[p2p-research] Suggestions wanted for education to p2p practices and attitude
Paul D. Fernhout
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Thu Oct 29 17:23:05 CET 2009
Ryan Lanham wrote:
> I work in an Education Ministry and can attest that you will get 8 ideas
> about how children should be educated for every 7 people. About 1 out of 8
> won't be able to make up their minds between 2.
I half-agree with what you wrote here. :-)
Life is, as Manuel de Landa suggests, about an experimental balance between
meshworks and hierarchies.
Part of the half-agreement is that anthropologists can tell us a lot about
what it takes to have happy families and happy societies, and our current
social framework in the USA is not it:
"Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent"
"Besides further opening my eyes to other cultures and other ways to raise
babies, this book was most beneficial to me in emphasizing that evolution
determines how the human race developed and why babies have the needs they
do. People pushing in the 1950's and 60's for bottle feeding, putting babies
face down to sleep, letting babies cry it out, putting babies in separate
rooms to sleep, etc., not only did it without scientific evidence, they also
were going against babies' biological needs, determined by millions of years
of evolution. Now I think of evolution and what reasons babies have for a
particular behavior when deciding how to deal with an issue."
I think we can make fairly well-informed an scientifically based statements
about what human beings need to be happy. They are just counter to most of
modern industrial consumerist society. And whatever the science says, I'm
more likely to believe it when it syncs with compassionate intuition, which
it more and more does about children.
And, it was an *intentional* tradeoff to harm children for industrial gains:
"A conspiracy against ourselves"
Schools got the way they were at the start of the twentieth century as part
of a vast, intensely engineered social revolution in which all major
institutions were overhauled to work together in harmonious managerial
efficiency. Ours was to be an improvement on the British system, which once
depended on a shared upper-class culture for its coherence. Ours would be
subject to a rational framework of science, law, instruction, and
mathematically derived merit. When Morgan reorganized the American
marketplace into a world of cooperating trusts at the end of the nineteenth
century, he created a business and financial subsystem to interlink with the
subsystem of government, the subsystem of schooling, and other subsystems to
regulate every other aspect of national life. None of this was
conspiratorial. Each increment was rationally defensible. But the net effect
was the destruction of small-town, small-government America, strong
families, individual liberty, and a lot of other things people weren’t aware
they were trading for a regular corporate paycheck.
A huge price had to be paid for business and government efficiency, a
price we still pay in the quality of our existence. Part of what kids gave
up was the prospect of being able to read very well, a historic part of the
American genius. Instead, school had to train them for their role in the new
overarching social system. But spare yourself the agony of thinking of this
as a conspiracy. It was and is a fully rational transaction, the very
epitome of rationalization engendered by a group of honorable men, all
honorable men—but with decisive help from ordinary citizens, from almost all
of us as we gradually lost touch with the fact that being followers instead
of leaders, becoming consumers in place of producers, rendered us
incompletely human. It was a naturally occurring conspiracy, one which
required no criminal genius. The real conspirators were ourselves. When we
sold our liberty for the promise of automatic security, we became like
children in a conspiracy against growing up, sad children who conspire
against their own children, consigning them over and over to the denaturing
vats of compulsory state factory schooling.
Many other US child rearing practices also flow from perceived industrial
needs, including bottle feeding, day care, TV as a babysitter, and so on.
> But I think you raise a great question with no clear answers. Here's the
> general problem: What sort of world do you want to live in?
As I wrote to someone else yesterday in regards to possible military
deceptions, and how we would never know for sure about many things:
Once people are playing with smoke and mirrors, the whole system of trust
needed to sustain mutual security and civilization is eroded. The deeper
questions that remain, whatever the history of how we got where we are
* is this the society we *have* to build, and if not,
* is this the society we *want* to build?
Now, a lot of argument gets stuck on the first point. Such as, TINA, there
is no alternative than the market as it is now with the current distribution
of wealth directed to the military and guarding because, well, whatever the
reason. And that then gets turned into a lot of personal decisions about
what products to make and how to distribute them. Even by the non-profit sector.
It only when we get past the first implicit question, about whether things
*have* to be this way, that we can get at the second or the one you raise.
