Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kleptocracy's Schools

moved from K. to pkKlep blog to pKnatz blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

pk's Doctoral Orals

The original of this post had been at, K. got destroyed, I recreated it here; but now will maintain all such materials at my PKnatz blog. I'll delete it here once pKnatz blog is mature.

I entered graduate school braced to endure a meaningless ordeal of an initiation for the sake of teaching at the college level. Encountering another school in which information flowed downward easily, but upward only with difficulty, was no surprise. I did however foolishly believe that with persistence I would eventually succeed in communicating my understanding of literature, art, and life. Failure only rededicated me to trying. That was in 1962, at age twenty-three.

But by 1971, a tad past thirty, married with a child, having already founded the world's first grassroots learning opportunity network, volunteering as it were to act as the world's cybernetic librarian for volunteered public information, already corresponding with other would-be cybernetic librarians on forming the world's first internet, having already figured out a half a dozen years earlier how to read Shakespeare's sonnets so that their relation to the history of Western orthodoxy was transparent, my orals committee merely interrupted me.

The first interrogator interrupted my answer to her first question. My answer contained a précis of my entire Shakespeare thesis, the way the Mandelbrot Set contains in any detail the whole of the Mandelbrot Set (the way a small cloud, out of scale, is the same as a huge cloud): and this authority simply cut me off, asked me a different question. The other four professors on the committee kept their silence as she did so. They too, all but one of them, would do their own share of interrupting when their turns came. (When it was over did a single of of them know that they still didn't know my answer?)

My thesis advisor had been reading installments on my thesis since 1965. But by 1971 he showed no more understanding of what I was saying about the Sonnets that he or any of the NYU professors showed of the significant of my passing around Free Learning Exchange, Inc. fliers.

My grammar school teachers taught that the modern school system respected individual learning, that it abhorred rote answers. But here I was, being allowed to speak while the teachers, certified original scholars by their own doctorates, waited impatiently for me to give the individual's pretense of spontaneity — accompanied by — The Expected Rote Answer.

My committee tortured me for their alloted two hours. I wasn't sure what I would do as of that date. What I did was concentrate on what I'd been concentrating on: creating an internet to replace the school and university system, the media, the government ...

That it doesn't exist is not my fault. That we still have the same old same old is your fault ["your" plural, "your" collective].

From 1970 onward I preached deschooling everywhere I was, setting up literature tables around town, regularly camping on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum. I asked the public for funds. Specifically I asked for a van from which my volunteers and I could set up our table in neighborhood after neighborhood: the people most in need of deschooling not always frequenting the museum or Fifth Avenue. I did not specifically preach against my own schools. I did not spend public time complaining about the frauds visited on me personally, on me in particular. My critiques were on behalf of the world. That changed in 1995 when I added a personal home page to my offerings on the www that the public's institutions plagiarized from Illich's and my work. My indoctrination modules were among the first up. A file specifically devoted to my Ph.D. orals wasn't added till 1998: since which time it's been one of the most worked and reworked of all of my 2,500 text posts.

Now I have to translate it, with its dozens of links, down to a blog entry, where none of the links work: like representing the Mona Lisa with a chess piece, or a chess piece with a subway slug.

Check back: it will be the next post here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Training vs. Brainwashing

There's a difference between shoving somebody away from you and nuking a city. Both may be examples of violence but at some scale a quantitative change can become of qualitative change. Training is necessary for complex species. Birds learn to build better nests, sing better songs ... Willie practices the piano, the girl perfects her seeing the boy without looking at him. Culture institutionalizes some training. Fine. But at some degree it becomes brainwashing.
2003 01 11

Wherever "education" is coerced then it's brainwashing. If education is state controlled then our "brains" are state-washed. If education is church controlled, then our brains are church-washed. These days there's a temporary truce of sorts between church and state: like two Mafia families agreeing (for the moment) You take prostitution; We'll take drugs.

For the moment neither the Pope nor "Billy Graham" would dream of interrupting Congress. Neither Congress nor the President would dream of interrupting Easter mass. But such a day may come. Then we'll know who's really in charge for that era.

If a father twists his kid's ear until that kid practices the piano, that's coercion: but it's coercion within the family. Children before puberty are chattel no matter what the law says. Mama "owns" the baby. Mama doesn't need the baby's consent to change its diaper. Once the baby is an adolescent, it can run away if it doesn't like it. Neither state nor church nor sheer human numbers have yet eliminated the possibility of running. But running is hard: once upon a time banishment from your immediate cultural group was the worst possible punishment. These days you can find a Macdonalds where you run from and another where you run to. (Therefore maybe there isn't any place left to run to.) (The pimp who draws the runaway girl to his bosom on the street may shortly prove no better a papa than papa at home.) But in civilization both papa and baby (and mama) are chattel. The state can take your front yard by eminent domain, right up to your bathtub, whether or not you're still in it. The state can take your baby if it doesn't like how you're changing its diapers. The state does not have to demonstrate that it's any better at changing diapers: the state doesn't have to demonstrate anything but that it holds the gun: and that while it's holding the gun, you may not hold a gun back on it. And once upon a time, not long ago, the church was no different. (With the possible difference that once upon a time The Sheriff of Nottingham really wouldn't arrest Robin Hood while he was in the church.) (These days the state only looks to see if anyone's looking (who happens to have a TV camera turned on).) (I mixed state and church up there for a moment, but you'll follow anyway if you're trying.)

Papa owns mama (unless she meets a divorce lawyer). (Then mama owns papa.) (And the lawyer owns mama.)

My point is that coercion within the biological reproductive unit, the family (and I don't mean anything politically correct by family: I just mean the minimal reproductive group, minimally social) and political theory are irrelevant. We don't need to invent an ethics about the family; we need better ethics among people who aren't family. (Or, we should just kill all we encounter that we don't need for our immediate gratification and live as solitary creatures: like spiders. We're already camouflaged predators, costumed liars, natural genocides ... Tricky business for such as we to become social, to have institutions we're supposed to trust. Mama smacking baby is none of our business. Neighbor smacking neighbor is. Political gangs, like gangs of priests for some superstition, coercing individuals to be gang members, or to support and service the gang, is very much our business. Or "should" be. Anarchists say "No coercion." I say "No coercion." (But I ask you, I recommend it to you, I entreat you. I don't force you.

I add that my son includes the concept of "fraud" in his use of the word coercion. I fear that that broadens the concept dangerously. Eliminating it though might cause worse trouble.

I'll come back and say something relating brainwashing to the liar paradox. Statements that involve meta-statements about themselves such as "This sentence is a lie" are nonsense. Maybe they "work" grammatically, but not philosophically.

2011 11 05 duplicated at pKnatz, to be deleted here.

"Education," Yuck

Learning0 comes with our genes: our body knows how to grow eyes, a liver ... hair. Learning1 — how best to look for food, how to find water — is a process common to living things: non-sentient as well as sentient. Fancy Learning1 — how to jump higher, how to throw the fastball ... how to read, how to add — is a process possible to any human. Education though is not a process but a thing, coercively marketed by kleptocracies, administered by the kleptocracy: used to be a church, now it's a state, telling us what to do: telling us how to do it, when to do it ... how long it should take and what it should cost.

Education is centralized, top-down. Quality control is in one direction only. The student must understand the teacher; but there's no way to tell if the teacher understands the student, or the source material.

Key thought: I have no reason to believe that any university is competent to understand my science. No appropriate feedback has come my way. Neither do I know of a single teacher who understood my Shakespeare thesis forty years ago: or since: or any of my other original work.

In nature, that's just misfortune: evolution not being ready; but in civilization, it's fraud: fraud that the fraudulent are too stupid to understand or too dishonest to admit. How can they pretend to teach if they don't also understand?
2005 12 27 talks about education, learning, indoctrination, training, propaganda ... This section addresses pk drawing's personal experiences with it.

The visitor cannot understand properly without knowing that pk founded FLEX in 1970, the world's first offer of a public internet, with the express hope of destroying the school system, replacing it with every community having its own network-library-bulletin board, all the networks worldwide able to exchange information.

Officials can cite Jesus to interrupt Galileo,
and cite Galileo to interrupt Jesus.

The visitor cannot understand pk's founding FLEX properly without knowing that pk's own experience with school had proved communication to be another kleptocratic vanity. Again: top-down only: my Ph.D. orals committee actually interrupted me, prevented me from answering their questions. Five of them ganged up on me. I saw no way to gang up on them; but I'd already founded FLEX: to replace them. To this day I see no reason to believe that any university I have ever had contact with is capable of understanding my contributions. Alas the public is no better (but no worse either).

The same system could have replaced governments, markets, media ... all the old institutions.

The design for replacing schools was Ivan Illich's. The expansion of the same design to include every kind of information exchange was pk's. Coordinate the anarchy; record and publish all; prescribe nothing (but the free system itself) ... And so forth.

Who better than pk to have done it? School for me had never been anything but Lucy offering to hold the football for Charlie Brown, then pulling it away: so he falls flat on his back.

Public Information

What could be more preposterous (or more predictable) than for a modern kleptocracy to coerce the young into schools and then tell them that they are "free"?

I simplify Ivan Illich's (and my own) deschooling into Four D's of Public Information:
  1. Disestablish School
  2. Deregulate Information
  3. Decentralize Everything
  4. Delicence Skills
I'll go into details after I've rescued the most basic modules from the censored

Learning vs. Education

People who would become free must distinguish learning from education and divorce them.

Learning is a process, common to life; education is a thing, coerced and administered by kleptocracies: for purposes of social control.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Church & State: Kleptocracy's Binary Monopoly

2001 10 14
Both church and state dictate morality on stolen landChurch and State are presented to us (by Church and State) as rivals. The dominant ideal since the American Revolution has been to keep them balanced: the church mustn't run the state; the state must not interfere with the church. Pick one of those positions to argue and you'll have your Ph.D. at twenty-one and be dean of the graduate school before thirty. You may be running for the White House barely past forty-five.

