Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mythology and School

For the past week or so, I've been reading through Daniel Quinn's essays over at the Ishmael Community. Mainly because a friend of mine asked me what essays he should pass on to a friend of his. What usually happens when I go back and read Quinn's work I learn something new. This time a paragraph about mythology from an interview he did in August of 2000 jumped out at me.

Mythology arises among people spontaneously--and only spontaneously. The UFO-invasion mythology of the last half century has sprung up in response to the "invasion" into our lives of sciences and technologies that seem increasingly "alien" to us. In the fifties, the growth of Soviet military power terrified us, and UFO mythology responded with endless stories of combat encounters with militarily superior UFOs. As the Soviet threat faded and health care became increasingly depersonalized and incomprehensible, UFO mythology began to concentrate on abduction stories about people being taken into spaceship hospitals for mysterious and painful tests they didn’t want or understand, administered by medical scientists who were oblivious or indifferent to the suffering of their "patients." As incomprehensible genetic manipulation by human scientists began to loom as a threat, UFO mythology began to assign convoluted genetic motives to UFO abductors. (You ask if we should "do away" with mythology, but you can no more do away with mythology than you can do away with anxiety or hope.)

And you can’t create "new" mythology by fiat. You can, however, expose mythology AS mythology, which is the task I’ve undertaken in my books.


The above paragraph has got me thinking about the mythologies that we use to justify sending our kids to school. Quinn mentions those myths HERE.

The need for schooling is bolstered by two well-entrenched pieces of cultural mythology. The first and most pernicious of these is that children will not learn unless they're compelled to--in school. It is part of the mythology of childhood itself that children hate learning and will avoid it at all costs. Of course, anyone who has had a child knows what an absurd lie this is. From infancy onward, children are the most fantastic learners in the world. If they grow up in a family in which four languages are spoken, they will be speaking four languages by the time they're three or four years old--without a day of schooling, just by hanging around the members of their family, because they desperately want to be able to do the things they do.


That's the first myth. After reading that paragraph I can't help but think about the fact that I spent the majority of my time as a child sitting in a classroom bored out of my skull. And the crazy thing is that almost all of the adults around me said that I needed school, and if didn't go I would be dumb. But notice that I said almost all of the adults.

My Grandpa didn't believe this, he said most of the teachers were educated idiots. I don't know if I necessarily agreed with him than or now, but his opinions about the idea of schooling and the people that ran it was a lifeline for me. There weren't many adults out there that I knew talking like this, so naturally I had to think about it. And now that I think of it, he threw me a couple of lifelines throughout my life that I would like to write about sometime.

Back to the second myth:

One final argument people advance to support the idea that children need all the schooling we give them is that there is vastly more material to be learned today than there was in prehistoric times or even a century ago. Well, there is of course vastly more material that can be learned, but we all know perfectly well that it isn't being taught in grades K to twelve. Whole vast new fields of knowledge exist today--things no one even heard of a century ago: astrophysics, biochemistry, paleobiology, aeronautics, particle physics, ethology, cytopathology, neurophysiology--I could list them for hours. But are these the things that we have jammed into the K-12 curriculum because everyone needs to know them? Certainly not. The idea is absurd. The idea that children need to be schooled for a long time because there is so much that can be learned is absurd. If the citizen's education were to be extended to include everything that can be learned, it wouldn't run to grade twelve, it would run to grade twelve thousand, and no one would be able to graduate in a single lifetime.


There are the two myths that we use to justify sending our kids off to school for the majority of their childhood.

Right now I'm thinking those two schooling myths were spontaneously created because we live in an industrial society. In the world of work children are capable of doing a lot of the jobs, but the jobs just aren't there for them to do. So the role that school plays in this industrial society is that of a holding pen, for the most part. Those two myths are what we use to keep them there. And over time children actually start to believe those myths themselves, they actually believe they can't learn without school.

8 comments:

Alien Contactee said...

Very nice article.

The schools are swiftly changing at the high school level and I believe within the next 10 to 20 years, all high schools will be vocational. When that happens, many subjects will not be learned through high school that are presently mandatory for most schools. That will make a big difference certainly and it will also prompt more students to go to college since they will have a vocational head start.

