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A Disrespect for Knowledge


Editor's note: Today, Bridging Differences returns to the conversation Diane Ravitch started Tuesday, before yesterday's entries on William Ayers.

Dear Diane,

There’s a connection, as you suggest, between the economic crisis we’re now in and our misbegotten effort to “reform” schools. Maybe it’s got something to do with our disrespect for knowledge.

An odd thing for me to say? Not at all, but I realize that there are some (maybe even you?) who might think that my argument on behalf of “less is more” in terms of curriculum coverage is because I don’t respect knowledge. Quite the opposite. It’s because I honor real knowledge so highly.

We’ve gone from an economy based on expert tinkerers and close observers—to one that rests on generic training in “how to think.” “Critical thinking” and “problem solving”—which progressives like me promote—have been taken to their extreme absurdity. We’ve disconnected them from their base—deep knowledge.

I’ll bet most (all?) of the big-time school reform outfits today are headed by people who have not read more than one or two of the 100 books I recommended at the end of "In Schools We Trust." They have no idea that their latest gimmicks have been tried before. In 1971, the Center for Urban Education published a book called "Education and Jobs" by Ivar Berg. It’s controversial, outrageous, and worth reading if that subject interests you. In 1974, David Tyack wrote "The One Best System." Worth a read if one's current pursuit is “systemic” replication. I spent the summer before opening CPESS curled up with "The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform" by Seymour Sarason. Right or wrong, these are works that anyone tackling the same issues today and claiming to seek a new paradigm for solving them ought to be aware of. Then there are the works of Meier and Ravitch, of course.

Instead, they think they’ve “discovered” pay-for-results. And hold-overs, and zero tolerance... Hah. They’re the “best and the brightest” with generic smarts and a willingness to ignore the “special interests” of labor and management, not to mention parents and kids—a new breed with nothing to learn. History can teach them nothing. It’s the low quality of the people who went into education, plus laziness and unionism that got us where we are, they claim. What else do we need to know?

They represent a mindset that has been a disaster for American economic prosperity, for the auto industry, the banking business, the publishing industry, not just schooling. The days when these fields were led by people who knew autos, banks, and books is long gone. (Silicon Valley still rests on the tinkerer craftsmen, perhaps) And while McCain says it’s all about “greed,” he has forgotten that “greed” is what Milton Friedman was counting on. Is he planning to outlaw it? But even Friedman imagined that greed required knowledge.

The inventive “play” of the wizards who have undermined America is of an interesting sort. In their playpens nothing actually gets built. They don’t get their hands dirty in the mud, they don’t construct their skyscrapers block by block. They just shout “mine,” “I did it.” If it doesn’t work, they move on to other playpens—but always richer than before.

It’s probably not a coincidence that my brother and I developed second careers in our thirties that embedded us in the making and doing part of life. He became an architect, and I became a kindergarten teacher. To our parents' surprise. We were attracted, in part, to work where we could see concrete results that touched on how people lived their lives. But we were also attracted because both architecture and teaching were crafts that required hands-on expertise and knowledge. There was no way to fake it. Both architect and teacher played incessantly with the tools and materials of their trade, got their hands dirty, loved the stories that went with their craft.

The American genius lay precisely, I still think, in this “hands-and-minds-on” approach. It’s what people educated in schools and workshops shared—a merging of “street” smarts and “book” smarts. The schools we deserve need to build on that genius. At best they are a genuine place of work—a laboratory, library, artist’s studio, and marketplace of ideas for teachers, kids, and their fellow citizens.

I used to say that, “if they ran their businesses the way they run our schools, we’d be in trouble.” I suspected they took their workplaces more seriously. Maybe I was wrong. Because, oops, we are in trouble on both fronts. Short-term greed trumped long-term wisdom in American industry just as it is increasingly trumping wisdom in classrooms and schools across the country.


P.S. Our reader, Brian, is inclined—like me at times—toward libertarianism. (Unlike me, he pairs it with being a Republican.) What we have to hash out (the 'Brians’ and I) is the role of democracy as a form of accountability.