I point out that Church and State are rivals the way Cain and Abel were rivals. One's always killing the other but the other never actually dies completely. They're brothers: almost as close as twins. They seem opposite only if you let them draw the distinctions for you.Church and State compete for an imaginary monopoly on playing God.Church and State are like different wings of one party: the kleptocracy party. To listen to the Democrats and the Republicans you'd think they were opposite: rather than almost twins. They're just right and left wings of the one party of America: the Property Party (the stolen property party!) (Rule the NonPlusUltra: Hang On To It!)

Church and State are both magical entities, both offering salvation. The Church offers spiritual salvation, the State offers secular salvation. Whether you're supposed to get pie in the sky when you die or you're supposed to get pie next week (as soon as we've routed the opposition), you're still promised pie in the future. The only pie you're likely actually to get from either source is in the face.

Before Churches promise salvation shouldn't they prove they can actually deliver? shouldn't they show someone actually in heaven through their ministrations? (shouldn't Satan have proved to Eve that he controlled any of the things that he promised?) shouldn't the State have to prove that secular salvation is real, that they have it, that they control it? Otherwise are all entities for sale something like the Brooklyn Bridge? Maybe you have a piece of paper, but is the bridge actually yours?

So long as Church and State can maintain the illusion that kleptocracy is the only game and that they're the only two legal players, they can go on till we run out of reality to delude ourselves in. (If we're all drinking acid rain and breathing acid air till we can drink and breath no more, then no one will have won.) False dichotomies and false choices are the common fare of kleptocracies. Remember the "choice" we were reduced to in Vietnam? Not: Prove you belong or get out but When will our prisoners of war be released?

Something else they have in common, the promise is never delivered, and it's never the promiser's fault. It wasn't Stalin's fault that communism was never delivered: only worse and worse forms of tyranny. It wasn't Washington-Jefferson-Nixon's fault that democracy, education, a genuine prosperity ... never arrived: it was the Catholics, the Irish, the Jews, the Communists, the Niggers, the Terrorists ... the workers, the owners, the Martians ... that betrayed us.

Funny thing is: if we just lived in small bands, and found a mate ... or didn't, and found food ... or didn't, and killed each other ... or didn't ... nothing would be anyone's fault: because no one would have promised anything: at least not with the weight of an institution.

If I say I'll take you to the movies, and I don't: I get drunk instead; big deal. It's just me. Avoid me. Tell everybody. But if priest N, in a series of generations of priests, takes your money as he took your grandfathers ... and you don't wind up in heaven ...? Isn't that infinitely worse?

Wouldn't it be better for no one to go to heaven after no one's been sold heaven, than for everyone to have been sold heaven, with not one demonstration that anyone's there?

The parent file, on pk's childhood indoctrinations, was one of the first written for A number of important themes were introduced there first: conflicts between freedom and coercion, between church and state, between individual and group, between faith and evidence, civilization and its discontents ... Though only a half-dozen years ago, I carried a couple of handicaps in my first writings here that I no longer have: 1) I hadn't yet encountered Jared Diamond's all-encompassing coinage "kleptocracy"; 2) I was most practiced then at "creative" writing, not at exposition.

The digital drawings I did to accompany those early files characterize a ricocheting do-si-do (unfortunately non-cybernetic, not learning anything) between church and state for power over our minds. Another early file, my history of Magic, observes that church and state are siblings: offshoots of each other.

pk drawing

2011 11 05 Duplicated at pKnatz blog, to be deleted here once all is moved and checked.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Secular Indoctrination: pk's

original indoctrination module subdivided 2001 04 29

I obeyed my parents sending me to Sunday School willingly enough. Hell, it was once a week, for an hour. But there's something monstrous about being wrenched from your comfortable norm, your mother's bosom, at age four or so, and forced, leaving her on the sidewalk, to enter the most imposing building you've ever seen. You don't have to know that you'll go to jail if you refuse. You don't have to know what a jail is. You don't have to know that actually, it's your parents who would go to jail. You don't have to be aware of the jail, and the police, and their guns, and the army ... or the bombs ... to know ... Son, meet the State.

(Your parents in jail, the state would take you full-time via foster parents.)

The measure of the state's success is that the word anarchy
frightens people, while the word state does not.

Joseph Sobran

And what were we told inside that institution? We were told that we were free. At school age you don't know to say, "Excuse me? When did the meaning change? How come the dictionaries have it wrong?" Freedom means doing what the state tells you or go to jail? The police, the guns, the bombs are to make you and keep you free. Be grateful you get to go home at night.

I remember ages five and six, standing on the front lawn at the end of summer, looking at the sidewalk and the road, thinking of the school reopening shortly, and wishing it would all go away: wishing I could be a caveman where I wouldn't have to be so free; wishing it despite knowing that I wouldn't have lasted five days as a caveman: puny, sickly me, with my bad sinuses.

pk reconstruction of Charles Shultz drawing for PeanutsSally has complained to Chuck that she can't talk to the principal:
"At least the school building listens," she says.
The building's speech balloon reads:
Unfortunately, kid, I've heard it all before.

pk reconstruction of a Charles Shultz cartoon

At home I didn't have to be "free" and do what the teacher said; I had to do what my parents said. They bore me, they fed me. I was helpless without them. It made sense.

(Are we helpless without the State? On the contrary: we are all but helpless with the state.)

But of course I went into the school. And returned. Again and again. Till I was thirty-something.

A reason religion is taught early is so that nearly no one will be
able to think analytically about their "beliefs" as an adult:
same reason we pledge the legions of the flag with bandaids on our knee

I took the school's measure by what I already knew and found it short. Nevertheless, some of its claims got absorbed and took the literalist and sectarian character of my Christianity. I took the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights as given. I absorbed the basic assumptions: religious tolerance, separation of church and state, liberty, democracy ... As with my will to be a good Christian, a while passed before I noticed how few others followed suit. Hypocrisy is not confined among the religious.

"I mean that literally" really means
Please take my metaphor seriously.

Religion is easy. They give it to you early. They offer it, with conviction, as the truth. My Sunday School teacher introduced me before puberty to epistemology (not that he used that word): a subject that thence became central to my life and to the material of this site.

In contrast, there's nothing Messianic about public school. They don't have to convert you. They don't have to convince you. They own your ass.

Are there really more than a handful of adults who believe as an adult what they were taught as a child? How could you tell? Is there any way to know rationally that the Pope (or Billy Graham. or the Dalai Lama.) is "sincere?" Can you really be sure they're not merely careerists with good acting ability?

There isn't any sure way with an individual. But there is with populations. Take demographic samples at the relevant rituals. If the "alpha males" are scrupulous in attending, the myth is believed by the culture. If attendance is relegated to women and children, it isn't.

The highest Druid priests would have once danced the May pole. Children couldn't have gotten near it. No one today would dream of wasting a little boy's time with such folderol. If we bother at all, the lessons are imposed on little girls. Oh, aren't they cute?

The Druids would have found such attitudes suicidal. The May Dance was serious magic [qv]. Why, without correct dancing around the pole by magicians of the highest qualifications, there would be no rain, there would be no summer, the sun would stay thralled in its winter weakness, there would be no crops, there would be no game ...

If Congress dressed as elves, the most senior senator leaving his hospital bed to attend, if sacrifices to Santa Claus were filched from the military budget, then our belief, as a culture, in Santa Claus would be genuine.

Belief is of course an issue distinct from truth.

It's simple. Walk into a church. Look around. Disregard those you can tell are paid to be there. Need I say more?

(Of course, the president of the country or of the bank may be present. Though there may be no direct compensation, no salary, it does pay them to be there.)

Now consider the attributes of those who are directly compensated. Are any of them alphas? How many could be advantageously employed elsewhere who yet remain?

Now try it with a school. Who's there voluntarily?

Really? None? Who's paid to be there?

Still no alphas? Not even a Margaret Thatcher?

Try MIT. Ah, now we've found something the culture does take at least half seriously. You won't find a Napoleon, but you might find an Einstein: on either side of the lectern. Technology is the one area of education where the true nature of things is expected to be represented in the material. Otherwise, our bombs might not explode.
1999 06 02
An older version of this file proposed class action suits against church and school for their false teachings and against the state for its flagrant lack of correspondence between word and deed, theory and fact, map and territory. When I can get to it, I'll add a teaching module recommending that any honest pursuit of justice should require that all suits be examined for their potential as class action suits. What we have instead I characterize in a note on class action.

My schooling stories over the decades got spread all over a few domains:, Had I not been arrested and censored, they'd now be gathering in a new domain on de-professionalizing as well as de-schooling. But as it is, unable to publish normally, or even as formerly, I'll move them all here, to my InfoAll blog.
Realize please, translation to a blog is translation downward: my domain hypertext was dynamic, with a zillion cross-references.


The State:
The state of course currently seems to be victorious in its famous but on-going conflict with the Church.
pk drawing
It hasn't always been so.

Thus far I've published only tiny installments on this important subject: Family vs. State, History of Magic ...

The state's promise of secular salvation is no truer nor more rationally based than the church's promise of spiritual salvation. I wouldn't bet two cents on our chance of seeing many more centuries unless we fire both of them.

Foster Parents:
My section on the Family has not yet gotten very far off the ground, but of course I think about this dilemma constantly. Sir David Attenborough now informs the literary and PBS viewing public that ostrich pairs bully other pairs to steal their chicks, sometimes winding up with a tribe of hundreds. He speculates that the pair's own chicks may be better protected in the crowd, like fish schooling. I'd like to see bird specialist Jared Diamond's speculations on the phenomenon. I wish I could confer with both those great scholars on the multiplicity of things the state might be up to in its behavior. For the moment, I hope more than one person agrees with me that kleptocracies should draw the line at theft from the family. I don't care if the parents are murdering their children: arrest them outside the home; not in it.
2001 04 29
It looks like I've changed my mind still further. Now I don't believe that crimes within the family should be any but the family's business wherever they're committed. Shooting a stranger while aiming at your wife in the mall is a different matter.
Once upon a time an accused could escape capture by reaching a church door. The sheriff's men had to stay outside. I wish kleptocracies would yield that the hearth should be sacrosanct. Hell, the American kleptocrats of Highlands County, Florida don't even respect the church: Rev. David Chapman was recently dragged from within his church and arrested. Not even the Sheriff of Nottingham would have done that. (It's irrelevant that Chapman's church is probably as full of it as the others.)

