Finn opens in chapter one, discussing various considered titles for his book, and while we did not have access to the entire book, the selection we read could have been titled "The Discipline Games" because of the in-depth study and description of the set-up and inequality found in schools and how that inequality funnels students into their roles in life following. The set-up of schools, and the idea that it could be intentional (conspiracy GASP!) by those with privilege, evokes powerful connections to that other title so popular in today's classrooms and society "The Hunger Games." So in honor, I will be peppering my blog today with movie references for those of you who love the cinema.
In "The Book of Eli" Denzel Washington's character carries a bible through the apocalyptic world, where very few can read, and those who can hold all the power. The main antagonist, is on a mission to collect and/or destroy all books, especially the bible, because it is the most dangerous of all books. When he finally gets it from Washington's character, it is useless, because it is in Braille, which renders the villain functionally illiterate. Eli continues on the a society of pacifists, and proceeds to recite, word for word the entire contents of the King James Bible, which he has memorized. Finn opens by telling us of the power of literacy, and access to books, and continues throughout his book to describe "literacy with attitude."
We go on to read Finn discuss how students in working and middle class schools are taught to follow directions, get the right answer, and exhibit acceptable levels of resistance, mixed in with some hope for opportunity. This type of learning is directed toward a future of wage labor, or service labor, such as teaching, law enforcement, nursing, and "accountantry(my word)." There were two phrases that stuck most with me in this section, the first, concerning working class students and a science experiment was: "what did we find" of course this came after the teacher performed the experiment in front of the students who were expected to sit quietly at their desks and observe. The second was "There was more excited patriotism around holidays here than in any other school." when referring to middle class students. This screams to the "caste system" of our society. While hourly wage workers and working class people have little reason to look forward to the holidays, and those who are affluent don't need to have their holidays and gift-giving dictated to them, the middle class "managers" grind ploddingly forward, waiting for a chance for a little extra moment of what appears to be joy, in the form of a three day weekend. What more appropriate image than a Disney classic:
The ants pick the food, the grasshoppers eat the food, and nobody gets squished. These ants don't even know enough to know that they are oppressed, or to question their lot in life, until one renegade ant screws up and has no choice but to force change. I think Finn and Friere might have moonlighted on Disney's writing team for this one.
The last idea I wanted to touch on was the idea of students from working class schools being hosted by those in affluent schools, and the differences between the food, and the classes, and the hallway expectations, and the rules, etc. I have often rebelled against the popular idea that if you took a student from a poor community, and dropped them in an affluent one, they would prosper, or that if you took a teacher from an affluent community and dropped them in a struggling urban school, they would fail. I'm just not sure the issue is that simple, but I do understand how he felt that he had let the urban students down by reinforcing the image they already have of sub-ordinance. Here's two last hollywood pics that deal with that idea:
Can't wait for class this week!