'Schools create obedient workers'

(82 Posts)
moutonfou Mon 12-Jun-17 09:37:46

I was talking to somebody who's doing an education degree and had never even thought of this but it blew my mind a bit.

She said state education was (and still is) designed to create obedient workers - sit still, listen, wear this, do that, don't speak unless I tell you to, learn this.

She said the reason privately educated individuals still thrive and dominate the social/professional elite (aside from nepotism etc) is that they are taught to question, challenge, debate; they are given a sense of confidence/entitlement; essentially they are taught to be leaders.

I can see there are probably lots of exceptions and grey areas - great state schools where there are debate clubs, consultative ways of learning and teaching, etc. But for the most part it rang quite true with me.


OP’s posts: |
LaurieFairyCake Mon 12-Jun-17 09:52:19

I think all pupils are taught to question and debate.

However I do think there's a lot of petty but necessary rules that are to make young people conform. If you're moving 1500 people round a site every 45 minutes you can see why.

We live in a pretty conformist society. It's not North Korea but we are largely law abiding and socially conformist.

specialsubject Mon 12-Jun-17 09:56:32

Let's see her manage a class with those theories...

If she is a decent teacher she can inspire thought , questioning and reasoning skills.

steppemum Mon 12-Jun-17 09:57:51

Have you been in a school recently?

All kids are taught to question and debate.
Private schools have a million petty rules, often more than state.

I think the confidence and entitlement comes from private schools for other reasons.

crumpet Mon 12-Jun-17 10:01:20

Lordy. My private school had teachers at the gate to make sure that no-one left the premises without hats on, socks up etc etc.

Merry hell was raised if anyone was caught in town in uniform but without a boater on.

SilverDragonfly1 Mon 12-Jun-17 10:02:49

I think it's an interesting theory worth exploring further, including historical contexts. But I don't think that is a conscious aim and if it was it's massively failed because employers are always complaining about the problems with employing school leavers which essentially come down to not understanding 'work ethic' ideology. There are a lot of problems imo in that particular ideology that could do with a thorough re-think, but it does imply that it's not something that is being brainwashed into school children.

The being on time, wearing uniform and millions of petty rules are ways of exercising crowd control rather than forming habits and this is evidenced by the way breaches are treated- telling off or detention which most children see as unfair draconian punishments but which are actually largely ineffective. Again, I think the whole education system needs a massive rethink, but not because we're turning out good little working class robots.

Very interesting thread!

DeadGood Mon 12-Jun-17 10:03:55

But enforcing uniform doesn't mean private schools aren't also teaching their students to be entitled leaders.

Just because they have rules about "everyone must stand when the teacher walks in" or whatever, it doesn't negate the OPs point.


cremedelashite Mon 12-Jun-17 10:05:20

The feedback I get from educators in Scotland is that research (no clue where this is) suggests state educated kids can do better at uni as not spoon fed to pass exams. They are more independent thinkers as probably had to help themselves to a degree. Private kids can flounder. Possibly propaganda of an opposite type to what your pal says.

DeadGood Mon 12-Jun-17 10:07:09

"I don't think that is a conscious aim and if it was it's massively failed because employers are always complaining about the problems with employing school leavers which essentially come down to not understanding 'work ethic' ideology."

Again, I don't think this counts against the OPs point.

The schools are not teaching children to have a strong work ethic. They are, at present, teaching them to obey school rules to make life easier for the school.

I would too, if I were running a school, but it isn't necessarily helpful for the students once they have graduated.

Littlereddevil3 Mon 12-Jun-17 10:11:01

Sweeping (and fairly insulting actually) generalisation about the superiority of independent education.
I teach, I encourage children to think for themselves, question, discuss, disagree.
Philosophy for children is gaining popularity in our area as it encourages divergent thinking skills.
I've also known very strict independent schools who encourage a face the front and listen style.

Rules are necessary, yes, but then in the world of work the ability to adhere to rules is also necessary.

Waddlelikeapenguin Mon 12-Jun-17 10:11:44

Look up Ken Robinson's ted talk 'do schools kill creativity" on youtube. He agrees with some of what you are saying.

Huffletuff Mon 12-Jun-17 10:19:53

That wasn't my experience of an education degree and certainly isn't my experience of British schools today.

reetgood Mon 12-Jun-17 10:22:20

i think schools teach conformity, and I was struck when teaching a module first year of university how uncomfortable students were to think independently. One was quite annoyed that we weren't going to tell her how to construct her essay. These were academically bright students, but the curriculum hadn't really equipped them with research skills or confidence in independent thought. The difference I observe between state and independently taught young people is that those taught privately have much more confidence that their opinions are valued and will be listened to.

I think it's nothing against teachers - I had some great, thought provoking teaching - I just think the curriculum and school system is not set up to encourage independent thinking. Most of my conflicts with authority at school were around pointless crowd control rules, I was a high achieving student. People often told me I'd need to wear a uniform, adhere to rules etc when I got a job. Surprise, I run my own business in a very informal sector and I've always worked in small creative businesses. I actually learnt the most about getting on with arbitrary rules and just getting on with it by having a part time job as a waitress as a teen. Nothing like customer service to help you develop patience...

