Schools and Prisons

October 2, 2008 at 2:32 pm (Uncategorized)

The corridors of Mulberry Girls

‘What is so astonishing about the fact that our prisons resemble our factories, schools, military bases, and hospitals – all of which in turn resemble prisons?’
– Michel Foucault

I just came across a picture of someone’s old school, and my immediate thought was how much it resembled a prison.

Ironically, prisons were designed to resemble schools, because it was believed to be the point of origin of the systemic failure to programme correct values, and that by returning the subject to the point of aberration, they could begin to reprogramme them into social acceptability.

My own schools, at both primary and secondary level, were very organic and open environments. The buildings themselves were a mix of old and new, with an element of ad-hoc to them: things had been added at different times, and it seemed more like they had just grown rather than been built. Where you might expect such juxtaposition to be incongruous, in fact there was a comfortable togetherness to it. The classrooms were open and airy, and the corridors wide and light, and the ceilings were high. In short, it was a nurturing environment, rather than disciplinarian.

I think that perhaps if all schools were more like this, rather than battery farms for children churning out little robotic people with certificates to say that they have been processed with specific treatments of science, maths and english, and a low dosage of human skills, the initial ‘programming’ is much more successful, and hopefully precludes a later need to ‘reprogramme’.


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