Wednesday, November 30, 2011

-7- Are you against school?

I decided to share an essay I had to do for an assignment. Check the citations if you're interested in John Taylor Gatto, James Bryant Conant, and etc. The latter was a fascinating individual, one praised for creating possible the worst school system ever.

Before you read, ask yourself what school means to you.

               Having graduated from a specialized high school in New York City, I have experienced the best that public schooling had to offer. Was I impressed by the knowledge I gained? Hardly. Did I enjoy the experience? No. Would I recommend this experience to others? Absolutely not. My sentiments are so common that the whole experience of going to school is naturally deemed as unpleasant and everyone agrees on it, students and teachers alike. I have never perceived this as a problem at all; I accepted that this was the way things were and that perhaps school being repulsive was just an unfortunate side effect. In the essay “Against School”, John Taylor Gatto puts forth an unusual thesis: the distaste for school is not an unfortunate side effect but in fact the whole purpose of schooling. Named one of the teachers of the year, John Gatto has experienced teaching firsthand and walked away from the experience in distaste, claiming that he did not want to harm children any further (Nielsen, 2011). How could a star teacher, having just received an award, make such a rash statement?
                One question that stands out in his essay right away is “Do we really need schooling?” It is a question hardly asked. Of course schooling needed, it is mandatory by law, is the reflexive answer. Nonetheless, Gatto presses on, “Why is it mandatory by law?” He goes on to explain, the purpose of schooling, and his research effectively reveals that the purpose of schooling is in fact to “… reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level…” This was stated by H.L. Mecken as far back as 1924. Nonetheless, this same answer is reverberated throughout all of his research. “…to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority… to make children as alike as possible…to determine the student’s proper social role…to select the managers of the system.” This repulsive evaluation is given by Alexander Inglis, who would greatly influence James Bryant Conant, who lead to the current standardized schooling system. The picture painted by Gatto resembles a mugshot of a criminal caught red-handed. It is the fault of public education, which by its industrial model continues to suppress students and make them strive to conform instead of attempting to do their best. The argument is clear.
                One of John Gatto’s most influential sources is James Conant Bryant, the man who practically made the education system what it is today. The credit for creating public high schools in the form that they exist in today goes mainly to this man. This means that I personally should be thankful to this individual for the quality of the education that I received. The overhaul of the American school system by Conant began after serving as an ambassador to West Germany in the 1950’s. This confirms Gatto’s theory that American Education was highly influenced by Germans. The element John Gatto missed, however, was a major historical factor that lead to the acceptance of the current school system. That was the Cold War, and when the American government realized it had to compete, it was willing to try Conant’s method of schooling in order to produce smart, capable youth. It was stated that “He belongs to that long line of valuable Americans who have refused to concede any contradiction between intellectual excellence and education for democracy.” (The Washington Post, 1978)
                Gatto’s argument, however well stated, is still incomplete. While it is clear that public education needs to be reinvented and that the current model is only self sustaining instead of self improving, there is no alternative. Knowing the problem is only the beginning. It is the solution that is important. John Gatto wraps up his essay with fancy rhetoric, “The solution… is simple and glorious. Let them [children] manage themselves.” This statement was interpreted by many parents as a suggestion for homeschooling, and John Gatto indeed had become a major influence for the movement (Kroeger, 1994). But this is not a solution for parents who cannot afford homeschooling. Furthermore, Gatto’s insistence that all children are geniuses and that there are no “average” children is naïve. There is no solid solution to the problem of industrialized schooling, and that is a fact. “Despite evidence that the complexity of the nations education crisis requires an array of solutions including strong curriculum standards and robust consequential accountability, the overhaul of teacher quality, revamp of curriculum and standards, expanding school choice, improving school data systems and giving parents their rightful decision-making roles in education far too many reformers are busy touting and flacking their one grand solution and dismiss others that, in their minds, don’t further their own. (Dropout Nation, 2011). This applies to Gatto, who’s suggestion of a solution is not only naïve, but also narrow minded. There is no one solution that will solve the problems of education, and homeschooling is nothing more than avoiding the problem.
                As someone who had been educated at a high school that was formulated under James Conant Bryant’s suggestions, I agree with John Gatto to an extent. He is right; the educational system will not stand up even to a brief examination. Its purpose is clear: not to educate, but to stall. As students, we weren’t learning to appreciate education; we learned only to dislike it. The only relief came from socializing with one another, and the few teachers that sympathized with us. But the argument against Gatto is just as solid; he only cries foul and has no solid suggestion at hand. The beautiful rhetoric aside, his “silver bullet” to the beast of education is a sham, because there is no such thing. A system can’t be improved in such a simple way, especially one formulated on the wrong premise. It needs to be replaced by a better one, with a completely different framework. There was only instance that stood out to me when I read this essay, “Who… is to blame? We all are.” Indeed, that is the case when it comes to education. I conceded to something I knew was wrong by showing up to school. By accepting the premises that I disagreed with, I became the one at fault. However, I do not feel any desire to change the system of education that we have today. It is not due to a lack of courage, but rather due to the fact that it wouldn’t matter. It is just the same as thinking that school sucks, without knowing why. It was just a small part of a bigger picture; the big picture was the whole educational system, according to Gatto. I don’t think that is where it all ends. If the educational system was the only problem, it would probably have been solved by now. It too, is part of a bigger picture.

