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An American Affidavit

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

227 Autonomous Technology: The Underground History of Amercian Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

227 Autonomous Technology: The Underground History of Amercian Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Autonomous Technology 

     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 of
retrogression, 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?  

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