Learned Helplessness In Relation to Capitalist Education - By Shaun Riley

Learned helplessness occurs when an animal or non-human animal is repeatedly exposed to an aversive stimulus that cannot be escaped. Consequently, the animal will stop attempting to avoid the stimulus and behave as though he or she is helpless to avoid or change the situation, even when these opportunities are present. This behavior can lead to effects on emotional health, such as depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.

Inherent in the capitalist education system is the perceived, unquestionable authority of the instructor over the pupil. It is within this hierarchical relationship that the student runs the risk of acquiring learned helplessness. This outcome is to be expected within an education system that holds as its objective, the molding of young, free, creative minds, into subservient, spiritless masses intended to serve the “work force”.

From early on, the student recognizes the futility of trying to assert his or her will against the rule of the instructor, as in most cases it will continue to be denied. It is from this constant denial of individual or collective autonomy (such as the consensus of students in a classroom setting) that the student or students will develop a defeatist mindset, i.e., they will begin to believe that they will inevitably be defeated by the "superiors" despite any efforts they might take to promote their own interests. Therefore, the student will often subordinately accept the teacher's authority, even bearing the most senseless of rules, as well as the consequences for breaking them.

Perhaps through a radical social revolution, as well as a subsequent educational revolution, one’s will, individuality, and human potential could be realized.

References:

Cherry, Kendra. (June 8, 2009). Learned Helplessness - Psychology Definition of the Week. About.com. Retrieved December 3, 2012, from http://psychology.about.com/b/2009/06/08/learned-helplessness-psychology... of-the-week.htm

Peterson, C., Maier, S. F., Seligman, M. E. P., Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control. NY: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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