anti-Semite?

Of course that’s not really the question; I’m being purposely sensationalismistic. Neither is the question, as I first thought, whether “concentration camp” is strictly a proprietary Jewish concept; through painstaking study I have determined that, like the word “genocide,” the phrase “concentration camp,” despite its automatic association with unfathomably horrific Nazi death camps, is not specific to any one historical event or series of events.

No, the real question is, do I contribute, inadvertently or vertently, to the oppression of an oppressed class when I compare schools to concentration camps (note that offending someone is not commensurate with oppression)? And, by implying an equivalence between the respective experiences of imprisonment in a death camp and compulsory patriarchal indoctrination lessons, do I even accurately convey my point?

The answer to the second question is no. That’s right, folks, it’s a full reversal! I’ve determined that the metaphor is invalid. We know that 6 million Jews died horribly in German concentration camps, and that millions of others have died horribly in other concentration camps, but there is no way to quantify the deleterious effects obtained by forcing an entire population to spend 15 years absorbing the messages of a culture of domination. Furthermore, due largely to the influence of the Holocaust on our cultural narrative, “concentration camp” almost always connotes “death camp” in modern usage. Unless a second-rate poet is making the comparison, schools cannot, either poetically or objectively, be considered a moral equivalent to death camps because the two entities are fundamentally heterogeneous. Though a sort of spiritual and intellectual death certainly ensues as the bright, vigorous youths undergo their transformation into patriarchybots, it cannot be argued that physical extermination of the inmates is the objective of schools.

But what about the oppression issue? Does my comparison dilute the meaning of “concentration camp,” thereby making me a collaborator?

Yes! Yes it does. The most popular association of the phrase (though not, obviously, the only instance of death camps themselves) is with the Holocaust. Because the fact of the Holocaust is invaluable evidence in the case against patriarchy, it behooves the author to preserve it at full strength. Lard knows the spinster aunt loves her hyperbole, but using it in a manner inconsistent with the overthrow of patriarchy contradicts the Twistifesto. So I’m guilty! J’ai coupé le fromage!

140 comments

1 ping

  1. Ramblin' Rabbit

    As a teacher in a secondary school I’d like to say you have just completely summed up my opinion of schools and the reason why I may switch careers in the very near future. When I started I had the dream of enlightenment, instead I feel like a part of the problems I wished to solve. Argh.

  2. Hedgepig

    All this cheese talk is making me hungry.

  3. sylvie

    twisty, you fucking rule. to be able to read as you go through these ideas is impressive – this is analysis at its absolutely most insightful and useful.

    don’t mean to sound too fawning. but seriously, in academia I read colleagues analysis all the time and this just makes that stuff look like amateur hour.

  4. hero

    Awesomely reasoned self-blaming. I can’t stop admiring Twisty even when she’s farting in French, I am so gob-smack fond of this auntie.

    Here in Utah during WWII, we(well, not *I* for another couple of decades, since I was but a twinkle in my mother’s ovary) good, white, PATRIOtic Americans had a Camp for scaaaaaary Asianly threatening folks–even the children–while the Germans had theirs for Jews etc. Topaz camp and its ilk were not on the same scale of horrific as the European ones, but they were camps, just for Japanese or Japanese-suspected people, and they had barbed wire and disenfranchisement and cruelty and pain and hideous gut-wracking sorrow, too.

    Schools indoctrinate. “Prison” might work as a metaphor, or “indoctrination nation”; either way, let’s blame the patriarchy.

  5. D.

    Thank you. I’m linking to this (I’ve been thinking on a parallel line most of the afternoon).

    As a metaphor, there is the clone army in Attack of the Clones.

  6. yankeetransferred

    Just thinking about the way schools are run makes me need an organic ginger snap.

    Excellent post, Twisty.

  7. lawbitch

    I used to be a teacher, too. I hated the school system. Our children deserve better.

    In the patriarchy, education = competition = dominate or be dominated. It’s a wonder that any of the kids keep a love of learning and make it to graduate school.

  8. Oaktown Girl

    the onus is on the privileged to cut it the fuck out, not on the aggrieved to toughen the fuck up

    You would think so, wouldn’t you? And we just got another face full of it again this past week with the hideous “political cartoon” depicting the dead monkey/ape (whatever) shot by cops as a metaphor for President Obama. Yes, it’s been a lovely week listening to the ruling class explain to me why I’m wrong to be offended.

  9. yttik

    That’s a good post, I enjoyed reading it.

    I don’t know an appropriate name for the horrors of some schools. There’s a whole for profit juvenile justice program that makes your skin crawl. We need to come up with a good name for these nightmares because they really are comparable to a war zone of some sort. There’s also the mediocre schools that stiffle your ability to think for yourself and slowly kill your spirit. But there are also some pretty cool things happening in education that are much more positive. There’s some alternative schools run under the public school system that offer child directed learning. There’s some partnerships between community and schools that are doing some interesting things.

    I understand the criticism of schools but I also want to mention that for some kids, schools can be lifeline that help them survive the patriarchy. And there are also schools that children actually choose to go to, when they have parents that are willing to be creative in removing the implied force behind laws like compulsory education.

  10. TP

    I’m not sure I exactly know what you just said. But I know it’s the truth.

    Indoctrination through children’s lit; I have to exchange genders in Kipling, since he’s excessively male-identified, that Kipling. Just so.

  11. Oaktown Girl

    Indoctrination through children’s lit; I have to exchange genders in Kipling, since he’s excessively male-identified, that Kipling. Just so.

    Oh hell yes. Funny you should mention it, TP, because I just did that recently with a joke I heard from a well-known male comedian. The joke had a very sexist punchline, but I immediately appreciated it as a good joke whose quality had nothing to do with the sexism that had been thrown in as additional red meat for the men in the audience. So I just change the genders around and voila – fabulous joke without the sexist punchline. And for my money, even better than the original.

  12. ChelseaWantsOut

    Right on! The way we treat children in this society is reprehensible. I’ve worked at an Environmental Education camp for the past couple of summers (because education means driving for 2 hours to a forest, where we can sit still and fill out worksheets! Oh, boy!), and it’s just ridiculous how we treat kids like they hate learning, and like they’re just longing for us to turn our backs for even a moment so they can “misbehave,” and then we’re surprised when they fulfill these expectations. I will never go back. It is my secret hope, though, one day to work at one of those democratic schools. They’re pretty sweet.

  13. ChelseaWantsOut

    Hey Oaktown Girl, what was the joke?

  14. Oaktown Girl

    Chelsea – unfortunately, the joke is a story-type of joke (i.e longer than a mere 2 or 3 lines), so I really can’t take up that much space in the comments.

  15. KMTBERRY

    JOKE !!! JOKE !!! Whenever you have time that is

  16. VibratingLiz

    Gender switching was one of the perks of homeschooling. My kids were like 25 before they figured out that Christopher Robin wasn’t really a girl.

  17. Notorious Ph.D.

    It’s a wonder that any of the kids keep a love of learning and make it to graduate school.

    The only two things I really remember from my K-12 education (once you get beyond basic literacy and numeracy) are how to cross-multiply (useful for figuring out percentages), the correspondences between Animal Farm and Soviet history, and how to put the correct endings on German nouns. I never lost my love of learning; it’s just that most of it came from my parents, and books I read on my own. Once I got to college (and later grad school), things got interesting again. But if K-12 school had been my only venue for intellectual stimulation, I would have been sunk. And I have no doubt that something similar probably happened to bright minds with less nurturing homes all around me.

    And who can blame the teachers? The ones at my working-class urban high school had to deal with 1200 students, some of whom were carrying weapons, babies, or both. Today, you can add to that moronic mandatory testing (thanks, GWB!) and “school choice” initiatives that suck money out of the school system and funnel it towards exclusionary private schools. With all that noise in the foreground, how can they be expected to hear the small sound of one mind withering away in the back row?

  18. Notorious Ph.D.

    And just wondering: What is the Twisty Faster opinion on single-sex education?

  19. Serenity

    I currently work as a teaching assistant, and I’m doing the best I can to subtly subvert the hyper-competitive and patriarchal assumptions that educational institutions are based on. Because the kids I teach deserve better than that. I figure if I can make a difference to even one child who feels that she’s not good enough because she’s not at the same ability level as others in her class – or simply that she’s not loud and aggressive enough to make her point heard – then I’ve done something right.

    Conventional schooling does *nothing* to instil a love of learning and a desire for knowledge. Kids who crave that are likely to be isolated by their peers. Both the brightest and the struggling students are ignored in favor of teaching to the ‘average’ – but what else can teachers do? It’s impossible to give 30 kids individual attention. It’s a bad system, but unless the vast majority of parents were both willing and able to homeschool (they’re not) then I don’t know what can be done about it.

    And from my own experience, school is not a healthy place for a teenage feminist in the making. Or any teenage girl, for that matter. I agree with the last post in which it was said that they are an incredibly disenfranchised group.

    The level of control schools exert is quite extraordinary. Over here in England, now, parents can be fined large amounts or even imprisoned for their children’s non-attendance. Yes, I can just imagine my teenage self, suffering severe depression, social anxiety and borderline agoraphobia, told that if I didn’t go to school my parents would suffer for it. I’m sure that would have made everything a lot better. I’m very glad I’m old enough to have escaped that.

    Ack, sorry for the long, rambling post, this is something I feel quite strongly about (as if that wasn’t obvious!)

  20. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    You have done yourself and your readers a great disservice by capitulating to the commentator who leveled that absurd and defamatory “anti-semitism” charge against you for using the term “concentration camp” in a previous post. Based on your reasoning here, it IS correct to assume that the internment and mass murder of populations based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, tribal affiliations, religious beliefs, visa status (or whatever other reasons an authoritarian state apparatus can invent to oppress, terrorize and murder “unlawful” individuals) has only ever been applied to Jewish people. Thank you for clearing that up. Now I know why ‘Blame-a-tariat’ was largely silent during Israel’s bloody attack on Gaza, even though thousands of women and children were slaughtered and continue to languish in Israel’s open air prisons. Condemning an assault on an already starved and imprisoned population by an apartheid style regime would have provoked accusations of “anti-semitism”, causing a hundred or so white middle class Liberal Arts majors to feel majorly bummed while contemplating their next purchase of sensible flat-soled shoes.

  21. orlando

    I look away for an instant and all hell breaketh loose.

  22. TwoBees

    While concentration camp usually does recall the Holocost, concentration camps exist(ed) under other regimes and in other times. They are not Jewish, although there is no question that the atrocities committed in Germany require us to always remember. Let us also remember countless others who died in less well known camps. Further, not all concentration camps were death camps. I think your use was accurate.

    As far as schools go, they can be seen as concentration camps. The promotion of the patriarchy therein amounts to forced indoctrination and the loss of a potential blamer.

    Since when do we shy away from our own roles in the perpetuation of the patriarchy and its institutions? Much of what teachers do is good, but it takes place (for the most part) within an oppressors institution . That doesn’t make them bad persons, it reflects yet another group caught in the struggle to survive in a world created not by or for them. But all that is sorta beside the point – ou indicted the schools, not the teachers.

  23. Daisy P

    Je pas pète jamais !

  24. Foilwoman

    Twisty, my big honking Interweb crush on you is even more big and honking now.

  25. Twisty

    Baroness von Fettnäpfchen: “Now I know why ‘Blame-a-tariat’ was largely silent during Israel’s bloody attack on Gaza, even though thousands of women and children were slaughtered and continue to languish in Israel’s open air prisons.”

    Sieg heil, Baroness! You caught me! I hate women and children and sleep at night with an Israel-shaped plushie.

  26. Twisty

    TwoBees: “While concentration camp usually does recall the Holocost, concentration camps exist(ed) under other regimes and in other times. They are not Jewish, although there is no question that the atrocities committed in Germany require us to always remember. Let us also remember countless others who died in less well known camps.”

    I made this point in my post.

    My research indicates that “concentration camp,” in 21st century American English usage, pretty much always connotes “death camp,” and that this is a direct result of the Holocaust’s influence on our cultural narrative. The term is only rarely used to mean “internment camp” anymore.

    I neglected to specifically highlight the following point, however, and will have to amend my post to clarify, since it’s kind of important: that using “concentration camp” as a metaphor for “school” also dilutes the enormity of the suffering of the “countless others” you eulogize.

    Who were they again?

