Handbook of Schooling in Urban America

By Stanley William Rothstein | Go to book overview

12
Teachers and Students in Urban Schools

Stanley William Rothstein

The pedagogy of education does not function well in urban schools, where inculcation and correction are primary considerations.1 Yet in these mass institutions, educational practice and curriculum do evolve. Sequential curricula are devised for youth who cannot speak the language and come from distant, exotic lands. Their aim is not so much to instruct as to correct by holding student's language and values up to those of the urban school. The student's presence is regarded as proof of his need for instruction--whence those disciplinary drills that deaden the mind and teach the young to obey at all costs.

There is in the pedagogical act, even in its most benign forms, an element of subjugation and submission. If in urban schools the students are subjected to constant surveillance, it is because they cannot be trusted to control themselves when they are unwatched; if schoolwork often results in ignorant looks and confusion, it is because the minds of students are too unformed, too given to idleness, or too sensitive to the baser pleasures: in any event, they lack the knowledge and understandings they will develop after years of urban education.2 Beneath the overt arbitrariness of pedagogic work, which seems to entail endless assignments of meaningless work, there is the demand for obedience and submission to authority; students' idleness and ignorance are only passive forms of resistance to a process that seeks to change their personality and self-esteem. What is desired, then, is an educational process that will teach students the virtues of obedient labor and instill a willingness to persist in meaningless work long after reason would have told them to cease. More than the image of subordination and submission is desired, however. Youths must learn to accept the social relations that develop between them and their teachers during their educational experiences together.3 A spirit must be founded within the children's nature that allows them to accept, without question, the authority relations that exist in schools and in the workplace.

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