Robert Burns'... instinctive consideration of men as men came from an ancestry which still cared more for religion than education. The moment men begin to care more for education than for religion they begin to care more for ambition than for education. It is no longer a world in which the souls of all are equal before heaven, but a world in which the mind of each is bent on achieving unequal advantage over the other. There begins to be a mere vanity in being educated... Education ought to be a searchilight given to a man to explore everything, but very specially the things most distant from himself. Education tends to be a spotlight; which is centred entirely on himself... The only final cure is to turn off the limelight and let him realize the stars. G. K. Chesterton
Where the control of education is taken out of the hands of the family and the community, and schooling gets further and further away from the people who have a direct stake in it, the quality suffers. It is that which accounts in the largest part, for the deplorable state of American education today. Yes, the government now controls education...but is it worth controlling? Human Scale, Kilpatrick Sale
The social and psychological destruction inherent in obligatory schooling is merely an illustration of the destruction implicit in all international institutions which now dictate the kinds of goods, services, and welfare available to satisfy basic human needs. Only a cultural and institutional revolution which reestablishes man's control over his environment can arrest the violence by which development of institutions is now imposed by a few for their own interest. Maybe Marx has said it better, criticizing Ricardo and his school: "They want production to be limited to 'useful things,' but they forget that the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.''
Ivan Illich, "Celebration of Awareness," 1971
More on Illich:
The coming peril is the intellectual, educational, psychological and artistic overproduction, which, equally with economic overproduction, threatens the wellbeing of contemporary civilisation. People are inundated, blinded, deafened, and mentally paralysed by a flood of vulgar and tasteless externals, leaving them no time for leisure, thought, or creation from within themselves. G. K. Chesterton Toronto, 1930 ( Chesterton works on-line )
Aymará Indian women from Peruvian highland villages near Juli gather once a week to talk and work. They have formed an artisans' association that enables them to increase their earnings by directly marketing their own products. Two women sit side by side embroidering a large wall hanging. Others spin thread and work on smaller projects. The same cooperative spirit that fills the air as they work prevails at lunch. Each woman takes out a cloth filled with something she brought for the noon meal and places her contribution on a large colorful cloth known as an aguayo. Then the women seat themselves on the ground in a circle around the cloth and share the food: chunno (freeze dried potatoes), puffed corn, and patties made from quinoa, a high-protein grain. The women discuss events in their villages as they eat. Not long ago a food aid program offering milk powder, flour, and oil began in their region. Some women have stopped coming to the cooperative gatherings so they can attend the day-long meetings that are required to receive the food aid. The women gathered around the aguayo spread with traditional foods lament the absence of these women and quickly agree they do not want these new foods. "We're happy with the food we and our ancestors have always eaten," comments one. "We do not want aid," concludes another. "All we want are markets in which to sell our embroidery so we can keep growing our own food."
Linda Shelly, La Esperanza, Honduras. Extending the Table... A World Community Cookbook by Joetta Handrich Schlabach
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held... But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another, slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".... Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally opposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision no Big Brother is required... As he saw it people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. What Orwell feared is those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book for there would be no one who wanted to read one... Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with the equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy... In 1984 Huxley added people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
What's wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. Lincoln did not have a Web site at the log cabin where his parents home-schooled him. Steve Jobs, Founder, Apple Computer
In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present eduction conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds, and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people, or any of their children, into philosophers or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen -- of whom we have an ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way. General Education Board, Organized by John D. Rockefeller, 1906 The tracks of what 20th century forced schooling was meant to be are right on the surface, right under our noses. But we avoid seeing what's there in the hopes it will go away. The state is busy organizing your children and linking them inextricably to the current economy, just as if the way we live together in society today is the end of history and the best we can do. It wasn't greed that drove this astonishing project to organize everybody and everything, but another of the deadly sins, pride. It was a dream of political and economic unification of the globe under rational scientific management just as if THAT could account for everything of worth. The presumptive planetary managers didn't hate ordinary people, but they did consider them waste products.... John Taylor Gatto
Everyone is complicit in trying to make the education system look good without merit... This country is so content not to know the truth about its children, it's horrifying.
