Schooling: The Hidden Agenda

School_on_HillThis is the transcript of a talk given by Daniel Quinn, to an audience of homeschoolers .  Quinn first caught my eye with his novel, Ishmael. Several friends of mine had read the book and spoke highly of it. Later, when I began studying modern schooling, I discovered this little gem. Enjoy!

I suspect that not everyone in this audience knows who I am or why I’ve been invited to speak to you to day. After all, I’ve never written a book or even an article about home schooling or unschooling. I’ve been called a number of things: a futurist, a planetary philosopher, an anthropologist from Mars. Recently I was introduced to an audience as a cultural critic, and I think this probably says it best. As you’ll see, in my talk to you today, I will be trying to place schooling and unschooling in the larger context of our cultural history and that of our species as well.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my work, I should begin by explaining what I mean by “our culture.” Rather than burden you with a definition, I’ll give you a simple test that you can use wherever you go in the world. If the food in that part of the world is under lock and key, and the people who live there have to work to get it, then you’re among people of our culture. If you happen to be in a jungle in the interior of Brazil or New Guinea, however, you’ll find that the food is not under lock and key. It’s simply out there for the taking, and anyone who wants some can just go and get it. The people who live in these areas, often called aboriginals, stone-age peoples, or tribal peoples clearly belong to a culture radically different from our own.

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The Zen of Fight Club

boxer

In a 1996 Chuck Palahniuk published a novel. The book follows the experiences of an unnamed protagonist struggling with insomnia. Inspired by his doctor’s exasperated remark that sleeplessness is not suffering, he finds relief by impersonating a seriously ill person in several support groups. An encounter with a fellow “tourist”, Marla, drives him back into insomnia until he meets a mysterious liberator named Tyler Durden and establishes an underground fighting club as a form of radical psychotherapy.

In 1999, director David Fincher adapted the novel into a film of the same name, which received positive critical response and generated  a cult following, despite lower than expected box-office results.

Fight Club, while fictional, contained several tidbits of wisdom.  Most of the “liberation dialog” was spoken by the imaginary character of Tyler Durden.  While many saw the value of the novel and the movie as entertainment,  some of us relished its revolutionary vision.

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The Wisdom of Ed Abbey

ed_abbey_tvEdward Abbey was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies. Of his more than 20 published books, his best-known works include the novel  The Monkey Wrench Gang, and the non-fiction work Desert Solitaire.

Abbey’s abrasiveness, opposition to anthropocentrism, and outspoken writings made him the object of much controversy.  Environmentalists from mainstream groups disliked his more radical “Keep America Beautiful…Burn a Billboard” style.

Sometimes called the “desert anarchist,” Abbey was known to anger people of all political stripes.  He differed from the stereotypical as politically-correct, leftist environmentalist  by disclaiming the counterculture and the “trendy campus people”, saying he didn’t want them as his primary fans, and by supporting some conservative causes such as immigration reform and the National Rifle Association. He reserved his harshest criticism for the military-industrial-complex, “welfare ranchers,” energy companies, land developers and “Chambers of Commerce,” all of which he believed were destroying the West’s great landscapes.

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