Over at The Common Room, there’s an intriguing endorsement for my book:
Conservatives and cultural power. Part 2. I nearly stopped reading when David Brooks was called a conservative. He just plays one for money, but not with any sincerity or accuracy.
If you don’t already know about Appendix N, you should. This will make more sense if you do. I’d put it on the same shelf as books by John Taylor Gatto and Samuel Blumenfeld.
Well that’s different…!
It turns out, that I did hear John Taylor Gatto speak during the nineties. One of his books was particularly inspiring to me, probably Dumbing Us Down. I had a very strong feeling that the college I attended was somehow divorced from the sort of conversation we ought to be having– or even able to have. Granted, one professor did turn me on to Neal Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. From there I devoured every book I could find by Lewis Mumford. I likewise plowed through every collection of Wendell Berry essays I could get my hands on. For the former, the theme of unanticipated cultural changes in response to technological changes ran strong. And if nothing else stuck from Berry, it was his assertion that an essay was an attempt to tell the truth. (Not at all what my English teachers taught me.) Finally, T. A. Shippey’s The Road to Middle Earth showed me that literary criticism didn’t have to be mere pedantry, but could be absolutely engrossing in its own right.
I never read Samuel Blumenfeld, though. Given that he wrote Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children, I have to say he is definitely my kind of scum. (If C. S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man is any indication, that title is not at all an exaggeration.)
As far as that goes, I had a terrible time with school and essay assignments in particular. I was just plain awful at it. And something about the way school was set up got in the way of me working through whatever it was that was blocking me. It was a long time ago, but here are things that I think were critically wrong with what they were doing:
- I don’t recall being encouraged pursue topics that interested me.
- In fact, I was dissuaded from independent investigations altogether.
- When I did such things anyway, they would tend not to garner praise– and worse, they would sometimes result in sanction.
- English students did not get to write to and engage with an actual audience.
- In school, students do not have the option to be provocative, but instead attempt to placate their teachers with as little effort as possible.
I don’t think my experience is all that extraordinary. But I think it’s patently obvious that there is no way that anyone could actually find their muse in such a retarded environment.
Blogging about an obscure game to an audience of twenty people is how I worked through undoing the damage school caused and learning the things they couldn’t teach me. Most valuable of all were the objective measures of performance. Being motivated to invest planning and effort into doubling the size of my audience several times in a row was probably the best writing teacher of all.
Come to think of it, having mean-spirited and unsavory people attack my thesis in a public space was an equally powerful motivator for me to step up my game, refine my style and arguments, and dig up more persuasive evidence. That sort of rough and tumble competition does not happen in school environments that are little more than glorified kindergartens.
That’s evidence of not just the fact that public schools are engineered to make people stupid. It also highlights why it is that delegating the education of children to a bunch of spinsters has always been an inherently dumb idea.