Lisa Graham Keegan, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Arizona
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less "showily." Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself... Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences. Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's teacher)
School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man's trap. It is supposed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorably we cultivate, treat, produce and school the world out of existence. Jacques Ellul It should be pointed out that if we tried to build education on the single pattern of "the scientific idea of man" and carry it out accordingly, we could only do so by distorting or warping this idea: for we should have to ask what is the nature and destiny of man, and we should be pressing the only idea at our disposal, that is the scientific one, for an answer to our question. Then we would try, contrary to its type, to draw from it a kind of metaphysics. From the logical point of view, we would have a spurious metaphysics disguised as science and yet deprived of any really philosophical insight; and from the practical point of view, we would have a denial or misconception of those very realities and values without which education loses all human sense or becomes the training of an animal for the utility of the state. Jacques Maritain I have come to believe that compulsory government schooling -- while pretending to protect children from child labor -- IS child labor. Einstein observed that "imagination is more important than knowledge." Similarly, contemplation is more important than achievement. Without contemplation, achievement is mostly busy work -- useful, but ultimately depersonalizing. By keeping young people "on task," compulsory government schooling salts the ground of contemplation, insuring that critical questions concerning context, meaning and matrix are never asked. The task confronting post-modernists is not so much what we need to do, but what we need to undo. Alan Archibald
The State of Public Instruction
The richness of liberal education has been replaced by the task-orientation of technical instruction. Intellectual rigor is under seige. Not infrequently, college graduates -- and post-graduates -- emerge from the ivory tower functionally illiterate. Wisdom traditions are moribund. Tunnel vision is rewarded. We know a great deal about minutiae, but are stuporous facing life in-the-round.
Academicians and other intellectuals assume the intrinsic primacy of intellect. Enthralled by cerebral self-certainty, we have devised a "meritocracy" based on certificates, degrees and credentials. Tragically, our many "merit badges" undergird a new caste system that prioritizes cleverness and intellect regardless their actual benefit to the human condition.
The "head" usurps the "heart."
Knowledge pre-empts wisdom.
Cleverness stifles spirit.
Experts and technocrats comprise the new ruling class, as cruel as any of their predecessors no matter how carefully they limit wounds to bloodless trauma and "closed head injury."
To paraphrase Wilde, we have become cynics who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Committed to "the illusion of technique," our institutions embark the senescence that Toynbee described as the end-state of any "cultural life cycle."
The breach between University Departments of Education and the public schools they "serve" is measured in parsecs.
Unless we re-establish the fundaments of liberal education - simultaneously deflating the arrogance of technique - the dehumanizing power of free-market globalization will accelerate the experiment whereby machines are anthropomorphized and people mechanized.
A Faustian bargain has been struck. Mephistopheles has the upper hand.
Philosophical utilitarianism is the cornerstone of industrial - and post-industrial - culture. Our blinkered obsession with utility has become self-destructive. The critical issue is no longer "how" to do things. Rather, we must determine "what" to do --- perhaps even more importantly, what to un-do.
In Buddhist terms, "what does the Dharma require?"
Mere cleverness exercised within the confines of utilitarianism supposes that "content" trumps "context." Acculturated to ignore the largely subliminal matrix that enmeshes us, we focus obsessively on near-term minutiae, fixate punctiliously on the task-in-hand, grow irascible at the suggestion we're trapped in a meaningless "box," and dedicate ourselves --- with wanton attachment --- to productivity, consumption, cultural acceleration and putative progress.
Utilitarianism - and the industrial engine it has produced - rightly claim unprecedented "success."
What we need now is an argument against "success."
We have created an instructional system ultimately dedicated to custodial care. Supporters of Public Instruction admire the many "accomplishments" of schooling, blind to the possibility that such "success" is achieved despite the obstacles created by Public Instruction.
Public Instruction's obsessive focus on "success" -- like other facets of our winner-take-all culture -- tends to "write off" anyone viewed as a "loser."
Clearly, school personnel are "good people." Hence, the urgent need to salve
the collective conscience with a steady stream of "service providers" whose most dependable product is pidgeon-holing "problem children" as "Problem Children."
Too often, school officials -- particularly Central Office and Support Service personnel -- benefit from the unresolvable chaos of Public Instruction. Mayor Richard Dailey's Freudian slip during the 1968 Democratic Convention reveals the mechanism that's foundational to professional profiteering: "The police are not here to create chaos: they're here to preserve it."
It surpasses irony that at the very moment children most need parental embrace, "absentee parenting" has become as common in suburbs as in ghettos.
The devolution of parental responsibility to "the schools" is due to the "need"
--- real or perceived --- for both parents to "hold down jobs." Abetted by Public Instruction's willingness to act in loco parentis, parents lack time, resource - and increasingly, the commitment - to raise their own children.
Pre- and post-school activites lengthen.
