Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our One Demand

This is the fifth communiqué from the 99 percent. We are occupying Wall Street.

On September 21st, 2011, Troy Davis, an innocent man, was murdered by the state of Georgia. Troy Davis was one of the 99 percent.

Ending capital punishment is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, four of our members were arrested on baseless charges.

Ending police intimidation is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, the richest 400 Americans owned more than half of the country’s population.

Ending wealth inequality is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, we determined that Yahoo lied about occupywallst.org being in spam filters.

Ending corporate censorship is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly eighty percent of Americans thought the country was on the wrong track.

Ending the modern gilded age is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly 15% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing.

Ending political corruption is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of Americans did not have work.

Ending joblessness is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly one sixth of America lived in poverty.

Ending poverty is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, roughly fifty million Americans were without health insurance.

Ending health-profiteering is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, America had military bases in around one hundred and thirty out of one hundred and sixty-five countries.

Ending American imperialism is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, America was at war with the world.

Ending war is our one demand.

On September 21st, 2011, we stood in solidarity with Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Madison, Toronto, London, Athens, Sydney, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Milan, Amsterdam, Algiers, Tel Aviv, Portland and Chicago. Soon we will stand with Phoenix, Montreal, Cleveland and Atlanta. We’re still here. We are growing. We intend to stay until we see movements toward real change in our country and the world.

You have fought all the wars. You have worked for all the bosses. You have wandered over all the countries. Have you harvested the fruits of your labors, the price of your victories? Does the past comfort you? Does the present smile on you? Does the future promise you anything? Have you found a piece of land where you can live like a human being and die like a human being? On these questions, on this argument, and on this theme, the struggle for existence, the people will speak. Join us.

We speak as one. All of our decisions, from our choice to march on Wall Street to our decision to continue occupying Liberty Square, were decided through a consensus based process by the group, for the group.

Stand with the People!

Human needs, not corporate greed
Tax the rich and corporations
End the wars, bring the troops home
Health care for all
End corporate welfare
Protect the planet
Put workers before profits
Get money out of politics

Fifteen Core Issues The Country Must Face

1. Corporatism– firmly establish that money is not speech, corporations are not people, only people have Constitutional rights, end corporate influence over the political process, protect people and the environment from damage by corporations.

2. Wars and Militarism – end wars and occupations, end private for-profit military contractors, reduce the national security state and end the weapons export industry. War crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace must be addressed and those responsible held accountable under international law.

3. Human Rights – end exploitation of people in the US and abroad, end discrimination in all forms, equal civil rights and due process for all people.

4. Worker Rights and jobs – all working-age people have the right to safe, just, non-discriminatory and dignified working conditions, a sustainable living wage, paid leave and economic protection.

5. Government – all processes of the three branches of government should be accountable to international law, transparent and follow the rule of law, people have the right to participate in decisions which affect them.

6. Elections – all citizens 18 and older have the right to vote without barriers, all candidates have the right to be heard and to run and all votes should be counted.

7. Criminal justice and prisons – end private for-profit prisons, adopt evidence-based drug policy, prisoners have the right to humane and just conditions with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society, abolish the death penalty.

8. Healthcare – create a national, universal and publicly financed comprehensive health system.

9. Education – all people have the right to a high quality, publicly-funded and broad education from pre-school through vocational training or university.

10. Housing – all people have the right to affordable and safe housing.

11. Environment – adopt policies which effectively create a carbon-free and radio-active free energy economy.

12. Finance and the economy – end policies which foster a wealth divide and move to a localized and democratic financial system, reform taxes so that they are progressive and provide goods, monetary gain and services for the people.

13. Media – airwaves and the internet are public goods, require that media be honest, accurate and accountable to the people.

14. Food and water – create systems that protect the land and water, create local and sustainable food networks and practices.

15. Transportation – provide affordable, clean and convenient public transportation and safe spaces for pedestrian and non-automobile travel.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mountain maid, maiden mount — a song

by Eric Rosenbloom
copyright 2011


A wisp of a thing, a thought on the air
That often it seems she isn’t there
A touch of moisture, a stir in the breeze
You see her passing in the leaves of trees

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

She rises and darkens in the mountain’s arms
Colors with passion and furious alarms
The dizzying heights now fill her with dread
Now longing that knows no rest, no bed

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

His grip is tight, she cannot fly
From fate and this his cruel eye
To swoon upon his hardened crags
And croon his hills and downy legs

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

He crouches beneath her, dark in her dark
To know the journey he can’t embark
In his craggy rocks and clinging firs
That are in her, washed by all that’s hers

