There’s an old saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.”
As teachers, we know that children seldom are fooled when adults’ actions do not conform to their words. In my last post, I discussed the 19th-century connections between schools, child labor, and the juvenile justice system–and the way in which I believe this history predisposes schools to follow a paradigm of “Control.”
We all know the good things that we want to do for children in our schools. That is the “What I say” part. Now please suspend your objections for a few moments, and come along with me as we do a purely visual comparison, to see what we do:
|The women at left are seated at punch presses, working sheet metal in a St. Louis factory around the turn of the 20th century. The images of kids at computers come from a library and a school in California.|
|L-R: British child factory workers in the 19th century; a contemporary math class, and a contemporary science class.|
|L-R: A 19th century sweatshop; a contemporary civics class, and a contemporary elementary classroom.|
|L-R: A minimum-security prison in Oregon; the former Central Junior High in Ames, IA, and a contemporary hallway in an unidentified school.|
|Walk-through metal detectors look much the same, whether they are in a school (L) or a prison entrance (center). And surely the student spread-eagled against the lockers feels his school is a safe place to learn.|
|No matter how nice the man wearing the gun in the school library, or the one using the handheld metal detector on the elementary student may be, they, their tools, and their uniforms still look a lot like the prison guard at center.|
Please understand that I am NOT saying our schools are “just like” 19th century factories or prisons. But perhaps you’ll agree with me that some of the visual parallels are a little eerie.
I think it is certain that many alert students have not failed to notice, as well.
PHOTO CREDITS: I have a lot of people to thank for these images! Click the links to get context for each: “Factory/School #1”: Women at punch presses-Northern Illinois University; Library computers-City of Huntington Beach, CA; Classroom computers-Brock University. “Factory/School #2”: British child laborers-South African History Online; Math class-Moving with Math; Science classroom-Celsias.com. Factory/School #3: Sweatshop-Fundamentals of Finance; Civics class-Kindnews.org; Elementary classroom-Paladin Post. “Prison/School”: Prison hallway-The Oregonian; Historic Central Junior High-Ames Historical Society; unidentified school hallway-Parent Society. “Metal Detectors”: Walk-through at school-American Studies Wiki; Robben Island Prison entrance-Charles Apple; NYC metal scan-Gothamist. “Uniformed Officers”: SRO Officer Psilopoulos-Johnston Insider; Unidentified British prison guard-The Daily Mail; Unidentified officer with schoolchild-“Snippits and Slappits.” “Police Dogs”: Rikki the Lab-Lubbock Online; Prison guard and bomb dog-K9 Pride; Dutch the drug-sniffer-KBOI-TV.