Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Educating Less-Than-Humans

Between Shades of Gray
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The Holocaust was one of the most despicable incidences in history. An ultimate example of how deep ethnocentrism can come to exist in the minds of humans, we all hold it as a totem of complete hell. Yes, we all hold it, for it is not only the most gruesome, but also one of the most well-remembered events of our past, which is why so many people associate the Nazi regime with such oppression.
          But the Nazis can't take all the credit.
           Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys describes the escapades of Lina Vilkas, a Lithuanian teenager who, along with her entire family, is deported to a Soviet labor camp after Stalin invades the Baltic region.. The NKVD--Soviet police--are absolutely brutal, trying to force able boys away from their families and into the Soviet army. Lina, her mother, and her brother are separated from her father, who is placed in a prison, and experience such ghastly phenomena as living through the Arctic winter with a horrid lack of food, drink, sanitation, and medicine. Children perish every day, parents become mentally unhinged, and all guards are forced to think of the "Fascist swine", as they so lovingly call the prisoners, as, well, swine. Animals. Less-than-humans.
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
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          Likewise, the country of Belgium is not just significant for its chocolate. In the late 1800s, the Belgians had a monarch by the name of Leopold II, but that whole monarchy thing was fine because of their parliament, right? Wrong. Leopold wanted one phenomenon more than anything : an African colony. At this time, European interest in the African continent was at an all-time high, especially because the continent could provide those raw materials needed to fuel Europe's highly demanding factories. But Leopold jumped on the bandwagon very early on, and did so ferociously. Under the guise of trying to end slavery in the African interior, he actually enslaved almost every African in the Congo river region (everything from the middle of Africa westward.) These unfortunate souls were forced to grow crops, carry steamboats (yes, carry them) along the Congo river, and act as personal manservants to Europeans living in the region. Most Europeans were encouraged to kill any insubordinate individuals and cut off the hand or foot of a corpse as proof. Adam Hochschild's nonfictional account, King Leopold's Ghost, describes a brutal, African Holocaust.
          And remember that attitude I talked about? The one where other humans are animals, not even worth a glance? Well, as Hochschild states in his book, such an attitude is key to such systems as Leopold's in the Congo and Stalin's in Siberia. Out of respect for themselves, people won't treat other people in such horrible manners because both parties are indeed human. This is because other humans deserving such treatment justifies your deserving of such treatment--you're a human too, are you not?  However, if the victims are inhuman, such as "swine", the treatment can be dished out guilt-free.
          What if a weaker version of this phenomenon is present in the United States?
         One word: education. Standardized tests are being used to determine the futures of teachers in numerous states. Now, it is agreed that no two human beings are the same, yes? Each human, and therefore each student, has different needs and different situations that relate to those needs.  But in this system of adjudication, this quality of students is completely ignored; apparently, the affluence of students in the educational setting is not influenced by anything but the teacher's ability. How hilariously untrue. Imagine: one teacher has a class predominantly composed of privileged  gifted students, and another one has a class of predominantly at-risk children who struggle with the fundamentals of education. Guess which class is going to perform better on standardized examinations.
           And when one says that the fault is with those who organize the classes, I must disagree. Many a time it is that there are only at-risk stragglers in the population (probably because of an impoverished community). In such a situation, the greatest teacher on Earth cannot make three quarters of the class pass. However, she can make one half do so, but in many states, one half isn't good enough. The greatest teacher on Earth gets fired. Now who is being oppressed there?


  1. Amen, my teenage friend. I agree that teachers shouldn't be crucified for the performance of their students. It's never entirely their faults. But something should be done to give these poor performing students the resources they need to get ahead. Because SOMEONE did *something* wrong, whether is was their parents or the very first few teachers these kids had or all of these above.

    1. I completely agree...our early teachers are those that either make us or break us. And our first teachers-and ones with the most influence-are our parents. Can you tell that I have a family of educators? Haha.

  2. It seems like a lot of times the best teachers are given the weakest students so the students have the best chance of passing. They need a new system. Some students are smart but bad test takers. I persinally dread standarduzed tests because, well, they risk exposing me as a living paradox...advanced classes but with accomodations. I'm not ashamed of the accomodations, but I'm afraid that if the wrong people find out riots will start, calling the accomodation system messed up and then other students who deserve the accomodations beinh denied them. I could tell them why, but if you think about what asperger sounds like i think you'll understand why i won't tell people.
    Standarized tests also might lead to less creativity, as they are based on pure memorization. We're going to have umemplpyed, but talented teacher and people who can't think for themselves in the future, all because of the arschloch/idiot/moron/dodo who invented standardized testing. 1984 much?

  3. I'm complitely unable to read about the holocaust, I just simply cant without lots of tears and sobbing.

    I came back to follow you on RSS and hope you come by and follow me back. They have the new Linky Followers, which open for all, sort of replacing GFC. Check it out on my site, maybe you want one too. :)


    1. It's so hard to do it, I know, but you should really give it a go. I find that reading about what we're uncomfortable with is a great way to improve our lives.


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