Youth: Disciplinary Authoritarianism Oppression in Schools
“Teacher, which notebooks do we use? thick or thin?”
“Teacher, do we need to draw the front line?”
“Teacher, which pen color do we use?”
“Teacher… Teacher… Teacher…”
It is not surprising that many students might have asked or heard these questions before. What surprising is that students find it is normal to consult their teachers every time before deciding to do something, including choosing the color of the pens for example. Teachers seem to have countless power in their hands and use that power to oppress those poor students. The hierarchy system has been rooted in the education system too long to count back so students are always taught not to act against teacher, not to question anything, and many not to.
This does not include some silly activities that does not make any sense yet. Every morning no matter if it is summer or winter, students have to gather at school fields to sing Thai national anthem, to murmur some prayers, and to listen to their director declaring the school’s pride. “Buddhism is national religious so students have to show respect!” It is said every morning at the flag salute. It is awkward for students who are not Buddhists to listen to those prayers that do not belong to their religious and barely understand, even some Buddhists also do not understand. While students sitting in a shade less opened area, some teachers stay in groups gossiping under their umbrellas. What funny is students are told not to open their umbrella not matter how hot it is, just sit and remain silent. How ridiculous! Is this a school or a solder camp where they are trained to be physically super patient?
Schools are supposed to be places where imagination, creativity, and identity can be cherished. However, schools that students have been through basically sound like disciplinary camp and those teachers can be compared to probationers. Most students in public schools have been brought up with a notion “teachers are the second mothers” so the teachers seem to have a kind of power over their students. Without any questions, they have to ask permission from their teacher to use toilet, to choose pen color, to underline pages. This kind of acts are not so different from machines which need the controllers all the time so that they can run the process. Machines cannot think or decide anything for themselves.
Schools start disciplining student’s bodies from head to toe claiming it is their authority to make sure that everything is in orders. Some of those teachers could have changed their professions since they seem to enjoy trimming, cutting, and giving students new haircut. They could be rich! The most horrible thing about this absurd authority is the teachers cut their student’s hair in front of their friends to embarrass them. Those player barbers do not finish the haircut on purpose. Student’s embarrassment turns into their fun thing to talk about. Imagine being a student attending 6-7 subjects and walking here and there in school with an incomplete haircut. That is a shame! This still does not include LGBTQ+ students who are not willing to have hair styles which schools demand. Haircut is not just hair that grows on their head yet it represents their identity of who and which gender they really are.
Uniform and students do not seem to be a separable combination. Many say that uniform is somehow holy since it represents school’s fame. Little they know that uniform is what oppresses students the most. Many students are tired of ironing clothes which they do not please and discipline their body too much. Uniform degrades student’s identity because when they wear uniform, the outsider no longer views them as individual but as a subject of the schools. Uniform indicates which schools they belong to and which year they are in. This shows that their identities are replaced by the image of school through the uniform. In other word, students have been carrying the image of their school with them wherever they go. Uniform can be considered as problematic since it clearly segregates students into two group based on their sexes which are male and female only. As the matter of fact, sexes cannot identify one’s gender and schools seem to forget this fact. Many students have to wear uniform which does not serve their genders so they cannot express themselves as who they really are.
As mentioned, schools are supposed to be places where students as the youth of the country can express themselves as much as they can. It is questionable to reconsider what is the relation between the disciplinary solution and student’s performance of their academic ability. Nevertheless, schools seem to forget what their duty actually is. They become places where consist of invisible hierarchy in it. Directors are the one who stay in the stop of the rank, then teachers, and then students. Moreover, the function of this hierarchy has handed a countless power in teacher’s hand to discipline students under their custody. Therefore, teachers’ voices become somehow holy that every student has to obey and let those teachers discipline them though they do not like it very much.
Instead of discipling over students’ body to see if students wear uniform correctly or if their hairstyles follow the rules or not, schools should have focused more on their true duty. Schools have paid attention on issues that have no relation with students’ academic performance. Many schools play their roles as probation camps where students are expected to be well trained. Students are expected to have the same hairstyles and wear the same uniform. This authoritarianism system in schools has oppressed them so long that some might find this oppression among students normal and acceptable.
It is sad for students to think that in spite of getting knowledge as much as they are supposed to, they get trained. For example, history teachers always teach which reigns this country has been ruled and teach to remember the king names. On the other hand, they never teach about the massacre 44 years ago which is very important and horrible in Thai history. Those teachers seem to teach what they are told to teach which means that students will learn only what they are expected to learn. It sad that schools fail to perform their duty since they should have let students explore the world and learn freely. Students, in this context, are not so different from apiece in a chess game. They are moved and manipulated wherever the player wants. It is time that schools have to look back at themselves and ask if they have already performed their real duty or not.
- Ugly Duck