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

All that she has and strained to hold
Bursts forth — she is of a sudden old
Her color fades as her life runs down
The rocks and trees that ring his crown

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

The waters gather and a river born
Of a clash divine, of a spirit torn
And the sun now shines and the valley sings
And the river means so many things

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

The ocean calls his wandering daughter
To lose herself in his circling water
While the mountain looms with a fiery glare
And calls forth another maid who was fair

The birds gather seeds
And people their deeds

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revolution


Thought for the day: left vs. right

"Industrial wind [for example] is not a partisan issue. It is big energy–funded power politics against the people. Both right and left support wind. And both right and left are against it."

Left/right divisions as played out in the U.S. are a charade allowing the real struggle to wither and die.

The true "right" of institutional control and exploitation is allowed to continue, because its victims — for whom the true "left" fights — have been empowered to choose sides in a cartoon version of their struggle. Thus the victims of the true right fight amongst themselves: one group of victims, calling themselves the left or liberal, fighting the other group of victims as their oppressors, and the other group of victims, calling themselves the right or conservative, fighting the first group as threatening the small advantage granted them by the true power.

We are fighting over crumbs and the occasional sop.

The robber barons only laugh, when they should be cowering in shame and fear.


anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

(Thanks to windturbinesyndrome.com and commenter Pam Supign for stimulating these thoughts on the anachronism of a green fist wielding an industrial wind turbine)

Update:  Pam Supign has written to me that the editor of windturbinesyndrome.com has removed her last comment responding to the editor's reply to her first comments (and they're on the same side!, illustrating the point of the present post). Apparently experienced with the "Big Brother" censorship of comment forums, she had saved what she wrote, which she shares with us here:
The clenched fist originally and primarily and still represents solidarity of the people against oppressing power. It began with trade unionism. Communism ideally is also about uniting labor against its exploiters. It is about standing strong against violence, not wreaking it. Your equation of communism and anarchism with violence is no more valid than damning the Protestant Reformation or any fight for greater freedom because it sometimes forced people to fight back against those whose control was threatened.

The clenched fist is an apt symbol for the fight against big wind. It no more implies violence than saying "United we stand."

That's why the outrage of that conference is the misuse of the fist image in the name of industrial development, not the evidence of a connection with a pop T-shirt version of the Comintern.
Update 2:  Now the editor of windturbinesyndrome.com has removed Pam's first comments as well and added an apologia to his post to explain his fear of leftist solidarity. He has also edited, so that its pop origin isn't as obvious, the T-shirt graphic with which he raised the specter of Stalinist greens. The post remains ridiculous. And the one comment remaining to elaborate the green/nazi/commie plot makes it even more so.

Unfortunately, we don't have the editor's reply to it, but Pam has provide us with her original comment:
First, so-called “deep greens”, such as members of Earth First, are against industrial wind. The symbolism highlighted here is more incoherent than revealing. Foster’s own bio notes that “we have reached a turning point in human relations with the earth, and that any attempt to solve our problems merely by technological, industrial or free market means, divorced from fundamental social relations, cannot succeed”. Industrial wind epitomizes the dream of technological/industrial “alternatives” saving those doomed relations.

Rather than raise the flag of demonization and fear, it should be clear that greens such as these are the “useful idiots” of predatory capitalism when it comes to climate change — again, for believing, against their own philosophies, that big new technology will be fundamentally different from big old technology just because its marketers sell it as green. Many greens are not so taken by the centralized energy “solutions” perpetuated by big wind and are appalled by the license it enjoys to invade otherwise protected land [and flout existing environmental laws].

Finally, the raised fist image was an early symbol of labor solidarity, particularly used by the IWW union (the Wobblies). It was used by the German Communist Party, which was brutally suppressed by the Nazis. During the Spanish Civil War, it was known as the anti-fascist salute. It has also stood for black power in the struggle for civil rights and for rights of workers, native Americans, and women, among others. Interestingly (I’m getting all this from Wikipedia), the fist here is the left hand, which began use in opposition to Stalinism (the Big Brother specter evoked in this post).

A green raised left fist is the symbol of Earth First, who oppose industrial wind, so the outrage should be for this conference’s offensive appropriation of a venerable symbol to imply support of such non-green non-progressive energy development.