  27. medrecgal

    Thanks for giving me some truly horrific flashbacks that only reinforced my total comprehension of the difference between a “system” and the people who work within its pathetic confines. As a product of the American educational system, I can look back upon it with a slightly jaundiced, jaded eye and say “this system is inherently patriarchal”. And you’ll get an even more heaping dose (or twenty) if you’re not only female, but you also happen to have some sort of disability. Perhaps I’ve even been inspired to writing my own blog post on this intersection, because it, too, is a particularly hideous manifestation of just exactly the kind of problem there’s so much eloquent discourse about on this blog!

    It’s not the (mostly) female teachers who are to blame for this heaping mess of insanity; it’s the (mostly) male administrators, bureaucrats, and lawmakers running the show behind the scenes. And then they have the gumption to complain in the literature that the education system in the USA overwhelmingly favors girls? Please….give me a break! What’s needed is for women to break out of this institution collectively and find some better way to build a more sound educational foundation, rather than being sucked into the hopeless whorl of mindlessness that is the current patriarchal system. But that would require a degree of power and autonomy not currently “allowed” by the perpetuators of the P…so before we can really go about overhauling the obviously deeply flawed education system, we have to quietly and systematically overthrow the underlying patriarchy so effectively they don’t even know we’re doing it. That would be the ultimate revenge of the majority.
    And it isn’t merely the education system, either, come to think of it…perhaps you’ve inspired a whole new direction for my own blog with this post! For that I thank you, but at the same time, I totally BTP!

  28. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    College isn’t necessarily much better, as I’m sure most of you already know.

    This month’s professional journal issue on the teaching of psychology contains a juvenile, offensive (and yes, oppressive) role play exercise for teaching psychodynamic personality theory in a manner, the author proudly announces, “accessible” to undergrads.

    In brief, students are expected to role-play the part of the professor’s leering id, run amok at the local mall. What undergrads is this “accessible” to? Where does this dude teach?? I can only see how this could possibly be “accessible” to 15-year-old boys, and relatively immature ones at that.

    I can’t imagine being a student in this dude’s classes–oh, wait, yes I can. I’d feel objectified, threatened, discounted and disrespected. Intellectually and professionally, I’d feel like I’d been completely erased. Just another (potential) piece of ass. I’d be mad as hell and might even walk out of class and go file a complaint.

    Nor can I imagine what the editors & publishers were thinking–oh, wait, yes I can. I bet it never even occurred to those dudes (and possibly a few co-opted females) that they were not only offending but also oppressing. And when they hear from their readers about it, they will say we are overly sensitive. How much ya wanna bet?

    But wait. Maybe it did occur to them. Maybe a woman on the editorial board tried to stop publication of this drivel, and was told to get over herself.

    IBTP.

  29. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    Yes, Twisty. As you can see, my comments were meant to highlight the fact that you “hate women and children”. And if some readers were under the false impression that I was merely pointing out the absurdity of leveling an “anti-semitism” charge against someone who used the term “concentration camp” in a blog post to describe a phenomenon that did not apply to the atrocities inflicted upon Jewish people during WWII, allow me to reiterate my earlier point (with tongue firmly in cheek): You hate women and children and I’m a nazi. Thank you for “encrapsulating” my point with such clarity. Of course, the prolonged suffering of the Palestinian people under occupation has no place in a blog that addresses the often brutal subjugation of a “sub-species” of humans by the established dominant class. Point taken and lesson learned. I wouldn’t want to waste valuable bandwidth acknowledging this kind of atrocity when there are more urgent matters to address like “Is comparing public education to concentration camps, like . . . “anti-semitic”?

    If anything, it’s this sort of idiocy that trivializes the Holocaust by the insistence of its profiteers (not to be confused with the genuine victims and survivors whose legacies are tragically exploited by the engineers and apologists of Israel’s apartheid regime) that it can only be viewed through a prism of mystification and taboo.

    Salaam and Maveltov,

    Blossom

  30. Blodwyn Pig

    I’ve just been putting the finishing touches on a new lesson plan I’ve been working on to teach reported speech in English to French students. I like making my own lesson plans but usually, I’m just too darned lazy, and use text books and whatnot. Sometimes though, the brick wall of patriarchy forces me to Step Away From The Set Materials and be a little more creative.

    Until recently lucky students have experienced my ‘Bushisms, reported speech and error correction’ exercise (Bush asked if our children was learning. He meant to ask if our children were learning’ etc…) but now that he is no longer Supreme Dudely One I thought I should change it. So I hotstep it over to the textbooks and to my prefered Whatnot websites, and lo! Activities abound… but only if you believe that the menz are the sole purveyors of The Word and that no one in possession of a vagina has ever said anything worth quoting (the one exception was James Joyce’s wife… talking, of course, about her husband’s genius. Bleurgh).

    Anyway, from today anyone interested in learning the Art of Quotation from me will be doing so with many a pearl of wisdom drawn from the Rad Fem canon. And if they don’t like it, screw them.

    The lesson plan has not yet gone to print, so if anyone wants to suggest some bite-sized pieces of oratory IBTP perfection that I might have missed, feel free to share. If I have time, I’m going to try to follow this up with a how-to on reading English newspapers drawing heavily on Twisty’s Daily Mail post from t’other day.

    This has been rather OT, I know, but I spend a lot of time correcting the world through EFL materials (Bruce the boss and Emily the Employee? Not in MY lesson, no way no how) and while it may only be a small thing, it helps keep me sane.

    And when a female student is asked what good advice her parents had given her as a child, and in her doe-eyed innocence replies that her mother told her to always graciously accept attention from men whether she wants it of not, I really do need something to keep hold of that last shred of sanity.

  31. Twisty

    Do you know, Blossom, how tired I get of your sort of “j’accuse” comment? I allude to the comment that suggests I am wasting my “energy”/bandwith/readers’ valuable time by writing what I have written when there are so many other more important matters to write about. The implication that I and/or the other commenters somehow condone some instance of violence just because I haven’t addressed it on this blog confounds me.

    If you’re absolutely foaming at the mouth to read my pronouncements on the atrocities at Gaza, why don’t you just shoot me an email like everyone else does?

    If, on the other other hand, you just want to argue that this blog is, like, a frivolous waste of space, there are plenty of blogs with posts on what an idiot I am that would welcome your remarks.

  32. Tanya Derbowka

    Everything Twisty said about school was absolutely true. It was painful to realize that the career I had studied to perform with the best of intentions was not benefiting anybody. So many times I want to take the Math, Science and English workbooks that we use and toss them in the trash. I am tired of the curriculum.

    I envy you, Blodwyn Pig. As an educational assistant I have no say in lesson plans or course content but am rather in a supportive role. I don’t get any say in what kids are taught. My job is really depressing at times. I go between wanting to quit and wanting to rant at every administrator that is willing to listen to me. I am convinced that they hate me because of my constant complaints.

    Marking and grading need to go in the bin but it’s an idea that the educational system is in love with. Teachers can’t imagine what they would do with young teenaged minds if they did not dangle numbers at them. Many kids do not care about getting marks and in the end don’t learn anything but their transcript shows that they got a number higher than 50 and therefore learned the course content. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very effectively with the end result that a teacher fails to reach a kid, then submits the failing mark to SaskLearning. They think that’s teaching.

    Education is highly depressing and I have no idea what to do about it.

  33. nobodyinparticular

    “Prison camp” would do the trick.

    When do women ever get to use hyperbole without being forced back into technical correctitude?

    I thought Twisty’s meaning was perfectly clear, and I am NOT a Holocaust denier.

  34. yttik

    I encounter this problem quite a bit and it makes me crazy. I want to discuss some aspect of the patriarchy and a dozen people will descend upon me to inform me that I should also be addressing Palestine, global warming, animal rights, racism, religious tolerance, the list is endless and exhausting… I get cranky about this political correct list of chores I’m supposed to deal with. I don’t have the energy to save the entire world and besides, I strongly believe if we focus on bringing women’s status up in the world, all the rest will fall into place. And women are not an “issue” on a list of social concerns, we’re half the human race.

    I blame the patriarchy, especially the left end of the patriarchy in this case, for trying to wear me out and divert my attention from what I deem important.

  35. mir

    Most excellent post, Captain Faster. To discover that your mighty intellect is fluid, open to course correction, in addition to being hilarious and razor sharp is a true joy. Not that it had ever occurred to me but I’ve never seen it in action like that before.

    And @ The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen: your points (minus the ‘white middle class Liberal Arts majors sensible flat-soled shoes’ nonsense) would make an interesting topic for a post. On a blog. That belongs to you. Which you could offer for the Blametariat’s perusal. I’d totally give it a read.

  36. Alderson Warm-Fork

    “I don’t know an appropriate name for the horrors of some schools.”

    For what it’s worth, I think some anti-prison activists use the term ‘caging’ as a good way to express the emotional effect of containing someone in a room against their will for long periods.

    On concentration camps, though, actual ones (as opposed to death or extermination camps) it might be suggested that schools are a somewhat appropriate analogy, because of the shared oppressive symbols deployed. What I mean is: concentration camps have a long history of being used in ‘counter-insurgency’, i.e. wars that aim to ‘pacify’ the local population, which usually have a racial element – for example, the million or so Kenyans hered into concentration camps by the British in the 1950s. The European subjugation (not extermination) of other races, especially African ones, has historically been associated with a mythology of childhood: the African is child-like, an empty-headed savage who must be ‘educated’ by the colonial authorities.

    The death camps of the Third Reich had a different sort of logic to them – they constructed their victims (Jews, but also Roma, homosexuals, lefties, and the disabled) as an uncleanliness, an infestation. Perhaps the closest symbolic analogue is the active ‘genocide’ of animal species whose homes have been claimed for human use and who are designated ‘pests’. But schools don’t really have much connection, as you note in the post.

  37. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    Hey, Blossom–what yttik said.

  38. PhysioProf

    Here’s what the OED has to say about “concentration camp”:

    7. attrib.: concentration camp, a camp where non-combatants of a district are accommodated, such as those instituted by Lord Kitchener during the South African War of 1899-1902; one for the internment of political prisoners, foreign nationals, etc., esp. as organized by the Nazi regime in Germany before and during the war of 1939-45.

    1901 J. ELLIS in Hansard’s Parl. Deb. Ser. IV. XC. 180 The policy of placing the women and children confined in the concentration camps in South Africa, whose husbands and fathers are in the field, on reduced rations.

    1901 Contemp. Rev. Oct. 528 Considerable controversy has taken place concerning the Concentration Camps.

    1930 O. WILLIAMS tr. P. Monelli’s Toes Up III. 210 Those who returned from being prisoners were parked in a concentration camp under the guard of other soldiers.

    1934 Ann. Reg. 1933 173 Germany..For dealing with the masses of prisoners special concentration camps were opened.

    1934 C. LAMBERT Music Ho! i. 52 The purely fashionable change in the tastes of the concentration camp of intellectuals to whom Diaghileff played up.

    1935 B. RUSSELL Relig. & Sci. x. 248 In Germany and Russia,..those who openly disagree, even if they escape with their lives, are liable to forced labour in a concentration camp.

    1940 H. G. WELLS Babes in Darkling Wood III. i. 234 The White Paper of Nazi atrocities in the concentration camps and elsewhere.

    1941 [see ARYANIZATION b]. 1943 [see ARYAN a. 2].

    1959 J. BRAINE Vodi v. 76 He caught sight of his own arms, reduced almost to concentration-camp dimensions, the veins blue and obscenely swollen against the white skin.

    My interpretation is that the Nazis used “concentration camp” in their own internal government communications (as in the 1934 usage cited above) as a euphemism to hide the true purpose of the camps.

  39. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    Dear Twisty,

    If you could rise above your injured feelings at being called out on your apparent hypocrisy, you might have noticed my criticism was less aimed at you than the person who accused you of “anti-semitism” for using the term “concentration camp” in a seemingly “insensitive” manner. It is disappointing, to say the least, that you capitulated so readily to this absurd and deeply insulting allegation rather than respond with the same invective you normally (and deservedly) level at the dudes who come here whining about “misandry” or the random BDSM adherent accusing you of crimes against sex for “hating on” blowjobs or whatever.

    Sorry (well, not really) for highlighting what seems like a glaring deficiency of priorities. Your comments here seem to suggest that I have trespassed upon a rich girl’s hobby farm. I suppose I should apologize for raising a serious question about an ongoing atrocity against an imprisoned civilian population by a sadistic, racist regime, and for questioning your judgment in remaining silent on the subject while going to great lengths to appease one of its apologists.

