Monday, September 27, 2010

Kiss & Tell

Where do schools get the right to detain children for training?
Even if they have the right, and those who bestowed it had the right to bestow it, where did they get the right to test children?
And where, oh, where, did they then get the right to blab the results to strangers?
In other words: some school board, accountable neither to God nor to scholars, kidnaps your kid, tests your kid ... and decades later blabs your kid's test scores to some college, to IBM, to GM or Ford ... to Washington DC!

Individuals don't have the same standards as institutions.

When I was a kid our warring parents sent my sister and me to a summer camp, to see if the two of them alone could do better than the four of us together. Star Crest was the name of this camp: woods, a lake, canoes ...

pk (and cute girl)
at Star Crest Camp

There was a kid in my dorm who shit his bed regularly. The counselors displayed his shitty sheets on a line behind the dorm: airing the dirty laundry of the one social retrograde for all to see. I ask you: who made that decision? The counselors? the camp administration? the sleeping-shitter's parents? Someone explained to little me that public humiliation was supposed to embarrass the incontinent into learning bowel control in their sleep: bright, huh?
I don't know, but I imagine that in time this kid did learn to shit less in bed; but did his humiliations help? I doubt it.

Humans evolved as a social species. The group does things as a group that it wouldn't tolerate from individuals. If I throw stones at a woman and kill her, it's murder; if the group throws stones and kills her, hollering that she's an adulteress, it's justice, it's what God said ... it's anything the group agrees to call it. (2011 09 17 Check out the movie Agora: the stoning of Hypatia, the math genius, the Christians calling her a whore and witch.)

I'm an adult now (some of the time, some people would agree) and I see more and more behaviors by groups that I can't endorse. I see gathering the young into state-run pens called "schools" and then publiclly displaying the kids' shitty sheets, in the form of grades, as appalling. If General Sternwood hires Philip Marlowe to test his youngest daughter to see if she's a nymphomaniac, I see that as General Sternwood's business, and Philip Marlowe's, and possibly Camilla Sternwood's too; not my business, not your business. If Philip Marlowe markets his findings through Geiger's dirty bookstore, now he and General Sternwood begin to resemble Camp Star Crest in my mind.

If my father (or mother) (or I myself) hire a math teacher to test and grade how well I know my multiplication tables, I see it as every bit my father's, my mother's, and my right to do so. I see it as the hired teacher's right to perform the test, and I see it not only as a right but an obligation on the teacher's part to share the results with my father, or my mother, or me: depending on who hired him. If however the math teachers tells our neighbors, it's a violation of trust: far worse than the braggart telling the boys at the bar that Cindy let him feel her up behind the harvester. That's bad enough — but now tell me this: what if the teacher also blabs my grade to the municipal authorities? what if the municipals then blab my grade to some university? what if that university then sets itself up to blab that grade to IBM? to GM? to the US ARMY?

Under government your private business becomes the business of organizations that have no business knowing your business. But of course it's our fault: we let the government get away with a little arrogance, soon their insolence is boundless.

Kissing and telling is an ethical matter if it's kissing we're talking about. If it's institutional betrayal of confidence we're talking about, as in the recording and publishing of grades, the government ought to be made to walk the plank: and would be, if there were more than two or three real people in the society. But here's a situation where I'm all in favor public disclosure of intelligence test results. My IQ not the state's business; but the President's IQ is very much my business, and yours. The school teacher's SATs and GREs are very much public business, as is the IQ of the rude lady at the motor vehicle bureau.

Every public official should have their IQ tattooed on their forehead.

And you know, maybe the public should know the IQ, the SATs, and the GREs of Fortune 500 CEOs too.

The CEO of X Corp has an IQ of 135? Why so low? How come the zillion people with IQs of 140 or 150 or 180 didn't get the job? That's what we ought to know: what percentage of highly intelligent people are unemployable? got sandbagged, like me?

We're a society of people of average intelligence avoiding communication with people of high intelligence. We listen to stupid gods, why don't we listen to smart gods now and then?

Friday, September 17, 2010


To deschool means to resist coercion: to resist involuntary attendance at rituals. No church "should" compel attendance at a "mass"; no government should compel attendance at a history class. Deschooling has other meanings which Illich argued in his book on the subject of 1970, and which I've argued as founder of the Free Learning Exchange, Inc. in 1970 (and since): from soap boxes, in newsletters, on the phone, in fliers ... and online since 1995 (when I added philosophy and politics to business activities online): no compulsory curriculum, no substitution of certificates for demonstration of skills (it's OK to ask for proof of typing skill, illegit to ask to see a diploma) ...

Here by the way is a picture of pk and his son bk from that period: 1969 or 1970: it's a passport photo: we were on our way to see his grandma in Switzerland.

pk, bk passport
I share an email I just sent to bk:

Today's Straight Dope has this question: "People diagnosed as clinically obese are sometimes said to have a hormonal condition that makes them unable to lose weight even if they cut calorie intake to a minimum. Surely if you forced them to exercise while making certain their dietary intake and vital signs were healthy, they'd be slim and trim in a couple of years. In the end, isn't obesity always in the mind and not in the hormones? — Guy Scarsbrook"

I love it except for the "if you forced them to exercise" part. Who's "you"? I believe mama should be able to force Benjamin to eat his carrots and papa ought to be able to force Benjamin to wear a hat in the winter, but who else should have rights to force anybody to do anything? People can force people, but then they're rapists, thugs, muggers ... without general social support. Only parents of infants "should" be exempted.

