Gated Communities

Gated Communities

There were several fascinating conversations I wish I would have had time to respond to while I was in transition. I just want to mark them, as they scroll off into the sunset.

Because I teach, and maintain an online journal, I am sympathetic to the blog-thread that sprang from Liz Lawley’s post about boundaries. The comment thread, particularly on Wealth Bondage, is fascinating. But I can’t help but think that the situation isn’t that far removed from the whole personal/private boundary issue which springs from any public form of discourse.

Why is it a different issue when professionals gate their discourse because they know that those below them on the hierarchy might read them? I suspect because it violates the illusion of an assumed lateral distribution of discourse on the web. The tutor is right—there is always an in-crowd, and those who would seek to subvert it. That’s why I have always tried to avoid setting those essential boundaries; I suppose, like Groucho Marx, I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

But I don’t really see the sinister conspiracy implied by Doug’s interesting post on “deschooling”. I think it is important that education acts to destroy itself—the most important thing that any school can teach you is that you don’t need school. Any person with enough determination, outside the “club” if you will, can learn as much if not more than any discourse community can offer.

There shouldn’t be a hierarchy, once you pass a certain point in basic skills. I loved watching a sort of “academic snobbery” completely fall away, piece by piece, in the professors I have worked with. The more you reach to grasp their level, the more you can look them in the eye instead of staring into their kneecaps. It isn’t a case of developing a gated academic ego to stand parallel to them, but rather having the ability to logically construct a case where you must be taken seriously. Of course, there will always be those who cling to their academic robes.

But this has not been the case with the majority of my teachers—they have become colleagues, not because of any basic change in attitude on either side, but because of a change in the level of knowledge we share. No one knows everything; when you figure out that it is important to talk to people because they actually know things that you don’t, you become a much more effective learner.

The flow of knowledge works both ways in school. I learn things from my students every semester. I enjoy that aspect a lot more than any privileges afforded by a gated community.

12 thoughts on “Gated Communities”

  1. I composed several replies to this, and then discarded them. What’s the point of getting into an argument with someone who’s already decided that they understand me, my motivations, my students, my colleagues, and my institutional culture well enough to judge my actions?
    Publiesse had some very eloquent and appropriate comments related to this issue at the end of the comments on the Tutor’s “gesture” post. I highly recommend them.
    If you ever find yourself in a tenure-track position, with all the pressures and politics associated with such, I wonder if you’ll look back at your comments here with a different perspective. Then again, you don’t want to be part of the “in-crowd,” so perhaps you’ll boycott the hierarchy of the academy so as not to be seduced into that gated community.

  2. Jeff – there is no conspiracy, nor was there ever. I don’t think it is implied although given our modern perspective and distrust or authority figures it is perhaps not surprising that many would asume a conspiracy existed.
    It was all very much out in the open right at the start – we’ll copy the Bavarian/Prussian educational system (now if you want conspiracies …. Bavaria, home of the Illuminati …. 😉 😉 ) because it produces a product that we want – citizens who allow themselves to be told what to believe and are “willing” slaves to a work ethic we’ll promote. It was designed by and for the industrialists and talked about freely – that’s not a conspiracy.
    The intersting question – and from a brief glance Dave Pollard addrssed this yesterday ( is why have we lost sight of what those orginal objectives were? That is to say – what has occured in society – with dedicated concerned teachers, people who really want to make a powerful positive impasct on their students – that “prevents” us from changing the educational system to one that doesn’t produce drones. Is it inertia? Is it some uber gestalt that we are all so trapped in we can’t see the door? Logic seems to dictate that if private schools were able to deliver quality education to rich and poor alike producing independent thinking well read politically astute citizens in the 18th C., then why can’t public schools in the 21st? Yet they for the most part produce the exact opposite no matter how much money is thrown their way.