    Respectfully,

    Blossom

  40. gare

    As usual nobody says what POST PATRI schools would BE, please don tell me home schooling because my mama was a turbul speller, unlike moi! In the post patri perhaps, there would be village gathering points more like the olden schoolhouse daze (I know, too many Lil House on the Praerie(rhymes with faerie) episodes, multi groups of all ages. Few adults alive today remember ANYTHING taught in school, long addition was all the math I need. I think I could lighten up about concentration camps as a concept though, since I DID watch Hogans Heroes. It happened. It is what it is. We need to remember it, but we also need to move on yanno? thanks gare

  41. Anna Belle

    Goodness, where to begin? With Twisty’s astounding vocabulary, which I envy with a passion? Or the fearless self-awareness and reflection? I’m in love, I’m in love with your mind, Twisty!

    That said, I would argue two points:

    Schools do not have to go. Schools have to be infiltrated and reformed by the very class the system seeks to oppress with them, both as teachers and pupils. Never underestimate the power of subversion and stealth action.

    While I agree with much of what you said about the concentration camp analogy, a careful explication of Sylvia Plath’s Daddy (YOU brought up poetry!) will, I believe, broaden your understanding of the application of Nazi principles as a metaphor for patriarchy. It wasn’t the camps per say, it was the whole damned system. So your intuition was correct, I think, but word choice, as you said, got in the way.

    Just this subversive English teacher’s two cents!

  42. Pinko Punko

    The whole “j’accuse” genre I see as rhetorical leverage generating device. However the flipside is, for example when some total cobag is insensitively braying about something and someone wants to call them on it (someone being offhandedly bigoted or -ist tangential to some larger point). The argument always goes towards the “my major point is X, but you scolds want to talk about Y.” And then the flames ensue.

    I don’t write this to criticize anyone, because half the time I agree with one side and half the time I agree with the other- therefore I sometimes am a considerate considerer of marginalized viewpoints while the other half of the time I am a trivializer of trivial viewpoints. I can never win.

    The world must turn, and flames must devour the internet. Everything has happened before and will happen again in another thread.

    Many people will be distant enough from a particular expression to choose to understand its meaning (and possible multiple meanings) in a particular context. Others will be so close to a particular expression that they cannot choose how to react because their reaction will be visceral. A small minority of others will cloak their desire for rhetorical supremacy in the moral high ground of the righteously offended, or at least cultivate a persona of appearing as such. Finally, still others with defray inexpertly delivered, possibly legitimate criticism with defensive posturing.

    I allude to only generics because this stuff seems like it happens every single day with, in my view the police actioning of possibly hurting-feeling-speech in the ascendancy, but for petty and not righteous reasons. But do the reasons matter? This is a conundrum for me.

  43. Nolabelfits

    Having girl children of formerly school age, I can say I agree with Twisty that schools have to go. I refer to them as institutions, just like mental institution or prisons. Wherehousing also comes to mind. Schools, even in 2009, are places where girls learn to be inferior, along with all the other mind control crap, and the breaking up of one’s day into 50 minute study periods, which bacically says nothing is worth focusing on for more than an hour. As an example of teaching inferiority, my daughter was told in first grade that “only boys were allowed to climb over the fence to retrieve a ball,” so that if the girls were playing ball and the ball went over, they had to ask a boy to go and get it. And this crap was not that long ago. I could go on for days. I have been so disgusted with school that I let my daughter blow off high school in favor of becoming an autodidact. Funny how despite not having formal indoctrination in over three years, she’s not at all “behind.”

  44. Notorious Ph.D.

    Baroness, may I direct you to the FAQ? The purpose of this blog is Patriarchy-blaming. That can certainly encompass other related acts of discrimination (see “The Twisty Weltanschauung”), but patriarchy-blaming is the primary purpose of this forum. Blamers certainly have other interests and other political causes that they champion, but we come here primarily to BTP (and stay for the arthopods!). If you think that this represents “a glaring deficiency in [our] priorities,” then you’re at the wrong blog.

  45. Kauri

    @Baroness Blossom

    At the risk of feeding a troll (not sure, because I am horrified by what is going on in Palestine just now myself- it’s on the news in the UK a fair bit and friends of mine are very close to the movement to protect Palestinians), this long-time lurker wants to know how you know Hollywood Marie is an apologist for the current Israeli government? Do you know her from another forum? Because I can’t find any evidence of this in her comments.

    Or is it your opinion that any attempt to call someone on anti-Semitism is the same thing as being an apologist for Israel?

    If so, that would be a logical fallacy.

    Sorry fellow blamers, I see this kind of thing all the time on British blogs; it does a great disservice to the pro-Palestinian movement, which is made up of non-Jews and Jews alike. And it’s got nothing to do with how Hollywood Marie actually feels about the current situation in Israel and Palestine; it’s the fact that it looks to me like a huge conflation of two different things is being made here, in a very unhelpful way.

  46. Courtney

    “Over here in England, now, parents can be fined large amounts or even imprisoned for their children’s non-attendance.”

    Heh, not just in England. West Virginia has the same law.

    §18-8-2. Offenses; penalties; cost of prosecution.

    Any person who, after receiving due notice, shall fail to cause a child or children under eighteen years of age in that person’s legal or actual charge to attend school in violation of the provisions of this article or without just cause, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, upon conviction of a first offense, be fined not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars together with the costs of prosecution, or required to accompany the child to school and remain through the school day for so long as the magistrate or judge may determine is appropriate. The magistrate or judge, upon conviction and pronouncing sentence, may delay the sentence for a period of sixty school days provided the child is in attendance everyday during said sixty-day period. Following the sixty-day period, if said child was present at school for every school day, the delayed sentence may be suspended and not enacted. Upon conviction of a second offense, a fine may be imposed of not less than fifty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars together with the costs of prosecution and the person may be required to accompany the child to school and remain throughout the school day until such time as the magistrate or judge may determine is appropriate or confined in jail not less than five nor more than twenty days. Every day a child is out of school contrary to the provisions of this article shall constitute a separate offense. Magistrates shall have concurrent jurisdiction with circuit courts for the trial of offenses arising under this section.

  47. slythwolf

    Yeah, well, this is all very interesting, but it’s been a long damn time since we saw any pics of Stanley and I, for one, am fed up.

  48. Spirella Bones

    Baroness has a point, even if her tone is confrontational.

    When people accuse Twisty of insensitive terminology for tragic events in history, and it inspires so much discussion, some of us wonder why tragic events today don’t inspire even the bat of an eyelash.

    Especially when one considers the modern dynamics between those events and accusations. It illustrates which party is more privileged. Considering the real consequences of such discursive privilege, one might see how the omission glares.

    Yes, this is a patriarchy-blamin’ blog, and of course people pick their battles, and hell, Gaza may even seem off-topic for the purposes of this entry.

    But it’s just that when this discussion is entertained, Gaza becomes the elephant in the room.

    Especially when people are runnin’ around here pointin’ fingers about insensitivity already.

    Twisty and Baroness both have valid points.

  49. auntieintellectual

    School’s gotta go, eh? I’d like to hear exactly what the little darlin’s will be doing instead with their time. And don’t suggest avocations like factory labor or chimney sweeping, those are old hat!

    I wonder how many of those who complain about the quality of their own education would have preferred this alternative; a homeschool education delivered solely by their own mother! I know my own kid won’t have any truck with that sort of thing. I did sit her down to watch the video that you posted a few weeks back of the Indian woman who leads the “Pink Gang;” if even half of my daughter’s classmates had the drive and desire to learn that that women has, her school would be a very different place.

    Until an alternative does present itself, if school really is so bad that you’re willing (at first) to describe it as a concentration camp, then why don’t you put down that fattie, scoot on over to your local middle school, and share some of your talents (I assume you have some?) with the local populace? Or do as Slythwolf suggests and just treat us to some more pictures of Stanley.

  50. rootlesscosmo

    An admirable post, and not only for using the word “chucklingly” which is fun to say and has many applications in everyday life. (“They responded chucklingly when Oaktown Girl at last vouchsafed to tell that joke.” See?) Self-review, self-examination, re-thinking: high achievements, too rare, and always applause-worthy. Thanks again, Twisty.

  51. Nolabelfits

    homeschoolers don’t experience “an education delivered soley by their own mothers.” You obviously are uninformed about learning outside of the classroom setting. But this is not a homeschooling blog so I shall not go into it here.

  52. felicity

    Gare-illa still posts. Yay! *sigh*

    Blossom, why the hell rage for rage’s sake? Twisty is only a single voice and not the government; one of the only ones telling the truth LIKE IT IS :P

  53. Spiders

    I often hear arseholes on the radio, whining about the “growing contingency of lesbians” in our state school system.
    That’s gotta be a positive.

  54. jael

    auntieintellectual – try the summerhill school as a model. a most viable alternative to home schooling, in the above tradition.

  55. Nolabelfits

    Also gotta add……the alternative already exists within many good homeschooling COMMUNITIES. Homeschoolers generally form communities and take education out into the community, as well as drawing on the individual strengths of the members of the community. Children even learn certain things from other children. Plenty going on in all subject areas, and in most cases within a more integrated framewwork. People even have full time jobs and manage to provide for a great education for the kiddos utilizing the homeschooling/unschooling community.

  56. Hedgepig

    Twisty, does your Israel-shaped plushie include the Occupied Territories??

  57. Popes (formerly Laurel)

    Look, schools are a mess. I have taught in them. I’ve taught in the well-funded and the underfunded (though mostly in the underfunded). I’ve taught self-contained and I’ve taught departmentalized. I’ve taught bilingual, monolingual, abused, abusive, terrified, courageous, fragile, resilient, wonderful children. I have also learned from them. A classroom is always an exchange.

    I do understand and agree that schools are a mess. However, they aren’t unilaterally concentration camps for a lot of reasons, one of the central ones being that in a heck of a lot of schools, particularly in the under-resourced ones, no one really gives a flying flip what goes on when you close your door. As an educator in a self-contained classroom, I didn’t have to regiment learning into separate, subject-specific bubbles. Yes, I had standards I was legally required to teach, but my goal as a teacher was to create flexibility and creativity within structure. Barring state or district standardized tests, there were a lot of ways for kids to demonstrate understanding of a concept. Yes, I had textbooks, but I wasn’t bound to them. I could supplement, branch out, and teach my kids to analyze these texts.

    The most troubling thing to me about bagging on K-12 schools without qualification is that BECAUSE they are portals through which the vast majority of our citizens will pass, they are an ideal place to teach an entire generation to question, to reconsider, to re-envision what liberty and autonomy and full personhood for all might really look like.

    If all the schools (including community colleges and universities) were flooded with an influx of radical feminist educators for, say, 20 years, what would the world look like in 30? Would schools as we know them still exist at that time? Honestly, they’d probably be on their way out,largely due to the skills the new young generation coming of age had learned under a radical re-envisioning of the world.

    The pity is that, right now, not enough radfems exist to make this happen. The last thing we need to be doing is discouraging feminist women to go into the schools by stating or implying that to do so makes them part of the problem, not the solution. I came to feminism through feminist teachers, and it has been the single greatest gift of my life.

  58. lawbitch

    I second slythwolf’s request for pictures of Stanley. And Zippy, too. He must be enjoying life in El Rancho, bless his furry soul.

  59. jael

    Thirding; also Bert. Please.

  60. Spirella Bones

    yttik said:

    “I want to discuss some aspect of the patriarchy and a dozen people will descend upon me to inform me that I should also be addressing Palestine, global warming, animal rights, racism, religious tolerance, the list is endless and exhausting… I get cranky about this political correct list of chores I’m supposed to deal with …

    I blame the patriarchy, especially the left end of the patriarchy in this case, for trying to wear me out and divert my attention from what I deem important.”

    I hear you yttik, since we can’t prioritize everything at once and too often dudes want to tell us that there are more important issues than feminism.

    But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. Blossom has a relevant point. Criticism of the brutal Israeli occupation is wildly marginalized in the master narrative, and cries of antisemitism (among many other things) feed that dynamic. So for those of us who notice that kind of thing, the attention that the use of the word “concentration camp” gets in this space really perks the eyebrow. Particularly in light of recent events.

    Her position (which I share) merits consideration. Just as accusing Twisty is unnecessary, it’s unnecessary to cramp another valid perspective. Could my dissent get a little legroom, please?

