Cultural Insight

Walking the path of global and cultural understanding. This is a glimpse into my journey

Monday, June 05, 2006

Schooling and Inequality - Foucault Reflection

If the oppressed search for equality they will never catch up to those in power. They must search for a superior education that stresses a revolutionary agenda. The time for playing games is done. Why would the oppressor ever give more than the minimum needed to say in power?

Okay so I may sound a bit hyped up. Believe me, I'm holding back. There is a state of emergency among African American males in this country.

Reading persepectives on Foucault brings up a variety of different thoughts. I'll try to keep on track. But since this is my blog, don't forget to enjoy the ride.

Power and Control in Schools. Image 1.– The School-to-Prison Pipeline
They come back again and again. Everyone knows that prisons make recidivists. Do schools support a recividist agenda as well? Yes they do. So how bad is it really. Most of us realize that poor educational structures and limited socio-economic opportunities can have a significant influence juvenile delinquency. That shouldn’t mean that every "troubled student" in high school should go to jail. Or does it mean that. The high school to prison pipeline is a reality. This disturbing racial disparity carries over to the criminal justice system. The Justice Policy Institute estimates that during this time [between 1980 and 2000], for every one African American male who entered a college or a university, three African American males entered a jail or a prison. With those types of numbers should African American communites trust school districts?
Learn more about pipeline
Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline
http://www.aclu.org/crimjustice/juv/24764res20060328.html

Prison Guards Make More Money Than Teachers
www.stopchicopeejail.org

Something to snack on while you enjoy the journey
Frequent use of suspension has no measurable positive deterrent
or academic benefit to either the students who are suspended or to
nonsuspended students. ... Disciplining elementary and middle school
students with out-of-school suspension predicts future suspensions and
contributes to students’ poor academic performance and failing to
graduate on time.”
Kids cannot succeed if they are not in school.

Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, New Directions for Youth Development,
Deconstructing the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Fall 2003


School failure is a leading contributor to unemployment, depression, substance abuse,
homelessness, child neglect, delinquent behavior, and incarceration. Academic success is a powerful and necessary intervention. To end the cycle of poverty and court involvement
experienced by depressed neighborhoods, we have to do whatever it takes to provide all
children with a quality education.”
Professor Jack McDevitt, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
Northeastern University College of Criminal Justice

“Allowing one youth to leave high school for a life of crime and drug abuse costs
society $1.7 to $2.3 million.”
Mark Cohen, Professor at Owen School of Management,
Vanderbilt University
Quotes borrowed from
http://www.youthadvocacyproject.org/


Our response to “troubled students” in our schools has become normalized. We expect certain students to be bad or act a less acceptable/abnormal fashion. Schools are prepared to move toward extreme measures to maintain these prevailing norms. Foucault would say that our surveillance of social deviants in high school has left society with only one disciplinary option.

Incarceration or Spatialization
Do students of color have safe spaces in their schools? Is their space defined by them or by someone else? What ever happened to detention, calling parents, a heart to heart discussion or peer mentoring? "Schools tend to favor the cultural capita of the so-called middle class (Bourdieu & Passeron,1977), and indeed operate within those same value systems that endorse productivity and in certain forms of cooperative behavior." If students have limited cultural capital does that mean that it is in the best interest of society to throw them in prison?

The Reproduction of Inequalities in the Production of Inequality
Industrial prison complex – Prisons contribute to societal productivity more than we would like to think. Tax breaks for the host city, cheap labor. Additionally the reinforcement of standards and behavior that perpetuates the system. Foucault would say we are simply reproducing the inequalities. The guaranteed low wages without the presence of a labor union make prison labor attractive to many companies like Procter & Gamble and TWA.
Pay as low as .23 per hour for data entry. In my opinion the exploitation of encarcerated African Americans is a just a new form of slavery. During the Holocaust, prisoners of Nazi Germany prison campus saw signs posted upon entry into the prison camps. The signs said. “Arbeit Macht Frei,” translation “Work Makes Free”. Yeah right. We all know how that turned out.

Snack
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
-Article Thirteen of the Constitution of 1787


Maintenance of an Infantile State

So lets see what the reproduction of inequality looks like for a young African American male.
Maintenance of the infantile state of the African American Male teenager.
Saggy/Baggy jeans = Sagging diaper of an infant – A baby should be the only one entitled to allow his/her bottoms to drop that low.
Slang definition of home = The crib
Slang definition of woman = ma, or mama
Elimination of strong African American role models in the media = Limited aspirations for adulthood.

Adapted from The Isis Papers by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing: Author of and creator of the Cress-Welsing theory analyzing the nature of white supremacy.

"Generally, the victims of a system of oppression have no alternative other than to accept blindly the patterns of symbols, logic, thought, speech, emotional responses and perceptions that are imposed forcefully upon them by their oppressors. After hundreds of years of oppression, the oppressed, having lost the sense of their own identity, begin to believe that the brain-products of their oppressors are one and the same with their own, failing completely to realize that they did not control their own brain- computers nor their brain-computers' output. The slave's fate is not to see nor reason why, but only to do or die. However, the process of liberation is one wherein the oppressed begin to clearly distinguish their perceptions, logic and thought processes from the oppressors'. The oppressed, then, begin to respect and validate their perceptions and their logic and thought processes, realizing fully that they can never free themselves with the thought processes and perceptions that were a part of the process of their enslavement." -- Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, Author, "The Isis Papers: Keys to the Colors"

Elimination of the traditional African rite of passage into manhood.