> If you can
> answer that question, the follow-on question is...can people find their way
> to that conclusion with logic and reason, or do they need indoctrination?
That's a good question. But as you say below, we are social creatures.
"Monkey see, monkey do" actually applies more to human children than
Consider, for example:
"Who's in Control? The Unhappy Consequences of Being Child-Centered"
"The crucial difference is that the Yequana are not child-centered. They may
occasionally nuzzle their babies affectionately, play peek-a-boo, or sing to
them, yet the great majority of the caretaker's time is spent paying
attention to something else...not the baby! Children taking care of babies
also regard baby care as a non-activity and, although they carry them
everywhere, rarely give them direct attention. Thus, Yequana babies find
themselves in the midst of activities they will later join as they proceed
through the stages of creeping, crawling, walking, and talking. The
panoramic view of their future life's experiences, behavior, pace, and
language provides a rich basis for their developing participation. Being
played with, talked to, or admired all day deprives the babe of this in-arms
spectator phase that would feel right to him. Unable to say what he needs,
he will act out his discontentment. He is trying to get his caretaker's
attention, yet — and here is the cause of the understandable confusion — his
purpose is to get the caretaker to change his unsatisfactory experience, to
go about her own business with confidence and without seeming to ask his
permission. Once the situation is corrected, the attention-getting behavior
we mistake for a permanent impulse can subside. The same principle applies
in the stages following the in-arms phase."
> I am personally of a mind that some level of indoctrination into social
> norms is inevitable. We are social animals--and we will norm ourselves.
> Grammar, driving rules, ettiquette, learning credentials, etc. are all
> normative values. In short, we govern ourselves. Children must learn those
> rules. Many don't do so and the consequences are often tragic.
However, anyone who really spends time with children:
will tell you that kids do this naturally if they are given good examples to
draw from, and time to play about them. The problem is, kid's don't get good
examples, and then between school and broadcast TV, they have no time to play:
"Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control? "
"In the end, the most lasting effect of the Tools of the Mind studies may be
to challenge some of our basic ideas about the boundary between work and
play. Today, play is seen by most teachers and education scholars as a break
from hard work or a reward for positive behaviors, not a place to work on
cognitive skills. But in Tools of the Mind classrooms, that distinction
disappears: work looks a lot like play, and play is treated more like work.
When I asked Duckworth about this, she said it went to the heart of what was
new and potentially important about the program. "We often think about play
as relaxing and doing what you want to do," she explained. "Maybe it's an
American thing: We work really hard, and then we go on vacation and have
fun. But in fact, very few truly pleasurable moments come from complete
hedonism. What Tools does - and maybe what we all need to do - is to blur
the line a bit between what is work and what is play. Just because something
is effortful and difficult and involves some amount of constraint doesn't
mean it can't be fun.""
Though I think Chris Mercogliano's insights are even better:
In any case, raising children should not be an industrial process at this
point, if it ever should have been.
> Ask any long-time teacher about kids from Montesorri or other "free form"
> education models, and they'll generally paint a portrait of outlier behavior
> that is very difficult to work with.
Broadcast TV. Excessive sugar. Bottle feeding. Keeping infants in cages.
Lack of sunlight and vitamin D. Food products instead of food. Stressed out
parents. Broken families and broken communities. No kids on the streets anymore.
I'd say, start with fixing those before we start saying kids learning what
they want when they want is bad. :-)
But sure, take kids who have been broadly abused by our society in various
profitable ways (broadcast TV, sugar, etc.), and maybe, to make them sit
still and take it, in child prison five days a week, maybe they do need to
be abused more to make the rest of the evil system work? It's all so sick
and twisted. The dysfunction is so deep and evil, and we have become so
desensitized to it, accepting now that it is "normal" to take a young human
being at five or six years old and make them sit in one place for six hours
a day doing paperwork and being lectured at, that it is easy not to see the
horror anymore. Plus, the teachers get rewards of getting money and seeing
trained seals jump through hoops on command, so the teachers have trouble
seeing it too. We're several generations into this escalating fiasco, so the
teachers themselves don't know what it felt like to be a real child anymore
> Now, outliers obviously aren't a bad
> thing (most all of us on this list are probably pretty far out of the norm);
> they're just not an orderly thing.
