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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Their Plan is Working

My plan, however, is not. I have a few tenets that I've used for the past 5 years or so.  They're usually effective.  Through literature, I try to show students that for the past few centuries, there has been a faction quite interested in keeping them sick, stupid, broke and afraid.  This of course invites the label of conspiracy theorist, a label I gladly accept.  This is unique among teachers, opens up many discussions, and we're off and running.  I prove my case in many ways.  Plato's Allegory of the Cave is pure apologia for the State, Poe vicariously kills off his freemason 'father' in "The Cask of Amontillado", the lawyer becomes otherworldly bright in his cell in Chekhov's "The Bet"...  We have a lot of fun.  Writers throughout time have been warning us to be on the lookout for sinister forces, all the while telling us to read voraciously.  "Have some intellectual self-defense", "understand reason and logic", "reading provides and anti virus program for your brain" - say all the classic authors from the grave.

This approach has worked well, with all of my classes.  The good classes cover a lot of ground with me.  We invariably cover a lot of historical ground - literary analysis demands it.  Current affairs comes into play, as the literature and the history echo the events of the old days.  As stories reflect wealth and greed (see Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"), we'll discuss economics, money, gold and silver.  The less stellar classes get caught up in the conspiracy discussions and we're able to approach literary material from that angle.  Intellectually, everyone gets a turn.

Not this year.  This year the forces of the dark side have won.  I have an inability to reach but a small fraction of the groups.  The instant gratification corporate media and social media have destroyed attention spans.  Students openly feel that nothing should ever be 'boring' to them and are offended if they aren't entertained.  The ability to listen and concentrate is gone, as is the ability to use discretion and prioritize.  What bothers me the most is the fact that everyone is happy about their lot.  There is no urgency, no awareness of the danger that comes with being intellectually misguided.  The incessant student conversations are cheap, silly and false.  This current group wants to be yelled at and TOLD what to do.  This is maddening.  As a libertarian I find force repellent, but it's almost as if this cohort craves it to be used on them.  There is no intellectual curiosity, and when I have tried to spark it - I'm told that what we're talking about is 'boring'.  The progenitors of compulsory public schooling were open and blatant about their plan. They intended to indoctrinate and inculcate obedience and docility in the masses.  If this year is any guide, they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

"I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man." - - Frederick Douglass

" 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 forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." - - Woodrow Wilson

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