Article — From the September 1965 issue

The way it spozed to be

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  • NormaJFHarrison

    School Is The Opposite Of Education, a study to release us from our

    reform is written and talked about very frequently in the media.
    People are supposed to think satisfactory alternatives to the zombie
    reforms – reforms that were worthless, that died, as it were, after
    being punched to death, those deceptive, ineffectual modes – not
    different actually, from the previous mode; being done again and again,
    repeatedly, over and over, called by different names, Common Core, for
    one –that those are alternatives; that those – any of them – will at all
    repair the damage that is school.

    People are supposed to think
    that, from so much talk, so much installation of what we’re told are new
    ways to teach, that it must be that satisfactory alternatives are being
    put into place.

    Your suspicion, though, that nothing’s changed by the reforms is correct.

    what I tell you here, over and over, again and …. well, you get it,…
    What I tell you flies in the face of all the accepted ways to perceive
    the system in which we live. So it’s necessary for me to say to you at
    the beginning of this reading, that the other way to live needs to be
    constructed from the ashes of the old system; built in the midst of the
    flames of revolutionary struggle. Our children, like us, all students,
    all teachers, will be with us studying and teaching at the barricades.
    That’s how it works. That’s how self respect and learning happen.
    That’s how people see we claim our lives for us all, by us all.

    other way to live will be the function of building it. And being it’s
    utopian, we will never be finished fitting it to our tastes and needs.
    Our modifications, once we hold our power, will continuously display
    directions for updating the effective modifications, or for implementing
    other ideas altogether.

    You expect that. You know it from the
    past struggles for justice – the Soviet, the Cuban, the many attempts to
    put our power into our hands, out of the profiteers’; ending
    capitalism, substituting socialism, social – our – control for our
    benefit, no profit – no accumulation of excess by expropriation of
    others’ labor.

    What I’m arguing as I talk about schooling, is the
    overall structure we need to build daily and at the same time, grow
    into, the variation away from the profit system. I’m urging here that
    we guide that direction in ways that are satisfactory, pleasant for us –
    all; not painfully submissive.

    Our Owners want us to
    see revolution as a sudden clash, a win or a lose, living through it or
    dying in it. But that’s not how it goes, does it? You know that even
    each of those storms vanish – and return, and raises its winds, and
    becomes calmed by us, again and again.

    Day to day? … Talk about
    it. That’s the most essential thing to do now. Don’t accept the
    formations – capitalism’s institutions and derivatives, bent oppositions
    and resistances – imposed on us. And tell everyone to oppose them.
    Devise the other ways with other people. If you can, resurrect some
    community, some family, some friends, some comrades with whom to talk
    about the idea that school is not a good device for us, and the rest of
    these ideas that you like, if you do. Saying these ideas – yours and
    maybe mine as well – with people will build our liberation. Teachers
    will understand why and how they’re persecuted, and that the community
    knows that as well.

    Most importantly in this regard, children!!!
    (are not kids -a delimiting term) will have the impossible burdens
    lifted from them as they’re told school, those lessons, those ways of
    gathering are not acceptable. Those tests – no more. Those playgrounds –
    no more.

    Building this resistance is the ally to building the
    resistance to fracking, or to wars, or to having that brutal football
    overtake the culture. And better, you, parent, person who takes care of
    children, will be building that place where we’re not forced to live
    our day separately from each other, the original hurt. We will coddle
    each other, cradle each other instead. Children will just be in the
    community, coming and going like the rest of us in an altogether
    opposite arrangement of our streets and housing and production sites.

    idea that children must be separated from parents – sent away from them
    for the good of both! when neither of them, parent or child.. or
    neighbor!…wants that to happen, must be abided by. I remember yet, I’d
    already gone to nursery school; I’d been institutionally away from my
    mother and father on many occasions before I was five. But when I was
    left at Kindergarten I cried so hard ?in fear and powerlessness – I had
    no explanation of that for years – that I vomited. I do remember those
    tall windows in the school room – but I can’t tell why I was so
    discomfited, why I so much wanted to stop my mother from leaving me. It
    must have pained her greatly, to leave while I was crying so hard,
    begging her not to go – the teacher insisting she do. And that was so
    unnecessary even then. A wholly other way would have mollified the
    situation. Surely that could have been found, had the rigidity not had
    to be employed in order to arrange 30 children – and their parents.
    There certainly wasn’t space to do a separate thing for the different
    children who needed the other care.