Every kid is an outlier in some way, or could be. So, we need
individualized, learner centric, educational experiences. Just to begin
with, information means more when connected to a child's daily life. So,
beyond learning from doing in the home, see also:
> If part of your answer to the first
> question is...order and discipline (e.g. most Asian cultures, Germany, etc.)
> you're not going to have much luck with a Finnish system where there is
> little measurement, much collaboration and a great deal of emphasis on the
> group versus the individual. I'd guess that the US offers the broadest
> diversity of choices from military academies to very free-form no grades,
> In general, schools around the world are well ahead of society on
> social acceptance, green behavior and training and routing out bullies.
Except that "the medium is the message". If you have an authoritarian
setting, locked doors, teachers who give orders, compulsion to attend
(contrast with the public library), then what are kids really learning?
"The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher"
"Teaching means different things in different places, but seven
lessons are universally taught Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They
constitute a national curriculum you pay more for in more ways than you
can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. You are at liberty,
of course, to regard these lessons any way you like, but believe me when
I say I intend no irony in this presentation. These are the things I
teach, these are the things you pay me to teach. Make of them what you
What school models is how to be a bully, in a bureaucratic way.
How can one have "social acceptance" when the only society around one is
kids of similar age? That is so dysfunctional a concept (see "Brave New
World"), but so widespread by now, that we cannot even see it anymore. Kids
grow up healthiest from a mix of ages, from babies to old people. Then they
can become well developed social beings.
> Teachers are often left-leaning, well-educated and in middling social
And also usually terribly conformist in subtle ways:
"What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream"
"People within them, who don’t adjust to that structure, who don’t accept it
and internalize it (you can’t really work with it unless you internalize it,
and believe it); people who don’t do that are likely to be weeded out along
the way, starting from kindergarten, all the way up. There are all sorts of
filtering devices to get rid of people who are a pain in the neck and think
independently. Those of you who have been through college know that the
educational system is very highly geared to rewarding conformity and
obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a
filtering device which ends up with people who really honestly (they aren’t
lying) internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding
power system in the society."
"The anti-racist charge of white racism gives persons like Dan a way of
addressing their moral failure of nerve without having to face a harder
truth that they acted in racist ways not because they were racist but
because they were afraid of being rejected. The charge of racism does not
heal this condition or even describe it. It simply punishes a person for
Most school teachers, who replicate the systems they were brought up in, are
broken people by that standard. They perpetuate an evil that may be worse
than racism, the destruction of children's minds and souls. And they do it
as unthinkingly as most people made racial comments and racial decisions in
the USA in the 1800s. Because, if they thought about what they were doing
very deeply, like John Taylor Gatto did, and worked hard to get rid of those
habits of authoritarianism, they would not do it anymore. Or they might
moderate their behavior with a better balance of authoritative behavior
mixed with learning *from* children. They might still be *educators* (which
we desperately need), but they would not be *teachers*.
As for left-leaning, so were the National Socialists in Germany. There can
be a tyranny of the left, as well as a tyranny from the right. We need to
transcend both IMHO, and come to some new synthesis of what is best in each
of them, and add in stuff they both ignore.
> They indoctrinate to their own moral values. In my view, the best
> schools in the world are Finnish and Norwegian schools--but those would be
> terrible models in a Singapore or Japanese cultural framework. Cultures
> establish how people want to live...not schools.
They all interact. The way schools are set up reflects the actions of people
in a certain culture. The schools then perpetuate certain ideas and
attitudes. But the biggest thing most schools do is intentionally cripple
children, using the seven lesson Gatto outlines above. Even if the origins
of that structure have been lost in decades of past history, and most school
personnel have plenty of justifications for what they do, as evil as it is,
just like most racists have plenty of justifications for what they do. And
many racists have made a good living at it, and not just by owning slaves.
> So a person it seems has to be judgmental.