  61. rootlesscosmo

    @Popes: thanks for this comment. I’m wondering if you’ve taught since No Child Left Behind was imposed. Some teachers I know report that it’s gone a long way toward eliminating the kind of humane exchange you describe, by narrowing the limits of what can happen in the classroom and setting outrageous standards for how the results are measured; others acknowledge it’s a burden but maintain they can still find ways to work around NCLB and do some real teaching. Any thoughts on this?

  62. Kate Dino

    I don’t like it when people speak ill of cheese.

  63. yttik

    “I don’t like it when people speak ill of cheese.”

    I completely agree. I consider partaking in cheese to be a deeply religious experience.

  64. Courtney

    “Yes, I had textbooks, but I wasn’t bound to them. I could supplement, branch out, and teach my kids to analyze these texts.”

    Lucky you. Here, teacher’s jobs depend on whether or not they stick to the teacher’s editions of the text, complete with classroom conversation prompts. You have to sign an affidavit once a week that you taught pages ### through ### using the approved format, and covered concepts X, Y, and Z in those pages, using the approved format. If you don’t, you fail your yearly teacher’s evaluation, and if you do that, you can be fired.

    It’s like being a robot. In the Language Arts classes, which are 2 hours a day, five days a week, it centers around a politically correct story especially created for the curriculum. On Mondays you introduce the topic and the keywords. Then you read the story to the class. Their homework is to write out the definitions to the vocabulary words. Then they read it out loud, the next day, and. The next day they listen to it on CD. Fridays are exams. All exams are fill-in-blank, written in English. No exceptions are made for children with disabilities – no reading the test out loud, no larger sized font, etc. Every week is the same thing, day in and day out. No exceptions.

    Tell that doesn’t crush your spirit. It’s teacher-proofing education.

  65. Tupe

    Blossom -

    It is possible to preserve the meaning of words used mostly to describe the Nazi Holocaust AND not hate the Palestinian people at the same time.

    In fact, Twisty just did it. She acknowledged that the term “concentration camp” refers mainly to the Nazi Holocaust (a cultural usage that is beyond her control) and acknowledges that the Nazi Holocaust was a horrible perpetuation of many oppressions including Patriarchy. Therefore, as she said, she doesn’t want to fuck with the ways people talk about it by pretending it was “only as bad” as being forced to sit through 10th grade chemistry. Or whatever.

    Hating the Nazi Holocaust and respecting people who want the horribleness of the Nazi Holocaust to be respected does not equal Zionism. Like, in any way. Neither are you obviously a Zionist if you talk about Jewish history without taking every opportunity to denounce the state of Israel.

  66. Tupe

    Also @ Blossom -

    Are you really telling Jews everywhere not to get so uppity and/or offended over misappropriations of the term “concentration camp” because Holy Shit, Don’t they know that Jewish people have also committed atrocities? Yes, I think they do. And that isn’t the effing point.

  67. Popes (formerly Laurel)

    @ Courtney and rootlesscosmo:

    Things are definitely different since NCLB. (NCLB is, in many ways, evil.) I taught from 2000-2004, so I saw it introduced. I went back in 2005 and finally left (for good, methinks) in 2008. During the second stint, I definitely felt more and more squeezed. Since I was in a school that was clinging desperately to a performing label (one of only 2 schools in the district managing that), the pressure to perform was intense. (I gather from Courtney’s comments that it’s not limited to schools like mine.) We wrote our objectives on the board for every lesson, and all students had to recite them in unison at the beginning of class (something I only did when being observed, though I always drew the kids’ attention to them at the beginning of class to explain the purpose). However, I can’t speak to specifically how much things changed as my assignment was, at that time, a literature class which had been added to the jr high (which already had a “reading” class) as a requirement for no other reason than to be able to manage scheduling and hopefully improve some less-than-satisfactory literacy rates in the process. The reading teacher used the reading textbook, and I ran cooperative literature circles in my room, where students chose books they were excited about and discussed them together while we as a class found unifying themes and lessons to carry.

    The reasons I left are legion. Mostly, it was that the job had become more about paperwork than kids, and I watched my personal health tank from the stress, lack of time and support, and the fact that the district did not value me as a professional. I still had the liberty to transform the curriculum to a great extent, but I had lost the time and energy to do it. The crux of it all was that I realized that I was not one of the few who can dedicate their whole selves to meaningful work and feel fulfilled by that alone. I had too many competing interests: family, writing, solitude in the natural world, my health, sleep…all of which were being sorely neglected. I don’t regret leaving, but I do regret that I was not able to be one of those to dedicate my whole life to it in spite of the administrative BS.

    I think NCLB can and should go by the wayside. I also think there are other schools that don’t treat teachers as automatons, both public and private. I also think than anyone reading this blog who wants to teach and who believes they can stand up under all the difficult and ugly parts of the job should, by all means, get into a classroom…or become an administrator. Now fancy that: a radfem administrator with a largely radfem staff. I think I’ll end on that note, because it makes me very, very happy.

  68. Susan

    I came to feminism through feminist teachers, and it has been the single greatest gift of my life.

    Me, too. I certainly wouldn’t have heard about feminism from the MSM in the 60′s, that’s for sure. I loved school, but learned early on that a positive experience was all dependent on the teacher. Fortunately, I had some great ones.

    I do love this post, though, Twisty, and the little window into how you organize your thoughts.

  69. Veganrampage

    @Gare-OTTE

    You must kneads not always to sine your name every single goddamn time. yanno? Becuz your’re (I did that on purpose folks) name, such as it is, a-u-t-o-matikally appears presto chango magico, like wow dewd.

    And enbiggening the discourse as per the FAQs- Ur doin it rong.

  70. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    Tupe,

    My comments were not directed towards Jewish people as you well know, but rather at the individuals (Jewish and non-Jewish alike) who seek to appropriate language for dubious political purposes, most often having to do with shaming critics of Israeli policy (again, Jewish and non-Jewish alike) into silent complicity with Israel’s war crimes. As I stated earlier, this insistence that Holocaust discourse should be a process of adhering to a mystical belief in the uniqueness of Jewish suffering actually trivializes this atrocity more than it raises the necessary awareness to ensure something like this never happens again. For a better analysis of this phenomenon, I suggest you read Norman Finkelstein’s ‘Beyond Chutzpah’.

    Perhaps if the assault on the civilian population of Gaza hadn’t been so fresh in my mind, I might not have entered into this discussion at all, leaving the linguistic hairsplitting to the mostly capable hands of the Blame-a-tariat. However, I don’t feel my comments are out of place here, considering that this particular blog tackles subject matter dealing with the ongoing subjugation of despised “others” by a brutal state apparatus that uses violence and force to maintain its supremacy. And what better example of this enduring phenomenon than Israel’s ongoing and escalating violence against the civilian population of Gaza?

    I have clearly ruffled a few “lady” feathers in the process of taking a slightly dissenting view of Twisty’s rather unfortunate capitulation to a mindless reader’s criticisms of her utterly harmless usage of the term “concentration camp”.

    Seemingly, I have violated the protocols of the petting zoo (or is it, as Notorious PhD pointed out, the TOS?) by dragging the Israeli/Palestinian conflict into the discussion to highlight the invalidity of a now thoroughly discredited rhetorical trope. It is neither an overstatement or a false generalization to point out that this particular abuse of the term “anti-semitism” is most often applied to augment Israel’s justifications for its ongoing aggression against its Arab population – a point some here deem less significant than an alleged breech of netiquette on my part. It is ludicrous to assert that “anti-semitism” played any role whatsoever in someone’s use of the term “concentration camp”. If Twisty had made an off the cuff remark about “gas chambers” or something very specific to the mass murder of Jewish people during WWII, I would have taken your point. As it is, I can only interpret this faux outrage over some humorously intended hyperbole as further evidence that genuine dialogue can always be derailed by racist snobs motivated by a dubious political agenda.

  71. tinagrrl

    For years I wondered what happened to all those eager, curious, happy kids. I did know they grew up to be stolid, thoughtless, unhappy, people.

    I’ve said for years that child abuse is institutionalized in the good old USA.

    I think schools have gotten worse since the 60′s. Our leaders really do not want to teach folks how to think — it leads to civil disobedience, calls for Civil Rights, an end to inequality, and thoughts of self determination by (shudder) Women.

    Can’t have that now, can we?

  72. Lara

    So last night my sister was telling me about some kids (specifically young girls aged 9 to 12 who are in abusive families) she works with at a counseling center for domestic violence victims. These young girls told her about what they have to go through every day at school. These girls literally all have to show who’s top bitch, and beat the crap out of anyone who barely stands up to them, lest they’d be beaten up and ostracized themselves by other girls (and guys). So there’s this awful cycle of violence that exists among, and inflicted against, girls in average American public schools. Every single day these girls have to deal with either being beaten up, bullied, or do those things to another girl, or they experience both. That is a fucking prison, people. Our school system is a mental and physical system of incarceration for kids in the U.S. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and not trained or educated enough, frankly. There is no emphasis at all on getting children to use any critical thinking skills, to read, to enjoy learning. There’s practically no mental or sensory stimulation at all in most schools. These schools are PRISONS. I have had almost three years of experience as an assistant teacher at an after-school program working with kids ages 5 to 15. Trust me, I know.
    So, for you, Twisty, to compare our school system to a set of “concentration camps” is NOT wrong or too exaggerated at all. I think whoever called you out and made the claim that you were trivializing the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust in Europe was blowing things out of proportion and thinking of the history of only one religious/ethnic group of people. They ride on the assumption that “concentration camp” must automatically mean “concentration camps of western Europe during the early/mid-20th century that targeted Jews.” Which, as others have already pointed out, is a false assumption because the Japanese, among many others, have been subjected to concentration camps right here in AmeriKKKa. Besides, the concentration camps of mid-20th century Europe also included tons of people who were too old to work, too young to work, the sick, those with simply dark hair and eyes, and, last but not least, lots of gay men and lesbians.
    I am sick and tired of people claiming “Antisemitism” in regards to practically anything that’s not prefaced with “I love Jews and Israel!” There is so much stigma in the U.S. about saying anything, anything, that could be misconstrued as “Antisemitic.” I am Egyptian, and I have literally had people call me “Antisemitic” simply because I showed that I was proud of being Egyptian, irrespective of any other ethnic or religious groups of people. I have no clue of how they could come up with that claim about me, but they did. It’s fucking ridiculous and it drives my sandnigger (i.e. Semitic) ass up the wall.
    You don’t need to apologize because someone really misunderstood your writing (because they only think of themselves or the history of a specific people and ignore everybody else).

  73. Lara

    Tupe said:

    “Also @ Blossom -

    Are you really telling Jews everywhere not to get so uppity and/or offended over misappropriations of the term “concentration camp” because Holy Shit, Don’t they know that Jewish people have also committed atrocities? Yes, I think they do. And that isn’t the effing point.”

    No, most of them don’t. And Blossom, albeit I think in a pretentious and condescending way which wasn’t necessary, was simply trying to point out that we shouldn’t be pandering to the overly-used and abused “antisemitic” claim stamped on everything nowadays. Plus, the concern over the possible “trivialization” of Jews’ suffering during the Holocaust by Twisty’s initially comparing schools to “concentration camps” is great in comparison to the atrocities committed against Palestinians in Gaza right now, which is a sad and awful irony. Palestine IS a feminist issue! There’s no separation between “feminist issue” and “Middle East issue.” It’s all connected!

  74. Daisy P

    Hark! This is not Twisty Faster’s blog – it is the blog of Twisty Almighty, the omnipresent, omnipotent divine corrector of all things unjust, who has limitless reserves of energy and time, to address every injustice that has ever happened from the Big Bang to now, forever and ever amen.

    The FAQ’s explain. Please stay on the same page, and stop the nitpicks. How hard can it be to do this?

    Posted a similar to this way above, but got eaten or something.

  75. Vinaigrette Girl

    Palestine may be a feminist issue, but it isn’t a simple bipolar “Palestinian Arabs v Zionist Israeli” issue: patriarchy blaming works right across those boundaries. Hamas gives no more of a shit for the lives of women and children than the Zionists. They’re all patriarchal rape-lovers.

    Twisty isn’t responsible for the way in which “concentration camp” acts as a multi-cultural referent to imply all kinds of things to all sorts of people. However, we all agree that whether it’s British v Afrikaans, or Germans v Everybody Else, or Nazis v Jews, or white supremacists v black chain-gangs, it’s always a term referring to a condition where the patriarchy violates the most basic human rights of the prisoners.