Plus, as far as I can determine, the symbol of the Soviet Red Army was a red star, never a fist. The image used here — with its silly use of the Cyrillic letter "ya" for an "R" — is completely modern and meaningless. It's a T-shirt design.
Update 3:  Now Pam tells me that our friend the editor of windturbinesyndrome.com (which work I otherwise completely support, by the way, which is why I read the "Big Brother" post there — and Pam Supign's comments — in the first place) has added a picture of a dragon eating its own tail as representing violence. Well, Pam had to comment, and again is forced to offer her words here, because now she is apparently completely banned from windturbinesyndrome.com:
More abuse of symbols! The ouroboros is a symbol of eternal recreation, not violence!
Update 4:  In an earlier post, our windturbinesyndrome.com editor (Calvin Luther Martin, PhD) calls for ruckus-raising tent cities to publicize the harm done by industrial wind turbines, and suggests referring to municipal bureaucrats who facilitate and ignore that harm as "criminals — committing torture against their neighbors". And here's the clip art he uses to illustrate the idea of protest:

Clenched fists! People power!

And, looking at just the first page of indexed posts, there's this, used as the thumbnail of at least three posts at windturbinesyndrome.com, Québecois are angry!, Australians are angry!, and Ontarians are angry!:

And this:


Are you scared yet?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Palestine is already an independent state.

Thanks to The Guardian for the following map, showing that nations representing about 77% of the world's population already recognize Palestine as an independent state. But about 91% of the world's moral authority monetary wealth is represented by those that don't.

How-to guide for wind farm negotiations

No Deal, Assholes

Saturday, September 17, 2011

At last! The Fascist Threat

Alexander Cockburn writes this weekend:

“Instead of the Sermon on the Mount, we are now confronted by well-funded conservative evangelicals promoting a sinister vision of America as a corporate autocracy, with Dominionists as Gauleiters of a totalitarian state religion.”

So Lawrence Swaim, Executive Director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation wrote on this site last week. Swaim concluded with a familiar quote: “This recalls the prescient words of novelist Sinclair Lewis: ‘When fascism comes to America,’ he wrote in 1935, ‘it will come wrapped in the flag, and carrying a cross.’”

Not in my opinion. As a rule, the field of battle between secularism and our Christian ultras ends up stained with the blood of the latter, as Satan counter-attacks. Just glance at the the career of the original Know-Nothings or the history of prohibition. Indeed, looking across the American landscape, I’d say the Dark One has scant cause for lament amid quavering pieces about the Dominionist threat which so delight fundraisers for nonprofits touting the menace of Christian evangelism. Back in the god-sodden Fifties who could presage that a half century later tots could go online to view fornication in every guise and combination.

In my view fascism mostly crosses the threshold these days wrapped in Green clothing, with a thousand summary edicts, which people gloomily strain to read by the pallid glimmer of the new, mercury-filled light bulbs promoted by greens, the General Electric Corp., and signed into law by George Bush Jr. whose own timid effort to promote the fusion of church and state – allowing religious non-profits to run some government programs — didn’t fare too well.

The main purpose of invoking the fascist threat is to scare people into voting Democrat, as Frank Bardacke has often remarked to me. In 1964 it was the Goldwater threat, in 2011 – for now – the Perry threat. Obama will save us from fascism. Alas, fascism is currently wrapped in the decorous clothing of this self-same former constitutional professor.

Back on September 13, 2001, I wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that “The lust for retaliation traditionally outstrips precision in identifying the actual assailant. The targets abroad will be all the usual suspects — the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, who started off as creatures of U.S. intelligence. The target at home will be the Bill of Rights.”

It was maybe an hour after the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed that I heard the first of a thousand pundits that day saying that America might soon have to sacrifice “some of those freedoms we have taken for granted.” They said this with grave relish, as though the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution – was somehow responsible for the onslaught, and should join the rubble of the towers, carted off to New Jersey and exported to China for recycling into abutments for the Three Gorges Dam, with a special packet of “nano-thermite” (aka paint dust) reserved for Paul Craig Roberts to sprinkle on his porridge.

Of course it didn’t take 9/11 to give the Bill of Rights a battering. It is always under duress and erosion. Where there’s emergency, there’s opportunity for the enemies of freedom. The Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 (the bits that Bill Clinton’s DOJ forgot to put into the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) and periodically renewed in most of its essentials in the Bush and Obama years, kicked new holes in at least six of our Bill of Rights protections.

The government can search and seize citizens’ papers and effects without probable cause, spy on their electronic communications, and has, amid ongoing court battles on the issue, eavesdropped on their conversations without a warrant.

