Sunday, June 9, 2024

Schooled Straight: Confronting the Cis Hetero Compulsory School System

 “Humankind is innocent, loving, and creative, you dig? It's the bureaucracies that create the evil, that make Honor and Community impossible, and it's the kids who really take it in the groin.”

-Paul Goodman

Well, it's another Pride Month and the so-called Christian Right's increasingly statist culture war against Queer folk just continues to rage on with the reckless abandon of a runaway bushfire. And why the fuck not? It keeps the faithful stupid and the coffers heavy with their money, so let the hate legislation burn! None of this shocks me. I'm a genderqueer lapsed Catholic in cousin-fucker country, I grew up being terrorized by these goons. But what does disgust me is the way these cretins have targeted children, specifically trans kids, and the way they use the compulsory school system to do it.

2024 will be the fourth consecutive year in a row in which the sheer volume of anti-Queer bills being pushed across the country will shatter the record books. Less than halfway into the year and there have already been 38 of these bills passed and another 579 being considered. Most of these bills will likely fail to do anything but terrorize one of the most statistically vulnerable demographics in the country, but too many of them have already given the public school system a new set of fangs.

Seven states have laws in place that affectively silence any classroom discussion that acknowledges that Queer people actually exist. Eleven states have laws denying trans kids access to bathrooms where they won't face the kind of mob violence that killed Nex Bennedict this year. And seven states have laws demanding that school officials violate the privacy of their students by outing them to their parents.

The strategy here, beyond the economics of crass political football, isn't hard to discern. It's a strategy pretty familiar to the American school system. Kill the Queer, save the child. These people see "transgenderism" as a contagion that should be eradicated, and they have been proven to be more than willing to use the strong arm of the state to strain it from impure children by any means necessary. This strategy can only be accurately described as a form of social genocide and with the suicide rate amongst its targeted demographic already through the roof, this slaughter is becoming increasingly literal.

Many mainstream LGBTQ people and their sundry liberal allies are attempting to push back with their own legislation seeking to make the public school system more inclusive. Washington has recently become the seventh state to enact legislation actually mandating that public schools incorporate some form of LGBTQ-inclusive curricula, and the Biden Administration is attempting to revise Title IX to protect Queer kids from sex discrimination. This all sounds wonderful on the surface, but I've received way too many false promises from straight white liberals with blood in their veneers to believe that the very system designed to crush us is suddenly going to become our salvation.

Title IX is actually the ultimate proof of this fickle duplicity. In this dwindling plutocratic empire, a law passed to be a civil rights act is just as easily transformed into a weapon of bigotry depending on whatever demographic the current breeder in the White House happens to be pandering too. Donald Trump used this same law to affect a nationwide bathroom apartheid system in order to protect the civil rights of cis parents who didn't want their kids' sharing bathrooms with designated perverts and he has promised the Bible thumpers back in cousin-fucker country that he'll do it again if they just vote to make Israel great again.

The cold hard reality is that systems designed for oppression cannot be reformed and the compulsory school system itself is one of the most heinous examples of this fact in recorded history. Despite what the liberal teachers' unions may tell you, public schools have never been bastions of inclusion and tolerance, they are in fact an invention of the original Christian Right, designed specifically for indoctrination and assimilation.

Compulsory schooling has its origins in the Protestant Reformation, with Martin Luther himself envisioning a system in which Christian education would be forced upon children in a fashion similar to the way that the draft forced war upon their fathers. The first public schools were established in Germany during the 14th century under heavy Lutheran influence and would become the seed for the militant compulsory school system of the Prussian Empire which would itself serve as the template for nearly all the public-school systems that followed across the west and beyond.

The Prussian school system was explicitly devised to create a compliant citizenry groomed from an early age into submitting their will to authority with a strict regimen of harshly enforced rules built around a centrally controlled curriculum. It worked. This system helped turn Prussia into an imperial military powerhouse by subjecting generations of children to the same kind of disciplinary indoctrination usually reserved for prisons and boot camps, and the line of morally blind nationalism that it fostered is commonly acknowledged to have created the foundation for the rise of national socialism. It also created the foundation for the American public school system.

The first American public schools were devised by the Puritans of New England as a means of perpetuating their own twisted blend of Calvinism and quite literally suppressing dissent in the cradle. Massachusetts enacted the first general school law in the country in 1789 but it was the Prussian school system that inspired these lunatics to take the system national in the 19th century as a means of enforcing homogeny upon the unruly and diverse masses of a rapidly expanding empire. 

This remains the goal at the heart of America's compulsory school system even in its current secular incarnation. Teachers and administrators across the country are encouraged to enforce a standardized curriculum not for the purpose of education but as a means of tracking and controlling large numbers of children with the ultimate goal of maintaining the order of an authoritarian status quo.

In these glorified prisons it is the individual that suffers the worst. This means any child unable or unwilling to conform to the manufactured will of the majority and among the disabled and the neurodivergent this has always meant Queer children who are defined by their inability to conform to a set pattern. 

This is the system that is literally killing our kids. 86% of Queer students in America report having been harassed or assaulted at school and 84% of trans kids do not feel safe in these environments specifically because of their gender. All of this statistically leads to lower GPAs, lower self-esteem, higher dropout rates, and higher rates of suicide, with Queer kids more than four times as likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. 

This is personal to me because I experienced the very worst of it firsthand in both parochial and public compulsory institutions. During my twelve-year sentence, I was beaten, molested, humiliated, bullied, demonized, and ostracized by both adult authority figures and the students who mimicked their cruelty. Nearly all of this abuse stemmed from a stubborn unwillingness on my part to conform to conventional gender norms followed by attempts to overcompensate by building a deliberately antisocial persona to protect myself from more abuse.

The result is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The result is crippling agoraphobia. The result is violent flashbacks, seizures, and multiple personalities. But most importantly, the result is an unwillingness to cut deals with fucking child abusers in allies clothing.

The compulsory school system is a form of indentured servitude designed to break the individual in two. The notion that such a system can be reformed into anything worth salvaging is about as offensively absurd as believing that the prison system can ever be reformed into anything but a glorified plantation or that the police can ever truly serve the communities that they have been tasked with subduing. 

As I said before, systems designed for abuse will always be abusive. Even under the best-case scenario, a woke public school system will never amount to much more than a bunch of straight authority figures teaching Queer kids how to be Queer and this is the kind of shit that results in phenomena like detransitioners when non-binary kids are forced to pick a gender defined by cis heteronormativity.

What Queer kids really need are Queer schools or no schools at all. The ideal would be a form of communal unschooling, governed by Queer parents, elders, and found families, that make children a vital part of a multigenerational community and helps them to learn through natural life experiences. However, for the sake of Queer kids in straight households, free schools of the Sudbury model in which students make their own curriculum and exist in a direct democracy with equal rights for both staff and pupils is likely the best option.

But the worst way to combat the Christian Right's genocidal war on trans youth is to double down on saving the tools designed by authoritarian zealots just like them to destroy us. If we are ever going to protect our kids, then we must destroy these institutions. In other words, save the Queer, smash the school.

Peace, Love, & Empathy- Nicky/CH

Soundtrack: Songs that influenced this post

* Oh! Sweet Nuthin' by the Velvet Underground

* Smells Like Teen Spirit by Tori Amos

* Rebel Rebel by David Bowie

* Sheila Take a Bow by the Smiths

* In Bloom by Nirvana

* School's Out by Alice Cooper

* Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton by the Mountain Goats

* Teenage Whore by Hole

* Thirteen by Big Star

* Rock & Roll by the Velvet Underground

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