    And that’s the patriarchy for you.

  76. MariaS

    I’m as frustrated as anyone by the way that legitimate criticism of the actions of the state of Israel gets called anti-semitism, but that’s all irrelevant here. The point completely missed by Blossom is that Twisty wasn’t accused of antisemitism.

    Twisty was called out on using the term “concentration camp” in a way that minimised its historical reality. While the school system is structurally oppressive and authoritarian, indoctrinates kids with a certain (capitalist, patriarchal) view of the world and sets limits on their thinking, they all get to go home at the end of the day. They are not utterly deprived of liberty, they are not slave labour, they were not forced out of their homes, they are not experimented on, they are not gassed or shot or starved. unlike people who were forced into internment camps and death camps that in various times and places have been used by oppressive regimes.

    The school system and concentration camps are both tools of oppression, but of a vastly different order, and as Twisty concluded, comparing one to the other serves the victims of neither well; there are other ways to more accurately and effectively criticise education systems.

    (It’s similar to people (mostly men of course) misusing the word “rape” to describe anything inconvenient or unpleasant that has happened to them. Whatever injustice or difficulty they are venting about, it really wasn’t at all like being raped unless they are actually talking about experiencing the ongoing atrocity of rape. A rape survivor is unlikely to use the word casually, and I doubt that a concentration camp survivor or those close to them or who feel affinity with them by belonging to the class of people targeted for that particular oppression would use the words “concentration camp” to describe anything other than a situation close to the conditions of the death camps.)

  77. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Stuff always sounds better in French, doesn’t it?

    My first grade teacher was a monster who terrorized her pupils, and I don’t apologize for using the word. Crappin’ you negative, some of us peed our pants in fear at her approach. I blame her for the hatred I bore for institutionalized education the rest of my life. So your remark about imprisoning kids resonated with me.

  78. Delilah

    What Tupe said. For what it’s worth, I took offense at the casual use of “concentration camp,” and I work periodically from Egypt to get supplies into Gaza. Christ on a cracker, I really don’t get why it’s so hard for people not to be idiots.

    Ah, well, one reason is our educational system. We can criticize the male overlords of our educational system to our hearts’ content, but here’s the rub: it’s not just a few bad apples contributing to our shitty system of schooling. It’s the system itself. Kicking out the Godbags and replacing them with Radfems isn’t going to do anything, because the system itself is what’s ill. There are traditional systems of knowledge development and transfer in many societies that do not at all look like our institutionalized learning, so our system is not inevitable.

    That love of learning and understanding the world, all children have it. They may not have it in what our society describes as “normal” (bullshit) ways, but they have it. Children have differing and beautiful ways of learning about their environment and interacting with it. And telling children, from the age of 5, that they have to be interested in x, y, or z from this specific time until this specific time, 5 days a week, for however many years, in this particular way, is soul crushing. It is this early regimentation of behavior that produces good little cogs in corporate machines. Mommy and Daddy go off to their cubicles, little Billy and Jane go off to school.

    Colonial powers knew this. As Alderson WF noted, colonial powers often set up schools specifically for the purpose of controlling and pacifying populations. Our schools are no different. Learning is a secondary concern to instilling a proper fear of authority and a respect for hierarchy. This is why the Godbags want their private Godbag schools – they want to channel that mystification and subservience into their sky fairy, instead of the state. If children make it through 12 years of school and are still curious about the world around them, consider it a miracle.

    I have the utmost respect for the teachers who strive to reach young people within the confines of this system, in the meantime – you all are truly selfless. I taught for about two years before I went batty. IBT Patriarchy, not you.

  79. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Twisty used HYPERBOLE? Oh NOES!911!!! I too think her capitulation was unnecessary as the use of hyperbole is NOT an impeachable offense (the Holocaust is NOT a sacred cow) but at least she used this minor tiff to create another brilliant post, which I got to read. Me for the win!

  80. gare

    Jesus in a Jumpsuit! (big J wouldnt split his pants like big E) .. stuff gets more outrageable as it ages – look at the headlines the day WWII Europe ended.. the HOLO was on page 4.. Sgt Schultz was hilarious. Nowadays, no way. There’s no kid in history who hasn’t HATED school .. it IS bondage.. apologies to Mrs Sherfy in 4th, who drank sour milk (google her, theres a tribute!) Orange juice gets concentrated .. so do kids. Teachers pay should be tripled immediately, who cares if we can’t buy Chevys anymore, bail out the teachers. I say they ARE an oppressed class – attend a PTO meeting (PTA where g comes from, who changed it) .. there are parents oppressing teachers everywhere! To Sir With Love .. LuLu knew it, download it! Who hasn’t loved their teachers, yet happily left school and made 5 times what they make? Its the P’s fault .. g’s an old hippie, it was the E in my day (not elvis, the establishment).
    I wouldn’t take my toddler to a daycare that wasn’t 50% anything other than women . kids need that Post P hodgepodge of 49 teachers. I want my kid to know where Bollywood is. Ive lost control of me post! thanks (I used to sign but nobody signs so I wont)

  81. not a dudetiful wife

    A problem with our school system is that people still think that schools are like babysitters or that any mom could do it. That there ain’t anything in them fancy books that a mom couldn’t teach, nothing about actual higher learning, diverse viewpoints, the ability to argue and think. Because in the patriarchy, only a few men are needed to actually argue and think and they are men who will get to be the leaders of tomorrow. The rest just need basic sit in rows and behave skills. Suck up skills too. Not actual achievement.

    The very idea of reduced class sizes make the patriarchy enflamed, “why their wife could sit with kids and make them do fill in the blank exercises just as well!” Why raise taxes? Besides, if you can’t handle a lot of kids, you’re not a good teacher or woman.

    But schools have become about basic crowd control and herding. They are so responsible for their safety and to squeeze in subjects by law that they have to run a camp. They cannot manage 34 students in a class with one teacher times 6 or 7 classes a day with individualized study or anything but crowd control. And the number of students per class in these economic times are growing with the cutbacks.

  82. Marilyn

    “When people accuse Twisty of insensitive terminology for tragic events in history, and it inspires so much discussion, some of us wonder why tragic events today don’t inspire even the bat of an eyelash.”

    This is the entire fallacy of the argument. Who SAYS we don’t bat an eyelash. I was absolutely appalled by Israel’s recent actions, as I have been many of their other actions over the years. I’m appalled by Palestinians who lob rockets at civilians, too. I’m appalled by the endless cycle of violence in many regions of the world – and I write whoever I can and tell them so as part of my membership to Amnesty International.

    What I highly resent is when people come by and say “Why aren’t you talking about what I want you to talk about?” This is Twisty’s blog, and she has her hands full writing about a wide variety of topics that matter – in fact, patriarchy is one of the biggest supporters of military action, so this blog could be considered a condemnation of Israeli military action by its very existence.

    If you want to do something constructive, Blossom, go picket an embassy.

    As for the school idea, I personally love to learn, but I hated having to learn the way the teachers wanted me to learn. I saw a film yesterday called The Class, and it brought all those bad memories of teachers trying to “socialize” me and others through arbitrary rewards and punishments that gave them all the power. Things have only gotten worse for teachers and students under NCLB.

    I wouldn’t advocate getting rid of schools – home schooling I’ve been privy to is even worse. We need to radically alter the power structure and curriculum and get rid of the socialization exercises. Just teach ‘em to read, calculate, and make test tubes overflow.

  83. lawbitch

    The patriarchy values education and teachers: layoffs of teachers in CA, AZ and NY so far (per Layoff Daily). Apparently, the school districts are going to increase class sizes to an unsafe level. One of the laid off teachers was a “teacher of the year” with 12 years of experience. Way to show appreciation for her hard work.

  84. Jezebella

    Last time I was in an elementary school, seemed to me like the primary thing the kids were learning to do was line up. And be quiet. In line. Quietly.

    I was there all afternoon to judge an art competition, and I tell you whut, those kids? They’re gonna know how to line up really well by the end of the year.

  85. TP

    Can anyone be a citizen of Israel of they are not a jew? Can non-jews vote? Is it simply a religious state, much like what Muslims seem to have, but with a vote – available only among people who share the same religion?

    These are all questions that I have no answer for, that always bug me whenever anyone mentions anything about middle eastern politics. Nobody has ever answered them for me, even those who have listened to thousands of hours of NPR reporting on Israel.

  86. Alderson Warm-Fork

    “Can anyone be a citizen of Israel of they are not a jew? Can non-jews vote? Is it simply a religious state, much like what Muslims seem to have, but with a vote – available only among people who share the same religion?”

    There’s a lot of info here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_citizens_of_Israel#Legal_and_political_status

    Brief summary: 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arabs (and I think either a majority of the Jewish citizens or close to it aren’t religious – Zionism has a long history of secular nationalism). Legally and officially they have the same rights as other citizens but are the victim of ongoing low-level discrimination (for example, they are generally poorer, more likely to be the victims of police murders, etc.). There are prominent private institutions (some pre-dating the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948) which are specifically geared towards supporting the Jewish population, and no political party can advocate Israel ceasing to be a Jewish State.

    So similar in many respects to POC in the US – legally equal but extensively discriminated against.

    Also, there’s a good discussion of school-schooling vs. home-schooling here: http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/?p=532

  87. Lori

    This technically doesn’t have anything to do with the discussion here, but I’m upset and worried, and it does tie into living in a police state that hates women. I received a collect call at 8 am this morning from the Milwaukee County Jail. It was my daughter. She had been arrested by the Milwaukee Police last night for a driving violation. While in custody, they roughed her up and slammed her head against a wall, splitting it open. She said blood was everywhere. They took her to a local hospital where the doctor had to put 15 stitches in her head. While there, she was handcuffed to the hospital bed because she was a “prisoner.” She is a petite 5’ 4”, 125 pound woman, for Christ’s sake. The police wouldn’t let her give the medical personnel any information, and she told me that the doctor and nurses were very upset when the police dragged her out of the hospital immediately after treatment. I spoke with her twice this morning, and she was hysterical. She was scared, and her head hurt, and she was feeling dizzy. She begged me to come down and get her blood-stained coat and scarf from the property room so as to preserve evidence of her injuries. Although I was able to pick up her bloody clothing, she’s still in legal limbo–being booked and processed. I can’t get any word as to her status, so all I can do is wait to hear from her. The officials there told me not to worry because there’s medical personnel on site to take care of her if something bad were to happen. Somehow that doesn’t reassure me one bit. Something bad has already happened.

    Side note: I left the house in such a hurry this morning that I forgot to remove my manicure scissors from my purse (although I did remember to remove my pepper spray). While trying to sort out enough change to rent a locker at the Police Administration Building so that I could stash my deadly scissors, I realized that I didn’t have the necessary quarters. A male sheriff came up to me and called me “honey“ while offering me quarters in exchange for my small change. Honey. Shit. IBTP.

  88. CLD

    I too was/am appalled by Israel’s actions in Gaza. In fact, I posted about it this past December on MY BLOG. Which is what folks may want to consider doing [on their OWN BLOG] if they so want to discuss it, rather than hijacking the comment thread of a post on which Israel and Gaza weren’t mentioned.

    This here portion of the Intertubez is Twisty’s domain [pun intended] and the content of this locale are at the discretion of She Who Pays the Bills.

    Twisty, excellent self-inspection and correction.

    ::returns to lurking::

  89. CLD

    @Lori:

    I truly hope your daughter is released safe and in one piece.

  90. K

    Oh, Lori, that’s terrible. I’m impressed that your daughter was already thinking about the future, about preserving the evidence, in spite of how terrible her present was.

  91. goblinbee

    Why do schools exist? Really. I have pondered this question for years. The answer that keeps coming back to me is that parents want to be freed up from child care to make their own livings. But then why not just have day-care centers? Is it that people can’t admit to themselves and others that it is really day-care that they want, so schools have to pretend to be meeting other societal needs? The curriculum children learn in school can certainly be learned outside of school, so the curriculum can’t be the reason. It must be something else. And, no matter how liberal the school or teacher (short of Summerhill perhaps), and no matter how small the class size, teaching involves imposing an adult’s agenda onto a child. But I still don’t feel like I have any real answers as to why schools exist; it remains a puzzle to me.
    Signed, A Teacher
    P.S. I also don’t know why comments criticizing Twisty for what she writes on her blog aren’t immediately drop-kicked by her into outer space.

  92. ChelseaWantsOut

    Lori, that’s awful. I hope your daughter is okay and that you and she are able to press charges against the people who did this to her.

