Re: DSM: public school prisons (sharing the SVS model, etc.)


Ben B. Day (bday@cs.umb.edu)
Thu, 9 Nov 2000 15:13:33 -0500 (EST)


Oh, come now people, these are all very poor responses to a reasonable
question. Firstly, the students who most need the benefits of education
(however unfree) don't go to democratic schools, because they can't AFFORD
THEM. Educational requirements are used in the labor market as a means of
discrimination against those who can't afford their costs (whether direct
or opportunity costs). Until we can change the labor market (a much more
daunting task), we can only help students to meet whatever arbitrary
hurdles are placed in the path towards escaping poverty, wage-slavery,
etc.

It seems to me to be frequently forgotten that most students at SVM
schools have at least some form of financial cushions, whihc allows them
much more "freedom" both in their choice of education and their subsequent
choice of career and lifestyle. Not surprisingly then, minorities - who
are overrepresented in low-income families, haven't enjoyed the benefits
of democratic schooling.

For us to tell public school teachers that they are complicit in
undemocratic and unfree education, and that they should bail ship if they
truly believe in democracy and freedom, is to tell them to abandon all of
the children who don't have the privilege of alternative, private
schooling, and who need to do "well" (by whatever miserable standards) to
have any chance of reasonable living conditions when they leave school.

Furthermore, we seem to be forgetting that the labor market for TEACHERS
is not looking so hot these days. Today, about HALF of all teaching jobs
are part-time or contingent, which means they probably don't include
health or benefits and pay less than full-timers get for the same work.
Many part-timers are forced to work at multiple schools and simply can't
afford health care. In such a situation, teachers themselves enjoy very
little liberty in choosing where they teach... unless, again, they enjoy
some financial cushion granting them that leniency. The SVS hiring
structure is also highly discriminatory against potential staff members in
need of a steady job paying a living wage. Most staff members have to
attend SVS without pay for some time before being considered by the school
meeting for hire - this is necessary for the school community to get to
know the person they'll be voting on. After they have done this (which
requires either leisure time or a working schedule with sufficient free
time in it), they are usually hired at first only on a part-time basis,
for one or two days a week. SVS is, of course, much better in this respect
than other schools since part-timers who stick with the community
eventually DO get more days and hours (there's almost no upward mobility
in the academic labor market - you get hired out of college either as a
part-timer or a full-timer, and you remain there, or you get knocked down
from full-time to part-time status).

I think it's extremely unfair to devalue the work done by consciencious
teachers in traditional schools, doing the best that they can within the
constraints given to them by their employers. The dominance of unfree
schooling is more of a political than a pedagogical problem, and it won't
be solved by swaying the pedagogical sensibilities of teachers - it will
be solved by changing the administrative and political bodies (and/or
the power structures they make decisions within) that enjoy the last word
on what kind of schooling is "correct" and can pull the plug on funding
for projects not meeting their criteria.

----Ben

On Fri, 4 Jan 1980, The Highland School wrote:

> In response to dropping out/striking public school: sure! come put your
> blood, sweat and tears into a democratic school - there are many to
> choose from. I wish there were many more. Candy Landvoigt



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