    What a wrong attitude, showing the child its painful lack of control in this painful circumstance.

    know alternatives now are sought; the result, though, remains the same.
    Children still cry when they’re brought and left at the child care
    arrangement. Even older children, do.

    I wonder about other
    children’s ‘bratty’ behavior, behavior that looks like what mine did,
    then. The last thing I was was bratty. This was so exceptional for us –
    for my folks, for me.

    Planning how to come out from under the
    100-200+ year old device, compulsory education, envisioning what our
    lives would look like, … very difficult. So the PTA meetings and school
    board meetings will have to be to identify the forms that so discomfort
    us, schooling as we know it, irremediable. To the degree possible
    we’ll stop doing them. Where we have to work against the State
    mandates, we will, to the degree we can – children (not kids) with each
    other and us all. That’s education.

    This is a tremendously
    difficult vision to obtain, to see, especially now when the central
    effect of capitalism has so taken hold. Capitalism does not allow for
    full employment; and it only allows for employment by our Owners – for
    jobs permitted by our Owners.

    Our Owners have long gathered production entirely for THeir profit, and us into THeir cities, …us, the work force.

    difficulty here is that we’d realize we’d want our children – and
    everyone – able to do some work, to be a literally productive member of
    society – to make-produce-do a social necessity. So people would be
    working alongside each other; not imitating work – which is what happens
    in the classroom.

    The restructuring of production so it’d be
    ours, controlled by us, for the benefit of us all – a huge challenge
    envisioning that. All people doing ‘work’, doing what we need and like
    to do; 1 year olds and 90 year olds.

    We don’t adhere to the
    advisory ‘from each-to each’ …from each according to his ability to each
    according to his need. Instead we all work to provide us all
    sufficiency, plenty. Work is changed to be what we do to maintain
    ourselves and to enjoy ourselves, to feel satisfied within our
    community, and perhaps even rejoicing at having done a work; … no real
    separation between those two. Work arises from our existence, from our
    sense and feeling of what to do. And we just do it. The idea of working
    in order to get housing and food and all subsides to being, living. It
    includes playing ball and the piano and going for a walk, holding
    someone’s hand, and seeing ideas together, and all that we do.

    not be being influenced by TV shows focused on our excretion
    experiences and our sex parts’ activities. These would not be the basis
    of the hysterical laughter produced in order for us to be trained to
    find those lines funny. Our humor would be on a high plane. We’d get
    and give respect instead of having to be entertained by shallow
    derision, code terms at which we have to laugh, timed spaces – here;
    laugh; it’s time to laugh; now laugh again – it’s time; now again…

    do not tell me these are already being done. They’re not. Do not tell
    me they need to be done in a different time. (You know what we say to
    that – about ‘now’.) Do not tell me these ideas are wrong.

    Make them right.

    hope what I say follows Marcuse, and Erich Fromm, and Gramsci, and
    Shulamith Firestone, and of course, Marx, and … and… Loving – being
    allowed to love each other and Earth …without threat of brutal
    structures snatching those away. Do not tell me of the good times, the
    good experiences you had in school, as though those make it alright. As
    it said in my Book of Jewish Humor, from my aunt, when I was 18 – how
    do people KNOW these things – know to give me that right book, from
    which I’m still quoting 60 years later! in which the introduction said;
    ‘how, given the horrors, can a Jew laugh?! A worm in a horseradish jar
    learns to laugh’. Those good times get snatched up, retrieved out of the
    bad time of having to regulate ourselves to fit the requirements in
    order to get along – as do workers at jobs. Our system, our self,
    requires we try to make the best of our times. People in solitary
    confinement find some way – not all of them – to survive mentally.

    people, deserve to laugh from a place of comfort, a place that has the
    meaning we seek, not a place where we’re constantly compromising,
    rationalizing in order to make ourselves content with the role foisted
    on us – student, teacher, any role.

    These ideas point to ideal
    times. Meanwhile, these ideas are meant to relieve us from the standard
    thinking about the society that contains us so cruelly. They are meant
    to relieve our children from the burden they bear in this system, a
    burden which we suffer with them. Knowing together is a great comfort.
    Working to take control from our Owners, by us all is a long struggle,
    to build the world that is comfortable for us all. They kill us as we
    try. We try to defend against them.

    If we don’t recognize the
    capture of our minds by our Owners, we cannot begin to advance our newly
    recognized ideas. Somewhere, here and there, we can begin to interject
    formations that carry us toward our objectives. You will have the
    ideas, the suggestions that are about what we want. You will build that
    unity and strength.


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