In teaching, I generally err on the side of Communist dictator. I am an authoritarian force that demands collective work for collective reward. All things are for the greater good. Also, sometimes I give out stale bread and my secret police are amazing. Unfortunately, my high school students did not respond well to my iron fist, and I finally understand why: they’re tiny capitalists.
I was trying to impose upon them a sense of duty toward their comrades, but they don’t want that. These kids are opportunists, and they’ll seize any ground ceded to them and throw a Wal-Mart on it. I tore off my mustache, and the community structured upon mutual work and mutual gain was torn away with it. It’s the free market, kids, and the dogs are eating each other and the invisible hand is holding them to their work, and Ayn Rand is giddy in her grave.
I’ve adopted a laissez-faire way of teaching this group. They don’t want to be policed, and they will engage in glorious revolution if they find my grip over them is too strong, too totalitarian. Now, I let them be. I let them drive and regulate and motivate and fail themselves. I saw a student watching movie trailers on his phone. I did not take his phone from him. Instead, I said “I’d advise you to work, but the time is yours to do as you want.” If his paper is unfinished because he wasted his time on his phone, it will only be his fault. I almost hope he comes to me asking for an extension because I will laugh and bask in the vicious light of the free market. I will laugh and laugh, and then, like a benevolent CEO hearing the plea for mercy from a new hire, I will pull from my pocket a green pen–because red is for the commies–and I will mark this student’s work as inadequate, and in Capitalism, it is the work and not the worker that matters.
They love it. They love the freedom and the time, and I think they even like the possibility of failure. Students crave respect, and my all-powerful Communist style was not giving it to them. They want freedom, and they want to control their work. I’ve given them their revolution, and now we will see how much of themselves they will burn.