Learning Democratically

Occupy is a significant political movement even if it makes few gains against the corporatocracy. It is a global movement of young people who are saying there is something wrong. It has no leaders, and that is significant democratically. Here is a journalist Penny Red describing her views of the movement globally at the moment (Democracy Now 4/10/11):-

In this clip I would like you to note Penny’s description of the organisational structures that she has encountered amongst activists globally and at #OccupyWallSt. Mirina Sirtin, who is also on the panel, wrote a book “Horizontalism” concerning the struggle in Argentina in 2000. At that time the economy was in ruins, the government had closed bank accounts, and the people said enough was enough. There was no way they could challenge the global economic structures that were being imposed from above, and so they began a democratic movement they called Horizontalidad – Horizontalism. It is these Horizontalidad structures that Penny Red is describing at #OccupyWallSt.

Now this is the background to my realisation that in my whole life in education and elsewhere I have been contributing to vertical structures – the structures of the corporatocracy. And it is in changing these vertical structures that I want to address in this blog (in combination with the other facets that have made up the earlier parts of my book at Matriellez website). As I develop my understanding of this process so it will be incorporated in my book, but I have much to relearn as I am the archetypal vertical teacher.

Quite simply I have readily accepted that students come to teachers to learn, teachers have the knowledge and students must accept that knowledge from the teacher. In many senses that sounds fine. Now place that in the context of the corporatocracy, what I have described earlier in the book as the corporate paradigm. Because the students expect to receive knowledge from their teachers, then they expect to receive everything from powers-that-be. They then accept governance from government, usually meaning they accept without questioning. Now even in teacher-led traditional classrooms teachers encouraged sensible questioning but does government? Government accepts questioning but it does not accept questioning that leads to change, they do not accept questioning of the corporate paradigm. And neither does the education system accept questioning of that paradigm, nor does it accept questions on testing. The education system, as government, accepts some questioning, and both direct that questioning away from the area that most needs change – the corporatocracy or the corporate paradigm.

And the teacher in most classroom methodologies contribute significantly to this by accepting the leadership model of teaching, the teacher imparts the knowledge and the student accepts that knowledge leading to its reproduction in tests. The measure of success in education is whether the student reproduces the same knowledge that has been imparted by the teacher. This acceptance process is integral to the process of the people accepting how they are governed – irrespective of whether the government is right or wrong. It is acceptance of a model of democracy that says that postholders are elected and then make decisions that must be accepted until the elections come again, at which point in theory they can make a better choice. Even though the choices are rarely better, there is only a marginal difference in most partisan democracies, it is a requirement of our neo-liberal pseudo democracies that we accept government leadership during the periods of office. Recently in the US and UK we have had abject bare-faced liars in power. Particularly with Blair and Obama these people came to power with promises they have never kept. Breaking of those promises ought to have been termination of their government but a well-educated electorate accepts that leaders have to lead and promises don’t have to be kept.

In the classroom teachers make a fundamental promise, and that is that they will educate. To educate now is a euphemism that the students will pass tests so effectively teachers encourage students to think they will pass tests – this is the basic promise that underlies the education system. If you follow what I teach, you will pass the tests, and if you don’t it is your fault that you fail. As discussed throughout the book this basic promise of passing the tests is a bare-faced lie, a lie that many teachers are not fully aware of. If the corporatocracy does not have failures who will do the work for them? By the end of their education most students are used to failing, and they are used to their leaders, the teachers, not delivering on promises. They are used to receiving from leaders and not being able to act for themselves – they are disempowered.

But what if we started a process of teaching whose purpose is to empower? Not to empower as indiviudals in a selfish aggressive manner akin to the corporatocracy now, but empower as individuals in a sharing and responsive democracy acting responsibly. What if we started a sharing democracy in the classrooms, a sharing of knowledge that includes the teacher. Once empowered in this way, when these students become adults, they would be able to share in organisational structures as at #OccupyWallSt rather than be recipients of exploitation. In the structures of the corporatocracy wage enslavement forces people to borrow money to live on Nature’s land, to borrow money for shelter in houses, pay taxes to fight wars for the profits of the MIC, follow policies that damage our ONE planet and eat food that damages health.

I have not begun to describe learning democratically but it does sound incredibly dangerous. Teach people not to follow their government? That sounds like anarchy, I don’t want that I am not Anonymous. But whilst I don’t want anarchy I don’t want the current order in which we are slaves growing up to give our money to the corporatocracy. Effectively this blog will investigate a meaningful way of learning democratically, but with our government puppets the way they are that would mean some defiance unless the government changes.

To me I don’t care about that now. Defiance is needed because the corporatocracy is taking us to war for profit and defiance is needed in support of our ONE planet. What we want is educating for democratic and acceptable defiance – a very difficult balance. And it starts with democracy in the classroom empowering the students moving away from leadership by the teacher, empowering students to share for the good of all. To be honest as yet I don’t know how but I must – it is part of Matriellez.


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