Voltaire said, These English: all those religions and only one sauce.

Christian Epistemology:
I give major treatment to the subject of epistemology throughout this site: it even has its own directory. Here I briefly expand the above reference:

What basis do we have for being Christians? Because of the Witness of others before us, passing on the story. Because Thomas doubted but was then able to put his finger in the hole through which Jesus had been nailed to the cross.

It's not very good epistemology, but it is epistemology.

"Alpha Males":
My reference is made not as much to biological gender as to social gender. In human culture some alpha males may be biologically female. Others, such as an underage king, may be chronologically immature: the ministers nevertheless kowtow to them. (Of course it's their royal personhood that's being honored; it's some regent whose judgment will be kowtowed to.)

Among hyenas all the alpha males are female. They have an enlarged clitoris which they use like a phallus: not for procreation, but for dominance. (See Synecdoche.) Don't look under Judge Judy's robe. Just notice that she's wearing the black costume of the kleptocratic sorcerer: she's "male." The jails are behind her, not above her.

Class action: Class vs. Individual Action:

Half a century ago the French made a comedy called The Seven Deadly Sins. A decade later they did it again. Seven short scenes by seven European directors, plus a framing scene. The Greed section of the original was a priceless bit of bawdy humor: a farmer's wife and the traveler story. Go out of your way to find it. The sequel also had a Greed which stays with me: this latter for the significance of its joke.
W.W.I. The French trenches. The poor bastards have orders for the following morning: they are going to have to make another assault on some impregnable German position. 100% have died on the last N attempts.
So. It's their last night of life. There they are in the filthy trench. Demoralized, diseased, doomed. They dream out loud about the spectacular whore in the town only a kilometer or so behind them. Alas, she charges 200 francs for the night. None of the hundred soldiers has much more than a fiftieth that amount.
Ah, but each of them has a few francs! They put up two a man and draw lots. Pierre wins. Lucky Pierre. He'll be killed in the morning but only after a good, human night of love.
The officers grant him a pass. He goes to town. The whore is as wonderful as promised. She likes him. They're talking on the pillow. She asks his story. He tells it.
"Oh, you poor sweetie," she says. She goes to her purse. A whore with a heart of gold. She gives him back his two francs!
Isn't that the way it always is? Pierre gets laid for free; ninety-nine dead men walking get nothing but their doom. A one percent discount!

The tobacco companies kill millions. One family collects $800,000. And that family is American, with US courts. Meantime, the tobacco companies kill tens of millions overseas. How can the Japanese or the Chinese sue a corporation in Virginia?
1999 02 13

I was just recalling Lumet's movie, The Verdict, to my friend Catherine. The Catholic hospital has falsified records after inappropriately serving a meal to a patient about to receive anesthesia: whoops, brain death. Milo O'Shea, Irish Catholic if there ever was one, and James Mason's Lucifer Lawyer, tell Paul Newman's drunk Irish Catholic lawyer-character to settle: "Take the money and run like a thief." But Newman's drunkenness is related to his once having had a shred of integrity.

He takes it to trial. He produces the nurse that silver-templed Dr. Welby had ordered to falsify the records. (What? or suffer eternal hell fire? I reproduce a fraction of Lumet's iteration of Catholicism to admit the presence of the film's (appropriately) heavy irony.) The jury awards crushing punitive damages. We all cheer.

Great. But they all go right back to what they were doing. All except the ruined nurse. The doctor isn't ruined: his hair was mussed. The hospital isn't ruined. The insurance company pays. The bills for the next brain-dead go up. The Church remains the Church. Boston is still incorporated, still taking taxes, and telling Bostonians what to do. What in hell are we cheering about?

Easier Said Than Done: Beasts in Cages

The Sunday School chapter of this section went up months ago and has changed little since my original draft. The rest has been increasingly bollixed as I try to juggle all the themes. Dissatisfied, I take it down in hope that a little revision will better coordinate my juggling. Unimproved, I'm then aghast that the material is merely absent.

Why don't children do what they're told? Why, given a choice, do they choose the wrong friends? the wrong wife? the wrong career? Because they're alive.

Why don't rivers flow the way the Army Corps of Engineers would like them to? Why does an aerial photograph of a city, even of a building, taken in 1998 not look like the models of the planners and architects of 1968? Because the river is something analogous to life; the city even more so; the building occupied and surrounded by life.

Why does my writing here refuse to fit the nice design that made sense to me a year ago? I repeat what George Bernard Shaw wrote of his characters: I have no more control over them than I have over my wife.

Yesterday I added a note to my Shakespeare thesis on new strides in ordering the authenticity of old manuscripts: Chaucer wrote something, a scribe copied it, another scribe copied the copy. Errors propagate, breeding new species of error.

Don't panic. It's life. Life is messy. You've got to change diapers. After all: human beings, self-described as sapiens, resplendent in reason (also self-described), looked at another way, are nothing but a stack of "mistakes" bacteria made billions of years ago. You could also say that the bacteria were a stack of mistakes non-life made billions of years before that.

It seemed so simple, such an elegant solution to the problem of how do I relate my work, especially my writing, to my life: to how I came by my themes. Talk about Church, then school, weave in how I came to see what was wrong with both—perceiving both to be symptomatic of the pathologies of our culture as a whole—relate what I learned that transfigured me into a post-Christian, post-democrat, one who believes that those of us who would survive on an intact planet must get rid of both church and state, and cap it off by discussing why I still drive myself, despite my poverty of external resources, to save from itself a public that I hold in contempt while it despises, when not ignoring, me.

But when I go to beard some of the core grit in its den, it growls and I back off. I rope it and it slips the noose. I think I've finally got it caged. But the cage doesn't fit, so I store it in the cellar. Meantime, escapees burble up elsewhere: on the site, but not in the cage I'd prepared. My "Teaching" essays
have taken over much of this part of the biography; my "conversion" to modern reason, or at least part of it, got sucked over into R. Buckminster Fuller notes to my writing as well as into a dozen other newer files.

2011 11 09 I've duplicated this module at pKnatz blog, K.'s target reincarnation. I'll delete here when complete there.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Religious Training

pk drawing's Religious Training
1995 September
My godfather, Episcopal Bishop of Brooklyn and author of NYU's Alma Mater, performed my baptism. The first ambition I remember was common enough: it was all but assigned to me in Sunday School. (The sign in front of the church read "Presbyterian," but I recall nothing Knoxian about its pastor. My Sunday School teacher on the other hand was straight Calvinist.) The ambition I conceived in his care was to be worthy of Jesus' love. Christianity was the truth, the truth was to die for, and I wanted to be not just an acceptor, but a promoter: an active Witness.

Sometime after I was confirmed, a Catholic friend declared virtuous intentions that I recognized to be similar. As years passed I felt more and more alone in mine. Don't people mean what they say? I was sure I did, and to this day can still feel the thrill I felt when, having learned book store browsing as still another way not to do homework, I first saw the title of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ.

I saw no conflict in my regular playing of doctor in a neighborhood dense with young girls. pk with neighborhood girls I never planned not to be normal. No, I dreamed of some impact on mankind. When the time was right, God would show me what it would be, how to do it, and give me the strength necessary. In the meantime, I was distinguished for my activity in the church and even, as a teen, preached from the pulpit of the Brick Presbyterian Church on New York's Park Avenue.

When I was ten or eleven my Sunday School teacher made me the focus of the Sunday morning class as he gave me a dollar. I was to put it in a piggy bank. He announced that he was going to contribute to it each year till I was eighteen so I could buy my own Bible. He predicted that by that age my faith would be sorely tested. I'd probably go to college. I'd imagine problems.

I didn't recognize any cause for his concern. Neither did I doubt him. In the faith assigned to the young, adults are mature and wise; youth, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is green salad (a pretense best maintained by keeping the young sequestered while the adults are at each other's throats). Now I am sure that he was afraid I'd learn reason and its close ally, disciplined skepticism. (See also pk on Reason. [Search pk blogs for Thinking Tools.]) Those are tricky words, and much of this site is about them. But for the moment just let me observe that we all consider ourselves reasonable. My teacher certainly didn't believe that what he'd talked on was either unreasonable or untrue. (I do find it interesting to reflect that he didn't worry about me for my public school years.)

Christianity had our problems originating with the Tree of Knowledge. Dr. Frankenstein and his monster had reproduced through the generations since the Industrial Revolution. Science was trying to peek at God's blueprints. I found the invitation obscene and rejected it: unconsciously if not deliberately. Most of the way through college I still didn't recognize grounds for my Sunday School teacher's concern.

Now it's true that I stopped going to church once the minister ruined my seventeenth Easter (age eighteen) by mispronouncing Sartre's name and attributing to him a philosophy of despair. I worshipped in private. I listened to The Saint Matthew Passion on Sundays. I read sermons by John Donne. In my mind, I was still a Christian, still trusted Biblical authority. My absence protested only the intellectual dishonesty of the pastor.
2001 08 09
I am sure my home page is not the only example of something in the human world seldom manifesting as planned. A relevant story should have gone in here way back in the early writing. Only recently did I add it and then in the wrong place: my Academic Bestiary's background notes [coming here soon] to my doctoral orals [ditto]. But it belongs here. So I'll tell it again and later rewrite the other files.

Some time after offering me my dollar toward the purchase of a Bible, clearly still concerned about my soul, my Sunday School teacher asked me what I planned to do with my Christianity as an adult. I told him right out. I planned to travel the world, studying other religions. My childish hypothesis was that God, being good, and loving his special creation, man, would have communicated his message universally. Maybe the Jews were the Chosen. Maybe we Christians took the baton when the Jews dropped it. But I was convinced that God would have given everyone a chance. Underneath the mythology of the Koran, the Buddhist sutras, there must be one essential message.

