Our education needs to be radicalized

Karam Weigert

For 14 long and grueling years of our lives, we sit in a classroom and, well, “learn.” It’s about time that we change the way we’re taught by throwing out the playbook and starting from scratch.

Our education system has been indoctrinating us ever since we could sit in the daily morning circle. We are fed so much propaganda that even Kim-Jong-ii would cringe. In 5th grade, we’re told Abraham Lincoln abolished the institution of slavery. Apparently Truman didn’t have any option but to deploy an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction. And my personal favorite, if the commies weren’t in Chile, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam, or Cuba, or Bolivia, then we wouldn’t have to fight for our freedoms there!

Our education sucks. Pure and simple. There is no other way to put it. It fails us all and leaves us woefully unprepared for the world, lacking any tools to analyze and solve problems around us. Our education system has become a market economy that prioritizes individualism over mutual aid and societal welfare. Instead, we have to teach students how to be socially conscious members of society, and that requires a more radical approach to education.

It’s time we think outside of the box and abandon conventional methods. We must replace “wokeness” and performative actions taken by schools, because walkouts and growth mindsets aren’t going to cut it anymore. Students have to be taught about the issues that plague society through the lenses of critical race theory, Marxism, and postmodernism.

Confronting the failures in our education system requires us to democratize the classroom in order to fully reject the ideologies that reinforce the unjust hierarchy that is forced upon us. Bigotry is ingrained in these institutions because they’ve been designed exclusively for white men. Within the walls of our schools, clear disparities exist in who has access to educational opportunities and resources, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this inequity.

Ideals have to replace standards, and the power dynamic between student and teacher needs to be completely restructured. Teachers have to understand the purposes and interests of their students. The current disconnect between many teachers and students is caused by teachers’ power to reassert their superiority over their students, which silences our voices. Under our current model of teaching the teacher is viewed as knowing everything and the student knowing nothing. They talk and we listen. Students are treated as empty vessels meant to store the information thrown our way. Above all, we are not required to change the world by reflection and action.

Educators must adopt a more humanistic approach to teaching based on a dialogue between teacher and student that allows both to become responsible for a process in which they both grow. Our goal should be to become critical thinkers, questioning and challenging what we encounter in the learning process. An example of current Marxist educational philosophy being implemented is in Cuba, which has fostered comprehensive, co-educational,  and free secular education from nursery through university since 1959. Before the revolution, the literacy rate was as low as 60 percent, but the educational reforms under the socialist regime increased literacy rate to 99 percent.

  We need to change the culture of the classroom. We’ve seen that discussion about prevalent social issues can be had in all classes. One of the most recent examples occurred right after the terrorist attacks on January 6. Most teachers, regardless of subject, made an effort to engage with students to process and talk about the trauma of seeing literal armed fascists take control of the Capitol just a couple miles away from our homes.

Integrate free speech and discussion of current events into what is being learned in class. Incorporating discussions of class consciousness in math class or gender abolition in science fosters a generation of cognizant, critical thinkers equipped with an understanding of the pervasiveness of oppression in American institutions of social, economic, and political governance.

Learning through experience, not observation, is yet the most efficient and socially beneficial way to revolutionize our education. Schools must create opportunities for productive projects that help the community. For example, cleaning up trash in Fort Reno while learning about environmental sustainability, volunteering at soup kitchens while studying about the holes in our safety nets, or even taking the Metro to protest our government’s inaction on a whole number of things are all ways in which we can learn anything in the curriculum and still apply it to change the world for good.

As a student body, there are many courses of action we can take, but they require us to truly seize the moment. Take every opportunity you can to spark discussion in class: use the do-now questions to inform others. When those trying to educate us have failed, we must take it upon ourselves to educate others.

Our silence in standing against capitalism, anti-Blackness, and the patriarchy only serves to reinforce these perverse power structures and translates into systemic violence against the marginalized. We are taught that we should stay silent, and for good reason, because if we begin to think on our own then we topple every structure that perpetuates the cycle of abuse onto all of us.

Radicalizing our youth is the essential next step in raising a generation of forward-thinkers, leaders, and policymakers who can reject issues and dig deeper to address the illness, not the symptom. When a plant is sick, we don’t trim the branches and pretend it has a chance, we pull it out and minimize the chance it poisons us or the soil.

Our society is sick, we are its soil, and changing the way we’re taught is simply replacing the pot with healthier dirt and making place for a new, more equal society. Philosopher Albert Camus once wrote, “With rebellion, awareness is born.” It’s about time we kick blissful ignorance to the curb. •