Texas has many such schools now and my daughter attends one. Since her freshman year, she's attended a Health & Science Academy that is funded by our local school district and classes are held at the high school. She attends school one hour more than the regular students and her classes consist of Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, etc., etc. Other classes she takes along with the health and science classes are of course the mandatory math (calc, trig), physics, and biology, which fit for health and science vocations as well. Most of the Health and Science students are not AP students. In other words, Texas is more interested in making sure that seniors have a vocation when they leave high school.

There are many other states doing the same thing as Texas.

She misses history though. That was her favorite subject in middle school and her freshman year of high school but it's no longer available to her now.

One big downfall however, is that in her four years of high school there will be no physical education. Kennedy is probably turning over in his grave on that note.

So, the times they are a changing.

Curt said...

Alien Contactee,

Thank you for your kind words about my post, if that was what you were talking about when you said: "Very nice article."

Are you familiar with Daniel Quinn's Learning Circus model that he lays out in "My Ishmael", "Beyond Civilization" or "Providence"? As a child, I think that model would have been ideal for me.

Atrueoriginall said...

Gosh, which aspect of Quinn's thinking? There are just too many.

I'm sure at some time Quinn admitted that what lacks in his ideas, are how he cannot attract the 'big numbers' of individuals willing to follow his golden rules, let alone read what he has to say. Unfortunately, that is true for too many good writers.

If things were different and if every single individual sat down and read his works and abide in whatever changes they will make in their lives or their work, we would live in a completely different world. The reality is however that the numbers aren't there.

Yesterday I failed to mention what prompted this new vocational education idea in high school.

Primarily you'll find these new vocational high schools popping up in the southern U.S. states and the common denominator are illegal aliens. Of the 38 million here today, there are well over 2 million in the State of Texas, costing the taxpayers 5 billion in education, health care and incarceration.

So thinking ahead (and you'll have to switch gears to the 'real world'), the states are essentially creating a lack of dependency on the states for the off-spring of the illegal by offering vocational training in high school. This of course will not be felt for many years but the end result will be English speaking individuals in the white collar work force, less crime and no dependency on the taxpayer.

With all of that, what happens to the individual is a greater feeling of pride and importance by just having something better than their blue collar parents and grandparents had.

I know that all sounds pretty korney but it's actually a natural psychological event in the individual's life (mind), which then changes the outcome of their unborn children down the road.

Atrueoriginall said...

I didn't mean to confuse you but I went back to an older screen name of mine yesterday and just realized that when I posted.

(aka: alien_contactee)

Peter Dodson said...

I teach first year post-secondary courses in the discipline of Native Studies and am always surprised by students inability to think or read. Sure, they can recite facts, but they don't have the critical skills they need to learn on their own. Students in school are taught what to know, not how to know - in our case, they are given the "facts" needed to continue the experiment of civilization, and are never given the tools to question it.

Filip T. said...

Excellent post, Curt.

My thoughts are mirrored in what Peter Dodson said above.

"Students in school are taught what to know, not how to know - in our case, they are given the "facts" needed to continue the experiment of civilization, and are never given the tools to question it."

This is one of the key flaw sin the system. My wife is in the process of getting her Master's in teaching, and she is excited to bring major changes to the system. She wants to change it from the inside out.

By the way, I posted on the animist blog:

http://weaveyourdream.blogspot.com/

Thanks for the food for thought and discussion.

John Brady said...

Curt,

Total agreement that school is bogus and a fraud. There is lots of other evidence that schools were created by the industrialists to both stop young people entering the workforce too young (mandatory education to 16, and the UK now wants to go to 18), and to condition all the children to the working life ahead of them.

It is the latter point that really scares me - that is why schooling is based around forcing children to sit around for many hours in subjects they have no interest whatsoever in. And the imposition of authority figures (the teaching staff) with no real justification. And being made to follow orders, all the time. And do work when demanded and on time (homework). And forced to being in classes with your peers (children of the same age) in a very unnatural surrounding, so that peer pressure can be used against you to conform in various ways.

When they leave school they have had all the spark and energy driven out of them, and are ready to become mindless servants of the big, corporate machinery. Likewise they become 'good citizens' mindlessly paying taxes for things they never voted for, for things like the right to pay rent to a landlord just to have somewhere to sleep each night.

