I had a revelation at Hookah House last weekend: Traditional Education is a Patriarchal Imposition. I immediately imagined telling Woody about this recognition and hearing him say, "Well, DUH." He used to be a college professor, so he ought to know.
Colleges recruit students, and as soon as those eager young learners are installed in the dorm, The Institution sets out to Fail them in an effort to separate the Sheep from the Goats. Apparently, a College sees a number of goats that can be turned into sheep if the goats are willing to put in a bit of effort.
Velvet had made an appeal to some committee that instead of being suspended, he be allowed to register for a Forestry class so that he could receive Tree Hugger credit for his course in the Rockies. Tree Hugger said, "No." We haven't been officially notified of this rejection. Velvet needed a professor to sign a form for his Rockies course and the guy refused because the appeal was rejected. Once Velvet explained that the form merely states that he wasn't kicked out for drugs or alcohol, the guy quit being a dickwad about the whole thing and signed it with a smile.
That's when Velvet knew he was being Punished. Some of his brothers, who have also been suspended from Tree Hugger for grades, have told Velvet that nobody's appeal is ever approved. Once the period of suspension is over, getting readmitted is no problem. Being suspended must be part of the process of turning a goat into a sheep by requiring said goat to submit to said process. Since Velvet is determined to go back to Tree Hugger in the fall simply to prove to himself and the world that he can succeed in that environment, I suppose being suspended is having the desired outcome. When you don't comply or conform, you get punished so that you eventurally conform in order to avoid punishment. That's how old fashioned Behavior Modification works. Pavlov didn't do brain surgery on the damn dog, after all. Just Behavior Modification.
I would be pissed about the whole thing since I firmly believe that the supports Tree Hugger provides for kids with learning differences are absolutely inadequate and that by requiring students to perform under these conditions, Tree Hugger undermines cognitive diversity. You would think that an institution which is committed to Bio-diversity would also support Neurodiversity, but no. Students sink or swim which, in my professional opinion as an educator with two of my own advanced degrees and twenty five years in Early Childhood, is simply fucking wrong. Educators should be able to utilize a variety of methods when presenting material so that a variety of learners have access to that material. That way, almost everyone learns to swim and has fun in the water. You don't present material to a limited group of swimmers then curse the others for drowning.
The thing, is, however, that part of the reason Velvet failed two classes this past semester is that he skipped too many classes. Most likely, he wasn't even high. He was mostly likely playing video games at Hookah House and didn't feel like hauling his ass out into the rain to walk to class. Or maybe he figured that he already knew everything they were talking about and didn't need to go. Since he got 85s on all his tests, he clearly did know the material. The trouble is that he didn't look at the section of the syllabus that said, in no uncertain terms, that tests counted for 40% of the final grade. Class Participation and Assignments counted for 60%.
Velvet's Executive Dysfunction does mean he gets sadly and terminally confused about assignments and when they are due. His organizational abilities are For Shit, but I suspect the professors would have cut him some slack on that score if he had gotten off his ass and come to class. You don't look at the syllabus after you get your report card and discover to your chagrin and surprise that class participation is worth 30% without consequences.
When I first started dealing with Velvet's situation, Mr. Charleston left a comment that Velvet didn't need understanding - he needed an ass-kicking. I wasn't offended because Mr. Charleston is a military man and from a patriarchal perspective, an ass-kicking is in order. At the time, however, I didn't understand that Traditional Education is as much a Patriarchal Imposition as the Military. The pecking order I witnessed at Hookah House is a hierarchy based upon Patriarchal Imposition, too.
Although I don't know all the particulars of the situation I witnessed, I can say with certainty that when the guys were deciding if Brother A got precedence over Brother B with regard to living arrangements, they might as well have been talking about a poker game. Three of a Kind beats Two Pair - the end. Rules are clearly defined, designated individuals are given a certain amount of authority under these same rules so that they can settle disputes and order is maintained. Sometimes an individual without any particular official status has a lot of clout because he's a dominant kind of Alpha Male - but even he would have to accept the decisions of office holders within the hierarchy. Dominance alone does not give a person Authority. Authority is a Social Construct - just like Morality, and just like getting suspended if and when your GPA drops below a 2.0.
Given that Velvet will eventually have to function in this society, and that this entire society is a Patriarchal Imposition all the way to Sarah Palin - I suppose it's in Velvet's best interests to learn how to operate within the confines of this system. We can question whether or not it's a good thing to become a sheep later.
Years ago at the University of Texas at Austin I learned that college degrees prove nothing more than a person's ability to manage bullshit tasks like Library Fines and Late Registration. Jump through a predetermined number of hoops in the appropriate sequence and you get a degree. Certain jobs require degrees. My Pulitzer prize winning brother does not have a college degree, so according to HR Rules at the paper where he works, he can't be an editor even though he's most likely twice the journalist his boss will ever be. He's an all around better person, too, very likely - but that doesn't count for shit in a rule book.
Whatever a college degree proves - having a degree does not mean a person has more value in the world than anyone else. PhDs may think they are superior, and Bureaucrats may dream up job requirements that protect their own positions. Preachers may think God gave them Moral Authority, too. They can all think that bullshit as much as they want. A college degree does not automatically mean that your contributions will make the world a better place. It just means you jumped through a few hoops.
Ultimately, my argument with traditional education is that it generally does not produce more critical thinkers on purpose. It produces rats for the rat race - as if we need more rats. If we need creative individuals to find alternatives and solutions to our current problems, we need to change the educational paradigm, as Ken Robbinson illustrates in this video. It's long, but he draws an intriguing and disturbing connection between over-reliance on standardized testing, the subsequent removal of Arts & Humanities from the curriculum and the rise in prescriptions for ADHD.
Ever since I was first exposed to the ideas of Jonathan Kozol - about how traditional education guarantees plenty of workers for low-wage jobs and plenty of cannon fodder for the military because the curriculum is structured to prevent students from making the connections that would enable and empower them to Question Authority - I have been a dedicated progressive educator as defined by John Dewey. We're not in the business of creating cannon fodder. We agreed to take on the challenge when George Counts asked, "Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order?" even though it will take a hundred lifetimes working Inch by Inch, Row by Row.
As I watch my son being trained to run the Rat Race, every bone in my body cringes. I'm pretty sure it's ultimately for the best because he must be able to function independently within this system. I just wish somebody would encourage him to embrace his inner-goat in the process.
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