Goodbye to the right to a speedy public trial with assistance of counsel. Welcome indefinite incarceration without charges, denial of the assistance of legal counsel and of the right to confront witnesses or even have a trial. Until beaten back by the courts, the Patriot Act gave a sound whack at the 1st Amendment, too, since the government could now prosecute librarians or keepers of any records if they told anyone the government had subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.

Let’s not forget that a suspect may be in no position to do any confronting or waiting for trial since American citizens deemed a threat to their country can be extrajudicially and summarily executed by order of the president, with the reasons for the order shielded from the light of day as “state secrets”. That takes us back to the bills of attainder the Framers expressly banned in Article One of the U.S. Constitution, about as far from the Bill of Rights as you can get.

There’s a difference between fascism and a efficiently functioning modern police state. America is well into the latter, instrumented by laws shoved through on a federal bipartisan basis and through state legislatures. Check out the DUI laws and penalties, state by state. A friend here in California was just telling me about a friend up on his second DUI, among whose penalties for his offense has been 45 days house arrest, with a camera installed to observe every move. No visitors allowed. He can go out for two hours a day to do his shopping. The supervising officer in semi-SWAT rig enters his house without knocking or permission at any time. Let’s not even talk about the treatment of sex offenders.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Promethean Fallacy

(from Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, 1971, Harper & Row)

The contemporary ideal is a pan-hygienic world: a world in which all contacts between men, and between men and their world, are the result of foresight and manipulation. School has become the planned process which tools man for a planned world, the principal tool to trap man in man's trap. It is supposed to shape each man to an adequate level for playing a part in this world game. Inexorably we cultivate, treat, produce, and school the world out of existence.
· · · · ·
A society committed to the institutionalization of values identifies the production of goods and services with the demand for such. Education which makes you need the product is included in the price of the product. School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is. In such a society marginal value has become constantly self-transcendent. It forces the few largest consumers to compete for the power to deplete the earth, to fill their own swelling bellies, to discipline smaller consumers, and to deactivate those who still find satisfaction in making do with what they have. The ethos of nonsatiety is thus at the root of physical depredation, social polarization, and psychological passivity.

More:
Phenomenology of School
By Their Institutions You Shall Know Them
The New Alienation
Deschooling Society
Also:  Energy Efficiency and Consumerism

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The New Alienation

(from "Ritualization of Progress", chapter 3, Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, 1971, Harper & Row)

School is not only the New World Religion. It is also the world's fastest-growing labor market. The engineering of consumers has become the economy's principal growth sector. As production costs decrease in rich nations, there is an increasing concentration of both capital and labor in the vast enterprise of equipping man for disciplined consumption. During the past decade capital investments directly related to the school system rose even faster than expenditures for defense. Disarmament would only accelerate the process by which the learning industry moves to the center of the national economy. School gives unlimited opportunity for legitimated waste, so long as its destructiveness goes unrecognized and the cost of palliatives goes up.

If we add those engaged in full-time teaching to those in fulltime attendance, we realize that this so-called superstructure has become society's major employer. In the United States sixty-two million people are in school and eighty million at work elsewhere. This is often forgotten by neo-Marxist analysts who say that the process of deschooling must be postponed or bracketed until other disorders, traditionally understood as more fundamental, are corrected by an economic and political revolution. Only if school is understood as an industry can revolutionary strategy be planned realistically. For Marx, the cost of producing demands for commodities was barely significant. Today most human labor is engaged in the production of demands that can be satisfied by industry which makes intensive use of capital. Most of this is done in school.

Alienation, in the traditional scheme, was a direct consequence of work's becoming wage-labor which deprived man of the opportunity to create and be recreated. Now young people are pre-alienated by schools that isolate them while they pretend to be both producers and consumers of their own knowledge, which is conceived of as a commodity put on the market in school. School makes alienation preparatory to life, thus depriving education of reality and work of creativity. School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition. And school directly or indirectly employs a major portion of the population. School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.

The New World Church is the knowledge industry, both purveyor of opium and the workbench during an increasing number of the years of an individual's life. Deschooling is, therefore, at the root of any movement for human liberation.

More:
Phenomenology of School
By Their Institutions You Shall Know Them
Promethean Fallacy
Deschooling Society
Also:  Energy Efficiency and Consumerism

Friday, September 02, 2011

By Their Institutions You Shall Know Them

(from "Institutional Spectrum", chapter 4, Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, 1971, Harper & Row)

The choice is between two radically opposed institutional types, both of which are exemplified in certain existing institutions, although one type so characterizes the contemporary period as to almost define it. This dominant type I would propose to call the manipulative institution. The other type also exists, but only precariously. The institutions which fit it are humbler and less noticeable; yet I take them as models for a more desirable future. I call them "convivial" and suggest placing them at the left of an institutional spectrum, both to show that there are institutions which fall between the extremes and to illustrate how historical institutions can change color as they shift from facilitating activity to organizing production. ...

