The revolution that developed in Mesopotamia on human values and equality has achieved many successes in propagating the principles of justice and humanity. In addition, it has addressed all of the authoritarian concepts that were working to consolidate the distinction between members of society. One of the biggest factors of the revolution has been the efforts to eliminate the power gap between the administration in all aspects of life (politics, education, workplaces, and even self-defense forces), and the people themselves. The concept of administration in the people's freedom system is not applied in the same way as the concept of administration in the central system. Also, the everyday members are different. Administration in the central system possesses unlimited power. However, self-management in the peoples freedom system does not, and it is responsible for its actions in front of the rank-and-file. These members can also dismiss the administration if it has not done its job well and appoint a new department in its place. In the central system, the rank-and-file have awe and fear of management, and they are forced to implement all management decisions without any discussion. Nor can they criticize or hold their administration accountable, and they live with fear daily. But in the people's freedom system, they can evaluate the administration, hold it accountable and, when necessary, even remove it from its duties. The administration cannot, under any pretext, intimidate the ordinary members. In this system, all members participate in the administration, and undoubtedly, in essence, they reserve rights and freedoms. Social researchers and writers who research this topic take note of this fact in the people's freedom system and are affected by it. One example is Ian Campbell, a history teacher from Texas in the United States. Since discovering the revolution in Mesopotamia, he has found inspiration in the “Tekmîl” system, criticism and self-criticism. After careful reflection, he decided to apply it in his school where he taught. Teacher Ian’s efforts are unmatched, and in the article he expresses his experiences in applying the “Tekmîl” system and the difficulties he faced in the process.
I brought Tekmil into an American classroom. Here is what I found.
When I was growing up as a primary and secondary school student in America, I noticed a trend that defied my expectations. The fresh out of college teachers that were the closest in age to us and, one would expect, the most relatable to us, were most often the most strict and---dare I say--- mean! It was not until I went through college teacher training classes myself that I figured out why this was the case. They were strict because their professors scared them with worst-case scenario stories and told them that they had to show that they were in charge from day one. If there was one topic that every one of my instructors made sure to spend plenty of time lecturing on in our training classes, it was discipline and “classroom management”. Right away, we were primed with horror stories of first-year teachers getting walked all over by their students. We were told of teachers getting laughed at, made fun of, students refusing to listen to them or whole classes revolting against their teachers’ authority, mutinies early on that made it impossible for the teacher to steer the ship for at least the rest of the year. The worst case involved a teacher being chased around the classroom at knifepoint by a student. And when I think back on my own school experiences as a student, I realize that these are not exaggerations. I remember how in middle school, at a nationally recognized and respected institution, my friends and I made substitute teachers cry, picking apart every idiosyncrasy they had and shaping them into the butts of not-so-subtle jokes. If this is the environment they are training you to go into, teacher training instructors who compare children to sharks circling around waiting to attack at the first sign of weakness are not far off. But by the time I entered the teacher training program at my University, I had already done a bit of teaching of my own, and I had come to realize that it was not the students who were to blame for this hostility, but the system itself. In this article, I want to expand on that earlier realization by discussing how I have gained respect from my students, not through the adversarial discipline methods my instructors taught me, but by using participatory democracy and criticism and self-criticism sessions (tekmil) to empower them.
Before I ever decided to become a teacher as a career, my interest in direct democracy accidentally landed me my first teaching job. While my degree plan said I was studying international studies, most of the studying I did in college was on my own time, digging through internet rabbit holes on possible visions for a better world. This journey led me to co-owning a cooperative restaurant with a bunch of my friends and it was there that I really felt my first taste of true freedom. We had no boss, and we all had a direct say on all the decisions that made the restaurant happen. I was equal to every other worker there. Because of this autonomy, I saw the restaurant, not the kind of place that had ever exactly been my dream job, as my baby to nurture and grow. I was attached, and when we decided to move on from the restaurant to start other projects, I realized I was attached to participatory democracy more than any given building.
A friend pointed me to another democratically run space in the area, and it happened to be a school. The school was run by a school meeting, where all the rules and decisions were made by everyone- students and teachers alike in a collaborative and democratic process. I applied for an internship immediately. The school did not require a teaching certificate because it was privately owned, so I got to teach there for almost a year with no official paper from the State saying I was qualified. But thinking that those qualifications couldn’t hurt, I started taking education classes at the University at night.
The dog-eat-dog world that my instructors described there felt so different from my own experiences teaching. At the “democratic free school”, the students called me by my first name, treated me like one of their friends (my instructors would be horrified and adamantly chiding me for that), yet they still were respectful and listened to me when I was teaching a lesson! In their frame of reference, such a relationship was impossible. To let the students see you as anything but the adult, the authority, was a one-way ticket to a miserable career, they said. Surely, no student would respect someone they saw as an equal! But their mindsets were stuck in the deeply competitive and adversarial school system, where people are turned into statistics and tools to either help or hinder you to get ahead, and where teachers and students are supposed to dislike each other. At my day job, I shared decision-making power with my students and they chose the classes they wanted to take, so if they were in my class, they wanted to be there and they wanted to listen and learn! Before and after class, we could joke with each other and play games, but during my class, if they wanted to come, they knew they had to listen and pay attention. And they wanted to, because they chose classes that would be interesting to them.
Conventional schooling promotes a different view of human nature than I do. It sees humans as inherently conniving, always looking for ways to maximize their personal gain at the slightest chance, even if it hurts others. Children, to the system, are the purest example of that base nature, not yet reigned in by authority and social mores. In my view, there is no one human nature. Humans are capable of a range of possibilities. Human nature is a broad spectrum; we can be both terribly greedy, violent, and mean to each other, or we can be incredibly kind, cooperative, selfless, and loving with each other. Or we can be somewhere in between. Which of these behaviors a society sees more is based on the kinds of institutions and incentive structures the society embraces. If we have a society and institutions based on competition, every person for themselves, and that embraces violence as a virtue, we are going to get a competitive, greedy, and violent society. But if we have a society and institutions based on cooperation, sharing, and taking everyone’s input into account, we are going to have a more cooperative, loving, and participatory society. Schools are a perfect example. I had different experiences as a first year teacher than did my instructors and many of my fellow graduates, because I gravitated to a school culture that was designed for people to work together, to decide collectively at school meeting, so that culture carried over into my classroom. The students respected me, listened, and participated. I had every teacher’s dream classroom just by finding a nice culture to fit into and making sure my own personality lived up to the values we tried to promote in that culture.
The End of First Section
To Be Continued…