  93. Ariann

    TP, Israel’s citizenry is about 75% Jewish, the rest predominantly Muslim, but also including Christian groups, Baha’i, Buddhist, etc. (and obviously atheists as well). The official languages of the country are Hebrew and Arabic and all official paperwork can be found in these languages plus English and usually Russian and Amharic as well. All citizens have a vote, but different demographic groups generally vote for different seats in parliament so that the overall demographic of parliament stays the same. There are several Arab political parties (I kind of hate to say Arab in this context, since there is a large population of Jewish Arabs in Israel, but this is what they call themselves). Everyone who lived within the borders of 1948 Israel received automatic citizenship and different ethnic groups were either required or dismissed from the universal draft at that point, so Jews are universally drafted in Israel and most Muslim groups are not. The Druze are a major exception; they asked in ’48 to be part of the draft. There are separate Jewish and Muslim school systems available, as well as mixed schools. Jewish families have a choice of sending their children to “secular” schools or religious schools, I don’t know if the same option exists for Muslims. There is also a naturalization process, just like in the US, and many non-Jews have become citizens through the years who moved there for employment or to be with spouses or to leave more hostile regimes. It is much faster to become naturalized as a Jew, though. There is a significant amount of housing, job search, and language support for new citizens of any religion.

    Israel is not a religious state in the same way that Muslim religious states are often depicted (although there is wide variety in the way Muslim states govern themselves). Civil matters and crime are dealt with by a secular judicial system. Issues of personal status (particularly marriage and divorce) are left up to the different religious authorities, which is a continuation of the Turkish law left in place during the British Mandate. So that means the Jewish authorities marry/divorce Jews, the Muslim authorities do the same for Muslims, Christians for Christians, etc. This is obviously a problem if people want to intermarry or don’t want to have religious ceremonies and there is now a large political movement for civil marriage in Israel. Because international treaties require Israel to recognize marriages performed abroad, many people choose to go take vacations to Crete to get married in their own kinds of ceremonies. The other problem of religiously-controlled marriage/divorce is that both traditional Jewish and Muslim law is hostile to women in divorces. About 80% of Jews in Israel are considered non-religious, so this population has found this reality obnoxious for quite a long time. The percentage of non-religious Muslims is much smaller, but I’m sure there are many who are equally pissed off about the religious control of their personal status.

    These are not state secrets, these are basic factoids about Israel, and I have no idea why someone who considers themselves educated on Israel would not know the answer to any of these questions.

    And now back to your regular programmed P-blaming.

  94. Courtney

    First – best wishes for your situation, Lori.

    “But schools have become about basic crowd control and herding. They are so responsible for their safety and to squeeze in subjects by law that they have to run a camp. ”

    No kidding. Here, the high school is a closed campus (meaning that you have to go past a guard post and be inspected before you are allowed on campus.) All the teachers are issued ID badges with their picture on it and walki-talkies to summon the guards and/or administration in case of trouble (like riots, anyone?) All students are issued ID badges with bar codes and photos which they are required to wear at all times, or face penalties including evening and weekend detention. All students walk in the sides of hallways in lines “to further order.” You order lunch with your bar coded ID. No ID, no lunch. No backpacks, to “prevent unauthorized belongings” like weapons (including scissors and pocketknives), medicines (of any kind, including OTC), “objectionable literature”, etc. The dress code prohibits:

    “Clothing that exposes the mid part of the body
    Short shorts and mini skirts that don’t reach the tip of the index finger when standing
    Spaghetti straps or halters, unless worn with a buttoned-up shirt
    Tank tops or those exposing large areas of the back and/or front
    See-through mesh or fishnet clothing or clothing with cut-out places
    Hats, bandannas, sunglasses
    Clothing depicting violence, blood, knives, guns, skulls
    Clothing that evidences gang membership or references terrorism, suggestive sex, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, obscenities, or profane language
    Spiked jewelry or chains that could be used as weapons
    Baggy clothing considered to be a safety hazard or exposes undergarments or mid sections”

    And half the time, they don’t even follow their policies….

  95. Nolabelfits

    Courtney,

    We must be in the same district. Sounds all too familiar. Also…no lockers even tho’ they have them because they get broken into all the time. My daughter had her purse jacked four times, cell phone stolen 3 times, clothing stolen from dance class twice. All the norm, apparently.

    I think the primary agenda of schools is to get kids accustomed to showing up on a regular basis to do mindless crap they hate in preparation for showing up to do mindless crap they hate for future mindless dead end jobs.

  96. Interrobang

    I do think there’s an important role in schooling (and this is entirely cultural and I wouldn’t expect Americans to share this view) that it provides a sort of cultural baseline for the population at large. I know that pretty much everyone who went through schools in my country at more or less the same time I did has more or less the same cultural baseline, and I think that’s an important aspect of building a social contract. If people have common experiences, they’re more likely to recognise the concept of a common good.

    The problem is, of course, that fire both warms and burns. I don’t want to throw the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater here, because I think that while the system I’ve described can be used to do a lot of harm, it can also do a lot of good. Common socialisation is the baseline of shared identity, and that’s a big issue for me. (Can you tell I’m Canadian? We spend almost as much time worrying about our shared identity as we do in griping about the weather.)

    I think a nominally shared identity is really important in terms of getting people to invest in the social contract, which I think is actually pretty frickin’ important. A lot of the current contents of the social contract (e.g. that women are subhuman or at best third-class citizens) are deeply problematic at best, but I’m also not exactly pining for the sandy beaches of sunny Somalia, where there really isn’t a social contract to speak of at all. Couldn’t we, you know, just improve the social contract instead of getting rid of it entirely?

    Also, while we’re on the subject of rhetorical nitpickery, can we please not use the term “Zionist” as synonymous with “right-wing imperialist running-dog”? I’m a Zionist, and I fucking hate the Israeli government. I’m a Zionist in the classical sense — I support Israel’s right to exist, as if that isn’t a fucking ludicrous thing to (have to) say on the face of it. Israel exists, and I can’t condone cancelling it for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that if we’re going to start cancelling former British colonies carved by force out of other people’s land, an awful lot of us are going to have to start packing.

    I’m just as Canadian as my one Israeli friend is Israeli; our grandparents on the one half were immigrants, our great-and-then-some-grandparents on the other were born there. I don’t belong to any Abrahamic religion, so I don’t quite cotton to the notion that the sins of the ancestors be visited upon the offspring unto the seventh generation; even were that so, we’re each only half-implicated. Complicated, no?

  97. D

    Lori,
    One word – LAWYER.
    Now. Do it. Don’t wait.

  98. Roxanne LaMorte

    Oh Twisty. I love your critical thinking skills.

  99. Spirella Bones

    Yeah, calling people idiots is a great way to handle other viewpoints.

    I don’t think Twisty or anyone else here should have been confronted for not mentioning Gaza; it’s not necessary every time someone talks about anything remotely Jewish. I am saying, however, that I do see where Blossom is coming from, once you remove the accusatory tone.

    Whoever said go protest at an embassy — excellent idea, since, you know, our dissent is hushed everywhere else.

    *waves to Lara* Hey, Palestinian blamer over here! But then, I already found your blog and blogrolled you a week or so ago. Heh.

  100. antiprincess

    Schools do not have to go. Schools have to be infiltrated and reformed by the very class the system seeks to oppress with them, both as teachers and pupils. Never underestimate the power of subversion and stealth action.

    stealthily and subversively rearranging deck chairs on the titanic, imo.

  101. Nigel X

    Blamers concerned with the motives, means and effects of church/state-sponsored “education” can cast a jaundiced eye to Canada’s system of residential schools.

    The intent of these schools was to break down the bonds of Native community through the removal and demoralization of young people, remolding them in accordance with the morals of God and Empire. OPINION ALERT: Sounds like a concentration camp to me.

    The abuse went on for oh-about a couple hundred years, with the last schools only closing in the 1970s. This is real, fresh and painful shit for lots of Native women and men alive today, their families and their communities. IBTP.

    —-

    From The Tyee
    http://thetyee.ca/Series/2007/02/21/Survivors/

    Residential School Survivors: Justice Frustrated

    A three-part Tyee series on Vancouver Island survivors of Indian residential schools, and their rocky path towards compensation. Tofino writer Jacqueline Windh reports on one man who, despite years of abuse, doesn’t want the government’s money; how the compensation program came to be and why no one has yet been paid; and why a small group of lawyers are the big winners in the compensation game.

    —-

    From the Government of Canada
    http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ai/rqpi/index-eng.asp

    The Resolution Sector is responsible for addressing and resolving issues arising from the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. This sector was formerly the Department of Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada which was created in June 2001 to focus federal efforts toward managing and resolving abuse claims in a fair, less adversarial manner.

    Important

    This web site deals with subject matter that may cause some readers to trigger (suffer trauma caused by remembering or reliving past abuse). The Government of Canada recognizes the need for safety measures to minimize the risk associated with triggering.

    A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students. You can access emotional and crisis referral services. You can also get information on how to get other health supports from the Government of Canada.

    Please call the Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you or someone you know is triggered while reading the content on this web site.

  102. Alderson Warm-Fork

    Goblinbee:
    “Why do schools exist?”

    I won’t try to answer this question, but in the interests of getting a wider appreciation of classic texts in radical feminism, I will rehearse the argument of Shulamith Firestone in “the dialectic of sex”.

    Schools exist to institutionalise childhood as a separate stage of life, in which children socialise only with children, family members, and adults employed to deal with children. It exists to segregate them from wider society so as to make them into a distinct class and actually prolong their natural vulnerability, not correct it. In the past, education was mainly done in the adult world – apprenticeships, novice-hoods at monasteries, etc – studying with someone who is doing. The drive towards schools was argued for on the basis of needing to discipline naturally evil children, who otherwise would be unruly and masturbate (I’m only exaggerating a little bit).

    Why do children need to be segregated and thereby re-inforced in their dependency? Firestone argues it is the rise of the nuclear family. In pre-capitalist societies, one’s role and social position were largely set at birth and one grew up in a stable, static, structure. With the rise of capitalism, this structure fragmented into small families that could shift quickly from place to place and role to role. This required stronger methods of binding the child to its family, because it did not have the confidence and stability of feudal society. One of these methods was schooling. It allowed for the family, vehicle of patriarchy, to be maintained in a constantly changing society.

  103. Hedgepig

    In the current Hierarchy of Suffering and Oppression, that of the Jewish people during WWII ranks pretty close to the top, the ongoing suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people ranks pretty close to the bottom, and the ongoing suffering and oppression of women of all ethnicities, classes, castes etc ranks right at the bottom.
    Most of the list is fairly fluid, the ranking depending on the whims of western culture. The one at the bottom stays at the bottom.

  104. Bushfire

    I just became a teacher this year, and I have been heartbroken most of the time. My students create beautiful projects and it breaks my heart that I’m required to assign them a percentage grade. If I was at home and decided to paint a watercolour to put on my wall, nobody would stand there with a red pen and write “79%” on it! WTF. It breaks my heart that if a student does not want to learn something, they have to learn it anyway. It breaks my heart that students who cannot do a particular kind of learning have to do it anyway. It breaks my heart that students who are abused at home come to school emotionally unready to learn and just get in trouble all day. Instead of being given help, they are given detention. I wish I could go to work each day and teach only students who want to learn, and those students who do not want to learn what I am teaching could just go to another room and find something else that interests them. I hate punishing people for not obeying my class rules. I think if someone doesn’t want to obey my rules, they shoud just be allowed to go and do something else, and if they decide they want to learn my subject again, they’ll obey the rules because they choose to. But there is no where else where they can go, and I am legally responsible for keeping them all in that room and meeting exactly the expectations that are in the curriculum, whether they want to or not.

    It is definitely the system that is the problem. Young teachers enter the profession with love and caring and high hopes and many of them are crushed under the impossibility of doing a good job. The ones who make it through and become effective and inspiring teachers I think are walking miracles.

    I blame the megatheocorporatocracy (sp?) because if parents did not have to work at oppressive jobs all day just to have shelter and food then children wouldn’t be stuck in oppressive, politically driven prisons all day.

  105. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    To the Blamer who suggested I go picket an embassy: I did that. Although I am not sure how this advice would apply to someone living in say, Nebraska, where Embassies don’t exactly abound. For what it’s worth, I live in a large Asian metropolis, not far from either the US or Israel Embassy.

