In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Arthur Deikman warned that many of the spiritual and utopian groups that had mushroomed out of the counter-culture were harmful cults…… He identified four signs of cult-like behavior — dependence on a leader, compliance with the group, forbidding dissent, and devaluing outsiders. These four behaviours were particularly strong in cults, he suggested, but existed throughout society.
– Jules Evans – The soulful psychiatrist (email newsletter)
When I read this I immediately became aware that the school system that I am working within in this country is cult-like. These are government schools where I work ,so it makes some sense. Governments operate utilising these four behaviours too.
In this system, preferences are given to the leader, superior or elder, whether they are deserving or not. If they are found lacking machinations begin to move that leader along, often with a handshake to comfort the stab in the back.
Compliance within the group is essential. You must conform. Non conformity will enable idle gossip, rumour and lies. This will dig deep into your soul until it becomes unbearable. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down. (I am that nail, over and over. Yes, I am stupid but I hope to learn.) It is a culture clash that happens repeatedly as teachers come and go faster than they can be replaced. No one learns from this as each party shakes their fists as they walk away.
Dissent leads the same way. Any question is seen as dissent, any suggestion is dissent, opening your mouth can be taken as dissent. To make improvements trickster behaviour must be employed, back room suggestions that may filter through as if the leaders had thought of it themselves.
And the old favourite – devaluing outsiders. In an environment of education it seems like it should be essential for everyone to work together. However, here there is a palpable us and them. If you decide to follow the path of non compliance and dissent you will be seen to have no value (‘you’re one of them, one of them’). The survival technique ensures devaluing yourself – it is too great a burden for many to take.
I am not filled with hope for education in this country. But I can hope that it is only my limited experience and that things are much better in private schools at least, but which unfortunately only the wealthy can afford.