On the Intersections of Workplace Democracy and Learningplace Democracy

July 21, 2008 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

I’m part of a DIY, not-for-profit, and collective record label. Through this, I am also part of the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives – and, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ll be visiting Mondragón in Spain (one of the largest worker-cooperatives in the world).

This blog is about free schooling and democratic, cooperative, and collective learning. But I sincerely believe that the democratic learning movement is completely interlinked with the workplace democracy movement. I think that in order for the workplace democracy movement to be successful the learning place democracy movement must be successful – and visa versa. They go hand-in-hand and those concerned with one movement or effort should be concerned with the other.

I’m going to go over this briefly now, but over the next few months I’ll be doing some studies on this exact topic, and I plan to post them here.

  • In the typical school environment, students are prepared for the boss-worker model. The teacher represents the boss, and the students represent the worker. They must follow the work orders of the boss/teacher, or else they are punished. They are not given voice in the deciding process or given adequate explanation as to why certain orders are given. They are expected to work for the reasons they were given (questioning these motives are seen as being “disobedient” or “disloyal”) and they are expected to produce what they are told. Tests are the perfect example of this: the students must give the exact answers (products) that were demonstrated to them previously, with as little difference as possible, in order to be “average,” “above average,” or “exceeding average.”
  • Our schools foster competition and student vs. student environments. Much like in the working world, students are taught that they must compete against one another to get the top. If others are doing the same “quality” of work as them, then they are not unique or good. In order to get a successful job and career, they must be better than all others and not share knowledge with their peers. Knowledge and work is a capital to be spent to gain advantage over others. Even “alternative” schools that promote “independent” learning are promoting individualism, rather than cooperative and self-directed learning. (There’s a difference between independent learning and self-directed learning.)
  • If a workplace democracy movement is to succeed, it must have learners who are prepared for that type of environment. Our schools make learners assume that all of life is naturally a competition – and that working is of course part of this trend. If learners do not know that another type of world is possible, they will assume that a working place based in cooperation and collectivism is an unfeasible reality.

For these reasons, I believe that a workplace democracy movement is co-dependent on the learning-place democracy movement in order to succeed – and visa versa. This subject deserves and much more in depth analysis, and I will be writing more on that in the near future.

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Entry filed under: DIY, Learning.

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