April 09, 2005

Corporations as psychopath

Robert Paterson blogs something I’ve read before, about the Corporaton as Psychopath which he titles “Schools - The gateway to corporate life?” (permalink doesn’t appear to be working. It’s the April 6th, 2005 entry). It's a review of a book called The Corporation which suggests it’s time for humans to move on, evolve beyond this institution. But it was the comment by Brian Alger on Paterson’s posting that made the link for me beween the psychopathic corporation and education:

By feeding students to a pathological entity under the banner of preparing for the workforce, are we not being at least somewaht hypocritical? 

Woah! Let's not examine that! Turn on the TV! Let’s play with our appliances!!

This does not come as a surprise, of course, especially if you've read anything recent by John Taylor Gatto, who points out that schools were never designed to "elevate the masses" or prepare humans for self-fulfilment, but were factories to create workers for the factories that sprang up after the Industrial Revolution.

Paterson's posting follows from his previous one, in which he examines problems of discipline in schools and how schools are failing young people. This is a long posting and there's lots of passion in it. A coupla snippets that caught my eye:
Many of our children are disengaged. As a result they are on a track to becoming unemployable and unable to parent. ...
I believe that the deeper malaise of our schools is not their academic issues but that they inadvertently act to produce large amounts of socially dysfunctional graduates...
Why these behavioral problems? The issue is attachment and identity. Increasingly many of our kids are disengaged from their parents, from their schools and from their community....
Why do our kids not care? Please have a look at the social structure at our schools...Many of our schools have between 500 and 1,000 pupils who exist as an undifferentiated mass. It is not possible to belong to any organization that exceeds 150. (The link explains the science behind this claim)
He has a couple of solutions. One is the bus, another is the one-room schoolhouse.

This was food for thought for me after reading about a woman who, as a girl, was obliged by her mother to take a part-time job in a nursing home rather than in the snack shop at the beach club. How callous!
When I was 15, my mother got me a job at the local nursing home. I wanted to work at the snack shop at the beach club -- roast hot dogs, flirt with lifeguards -- but she insisted I take the sad job in the sad place where so many people were baffled and afraid, and where it smelled like pee. I asked her years later why she made me do it, and she said, "To teach you compassion."

In Dianetics, Hubbard writes about the 4 spheres (I think; don't have the book to hand) - me, my family, my community, my world. He wrote about helping people to see that instead of there being a constant conflict between these, there could be a synergy.
I'm not clear about it yet, but I'm starting to sense a connection between Hubbard's idea and the girl who learned compassion in the nursing home.

My partner in crime and I have been thinking about goals, about what our students' goals might be, whether they have any, whether they've lost heart somewhere along the line and if so how to encourage them to dream again and try and realize those dreams.

Blinger has blogged about teaching students how to set goals. And he recommends this book Strategies for Success: A Practical Guide to Learning English, by H. Douglas Brown.

My friend Ann mentioned a book about learning strategies by Brown. I wonder if it was the same one?

There's also a link (to me at least) between Paterson's disengaged kids and this story about telling stories to help a seriously disoriented woman find her bearings again. Today, Ann mentioned to me, "Perhaps we need to spend more time just getting to know our students." Yes, it's easy to skimp on that.

I don't know much about ADD, not enough certainly to diagnose any of my students, but I did notice that some of the least cooperative students I had last year changed remarkably when I gave them some personal attention. Several times last year I had them all working in small groups on mini-projects of their own choosing. Whenever we did these, however, there were always a few students slumped over their desks, or staring out into space. Did they not understand the instructions and so were tuning out? Waiting to be told what to do? Were they rebelling? Refusing to work? Was the kind of work I was offering them too biassed towards certain skills (verbal-lingistic for instance) that they were poor in, and that turned them off? I still don't know, but I discovered that when I went up and talked to them to a) try and find out what was going on, and b) try to twist their arms a bit, they more often than not perked up and seemed delighted to have my personal attention. Some undoubtedly just preferred talking to me than "working", but I found that after a few minutes of conversation (mostly in their native language, not mine) they seemed to recover their spirits and decided on something to do.

I want to continue that strategy this year, too. The problem is how to make time for them? It seems necessary to have some kind of activity for the class to do undirected. Another strategy, which I'm also going to use more of this year, is to co-teach, and have a colleague in the same room. One teaches, the other wanders around observing and chatting to students.

My colleague and I have also considered spending some time telling our own stories, about how we came to this country, why, stories from our travels, our attempts to learn a foreign language, etc. Why do we think this might help to catch students who are "disengaged", tuning out? Because of the attention we saw them give to our visiting speakers when they spoke about their real-life struggles with a foreign language and/or in a foreign place.

Not only telling stories to students (real stories or invented ones, tho for my purpose I think real ones might be best), but also listening to the students' "stories", I think will help us getting to know them. It seems that just listening can be very therapeutic. When Ann mentioned spending more time just getting to know her students, I remembered a young medical student I met recently who has been persuaded to work informally as a counsellor at a junior high school in the city. It's a very tough school, and there are many students from broken and/or violent homes. He says his counselling consists almost entirely of listening to them; many of them seem to have no-one who will listen, and that in itself seems to excacerbate, if not cause, some of their emotiona problems. Listening seems to ease their pain.

Update:
Hubbard refers to the four dynamics (in Dianetics)
Dynamic one is the urge toward ultimate survival on the part of the individual and for himself....
Dynamic two is the urge of the individual toward ultimate survival via the sex act, the creation of and the rearing of children. It includes their symbiotes, the extension of culture for them and their future provision.
Dynamic three is the urge of the individual toward ultimate survival for the group...
Dynamic four includes the urge of the individual toward ultimate survival for all mankind. It includes the symbiotes of manking and the extension of its culture...
a problem has been well resolved which portends the maximum good for the maximum number of dynamics.

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