We all need to make judgments all the time, and use our judgment. Sure,
"judgemental" is going too far, but that's part of good judgment. School is
not very good at helping people learn how to have good judgment. And with
parents at work, and the TV as a babysitter, and with most neighborhoods
destroyed between the car and TV and work, who is to help the young learn to
have good judgment? The churches? That just pits one hierarchy (the church)
against another hierarchy (the state). But yes, a good church can help.
> You've got to decide you know
> better than others and that you are going to indoctrinate to your way of
As I said at the start, there is a consilience of ideas from traditional
culture, from science, from people who spent decades with actual children,
and from compassionate intuition on this. Discussion about this is not as
arbitrary as you make it seem.
But sure, you could frame "peer to peer" in those terms. :-) Thinking you
have something worthwhile to say and saying it. :-)
> Nation-states don't trust parents to do that well, by and large,
> so they establish strong normative standards and curriculums (e.g.
> Germany--where, as Paul says, homeschooling is illegal.) Japan has the most
> rigid curriculum on earth. It is almost robotic and the students turn out
> as people who tolerate intense crowds at train stations without breaking
> down, etc. Some do crash and burn. That's true in all systems.
"The Emergence of Compulsory Schooling and Anarchist Resistance"
> We have trouble in our little group here establishing P2P norms in a strong
> sense, so educating people to weak norms--terribly difficult with children
> in general--would be even harder.
I don't think you can compare adult people's behavior on an electronic
mailing list, when such mailing lists did not even exist for most people
twenty years ago, with children learning social norms face-to-face in
> Sharing is widely taught but one
> aggressive selfish child can turn a whole group rapidly.
What is your evidence for this? Where are the parents and family and friends
and neighbors? Where are the years of learning how to deal with these sorts
of issues, as above, through play?
Also, forced sharing is not sharing. It might be better to distinguish
between shared big resources and gift giving on small things?
> Learning by doing is probably the best shot--with strong oversite and
Agreed. If we add the other aspect of good role models. Where are the P2P
role models for kids?
Someone posted this to the OM list a while back:
"The critical delusion of the condition of digitisation or the prosecution
of sharing and seduction"
"Specifically, let us recall that Niklas Zennström, the CEO of Skype, – a
major player in the rapidly expanding and highly competitive Voice-over-IP
(VoIP) telephony business arena - is not allowed to set foot upon US
soil. Why would the US, with its long history of encouraging and
rewarding new capitalist innovations, prevent the CEO of such an innovative
and profit-making enterprise from entering its premises? The answer lies in
the fact that Niklas Zennström is also the developer of Kazaa – one of the
P2P networks that further led the 'napsterisation' of the music industry.
Or, alternatively, remember that the developer of the Winnie P2P technology
– has been put behind bars in Japan."
> Explain what a P2P system is, and hope students can find
> benefit in the application.
How about a learning by doing exercise about team building and sharing?
That's a deeper issue, schools teaching competition by celebrating it.
Even the process of grading itself sends the wrong message:
9. Grades spoil students’ relationships with each other. The quality of
students’ thinking has been shown to depend partly on the extent to which
they are permitted to learn cooperatively (Johnson and Johnson, 1989; Kohn,
1992). Thus, the ill feelings, suspicion, and resentment generated by
grades aren’t just disagreeable in their own right; they interfere with
The most destructive form of grading by far is that which is done “on a
curve,” such that the number of top grades is artificially limited: no
matter how well all the students do, not all of them can get an A. Apart
from the intrinsic unfairness of this arrangement, its practical effect is
to teach students that others are potential obstacles to their own success.
The kind of collaboration that can help all students to learn more
effectively doesn’t stand a chance in such an environment.
Sadly, even teachers who don’t explicitly grade on a curve may assume,
perhaps unconsciously, that the final grades “ought to” come out looking
more or less this way: a few very good grades, a few very bad grades, and
the majority somewhere in the middle. But as one group of researchers
pointed out, "It is not a symbol of rigor to have grades fall into a
'normal' distribution; rather, it is a symbol of failure -- failure to teach
well, failure to test well, and failure to have any influence at all on the
intellectual lives of students” (Milton et al., 1986, p. 225).
