The Hunger Games & Critical Literacy, Post 2 of 4.
Part #2 – Schooling is an Arbitrary System
(Navigation: Part 1, Parts 3 & 4 tomorrow)
I've defined critical literacy as the ability to both:
#1 observe, analyse, deconstruct a system (aka the observer’s perspective, from without), and
#2 engage with the system, complicitly but seeking agency.
So much of my thinking in recent months has been about schooling as a highly particular and arbitrary system. The great harm of schooling comes from the fusion of its agents, in mode #2. I mean that the agents of the system (the players: teachers, students, etc) fuse with the system à la Mode #2.
Many adults are haunted by internal wiring, social roles, raw nerves, and other wounds inflicted in their tender years navigating the school-universe. The adolescent might become the resistant reader, kicking against the system, but this does not necessarily imply thought mode #1. I can rebel against a system I am fused with. I am a rebel. Schooling allows rebels. The rebel is on the map. We know what to do with you. Let’s play out the script: the argument door is third on the left.
Ask an adult about their schooling years. This is often like peering under a rock, and the grubs come out. The distortions from their formative years. Saturday night at dinner, a very close friend told me how, as a tiny thing, he had an anxiety attack at his 'Quartile 1' on his report card, thinking the higher the number the better. This is his early years, right? Doesn't matter that he interpreted it wrong. He's coming up against the game, but doesn't have language to identify it as a game. It's reality. These moments stay with people. It's so meaningless.
From the teacher’s perspective, in mode #2, homework, compliance, ‘management’, programs, assessment, outcomes, are the circuits of the CPU. Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone! All in all you’re just another brick in the wall. My hand is straight up in the air admitting culpability, letting the cultural DNA, the great archetype, the Toxic Myth, that hideous platonic form “SCHOOLING” brutalise myself and my students over the years. I relate to the proposition “every teacher feels guilty”.
I cannot tell you how much it bugs me that when our school is inspected, the inspectors sit in a room and examine bits of paper called programs. What are these bits of paper? They would appear to be crucially so important! In fact, the most relevant, telling, information-yielding element in a school would appear to be its paper-work. The litmus-test! Therefore, the summun bonum! The students are a means to an end?Functionally, is this not how it plays out? I have a precious hour to invest. The inspectors are coming. I had better tidy up those bits of paper!
What use that hour could be put to, otherwise! Count the wasted hours! The French K to 10 syllabus, for instance, has 8 quite workable outcomes, but then they go spoil it with 50 substatements. Try mapping them! Some Mode #1ers got carried away, is what happened. Lovely system on paper.
Ye God of Bureaucracy, all yield!
The paper is irrelevant, because this child missed breakfast, or is sleepy, or already knows long division, or cares not to learn it, or doesn’t get it.
The bit of paper is “the violence inherent in the system”. Outcomes? <shakes fist> OUTCOMES!? Gamified schooling: teachers affirmed for pristine paperwork.
Watch out what you incentivise!
Part #3 – Gaming Promotes De-Fusion from the System, tomorrow.