The most influential modern institutions crowd up at the right of the spectrum. Law enforcement has moved there ... Modern warfare has become a highly professional enterprise whose business is killing. ... Its peace-keeping potential depends on its ability to convince friend and foe of the nation's unlimited death-dealing power. ...

At this same extreme on the spectrum we also find social agencies which specialize in the manipulating of their clients. Like the military, they tend to develop effects contrary to their aims as the scope of their operations increases. These social institutions are equally counterproductive, but less obviously so. Many assume a therapeutic and compassionate image to mask this paradoxical effect. ... Membership in the institutions found at this extreme of the spectrum is achieved in two ways, both coercive: by forced commitment or by selective service.

At the opposite extreme of the spectrum lie institutions distinguished by spontaneous use — the "convivial" institutions. Telephone link-ups, subway lines, mail routes, public markets and exchanges do not require hard or soft sells to induce their clients to use them. Sewage systems, drinking water, parks, and sidewalks are institutions men use without having to be institutionally convince that it is to their advantage to do so. ... The regulation of convivial institutions sets limits to their use; as one moves from the convivial to the manipulative end of the spectrum, the rules progressively call for unwilling consumption of participation. The different cost of acquiring clients is just one of the characteristics which distinguish convivial from manipulative institutions.

At both extremes of the spectrum we find service institutions, but on the right the service is imposed manipulation, and the client is made the victim of advertising, aggression, indoctrination, imprisonment, or electroshock. On the left the service is amplified opportunity within formally defined limits, while the client remains a free agent. Right-wing institutions tend to be highly complex and costly production processes in which much of the elaboration and expense is concerned with convincing consumers that they cannot live without the product of the treatment offered by the institution. Left-wing institutions tend to be networks which facilitate client-initiated communication of cooperation.

The manipulative institutions of the right are either socially or psychologically "addictive." Social addiction, or escalation, consists in the tendency to prescribe increased treatment if smaller quantities have not yielded the desired results. Psychological addiction, or habituation, results when consumers become hooked on the need for more and more of the process or product. The self-activated institutions of the left tend to be self-limiting. Unlike production processes which identify satisfaction with the mere act of consumption, these networks serve a purpose beyond their own repeated use. An individual picks up the telephone when he wants to say something to someone else, and hangs up when the desired communication is over. ... If the telephone is not the best way to get in touch, people will write a letter or take a trip. Right-wing institutions, as we can see clearly in the case of schools, both invite compulsively repetitive use and frustrate alternative ways of achieving similar results. ...

False Public Utilities

... The telephone and postal networks exist to serve those who wish to use them, while the highway system mainly serves as an accessory to the private automobile. The former are true public utilities, whereas the latter is a public service to the owners of cars, trucks, and buses. Public utilities exist for the sake of communication among men; highways, like other institutions of the right, exist for the sake of a product. Auto manufacturers, we have already observed, produce simultaneously both cars and the demand for cars. They also produce the demand for multilane highways, bridges, and oilfields. The private car is the focus of a cluster of right-wing institutions. The high cost of each element is dictated by elaboration of the basic product, and the sell the basic product is to "hook" society on the entire package. ...

Schools as False Public Utilities

Like highways, schools, at first glance, give the impression of being equally open to all comers. They are, in fact, open only to those who consistently renew their credentials. Just as highways create the impression that their present level of cost per year is necessary if people are to move, so schools are presumed essential for attaining the competence required by a society which uses modern technology. ... Schools are based upon the ... spurious hypothesis that learning is the result of curricular teaching.

Highways result from a perversion of the desire and need for mobility into the demand for a private car. Schools themselves pervert the natural inclination to grow and learn into the demand for instruction. Demand for manufactured maturity is a far greater abnegation of self-initiated activity than the demand for manufactured goods. ... By making men abdicate the responsibility for their own growth, school leads many to a kind of spiritual suicide. ...

The man who does not own a car in Los Angeles may be almost immobilized, but if he can somehow manage to reach a work place, he can get and hold a job. The school dropout has no alternative route. ... The law compels no one to drive, whereas it obliges everyone to go to school. ...