The competition that turns schooling into a quest for triumph and
ruptures relationships among students doesn’t just happen within classrooms,
of course. The same effect is witnessed at a schoolwide level when kids are
not just rated but ranked, sending the message that the point isn’t to
learn, or even to perform well, but to defeat others. Some students might
be motivated to improve their class rank, but that is completely different
from being motivated to understand ideas. (Wise educators realize that it
doesn’t matter how motivated students are; what matters is how students are
motivated. It is the type of motivation that counts, not the amount.)
> Most parents will probably reject it.
Sadly, I agree that most parents have been so schooled and indoctrinated,
they will have a tough time seeing any alternative.
As a homeschooling mother of four, I am mostly opposed to this method. I
believe that it sets the child or children up for a rather harsh reality
check later. There are no colleges or Universities that "unschool" and
certainly no jobs that "unjob". There are, and always will be, rules and
regulations that must be met and adhered to. That's just the way it is.
"The ludic life is totally incompatible with existing reality. So much the
worse for "reality," the gravity hole that sucks the vitality from the
little in life that still distinguishes it from mere survival. Curiously --
or maybe not -- all the old ideologies are conservative because they believe
in work. Some of them, like Marxism and most brands of anarchism, believe in
work all the more fiercely because they believe in so little else."
> Realistically, getting along in the world requires something of a selfish
> and aggressive attitude.
And you've been taught this by ... school? :-(
Let's say you're right. How big should your sense of "self" be? Fingertips?
Body? Family? Neighborhood? Society? Ecosystem? Cosmos?
Against what targets, and in what ways, should you direct your "aggression"?
What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong...
And nothing you do seems very right?
I'm pretty aggressive about vitamin D deficiency and stopping war these
days, and how the two may even be connected. :-)
As well as mad about mental illness among the affluent: :-)
"The Culture of Affluence: Psychological Costs of Material Wealth"
"Children of affluence are generally presumed to be at low risk. However,
recent studies have suggested problems in several domains—notably, substance
use, anxiety, and depression—and 2 sets of potential causes: pressures to
achieve and isolation from parents. Recognizing the limited awareness of
these issues, the objectives in this paper are to collate evidence on the
nature of problems among the wealthy and their likely causes. The first half
of the paper is focused on disturbances among affluent children and the
second half is focused on characteristics of their families and
neighborhoods. Widespread negative sentiments toward the rich are then
discussed, and the paper concludes with suggestions for future work with
families at the upper end of the socioeconomic spectrum."
"Children of the Affluent: Challenges to Well-Being"
"Growing up in the culture of affluence can connote various psychosocial
risks. Studies have shown that upper-class children can manifest elevated
disturbance in several areas—such as substance use, anxiety, and
depression—and that two sets of factors seem to be implicated, that is,
excessive pressures to achieve and isolation from parents (both literal and
emotional). Whereas stereotypically, affluent youth and poor youth are
respectively thought of as being at “low risk” and “high risk,” comparative
studies have revealed more similarities than differences in their adjustment
patterns and socialization processes. In the years ahead, psychologists must
correct the long-standing neglect of a group of youngsters treated, thus
far, as not needing their attention. Family wealth does not automatically
confer either wisdom in parenting or equanimity of spirit; whereas children
rendered atypical by virtue of their parents' wealth are undoubtedly
privileged in many respects, there is also, clearly, the potential for some
nontrivial threats to their psychological well-being."
> Much as I wish that weren't so, I don't expect
> anyone to rebutt the fact that most people believe in a merit-based,
> market-driven reality--even in so-called communist and socialist states.
There are worlds beyond money. It is the seventh law of money:
"7. There are worlds without money. They are the worlds of art, poetry,
music, dance, sex, etc. the essentials of human life. The seventh law is
like a star that is your guide. You know that you cannot live on the star;
it is not physically a part of your life, but rather an aid to orientation.
You are not going to reach this star, but in some sense neither are you
going to reach your destination without it to guide you."
But even within a "merit-based, market-drive reality", we can talk about
moving beyond rankism with a dignitarian movement that extends to children,
and a basic income that extents to all.
> Nationalism is, in my opinion, stronger today than it has ever been.
Well, there are counter trends:
> live and die by state borders and citizenships.
