Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cult of Popularity

I've been researching cults for an article and I was fascinated by one of the conditions that is necessary to create thought control:

Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order. The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.

This concept, to a T, was applied in my Open Court training program for Oakland public schools. It is so challenging to capture the evil of Open Court but, in essence, it was a scripted reading curriculum that was about eradicating critical thinking in favor of the "drill and kill" approach to teaching students, in which they had to repeat finite, decontextualized bits of information ad infinitum.

The truly fascinating, horrible thing about Open Court were the trainings to which I was forced to succumb. They were at the Oakland Airport Hilton and they were as scripted as the curriculum. We were not permitted to argue Open Court's merits, or lack thereof, and were essentially directed to repeat the crappy information, just as we were instructed to do for our students.

And then there was a catered lunch, and back for more horrible thought control. I always told me students, "I am presenting this information because I have to, not because I believe in it. We will get through it quickly and then move on to what really matters." But what was I really modeling there, I always wondered. That we must swallow what we are given publicly and wage our revolution privately? That we as students and teachers ultimately have no power and have to follow the ill-advised directions of our supposed superiors? That our own voices and thoughts are to be mistrusted as somehow being less?

Someday, Open Court will be revealed for what it is: a curriculum that hates the poor, hates people of color and, most of all, hates individual voice and thought, just like cult leaders do.

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