    Blamer Ariann might want to do some fact checking in regard to Israel’s “democracy”. In the meantime, she might be describing apartheid era South Africa – another shining example of a “democratic” nation whose benevolent institutions bestowed rights and freedoms to some of its citizens, but certainly not to the despised majority of trespassing wastrels who tended its lawns and languished in its slums. Nevermind that SA’s “democracy” only applied to its white citizens. What is important, is that SA’s white womenfolk could drive cars and stuff and marry nice white men who wouldn’t force them to wear beekeeper suits, and god forbid, HEADSCARVES! Forget that Palestinians are a traditionally secular society – they’re Muzzlims first and therefore religious fanatics! And nevermind that Palestine held free and fair elections, or that Israel and the US have refused to recognize their democratically elected leadership. They are Muzzlims and therefore incapable of governing themselves without blowing the rest of us up in the process. But again, this is all “off-topic”, so rather than bore you all silly with irrelevant blaming, I will simply suggest that you read Sara Roy’s ‘Beyond Occupation’ or anything by Edward Said. There is no shortage, either, of excellent reading material easily accessible online.

  106. butterflywings

    Lori – I’m sorry to hear what happened to your daughter, that’s awful. I hope she’ll be OK.

    ‘Baroness von ohwhatthefuckever’ – the beauty of the Internet is that you can find plenty of people discussing Gaza without, you know, telling them what they should and should not write about and being an entitled idiot.

    It is possible to deplore Israel’s actions AND anti-semitism. I too am frustrated by the seeming inability of certain British bloggers to realise this. Ag, all the war and violence is male led anyway. IBTP.

  107. feral

    Though I agree that constuctring a metaphor between a concentration camp and the school system amounts to hyperbole, I am reminded of Mary Daly’s brilliant discussion in Gyn/Ecology of the common roots shared by gynocide and genocide. As always, I am happy to find another post and energizing comments.

  108. Nina

    Hi Twisty,

    You’ve explained very effectively why I and many of my former colleagues left the teaching profession. I do wish I’d had a response as well-articulated as the ideas you present here for miscellaneous gasbags who had the gall to accuse me of selfishness for leaving the profession when I did. Thank you.

  109. TP

    Thanks, Ariann. These basic facts are never reported on, yet never mentioned in any context when reporting on Israel.

    These are not state secrets, these are basic factoids about Israel, and I have no idea why someone who considers themselves educated on Israel would not know the answer to any of these questions.

    I can assure you that I have never met anyone who has claimed to be educated on Israel, with the exception of a childhood friend of mine who, instead of answering these questions for me, I have never heard from again. It made me wonder if asking them was offensive in some way, or if asking them revealed something terrible about Israel he refused to admit.

  110. Noshoes

    I went to public junior high and high schools and learned very little while I was there, except how to use drugs and avoid the scary, violent people with whom I was forced to attend. I said it then and I’ll say it now: American public schools are day-time prisons for children. The message was clear: shut up, don’t cause trouble and we’ll let you out when your sentence is over. What a waste of time.

  111. Carol

    Oppression is not possessed by one group alone, nor should it be judged in a hierarchy. Why is this so hard to understand?

    I am appalled at the oppression of the Palestinians and actively try to change the USA’s policy of collusion of this opression. I also strongly believe that if a Jewish person or other survivor or descendants of survivors of the Holocaust finds offense in a school/concentration camp analogy, we should avoid that analogy.

    Admittedly, I did not see the potential offense when I first read the phrasing. However, if a member of a group who has been damaged by a horrific genocide (as well as other long term trauma from years of violent oppression) finds a turn of phrase offensive, I am going to avoid using that turn of phrase!

    That most certainly does not mean that I (or Twisty) think that only the Jewish people suffered in concentration camps, and it is ridiculous for Baroness to say so. It is also wrong for Baroness to say that being sensitive = “capitulating”, and that it is “absurd” to take other people’s feelings into consideration. Wrong, and anti-feminist.

    I don’t have to ignore the oppression that Jews have faced in order to honor the oppression that the Palestinians have faced. I can honor both groups for their historical and current struggles by trying to minimize their current oppression. To say that the Palestinians are suffering more, therefore we should not worry about the Jews is incredibly selfish.

    Of course, we all direct our activism where we feel it does the most good for us and others. I personally spend more time trying to right wrongs against Palestinians than against other oppressed groups, because that is what means the most to me at this time. No one should tell me I should dilute my efforts or change my priorities. However, if I am told that a wrong has been done to another group, and it is ridiculously easy to right that wrong, why would I resent the opportunity to check my privilege and treat all people with dignity? It takes very little effort on my part to do so, and won’t take anything away from my pro-Palestinian activism.

    I thought this was obvious. It is sad to see that it is not.

  112. Susan

    if parents did not have to work at oppressive jobs all day just to have shelter and food then children wouldn’t be stuck in oppressive, politically driven prisons all day.

    I doubt it; I had a stay-at-home Mom at a time when most Moms were stay-at-home, and I and all my friends still went to school. In fact, in my relatively well-to-do town now, there are still lots of SAH Moms (and some Dads). They would choose to homeschool if their kids were terrified or miserable, but their kids aren’t terrified and miserable. I’m glad I had access to good, well-funded public schools, where I learned science and history and math, and organic chemistry and feminism). It enabled me to not have to work at an oppressive job all day.

    I wish all public schools could be exciting, fun places for kids; they deserve it. Maybe we could learn from some other countries how to do schools right. Holland? Spain? New Zealand? SOMEONE must have a good education system; worldwide, people do seem overall to be getting smarter. I mean, there’s this:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/08/put_the_blame_where_it_belongs.php

    Iceland seems as if they’re pretty much on the ball. How do they do it?

  113. Denise

    Great post, Twisty.

    I am of the school that when one is accused of an “ism”: racism, sexism, anti-semitism, etc., or of accidentally supporting one of those isms, ones first response shouldn’t be “Gosh, of course not! Geez, you’re so uptight!” Instead, one should seek to determine why the accuser said what they did and then consider ones actions carefully and amend behavior if necessary.

    I disagree, strongly, with the commenters who have said that your “capitulation was unnecessary”. We demand that men (and women), every day, shut up and listen to us when we point out sexism. We cannot then turn around and stick our fingers in our ears when other oppressed groups call us out on our privilege.

  114. The Baroness Blossom Von Gutenkatzen

    To quote blamerette Butterflywings:

    “‘Baroness von ohwhatthefuckever’ – the beauty of the Internet is that you can find plenty of people discussing Gaza without, you know, telling them what they should and should not write about and being an entitled idiot.

    It is possible to deplore Israel’s actions AND anti-semitism. I too am frustrated by the seeming inability of certain British bloggers to realise this. Ag, all the war and violence is male led anyway. IBTP.”

    To which the beleaguered (and bored) Baroness, after refilling her tumbler of cat sick and tonic and responds:

    Please cite an instance where I have “told” anyone what they can or can’t write on a blog. Had I known that the comments section of a “blaming” blog merely served as a forum where “You Go Girl” was the only mode of acceptable speech, I would have joined in on the chorus and requested more pics of the blogger’s pets. Clearly, my suck-up point tally is at a dangerous low.

    To your credit, however, “deplore” has such a lovely handwringing tone to it. I shall remember to use the word the next time the gouty old Baron brings home one of his floozies: “Gustav Darling, I simply deplore your syphillitic lifestyle. Now be a dear and fetch me my smelling salts”. For the sake of good manners, I suppose we should all wring our pale little hands in unison to “deplore” the situation in Gaza, murmur a pithy quip about “patriarchy” and then actively condemn vague terminology as it applies to the past suffering of more deserving people.

    As for anti-Semitism, maintaining a hush-hush, fear and awe-inspired reverence for terminology that does not necessarily apply to the mass murder of Jews during WWII ie: “concentration camp” hardly counts as meaningful discourse on anti-semitism. If anything, the fetishization and ultimately meaningless deconstruction of Holocaust iconography is a masturbatory, intellectulally nullifying exercise in pedantry that merely serves to mystify and confound genuine dialogue on a very serious subject. Again, if the blogger in question had been more specific ie: “Auschwitz”, her critics would have had a valid grievance to bring up. Instead, a peanut gallery of PhD-affixed screen names attach themselves to a non-cause while applying themselves to the task of downplaying real time atrocities, justifying their indifference (and stupendous levels of ignorance) to a subject they have shamefully ignored by witlessly condemning the indivual who brought up the subject. If my comments here or elsewhere demonstrate somehow, that I condone “anti-semitism”, please show evidence of this before chucking an f-bomb at me.

  115. jc.

    I too was somewhat disapointed at what I percieved as Twistys caving into a silly criticism. I however am still digesting the logic of her self criticism and reminding myself that it´s something I need to take into account in my own daily discourses despite my love of satire, irony, rhetoric and, of course, hyperbole.
    None the less I do wish to point out that the it is not the meaning of concentration camp which is/has been trivialised by popular usage, but instead the meaning and existence of extermination camps.The difference between the two is at times practically only academic but it is none the less extremely important. Although many countries and regimes have established camps i which to “concentrate” people which they wish to control ( thank you Britain), contain or punish and although the conditions have usually been inhumane (to say the least)and even though the responsible authorities quite often have had no interest in the survival of the inmates (quite often actively ensuring the demise of inmates)it is only the Nazis (I believe)who had camps which were specifically intended and organised to totally exterminate it´s populations. The misconception that a concentration camp is synonymous with a death camp is exploited on the one hand in europe by people who wish to degrade the holocaust by gladly pointing out that “not only Jews were sent to concentration camps, hundreds and thousands of people from all over europe were also sent”.
    This argument is particularily popular in places like Poland and its unsaid meaning is, of course, that how come the jews are the only ones allowed to whine and “profit” from world war two. On the other hand this misconception is used by pro israeli groups to inhibit usage of this term in many other contexts, especially any which is negative to Israel.
    This is why I found the usage about school being concentration camps to be valid and criticism of it´s usage to be, at best, ill informed. However Iam still chewing over the idea that perhaps Twistys humble pie may have been correct and its humility is something I could learn from.
    Do not even get me started on Swedish schools.

  116. TheLady

    ZOMG, there’s, like, a corner of teh intrawebs where people aren’t running around screaming about how a bunch of militarist dudes are going around measuring their dicks against those of a bunch of Muslim fundamentalism dudes! Like, a WHOLE blog where they’re, just, talking about OTHER THINGS! It’s a moral outrage!

  117. Claire

    Twisty, I think you were right to apologize. As Denise said, the proper response to accusations of oppressive language/action/thought is not to get defensive, but to get to thinking, and usually, apologizing.

    Both of which you have done here beautifully. So thank you.

    On the subject of school. As the jaded product of some truly terrible public atrocities, and the equally jaded product of some truly horrific religious homeschool experiences, the only thing I can say with any certainty at all is that there should be no schooling of any kind anywhere.

    Children have evolved to learn by experience and example. Not by textbook. Not by punishment. Not by grading or competitive ladder-climbing or social cat-clawing. Not by rote fact memorizing. Experience. Example. Plenty of both abound in real life.

    This is the natural, sensible way to learn. I say we get back to the original old school: the school of life.

  118. rootlesscosmo

    Children have evolved to learn by experience and example. Not by textbook. Not by punishment. Not by grading or competitive ladder-climbing or social cat-clawing. Not by rote fact memorizing. Experience. Example. Plenty of both abound in real life.

    This is the natural, sensible way to learn. I say we get back to the original old school: the school of life.

    The difficulty is that the school of life doesn’t teach people to be surgeons or orchestra musicians or speakers of languages not used in their immediate surroundings. If we really want to try to re-create a simpler way of life, getting rid of schools might be on the agenda, but we’d better be ready to accept a world of shorter, more painful, less interesting existence as part of the price. Drawing on examples like Iceland, on the other hand, might help reduce the oppressiveness of schooling without sacrificing the benefits; not squandering a huge chunk of the national budget on the military would be a good start.

  119. norbizness

    How very Dickensian of most of us!

  120. Nolabelfits

    I agree with Claire. Its called “Unschooling” in this country, as opposed to “homeschooling,” which generally replicates a “school-at-home” approach rather than natural learning. And I think what we are talkign about is primary education. (K-12). You don’t need to sit in a classroom to learn anything you get out of K-12 education. Unschoolers who have never had a formal primary education go on to become surgeons and concert musicians. At some point they need to get into some formal training or higher education, but the whole K-12 routine is unnecessary. You don’t even need it to get into college, contrary to what everyone is brainwashed to believe.