Many cultures throughout the world maintain the tradition of a rite of passage into manhood. For example, Jewish communities have Bar Mitzvah. Some indigenous groups send young males on some type of spiritual and physical vision quest as part of their bridge into manhood. These traditions serve several purposes.
The community is acknowledging fact that this young man is no longer considered a boy. The community expatiations for the young man are established. The responsibilities to family and to adulthood are clarified. This moment demonstrates that the young man is a part of something greater than himself. He is a member of a community. The time for foolish games is symbolically set aside as the young man publicly acknowledges his new role in the community. Often codes of power are expressed, providing an important toolbox of cultural capital. His actions and commitment to the community secure his respect and confidence.

So what if this type of experience doesn’t emerge in the life of an African American teenager? They maintain an infantile or childlike state of being. The absence of this type ceremony can leave young men without a sense of self worth in a pivotal time during their lives. The establishment of their symbolic infancy becomes a tool for reproducing inequalities. Although they appear to be grown men, the stagnant state of their lives leaves them essentially asleep. New societal expectations are not officially or unofficially passed on and the chain of community and cultural prosperity is broken. Of course not every passing of the societal torch will include a grad ceremony. Nevertheless, the absence of outstanding male role models in the community can create a significant void in the lives of impressionable young men. Minimal conversations with male mentors, leaders and advocates are limited. No one is effectively defining what it means to be a positive young African American man. I have spoken with many young males who often present off the cuff statements like “I have nothing to lose” or “it’s all good” to describe their circumstances. In reality, their potential status in their community has not been appropriately acknowledged or articulated. These young men want and often demand respect. Yet they are not respected. Young African American males are feared in America. They are negatively presented by our society as unsatisfactory participants in almost every area of American culture.

How do some people get the rest of us to accept their ideas of who we are? That involves the power of belief. Terms to consider - Constructing Truth, Mental Colonization and Brainwashing.

  • Business/ Finance - low business ownership, limited saving and investing
  • Family – low participants, absentee fathers.
  • Music and Culture – presented as Gangster Rap/ drug dealers/ womanizers/ wasteful consumption of diamonds, chrome etc.
  • Politics – Low participation. Limited voter registration and community activism.
  • Sports – They can play but they cannot participate in ownership or senior level management.
  • Education – low achievement, low participation, limited enrollment, low graduation rates.


The cycle of inequality and negative stereotypes is perpetuated by the media, the education system, and the penal system. If almost everything you saw in the horizon was negative, would you take the journey? Awaken the sleep Protect the weak Guide the strong.

Gangs
What options does a young brother have in his search for role models, rules and codes of power and privilege, as well as social capital? Gangs. Gangs offer very well articulated codes of power and conduct. Their establishment of social capital is clearly defined within their community. Membership through ceremony and rites of passage are demonstrated immediately. The hierarchy of power is transparent. The teenager is provided with a sense of confidence, value in the community (the gang community), respect. The goals of the group are often well defined. The prevalence of gangs across the United States opens up a world of network of opportunities throughout the country .

4 Comments:

Blogger Garcia said...

"Foucault would say that our surveillance of social deviants in high school has left society with only one disciplinary option".

I agree, beyond this I think he would add that such surveillance creates the deviant and defines him/her. It creates a 'natural' 'truth' that criminalize of them.

On the traditional rite into manhood I don't fully understand the topic but I don't know if Foucault with agree. I believe that he sees development as corrupted by extrinsic social forces, so even rites - I think - he would criticize. I kind of see the point but again I think MF would look at how human characteristics (for lack of better words, i.e. manhood) are constructed in each individual as opposed to how these were not constructed. In other words, truth are real they exist but how they came to be is what MF is really looking at.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Garcia said...

"Foucault would say that our surveillance of social deviants in high school has left society with only one disciplinary option".

I agree, beyond this I think he would add that such surveillance creates the deviant and defines him/her. It creates a 'natural' 'truth' that criminalize of them.

On the traditional rite into manhood I don't fully understand the topic but I don't know if Foucault with agree. I believe that he sees development as corrupted by extrinsic social forces, so even rites - I think - he would criticize. I kind of see the point but again I think MF would look at how human characteristics (for lack of better words, i.e. manhood) are constructed in each individual as opposed to how these were not constructed. In other words, truth are real they exist but how they came to be is what MF is really looking at.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Garcia said...

"Foucault would say that our surveillance of social deviants in high school has left society with only one disciplinary option".

I agree, beyond this I think he would add that such surveillance creates the deviant and defines him/her. It creates a 'natural' 'truth' that criminalize of them.

On the traditional rite into manhood I don't fully understand the topic but I don't know if Foucault with agree. I believe that he sees development as corrupted by extrinsic social forces, so even rites - I think - he would criticize. I kind of see the point but again I think MF would look at how human characteristics (for lack of better words, i.e. manhood) are constructed in each individual as opposed to how these were not constructed. In other words, truth are real they exist but how they came to be is what MF is really looking at.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

So Aaron, I guess the question is how African American males can apprehend discursive power? Do African American males need intellectuals of their own (i.e. Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, etc) or do African American males need grassroots movements like the ones Foucault talked about in '68? What is the "way out" and can critical theory help point the way(s)?

PS Does Roberto get extra credit for posting the same thing three times?

12:32 PM  

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