If schooling was 'right and good' why do they have to pass laws making it compulsory? That is certainly the case in the UK. If a child does not attend school between the ages of 4 and 16 (yes 4, not 5 as some may think) in the UK, then the parents can be arrested, charged and penalised. Unless the parent can prove that the child is receiving an adequate home education. And who decides what is 'adequate'? The government itself.

I blog at Freedom to live as I want to

Curt said...

Atrueoriginall,

You wrote: Gosh, which aspect of Quinn's thinking? There are just too many."

---

I asked you this question: "Are you familiar with Daniel Quinn's Learning Circus model that he lays out in 'My Ishmael', 'Beyond Civilization' or 'Providence'?"

I don't know how much more specific I can be about what aspect of Quinn's thinking I'm talking about.

You wrote: "I'm sure at some time Quinn admitted that what lacks in his ideas, are how he cannot attract the 'big numbers' of individuals willing to follow his golden rules, let alone read what he has to say. Unfortunately, that is true for too many good writers."

---

I'm not clear on what you mean by "following [Quinn's] golden rules?


You wrote: "If things were different and if every single individual sat down and read his works and abide in whatever changes they will make in their lives or their work, we would live in a completely different world. The reality is however that the numbers aren't there."

---

I'm not understanding what you mean when you say "the numbers aren't there." Aren't there for what?

Take this Question and Answer over at The Ishmael Community talking about the increase in numbers of readers, for instance:

http://www.ishmael.org/Interaction/QandA/detail.cfm

Question: I find it difficult to teach the "unteachable", or better yet, to "unteach" them. Please, don't get me wrong here - I am not suggesting that they are intellectually inept but rather that they are unwilling to listen to anything that goes against their conditioning. Do you think that this fact(?) will seal our fate? I only ask because I find that the types of individuals who are drawn to books such as yours are the ones looking for an alternative in the first place. I find that most people I talk to either don't want to be challenged or truly believe in this "lifestyle" because they don't know any better. I am sorry if this question sounds redundant as I have read your views on this but what is your approach for the most "closeminded" individuals, or isn't there one?


...and the response:
I've framed many answers to your second question, basically saying that there are bound to be people who are completely resistant to my ideas, and you'll simply waste your time trying to win them over. But there are, fortunately, a great many people who are open to what I'm saying, who are eager to embrace something that makes better sense to them than Mother Culture's traditional teachings (just as you were). If you think of this group as a subculture of Taker culture, then the population of this subculture is growing explosively--much more rapidly than the population of Taker culture--from, let us say, twenty thousand in 1992 (the year Ishmael came out) to two or three million in 2002. In other words, this population has been doubling almost every year (in comparison with Taker culture in general, which is doubling every fifty or sixty years). This means that our representation within Taker culture is growing rapidly, and if it were to continue to grow at this rate, then it would be complete in less than two decades. That's a big "if," of course, but it's nonetheless true that our representation within Taker culture IS growing rapidly, and this should be taken as a definite cause for hope. As for the most "closeminded individuals" you speak of, you'll find their closemindedness diminishing as the culture around them changes (a well-observed sociological effect); the need to fit in with the people around them will influence them more strongly than any argument you might make to them. --Daniel Quinn

You wrote: "So thinking ahead (and you'll have to switch gears to the 'real world'), the states are essentially creating a lack of dependency on the states for the off-spring of the illegal by offering vocational training in high school."

---

What are you implying when you say I have to "switch gears to the 'real world'"?

I have to wonder what world you think I am in.

You wrote: "This of course will not be felt for many years but the end result will be English speaking individuals in the white collar work force, less crime and no dependency on the taxpayer.

With all of that, what happens to the individual is a greater feeling of pride and importance by just having something better than their blue collar parents and grandparents had.

I know that all sounds pretty korney but it's actually a natural psychological event in the individual's life (mind), which then changes the outcome of their unborn children down the road."

---

What I'm hearing you say is that an individual who increases their standard of living over their parent's standard of living will lead to psychological happiness. Why are we seeing the rates of depression and suicide increase among teens who enjoy the highest standard of living in the history of civilization?

According to your theory the citizens of the United States should be the happiest people on earth, but the opposite is true!