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Oligarchy: The Social Order in a School

Today is one of those days. Housework is the goal today, with a lot of laundry to fold, hang and put away. Two of the kids did the sweeping. We also worked on mopping. Most of the “we” was me, but I had “help,” meaning people getting put mops, slopping water, having fights over mops and getting their clothes wet.

I am past page 300 now on the 392 page “The Underground History of American Education.” This book would drive any person crazy with anger about the school system and is doing that to me. Since I am a homeschool mom, I am mostly angry about what it did to my parents, to me, and what it does to the ones I love who are in the school system. However, it also just makes me angry because I can see what it does to all society. I can see how everyone is tricked and duped.

I can also see the reactions of people to the system, which are mostly efforts to “beat the system,” but some of which are efforts just to survive the system, or efforts to rise to the top of the system by becoming part of the Oligarchy. The school system is a large system, but every school has an oligarchy, a government by group. This group is not a group of superintendent, district professionals, principal or teachers. It is a group of kids made up of the elite who run the parties and have the money, and the psychopathic kids who are the bullies. This group will usually control the school while they are in it, the professionals allowing them to do it. After all, it is the only way the professionals can keep the Oligarchy happy with them, and being polite enough to the professionals (a facade). The teachers have a set of rules for the majority and another set for the Oligarchy. They allow them to do nearly whatever they want because they are afraid of what may happen if they do not “let it slide.” They know how to “pick their battles.”

Reading this makes me recall my own school days. I was not in the Oligarchy, as you may have guessed. I was one of the students who just fought for survival by trying not to stand out or be noticed, and definitely not to upset any of the members of the Oligarchy. I knew that the school system was a social order, as did everyone. I knew how to keep my place. Walking home was sometimes scary, so I knew that walking home with the masses held the only hope of survival. Staying after school was risking my life, because walking home without the group was a guarantee I would meet up with the bullies. Getting a smile or a wave from one of the elite was always cool, but I knew never to supose they were now a friend.

I remember telling my mom once in a grocery store parking lot that I knew there were certain kids I could never have among my friends because they were among the elite. I did not use the word “elite.” I think I used the words “rich kids.” Elite is the word adults use today to describe “rich kids” of the world. My mom told me that was ridiculous and I could have among my friends anyone I wanted. I immediately knew after that, not to talk to her about it because I knew she had no idea how well-established the caste-system style set up of the social order of my school was. It is possible that she suffered such a system in her youth but had no idea about it–could not put it into words. Somehow she thought innocently that it could not possibly be so for me in my youth.

This is something interesting. Many parents believe that the school they send their kids to is a GOOD SCHOOL. It is better thatthe system THEY suffered. It is in a better city, a better neighborhood or with a better set of kids. If you are among these, I would encourage you to go chaperone a junior high high school dance or walk the halls when kids are switching classes or going to lunch, and observe carefully. I have not done this, but I am sure you would see that the same social order that existed when you were in school, also exists at this, your very own child’s school, even though the neighborhood was hand-picked by you when buying a house.  I am sure you have your blinders on because my mom did when I was in school. I know she meant well. She meant to tell me not to put limits on myself. She just did not understand how strong the caste system was at my school.

When I became an adult I thought I was out of the system, but in every job, there was a system much the same. Even at my wonderful corporate job as a graphic designer, it existed. People I thought I could trust in this corporate world, I should not have trusted. I learned, and over the years I became a small business owner. It is definitely a better world to own and run your own business. I recommend it unless you have children to raise as a mom (in which case I don’t).

Here are many of the different stratgies I have observed. These are tools parents use from the birth of their child and up, to help their kids deal with the system in junior high and high school and try to beat it, govern it or just survive it:

  1. Train their child to be on the drill team, be cheerleaders or be star athletes.
  2. Train their child to be an academic star. 
  3. Train their child to be a star in the band or choir.
  4. Train their child in martial arts hand-to-hand combat so he or she will not have problems with the bullies.
  5. Train their child to “be nice to everyone and be friends with everyone.”
  6. Train their child to “run for office.”
  7. Train their child to be average, to be below average (not stand out) or to be above average in all of the above (in other words, train their kids to “fit in” the social order).
  8. Train their child to be one of the elite, or use the strategies from number 9 to make sure their child becomes one of the elite.
  9. Train their child to be friends with the elite, or make sure that from the beginning of life, the child is in the right play groups, lessons, preschools, neighborhood and birthday parties so that they will be friends with the elite.
  10. Train their child to be a member of the Oligarchy, perhaps by using the same strategies in number 10 but also, by teaching the child to do whatever it takes to get whatever they want, to fight physically, etcetera.
  11. Train their child to be friends with the Oligarchy, or make sure that from the beginning of life, the child is in the right places at the right times to become friends with the future members of the Oligarchy.

I do not know whether parents train their kids for numbers 8 or 10, but I really suspect, as do the writers of the series “Back to the Future,” that it sometimes “runs in the family.”

In conclusion, I would like to say that this is one of the stressors my children do not have to deal with in the education arena most of the time, although in little league and church, they do because it is there, too. I hope you noticed “most of the time,” because it is in homeschool social circles, too! Yep!

2 thoughts on “Oligarchy: The Social Order in a School

  1. I’m also a huge Gatto fan and, like you, have been forever changed by his books. It makes me so upset that most people have no idea what school is all about. It makes me even more upset that there are people who do, and still act like there’s nothing wrong with it. My niece taught sociology at a college and admits to teaching about the hidden curriculum, but she still has no problem with her kids being in school. It blows my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know. I do not understand why anyone, knowing it, would think it is no big deal, the way so many do. I think perhaps they think, going againt the evil current is good for their kids somehow, like it makes them tougher. I think that they may think that we “coddle” our kids too much and they will therefore not be strong enough to face life.

      We are doing the equivalent of giving the trees a strong root system, while they are putting a sprout out in winter snow and fierce wind, in my opinion. It may be the illusion that the tree will grow up strong, but the one with the strong root system will hold up better against wind and snow, the way I see it.


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