Foxyloxy1plus1 Mon 12-Jun-17 10:26:09

I wonder if she has actually spent any time in a state school as part of her degree. I would be surprised if she has.

I once collected a neighbour's child from her private school. All the children were obediently lined up to shake hands with their teacher before they left. They really were expected to sit still, listen, do this, wear a very strict uniform. She's talking through her boater.

Groupie123 Mon 12-Jun-17 10:32:53

Private school kids do better because they are encouraged to develop networks with rich people through the school itself. Kids want to go into banking? A friend or teacher might have a dad/partner who's a banking director and can get him/her an unpaid internship in London. As the kid is often rich too they can go and do it, be classed as experienced, and so get a great job even with a mediocre degree.

That's the ONLY reason why private school kids seem to do better than comprehensive school kids. Lets not kid ourselves that it has anything to do with talent or discipline.

user17829 Mon 12-Jun-17 10:33:27

I can't speak for private education as I have no experience of it.

But the theory you are proposing is largely a Marxist one. Of course it is open to criticism but it is hard not to see its relevance in every day life.

Another recommending Ken Robinson's TED talk. Very thought provoking.

FWIW I do believe that school is mostly about teaching conformity and shared values that encourage an obedient and submissive workforce. There are always exceptions to the rule, but we are largely socialised to believe that failure within the system is our own fault and not down to the fact that the system is unfair and does very little to help people overcome barriers in their lives outside it. Children from poor backgrounds have a significantly lower chance of success and it is not because they don't want to do well or are not intelligent enough.

HotelEuphoria Mon 12-Jun-17 10:38:46

I don't know about this but IME privately educated children ooze confidence and often superiority .

bigmack Mon 12-Jun-17 10:40:30

It's a theory which may have been relevant when free state education was established.

'sit still, listen, wear this, do that, don't speak unless I tell you to, learn this'

apart from 'wear this' those views don't accurately reflect the reality of learning in most schools today.
Has she spent any time in a classroom?

Offherhead Mon 12-Jun-17 10:43:12

Also an education degree. Free education is aimed to have better educated / more useful workers. Why else would yhe cons be selling education off to businesses to run?

moutonfou Mon 12-Jun-17 10:48:04

Thanks for all your thoughts, just to clarify this was only one of many theories they'd covered as part of the degree, this isn't her sole personal outlook on education! But it was one I found interesting.

OP’s posts: |
AnnieOH1 Mon 12-Jun-17 11:05:11

One of my duties for my last employer was to oversee their call centre. The majority of staff were fresh from college - they were all average individuals. They weren't exceptionally good or bad from an education stand point. My DH previously managed a similar group of individuals. Both companies had strict dress codes/uniforms for these particular departments. Typically managed issues included:

Toilet breaks measured, strict breaks, strict appearances and behaviour, no drinks near PCs etc etc.

Both employers took the p out of those departments. From my perspective I knew that 99% of my call centre staff would simply bow down and agree to anything that was told them by someone in a suit. "We're relocating." "Oh okay then - it's costing me too much money to get here." "Oh I'm sorry, if you need to give notice then let me know" They didn't have the first clue about the legislation there to protect them or if they did they didn't have the capacity to challenge it. Similarly DH's employer got away with a lot against their entry level employees.

So yes I definitely believe you are onto something OP. I realise it's not all students but it definitely seems to me that unless someone is SEN or in the GATE programme then their success is curtailed by the education system in this country.

Sapiosexual Mon 12-Jun-17 11:23:58

I agree with you op. Although, both state and private school are set up to produce 'obedient workers' under the guise of preparing them for the working world. George says it better than I ever could, fast forward to 1:00 for the part about workers, but even the political part he covers in the beginning is pretty relevant at the moment!


liminality Mon 12-Jun-17 11:57:58

It was definitely true when universal schooling was developed. It was part of the industrial revolution, which also downsized families - so they could travel easily to where factories needed to be - separating older generations into care homes instead of family homes because the 'unit' needed to be mobile. Ringing the bell when 'shifts' changed so they were ready for the working life. Getting educated enough to do complicated work but not so educated that they challenge it - no real financial training, critical thinking etc.
It's not all true of today.... sort of.....

BlindYeo Mon 12-Jun-17 12:01:30

One difference between my private education and my kids' current state education is the number of kids in the class who behave badly, which disrupts the the learning of others in the class. One child can have such a detrimental impact on every body else. I disagree that behavioural things like learning to sit still and be quiet is purely to turn you into a battery chicken for capitalism to exploit. It's so everyone else can bloody well hear the teacher.

What you are then being taught, and what critical thinking skills you are encouraged to develop, is another matter. For the most part my kids' school seems to have interesting and lively debates from what I hear but the blatant bias I have seen in the source material for a couple of political debates recently had my hair standing on end. Clearly only one view was acceptable. I think this is dangerous. Universities no-platforming political speakers is similar and equally alarming yet they are supposed to be bastions of free thought and speech.

user17829 Mon 12-Jun-17 12:06:50

I very much value being taught critical thinking and especially the bias in media. I had a state grammar education. But I don't think that is indicative of anything. I think it varies from school to school and maybe even teacher to teacher.

It is something that I find lacking in people I encounter from all educational backgrounds and ages.

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