[1] "James Bryant Conant." Washington Post 14 feb 1978. n.pag. LexisNexis. Database. 30 Nov 2011.
[2] RiShawn, Biddle. "Three thoughts on Education This Week: The Endless Thoughtless Pursuits of the One Silver Bullet of the ." Dropout Nation 27 Jul 2011. n.pag. LexisNexis. Database. 30 Nov 2011.
[3] Jackie, Kroeger. "Overhauling Is Urged for American Schools ." Dropout Nation 8 aug 1994. 1. LexisNexis. Database. 30 Nov 2011.
[4] Nielsen, Lisa. "I am no longer willing to hurt children - John Taylor Gatto (A Compilation)." The Innovative Educator. blogger, 18 Jan 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <>.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

-6- On Rain

Despite rain becoming a common feature in my writing, I vehemently dislike rain. The clouds turn dark, the goddamn water is everywhere. It's in the puddles, its above me, it's in my shoes, etc. I hate riding on the subway and seeing the raindrops on every window, distorting the view outside. I dislike the way right after rain lands on me, the cold wind immediately shows up to freeze the skin where the rain landed. Rain sucks.

What I love, however, is going outside when the rain is over. The sun shines and reflects of every single raindrop on the street, making it seem like it's covered in diamonds. I like the way the puddles reflect the blue sky above and seem to be a portal into a different world. I remember passing by such a puddle and seeing a tree branch above it reflected. This was in springtime, and I could see in the clear reflection that the tree was beginning to flower. That made my day, and that is why I will always love what comes after rain.

Reading over this entry, I see that rain is just something unpleasant that I have to go through in order to get what I want. I guess it is worth tolerating, for just a little while.

Rain, I hope you leave soon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

-5- Alert! Education prices go up!

My CUNY is raising tuition, and it's quite ridiculous since the quality of the education keeps going down. I understand that cunys are normally full of idiots, and that's fine because they pay for their education (which they take with them to the couch where they'll be spending the next many many years). But those of us actually interested in education are being screwed over backwards. The tuition hike isn't much... yet. 

But increasing it by 300 bucks every year for five years? My financial aid won't cover that. That will mean having to get a job to pay. Which will mean going part time, which will mean more fees, and less financial aid. More fees and less financial aid means more working, which means less education. Basically cuny is telling everyone to leave cuny. That's smart, and that's exactly what we should be doing, but... a little rude isn't it? Might as well just stop the system and call it quits.

'Here's the info in case you're interested:

Friday, November 25, 2011

-4- Let's talk Fun Stuff

The entertainment industry is very big these days. I am always skeptical of entertainment as a rule because it is giving up time that could be better used, for something not essentially valuable. Of course there is a retort that entertainment is needed for a person to stay in a good mood. I'd accept that if it applied to me, but it does not. I am naturally in a good mood; whenever in a foul mood, I sense a problem and look for ways to change it, however I do not turn to entertainment for it. Entertainment is not affordable, it does not have intrinsic value. Of course a lot of things don't have value; for example, arguably the U.S. Dollar has no value behind it (of course, this statement is heavily frowned upon, otherwise, what is it that we work for?)

