Getting schooled for the dystopia
A plug and a short story
I’d like to share something I ran into the other day and haven’t been able to get out of my mind. By a writer who goes by Timothy and writes, it’s an essay that explores how self-directed education might (or not) prepare kids for “the world of work in late-stage capitalism.”
I myself have half-bakedly mused (without solutions, of course) on how the educational system makes us workaholics, but Timothy goes way deeper (and draws from the actual experience of teaching). Some highlights:
The relationship of play to learning—for most of human history, play (not direct teaching) was the main way children prepped for adult roles
How “classroom rituals” under capitalism stamp out play and, ironically, keep children “childish” enough to be “good” employees
Self-directed education as a “political act”
If you’re interested in education generally, or if you’d like a little more awareness about how your schooling has affected how you relate to work, this is a good read.
A quick story from my schooling
I did not have a self-directed education, and honestly rather enjoyed growing up in the public school system (even if it did prime me for workaholism). My friends and I rarely thought about our coming lives in the workforce, let alone how school was prepping us for them.
But one moment sticks with me, where my sixth-grade teacher let her guard down for an exasperated moment and gave us the first vision of what was coming.
It was one of those late-in-the-school-year afternoons when we’ve all had enough and are being huge shits to each other: relentless mockery, throwing erasers, making angry arrangements to fight after school…the works.
Ms. K, who’s also had enough, screams (fittingly enough) “ENOUGH!” at the top of her lungs. Since she doesn’t usually do this, we all fall into sudden dead silence. She puts her teaching book aside and sits on her desk for a second, thinking. After a deep sigh, she begins:
“You don’t know how special this time is. School is the only time in which you are all equal. You will be adults soon enough, where you’ll be each other’s bosses, and some of you will have more money than others.”
“You probably won’t speak each other.” Her voice quivers, the rare time that as a kid you see adults show that type of emotion.
“Or if you do, it won’t be friendly anymore. You’ll be barking orders, you’ll be making each other’s life miserable. Kind of like you’re doing today. So please, just be kind to each other now, while you still can.”
I didn’t think of it much at the time. In fact, we recited her speech in exaggerated tones while fake crying during our walk home that afternoon. But it’s touching to think on it now, as I live in the world she warned us about.
If I were to quibble, I could say that maybe she could have helped us imagine a better adulthood instead of wallowing in her resignation. Maybe she could have benefitted from Timothy’s article.
But either way, that was her truth, and in that truth, she knew she was preparing us for a future that sucked, and she was grieving on our behalf.
Thank you for grieving on our behalf, Ms. K.