The cycle is vicious. Our children are becoming wards of the State, while the State acts as co-dependently dysfunctional parent.
We have created a culture that requires a small fortune (and, by extension, massive environmental degradation) to purchase a semblance of domestic tranquility. Lacking wealth, the "moonlight" treadmill yawns as universal default.
It is my hope that "the family" - particularly the extended family - will remain the chief font of value and meaning. Whether this proves true, "intervention" in family life is a dubious proposition often provoking consequences worse than the evil being "remedied."
Although dis-integrated "family culture" poses intractable problems, direct intervention in the home (except in extremis) is proscribed by law and custom.
Fortunately, our inability to intervene on the domestic front facilitates focused attention to acculturative mechanisms and educational processes which do lend themselves to reform.
Unfortunately, the ferocious determination of American political activists to maintain the hierarchical stratification, abject obedience and comprehensive indoctrination of government franchise schools correlates with the progressive abandonment of our young to the ministrations of mercenaries and "experts." (As ombudsman for North Carolina migrant workers, I observe Latinos' astonishment that Americans no longer raise their own children, instead relinquishing this sacred duty to paid "caregivers" and peer-group idols.)
The mechanisms of stupefaction which beset American culture are insidious, ubiquitous and relentless. Tragically, our conditioning is so complete that we welcome abdication of personal responsibility to "experts," wonks and technocrats who "know better" than the population they've diligently disabled.
American public schooling -- in concert with celebrity/media culture -- skillfully transforms conscientious citizens into self-seeking consumers. The magnificence of individual "pleasure domes" is without precedent. These emblems of personal "success" sustain a culture characterized by private opulence and public squalor.
We know what we want but ignore what we need.
We pride ourselves on "progress," an unprincipled drift into increasingly fatuous futures.
As we reap the whirlwind of wantonness, our political atrophy is advanced, our stupefaction profound, our subjugation to "mere economics" nearly complete.
We have created a culture of sodden materialism, based on the seductive belief that we can live by "bread alone."
"Lies My Teacher Taught Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong"
by James Loewen, Harvard University. Read Loewen's study of the relationship between "dovishness/hawkishness" and "educational achievement level" and you will see the world differently forevermore. www.Loewen.homestead.com
Jerry Brown interviews Illich (See Archives): www.wtp.org
Carlos Carreto's Letters from the Desert (with forward by Illich)
John Taylor Gatto
G. K. Chesterton
Americans believe that technology has no intrinsic moral orientation. According to American orthodoxy, morality depends solely on a given technology's application. Although this "neutrality" may be true in theory, many techologies lend themselves to such massive practical abuse that we fool ourselves by arguing their "value neutrality." In our headlong rush "to be value-free," Mario Cuomo says "we have become value-less." Television dwells at the heart of American vapidity. Television is the foremost means by which we transform ourselves into Eliot's "hollow men." As dramatist, David Mamet, put it: "We gotta throw our televisions away. It's all trash. It's like talking about how cocaine might have some vitamins." (See Gerry Mander's "Four Arguments Against Television.")
It was the freewheeling seventies, and our family had chosen to live without a television. People began talking about our new "lifestyle." Funny --- I thought of it as a life, rich in friends and careers, brimming with garden-grown food and home-baked bread and the sounds of singing around the piano. The ultimate accusation came from our pastor's wife, who said, "How dare you try to protect your children from reality?"
