A “Good” Student Defined Through Common “Sense”

“Was I bad today?”

“M, you are not bad. It’s just your behavior that sometimes needs to be better.”

“I’ll be better tomorrow,” M would say apologetically. And each time we had this conversation, I would leave with a sense of profound sadness that something was not right.

Kumashiro (20-21)

I think that in our society, a person’s goodness is directly related to their obedience. A stereotypically “good” child is one that listens to their parents. After all, their parents did birth and raise them. We won’t mention how expensive it is to raise a child. This “benevolence” must be rewarded by the loyalty of the child. Besides, they’re growing older, too. A citizen is “good” if they abide by the laws. In this way, they apparently ensure the safety of the society.

The “good” student in class is the teacher’s pet. They listen to what the teacher says, learns the material that the teacher hands out, and participates in their discussions. By answering their questions, the teacher feels fulfilled and productive. Most people agree that this relationship dynamic is oppressive. Yet, a “good” teacher is one that listens to the students. They are democratic and often “goes with the flow” in terms of class decisions. However, we see this teacher to be positive rather than unhealthy. The main reason for this is because teachers are the ones in power. Democracy has usually been about giving a voice to those who are usually silenced. This democratic “good” teacher is actually good because they give students the freedom to claim and control their own education (as is their right). A “good” student, on the other hand, follows the person in front of the room who has the power to change their grades. Often, these students might end up associating their grades with their self-worth, and believe complete obedience is fundamental and crucial to becoming a successful “good” adult. It’s not.

Obviously, some students have the privilege to become “good” while others don’t. If you have a mental illness, you might end up disrupting the class. Only bad students disrupts classes. If you are white, you are most likely to be viewed as “good” rather than if you were black. A girl is usually seen as “good” while a boy might not be, and this might have to do with the amount of restrictions already presented to little girls when they are born. They are told what to wear, how to do their hair, to not get their new dress muddy, to act “ladylike”, and be a “big sister” to the other children. If you have a supportive family, you are much less likely to cause extra stress to your teachers. If you dress nicely, if you can afford classroom materials, you are a “good” student. To put it into simple terms, those already privileged in our society (white, middle-class, able-bodied/minded), you are good. Being anything outside of these folds make you problematic, and being problematic would give your teacher a headache and label you as a “bad” student, as they have the power to do so.

Well-behaved women seldom make history.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

A “good” student is perfectly obedient. Like a “good” citizen/child, a “good” student rarely “makes history”. They do not advance the system, or push boundaries. Once upon a time, Martin Luther King Jr. was not a “good” citizen for his “problematic views” of racism. He believed black people where equal to while people, and demanded that notion to be exercised in the daily society. In the Pixar movie Brave, the main character Merida struggles to be a dutiful, obedient, “good” daughter. If we restrict the Merida’s and the King Jr’s of our classes, we lose out on the opportunity of raising future leaders. We must erase the conceptions of the “good” student because it is detrimental to both those privileged to be “good” and those who are not. We lose out on future artists, geniuses, activists, etc. Potential exists in all student. If a teacher is able to see and grow that potential, they aren’t “good” teachers. Their regular teachers doing a good job.

One thought on “A “Good” Student Defined Through Common “Sense”

  1. Great post!

    I loved reading the last part of you’re post where you discussed real life (or Disney) examples of how being what society considers to be “good” dangerous. This really deepened the meaning of our reading for me. Thanks for the different perspective!


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