One of the reasons, I believe, people are cynical about trusting teachers and the knowledge of practitioners, is they question why this model of trust hasn't produced "student achievement" in the past. My question for you Deborah is this... was this model ever fully implemented, and if so, was it successful? This discussion also rests on whether one buys into the notion that the American school system is failing and standardized tests are the best measure of student learning.


I agree with you that "critical thinking" and "problem-solving" have been taken to absurd extremes. I would add “hands-on learning” and a few others to that list.

As one who may have misunderstood your ideas, I apologize if I have jumped to conclusions. In any case, I respect you and learn from your perspective no matter how adamantly I may sometimes disagree.

I do have trouble understanding why you emphasize so many things other than subject matter. To me, there is nothing more “hands-on” than delving into a poem, play, historical question, or mathematical problem. You touch upon these things here and there, but I would love to know more about the CPESS engagement with specific subjects, topics, and works of literature. What do the students read? How do they discuss it? What does a curriculum actually look like?

I agree with you up to a point that "less is more"--but how much less, and how much more? Frantic cramming is no good--but children are capable of absorbing a great deal, and can thrive on such learning. And it stays with them for their lives.

You write that “this American genius” lies in a “hands-on and minds-on” approach, a combination of “street smarts” and “book smarts.” But there is quite a range, and the words have many possible meaning. Schools are so disposed toward small group activity, “multiple intelligences,” and so forth that the quieter work is pushed to the periphery. This is sad for our students, who have so many distractions as it is. We need much more room for quiet thought, tough questions, and excellent works.

Diana Senechal

Just for the record, I think both Republicans and Democrats have a libertarian streak, and both Republicans and Democrats have a authoritarian streak. Which streak predominates at any given time seems to depend on the issue of the moment. I don't think either party is any good at all at identifying libertarian principles, or appreciating their value, or limits. In the long term I tend to be more Republican than Democratic based on the idea that in general Republicans are more cautious about embracing change, and we ought to be cautious because things so often backfire. Surely NCLB gives evidence of that. And welfare, as we knew it, is an even better example.

Libertarianism depends on an enlightened moral base. Barbarians can't be libertarians. And libertarianism doesn't work for kids. (They're barbarians.)

Some people, I have discovered, have a negative reaction to the term, "libertarian". I'm not sure what they think it means. Not everyone who rejects the term is an authoritarian. If I suggest that nothing could be more libertarian than Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom, they think I'm twisting words and ideas.

I do not apply libertarianism to education or child rearing in general. But there is some connection. I have been arguing that NCLB accountability is not the only type of accountability in education. Cultural values and expectations can be powerful forces. Conventional wisdom can be powerful. It might be argued that flexibility is important. Indeed I would argue exactly that, and I would argue that conventional wisdom and cultural values and expectations, at least in the world I live in (small town midwest) have a lot more flexibility, a lot more ability to live and learn and profit by mistakes, than any type of accountability written into law can have.

Maybe I'm wandering too far here, but I believe ideas of libertarianism are connected to some general ideas of how we see the world, which in turn are connected to how we see our current financial problem. And since there has been some discussion of our current financial problem maybe I can continue a bit.

When a bank gives a loan to a person to buy a house, who is the buyer and who is the seller? I'm not sure how economists would see it, but it appears to me that the bank is the buyer and the borrower is the seller. The borrower sells a promise, a promise to pay, and the bank buys that promise. The bank forks over a large amount of money, and gets a promise in return. Before the bank will buy that promise, the deal must be sweetened a bit. The borrower must throw in a good credit rating and substantial collateral, the mortgage on the home to be bought. The bank doesn't want to buy trash after all.

"Selling trash to fools" is a phrase that resonates with me. It's not a nice phrase, to be sure, but sometimes it seems an apt description. People often make foolish purchases. I've done it a time or two myself. Other people sometimes make good money by doing the selling. Thinking in these terms we might consider borrowers the victims. However that is not the point to which I am heading. I cannot escape the conclusion that the borrowers are the sellers. We are in a bad financial shape because they, the borrowers, the people who wanted a home of their own, sold trash to fools. At least some of them did, enough to put our whole country in a bad situation. The trash they sold is the promise to repay, when in fact many of them did not have a reasonable expectation that they ever could repay. And the fools were the banks who made the loans. Whatever possessed them to buy all those unsecured promises? We don't usually think of banks, or bankers, as fools? What happened?