I write my hypothesis with my adult vocabulary and understanding and now recognize in it something akin to Noam Chomsky's hypothesis of innate grammar. But even as a child I had some sense of things being garbled in translation. I didn't trust man, neither Jew nor Christian, to have heard quite right. I didn't doubt that I, with God's inspiration of course, would be able to winnow out some of the human transcription errors, to enhance the divine part of the message for the benefit of universal human wisdom. It never occurred to me that the human errors could be deliberate or the documents politically choreographed. I'm sure I sensed some of the jingoism, but I'm sure I didn't attribute it to human or kleptocratic evil. (And I certainly never entertained the possibility, endemic throughout the jingoist creeds, that God loved the Jews but hated every-one and every-thing else.)

I am embarrassed to realize now how long it took me to recognize what followed as an early, if not my first, experience of Paul Knatz failing to communicate something important. My Sunday School teacher advised me not to try such an enterprise until I was absolutely certain that my Christian faith was unshakable. He told me that under such certain circumstances I might study another religion, but I must remember to pull back before actually believing it. Study it, but wear a rubber as it were. My memory is that he was speaking gravely, but I backwards interpret it that he was very nervous about what I'd said, concerned about me, about my difference from the others, as always.

I now realize (belatedly interpret) that for my teacher faith and understanding were incompatible. I now recognize his faith to have been not faith at all but rather the loyal acceptance of propaganda. He wanted the team to be a team more than he wanted the team to be right.

My ideal Sunday School teacher would have said something like, Wow, that's deep. But you're beyond my competence. You're beyond the competence of our minister. Why don't we hook you up with Joseph Campbell. Or at least put you straight into a comparative anthropology course. Of course you might be beyond them too: for all their learning and all your ignorance. Kid, I see the light of god on you already. Since I can't reconstruct exactly what year that would have occurred in, I can't say reliably whether anyone let alone my Sunday School teacher would have heard of Joseph Campbell by that time. Campbell may well have not yet published any of his anthro-theo-syntheses. (Neither am I sanguine that Campbell would have received me with either arms or mind open. I don't think he was looking for a partner, especially not a "ten" year old. Whatever may have been the case with John and Jesus, the gurus I've met since then want to see only one halo: their own.) (Neither do I any longer exempt myself from that generalization.)
I have other files to fix before I run out of steam. But don't let me fail to come back and notice also that this may have been the first time (first of many) that I was (unconsciously-)deliberately misunderstood. Encore homeostasis. [With down, search pk blogs.]
I didn't worry as more and more time passed while no one mistook me for a saint. God had to know that I was ready and waiting. Jesus, I reminded myself, didn't launch his ministry till he was thirty. Schweitzer gave the first half of his life to himself. (Of course, for him, indulgence meant things like mastering the Bach organ, becoming a doctor ...)

I was a few months short of my baccalaureate when God paid me the first of His direct visits. The communication was radiant, intense, overwhelming. But there was nothing in it that could be interpreted as specific instructions. It does translate as Compassion. I applied it to my screw-ups in general and believed that the rest of my life was my last chance.

We must respect the other fellow's religion,
but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect
his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

HL Mencken

Next post: Secular Indoctrination

First a note about the notes: My modules breed other modules, none more so than the earliest modules. Any number of the points which follow below may themselves come to be "promoted" to their own module. If I had the resources (including time) to redesign the whole site, there would be a thousand modules and few notes. All links would be to a map of the site as a whole.
Mean What They Say? -- Honesty, Childhood Intentions ...
The child that I was believed that he was honest. That child believed that others — his friend, his pastor, his teacher, his President ... — were honest. If I reached adulthood and didn't keep my childhood intentions, I would want to know why.
Who remembers their childhood intentions, their childhood perceptions, with any seriousness? Mark Twain, for one. Damon Knight, bkMarcus ... me.
It was my Catholic friend's misfortune to be the first of my circle that I noticed to have changed? Was it dishonesty? Forgetfulness? Or could it have been that terrible state, justly feared by all twelve year olds: adulthood? Regardless, my Sunday School hammered away at Catholic errors. Here Catholics erred. Ergo: Catholics are not honest. (A visit to a Catholic confraternity showed me that they were doing the same thing in the other direction.)
Logical? It doesn't matter: it's how I see my opinion as having been formed.
So then: how do I explain my becoming, age thirty-one, a disciple of the (defrocked) Roman Catholic priest (Monsignor) Ivan Illich? Easy. He's one of the few honest Christians of the millennium!

Contribute: Class Distinctions by Education ... Perpetual Student ... Fake Education ...
My Sunday School teacher never made a second payment on that promise, but even the first proved to have been unnecessary: for my confirmation the pastor gave me my own King James version, complete with soft leather, concordance, subject index, red lettering for Jesus' words, and a ribbon place marker sewn into the binding. It's still the Bible I refer to regularly.
I don't know whether my teacher singled me out suspecting that I was the only one bound for college or because he thought I was the only one whose mind might actually be open once there. All these decades later I read between the lines and hypothetically discover that teacher to have been revealing that he hadn't gone to college. His two sons were present in the circle. It's additionally curious if you realize that of the two hundred graduating seniors of my public high school, the teacher's elder son being another of them, all two hundred went to college. I don't say that two hundred stayed there long. I don't say that all went to good colleges: only that the marine sergeant who came recruiting couldn't believe the zero response he got. Flustered, he asked for a show of hands from those planning to attend college. Overwhelmed, he reversed his request. The zero hands raised were much easier to count. Finally a teacher helped sic the sergeant onto a dunce unlikely to graduate high school whether accepted by a college or not.
Of course there was a huge difference in society's habits between the mid to late 1940s when my teacher expressed his fears for me and 1956 when we finally got released from the prison of high school. Who went to college and who didn't meant nothing to me at the time either way. It never occurred to me that perhaps not all of our neighboring parents had gone to college. My mother hadn't finished Hunter, but she'd started it. My father had graduated Columbia and gone on to law school. I just thought such behavior was normal. Nothing special. Very ordinary.
I myself was "in school," either matriculated or employed as a teacher, till I was past thirty. (Of course I've been a teacher all along, but it's been a long time since I was "employed" as one.)
At Columbia, we typically held all other schools but Harvard and Yale in contempt. Many Harvards and Yales would have included Columbia in their contempt.

By my late twenties the soon-to-be founder of FLEX had refined his attitudes on the subject. What I revered was knowledge and learning; what I held in contempt was fake education: "schooling," in Illich's phrase. Edcentric Magazine commissioned me to write an article on education and my efforts at reform. I included a history of schools in the West, most of which they cut in their published version. I recreate it here among the essays. (See History of Universities.)

Dishonesty: Inappropriate Celebration
There was the church, all filled with lilies. We'd just had our annual treat of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. What in hell was he talking about Sartre for? Accurately or inaccurately?
Forty years later I still haven't read all that much Sartre. I certainly now recognize Existentialism to be an enemy of conventional Christianity. But non-the-less the pastor was misrepresenting it. (Even without expertise on the subject I wouldn't hesitate to suggest that Existentialism is an alternative to despair.) (I'll further add that "despair" here is culture specific: surely there must be cultures wiser than to bother despairing at the simple facts of mortality and limited abilities.)

The church, with its wild legend of immortality
Howards End

I rejected that church so long as it had that pastor. I did attend service occasionally at other churches (see Homeostasis), but my habit was broken.
Increasingly, I've come to regret the silence of my protest. I should have waited till the sermon was over, but then stood and addressed the minister before the congregation. In retrospect, I've come to indict that congregation as well, regardless of my own silence. It's one thing for a kid to keep his mouth shut; something else for the elders to have sat still for such misrepresentation.
My reticence on that Easter I see as a form of sloth.

Hell, it was a long time ago, the principals are dead, I may as well name names. The Pastor was the Reverend Harry Mathias. I never confronted Rev. Mathias. I just avoided him. When our paths crossed anyway I just glowered, he turned aside, seeming no more anxious to chat than I. The last time I saw him was a decade or two later and we were both trapped. My mother had a problem. She wanted to confide in her pastor. Why a person of normal to superior intelligence should want to consult with an illiterate I can't imagine. Convention had him as literate and compassionate and wise so the hell with actual experience. She knew I held him in contempt, so she warned me he was coming. I promised to behave.
He arrived. Saw me. Blanched, but quickly recovered, filling the room with blustery bonhomie. He blustered for an hour. He blustered about himself (though some poor old shut-in woman he'd just visited also got mentioned), smacking my mother on the knee every other minute or reaching out and shaking her elbow. His subject was all about how he knew he wasn't a very good preacher. (He shot me his only glance since entering as he said it.) But, boy oh boy, he kept telling his fidgeting audience, was he ever a really good pastor. "Well, Norma, well, Paul, I have the rest of my rounds to run. That's what I am: a pastor." And he left.
My mother sat. Helpless. Grieving. He'd never asked her why she'd called for him. Never inquired about the problem she'd specified existed. Never let her get a word in edgewise.

In retrospect I have to take back my accusation of mispronunciation. His saying "Sart" jarred my French-practiced ears; now prof. pk says Americanized names are fine. Misrepresenting substance is another matter, including misrepresentation of character: a routine practice with perceived enemies. "Slanty-eyes, kike, dumb Pollock, pig, nigger, the only good Indian is a dead Indian, ...": we all recognize the practice. (See my Description vs. Thing.)
But then all's supposed to be fair in love and war, and I now see all churches as sects and nearly any sect as at war with all that is not itself. Do we like our own behavior when we see it in the form of a Muslim jihad? When we're the perceived enemy? How could they do that? How could they be so wrong?
I may have read far less of Sartre than my friends, but there's one point of his I've quoted for decades: "A Jew is anyone that anyone else calls a Jew." Do we imagine that Hitler's SS gave theology tests before throwing people into cattle cars? Do we imagine that the Nazi's bothered to learn the Jews' own method of identifying a Jew? (Judaism is matri-lineal.) Each culture should translate Sartre's perception to its own case: "A black is anyone that anyone else calls black." There is no rational basis to the popular concept of race.
(It's decades since I thought to title my autobiography "The Voluntary Nigger." The Lakota people apply their epithet Wasi'chu to the white man. The literal meaning is "takes the fat." (The implication is that we take it and keep on taking it.) I've long wanted no part of that kind of whiteness.
2001 08 11
My son just sent me a piece on the inimitable RA Wilson which I will quote at (the above-linked) Race.

