Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review: 'The Student Resistance Handbook' by Cevin Soling

Review by David Wineberg

The Kids Are All Right

About the best I can say about the stupidity and injustices of the public school system is that they prepare you for the stupidity and injustices of life. This is not a sufficient reason to cripple kids’ curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm. Cevin Soling has written a book I wish I had when I was nine. It’s a bit late now. But every kid should have a copy. Handy.

You have to be of two minds about this book; there is no middle ground. This book will rightly horrify the establishment – parents, teachers, school boards, PTAs. But it will give thinking students all kinds of hope they had long lost. I found it a genuine thrill, which is not something I ever get to say about nonfiction books.

Soling peppers his book with all kinds of facts that would help any student put their situation in perspective, to know they are not alone, that this is the system, and that they are right to be demoralized:
-Schools are the reason why millions of people do not read, and why anti-intellectualism is so pervasive.
-School principals are promoted on their ability to keep problems hidden, not to uncover embarrassing situations.
-First they will ignore you, then they will mock you, then they will fight you. (Then you win, is the last stage that Soling omits - fyi.)
-“School boards are comprised of people who know absolutely nothing about child development or how learning takes place.” (It is of course worse than that. Some boards are packed with religious or political operatives who have an indoctrination agenda.)
-Do not EVER expect justice in school.
I wish I knew just these things when I was in elementary school. It would have made a world of difference to me.

The Student Resistance Handbook reveals that kids can sue the school pro se – without a lawyer, and even cites Supreme Court precedents for them to understand what they’re up against. It instructs how to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. But the best advice it gives is on disruptive tactics. All legal, but subterfuge nonetheless. The goal is to make life as miserable for everyone else as it is for the students. The disruption chapter would make Saul Alinsky proud (Look him up, then). Students are worth $4-15k/yr to the school, so non co-operation, non participation and non attendance hits them right where it hurts most. Slowing the process, demanding the school be compliant with laws and requesting public documents not only infuriates, it instills the same kind of fear the administration employs on students.

As a result of my own schooling, I developed the credo that I can play by anyone’s rules, as long as I know what they are. Schools are all about submission. They don’t tell you the lay of the land. And now, surveillance, search and humiliation are a normal part of the school day. It is much uglier for kids today, with metal detectors, police dogs, strip searches and police making criminal charges against children that follow them for life. It is critical that kids understand this is not normal. This book is a major public service, even if it strikes fear into the fear factory. They won’t take the advice, but just allowing kids to understand what’s really happening should alleviate all kinds of depression and anguish.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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