Throughout my life, I always felt skeptical of big institutions, specifically authority figures . I used to hate it when someone tried to tell me what I should do or how I should act, especially when I did not agree with what they were telling me.
However, the way I think of these institutions, like public schools, has changed after seeing only a glimpse of what life might be like without them.
For example, the police in America have come under heavy criticism lately. A growing number of activists have begun demanding the total abolition of the police. They claim this is necessary because policing is systematically racist and a tool of oppression.
I see this kind of “solution” as worse than the problem itself.
The idea that the entire institution must be destroyed because problems exist within it is a child-like form of absolutist thinking. It is basically like cutting of your entire arm because you broke a bone. Sure, this approach might fix the problem in the short term in that police brutality cannot exist if there are no police, but this solution creates a slew of new issues.
If we destroy a given institution, the problem that it was created to solve will continue to exist. We can get rid of school, but children will still need to learn. In the case of policing, the institution was created to enforce the law and apprehend criminals. If we are to simply get rid of the police, we must create something new to do just that.
I want to make clear that I do not believe that institutions should stay the same forever. Some institutions are indeed terrible and unfit for purpose, but I do not think the “abolishment” approach is ever correct.
If a school provides bad education for its students, our first instinct should be “what can we do to improve the school?” rather than “what can we do to destroy this school?” The basic idea of a particular structure is often not that bad even if the implementation is flawed.
The best institutions are like a library of knowledge, slowly built up over time, being improved by each new generation of changes. So even though the institutions we have now are far from perfect, I think we should take the approach that they are worth trying to save, and reject the impulses of those who might tell us that destruction is the key to a better future.