Turnabout is supposed to be fair play and the "minorities" play the same trick in reverse. I remember a Jewish group protesting a performance of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in New York in the '60s. Didn't they realize that that play is the best break the Jews had ever gotten in Europe up through the Seventeenth Century? Shylock is a villain, but he's a sympathetic villain, a villain with an excuse. His tormentors are far worse: Shakespeare's Venetian Christians are villains who have no excuse. Portia's legalisms are bullshit by any law other than that "it's right to cheat a Jew."
Perhaps they did realize that. Perhaps their motives were complex: the truth of the Merchant of Venice isn't important compared to making our point about anti-Semitism; the truth of the Merchant of Venice is important and we're giving it free publicity. (Call me any name in the rags: just spell my name right.)
The note just below on sloth tells one story from the Vietnam years. Another I'd continued here, but this is getting too heavy for a note. So I promote the balance to the module Misrepresentation. (Lot's of modules started this way.)

The Middle English word for Sloth was acedia and it was redolent of connotations of spiritual sloth. I believe I was guilty of that sin on that Easter in church and on many occasions since.
Jacob Bronowski interpreted Hamlet's abulia — his failure of volition (his failure to act on his revenge in this case) — as a characteristic of youth. For all his brilliant babble to himself, the prince made little sense to the court. Ah, but we know that he was still in school! He may have been near thirty, but in the culture's sense, he was still young, still without responsibility.
I was on the campus of the Columbia Law School in 1969 when a briefcase carrying law professor asked a young cop why Broadway was lined with empty Tactical Forces buses. "Are the tactical >police here?" demanded the silver-templed professor. The cop still had the flushed face of a baby. "Naw," he sneered, "it's da marines, come to kill youse kids." The cop had a baton and a gun. He was an adult. The professor had a briefcase and was standing on a campus. He was a kid.

Killing people is a bad habit.

My own babble, brilliant or otherwise, was also to myself. Some spilled over to my girl friend or to my mother. They made little of it.
My efforts with FLEX my sometime enslavement to my writing, and my wrestling this site into order are compensations, apologies for that acedia.

The introduction to this set of files makes reference to college and the ideals of a liberal arts education. Of course the concepts are more complex than were appropriate for me to explore there. My Social Solutions directory is the place for that. But one aspect of the idea of "college" which is a simple ambiguity, I believe I will begin to develop elsewhere.

Joseph Campbell:
2005 08 07
I just learned! Joe Campbell couldn't get published as he got older! (I'm reminded that his first book, his life's work, decades in the preparation, years in the writing after other years without a publishing connection, was contracted for a total of a couple of hundred bucks.
Some of those previously unpublished works are now being released by the Campbell Foundation, hawked on PBS fund raisers.
All that reminds me: what a shame it is that PBS never taped Alan Watts. As good as Campbell's subject is, his treatment quality, he's a poor speaker. Watts could lay it on, but he was far more commanding.
Bottom line: if Campbell had been even better, then maybe he'd never have been published at all! And if he'd been better yet, he might have been kangerooed: scourged, crucified: one temple's famous solution to publication problems.
2006 07 05

There are books that have influenced me greatly even when I may not have read more than a paragraph or two. Just a title can be inspiring. Lovejoy's Essays in the History of ideas has been yellowing on my shelves for decades. Occasionally I dip, but never till the past few days perservere. Now I see that my childhood idea of something universal beneath the apparent differences of culture and language is very old.
From Tertullian:Thy thinking is vain if thou supposest this to be given only in our language and in the Greek, so that thou doest deny the universality of nature.
... Among all peoples, man is one though his names are various. Every people has its own speech; but the matter of all speech is common to all.

2011 11 06 I've duplicated this module at pKnatz blog but won't delete the corresponding posts here till all is transferred.

Schooling: pk

Schooling: pk drawing's Own Indoctrination
1995 September

(Metaphorically, Meditations of a Slave Against Slavery)

This narrative, reconstructed from the federally sabotaged, will mount in sections: secular training, religious training ... academic fraud ... My purpose with the narrative is biographically thematic more than biographically personal. The point isn't to say "pk had breakfast," "pk found a girl friend," pk went to the movies" ... It's to provide the background for my work. This file in particular introduces the first person in the world to offer networking to the public (as far as I know, the only person ever to endeavor to provide networking for the entire public: the entire world-wide public, that is: no national boundaries. In other words, these files are the biographical adjunct to my Social Solutions or FIX Directory.

Paul Knatz
Biographical Background

Every living thing is unique. Interchangeability is more in the eye of the beholder than in the examinable evidence. Every human is some combination of genetic disposition, cultural inheritance, and individual modification. The latter part varies from person to person: the majority exhibiting little, some more, and some very few manifesting enough modification to frighten the culturally conservative majority.

Ivan Illich identifies school as the reproductive organ of society. For many of us the first school we encounter is Sunday School. A famous bishop said "give me a child till he's six and he'll be Catholic for the rest of his life."

On its heels comes secular school, public for the majority, with some opting for private or religious alternatives. The state tolerates the latter so long as the churches know that their place in modern societies is second place.

More and more people go on to college. The state can relax as more and more institutions of advanced learning come more and more under state control, bearing less and less resemblance to their
institutional forebears. (See my History of Universities.) (See also the following meditation on Brain Washing.)

Some colleges maintain, at least in part, their Humanist tradition of liberal education. What's that? you ask. "Studying the best that's been thought and said": with the sometimes explicitly added "for the purpose of determining what constitutes (or would constitute) the good life."

A tradition cannot be inherited; it has to be earned.

I went to Sunday School. I went to public school. I attended a liberal arts college of the old school: only to discover that the culture at large hasn't caught on to that last part of the liberal purpose. The schools do represent the culture and the culture is not liberal: has interest in its life, not in "the good life." The culture at large cannot conceive of any life but its own as being good: and it homeostatically blocks all possible inputs to the contrary (and can defend itself against charges such as mine by pointing out all the "laws" it has that supposedly protect "freedom."

If you read on, you'll see not only what I am, but the routes by which I came to be what I am.

Next post: Religious Indoctrination


Catholic for Life: Dyed in the Culture's Wool, Atheism ...
A successful indoctrination means they've got you for life: almost. Not all indoctrinations are entirely successful. But all leave marks.
I've known atheists of many colors and descriptions. Nearly all had started with Sunday School or its equivalent and still bore that stamp. Catholic atheists are as distinct from Protestant atheists and Jewish atheists as the latter two are to each other. But even those distinctions are still coarse: your-trained-from-the-cradle atheist won't recognize or identify with the concerns of your Spanish Catholic atheist.
I have never, for one second, been an atheist. Perhaps I've been tempted by agnosticism. Of course I've been called both of those names (and many others as well). Even my own son once referred to me as an atheist. How could he possibly have thought that? Because I'm forever attacking, just as I previously defended, Jehovah?
I once heard a Protestant Minister say: "Well," referring to some theological specific of a competing sect, "if that's what they mean by God, then I'm an atheist."
Perhaps my case is more complicated even than that. I've now gotten a couple of steps further than this old note. See and judge for yourself.

Search pk's blogs also for
Order vs. Magic
gods, God, god
2000 03 01
A new wrinkle occurs to me, a couple of new wrinkles. People who take the concept of god seriously are routinely called blasphemers by the majority of conventional believers. Action is taken on the name-calling by the real atheists: the magicians in priests' robes, judges gowns ... who have to protect the success of their racket from serious criticism. If the Catholic Church really believed in either God or Jesus, could it have done the things it has? But that I point I make at least implicitly throughout my home page: this one is new:
There is something in me that people see accurately (they just mislabel it, getting everything backwards as usual). I am not a believer among believers. But it isn't god I don't believe in. What I don't believe in is their faith, their integrity, their honesty, their honor ... What I don't believe in is our country, our church, our justice ... Oh, we have a country, I don't dispute that. And we have churches. You can see them, walk inside. But is our country what we say it is? Is our religion what we say it is? Is God what we say "He" is? I say not.
I say bring in a non-biased testing system (it would have to be totally alien, at least an AI) and instruct it to compare our descriptions against our realities. Any matches? Not many.

2011 11 10 This piece has been duplicated at pKnatz blog as pk Training: Religious & Secular. When the whole section on my training has been moved to pKnatz, the new, I'll delete these earlier resurrections.

Fundamental Errors

I am about to reconstruct's biographical materials on pk's schooling, training, indoctrination here. I begin though with an insert from the original on epistemological flaws that should perhaps stand alone:
from 1995 September

Our political liabilities relate to our epistemological flaws.
They in turn stem from fundamental religious and cosmological errors.
I've devoted my writing and teaching to correcting them.
That I have had more obstruction than help from our basic institutions
— state, church, media, universities ... —
doesn't bode well for our chances of survival.

Worst, I find the public no better.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Free Learning Exchange

1970, 1996, 2009

Deschooling: Universal Information Network: FLEX: The Free Learning Exchange,
July 1970 (incorporated in NYC 1971)

Freedom of Information

The Paul Knatz chronology at censored report[ed] the purpose of my life as being intended to transform society. My incipient pieces on civilization (AKA: kleptocracy) suggest a duality, even a contradiction, between civilization as we've known it (i.e., kleptocracy) and civilization as we must come to know it. My writing has tried (and thus far failed) to transform our spiritual and intellectual being. Founding FLEX

in New York City [1970], was the central, defining act of the political aspect of my life.

The not-for-profit institution was incorporated in New York State [1971].

The ConceptFLEX was designed to use cybernetics to further the democratization of information storage and exchange: initially, for the purposes of education; eventually for all possible purposes related to the informational empowering of free individuals.
Thinking the world together

The Educational Institution
  1. FLEX invited all repositories of tools associated with learning to advertise their holdings together with specifics of availability. Libraries, lecture halls, instrument rentals ...
  2. FLEX invited all persons competent to teach a skill to register that competence together with fees expected and experience teaching it. A list of awards and prizes was allowed; certificates and degrees, disallowed. Quality control was a function of #4 below.
  3. FLEX invited all individuals interested in a topic to register that interest. Registrants were matched to interest-peers so that activity, from a bull-session to a seminar, could self-form.
  4. A.Registrants of Parts I & II were invited to comment on the qualifications of other registrants in the same field, the results published.