I say "should" meaning: IF we want life to be what I (or any speaker) want(s). (If we don't, if we want to be dead, then we "should" misbehave in all possible manners.)

Anyway, groups, political groups, seem generally to think without thinking that force is OK if the mass of men do it ... then that that force is OK if the mass of men appoint the brown shirts to do it ...

The anarchist who first invited me in 1970 to be interviewed with her Free U anarchists on WRVR radio was called by her anarchists "Mercury." They met at the Methodist Church on Sheridan Square in the Village: big People's Yellow Pages banner out front: they were doing community bulletin boarding before Illich, before me!

Mercury also had a speaking gig at Hunter College, and invited me along. in 1971 I was getting most of my speaking gigs through her. (She and that group also introduced me to a wonderful bunch of European anarchists.) (Though my favorite guy of all was local: he wore a Stamp Out Human Chauvinism button!)

Anyway, at Hunter: some woman wanted to "take" children from abusing parents. Clearly she seemed intent on "helping" children: children who weren't hers! and was willing to trespass to do it. I wanted us to watch our trespasses. So I dragged my feet with her.

She didn't get it. No one got it.

The original email has been edited a bit: improved I hope.

PS: Benjamin is the four year old son of bk and his wife Nathalie.
PPS: There was a Quaker church which also supported the Sheridan Square anarchists. All FLEX literature was printed by me on a Quaker owned multilith in a loft on W 18 St. (Mercury taught me to clean it, ink it, run it ... and loaned me the plates, paper ...)
The only church that supported my FLEX was the United Methodist Women division. Every church ought to have.

PSS: Jan came over as I had the above pic open in Photoshop for retouching: I cloned out the passport stamps, fixed my teeth a bit ... Jan didn't know me in 1969, had seen only one photo from 1971: she assumed that the above was a pic of Brian and Benjamin; not pk and bk! Hilary, bk's mom agrees: she likes our passport photo, always did, and sees a lot in common among grandpa, son, and grandson.

Jan knocked my socks off when she noted resemblances between pk of 1970 and Shakespeare of the woodcut in the 1623 Folio (which I always have on the wall by my computers)! Sure: look at the shape of the hair over the ears.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Convivial: Freedom From Religion

Recreating / Teaching / NoHier / DePro/Deschool /
Health Care — Feedback
Freedom From Religion

Catherine Kaltner
Catherine Kaltner

Catherine was my best friend and my patron from 1990 till her death in 2004, aged ninety-six: my only patron: my best patron ever!

Here's the basic story, real quick: Catherine was ninety-five. She got ill. Just before she went terminal and before I arranged for help and services through Hospice, I arranged for services through a medical agency. A nurse came. I showed the nurse Catherine's Living Will. I showed the nurse where Catherine was utterly clear: she didn't want any religious services, any prayers. Don't try being a missionary to this ancient atheist.

I didn't impose my religiosity on Catherine; she didn't impose her bleak views of the cosmos on me. I wanted the nurse to be on the same page with us.

Immediately upon being introduced to Catherine, the nurse started preaching at her! I reminded her of her obligation. Oh, no, she said, talking about God is good!

I got rid of that nurse fast: and that nursing service. But no one seemed able to understand what had been wrong. No one cared why we objected to the nurse. It might as well have been her breath! She entered our house under false pretences. She committed fraud. She was a menace to society.

No one cared. Next nurse, next agency. When I didn't like the second agency either, that was tough. You can have, as Illich cracked, Ford or Chevy, but not good transportation.

revisions will follow:

Understand: I am a follower, call it a disciple, of Ivan Illich: because I recognize him to be a disciple of Jesus. I think the society, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, in which he was not only a priest, but a Monseigneur, recognized it too, because they defrocked him: took his resources, tried to take his influence. I see that the society recognizes me as his disciple, that is, as a disciple of Jesus, because I've remained unpublished, gotten sabotaged, misrepresented, wrongfully interfered with, arrested, wrongfully convicted ...

Catherine didn't want to hear any of that. She supported me because she loved me; not because she understood or believed anything I wrote or said. Catherine couldn't read a word I'd ever written, neither could she read Illich, nor did she want to try. I also loved her, and it had nothing to do with philosophy. (And I was glad not to repeat the mistake I'd made with my wife (and my son): expecting them to understand.)

Further understand: I seconded Illich in opposing compulsory ritual. I further seconded Illich in opposing state interference with any human behavior. And I was with him 100% in his opposition to our dependence on the imposed services of experts, of professionals. In other words, we're for liberty.

I further supported his criticism of the US and its foreign aid: particularly in Third World countries. It's bad enough that the US has cut down its forests and covered everything with concrete: do with really think that we should "lead" Peru to do the same? Illich said that giving Peru GM trucks could do more harm to Peru than sending a tank and opening fire!

Once again, Catherine didn't follow any of that (any more than did anyone else I was aware of). What Catherine did do was get old: very old. She was blind when I met her, and crippled. She was really blind and crippled as medical incompetence supervised her getting terminal. OK, she'd had enough by then anyway, never mind that medical incompetence killed her a little earlier than might have transpired without their administrations.