Nonetheless, the question of whether or not entertainment is needed in the first place requires one to answer a simple question. What is the human being's natural mindset. If one is persistently bleak and he or she requires entertainment to get to a desired mindset, then entertainment would clearly have a purpose of keeping that person functioning. However, what if someone is naturally happy? Then entertainment loses value to that individual and becomes a social chore. Therefore, it is clear that entertainment's importance is based on the needs of the people, and can be completely useless to some. 

However, considering the vast increase in all kinds of entertainment in today's society: court shows, video games, portable apps, mmorpg, pay to play, etc, it is clear that there are very few people with a natural predisposition to happiness. At the same time, it is self explanatory; as an industry, entertainment is like a treatment to the symptoms, but not a cure. Who would want to have a society full of naturally happy people? Entertainment would lose value, and that is why the goal of entertainment is not to make a person happy and change their mindset, but temporary relief. 

That becomes even more apparent considering the recent trends in gaming. While before, one could purchase a game for a determined amount of money and enjoy it for an unlimited amount of time, now one pays for playing time, without the chance to purchase the game permanently. This is, in fact, the future of gaming, and many other industries as well. It is, after all, following the steps taken before it by television. 

So, knowing the bleak reality behind the entertainment industry, what is there that can be done? The result is simple; stop seeking enjoyment from entertainment. It is not the only source there is.

I think I will bring this topic up again in the future, just to clear some things up. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

-3- Thanksgiving Day

The Morality of Gratitude. 

Since today is Thanksgiving Day, I'll do something special. Let's discuss the whole concept of gratitude and whether there truly needs to be a "thanksgiving day". Of course any celebration in general won't stand up to an examination that is anything more than a cursory glance; so I'll focus on the concept of gratitude more. 

Gratitude in its own sense is a feeling that is not present anywhere other than society. Even the words "thank you" themselves already imply the existence of more than one person. Of course it is still possible to feel gratitude for things that don't involve people, for example feeling thankful for the great weather, happiness, etc. Nonetheless, the thesis I want to get across here is that gratitude is a social concept that did not exist in nature.

Gratitude is the concept taught to people since early childhood. "Say thank you for this." "It's the nice thing to do." If this was a concept that naturally existed within people, it would not need to be taught. In contrast, take traits that come naturally to all humans: love, hate, violence, etc. While you can be taught how to express these feelings, one never needs to be taught what they are (Unless of course, he or she pretends to not know for attention). So why would gratitude be taught to people? What's the use? Aside from the purely social perspective of making a person seem "nice", it is actually beneficial for a society to be full of gratitude. In fact; needless gratitude in itself is highly useful in order to control people.

Take for example one of the most common instances of gratitude, the "respect for one's elders". Respect in itself is something that requires to be earned; in this case one cannot earn respect for one's elders if one never encountered them. It is rather a mismatch of words because what is really implied in that statement is a gratitude towards one's elders. To state it simply: "Feel thankful to those that came before you; they're the reason you're enjoying your life today." Of course it's hard to see the problem with this statement. One's elders are the precursors to that person; thus it is only logical to understand that a great part of a person's life depends on the people that came before him or her.

The problem is that it is a part of life. There is no need to feel gratitude for what is naturally present; certainly not in the sense that other people require it. If one should feel thankful for one's elders (who are given to him naturally as a birthright), then shouldn't, by the same logic, everyone be thankful for living on earth in the first place? The planet itself is much larger and more important than a bunch of old people, isn't it? The same applies to the sun, to air, to the universe itself. If people should be thankful for what is naturally given, there are no limits to things we should feel thankful for! By that sense, one thanksgiving wouldn't be enough; every day we would need to be thankful. 

Thus gratitude in itself; at least in the sense that it is taught to others is a rather narrow topic; narrow because the people teaching it had not truly perceived what they were trying to get others to believe. While of course, I would never complain about the hypocrisy of mankind; in this case the hypocrisy of teaching one to be thankful for nonsense and omitting the great whole simply due to lack of insight, I will complain quite a lot about the lack of insight itself. People should be able to see beyond themselves, especially if they despise subjectivity as much as they preach. 

