internalising the values of the oppressor

There’s an argument doing the rounds in home education at the moment which says that the freedom enjoyed by “genuine” home educators is seriously threatened by the attitude shown by “the wrong sort of home educator” from whom real home educators should seek to distance themselves at the earliest opportunity.

I can just about see how this might be viewed as politically expedient.

When you are trying to gain ground – or not lose ground – one of the obvious things you might do to persuade the other person is to look at what makes them tick. You need to understand where they are coming from.

To an extent, you need to get inside the other person’s head.

In home education, if the argument is “someone needs to check on families because otherwise some children wouldn’t get an education” then you might point to home education academic success or to headlines about “failing schools.”

Alternatively, if the argument is on safeguarding grounds that “someone needs to check on families because otherwise home educated children might be at risk and we wouldn’t know” then you could try and show a/ that other groups are more at risk; b/ that the likelihood of not-knowing is miniscule; or c/ that the risk can actually be quantified and is not as high as previously believed.

However, the problem I have with some of these strategies is that they seem to accept the premise that exams – or child protection plans or whatever – are the yardstick by which we judge “success” or “risk.”

And the thing that ties all this together for me is to do with internalising the values of the oppressor. In some ways like a child seeking to gain favour with capricious and all-powerful adults, it isn’t about challenging the status quo but about keeping your own place safe.

If you think it’s acceptable or expedient to talk about “the wrong people”, you are deferring to  a third party’s view that there are deserving and undeserving people and your priority is simply to ensure that the lines are drawn between the sheep and the goats where you think they should be.

Similarly if someone is arguing that a particular hill of beans is higher than another hill of beans, it’s a straightforward knockdown type of argument to say no it isn’t. But you’ve already bought in to the value system which says that the hill of beans – for example GCSE grades or going to university – is the most important thing to measure, that it is the thing which has most value.

(The discussion about the wrong sort of home educator started here )

There’s a useful introduction to internalised oppression here  on pages 152-154

4 thoughts on “internalising the values of the oppressor

  1. Firebird2110

    Reminds me of an LA EHE Officer bemoaning the case of a GRT boy who had been doing well at middle school but his parents had taken him out, basically to learn the family business, rather than sending him to Secondary school where the officer was convinced he’d have got good GCSEs. I couldn’t help feeling that this demonstrated a serious middle class sort of prejudice. Would those GCSEs have guaranteed him employment when he left school? I doubt it. Instead his family were providing him with a vocational education with definite a job at the end. How is that not success? How is that less valid than a few pieces of paper?

    So yes, I agree, it’s all too easy to slip into accepting someone else’s values as automatically ‘right’ and we really shouldn’t do it. Even putting aside the morality of it, when you start playing the drawing a line game you leave yourself open to the line being moved at a later date and finding yourself on the wrong side of it.


  2. NinnyNoodleNoo

    What is someone’s ‘full potential’? How on earth can you possibly define it? Surely anyone has the potential to be/do anything? But the opportunity? Not so much.

    Far more important, imho, is what the individual might want to be or do.

    In my experience, the people most interested in complaining about other people not fulfilling their potential are far too busy imposing their own opinion of what that person’s potential is, to stop and ask whether the person concerned has an opinion (or if they do, will just ignore the opinion anyway).


  3. Pingback: my first 20 blog posts | edyourself

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