Social Darwinism is the belief that humans are subjected to the same Darwinian laws of natural selection like many other animals and living species. This was often used to justify mass poverty, social structure, oligarchy, imperialism, racism and racial segregation, lack of universal health care, etc. Social Darwinism is often nowadays discredited, but if there’s one institution where social Darwinism is still alive, breathing, and well, it’s school.
School is based on the survival of the fittest, or in this situation, the survival of the most compliant and obedient. School is run on an “obey and survive” system. As long as one complies with the work that they are given, they will manage to keep a good grade and get rewarded potentially. However, those that choose not to comply will have smaller grades and may face punishment. School does not encourage individual learning at a pace, rather the current schooling system is designed to force everyone to do the same.
Schools often like to congratulate students that were the most obedient and compliant at certain school assemblies. They congratulate that they turned in all their assignments and did not rebel or question their “learning experience” somehow. Basically, those with 3.50+ GPAs are basically the elite class. However, those below may often have negative labels which cause low self-esteem and depression. They may be labelled “below basic”, or sometimes worse.
Schools don’t congratulate individual learning. Schools don’t congratulate whether you read Wikipedia articles on the same subject that were far more detailed than in the school textbook, no. Schools only congratulate you when you obey to the teacher and do your assignments. Schools will congratulate you with a better grade for complying, though some schools may reward you with a field trip or some sort of prize.
One might say that humans will find something to replace money with if money were to not exist, say shiny rocks or conch shells. In school, money is replaced by good grades (or popularity, that another story for another day). Those with good grades are more likely to be celebrated, more likely to get better opportunities because their GPA is high, more likely to be congratulated by teachers, more likely to be the “model student” for everyone else in the school to follow. Those with lower grades will often be scolded by teachers and parents, may not be able to go to college because college is so notoriously expensive in the United States, will much more likely suffer low self-esteem and depression, and may set themselves up for a worse life because of their shortcomings in school.
School uses the grading system in order to select the best. Obviously, the grading system is absolutely ineffective because it caters to only one type of student: a student that is obedient, a student that complies, a student that does all their homework and turns it in, a student that follows rather than leads, a student that is not rebellious and accepts what they are told. There are many students who are not like that at all, and those students are the ones being excluded. Yet, those students’ minds may be much more flexible, much less one-dimensional, much more curious, much more smarter than we think.
At one point in our history, Social Darwinism was the ideology of many nations, that the rich need not be guilty, that the poor deserve what is inflicted upon them, that some of us are simply born better because we are better. It may no longer be national practice, but Social Darwinism is still living, in our schools, very subtly.