Once upon a time in a land eight hours away, I was a high school teacher. Sometimes I miss it because I miss the kids, but most of the time I do not. The influence of capitalism has been detrimental to our school system here in the U.S., and our students are being failed because of it. I could no longer work at a place that I felt was damaging to me and to my students, so I quit and wandered the desert for a minute, then got back into teaching as an independent contractor.
I hadn’t done much (any) reading on capitalism since undergrad, at least, so I didn’t realize quite what it was that felt so wrong to me about school. Now, having done a little more reading, I understand it bothered me so much largely because school systems in the U.S. (#NotAllSchoolSystems) are structured the way capitalism and corporations are structured. There are the owners making all the money and decisions, and the laborers doing the actual work that earns the profit for the owners and associates. Doesn’t seem like the right structure for school, does it? Schools aren’t supposed to be worried about making a profit and the top people in education should always be the teachers.
We have, in the U.S., in education, these people, frequently women, who go through extensive training to be able to do the job. They are also normally required to do continuing education every year. So, this is a group of people with more than enough knowledge and experience and people skills to be making all or most of the decisions that affect their jobs and their schools. They have the daily interaction with students, understand how to use testing (we’ll have to talk about testing another day…), know exactly what would make their jobs more effective and more efficient. They don’t have control. They may have some control, but many school decisions are made by outsiders, most of whom have not seen how classrooms and schools run in many, many years.
That’s how capitalism works. The laborers are not making decisions and have little to no power. Unless workers own their own labor, they are being used in some way for the skills and knowledge they have earned with their own time and money, while not reaping any of the benefits or profit made by the corporation.
Our cooperative trusts qualified educators to make their own decisions. We value their life experience as well their teaching experience. We are hiring the kind of teachers that want to make decisions based on common goals within our cooperative, as well as decisions that will most help their students reach their goals-not goals set by people outside of the student-teacher relationship.
We’re getting very close to being operational, and we are all very excited by the prospect of creating what is considered radical in the culture of Corporate America. We are doing our part to work within the existing system while allowing us to own our own labor and work for and with each other.