  3. Excellent post, and thanks for linking Doug’s article as well. Questioning what learning and education are really all about can only have good results for society. BTW, the claim is that it is more of an open secret than a conspiracy, and probably there isn’t even any malice or bad faith needed to create these problems in the system.
    There is a lot of wisdom in knowing that you can’t know everything, nobody does, no matter how learned and wise they seem. There is also an important point that learning is essentially collaborative, and while there is no fountain of knowledge in a university, there is a collection of brilliant minds (hopefully), and with a little luck their rubbing together produces some magic sparks.
    I would frame the idea that “you don’t need school” a little differently. You need people to share your ideas with, to argue the fine points, but in the end you have to find your own voice and dig deep inside for insight. When you are ready, you won’t need to look back to your teacher for aproval, you will stand and deliver your piece, take your lumps and come back again. With any luck you will be wrong in interesting ways.

  4. Doug, I read an implied conspiracy in this section of your post:

    It has always been in the interests of industrialized countries, or rather their captains of industry to have:

    1. a large pool of uneducated workers
    2. a rate of unemployment around 6%
    3. Bread and circuses to divert the great unwashed.

    It keeps the public’s minds off how they are being manipulated. The purpose of school is not to educate but to socialize individuals, to get them ready for the rat race.

    Saying that it is in the “best interests of captains of industry” does imply that the structure of the educational system (to produce sheep) is by design rather than accident.

  5. Gerry, I’m sorry if there was a problem but everything seems to be working fine as far as I can tell.
    Foucault takes up the problem of “the repressive hypothesis” in The History of Sexuality volume 1. It is the same sort of thinking (that our personalities are developed by what we are denied) which is deeply implicated in Doug’s post.
    It seems more likely that systems (like the Prussian system) were adopted because they worked at a given point in time. They have then just been replicated, far past the point that they were useful to begin with.
    There isn’t a conscious motive, it just happens that way.

  6. Yes I understand that Jeff but conspiracies are I believe by definition secret, sub rosa, plots/organizations. That definition does not apply here as there was nothing secret about it. It was very public, boasted about even. Because something, nefarious or not, is done by design does not, in and of itself, make it a conspiracy.
    That is one of the things that makes this so interesting to me – that it was all so above board – and yet we still seem trapped in the results of it though few today in the system would state that those are the results they are looking for. Note I said few because this 2001 statement:

    “I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant disorder. I suggested that perhaps the boy didn’t have a disease, but was just bored. His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me. However, she added, “They told us at the state conference that our job is to get them ready for the work world�that the children have to get used to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs in the real world.”

    by Clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine just plain sends shivers up my spine. With such people as that lady was referring to in charge of our educational system there is little hope for the products of that system.

  7. I can see how this all presents cause for concern, but it seems like this is mostly an issue of terminology. No teaching practicum I’ve ever participated in has included explicit instructions to produce sheep, although that may or may not be the end result of what we accomplish with our students. If it is indeed the end result, then it is accomplished through means so subversive that we don’t even notice them or our complicitness.
    Therefore, “conspiracy” seems like an accurate enough term – or at least as good a term as any.

  8. Sorry, my mistake, I didn’t realize new comments are added at the top. They were there all the time.
    Krista has a point about terminology, but I do wonder about this “No teaching practicum I’ve ever participated in has included explicit instructions to produce sheep” vs. the quote from Bruce E. Levine. Under the euphamism of “socialization”, a lot of what Doug is pointing to can be openly justified as “what’s best for the student”. I agree that the idea is chilling.
    The ideal of good teaching doesn’t include this sort of thing (to agree with Krista), but somehow the system produces enough of it to think it is by design. Burn out in an oppressive school environment might be enough to explain it, but then maybe systematic oppression is one of the central lessons and burn out is just another symptom that reinforces the main lesson.

  9. I am doing a project on gated communities, and I would love some peoples info. Do gated communites work? I think gated communities are there as an idea, the idea to keep middle income (mostly) white people feeling safe. I live in one, we have under ground parking. We have had 2 cars stolen this year, and our mail box was broken into……this gated community idea is a money making tactic, and I believe it works to lure people into, only if gate part worked!

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