From this perspective then, I find it very hard to accept the idea that the greed of "wall street" was inadequately restrained by regulation and that led us astray. To me the case is compelling that it was not lack of regulation that caused the problem, it was bad regulation. I don't know just what that bad regulation was, though I have found some ideas on the internet. Maybe I am wrong, but I think it probably boils down to the idea that Fannie May and Freddy Mac were created, and mandated, by law to buy the trash that the banks buy from borrowers. I personally would not care to buy a bad promise, though I admit to having done so more than once. But if I knew I could immediately resell that bad promise, I might reconsider.

I will attempt to bring all this back to education now. I have been saying that the accountability of schools to the public before NCLB was based on cultural values and expectations and conventional wisdom. In a parallel way I would say that until recent years similar strong forces in the form of cultural values and expectations and conventional wisdom, and common sense and self interest operated to maintain a healthy stable housing market, with some ups and downs of course. But something must have changed that. A decade or so ago I was mistified that companies were advertising on television to loan me up to 125% of the value of my house. That didn't make sense. That seemed to violate common sense, conventional wisdom, and even cultural values and expectations. What happened?

I think what happened was called the Community Reinvestment Act, from the 70's, and its evolution over the next few decades. But I don't know the details. If this is the case then indeed we are paying a high price for bad regulation, and the cure is not going to be more of the same.

If all this is the cause of our housing problem, then I will remain very cautious about what form NCLB should take whenever it gets a makeover.

And, if I may, I would like to present a idea that I think we should give attention to, the idea of "societal decision". I am surprised now and then when people seem to think that something is the result of a conscious formal societal decision, when I think it is just a matter of drift. This, and some related ideas, are developed in my article "Let's Do It Together" on my website. Here's a link.

But I don't claim to have all the answers. I think a lot of things have yet to be thought out.

Mulling over problems with the head is really a good thing and requires contemplation, reading, and knowledge. One result can be wisdom. I am not so sure that American culture emphasizes such “habits of the head” (as opposed to habits of the heart) as well as it could. Habits of the head are slow and sometimes indecisive. More emotional responses have the advantage of being action oriented rather than indecisive, but also are impulsive. NCLB is on manifestation of the latter response.

I doubt that there is any quick fix to this American trait, which de Tocqueville noticed in the 1830s. Still, like Deborah emphasizes in this posting, it is worth noticing and mulling. American policy toward education (and other issues) tends to be both pro-active and impulsive. This creates conundrums like NCLB with its good intentions, combined with troubling implementation.

We’ve gone from an economy based on expert tinkerers and close observers—to one that rests on generic training in “how to think.” “Critical thinking” and “problem solving”—which progressives like me promote—have been taken to their extreme absurdity. We’ve disconnected them from their base—deep knowledge.
I absolutely love this sentiment. Just don't understand how we can both believe that deeply and be so far apart on nearly everything else.

"Libertarianism" has to be defined. There are many claiming libertarian sympathies that support war in Iraq and public schooling. Both of these calamities represent the antithesis of liberty.

Public schooling lives by virtue of taxation, compulsory attendance and myriad other statist phenomena like unions and tenure. Essentially, public schools are authoritarian and parasitical. It is logical to think that kids are just tools of the system. But even if the system cared about kids, and many in the system do, there are insurmountable issues.

Public schools are not just hampered by the lack of incentives stemming from legal privilege and state power. It is the absence of consumers (parents) and producers engaging in voluntarily exchange that is killing education. For its existence a “market”, like free people, necessarily requires private property in all matters personal, like education, as well as in all economic matters, like schooling.

Without the market, economic rationality is impossible. No matter how fancy and forceful a political reform it will always be suboptimal. Educrats cannot see nor understand opportunity costs. Prices, which evolve out of the exchange of private property, provide the necessary factor in solving the problem of how to deploy resources in the best way while meeting the demand of all people competing for scarce resources: a lowest common denominator.

Profit-loss, entrepreneurship, satisfying demand (of parents), and other exclusively market traits, are results of having a rational economic system (a market). But a system of government schooling necessarily deletes private property and real exchange and thereby destroys rationality. Government schooling can only rob Peter to pay Paul, misallocate resources, create less opportunity and preside over chaos.