Today all schools are obligatory, open-ended, and competitive. The same convergence in institutional style affects health care, merchandising, personnel administration, and political life. All these institutional processes tend to pile up at the manipulative end of the spectrum. A merger of world bureaucracies results from this convergence of institutions. ...

Everywhere these bureaucracies seem to focus on the same task: promoting the growth of institutions of the right. They are concerned with the making of things, the making off ritual rules, and the making — and reshaping — of "executive truth," the ideology or fiat which establishes the current value which should be attributed to their product. Technology provides these bureaucracies with increasing power on the right hand of society. The left hand of society seems to wither, not because technology is less capable of increasing the range of human action, and providing time for the play of individual imagination and personal creativity, but because such use of technology does not increase the power of an elite which administers it. ...

At stake in the choice between the institutional right and left is the very nature of human life. Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them. He must choose between alternate styles of life and related production schedules. ...

More:
Phenomenology of School
The New Alienation
Promethean Fallacy
Deschooling Society
Also:  Energy Efficiency and Consumerism

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Phenomenology of School

(chapter 2 of Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, 1971, Harper & Row)

Some words become so flexible that they cease to be useful. "School" and "teaching" are such terms. Like an amoeba they fit into almost any interstice of the language. ABM will teach the Russians, IBM will teach Negro children, and the army can become the school of a nation.

The search for alternatives in education must therefore start with an agreement on what it is we mean by "schooL" This might be done in several ways. vVe could begin by listing the latent functions performed by modern school systems, such as custodial care, selection, indoctrination, and learning. We could make a client analysis and verify which of these latent functions render a service or a disservice to teachers, employers, children, parents, or the professions. We could survey the history of Western culture and the information gathered by anthropology in order to find institutions which played a role like that now performed by schooling. We could, finally, recall the many normative statements which have been made since the time of Comenius, or even since Quintilian, and discover which of these the modern school system most closely approaches. But any of these approaches would oblige us to start with certain assumptions about a relationship between school and education. To develop a language in which we can speak about school without such constant recourse to education, I have chosen to begin with something that might be called a phenomenology of public school. For this purpose I shall define "school" as the age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.

1. Age

School groups people according to age. This grouping rests on three unquestioned premises. Children belong in school. Children learn in school. Children can be taught only in school. I think these unexamined premises deserve serious questioning.

We have grown accustomed to children. We have decided that they should go to school, do as they are told, and have neither income nor families of their own. We expect them to know their place and behave like children. We remember, whether nostalgically or bitterly, a time when we were children, too. We are expected to tolerate the childish behavior of children. Mankind, for us, is a species both afflicted and blessed with the task of caring for children. We forget, however, that our present concept of "childhood" developed only recently in Western Europe and more recently still in the Americas

Childhood as distinct from infancy, adolescence, or youth was unknown to most historical periods. Some Christian centuries did not even have an eye for its bodily proportions. Artists depicted the infant as a miniature adult seated on his mother's arm. Children appeared in Europe along with the pocket watch and the Christian moneylenders of the Renaissance. Before our century neither the poor nor the rich knew of children's dress, children's games, or the child's immunity from the law. Childhood belonged to the bourgeoisie. The worker's child, the peasant's child, and the nobleman's child all dressed the way their fathers dressed, played the way their fathers played, and were hanged by the neck as were their fathers. After the discovery of "childhood" by the bourgeoisie all this changed. Only some churches continued to respect for some time the dignity and maturity of the young. Until the Second Vatican Council, each child was instructed that a Christian reaches moral discernment and freedom at the age of seven, and from then on is capable of committing sins for which he may be punished by an eternity in Hell. Toward the middle of this century, middle-class parents began to try to spare their children the impact of this doctrine, and their thinking about children now prevails in the practice of the Church.

Until the last century, "children" of middle-class parents were made at home with the help of preceptors and private schools. Only with the advent of industrial society did the mass production of "childhood" become feasible and come within the reach of the masses. The school system is a modern phenomenon, as is the childhood it produces.

Since most people today live outside industrial cities, most people today do not experience childhood. In the Andes you till the soil once you have become "useful." Before that, you watch the sheep. If you are well nourished, you should be useful by eleven, and otherwise by twelve. Recently, I was talking to my night watchman, Marcos, about his eleven-year-old son who works in a barbershop. I noted in Spanish that his son was still a "niño." Marcos, surprised, answered with a guileless smile: "Don Ivan, I guess you're right." Realizing that until my remark the father had thought of Marcos primarily as his "son," I felt guilty for having drawn the curtain of childhood between two sensible persons. Of course if I were to tell the New York slum-dweller that his working son is still a "child," he would show no surprise. He knows quite well that his eleven-year-old son should be allowed childhood, and resents the fact that he is not. The son of Marcos has yet to be afflicted with the yearning for childhood; the New Yorker's son feels deprived.