Kathleen Wendland, Sun Magazine
The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination.... Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist.... We are now a culture whose information, ideas and epistemology, are given form by television, not by the printed word.... Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world. Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death"
Television: The Cyclops that Eats Books
Essays on the Philosophy of Technology
Television: Agent of Truth Decay
Strangers in the House (a Canadian Film Board investigation of television's impact)
The Informal Education Homepage. (A great website, providing insight into "schooling" alternatives --- from Nyerere and Montessori through Marx and Illich, as well as what's going on in your neighborhood today. English, Scottish and Irish origin.) http://www.infed.org/index.htm
John Dewey Project on Progressive Education, Univ. Vermont
Benefits and Hazards of Distance Learning
Ixquick Metasearch Engine "The World's Most Powerful Metasearch Engine" http://ixquick.com
Ten Good Search Engines:
1.) HotBot offers clear, crisp interface. Allows user to view up to 100 hits on a single screen saving lots of annoying re-load time. www.hotbot.com 3.) Snap (Search Engine with good "news stories from around the web" and fine links to on-line news sources.) http://www.snap.com/ 4.) Yahoo! Search engine with good global sub-sections. Hits evaluated by people, not machines. Google is Yahoo's default search engine. http://www.yahoo.com/ Answer.com (brings simple-dimple net searches directly to the page you're on by "Alt-clicking" any word whose meaning you wish to explore in greater depth.) www.answers.com
Snopes - THE SITE to separate truth from urban legend and other cyber-myths
Library Access (and other Reference)
Digital Library, a librarian's choice of the best of the web:
Librarians' Index to the Internet, "By Librarians; For Everyone!" (U. of California) http://lii.org Library Spot (Large, well-arranged, easy-to-use site for all manner of intellectual inquiry. Strongest on humanities. Good "Science Projects" page) www.libraryspot.com
Radical librarian sites:
Xrefer (Good, comprehensive reference tool. One feature locates quotations by providing fragments thereof) http://www.xrefer.com/ New York Public Library (See "Exhibitions On-line"): www.nypl.org Britannica (arguably the best on-line dictionary with great search tools that display results in user-friendly fashion) http://www.britannica.com/
NewsLink (formerly part of American Journalism Review)
Bitlocker. Databases Made Simple. Access, creation, web publication
The Hardin Medical Directory of Internet Health Sources
SciCentral (Weekly "alerts" describing "hot spots" in scientific literature. Choose updates from 120 disciplines.) www.SciCentral.com
Ask an Expert
U. of Penn. Museum (Usable, informative site with "Ask our researchers" feature under "Archeology")
New York Times Learning Site (with "Ask a Reporter" access)
Census and CIA Data
How stuff works
Ancient World and Philosophy
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago:
Preservenet (Cultural analyses that transcend traditional political categories) www.preservenet.com
"One Stop" Education Sites
Digital Library, a librarian's choice of the best of the web:
Informal Education Homepage. (A great website, providing insight into "schooling alternatives" --- from Nyerere and Montessori through Marx and Illich, as well as what's going on in your neighborhood today. English, Scottish and Irish origin.) http://www.infed.org/index.htm Thinkquest (with "Hogwarts on-line"). An exemplary site highlighting splendid work by young people. http://www.thinkquest.org
See "Ancient World and Philosophy" above.
Politics and Law
I have a dream, by Martin Luther King Jr.
Brill's Content. The All-Star Newspaper. Links to the best of the press.
New York Times Learning Site (with "Ask a Reporter" access)
ABUZZ - Pose a question, get an answer from NYT readers. www.abuzz.com
Science and Technology
History of Physics - and allied sciences such as optics and astronomy from the American Institute of Physics http://www.aip.org/history/
"Statistical Resources on the Web" -
Fish and fishing information on-line. (Field & Stream writer Ken Schultz personal site. With illustrated "Encyclopedia of Fish") http://www.kenschultz.com/
The Tech Museum of Innovation (San Jose's answer to The Exploratorium) www.thetech.org All about weather (including current conditions and forecasts) www.weather.com
Global Language Portal "Your Dictionary.com" - provides dictionaries, grammars and on-line courses for hundreds of languages. http://www.yourdictionary.com/ June 29.com - a great foreign language page. http://www.june29.com/ (When you reach June 29's frontpage, click "Human Languages Page," and proceed to "Language and Literature")
The Heifer Project is one of the best-designed charities in the world. Donors give farm animals (or beehives) to poor families who, in turn, promise to give away one female offspring This commitment to "share the blessing" is held sacred by all participants.) - www.heifer.org
Digital Library, a librarian's choice of the best of the web:
College bound? College View provides readily accessible information about American - and Canadian - colleges and universities. (As a graduate of the University of Toronto, I was struck by the inclusion of Canadian institutions of higher learning. Similar American sites reveal customary gringo jingoism by limiting their purview to schools within the United States.) http://www.rcls.org/ksearch.htm Homestead.com (Free websites; easy-site construction tools; no bothersome advertisements cluttering your page. A truly remarkable service.) www.homestead.com
Ten Ways to Transform Victorian Capitalism into Democratic Capitalism, by David M. Boje, June 17, 1998 --- Good, hyperlinked article with links to Mondragon cooperative. Strong Illich influence. Focuses on decentralized community organization in New Mexico
Best set of "safe" discussion groups on web. From aliens to Zen. (Always exercise caution when participating in web discussions) www.deja.com/usenet
Homestead.com (Free websites; easy site construction tools; no bothersome advertisements cluttering your page. A remarkable service.) www.homestead.com