Sunday, August 07, 2005

Governed Ceilings

Low bridge, everybody down.

Schools (modern, coerced, state-run) are politically empowered to educate. That word is associated with intelligence, knowledgeability, skill ... But a ceiling is (silently) set: one pleasing to the propertied (those in their majority), and acceptable (that is, something short of inciting revolution) to the (minimally propertied to unpropertied) numerical majority.

One ceiling that nearly everyone approves is that the school epistemology remain primitive: so that the majorities (of nearly all kinds) can be fooled that their institutions are in fact performing as idealized: the church is getting us into heaven, the doctors are making us immortal, the economists are making us richer, the military is making life safe, the schools are turning sows-ears into silk purses.

And those who don’t approve? We don’t count.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mama, Papa, the State ... School

Context: School's Purpose:

Jesus spoke of the left hand not knowing what the right hand does. Complex species get compartmentalized. So too complex societies. One professor at Harvard may know what some other professor at Harvard -- in his own department -- is doing, but does he know what some other professor at Harvard is doing in some other department? Does anyone at Harvard know what some professor is doing with Koba’s funding in Siberia?
The kids sit in the living room watching TV: what are mama and papa doing lingering in their bedroom? Mama and papa sit in the living room watching TV: what is young Missy doing at that party? in her date’s jalopy?

Mama and papa sit at the dining table: what is the school doing with Missy and with Buddy? What is the army doing with their older son, Ted: far off in the desert?

Females bear the babies: that’s written not only into the species but into the Genus, the Family ... much of the Order. Neither mama and papa nor congress has anything to do with it. On average among our sort of mammal, papa is bigger than mama. But mama is much bigger than baby: and baby knows it. Baby is for the time being helpless. Trust is the only choice. Same with contemporary citizens and their states. Most mamas are trustworthy: at least with their own babies, most of the time. Uh, states ...?

One doesn’t need to know much anthropology to recognize that in some societies the men band together and take every boy of a certain age away from mama. Until he’s seven or eight, the boy is with mama (and his sisters) nearly all the time. Then suddenly he’s with the men: all the time. Sometimes the men go off somewhere: how well does mama (with her daughters) know what the men are doing?

Not always, not often, but sometimes, someone notices something: detects a significant difference. Gregory Bateson was studying the latmul people of Papua New Guinea. Bateson used a camera as well as his mind, paper, and pencil (and a little funding). Bateson photographed the latmul women nursing their babies. He photographed them routinely, systematically, frustrating the infant’s lust for the nipple, for its milk. Photographs and text were published in 1938: Naven. (Naven is hard to come by. It’s the one Bateson book I have never held, let alone read.)

Notice: the latmul people are not known for producing any Alexanders, Napoleons ... Newtons.

I am not Bateson. And I presume that you are not either. Neither are either of us Margaret Mead. But it’s vital that we notice some things about our different hands, our pockets, the different rooms ... and institutions in our society: especially those institutions that coerce our thoughts, and our children, away from us.

A primary purpose of school is to remove the child from its biological family, to separate it from its cultural matrix. In the Soviet, Koba was your daddy, he took you from mommy. In the free kleptocracies, the school, not the church, the school, becomes your mommy: and your daddy: your Koba.

In primitive societies, where the men took the boy, to make a man of him, those societies actually endured: from then till recently. The tenure of schooled societies is recent. It’s a little early to say much: regarding time, becoming, endurance. The societies where the men took the boys endured, evolved, over many millennia. Still, their populations sum merely in the millions. The populations of developed or developing kleptocracies number in the billions, with more and more all the time. By one measure that makes them already more successful than everything that went before put together. But can it last? Should it last?

My school took me from my matrix. That in itself was the main lesson. But there were many other lessons as well. Very early my school taught me that Western culture was good: very good; and that the things I was passionate about, Louis Armstrong, the Benny Goodman band, were merely amusing distractions, not worth mention in the schools. By the time I was twelve my school had taught us that democracy meant inventing a Republican Party and a Democratic Party: and no other parties!
My university seemed more liberal: until I tried to express new blends of perception. If my perception matched the curriculum, I was wonderful; if it wasn’t recognizable as a rewash of the old agenda, my liberal professors were stone deaf. Blind, and proud of it, rewarded, funded.

If we all live on and on, if it turns out that we never really needed air, water, wilderness, variety ... a random, why then we’ll be vastly more successful, by biology’s only measure, than the societies that took the boy away, or the even older societies that didn’t (or did, but less so). Maybe, if we find other planets to colonize, other masses to terraform, we’ll be successful indefinitely. Maybe we never really needed real intelligence, real freedom, real markets. Maybe centralized management, by morons, is what God wants for us.