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Controlling the Youth

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Cecil Beaton once said "Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary." People are slaves to the society they live in. They conform unconsciously to the norms of their society, never questioning the views of those who have more authority or popularity. This is how we have been brought up. I don't care where you were raised, how your family taught you to act, or whether you think you're your own individual, you're not. I'm not my own individual and I am the one writing to tell you about this affliction. I believe that if we are to change this then we must start where the conditioning begins, schools.

Children's minds absorb everything. They not only learn from what we teach them but they learn by watching every move we make. A child's ability to mimic the behaviors of others is extremely pertinent to how they will act when they grow up. I don't believe that many people think to themselves "Maybe I should watch how I behave because there are children around." Some people may conceive of this matter when they are around their own children, but I doubt that they often apply it when they are around children they either do not know or don't know well. This is why I am stressing how pliable a child's mind is. We need to be sure that the individuals that tomorrow's leaders are watching are suitable mentors for their development.

School is a place where children learn one thing more than anything else: social norms of the underlying culture. They learn how to judge others, how to fit in, how to be accepted, what is accepted and what isn't, and most importantly, their role in society. John Taylor Gatto wrote a book called Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. In this book he talks about his experiences as a teacher. During his twenty-six years as a teacher he taught at six different schools. Later in his career he began to see something that intrigued him. A few of his students exhibited moments of insight and wisdom. He began to wonder if his purpose as a teacher was to expand on those moments of excellence, or to diminish them. He wrote a speech called "The Seven-Lesson School Teacher." In this speech he gives his theories for the seven lessons in which a school teacher unconsciously teaches their students. The first is confusion. "Even in the best of schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions." In this lesson he talks about how everything that is taught to students is confusing and no one has the time to make sure that everyone understands the material or even why they need to learn this material. Many of the teachers do not know what good the material will do for a child. He says that as a teacher, he teaches children to accept confusion as their destiny. The second lesson is class position. "The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class." In this lesson he explains how children must learn to be paired with others like themselves. They must learn to appreciate the better classes and hate the dumb classes. He says that they must come to know their place. The third lesson is indifference. "They must turn on and off like a light switch....Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference." Here he examines how the ringing of bells symbolizes a sense that they are not here to learn but to fulfill requirements such as being at different classes when they are expected to be there, finishing their learning when the bell is rung with no regards to whether or not they have questions, and satisfying their obligations so that they may receive a higher grade. The fourth lesson is emotional dependency. "I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestinated chain of command." By giving checks and x's, smiley faces and frowning faces, stickers and no stickers, he teaches children that they must seek approval from their higher authority. They must do what is demanded from they so that they may please the boss. The fifth lesson is intellectual dependency. "It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives." He says that in our school systems, the successful children are the ones who simply accept what is being told to them without resistance and show enthusiasm for the subject. The bad kids are the ones who try to decide for themselves what they want to learn and when they will learn it. These kids are a resistance that can be broken by tested procedures. These kids are the individuals that we must conform. The sixth lesson is provisional self-esteem. "People need to be told what they are worth." Gatto says that report cards and tests show children how smart they are and how successful they are. This analysis cannot be done by the students themselves or their parents. It must be done by an official who does not know the child nor care about what the child may actually know. The seventh and final lesson is that one cannot hide. "The meaning of constant surveillance and denial of privacy is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate." The children need to know that they are being watch constantly by teachers, guidance staff, hall monitors, lunch monitors, and cameras. The school must be like a prison and the children must know that they will be scrutinized on their every action. "Schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: how to be a good 'Egyptian and remain in your place in the pyramid...'"

Our society is bred on conformity. "The nail that sticks



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