Borough School Banquet

Rick Giles's picture
Submitted by Rick Giles on Thu, 2010-08-19 18:50

As I drove our eldest to school last week I tried out-loud to comprehend her decision to spend yet another day in public primary school. I felt a sense that she was happily turning herself in to have her brain dulled, time stolen, autonomy rented out, education forestalled for some social squashbuckling on the bullying foodchain.

Yet, I had no words for her or for myself to relate this to what was about to re-occur for the next six hours. What could I say? That sharing a classroom with kids you don't like, being told when to stop and start with bells, taking orders from a teacher or being punished for nonconformity was self-evidently WRONG? Impossible. For one, it's only about a ten minute drive. More importantly, all of those things and more have been completely normalised for our "student" over the course of the last 6.5 years. Worse yet, as a product of public schooling myself all my concepts and words are also captured by school as I know it: A compulsory, centrally planned and distributed service. How could I break this thought pattern?

My idea, unless I've forgotten stealing it, was the Borough School Banquet metaphore and I explained it to an amused victim as follows. Education is served as a compulsory meal at your state-designated restarant. You are compelled to be within the walls of the restarant between 8:55 and 3pm. By law, truant diners can be captured and detained within those hours to the restarant premises. The dining customers, then, must attend the restarant and wear its uniform but this is not specified by preference for the food or the service but according to geographical zone.

Once within restarant grounds, the diners are sent to various tables to be seated with thirty or so others. Once again, the table choice and seating arrangement is not up to the consumer. It is up to the Restarant Manager, who calls himself The Principal. It is not uncommon to be seated at a noisy disruptive table, to say nothing of how much or how little the diner may care for the company in which they are compelled to share their meal. Unlike free-market restarants, the diners may not leave the table without permission although bells within the great restarant signal break times. Nor do the diners receive a menu to select from, rather they are all fed the same fare and expected to eat everything on their plate least they be given a detention, kept after closing or during break, sent to the Restarant Manager's office for discipline or even expelled to another restarant.

Naturally, the unnatural situation takes its toll on the temper of the customers. Not that they've ever been to a free market restarant to know any better, they do have the youth and spirit to resent these strict boundaries. But their frustration and anger at being confined five days a week, six hours a day (not counting homework) to a diet and a company and an hospitality never of their own preference degenerates. Skillful Restarant Management sees that these healthy reactions of customer dissatisfaction are turned against the consumer, complaints to the Manager on such matters are unthinkable. A diner unwilling or unable to swallow and keep down what he is fed is given a low grade, all fault attributed to himself. Stressed diners who do not internalise frustration and boredom take it out on those seated beside them in daily dramas. Those not caught up in these across-the-table and under-the-table shenanigans still must consume their own burden in its midst. Chairs and other equipment of the captivity are also disrupted and damaged by the counter-reaction of the ill-treated clients. But that is to say nothing of the Waiter or Waitress.

Each table, after all, is tended to by a Waitress. Origionally and officially her job is to thaw out and serve up the mass-produced homogenised pre-prepaired meals. However, with so much bickering and acting out dramas, shouting and fighting at the over-sized table the Serving Staff also take on the role of Referee although their name for the role is Teacher. Far removed from the free-market equivalent in hospitality and customer service, the Referee Waitress actually issues the customers with commands and orders so that they will eat education together and suppress anger and frustration. An outlet target themselves of the captives' wrath, teachers who do not surrender the vestiges of their service function for their refereeing role soon burn out and become fit only for relief teaching, their spirits broken, and soon after are fit for nothing at all.

Likewise, for the consumer, the experience mistaken for the consumption of education revolves around successfully inflicting and repelling conflicts with staff and fellow-diners. Escape without damage is very rare. Most are unable to reverse the harm and have a permanent distaste for further dining on education, even when, too late, it is legitimatly provided outside captivity and in a supportive learning environment. This distaste they take with them to the restarant that is High School, where matters are even worse. Others, who are favoured and well graded by the Management are even more damaged and will go on to perpetuate the pattern elsewhere and perhaps become Waiters themselves one day.

Telling it this way helps me avoid thinking of how education is socialised as if it were normal. I think that if I keep at it I may also convince the kids I know to decide for themselves on an alternative. If children become used to authoritarianism it would be absurd to expect the adults the become to look at the grown-up world with a grasp on what liberty means.

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I do! I have sympathy for the

Rick Giles's picture

I do! I have sympathy for the ratbag.

One News wanted to send a crew but were denied.

Spare a thought for how many incidents just like this happen every day in schools all over. Like the suicide count, we never hear of it.

We shall assume ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... the teenager was an informed critic.


Rick Giles's picture

Update: 9am thismorning, School evacuated when unknown teenager set fire to the school!

I see that as symptomatic.

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