    B.Consumers of the skills and opportunities of Parts I & II were invited to comment on their experience with the resources, the results published.

Facilitate: don't regulate.

Let's note the diction of the name and elucidate connotations as well as denotations:

Free:As in freedom of choice, as in political freedom, as in free marketplace;
not "free" as in "free ride" or "free lunch."
Learning:What we all do as living creatures, what we all must help each other with as social creatures,
a process, not a thing;
not "education" which has been degenerated into a commercial and institutional "product" like a BigMac,
not "school" which restricts how and when we learn as well as what it costs, controlling and ever raising the price, irrespective of quality.
Exchange:What we all do as social creatures, what we must all do better:
the more so as we have let our institutions degenerate into
cancerous parodies of their purported purposes;
but not limited to our sorry-ass, neo-feudal tool, the monetary economy.
Additional ImplicationsFrom the beginning, it was the published intention of FLEX to expand into FIX:
  1. Index all cooperating material resources: not just bookstores, libraries, and lecture halls;
    but clothing stores, vegetable stands, automotive dealers, fish mongers, fishing piers, shipping piers ... everything not excluded to the public.
    Not just for the town, city, or county; but world-wide!
  2. Index all voluntary human resources: not just teachers;
    but healers, legal advisors, machinists, mechanics, electricians, plumbers ...
    Again: world-wide.
  3. Match all interest peers: not just for learning;
    for walking in the park, for discussing the election, to see a movie together, for jumping in the sack ... anything.
  4. A. Peer review
    B. Consumer review.

Do away with school,
FLEX is enough.

Free is still free:

Exchange is still exchange;

But the word learning expands to
Information:Who's who, what's what, where are they, and
what do they demand in return?
Not Gregory Bateson's nor Claude Shannon's deep definitions of information
(see Macroinformation)
merely information as we are all familiar with it:
addresses, phone numbers, services and products offered, feedback on those services and products ...


Harvard, Columbia, and Yale Colleges came first: their universities grew up around them. Columbia University may in part administer my own Columbia College, but the College is the parent and remains the soul. FIX may have come to administer FLEX, but FLEX would forever, had you supported your own best interests, been the heart.

Do away with governmentFIX is enough

My home page is intended to be made up of bite size pieces. This is not just because our culture has so shortened the attention span of all but the most dedicated scholars; I want those scholars too to get the gist in a glance. The supporting modules deal with different aspects of the whole.

In the 20th Century the United States ran it's democracy by 18th-century technology
while the industrial-military complex ran itself by 20th-century technology.
As cybernetics developed who in Washington said,
"Gee, we could use this to upgrade democracy: get rid of the political middlemen"?
Such thoughts come seldom and only from outside the fraternities of middlemen.
(People like Illich and me get booted out of such fraternities.)
Both learning and democracy belong in the public sector.
And the public sector must be taken away from
and kept away from
That's the only way it could be kept away from the corporations.
We had the chance in 1970. That chance is now gone: forever.


Civilization as we Must come to know it:
We must transform civilization, that is, if mankind is to leave a record in the universe of having been anything but a malignant tumor on an otherwise mostly benign biosphere.
My piece on civilization linked from the above file is still far from complete, but the implications are more and more spelled out throughout this site. Human chauvinism, the idea that everything is for us, that we depend on nothing but ourselves and our magical destiny, must go. We need to temper Christianity and all political -isms with a little Taoism.

FLEX logo:
The FLEX logo was designed by Bob Price. Bob's wife Gretchen was also an occasional FLEX volunteer. Bob once said he wanted to write my biography. Bob, I wish you had. But I'm doing the best I can on it myself: right at

Cybernetic Networking
2006 03 07

I'm just catching up via DVD on James Burke's Connections2 series from the BBC. I loved the original series in 1979 but had missed the second installment. Burke traces connections among the punch-hole card programming of the French weavers and the punch-hole card program innovations of the US census takers: and thus, the founding of IBM. Information could be related to mechanics, then could be abstracted by electronics. Government, through the vision of the occasional brilliant contractor or employee, saw cybernetic applications first for the census, then for the military. The census guy founded IBM. Burke then relates how in 1953 Blair Smith of IBM met C. R. Smith, president of American Airlines. The booking of airline reservations was limited by how many people could sit around the file system and use it. IBM saw how the military SAGE project applied to bookings and developed SABRE. The rest is history: business got computerized.
What Burke doesn't relate, what no one but pk drawing relates, is how in 1970 Ivan Illich saw how SAGE, SABRE ... could be applied to education, potentially freeing the public of the school system. In the early Renaissance schools were an efficient way to share resources: the guy with a rare document could read it aloud while a number of interested parties could sit before him, copying. The number was limited to human architecture of the time and to human acoustics. (Could all those people in the back really hear Gandhi's unamplified voice?) Mechanical printing obliterates those acoustic and architectural limits. Electronic computers obliterate the mechanical limits of the press. In 1970 pk heard Illich, saw deschooling as the satellite-aided SABRE-type internet he'd been dreaming of for a decade, saw such an internet as what the public needed to do its own bookings, publish its own information: make the public independent of school AND business AND government: a true democracy, a true free market. Illich talked about cybernetic community bulletin boards; pk wanted satellite connections for every community bulletin board.
But: the buck stopped with the military and with American Airlines. Instead of funding our own internet we swallow the one shoved down our throats: driven by commercial hysteria.

The Buck Stops Here
Don't forget that "buck" is a term from poker. The deal is supposed to pass from player to player. The buck is a physical token used to indicate who will deal the cards next. Passing the deal is convivial and frustrates attempts to monopolize cheating.
In Las Vegas only the house deals the blackjack. In DC only the government deals period. Conviviality can't even get started: and the cheaters' monopolies get carved in stone.

I founded FLEX in 1970. FLEX was incorporated in 1971, Ivan Illich became a trustee in 1971.
FLEX got reported on line in 1999, summarized at this blog in 2009.

All pk materials are being moved to the PKnatz blog. This module is one of the most important of all pk files, a keystone: I copy it there but temporarily leave it here too.

Deschooling Update

I founded the Free Learning Exchange, Inc. in New York City in July of 1970 to try to implement Ivan Illich's recommendation that free societies develop cybernetic public data bases, all information voluntary, to replace government-run, compulsory, schooling. List resources, announce conditions of access, match people based on common interest, and maintain feedback on the resources, both from resource-peers and from consumers of the resource. In other words, both teachers and students get to rate teachers.

Expanded to a universal free market, an e-library of the public's voluntary population and territory, healers and patients would get to rate doctors, lawyers and clients would get to rate attorneys, mechanics and drivers would get to rate auto mechanics ...

I was ready to try this because I had been dreaming of an internet since the early 1960s, had composed fictions about it prior to 1969, and because, as a graduate student and college teacher, I was sick of a life time of experience in which the school (and university) was not required to understand a word that I (or Illich, or Jesus) ever said.

By 1971 FLEX was booming. By 1972 all our free publicity had dried up, contributions still didn't pay the phone bill let alone the rent, and my dozen or so loyal volunteers one by one decided they needed to eat. (The public by the way was not unaided in their financial indifference, but details on that point don't belong in this update.) My wife dissolved our family, kidnapping the kid so that I would have no say in how he was schooled (Brian then being five years of age).

I too tried to eat (a little bit) and by the late 1980s the government, the universities, and the public (dragged along by the government's hand in its pocket) plagiarized the internet we now know from Illich's and my action-ideas. I started a home page, and was soon adding posts on deschooling and my involvement. The public paid no more attention to me then than it had in 1972 so I escalated my attempts to communicate. In 2006 I got the attention of my fraudulence-sated university and the FBI assaulted me into jail. In 2007 a federal court censored my successful posts. The host of my five domains panicked and destroyed all my data. The FBI had stolen my computers. Till March 2008 I had no access to my life's work.

In 2005 I'd started this blog as a place to draft additions to, my deschooling domain. Now it's all that remains. So now I am attempting, slowly, painfully, dangerously, to transfer some of my classic posts: from 1970 (at FLEX) ... and from 1995 (online) ... to this blog. My hypertext online had been dynamic; blogs are very limited in how they can layout text: Mother Hubbard's (cousin's) large family living in a shoe.

Currently, 2009 02 09, I am working to reduce my original FLEX post (its Nth edition, from 2006) to blog form.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

History of Schools

History of Schools & Universities

My Free Learning article was commissioned by EdCentric Magazine and published by them in 1971. It contained my history of schools, not all of which Edcentric printed. In 1997 I republished the piece online using the whole manuscript. The early 2000s saw it moved to, but 2007 saw the fed censor one of my five domains but in fact knock down all five (as well as destroy my life and my business).
I can't take time this 2000 10 02 to blend the following into the prose, but since I'm not confident that I made these points clearly enough below, I temporarily suture them here:
The university was once the only place were scholarship could exist independent of the Church. Now there is no place (but poverty) where scholarship can exist independent of the far from scholarly or truthful government.

Today's universities can discover truths that the government will sponsor the search for. So could medieval priests discover truths that the church was looking for.

Both church and state have been replaced today by a single megalithic kleptocracy. Different states today resemble each other far more than they differ. If a modern equivalent to the late Medieval-early Renaissance university is ever to develop I fear it will have to wait till satellites can exist in space with independent economies (and at distances which would render kleptocratic hegemony pound-foolish per penny).

FLEX and FIX could have fixed everything, but the public declined the invitation to provide the infrastructure that could have given real meaning to our bullshit words about freedom, independence, education, and learning.
Here follows the original module:

Medieval monasteries were populated by Monks among whom vows of celibacy and poverty were common. Their task was to act as librarians and publishers for the sacred texts of Christendom. They housed the old books and scrolls and labored to copy the most important. Any new church got its new Bible from these scribes. Only the religious arm of society had a literature. The secular arm, in contrast, had records. It's literature would soon come into being. For the old literature, kings and magistrates kept priests around to access it where appropriate. (Records of course are far older than literature: as least as far as written literature is concerned.)

