[p2p-research] Fwd: Doors of Perception: August 2009

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Wed Aug 5 19:52:57 CEST 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> California is spending $65,000 (45,000 euros) per classroom seat in a
> schools
> rebuilding programme - but only $1 per child per year for garden upkeep and
> support. Mud Baron, whose job is to help 500 L.A. schools develop gardens
> and
> nature projects, has fought a lonely battle to persuade planners and
> architects
> that contact with nature - not just buildings - is a crucual ingredient of a
> "green" school. When Mud explained his campaign to a Doors of Perception
> workshop at The Planning Center, in February, we came up with the idea of
> re-labeling school gardens as "outside classrooms"; this would have resolved
> Mud's resource problem at a stroke.
> But the situation in California has
> deteriorated fast since then:The budget crisis has left countless teachers
> unemployed, and a $1.7-million grant to Los Angeles Unified School District
> for
> its Instructional School Garden Program has expired. Mud's boss has agreed
> to
> match the funds that Baron and his network can raise - if they reach
> $100,000.
> We don't usually run campaign appeals here, but when the issue is schools +
> food
> + learning-to- grow, we simply have to make an exception. Donate what you
> can, here:
> http://tiny.cc/u9Ymy
> http://www.laschoolgardens.com/

I'm all for gardening, especially for young people. Still, there is a bigger 
issue there.

If the purpose of schooling is to produce dumbed-down people who are unable 
to take care of themselves and so dependent on the state for direction 
(according to Gatto based on the public record left by its creators), then 
giving more money to schools just helps them do that job better.

   "How public education cripples our kids, and why"
My own experience had revealed to me what many other teachers must learn 
along the way, too, yet keep to themselves for fear of reprisal: if we 
wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid 
structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive a 
schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - 
curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight - 
simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing 
kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he 
or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do 
that. And the more I asked why not, and persisted in thinking about the 
"problem" of schooling as an engineer might, the more I missed the point: 
What if there is no "problem" with our schools? What if they are the way 
they are, so expensively flying in the face of common sense and long 
experience in how children learn things, not because they are doing 
something wrong but because they are doing something right? Is it possible 
that George W. Bush accidentally spoke the truth when he said we would 
"leave no child behind"? Could it be that our schools are designed to make 
sure not one of them ever really grows up? ...
   Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it 
perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to 
be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the 
burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the 
proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, 
compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the 
prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by 
age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle 
means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in 
childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole. ...
   There you have it. Now you know. We don't need Karl Marx's conception of 
a grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of 
complex management, economic or political, to dumb people down, to 
demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if 
they don't conform. Class may frame the proposition, as when Woodrow Wilson, 
then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York 
City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons to 
have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much 
larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a 
liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual 
tasks." But the motives behind the disgusting decisions that bring about 
these ends need not be class-based at all. They can stem purely from fear, 
or from the by now familiar belief that "efficiency" is the paramount 
virtue, rather than love, liberty, laughter, or hope. Above all, they can 
stem from simple greed. ...

So, one of the reasons children are fed a substandard diet in schools 
(emphasizing sugar, starch, and processed meats) and also kept from 
experiencing green growing things is *precisely* to damage their growth 
(both physical and mental). So, that is why US$64K is spent per seat to 
construct a prison for the child, but only US$1 per seat goes to a garden 
(and that, most likely, for show).

In the book "Brave New World" there is a scene where a precise amount of 
alcohol is intentionally introduced into some developing fetuses to make 
them into a certain grade of workers. If children were not damaged in these 
ways, they could form their own peer networks and so be disruptive to a 
grand planned state.

In its first chapters, the novel describes life in the World State as 
wonderful and introduces Lenina and Bernard. Lenina, a beta plus, is a 
socially accepted woman, normal for her society, while Bernard, a 
psychologist, is an outcast. Although an Alpha Plus, Bernard is shorter in 
stature than the average of his caste—a quality shared by the lower castes, 
which gives him an inferiority complex. He defies social norms and accepts 
his equals. His work with sleep-teaching has led him to realize that what 
others believe to be their own deeply held beliefs are merely phrases 
repeated to children while they sleep. Still, he recognizes the necessity of 
such programming as the reason why his society meets the emotional needs of 
its citizens. Courting disaster, he is vocal about being different, once 
stating he dislikes soma because he'd "rather be himself". Bernard's 
differences fuel rumors that he was accidentally administered alcohol while 
incubated, a method used to keep Epsilons short.

Or, again Gatto:
I’ll bring this down to earth. Try to see that an intricately subordinated 
industrial/commercial system has only limited use for hundreds of millions 
of self-reliant, resourceful readers and critical thinkers. In an 
egalitarian, entrepreneurially based economy of confederated families like 
the one the Amish have or the Mondragon folk in the Basque region of Spain, 
any number of self-reliant people can be accommodated usefully, but not in a 
concentrated command-type economy like our own. Where on earth would they fit?

People often focus heavily on George Orwell's 1984 to describe our society 
(with some truth), but often times Aldous Huxley's Brave New World of a well 
ordered hierarchically planned global society is a better allegory. From:
Social critic Neil Postman contrasts the worlds of Nineteen Eighty-Four and 
Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. 
He writes:
     What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared 
was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one 
who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of 
information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be 
reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be 
concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of 
irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared 
we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the 
feelies, the *rgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked 
in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who 
are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's 
almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people 
are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled 
by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin 
us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

So, we have to find a new life-affirming balance appropriate for the 21st 
century, including a better education that respects the need for a balance 
between top-down goal-directed hierarchies and bottom-up joy-affirming 

--Paul Fernhout

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