  121. VibratingLiz

    You don’t even need it to get into college, contrary to what everyone is brainwashed to believe.

    Anecdotal: both my very casually unstructured, benignly neglected (I worked) unschooled kids went on to colleges. One graduated from Harvard, the other Phi Beta Kappa from University of California. Both are now smart funny talented sane sociable minimally patriarchal adult dudes living satisfying lives and doing work that interests them.

    All these educational theories have been hashed out endlessly. The unschooling concept was largely developed by radical educator John Holt back in the 1970s.

  122. Tupe

    Thank you, MariaS. Exactly to the point.

    @ Blossom: I’d agree with you a lot more had Twisty gone all limp and overly apologetic.

    While I agree with you that most of the pro-Israel/Zionist world jumps down the throat of anyone and everyone they can accuse of anti-semitism, that doesn’t mean that anti-semitism doesn’t exist any more.

    You seem to be making two points:

    a) that misappropriating “concentration camp” for something not nearly so bad as a real concentration camp is not just an offense against Jewish people because Jewish people are not the only ones who have been put into camps (and tacked onto this, that part of Israel’s claim to power is the much abused Holocaust Trump Card.) I totally agree with this.

    b) that if you offend a Jewish person you really shouldn’t give two shits because who cares about anti-Semitism when we’ve got the situation in Gaza. You have also implied that no one who offends a Jew *really* offended them because said Jew is probably just too sensitive, they’ve been brainwashed by Zionists and/or they’re making it up. This part is complete hogwash. As DaisyP says, can we please get back to blaming the P.

  123. TheLady

    and tacked onto this, that part of Israel’s claim to power is the much abused Holocaust Trump Card

    Er, is it me, or have we agreed to not triviliaze?

    Oh, it was just me. Sorry.

  124. Marilyn

    Whoa, wait a minute. I refuse to extrapolate from the bad experiences of one blamer and the good experiences of another that school should be abolished. We have a lot of seriously whacked-out people in the world who will not be bringing up Ivy-League material. Parents and communities aren’t any more all-knowing than school systems.

  125. beyondviolet

    I’m a teacher. I agree that school’s gotta go.

    My Nigel dropped me off one day. He said “this place looks like a prison.” He grew up near a maximum security and has visited family on the inside.

    Add to that the fights, gang violence, harassment, graffiti, abuses of power, broken desks, shoddy materials, lack of technology, etc.

    It’s not a death camp, but it does suck the life out of you.

    I do the best I can to be a positive influence on the lives of the children I interact with. But plenty of teachers are downright cruel, and the system reinforces all kinds of bullshit. I will never send my children to public school. When the revolution comes, this institution should be about third on the chopping block, right behind marriage and banks.

  126. Spirella Bones

    Tupe: I think the more generous interpretation of Blossom’s criticism would be that some of us are kinda sad because we feel like Gaza is sort of a concentration camp. Not that we think antisemitism doesn’t exist, or at least I don’t. Shall we shake hands?

    Whoever that was: Flippant remarks about fundamentalists are smart! Good job. Let’s up the irreverence, can we? It’s really fun. Nobody’s getting hurt, right?

    Hedgepig, right on: “In the current Hierarchy of Suffering and Oppression, that of the Jewish people during WWII ranks pretty close to the top, the ongoing suffering and oppression of the Palestinian people ranks pretty close to the bottom, and the ongoing suffering and oppression of women of all ethnicities, classes, castes etc ranks right at the bottom.
    Most of the list is fairly fluid, the ranking depending on the whims of western culture. The one at the bottom stays at the bottom.”

  127. Claire

    I have to say it : I’m not particularly worried about the feelings of those whose basic function it is to service the patriarchy in whatever manner possible, at all costs (which, quite honestly, is most people and things and stuff, but I can think of no more glaring example than the people/ideologies being defended, absurdly I might add, here).

    Which would be fundamentalists, who are hurting a lot of people indeed. Mostly women. Predominately women, I’d say. Not that any other social grouping is free from patriarchal influence and oppressive agendas, but blameless fundamentalists are not, and exempt from virulent criticism even less so.

    The basic fundamentals of their fundamentalism fundamentally being oppression of women and all. Which, I suppose, are the basic fundamentals of all fundamentally patriarchal fundamentalisms. Which would include all systems of thought and ways of being, fundamentally.

    I may be catching onto something here…

  128. jerry

    Pink Floyd had it right about schools back in the 70′s (The Wall?). In that short time blip, there was widespread recognition about the dangers of doctrinaire education and the enslavement it induced. It was the time of the “free school” movement. Living in Madison at the time, we sent our daughter to one.

    All that is forgotten now. Schools are exactly what TF says they are. As a teacher (now retired but still substituting) I see it every time I go to a different school. In fact I worry that kids seem to be less rebellious than they should be.

    Yes schools are like concentration camps. A litle overblown? So be it. Sometimes words need to advertise their seriousness, their import.

  129. Ariann

    TP, I don’t know why that is. I think for the most part people don’t bother to educate themselves, but they feel very free to spew opinions anyway, so if you ask them a direct question they become defensive or walk away. That’s of course true on any topic.

  130. Ariann

    Blossom, I know you’ve decided that you’re an expert of all things. However, I have spent a considerable amount of time in Israel, dealing with both the Israeli Jewish population and the Muslim population, participating in reconciliation efforts, and I think I can comfortably say that I’ve read quite a bit on the various sides of the argument (including the authors you cite). And yet I have the opinion I have. I’m not going to go into my political beliefs on the matter, but the issue is far more complex than you would like it to be.

  131. lawbitch

    Students who aren’t “Ivy-League material” are valuable members of society who deserve a good education. If you meant to imply that’s not true, then you’re an elitist.

  132. jael

    VBL: how long did you (un)school at home for? all the way through?

  133. VibratingLiz

    Jael, we actually did very little of the unschooling at home. The kids were mostly out and about learning stuff and doing stuff in the real world.

    But one son unschooled from birth through age 14 when he voluntarily went to public high school for a couple of years before dropping out and heading off to Harvard (Harvard was entirely his idea, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about it; I’d raised my kids to be scruffy vagabond musicians who lived in their cars, not “Ivy League kids,” but he was always the rebellious one and anyway it was his life). The other son unschooled from birth to age 17 when he started taking classes at a local community college. He then transferred those credits to the University of California and was able to graduate with highest honors in two years, while working full time.

    We got around the compulsory attendance laws (it’s NOT compulsory education, by the way, just attendance) by filing an affidavit to create our own private school. For the first six years we called it Midvale School for the Gifted (a la Gary Larson), and for the rest of the time we called it the Molari & Kerli Academy. This nearly drove the state of California insane.

  134. Lara

    Lori, I am terribly sorry to hear about what your daughter is going through. What has happened thus far? Is she officially out of jail? I wish her all the best in what she’s going through. I am wondering if you could contact a group that raises awareness, legally and publicly, about police brutality. That might help your daughter establish and support her case against the abusing officers in court.

    ::waves back to Spirella Bones:: thank you for adding me to your blogroll!

    Alderson Warm-Fork, I never knew about Firestone’s specific ideas about school systems and how they create an oppressed class out of children. Thanks for sharing that, I had never thought about it that way.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Baroness Blossom was claiming that one has to either acknowledge the gruesome reality/history of the Holocaust OR recognize the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, exclusively. This supposed conflict between these two causes was created in this discussion by folks arguing against Baroness, from what I see. Anyway, this conflict in the Middle East is NOT a religious conflict (“Muslim vs. Jew”), it is an ethnic conflict over land, period. I only mention that since some people are still discussing the issue and conflating “Arab” with “Muslim” and “Israeli” with “Jew.” I don’t want to make this about one or several specific commenters anymore.

    Back to the subject of schools and their prison-like character and function, I can’t even describe how many times I have been loudly called out and embarrassed in the main hallway by the high school principle for supposedly wearing “low-cut” tops, and he would say this loudly in front of other students going by (probably just to humiliate me). And I am lucky because I’ve gone to relatively good schools compared to most other American kids. Schools are often a site of abuse, humiliation, and tension for many students, especially female students (of all races) and male students of color. I don’t think we should get rid of schools altogether, because that’s just easier said than done. Plus, as someone mentioned before, our communities and parents by themselves are not always the best role models either. I think school systems, and their function/purpose, just need to be changed A LOT. Better teacher training and pay, the emphasis of lessons on critical thinking skills and conceptual analysis instead of memorization and busy work for students, and I think students should be strongly encouraged/required to learn at least 2 or 3 languages, among many other changes that need to be made. It is sad that many students in the U.S. do not even have a safe environment to learn in.

  135. jael

    vbl; have i told you lately that i love you? were it not that we were so neglected..

  136. jael

    sorry; i’m slow and it’s just dawned on me…

    so in CA you had to attend school, but you didn’t have to learn anything in particular? no designated math or science or arifmatic? you could be learning how to line up, not to talk, that the earth was made in six days and so forth, and nothing else – and that’s ok? it’s the attending that matters?!

    oi oi oi

  137. VibratingLiz

    Not just in California, but I believe in most states, a student would be required to attend and pass certain classes in order to graduate. But that student would not be breaking the law if he/she flunked or failed to learn anything. I just pointed it out because so many people say “compulsory education” when in fact the statutes do not (and realistically cannot) mandate education, only attendance. The schools receive state money for each day of attendance, hence they’re motivated to enforce truancy laws and oppose homeschooling whether or not the homeschoolers are actually learning more than the school attendees.

  138. Ariann

    In order to graduate a student, states have different requirements, like passing a certain number of classes in basic subjects and passing a graduation exam. Most school districts will find ways to graduate even students who repeatedly fail and cannot independently pass graduation exams, rather than be labeled a “failing school” and risk having the state or federal government come in. “No Child Left Behind” is among attempts to come to some uniformity among the states on what constitutes a minimal level of education and making sure schools are actually achieving that goal – we know how well that’s working out. Parents discharge their legal obligation to send their children to school by making sure the children attend. Homeschooling requirements are different between the states, as well. In some states, you can simply register as a homeschooler and not show much evidence of any actual schoolin’ going on.

    I always experienced school more like day care rather than a concentration camp. Not the best years of my life, occasionally mind-numbingly boring perhaps, but I did learn things that I appreciate knowing and I occasionally had teachers who were really inspiring and motivational (and taught me about feminism!). But it seems like family income is directly proportional to enjoyment of school/access to inspiring teachers.

  139. jael

    does No Child Left Behind apply to children outside the school system, or is it concerned with the level of success at the school, rather than the individual, level?

    re the learning at school; you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot realistically expect it to enthusiastically suck back brown sludge seems fair.

    sorry, can i be obtuse and ask what subjects you need to pass to graduate? also – you do college admission on the basis of a standardised test and those confounded essays (personal statement? agh), don’t you, not a state wide test across the mandatory subjects? other than the standardised testing, is there anyway to compare between students?

  140. Ariann

    jael,
    I believe homeschoolers are not included in NCLB, because it’s really about failing schools rather than individual children. But I could be wrong.

    College admissions are generally done based on school records showing the GPA (grade point average – a numerical average of the students’ grades through high school) and often including a scale showing how the student compares to other students in the same school. Also, most colleges require scores from standardized tests in Math and Reading/Writing skills (and sometimes Science) that are administered by private companies, not schools – these are the “SAT” and the “ACT”. Then the college also asks for personal essays, recommendations from teachers, and information about the students’ extra-curricular activities. Some schools also require a personal interview.

    In my state, you need to take classes in: Math (you must pass three years), English (must pass 4 years), Science (must pass 2.5 years), and Social Studies/History (must pass 4 years). The state-wide test which decides whether or not you actually graduate tests only Math and Reading comprehension/Writing, but there are talks in the works to change them to include Science and History. These tests are not intended to compare between students and are not released during the process of college admissions. Rather, they’re only intended to make sure the student has actually learned a minimum level of information in those basic subjects (you have to get a 50% to pass). For most students in middle-class and upper-class areas, these tests are time-consuming, but easy. However, students with serious learning differences and a huge proportion of students in lower-class neighborhoods often don’t pass this test and then they have the chance to try to pass it two more times. If they still don’t pass, they take a completely different test that allows a teacher to sit next to them and basically “prompt” them through it. Most students who fail the first test will get through on this one.

  1. Longest Apologia On Record « Stephen C. Rose

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