Schools as Battlefields for Justice? Teachers as Soldiers?

Previously unreleased, August 25th, 2010

“Put plain and simple, this country needs an army of great new teachers.” – Arne Duncan at the University of Virginia – 2009

“We will recruit an army of new teachers and develop innovative ways to reward teachers who are doing a great job, and we will reform No Child Left Behind so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.” – barackobama.com; education solutions

I guess this metaphor is supposed to be patriotic or nice. It’s not. As a person who thinks war is immature, ineffective, and negative, statements like this make me question the goals of such authority.

If the teachers are the army, then what war are they fighting? To recruit an army of teachers means that the teachers are seen as soldiers. In other talks these two men allude to the war being a war for “social justice,” or civil rights or something. Social justice as defined by thefreedictionary.com is as follows:

Social justice refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect of society, rather than merely the administration of law. It is generally thought of as a world which affords individuals and groups fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society. (Different proponents of social justice have developed different interpretations of what constitutes fair treatment and an impartial share.) It can also refer to the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.

Social justice is both a philosophical problem and an important issue in politics, religion and civil society. Most individuals wish to live in a just society, but different political ideologies have different conceptions of what a ‘just society’ actually is. The term “social justice” is often employed by the political left to describe a society with a greater degree of economic egalitarianism, which may be achieved through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or property redistribution. The right wing also uses the term social justice, but generally believes that a just society is best achieved through the operation of a free market, which they believe provides equality of opportunity and promotes philanthropy and charity. Both the right and the left tend to agree on the importance of rule of law, human rights, and some form of a welfare safety net (though the left supports this last element to a greater extent than the right).

According to Cornell University Law School, civil rights are:

an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, and assembly; the right to vote; freedom from involuntary servitude; and the right to equality in public places. Discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class. Statutes have been enacted to prevent discrimination based on a person’s race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual preference.

These are tricky concepts, but based on what these men say, teachers are the soldiers fighting the war for these sorts of things, or more of it ( because we have already come a long way in achieving social justice and civil rights). Gaining social justice is a struggle, but a war? I’m not sure if calling it that does any good. Why must there be war for and on every sector in society? Our whole culture is a war. On drugs. For justice. On terror. For peace (???).

Learning is not a war, it is an adventure. While it can be used as a tool to equip oneself with the awareness necessary to achieve justice, learning overall is discovery and intriguing challenge. What do these men really mean?

Where does this place school administrations and all the higher levels of bureaucracy? Are the teachers the Privates, while all others serve as the Generals, Lieutenants, and Sergeants? Most of all, what are the students? Like the citizens overseas that government leaders claim we want to provide with peace and civility, are the students just the group that needs to be fought for – to have things done to them because we don’t see them fit to achieve for themselves? Okay, so that was definitely a loaded question. 🙂 But seriously, it seems that this war metaphor is used too much. There even used to be a “war on hunger.” Hunger?

What do you guys think? Does the trail oddly make sense? Generals and leaders – Administration and the government -> Privates/Soldiers – teachers -> Civilians/those to be “aided” -> students = The War for Education

And I guess citizens are okay with this kind of language, or most likely, they don’t notice it well.

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Posted on January 3, 2011, in Bureaucracy, Education, School and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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