227 Autonomous Technology: The Underground History of Amercian Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org
The simple truth is there is no way to control this massive corporate/school thing from the human end. It has to be broken up. It has become a piece of autonomous technology. Its leadership is bankrupt in ideas. Merchants are merchants, not moral leaders or political ones. It surely is a sign ofretrogression, not advance, that we have forgotten what the world's peoples knew forever. A merchant has the same right to offer his opinion as I do, but it makes little sense for people who buy and sell soap and cigarettes to tell you how to raise your kid or what to believe in. No more sense than it does for a pedagogue to do the same. How would a huckster who pushes toothpaste, a joker who vends cigarettes, or a video dream peddler know anything about leading nations or raising children correctly? Are these to be the Washingtons, Jacksons, and Lincolns of the twenty-first century?
The timeless core of Western tradition, which only the cowardly and corrupt would wish to surrender, shows that we can't grow into the truth of our own nature without local traditions and values at the center of things. We do not do well as human beings in those abstract associations for material advantage favored by merchants called networks, or in megalithic systems, whether governmental, institutional, or corporate. In his book An Open Life, Joseph Campbell put his finger on the heart of the matter:
[It is] an Oriental model. One of the typical things of the Orient is that any criticism disqualifies you for the guru's instruction. Well in heaven's name, is that appropriate for a Western mind? It's simply a transferring of your submission to a childhood father onto a father for your adulthood. Which means you're not growing up.... The thing about the guru in the West is that he represents an alien principle, namely, that you don't follow your own path, you follow a given path. And that's totally contrary to the Western spirit! Our spirituality is of the individual quest, individual realization — authenticity in your own life out of your own center, (emphasis added)
Mario Savio, the 1960s campus radical, stood once on the steps of Sproul Hall, Berkeley, and screamed: There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who own it that unless you are free the machine will be prevented from working at all.
Limiting the power of government, in order to liberate the individual, was the great American revolutionary insight. Too much cooperation, avoiding conflict from ordinary people, these things aren't acceptable in America although they may suit China, Indonesia, Britain, or Germany just fine. In America the absence of conflict is a sign of regression toward a global mean, hardly progress by our lights if you've seen much of the governance of the rest of the world where common people are crushed like annoying insects if they argue.
Carl Schurz, the German immigrant, said upon seeing America for the first time in 1848, "Here you can see how slightly a people needs to be governed." What it will take to break collectively out of this trap is a change in the nature of forced schooling, one which alters the balance of power between societies and systems in favor of societies again. We need once more to debate angrily the purpose of public education. The power of elites to set the agenda for public schooling has to be challenged, an agenda which includes totalitarian labeling of the ordinary population, unwarranted official prerogatives, and near total control of work. Until such a change happens, we need to individually withhold excessive allegiance from any and all forms of abstract, remotely displaced, political and economic leadership; we need to trust ourselves and our children to remake the future locally, demand that intellectual and character development once again be the mission of schools; we need to smash the government monopoly over the upbringing of our young by forcing it to compete for funds whose commitments should rest largely on the judgment of parents and local associations. Where argument, court action, foot-dragging, and polite subversion can't derail this judgment, then we must find the courage to be saboteurs, as the maquis did in occupied France during WWII.
It isn't difficult, someone once said, to imagine young Bill Clinton sitting at the feet of his favorite old professor, Dr. Carroll Quigley of Georgetown. As Quigley approached death, he came back to Georgetown one last time in 1976 to deliver the Oscar Iden Lecture Series. The Quigley of the Iden lectures said many things which anticipate the argument of my own book. His words often turn to the modern predicament, the sense of impending doom many of us feel:
The fundamental, all-pervasive cause of world instability is the destruction of communities by the commercialization of all human relationships and the resulting neuroses and psychoses. ..another cause of today's instability is that we now have a society.... which is totally dominated by the two elements of sovereignty that are not included in the state structure: control of credit and banking, and the corporation. These are free to political controls and social responsibility, ...The only element of production they are concerned with is the one they can control: capital.
Quigley alludes to a startling ultimate solution to our problems with school and with much else in our now state-obsessed lives, a drawing of critical awareness:
...out of the Dark Age that followed the collapse of the Carolingian Empire came the most magnificent thing. ..the recognition that people can have a society without having a state. In other words, this experience wiped out the assumption that is found throughout Classical Antiquity, except among unorthodox and heretical thinkers, that the state and the society are identical, and therefore you can desire nothing more than to be a citizen, (emphasis added)
A society without a state. If the only value hard reading had was to be able to tune in on minds like Quigley's, minds free of fetters, sharp axes with which to strike off chains, that alone would be reason enough to put such reading at the heart of a new kind of schooling which might strongly resemble the education America offered 150 years ago — a movement to ennoble common people, freeing them from the clutches of masters, experts, and those terrifying true believers whose eyes gleam in the dark. Quigley thought such a transformation was inevitable:
Now I come to my last statement... I'm not personally pessimistic. The final result will be that the American people will ultimately... opt out of the system. Today everything is a bureaucratic structure, and brainwashed people who are not personalities are trained to fit into this bureaucratic structure and say it is a great life — although I would assume that many on their death beds must feel otherwise. The process of copping out will take a long time, but notice: we are already copping out of military service on a wholesale basis; we are already copping out of voting on a large scale basis.... People are also copping out by refusing to pay any attention to newspapers or to what's going on in the world, and by increasing emphasis on the growth of localism, what is happening in their own neighborhoods.... When Rome fell, the Christian answer was, "Create our own communities."
We shall do that again. When we want better families, better neighbors, better friends, and better schools we shall turn our backs on national and global systems, on expert experts and specialist specialties and begin to make our own schools one by one, far from the reach of systems.
Did you know that Lear of Lear Jet fame was a dropout? Pierre Cardin, Liz Claiborne, the founder of McDonald's, the founder of Wendy 's, Ben Franklin, one in every fifteen American millionaires?