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Thursday, February 23, 2017

196. The Systems Idea In Action: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Systems Idea In Action 

In Autonomous Technology: Technics-Out-Of-Control (1989), Langdon Winner takes a 
sobering look at modern predicament: 

Society is composed of persons who cannot design, build, repair, or even operate most of 
the devices upon which their lives depend.... In the complexity of this world people are 
confronted with extraordinary events and functions that are literally unintelligible to 
them. They are unable to give an adequate explanation of man-made phenomena in their 
immediate experience. They are unable to form a coherent, rational picture of the whole. 
Under the circumstances, all persons do, and indeed must, accept a great number of 
things on faith.... Their way of understanding is basically religious, rather than scientific; 
only a small portion of one 's everyday experience in the technological society can be 
made scientific. ...The plight of members of the technological society can be compared to 
that of a newborn child. Much of the data that enters its sense does not form coherent 
wholes. There are many things the child cannot understand or, after it has learned to 
speak, cannot successfully explain to anyone.... Citizens of the modern age in this respect 
are less fortunate than children. They never escape a fundamental bewilderment in the 



face of the complex world that their senses report. They are not able to organize all or 
even very much of this into sensible wholes.... An objection might be raised that 
difficulties of the sort I have mentioned soon will have remedies. Systems theory, 
artificial intelligence, or some new modern way of knowing will alleviate the burdens.... 
Soon there will exist tools of intellectual synthesis. I must report I found no such tools in 
practice. I have surveyed the various candidates for this honor — systems theory and 
systems analysis, computer sciences and artificial intelligence, new methods of coding 
great masses of information, the strategy of disjointed incrementalism and so forth. As 
relief for the difficulties raised here none of these offers much help.... The systems idea is 
another — and indeed the ultimate — technique to shape man and society. 

By allowing the existence of large bureaucratic systems under centralized control, 
whether corporate, governmental, or institutional, we unwittingly enter into a hideous 
conspiracy against ourselves, one in which we resolutely work to limit the growth of our 
minds and spirits. The only conceivable answer is to break the power of these things, 
through grit, courage, indomitability and resolution if possible, through acts of personal 
sabotage and disloyalty if not. 



Chapter Sixteen 


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