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AnAmerAffidavit

Saturday, February 25, 2017

198.The Fear Of Common Intelligence: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Fear Of Common Intelligence 

The fear of common people learning too much is a recurrent theme in state records 
around the world. The founder of the Chinese state, the Emperor Ts'in She Hwang-ti, 
burned the work of the philosophers for fear their ideas would poison his own plans. The 
Caliph Umar of Syria wrote instructions to destroy the perhaps apocryphal library at 
Alexandria, using this airtight syllogism: 

If these writings of the Greeks agree with the Book of God they are useless and need not 
be preserved; if they disagree they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.* 

Literary bonfires in Nazi Germany are often invoked as a vivid symbol of the deepest 
barbarism of the twentieth century, but extensive press coverage ended the book burning 
by stirring public uneasiness worldwide. Much more effective have been those silent 
blast furnaces used by public library systems and great American universities to dispose 
of 3 million excess books annually because of a shortage of shelf space. Why aren't they 
given to schools? 

There are other ways to burn books without matches. Consider the great leap forward 
undertaken in the modern Turkish state under Kemal Ataturk. Unlike Hitler, who burned 
only some of the past, Ataturk burned it all without fire by radically changing the Turkish 
national alphabet so that all the vital writings of the past were entombed in an obsolete 
symbol system. Not a single Turk voted to have this done, yet all accepted it. 

From 1929 on, all books and newspapers were printed in the new alphabet. All 
documents were composed in it. All schoolchildren were instructed in it and no other. 
The classics of Persia, Arabia, and Turkey vanished without a trace for the next 
generation. Obliterate the national memory bound up in history and literature, sift 
carefully what can be translated, and you open a gulf between old and young, past and 
present, which can't be bridged, rendering children vulnerable to any form of synthetic 
lore authorities deem advisable. 

Turkish experimentation is echoed today in mainland China where a fifth of the 
population of the planet is cut off from the long past of Chinese literature and philosophy, 
one of the very few significant bodies of thought on the human record. The method being 
used is a radical simplification of the characters of the language which will have, in the 
fullness of time, the same effect as burning books, putting them effectively out of reach. 
Lord Lindsay of Birker, a professor at Yenching University outside Beijing where I 
recently went to see for myself the effects of Westernization on the young Chinese elite, 
says the generation educated entirely in simplified characters will have difficulty reading 
anything published in China before the late 1950s. 

First, said Plato, wipe the slate clean. 



There are many ways to burn books without a match. You can order the reading of 
childish books to be substituted for serious ones, as we have done. You can simplify the 
language you allow in school books to the point that students become disgusted with 
reading because it demeans them, being thinner gruel than their spoken speech. We have 
done that, too. One subtle and very effective strategy is to fill books with pictures and 
lively graphics so they trivialize words in the same fashion the worst tabloid newspapers 
do — forcing pictures and graphs into space where readers should be building pictures of 
their own, preempting space into which personal intellect should be expanding. In this we 
are the world's master. 

Samuel Johnson entered a note into his diary several hundred years ago about the 
powerful effect reading Hamlet was having upon him. He was nine at the time. Abraham 
Cowley wrote of his "infinite delight" with Spenser's Faerie Queen — an epic poem that 
treats moral values allegorically in nine-line stanzas that never existed before Spenser 
(and hardly since). He spoke of his pleasure with its "Stories of Knights and Giants and 
Monsters and Brave Houses." Cowley was twelve at the time. It couldn't have been an 
easy read in 1630 for anyone, and it's beyond the reach of many elite college graduates 
today. What happened? The answer is that Dick and Jane happened. "Frank had a dog. 
His name was Spot." That happened. 



This quotation is from John Draper's History of the Conflict Between Science and Religion. Draper, an excellent scholar, took the story from 
one Abulpharagius, a writer composing his story six stories after the burning of Alexandria's library. But no earlier writers confirm 
Abulpharagius' account and the known character of Umar (of Medina, not Syria!) is quite liberal — for instance, he opened the holy places of 
Jerusalem to all sects, Hebrew, Christian, or whatever — and inconsistent with such a statement. Furthermore, the reverence for learning in early 
Islam would all by itself bring this alleged statement by the head of the Muslim empire into question. So, while the anti-rationalist logic is still 
flawless, it might be well to consider what group(s) had something to gain by spinning history this way. Official history seems to be saturated 
with such machinations, hence the need for underground histories ... of everything! 

The Cult Of Forced Schooling 

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