DSM: Civil rights vs Education

Kristin Harkness (kristin@harkness.net)
Fri, 10 Nov 2000 21:42:42 -0500

Please be advised, I have no interest attacking anyone personally. My only
prior post was a rebuttal to a public school employee's assertion that they
(ostensibly she and other public school employees) are not the enemy. I
disagreed. The intent of any post I make is to zealously advocate for my
deeply held belief that this is a basic civil rights struggle. I believe
the traditional educational system is fundamentally evil and morally
indefensible. I also believe it is wrong to profit from participating in
the involuntary incarceration of children. If you want to know why I think
this, keep reading. If you can't handle a strongly worded opinion, continue
no further. I won't sugarcoat or sanitize my views on this subject, no
matter how many people get their knickers in a twist.

The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights
guarantee that adult citizens are free and entitled to Life, Liberty, and
the Pursuit of Happiness, among many other wonderful legal protections,
which I will loosely refer to as civil rights. If this were more formal
than an email on a discussion board I could give a thoughtful legal analysis
of what that has come to mean, but let it suffice to say that it all boils
down to the concept that "The State can't mess with your Liberty unless you
are found guilty of breaking the law." This revolutionary ideal is so
important that people have died in the pursuit and defense of it.

I, too, believe in this noble concept and I count on it every day of my
adult life. I believe it is something worth fighting for. However, I was
not one of the citizens the founding fathers had in mind when they conceived
of and fought for this notion. In fact the majority of people were excluded
because originally these protections from intrusions of the State over the
People only extended to white land-owning adult male citizens. Not tenants.
Not people of color. Not females. Not children. To extend these rights to
those disenfranchised folks was considered absurd, ill-advised, not in their
best interests, politically inexpedient and financially disastrous.

Historically, the lack of basic civil rights protections has been the basis
of the subjugation of less wealthy folks, people of color, women and
children to the advantage and profit of the rich white guys. Many people
fought all kinds of battles, legal and otherwise, for the extension of these
civil rights. Disenfranchised people, and their supporters and advocates,
have had to fight for these rights because the people in power, who were
advantaged by this system, wouldn't reform it or give it up just because it
was the right thing to do.

While it is no longer legal to discriminate against women, people of color
and tenants in the exercise of civil rights, children remain legally
disenfranchised. The most glaring manifestation of this is embodied in the
traditional educational system where they are reduced to virtually the same
conditions as those adults whose liberty has been curtailed only after being
convicted of a crime. I think of it like an institutional work/home release
program, similar to the department of corrections programs where the inmates
are incarcerated in a State institution, deprived of their liberty for x
amount of time and released for y amount of time. While incarcerated, they
are monitored by experts in control, euphemistically called corrections
officers, but better known as guards. Although some are nicer than others,
they all wield massive amounts of power over their inmates, including
security, when to eat, where to eat, what one can and can't do right down to
monitoring and controlling the bodily functions of their charges. The
criminal offense for trying to leave the prison or program is called escape.

Traditional schools aren't much different, only the names have been changed
to fake out the kids, calm the parents, and assuage teachers' egos.
Students report for incarceration at state run institutions and are freed to
their families on nights, weekends and occasional state approved holidays.
Anyone caught trying to escape is criminally prosecuted under a quaint
sounding law called truancy. Kids who are repeatedly found guilty of
truancy are sentenced to even more restrictive state run institutions where
fewer pretenses exist.

Unlike prisoners who generally are not required to enroll in any self
improvement courses, (no matter how good it might be for them or the rest of
society) children are subjected to classes which are little more than state
sponsored mind control experiments. They are immobilized in chairs and desks
for hours, force fed state approved/censored information, and evaluated on
their ability to regurgitate it on command, based on the arbitrary and
irrelevant standards established by some self-important bureaucrat who is
making a living at the kids' expense. At the end of the day kids get
furloughed back to their families, where at least some part of their time
will be spent trying to learn these irrelevant circus tricks so they can
avoid a potentially dooming failing grade. Try doing that to adults without
a court order and a gun.

If it's wrong to do that to us as free adults, it ought to be wrong to do it
to our children.

I think this is EVIL, and I believe that children should be emancipated from
this archaic, and patriarchal system of social engineering. When there is
as much money and power involved as there is in the traditional educational
system, you better believe it is going to take a fight to establish these
rights on the behalf of children. Each person has to decide which side they
want to be on, because like most other civil rights struggles there is no
middle ground on which to seek refuge.

On a final note, to those who believe that chaos would break out if the
country just adopted this concept: Balderdash. Traditionally, we do it
every spring when kids are let out of their obligation to attend school for
the summer. My dream is that childhood would be an endless summer, and we
would just never force them to go back.

Dawn Harkness

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