Sunday, 4 October 2015

School is Peeple

Isn't it nice when we all agree? Twitter had a moment like that this week, unanimously condemning Peeple, an app which apparently let's you rate others. I agree that it's cruel to reduce a person to a score of what you think they're worth. I depart from the mainstream when I say that it's wrong when school does it too.

Ah, but doesn't school judge a person's work and isn't that totally different from judging who they are? It might be if how well we did at school was separate from who we are, but it's not. Our parents determine how well we take to academic study, so do our genes, and that's why school gives praise and status to rich children, humiliation and stigma to poor ones.

Advantage of birth is compounded by the way school is organised. Children with educated parents arrive aged four and quickly realise they excel at all the important tasks, so they like it, try hard, get more praise and a virtuous circle begins. Children who arrive and see others are better than them recoil and withdraw. They enter a circle too, only theirs is vicious.

As they grow older and the humiliation of being the bottom festers into defiance and hatred, what does school offer them? It says you try your hardest and we will give you a grade that signifies stupity and failure. Every teacher knows a child in that position. When they collect their GCSE results is what they're getting what they deserve?

Children have varying levels of academic ability, it is not within our power to change that. Where we have a choice is whether or not we stamp them with a judgment of that ability, telling them that this is what determines their value to society.

The story of the internet is one of people claiming rights to speak and act in ways that were previously reserved for institutions. Peeple is the latest example of that.

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