This was first published in D.i.Y.Culture #12
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By Dr Lisa McKenzie. Anarchist & Writer.
The working class child at 5 years old knows how to be obedient it’s the first thing we are taught at school – put your hand up and ask permission to go to the toilet, the teacher gets to decide. How many ‘accidents’ and humiliations have happened because the teacher didn’t see you, denied your request, or purposefully taught you a lesson in life? This happened to me as a five year old my request was denied to go to the toilet and my humiliation was complete as ran out of the school and all the way home at little more than a toddler with diarrhoea dripping down my tiny legs. The script was set for the next ten years of my state education – the daily humiliations of being ridiculed by teachers for our messy hair, our dirty and ill-fitting uniforms. Then later as a teenage girl the limitations were piled on top of the humiliation – with housecraft and childcare as actual subjects forced on girls. No wonder we all wanted to get pregnant at 15 why the fuck wouldn’t you that what we were being taught – a girl child in a working class community is little use and carries little respect until she becomes a mother – and a working class teenage mother carries the whole disgust of a nation on her shoulders, a situation we can never win. The respect shown to mothers within working class communities are not shown to working class women on the outside of those communities. So fuck it – better to be respected on the inside and never leave.
Yet the narrative is strong ‘do the right thing’ and better yourself, because as we are – we are never good enough. Some of us try the middle class route of University – we know its not for us and we are not welcome at the posher places although they don’t mind us going to ex polytechnics and getting into £30k of debt. The middle class need a few of us to make it into the hallowed halls of the Red Brick Universities it makes them feel good, almost charitable and shows University is for everyone, it legitimises meritocracy because it shows that very few working class people have the academic intelligence to be there, and at the same time shoes their superiority. Of course this is a lie, and meritocracy as a concept is a damn lie – the people who sit at the top of society are evidence to that – the politicians, the business ceo’s and the top academics are more likely there through class privilege than their own merit. Letting a few of us into ‘their space’ also gives the middle class students working class people to practice being superior on.
My question – is this it? Is this all we really have? An education system that teaches the working classes how to take humiliation, and to consent to the process that devalues you, and through your humiliation values your enemy. We need to do better, and we can, where are community Universities? We need our own spaces of debate, literature, and creativity. Any revolutionary idea, individual, or group are nothing unless they consider the education system as it is – as the true enemy to the working class.