The Bible was the Latin Bible, the Septuagint was a relic even the priests had forgotten. The Church had become cozy with its unchallengeable authority. Obviously it didn't want any Martin Luthers stimulating any questions via original readings. Why obvious? Because the medieval Church made the study of Greek a capital crime!

Humanist was the name applied to those who defied the danger and studied Greek anyway.

More and more ancient texts were being unearthed. Aristotle, Ovid ... For centuries the monks' pornography had been pretty much limited to the Song of Songs and to what they themselves doodled in the margins of their illuminations. With Ovid, they had stories of guys sneaking under the floorboards of the latrine to squint up at the girls washing themselves. Some of the monks preferred the wisdom of Aristotle to that of Solomon. Once found, those texts couldn't be lost again.

The monasteries split. Those which kept and copied the Bible also kept the name. Those which kept and copied the Aristotle were called universities. If you had a copy of Aristotle, and word got around, you were invited to bring your copy to a university and to lecture there. That meant: you sat in a room with your copy, and you read it. Aloud. Slowly, so those interested could gather around you with their scribal materials and copy, word by word.

Thus, a principle function of both monastery and university was publisher: the one was a sacred publisher; the other was a secular publisher. Much of our distinction between sacred and secular comes from that distinction, imagined to be real at the time, between Bible and Other; Christian and Pagan ...

Before the Renaissance there were very few secular monasteries or universities. With the new plenitude of old manuscripts in the Renaissance, the universities burgeoned. Many of the modern characteristics of universities were established at that time.

There's a precedent to the "lecturing" part so familiar that it's seldom recognized. In synagogue, the rabbi reads aloud from the Torah to the assembled men. Women can listen through a screen. In Church, the minister stands at the lectern and reads the week's lesson from the Bible. Once upon a time, he was literate; you were not. More importantly, he, the Church, had the book; you did not. In other words, the priest was the guy with the scroll; the congregation was the guys without the scroll. Possession was the entire law.

In the young universities, those who gathered around the books were capable of copying as well as listening. Each then produced a copy and would go to lecture with it at another of the burgeoning universities.

Again: the universities functioned as curator and publisher. There was no pretense of superior understanding. Lecturing, as you may see in the Latin root, was reading, not explaining.

In Chaucer's day, by the end of the Fourteenth Century, a book you didn't copy yourself cost as much as a good middle class house. By the next century, the invention of printing, brought the cost way down. Now the humanists were already poor whether or not they had taken vows, the poorer since they had forsaken advancement in the Church. The monasteries had gardens which produced food if not money; the universities had left that part behind. (The monasteries were part parasitic on the Church (the Church parasitic on the public); the universities were entirely parasitic. Anything that doesn't find its own food, me, for example, is a parasite.) And so printing brought the secular scholars face to face with starvation. The publishers were making and selling the books. Anyone with a house could now house a library. The universities were bereft of their function. So they started explaining and charged tuition for the privilege of listening. It was no longer the case that the lecturer had the book that you wanted and you had to put up with him to get it; now you already had the book. The lecturer's survival depended on your swallowing his new claim to
For the early Renaissance,
the universities were the ideal technique for
taking a scare resource and making it abundant.
In the early universities, the lecturer was your shortest path to "Aristotle." In modern schools, the teacher stands between you and Aristotle. (If the teacher has even heard of Aristotle.)
Contemporary schools are the ideal technique for
taking an abundant resource and making it scarce,
a cheap resource and making it expensive.
Now you have the book. You know how to read. But both you and employers are discouraged from believing you to be capable of understanding the book until it, or a certain number of other books, have been explained to you by an accredited member of the wisdom guild.

The universtiy ... so untouched by the tarnish of reality
Stephen Hunter

Buckminster Fuller said "Do more with less." Buckminster Fuller showed us how to do more with less. Ivan Illich's (combined with my subsequent) designs for networking could have done more for people in 1970 than governments, churches, and schools combined: and for no more (in the way of hardware and software) than now uses to distributed DVDs. (Of course we didn't have contemporary software or hardware, but we understood what was needed and were ready to write what was necessary: (if my associates could have written Fortran for IBM, they certainly could have written a peer matching application for all of us together with a community Rolodex-with-a-feedback-feature).

FLEX, as I pointed out at CIDOC to an Illich suspicious of Fuller, could do more with less.

(I followed Illich "because" he embodied Fuller (because he embodied God). (Not infallibly however; Illich seemed to mistrust Fuller as representing materialism! Mechanism!)

(I saw Fuller as god the maker, the creator, the architect. I sensed that Illich saw Fuller as a forger of idols.)

Anyway, FLEX offered to do more with less. The public showed a firm preference for Church-State-School-...: with doing ever-less-and-less for ever-more-and-more.

(Don't forget that it was for Fuller that I had written The Model! Release, which I wrote for Illich, hasn't yet impressed even Illich fans (has anyone read it?), whereas the Model has heard sucked breath and been grapevined for four decades.)

In an oral culture, the less experienced, the less skilled gather around the more experienced, the more skilled, to learn. No, not during the hunt, not while gathering the tubers or tilling the soil; in the evening, around the fire, or at Sabbath or some other seasonally rhythmic meeting. The boys learn from the men, the girls from the women, the men learn from the chief, the child-bearing women from the menopausal veteran, and so forth.

As detailed above, school structure has this history. Now I emphasize that the phenomenon has sub-speciated since. The Renaissance was birthed by the interested gathering around new and rare resources. Before long, other forces and interests came into play. When Shakespeare wrote of a Hamlet, understood to be a figure from the past, having been sent abroad (from Denmark to Wittenberg) to school, his contemporaries recognized the practice.

(English aristocrats had no need to go abroad: it's the wogs who have to do that. There were plenty of schools for aristocratic brats right there in England. The minor aristocrats might have to leave their county; the major aristocrats could practically walk. Scottish George Gordon, once he came in line for the Barony of Byron, was sent to Harrow: a sizable hike from Scotland.)

These schools were called "public," meaning they were for the future rulers of the public (and also for future literate advisors to the rulers: Chaucer, and Polonius, and Horatio could go too. What happened to them there would be exposed to a horror-stricken middle class by the Nineteenth Century. They were frozen, starved, beaten ... Lord Byron complained and joked endlessly about his "kibes."

More than a little something of these "public" schools was inherited by the public schools of the United States. Not much of Virgil may have gotten through, but the birch rod came unobstructed.

OK. Monks got kibes as part of their Christian asceticism. Humanities scholars inherited it. Poverty. Celibacy. So what's going on? English aristocrats were hardly celibate or impoverished. Ah: while they were young, they were. English law did not bring income even to the heir by primogeniture till he came into his majority. At home in the castle there were maids all over the place. Not much privacy, but lots of nooks and crannies. The whole rest of the world was filled with peasant girls. Once at his helm, the castle did become private: Everybody out! Except you with the canapé tray and you with the soup tureen and you with the raven flax and décolletage. Et cetera.

Like dear St. Francis of Assisi I am wedded to poverty, but in my case the marriage is not a success.
Oscar Wilde, after jail, in broken health

I nest this mini-history within the others for a reason. I have a hypothesis about such schools. In simple, it is:
The English punished their aristocrats in advance for the crimes they would commit one they achieved their majority. For the period of their adolescence, the silver spoon was taken out of their mouth and the birch rod was laid across their back. Remember the male youth of Romeo and Juliet?
Sixteen years old, armed, and murdering each other in the street? The Duke banishes Romeo. How many of the other murders were even mentioned? How about blood shed by the inevitable "pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders"? Absolutely: never punished? never even mentioned!
I feel sorry for all of us in overpopulated, over(mis)organized society (kleptocracy): but I feel especially sorry for the majority on the receiving end of the birch rod who never get handed the sword or the castle. Punish the aristocrats, fine; but why punish the whole population with instruments of torture designed for the lords? Public school.

The immediately above was inserted this 2000 02 24. I sat down with three ideas and have written only one. When the others reoccur to me, I'll return. I can't ask them to come now: I've got to get back to the most important of all things: Macroinformation. [With censored, see my blog of the same name.]

By the Twentieth Century, with the development of paperbacks and the existence of some acreage still to be deforested, a book became, for the first time in the history of the species, cheap entertainment. But some monastic habits find vestigial survival in the schools, most notably the habits of poverty and chastity. Lord Byron's matriculation at Cambridge might as well have been a circus parade—some students today drive their 'Vettes to campus. But most are borrowing money to stay poor. Their expectation of course is that this prolonged dependency will be handsomely compensated in future.

Though student marriages have increased over the decades, the expectation of student chastity wasn't blown apart until the 1960s.

All societies educate their young. Illich wrote that schools are the reproductive organ of society. "The rationally tested truth of things" is one of the most minor aspects of the meaning of "education" and may be near to wholly absent in what is meant by the term in most schools. Our concern is to pass on both our beliefs and our techniques. The beliefs include superstition, credulity, time honored lies, and so forth. The techniques are our arts and crafts, our technology. There's seldom either committee or budget to review the quality of the technology. It's normally more "art" than science.

2002 05 30 I've long been proud of my illustration above of school's purpose in making abundant information scarce but I now feel shamed that I've still not expressed another characteristic of schools with equal simplicity: schools are authority based, not fact based. The inquisitor's version of things is immediately, unchallengeably recorded as official; not the heretics. The graduate's thesis is on file in the library; not the thesis the faculty ganged up on. It's pure kleptocracy: "history" is recorded by the thieves and murderers (who always record it that they're "peaceful and law abiding" (or whatever fiction is politically fashionable in that era).

