Throughout history, some humans have forced other humans to live a second-class existence based on some arbitrary rule or standard. In so doing they violate the Golden Rule (or, if you are more philosophically inclined, Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance): we would never accept for ourselves the fate we mandate for others.

For example: unfair laws; separate transportation; separate eating places; separate bathrooms; the need for passes to travel; no voice in the society.

All humans are alike in that they have to eat, drink, and go to the toilet. And all humans want a real voice. So how, dreadful and ironic is it to target eating, drinking, and defecating as the three things by which we often differentiate US from THEM. Separate facilities, separate rooms for people of one class; other facilities – usually of lesser quality – for people viewed as “lower”.

But, Grant! Why in the world are you talking about this??? Why are you bringing up this history now?

Oh, sorry. I should have clarified. I wasn’t talking about then; I am talking about now.

Huh! Where are there such practices like this now?

In schools everywhere. Separate eating places and toilets for teachers and for students. Student need permission and passes to go to the toilet. Many staff places are off limits. And students have almost no meaningful say in the development of school rules and policies.

How about if I announce this tomorrow: “As of today, the administration will have a fancy executive washroom and dining room for their own use; not for teachers. And teachers will need written permission to leave their rooms and the school.” I suspect there would be a big outcry. But are we blind to what we unwittingly do to students, especially high school students?

Dewey wrote clearly and powerfully, in Democracy and Education, of the need of school to practice what democracy preaches if democracy is to thrive in future generations. 100 years later I don’t see much progress, especially in secondary schools.

True story: In a Pennsylvania district, the Superintendent loaded up a bus of high school teachers and took them to the local prison. Their task was to compare and contrast prison with high school. A few teachers i spoke with said it was a transformative poignant experience: there were manny ways in which prisoners had more freedoms and respect than students.

Food for thought…

[This is a completely rewritten post, in response to appropriate criticism of me using a term to describe my concerns about students in schools. Hopefully, my apology and this re-write puts us back on track to do what this blog is about: deeper thinking and discussion about serious educational issues.]


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