Most people around the world, then, either do not want or cannot get modern childhood for their offspring. But it also seems that childhood is a burden to a good number of those few who are allowed it. Many of them are simply forced to go through it and are not at all happy playing the child's role. Growing up through childhood means being condemned to a process of inhuman conflict between self-awareness and the role imposed by a society going through its own school age. Neither Stephen Dedalus nor Alexander Portnoy enjoyed childhood, and neither, I suspect, did many of us like to be treated as children.

If there were no age-specific and obligatory learning institution, "childhood" would go out of production. The youth of rich nations would be liberated from its destructiveness, and poor nations would cease attempting to rival the childishness of the rich. If society were to outgrow its age of childhood, it would have to become livable for the young. The present disjunction between an adult society which pretends to be humane and a school environment which mocks reality could no longer be maintained.

The disestablishment of schools could also end the present discrimination against infants, adults, and the old in favor of children throughout their adolescence and youth. The social decision to allocate educational resources preferably to those citizens who have outgrown the extraordinary learning capacity of their first four years and have not arrived at the height of their self-motivated learning will, in retrospect, probably appear as bizarre.

Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools because sound common sense tells us that only children can be taught in school. Only by segregating human beings in the category of childhood could we ever get them to submit to the authority of a schoolteacher.

2. Teachers and Pupils

By definition, children are pupils. The demand for the milieu of childhood creates an unlimited market for accredited teachers. School is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And institutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

We have all learned most of what we know outside school. Pupils do most of their learning without, and often despite, their teachers. Most tragically, the majority of men are taught their lesson by schools, even though they never go to school.

Everyone learns how to live outside school. We learn to speak, to think, to love, to feel, to play, to curse, to politick, and to work without interference from a teacher. Even children who are under a teacher's care day and night are no exception to the rule. Orphans, idiots, and schoolteachers' sons learn most of what they learn outside the "educational" process planned for them. Teachers have made a poor showing in their attempts at increasing learning among the poor. Poor parents who want their children to go to school are less concerned about what they will learn than about the certificate and money they will earn. And middle-class parents commit their children to a teacher's care to keep them from learning what the poor learn on the streets. Increasingly educational research demonstrates that children learn most of what teachers pretend to teach them from peer groups, from comics, from chance observations, and above all from mere participation in the ritual of school. Teachers, more often than not, obstruct such learning of subject matters as goes on in school.

Half of the people in our world never set foot in school. They have no contact with teachers, and they are deprived of the privilege of becoming dropouts. Yet they learn quite effectively the message which school teaches: that they should have school, and more and more of it. School instructs them in their own inferiority through the tax collector who makes them pay for it, or through the demagogue who raises their expectations of it, or through their children once the latter are hooked on it. So the poor are robbed of their self-respect by subscribing to a creed that grants salvation only through the school. At least the Church gave them a chance to repent at the hour of death. School leaves them with the expectation (a counterfeit hope) that their grandchildren will make it. That expectation is of course still more learning which comes from school but not from teachers.

Pupils have never credited teachers for most of their learning. Bright and dull alike have always relied on rote, reading, and wit to pass their exams, motivated by the stick or by the carrot of a desired career.

Adults tend to romanticize their schooling. In retrospect, they attribute their learning to the teacher whose patience they learned to admire. But the same adults would worry about the mental health of a child who rushed home to tell them what he learned from his every teacher.

Schools create jobs for schoolteachers, no matter what their pupils learn from them.

3. Full-Time Attendance

Every month I see another list of proposals made by some U.S. industry to AID, suggesting the replacement of Latin-American "classroom practitioners" either by disciplined systems administrators or just by TV. In the United States teaching as a team enterprise of educational researchers, designers, and technicians is gaining acceptance. But, no matter whether the teacher is a schoolmarm or a team of men in white coats, and no matter whether they succeed in teaching the subject matter listed in the catalogue or whether they fail, the professional teacher creates a sacred milieu.

Uncertainty about the future of professional teaching puts the classroom into jeopardy. Were educational professionals to specialize in promoting learning, they would have to abandon a system which calls for between 750 and 1,000 gatherings a year. But of course teachers do a lot more. The institutional wisdom of schools tells parents, pupils, and educators that the teacher, if he is to teach, must exercise his authority in a sacred precinct. This is true even for teachers whose pupils spend most of their school time in a classroom without walls.

