Schools either replicate the illnesses of our social system, or, in the best possible sense, can serve as resistance to, and provide of vision of alternatives to our current social system. Recognizing that school takes place within a broader context, and recognizing that the broader context influences school, allows educators to be intentional about behaving in ways that increase health, or not.
“I’m intending to write a book tentatively called Toxic Culture: How Capitalism Makes us Sick. That’s the working title. My contention is that the very nature of the system in which people live their lives is a significant source of illness. Now there are obvious factors like environmental pollution, toxins, and then of course there are the social determinants of health that you write about in A Healthy Society: the impact of poverty, the impact of inequality, the impact of history and continued racism. ….
But I’m going to go beyond even that and say that even the people who are not on the wrong end of economic inequality or systemic racism are still made ill just by how we live our lives. The stress that we live under, the competition, the aggressiveness, the uncertainty, the loss of control that we experience in our lives. The gender inequalities, these are not just social phenomena, they have an actual impact on community health. The isolation people are experiencing.“
The question for educators then, is in what ways does an education reform policy that is based on unfair competition (in that it ignores social circumstances),that ignores the fundamental importance of a healthy context of relationships supported by community, in what ways does such an approach add to the stress and alienation our children experience? In what was does an approach to education reform that objectifies and reduces the value of our children to their test results exacerbate the suffering of our children and our teachers while interfering with their learning?
These are the kinds of questions that need to enter into the discussion. Because, regardless of how hard we try, we can’t ignore our humanity and the humanity of our children. Regardless of our attempts to look away, the symptoms that Mate talks about will continue to point to the direction we need to move in.