And they live and die by traffic laws. And they live and die by what they
eat, and how much sunlight or vitamin D3 they get. So what?
Meshworks, Hierarchies, and Interfaces:
> Changing cultures is
> perhaps the most difficult process humans undertake.
Raising children well is probably harder. :-)
> So, it is a great topic, but I doubt there are answers.
Well, maybe, maybe not, but we can begin with by trying to ask useful questions.
What is the purpose of schooling? Who decides? What is its history?
Gatto raises these sorts of issues, in other free resources, or this new book:
"Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark
World of Compulsory Schooling"
Or, as I mentioned here:
People have envisioned alternatives in all sorts of ways. Some are mentioned
in the above links.
It's a subject worth devoting a lot of time to exploring, because so much of
what we have become, and so much of the artificial limits in our lives, one
way or another, have come through schooling.
But, so many of the healthy roots in our lives have come from outside of
schooling, which is getting harder and harder for most kids. Again from Gatto:
Thirty years ago these things could still be learned in the time left after
school. But television has eaten up most of that time, and a combination of
television and the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent families
have swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids have no
time left to grow up fully human, and only thin-soil wastelands to do it in.
A future is rushing down upon our culture which will insist that all of us
learn the wisdom of non-material experience; a future which will demand as
the price of survival that we follow a pace of natural life economical in
material cost. These lessons cannot be learned in schools as they are.
School is like starting life with a 12-year jail sentence in which bad
habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards
doing it. I should know.
And then there is all the *money* that could be spent in other ways. :-)
"Towards a Post-Scarcity New York State of Mind (through homeschooling)"
But, as you raise earlier on, it is a good question to think about how we
want to live, and what kind of society we want to build. We know a lot more
than we did 200 years ago when Prussian-style schooling began to be put in
place, leading to global wars originating from schooling's place of origin
Hopefully we can do better now. Many, many people are trying. Many are
succeeding in various ways. But it's hard. Not just do you have to raise
children well (something that takes a lot of time), but you have to protect
them against many aspects of a dysfunctional industrial system, while still
participating with them in healthy communities. It's very hard.
And whatever you do, you have to deal with the aftermath of a schooled society:
In my dream I see Bianca as a fiend manufactured by schooling who now
regards Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:
1. Gives Jane’s car a ticket before the meter runs out.
2. Throws away Jane’s passport application after Jane leaves the office.
3. Plays heavy metal music through the thin partition which separates
Bianca’s apartment from Jane’s while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for
4. All the above.
Video: "State Controlled Consciousness" by John Taylor Gatto
"Schooling is a form of adoption. You give your kid up in his or her most
plastic years to a group of strangers. You accept a promise, sometimes
stated and more often implied that the state through its agents knows better
how to raise your children and educate them than you, your neighbors, your
grandparents, your local traditions do. And that your kid will be better off
so adopted. But by the time the child returns to the family, or has the
option of doing that, very few want to. Their parents are some form of
friendly stranger too and why not? In the key hours of growing up, strangers
have reared the kid."
> On Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 1:48 AM, M. Fioretti <mfioretti at nexaima.net> wrote:
>> here's a question: if you were preparing a proposal for education in
>> the 6-12 years age range, what would you write in it in order to
>> educate the children to a p2p-like attitude and practice with respect
>> to nutrition, (self) healthcare, protection of the environment? I
>> mean, what do you think the children should learn and how? Which
>> practices? Which success and failure stories (please let's keep in
>> mind the age range, that is use only simple examples in limited time,
>> only suggest things/activities that children that age may do
>> personally, etc...!) should they know?
>> Context: I am preparing a talk which should also touch the theme
>> above, and hopefully there will also be space for examples from other
>> parts of the world. Right after the event the talk will be published
>> with a CC license at http://mfioretti.com .
>> Sorry for vagueness, but my schedule for the next days changed without
>> notice this morning (nothing bad) so I have to leave the computer
>> right now and don't know how much I'll be at home in the next hours/
>> Thank you in advance for any feedback
>> Your own civil rights and the quality of your life heavily depend on how
>> software is used *around* you: http://digifreedom.net/node/84
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