2000 02 13 I return here to emphasize in this module something implicit around the site that I don't think I've stated baldly enough yet. Calling the Middle Ages the Dark Ages may over-simplify complexes of things but there's still something to it. Christian Europe was very far from being the world's intellectual or social leader however much it claimed to be the spiritual leader of the sub-celestial world. Neither was China at that time. At least for the latter case, Jared Diamond explains why: they were too successful as a monopoly. Progress comes from difference, competition, contention. I say (and imagine that Diamond has or would also) that the same applies to Medieval Europe. Christian Europe had turned into an intellectual vegetable. Power and intellect don't go together. (One reason I've never striven for power.) It was the "two literatures," however factitious the distinction, that spurred the Renaissance.

Now consider this: I say that the American world has returned (as power always will) to a mono-culture. I say that the universities are the mono-culture medium, just as the Church was. The universities do not stand apart from the government and haven't for at least fifty years now. (Good God, no: they get funds from the government. Of course there's a pretense of standing apart, but how real is it? I'll come back and develop this section further. Before I leave though let me establish this topic: how rationally structured are universities? They're still medieval. Galileo couldn't show his satellites of Jupiter to any public, not even to his supposed peers; only to a bunch of cardinals. They united against him and his evidence and that was that: at least temporarily. (Neither the professors nor the cardinals were likely to have imagined that centuries of people would ever inspect their doings.) I started to pave a segue to my points about Scholasticism and nominalism in Shakespeare's sonnets and the university cardinals slammed the door hard. Like an idiot, I thought I could go around them: direct to the public. (Who else was I going to appeal to? another cardinal?) I learned the hard way that there is no public. Only a bunch of morons waiting to be told what's what by the mono-culture of university/government/press.

(Joke:What's the opposite of diversity?






1998 10 19 It's around a year now that I've been promising to get back here to add more on economics and education. At the moment, I don't even remember what I primarily had in mind. It's a different tack that returns me to this page today. I've traced the history of the university. I've highlighted the crafty way in which the original institution has reversed the spirit of its function. Now I ask:
What was the Identity of the university?
What is its present Identity?

Yale University was founded by the volunteer faculty assembling themselves and pooling their private collections of books onto one common table. Clearly Yale, at least at that moment, was in the humanist tradition described above: the university was its library.

The university is resources: human and symbolic, records and expertise with those records.

In the 1950s both the Democratic and Republican parties were soliciting Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president. He was finessed into the presidency of Columbia University for practice. My Russian literature professor told the following delicious story: Ike held his first meeting with the faculty. He said he intended to be a hands-on president. He'd be accessible: have an open-door policy. Any employee of the university would be welcome to come through that door at any time, he said.

A professor emeritus stood. He told Ike that that sounded very nice but reminded him that he was addressing the faculty. "There's only one employee of the university present in the hall: and that's you! We are the university!

That's not too far removed from my Yale story: the faculty is clearly an important part of the resources. By the latter part of the 1960s the students at Columbia made headlines by vociferously claiming themselves to be an integral part of the university. My fellow students of the 1950s wouldn't have dreamed of such a claim.

But: by the 1950s, Columbia University had accepted a cyclotron: not as a gift from alumni, not purchased from income from endowments by the trustees, but from the United States government. Were there any strings attached? When has the government ever given anything without strings attached? Ike won. When the students acted up, the administration, not the faculty, called in tactical police.

The day Columbia accepted a cyclotron from the fed
was (still another) beginning of the end of the free university:
and only sadder days have followed in our silly period of ahem history.

Columbia is a private institution, older than the United States. It's original name was King's College, the land grant coming from authority in England. Its present land holdings include much of the most cherished parts of New York City: downtown, midtown, Morningside Heights, and uptown. A school song goes:

Oh, who owns New York?
Oh, who owns New York?
Oh, who owns New York?
The people say.
Why, we own New York.
Yes, we own New York.

C - O - L - U - M - B - I - A !

Did the rebellious students have a right to trash faculty offices and papers? Certainly not. Did the students have a title with their name on it to show the police before bringing claim against them for trespassing? No. Did the administration? I don't think the courts would want to face this one.

The university is an idea. That's the word John Henry, Cardinal Newman chose to title his book on the subject. The idea was clear in the early Renaissance. The idea was clear at the founding of Yale. Today it's a muddle.

One thing's for sure: whoever can call the police and have them come has a claim to practical ownership, whatever the centuries of tradition and papers say.

How many more "favors" from the government have slipped into habitual acceptance? (Habitual acceptance leads to dependency.) More than we could count. Untraceable.

How independent do the independent universities remain? I have my answers. If we heard all the answers, we'd have a real muddle.

T. S. Eliot said it:
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a Bang but a whimper.

Related Pieces
being added to pk blogs to recreate censored domains

Crichton, State of Fear, on universities


Capital Crime
2000 01 24 Only just discovered a serious error in the version of this piece I've had mounted now for years: I'd written that the Church was ignorant that there was a Greek version of the Bible. I should have said that it was more like they'd forgotten. The Church honored Saint Jerome for doing the translating. But I can't overstate how unhappy the Church was with the prospect of any new Saint Jeromes.

Professor: Ike's library
My professor also recounted the tale of the first party he attended at Ike's President's Mansion on Morningside Drive. He was bored. He drifted into the library. Ike's books were floor to ceiling. It was the kind of library you see in the movies, where you need a ladder rolling from a track to get at anything. My professor noticed all the vellum bindings, the gold letters, the titles proclaiming the Complete Works of This One and That One. "Ah, Pushkin" (or some such favorite), he muttered.
But when he went to slip the volume from the shelf to his hand, it was no dice. The Complete Works of Pushkin turned out to be one long panel of tooled leather adhered to a wooden dummy. He poked further. There were no books in the President's library! It was all dummies! All for show!
What did it actually show though to someone who looked?
Ten years ago my poverty after writing my third novel landed me once again in Florida where I wouldn't need much in the way of shelter or clothing: just food and electricity for the Toshiba T-1100. (I had to write!) I soon learned that the people at the local library didn't know much about books either. I fled up the road where I'd heard there was a college.
Every ten or fifteen years I try to reread all of Shakespeare. I never succeed, but it's OK if I get through six or eight before other things distract me. At least I have the sense to choose first the plays I know least well. Why read Lear for the eighth time if I've only read Timon once? (Attendance at stage renditions run in similar proportions. Yes, I have seen Timon actually performed. Once. New York. Shakespeare in the Park. '60s-ish. Could have been the '70s.)
Anyway, 1989: I'm due. Hmm. Measure for Measure.
There's a weak spot to shore up. I find I don't need permission to enter the stacks at the college library: stacks are all there are. I find the English literature section quickly enough, all half a row of it. Not like the Columbia Library where you can get your week's exercise browsing the English literature rows just once. But at least there's a complete Shakespeare. And there's Measure for Measure.
Not the variorum edition I'd like. It's an edition I don't recognize. No vellum. No gold letters. But neither is it a wooden fake. Eighteen-something or other for the publishing date: over one hundred years old. Never heard of the editor. Or the publisher. "Donated to the South Florida Community College" some dozen years earlier is rubber stamped inside the cover. It's only then that I notice: the pages don't flip. The pages haven't been cut! The text is in there, in its womb, as it were.
I kind of like the continental habit of cutting the pages as you read. Every Frenchman has a letter opener as an essential tool for reading. No one has ever read any pages of this book beyond the fly leaf! In a hundred years! And it's the college library's only copy! This library's Shakespeare is a virgin!
I investigate further: the majority of the series, book after book, first quire to last, had its hymen intact! Furthermore, it was the only complete Shakespeare there.
This is a college?
Now what has that word come to mean?

1998 10 23 Come to think of it, it got worse. Some time later I was back at that library to review a proposition by Wittgenstein. I found nothing. The reference librarian was being less than helpful when she suddenly perked up. "Oh, here's comes the head of the science department." I transferred my inquiries to him. "Who?" he asked. "Ludwig Wittgenstein." "Who's he?" "Only the most important philosopher of the Twentieth Century." He glowered at me. "That's a matter of opinion." Acid spit between his teeth. How could Wittgenstein be important if this "Chairman" had never heard of him?
"It certainly is not a matter of opinion." My son seethed with indignation on hearing the story. "Completely apart from tracing the influence, all you have to do is quantify the references by other philosophers. It's a statistical certainty."
But of course this head of a collegescience department was merely bluffing, masking his ignorance with the familiar know-nothing cliché. But the bluff was stupid. Hadn't he picked up that the person standing before him wasn't himself totally ignorant on the subject? There is something worse than ignorance: arrogant ignorance.

Who owns the school?

A neighbor turned out to be the widow of the retired head of the music department at some university in Greensboro, NC. In I forget what context I told her my professor's Eisenhower story, fully expecting a resonant listener. I was wrong.
"That's absurd," she said. "The faculty thinking they were the university. The very idea!"
I've never had any truck with any state college or university. I've matriculated and taught only in private, independent colleges and universities. FLEX was the ultimate independent institution. It was deliberate as well as fortunate.
I never had any idea how fortunate until conversing with my neighbor. She knew nothing of the relevant histories. Despite all the revolutions of this millennium, by its end, we've turned back into serfs. Owned by the king.

If you don't know Wittgenstein, Daniel Dennett provided a good short overview for Time's The Century's Greatest Minds [March 29, 1999, p 88-90].
The ignorant community college "Chairman" reminds me of the retarded brother of a guy my sister went out with in high school. That family was sitting at the diner table. The father, a high school teacher, math or history or something, mentioned Leonardo. "Who's that?" the dumb younger brother asked? "Why Leonardo was a genius," replied the father.
The son/brother "retard" was quick with his refutation: "He can't be: if he were a genius, he'd be famous!"
How can you beat that logic?
When the Beetles were at the height of their fame, when Paul was quoted as having said they were more famous than Jesus, the Beetles were still not the world's most famous musicians: Om Kalthoum was.
You never heard of her? You don't know anyone who ever heard of her? Irrelevant and immaterial. Try asking in Egypt. Try asking in Saudi Arabia. Try asking in a place where even politics ground to a halt when she sang on the radio. Take a world-wide survey.
I'd like to know how typical this "science" professor's ignorance was: Dennett comments that "Unfortunately, Wittgenstein's work has not been appreciated by many scientists." [p 90]

2011 11 05 I've duplicated this post at pKnatz, but leave the source file (and the graphics) here: till all can be moved.