School, by its very nature, tends to make a total claim on the time and energies of its participants. This, in turn, makes the teacher into custodian, preacher, and therapist.

In each of these three roles the teacher bases his authority on a different claim. The teacher-as-custodian acts as a master of ceremonies, who guides his pupils through a drawn-out labyrinthine ritual. He arbitrates the observance of rules and administers the intricate rubrics of initiation to life. At his best, he sets the stage for the acquisition of some skill as schoolmasters always have. Without illusions of producing any profound learning, he drills his pupils in some basic routines.

The teacher-as-moralist substitutes for parents, God, or the state. He indoctrinates the pupil about what is right or wrong, not only in school but also in society at large. He stands in loco parentis for each one and thus ensures that all feel themselves children of the same state.

The teacher-as-therapist feels authorized to delve into the personal life of his pupil in order to help him grow as a person. When this function is exercised by a custodian and preacher, it usually means that he persuades the pupil to submit to a domestication of his vision of truth and his sense of what is right.

The claim that a liberal society can be founded on the modern school is paradoxical. The safeguards of individual freedom are all canceled in the dealings of a teacher with his pupil. When the schoolteacher fuses in his person the functions of judge, ideologue, and doctor, the fundamental style of society is perverted by the very process which should prepare for life. A teacher who combines these three powers contributes to the warping of the child much more than the laws which establish his legal or economic minority, or restrict his right to free assembly or abode.

Teachers are by no means the only professionals who offer therapy. Psychiatrists, guidance counselors, and job counselors, even lawyers, help their clients to decide, to develop their personalities, and to learn. Yet common sense tells the client that such professionals should abstain from imposing their opinion of what is right or wrong, or from forcing anyone to follow their advice. Schoolteachers and ministers are the only professionals who feel entitled to pry into the private affairs of their clients at the same time as they preach to a captive audience.

Children are protected by neither the First nor the Fifth Amendment when they stand before that secular priest, the teacher. The child must confront a man who wears an invisible triple crown, like the papal tiara, the symbol of triple authority combined in one person. For the child, the teacher pontificates as pastor, prophet, and priest-he is at once guide, teacher, and administrator of a sacred ritual. He combines the claims of medieval popes in a society constituted under the guarantee that these claims shall never be exercised together by one established and obligatory institution-church or state.

Defining children as full-time pupils permits the teacher to exercise a kind of power over their persons which is much less limited by constitutional and consuetudinal restrictions than the power wielded by the guardians of other social enclaves. Their chronological age disqualifies children from safeguards which are routine for adults in a modern asylum-madhouse, monastery, or jail.

Under the authoritative eye of the teacher, several orders of value collapse into one. The distinctions between morality, legality, and personal worth are blurred and eventually eliminated. Each transgression is made to be felt as a multiple offense. The offender is expected to feel that he has broken a rule, that he has behaved immorally, and that he has let himself down. A pupil who adroitly obtains assistance on an exam is told that he is an outlaw, morally corrupt, and personally worthless.

Classroom attendance removes children from the everyday world of Western culture and plunges them into an environment far more primitive, magical, and deadly serious. School could not create such an enclave within which the rules of ordinary reality are suspended, unless it physically incarcerated the young during many successive years on sacred territory. The attendance rule makes it possible for the schoolroom to serve as a magic womb, from which the child is delivered periodically at the schoolday's and school year's completion until he is finally expelled into adult life. Neither universal extended childhood nor the smothering atmosphere of the classroom could exist without schools. Yet schools, as compulsory channels for learning, could exist without either and be more repressive and destructive than anything we have come to know. To understand what it means to deschool society, and not just to reform the educational establishment, we must now focus on the hidden curriculum of schooling. We are not concerned here, directly, with the hidden curriculum of the ghetto streets which brands the poor or with the hidden curriculum of the drawing room which benefits the rich. We are rather concerned to call attention to the fact that the ceremonial or ritual of schooling itself constitutes such a hidden curriculum. Even the best of teachers cannot entirely protect his pupils from it. Inevitably, this hidden curriculum of schooling adds prejudice and guilt to the discrimination which a society practices against some of its members and compounds the privilege of others with a new title to condescend to the majority. Just as inevitably, this hidden curriculum serves as a ritual of initiation into a growth-oriented consumer society for rich and poor alike.

More:
By Their Institutions You Shall Know Them
The New Alienation
Promethean Fallacy
Deschooling Society
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