Primary education, according to the United Nations at least, is a fundamental human right. Unlike other rights, though, education is compulsory. The right to free speech doesn’t legally obligate anyone to speak freely. Freedom of religion doesn’t compel anyone to be religious. The right to not be enslaved may prohibit people from contracting themselves into slavery but at least in the U.S. it’s not illegal to try, it’s just that such contracts are unenforceable. No other human right is forced on its putative beneficiaries at the point of a policeman’s gun.
This last phrase apparently strikes some as hyperbole, but in the United States it is not. American compulsory education is compulsory because nonattendance is against the law. The parents of truant children are criminals. When the kids are old enough to prosecute they’re criminals too. If parents keep their kids out of school or if kids insist on skipping someone is going to jail. Eventually they’ll have to submit or the kids will be forcibly taken from their parents and put into foster care or juvenile hall. Police are allowed to kill people for resisting enforcement. Laws requiring school attendance, like all laws, are ultimately enforced by violence up to and including kidnapping and death.
And yet this evident fact is not widely acknowledged. Educational discourse from across the political spectrum for the most part takes the compulsory nature of public education for granted. The questions asked are about what and how all children should learn, never whether anything is so important to know that all children should be forced to learn it at gunpoint, under the threat of kidnapping by police.
In the United States children are required to study mathematics for most of the time they’re required to attend school and yet essentially everyone hates it. Not just students, but parents and teachers as well. Very few remember any of it once they’re done with school, which strongly suggests that all those years of mandatory mathematics education aren’t serving the students themselves. If they were it wouldn’t be necessary to criminalize nonattendance, to force children into schools to learn mathematics at the point of a policeman’s gun. Continue reading →
I’ve been thinking and reading about police abolition for eight years now, and have become convinced that the world doesn’t necessarily need another rich white male academic having thoughts about the nature and effects of police oppression on the oppressed. But learning from the privileged about how policing and the prison industrial complex benefits them personally would have been very valuable to me. I haven’t found much writing like this so I thought I’d make some myself.
If I’m going to make a strong argument for police abolition I have to try to make a complete account of the ways that policing supports my present way of life. Without some kind of connection to my own lived experience at best I’d just be reframing other people’s more experientially grounded arguments. It hasn’t helped me at all to read this kind of material so what a waste of time to write more of it, eh? Not only that, but accounting for the ways I rely on policing is a way for me to understand what I’d be giving up if we do manage to abolish cops. Without understanding this my arguments for abolition would seem hollow to me, and so probably to others also. Continue reading →