Teachers of the World Unite!

I’m still in Uni, but I’ve been contemplating becoming a high school (A levels and GCSE for you brits) teacher. I was curious what folk’s thoughts were on anti-authoritarians, anarchists, radicals etc. in the education field? The knee jerk reaction of most “anarychists” is to attack anyone that’s a teacher, because well, they’re”brainwashing” the kids and “telling them what to do.” Though I disagree. In many ways I think organizing in the teaching sector is as paramount as organizing in the military, in that it can serve to subvert fundamental functions of social control in a number of ways. Here’s a semi detailed list that I’ve come up with so far.

1. Secondary Education is the prime tool in the indoctrination of future workers and young workers into a system of hierarchy and exploitation. This is where we take young idealistic children and turn them into little automatons. Thus it’s important to have educators that utilize a radical pedagogy. By this I mean a classroom that encourages critical thinking and dispels various social myths. They can stop most of the “official story” from ever getting into these kids.

2. Anarchist educators can provide organizing resources to their students. They can hand down hard learnt lessons of organizing and struggle to help kids set up mass organizations and campaigns centered around student and youth concerns. Draconian security? Exhaustive standardized testing? Well, then its time to get those kids a “Troublemaker’s Handbook” and help them fight the power!

Any kind of collective action at that age can build up a sense of confidence in both the student and in young folk’s ability to make collective change. I know that when I was in high school, not long ago, our main problem was that we had no conception of direct action struggle. We funneled our frustrations into advocacy, or small subversive propaganda groups. I tried both, neither worked.

3. Education is a huge industry, growing by the minute. Capital is demanding higher and higher levels of qualifications for ever more menial jobs. Education is an industry we are sure will exist for the indefinite future. It’s not getting outsourced and it’s not getting any smaller. A strong network of anarchist and radical teachers can affiliate with other militant workers in the education sector, building real industrial strength. This not only builds class consciousness and militancy, but creates a mutually beneficial relationship between students and workers. Workers strike to help students walk out, and student riot to help workers picket. Most importantly, it sends a clear message to young folk that class struggle is universal and will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

4. Teachers get a long summer vacations every year. While a radical teacher could use this time for leisure, tutoring for extra money, travel etc. He or she could also use it as a resource for the class structure. Teachers are specially positioned to provide the volunteer hours necessary to build up new projects, and to support ongoing struggles.

I’ve often thought of creating a network of alternate summer programs for working class children. Something like a radical day camp/youth center. It would be structured on the Modern school movement of Francisco Ferrer. Children would self manage the curriculum, devoting learning and play according to their own wants and needs. With our summers free, militant teachers could provide the critical mass to get this project off the ground. Of course just providing extra bodies on picket lines, meetings, and other day to day needs of any people’s struggle, is a great advantage in and of itself.

Bloody Cynics: Why Struggle is a Logical Response

Well I just finished talking to a friend of mine and as usual he proclaimed his inherent rationality for knowing that “people are apathetic and stupid, and just follow whatever leader suits them.” Apparently I’m a naïve idealist for thinking that the revolution will ever happen and that collective struggle can change people’s lives. This got me thinking. How do we justify organizing for the long haul? Well I think there are a couple things to consider.

Old timey StrikeFirst people fail to understand that building a revolution isn’t some one off deal. Revolutions are built when small struggles blossoming into a bouquet of popular intransigence. We’re trained all our lives to hate and fight our fellow humans. Collective organizing is an act of unlearning that training, bit by bit inch by inch. With every small victory, we change the lives of those involved. They learn that desperation and survival aren’t the only options, and they too are people worthy of equality, freedom, happiness. In short they find a sense of dignity. Our struggle, even if it never sparks a revolution, at the very least makes lives worth living.

So many of us live lives devoid of purpose, or worse, delude ourselves into some collective pyramid scheme like the Catholic Church. Mass struggle gives us an answer that doesn’t involve buddy Christ or buddy Jack Daniels. When Camus asks us why man doesn’t commit suicide, revolutionaries have an answer. While others drown themselves in drugs, alcohol and sermons, those in struggle can live without anesthetizing themselves. Unlike my “rational” friend, I can go through life confident of what I’m supposed to do. There’s no existential angst, no “why are we here!” nonsense.

Now to get back down to less highfalutin language, let’s just look at the facts. Direct action gets the goods, simple as that. The Labor movement didn’t bring about a socialist utopia (yet), but it did stop children from working in mines, or loosing their limbs in industrial looms. The civil rights movement didn’t end the exploitation of black working class folk, but it did help end most of institutionalized racism. I’d say both of those things are worth fighting, even ding for on their own merits. What’s great is that these worthwhile everyday struggles are all part of the revolutionary project.

A revolutionary movement is really an evolutionary movement. It’s a slow, long slog through victory and defeats. Slowly but surely, we can change the world. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass at times like this, with forests of revolution cut down by raging fires of repression. But with all fires there lies a few seedlings, germinating in the ashes. Give it enough time and enough energy, and those seedlings of rebellion will overtake the world.