Thursday, October 12, 2006


"Children enter school as question marks …"
This post began as a comment to a post on The Far Queue but grew out of control.
I see great possibilities for our education systems to accommodate a complete reversal of the present philosophy of filling empty heads with cultural fantasies called fact just to prepare them with proper answers and behavior for a comfortable life within the society based on the same myth and to protect them from being trampled by its heedless, heartless shortcomings. This would be a radical experiment intended to redesign our idea of the role of education in the makeup of society and to ultimately see through our present paradigm of perverting the natural evolution of an individual into cul de sacs of aggressive competition breeding nanofascists for the purposes of a macrofascist culture.

Eliminating those teachers who took up the task as a natural extension of their pride in knowing everything and a pinch of revenge for being made to learn it, we are left with the core staff with genuine interest in the entire process of learning with teaching of minor importance. Rather than a classroom of children and one teacher pounding the artificiality of alphabet into them at an age when by the time “g” goes in “a” pops out the other side, there might be locations set off where children in age groups are brought to live and play together with a staff of at least two contrary observers per child and a central coordinator. Their function is to get an idea of what a bundle of dynamic potential humans are prior to their cultural conditioning and how much more of this natural world is remembered genetically beyond suckling at a nipple before cultural demands shout down and drown out their intuitive ancestral legacy. With minimal supervision of what the children do and say and eat and a maximum of observation of same, a comparison of the different age groups will give an estimate of the effect of the present education system on innate potential and genuine curiosity of the developing individual. This would be the first stage of the study over a couple of years.

The ongoing study would involve staying with the youngest groups of babies from a cross section of the population large enough to have that cross section represented in each and every group. They should come from orphanages and mansions with no or on the go parents “providing for their future” while turning the present over to a daycare or nanny. The primary goal is to trace the unconditioned characteristics of the developing human individual when allowed to discover the world with a minimum of cultural input and then only when found on their own.

The staff would be paired in matching contrariness to achieve the model of life as described in a book I read called We the Tikopia wherein life was its own education with no formal teachers. Everyone was playing all the time, whether it was climbing for coconuts, tending taro pits, fishing, carving a boat, building a lodge it was all play. The most formal the education system ever got was when the elders ran out of steam and began to sit around under a tree they were easy to find and to get a story out of by the curious young. Although the children knew who their birth parents were, they lived where their preferences led them on this island of their entire family of playmates. The best story tellers had the biggest “classes”. Even the most esoteric arts have been transmitted in the oral tradition, such as how the Pacific navigators can traverse its entire expanse without charts or instruments. The staff must be able to commit to the long haul just for the value of the continuity so that even though diverse views are encouraged amongst them, the goal is agreed upon.

Now comes the other part of my fantasy. The culture they eventually encounter has undergone a revelation, the same one that thought the idea above was worth trying in fact, wherein all production has been made both ecologically harmless and locally plied by all willing and able bodied citizens, with machinery for power only when there is no one to be hired. This opens all occupations to curious interns who found them interesting on their own with no prodding to get a job, the ideal trainee.

So … where is this place? Right where you’re sitting. All it takes is atoning for our sins by selling all the junk we bought and devoting our income to paying off the debt that afforded it, living modestly, locally in the present in such a way that the seemingly invulnerable wall of vampires who misrepresent us in a hate generating interference in the lives of innocent people around the world giving freedom a bad name will have no more necks willingly bared for their many siphons. So we no longer make the most of the fastest cars in the world, but the ones who still drive them may cherish our quaint renaissance crafts discovered by new generations following unhampered creative urges. One at a time, no patents, no labor disputes, each population center a tribal endeavor, the central government a council of tribes. It could happen. It’s about time.
In reading the foregoing over I could hardly keep from laughing at imagining all the practical arguments against such sweeping statements, because they always miss the point that the system within which these ideas are judged impractical is the very one the studies are intended to replace by something more natural. Sort of like the only thing wrong with pot is that it is illegal.

………………… and leave as periods."
-Neil Postman, professor and author (1931- )


Pisces Iscariot said...

Now you're talking!
You've got those 'revenge' teachers down pat.

Pocho said...

There is a book by Neil Postman you might like greg. It is called "Teaching As A Subversive Activity". No theory. Lots of do's. They work in two ways. 1) to enable teaching children instead of things, and 2) angering those in the system so self enamored with what they know, they just don't get it.

gregrandgar said...

Oh, yes! The difference between the vast majority of teachers and true mentors with Postman's understandings is a pretty good metaphor for the proportion of free thinking indulged by the general population, much less allowed or encouraged, in these days of isolated free speech areas and banned books. As we treat our children, they will treat the world.

Ché Bob said...

Great post! Along with Pocho's suggested reading are a couple more great reads:

Grace Llewellyn's "Guerrilla Learning" or "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education"

John Taylor Gatto also has some interesting thoughts that parallel your thinking: "Dumbing Us Down" and "A Different Kind of Teacher"

A.S. Neill's famous work: "Summerhill" (One of the biggest influences in my life)

Henry Giroux as well: "An Abandoned Generation"

Paulo Freire. Anything by him, but one can always start with: "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" or "Pedagogy of Hope"

Most of these educationalists approach learning from the standpoint that happiness, not productivity, should be the endgame of learning. This happiness is NOT one predicated on the accumulation of wealth and material things, but instead a genuine sense of happiness through mental and emotional freedom.

gregrandgar said...

Hi Che Bob,
Welcome to the Vapors, take shelter from the norm,
Thanks for the book list. One of the primary things I look for in any endeavor is whether it considers happiness as innate or to be achieved. When you spoke of happiness in relationship to these authors it wasn't quite clear to me whether you meant they were teaching the persuit of happiness or the nurturing and growth of the natural happiness with which they are born.

Ché Bob said...

A few of them at least definitely believe we must foster the natural happiness--A.S. Neill and Grace Llewellyn especially.

troutsky said...

Reading Summerhill was a profound experience for me as well, I believe I was in 7th grade and it helped the process of radicalization along. I was asked to speak in front of a bunch of educators and parents at a conference and I stood up and said children should be removed from their home environments and allowed to live in tribes! You could have heard a pin drop. I have revised my thinking somewhat (after raising my own tribe)but still feel pedagogy needs to be revolutionized.