Public Schools Are A Lot Like Prison   1 comment

Image result for image of school as a prisonThe other day, Kiernan and some friends of his were talking about being bullied in school. For Kiernan, this was a while ago. He made it stop by breaking the law. The kid was actually bullying Kiernan’s friend because he is an Eskimo. Kiernan and Tim walked off campus, let the bully follow them and then Kiernan socked the kid in the nose. He knew we’d have his back, union legal insurance all greased up, if necessary. The parents of the kid he socked didn’t call the cops, so I guess the kid learned his lesson … as did the bully I hit in the head with my metal lunchbox back in the third grade … only in that case the cop took one look at how little I was compared to how big the boy (who was picking on the littler kids I’d been asked to walk home) was and told Colin Cooper’s parents they needed to discipline their son or he’d do it for them. A different era when common sense was still common enough not to be a unicorn.

So while Kiernan and his friends were talking, our friend Lee remarked to Brad “Sounds like prison.” Lee would know. He spent four years in Alaska’s prison system 20-odd years ago. He’s willingly shared his stories with me and they’re becoming part of What If … Wasn’t, my literary fiction that still needs a lot of work. He and his wife home school their four children. Their son just won a full-ride academic scholarship to college having never attended public school, so this may have been the first time Lee became aware of school bullying.

In prison, some prisoners bully other prisoners. Why? Because they can and because in a setting where you have no control of your life, it feels good to put your foot on someone else’s neck, if only for a few minutes, knowing that you won’t get into any real trouble because your victim is as powerless as you are.

Welcome to public school. Like prisons, nobody is there voluntarily. They have no control over their lives in a top-down authoritarian structure. So why not have the pleasure of feeling a little power over someone else who can’t fight back because it’s against the rules? If they even report it, they’ll make themselves look like a wimp and, truth be told, the administration won’t do anything to you that might be worse than being forced to stay inside on a lovely fall day.

Children who are bullied in school have very few choices and very little recourse. Required by law to attend an assigned public school, many children and their parents have few options to withdraw from a bullying scenario. Some parents will look for alternative schooling options for their bullied children, like private schools, charter schools, online schools, or homeschooling, but for many families, these choices are not available or accessible.

In those cases, bullied children must endure daily battering that would be criminal if inflicted on adults. Is it any wonder that we have a rising suicide rate among children? In fact, according to the CDC, the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds has doubledsince 2007.

Wounded By School author Kirsten Olson refers to bullying as “an expression of the shadow side of schooling.” She writes:

If we create school systems in which compulsion, coercion, hierarchy, and fear of failure are central features of the academic experience, and essential to motivating and controlling students, then the energy from those negative experiences will seek expression.”

Placing people in environments where they have little freedom and control can trigger bullying behaviors; and if those who are being bullied can’t freely leave, then hostility may continue indefinitely.

Yeah, we talk a lot about how to “bully-proof” children and how to help students who are victims of bullying. We trot out policies, plans and professional development programs for dealing with bullying.

Most of these are well-intentioned, but they ignore the central issue. Bullying exists due to a compulsory schooling environment that mandates attendance, eliminates freedom, and limits the ability to opt-out. Until that issue is addressed, no amount of reading, policy-making, teacher training, and “bully-proofing” is going to stop bullying from occurring.

The best way to avoid bullying in schools is to question compulsory attendance laws, expand education choice, and create learning environments that nurture childhood freedom and autonomy. We wouldn’t tolerate bullies in our adult lives. Why do we expect our children to?

Posted August 25, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

One response to “Public Schools Are A Lot Like Prison

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  1. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak.


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