Education is something I am very passionate about as someone who has considered being a teacher and student taught in America’s inner city public schools. While reading about Damaya’s training in the Fulcrum, I couldn’t help but think if standardized testing and my own experiences with school.
The clearest similarity between the education system and the fulcrum is standardized testing.
A standardized practice that all fulcrum trained orogenes experience Is having their hand broken to test their control. I didn’t realized all guardians dud this when reading about Damaya. I thought it was an isolated incident until reading about Nassun in The Obeslisk Gate. Nassun meets Ajae in the Arctic Fulcrum who begins to question her believing that she is an “Imperial-Orogene-to-be” (267). Ajae asks, “‘Did the break your hand yet’”, at which point Nassun is silent. Ajae breaks the silence by explaining, “‘the do it to every grit at some point’” (267), indicating that this is a standardized practice. While standardized tests in American education don’t necessarily break bones, they do make or break many people’s chances at getting a higher education.
Inner city schools are typically under funded and have fewer resources than affluent suburban schools. The city I taught at was a k-8 bilingual school in the west side of Buffalo. This school was considered one of the better buffalo public schools, yet it lacked the funding to provide textbooks and working copy machines to students and teachers. They had a problem with mice, and one bilingual speech pathologist was bounced around among nine different schools that year. This school was in an area where many of the students spoke Spanish as their primary language.
I was able to sit in on some of these bilingual sessions, and it as hard for me to imagine how difficult it would be for these students to make progress from meetings with a teacher ho has to travel to eight other schools that week. Not only this, but as an education minor at UB, I learned that ESL students only have three years to reach proficiency at their grade level in English before they are judged according to standardized state standards. That is not enough time to attain mastery in on of the most tedious and confusing languages in the world.
Because of No Child Left Behind, schools’ performances on standardized tests determine how much funding they will receive. As a result of this, the schools that are underperforming get less funding from the state, which is quite counterproductive. This is a direct result of the Race to the Top incentive, where schools are encouraged to be competitive to get more funding. These policies have deepened the inequities in schools, and we are not given the tools we need to think critically about these inequalities. I feel that high school, for me, was more about learning to listen to directions rather than learning to think critically.
Connecting public education and the workings of the fulcrum to my own personal experiences, I became soberly aware of the revisionist history we are taught in the public school curriculum. After taking a history class with one of the best professors I’ve had in my life, I realized that the history I had learned in high school was rusting crap. I basically learned revisionist history. My education failed to teach me the intricacies of systematic oppression and colonialism. I learned more about the triumphs of the white man than the evils of colonialism. Upon learning accurate history, I was enraged at how brainwashed we all are after being taught the state-prescribed curriculum.
My experience is similar to the multiple occasions where Syenite was forced to question her Fulcrum education after conversations with Alabster. He pokes holes in her logic that she hasn’t even questioned by telling her the truth. Syenite/Essun often doesn’t realize how much of her assumptions about the world have been shaped by her “education” at the Fulcrum. Nassun does, however, realize that the fulcrum is a problematic institution. She reflects that “‘this place is wrong, the Fulcrum is wrong” (269) and then realizes “mama was wrong. The Fulcrum made her that way”. This demonstrates the power of curriculums on people’s thinking and habits long after learning the material.
The similarities between a system as evil and oppressive as the Fulcrum and America’s public schools speak for themselves. America’s public schools perpetuate racial division, the wealth gap, and are a symbol of the inequalities that exist in the United States. The fulcrum was designed to keep orogenes within a certain place in society, and America’s public schools were made in a similar fashion.