So why is it that gratitude is still being taught to others today, especially if it takes such a minuscule amount of insight to see through it's stupidity and discard that concept as meaningless? That is due to the fact that it is very easy to control people who are grateful for things that don't matter. Go back to the gratitude for one's elders example. It is not true that all of our elders deserve our respect; once again, it is a lack of insight that makes one think so. The reality is that our elders were as foolish as the rest of us, and thus deserve the same amount of respect. But, if one is grateful towards his elders (who are in reality his equals, in a sense), then he is less likely to see past their mistakes. The problem with gratitude in this sense is that it is blind; it makes one thankful for reasons one doesn't know, and thus can even make a person thankful for something that is a detrimental to him or her. 

There are many, many examples of such situations that arise time and time again. Children who are abused but won't stand up against it because they are thankful for the parents who gave them life. Societies where one cannot pursue his or her goals because it is against the values set to him by a society that he or she should appreciate (This, quite largely applies to females, does it not?). Countries that were thankful for leaders who got them out of a recession only to find out that their leader was a maniac dictator (This is quite a famous one). Time and time again, we are given examples why not to be thankful, or rather why not to be thankful foolishly. Think twice before you feel gratitude. 

On that note, I'm rather thankful for my own existence. Nothing more.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 2


By far the greatest repression mechanism of society has been a lack of confidence. It is in fact so effective in deterring people, that education goes to great length to foster it greatly. And it works. Every passing day, I see young men and women my age who are not confident of themselves. To them, any form of success only reminds them of their past failures. I do not know what it's like to live with such a mindset, or how one goes about in such a repressed manner. It cannot be an easy life.

What is the mechanism that makes a person say "I will" instead of "I'll try?" What makes a person say "I know" instead of "I guess?" It's confidence, is it not?

Let me define confidence. At it's heart, it is not associated with alpha males, or anything like that. Confidence at its core is a person's ability to trust himself or herself. It has nothing to do with pride; pride comes out of confidence; it is not it's precursor. Another misconception of confidence is that it means knowing that you cannot fail. It is not so. A confident man is aware that he is as capable of failure as anyone else; he simply knows that he can overcome it. Similarly, as I mentioned yesterday, it is knowing and accepting that there is a chance for error.

A confident mindset is crucial when one lives in this world; that is why everyone tries so hard to crush it. How many children are taught to be afraid of making an error? Doesn't society shun those who err out of lack of knowledge? Those who no longer have confidence have a great excuse, they were born into it, shaped that way by their society and their loving parents. However it is only an excuse. Bear with me now, I am quite ruthless; but anyone has the ability to overcome society. A truly confident mind will overcome shame. Mentality cannot be broken; one needs a visit to any particular asylum to confirm that statement is true. It is even more so with confidence. It cannot be broken by others. It is yours to wield, and yours to discard, at any moment.

My condolences for the many people my age who have long since discarded theirs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 1

First aphorism

"Everything I perceive of the world is a reflection of myself. I must always think twice before I declare the world as unjust. Perhaps the fault is my own." 

This is a logical keystone that I come back to time and time again, and thus I felt compelled to state it on my first day. Any and all analysis conducted will never be truly objective because the mind knows what it wants to find, and is rarely pleased at being disproved. Perhaps this only applies to me; nonetheless I will still admit it. 

Before making any judgement, I always, always, have to make sure I know that the judgment is made out of conscious understanding of the difference between what is desired, and what is finalized. It is easy to make an inflammatory statement about the world. But is it easy to know that you can be wrong? It is not so for anyone; it is certainly not the case for me. Nonetheless, there is no compelling argument that can turn the wrong answer right. I have turned away from debate time and time again, because I realized that neither side would be willing to accept itself as wrong. That is not the way a conclusion can be reached. 

"Those who live by the sword, die by the sword." 

Most people don't accept that. I understand why; the concept of death, is as sickening as the concept of error, defeat. The associations have been made long before I had been born; I was raised into them. I will try to unravel as many associations that I believe are made wrongly, state my own arguments, and my convictions. I will, however, accept that I am open to error, and I will be open to new understandings, even if they are against my own convictions. 

To the days ahead, the many statements that must me made, the many discoveries and conclusions, and the many, many errors that will arise as a result. 

Cheers, and welcome to my blog.