Dear Reason:
Public education lives on because a society which bases itself in reason requires school to cultivate…reason. Reason is a quality that is cultivated through disciplined learning and inquiry; we are not born with it as any primary school teacher knows.

Furthermore, without an educated population capable of reading, writing, calculation, and thinking there is no reason. This is why every country of the world makes education into one of its primary duties.

Tony Waters

Tony Waters,

I am not against school; I am against public school. Of course society needs education. But education is not synonymous with school. Government schools are the least reasonable means of educating except from the totalitarian perspective. Putting the economic efficiency issue aside for a moment, let’s use teaching history as an example. Here is an apt quotation from George Orwell:

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

How reasonable is it for a society that wants to cultivate reason to have a coercive, clumsy, self-serving monopoly called ‘government’ in control of teaching history? With the politicization of education comes the low level civil war for the control of ideological levers. After all, government is ‘the one gun in the room’. There is serious danger in creating de facto or de jure ‘official’ history since the powerful will certainly create and use it to maintain dominance.

Well, yes, I suppose we ought to define libertarianism, but I'm not sure it would do any good. It will not prevent variants of the meaning from being used, and confused. My variant of libertarianism would grant the legitimacy of government coercion, but would require that it be kept to a minimum. I was once an anarchist for a short time, but that was some years before I got to high school. And my version of libertarianism does not preclude the idea that that we can work together to accomplish what we cannot accomplish alone.

My liberal friends (and I do not use that as a put down) emphasize this. For some of them working together is a core belief. If we work together we can accomplish many things that we could not even think about accomplishing alone. I share this belief, and consider it important, but I also am painfully aware of its costs and limitations, as some of my idealistic friends seem not to be. Doing things together can be very frustrating. Group effort dilutes individual effort, not always, but usually. I discovered this in elementary school. Some of my idealistic friends seem never have discovered it, and are taken aback anew each time people get vexed and miffed trying to work together.

I give a lot of validity to the arguments given by reason in the post above. However I observe that public schools do work, suboptimally certainly, but they do work. Reason says, "Without the market, economic rationality is impossible." I would disagree with one word - "impossible". I would say without the market, economic rationality is difficult and compromised.

So how has public education been able to survive and prosper since the beginning of time in America? Well, it hasn't. We've only have public education in more or less the current mold for the past 150 or 200 years. I think American education has run on common sense and conventional wisdom pretty well for this time, but I'm not sure that common sense and conventional wisdom can survive the onslaught of various ideological forces now knocking on the door. I think NCLB may have the main effect of hardening ideological lines, and thereby making public education less and less tenable as time goes on. I hope I'm wrong.

I enjoyed your comment, Brian. Here is my response.

Brian Rude says:

“And my version of libertarianism does not preclude the idea that that we can work together to accomplish what we cannot accomplish alone.”

The market is synonymous with social cooperation in the economic realm. It is government that hampers cooperation. No entity that believes it has a prior right to your work and conscience can rightly be called social. Of course, slavery is a form of working together under the slave driver’s whip.

Brian continues:

“However I observe that public schools do work, suboptimally certainly, but they do work. Reason says, "Without the market, economic rationality is impossible." I would disagree with one word - "impossible". I would say without the market, economic rationality is difficult and compromised.”

Of course public schools can function when they feed off the relatively market driven economy. Like the Soviet system, public schools in America may use the prices formed in the market to give them a rough compass. But also like the Soviet system, educrats are blinded to the extent there is no real exchange within the system. No real exchange means no prices, no prices means no monetary calculation, no calculation means no profit-loss or complex production, no profit-loss means no meeting of demand: the result is chaos. If public schools could not leech off the market then they would indeed be reduced to barter and autarkic primitivism.

I recommend reading, if you have not already, Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich Von Hayek and Joe Salerno on the subject of economic calculation. Read their detractors from different historicist, socialist, positivist and mathematical schools too. Make up your own mind.

Brian writes:

“So how has public education been able to survive and prosper since the beginning of time in America? Well, it hasn't. We've only have public education in more or less the current mold for the past 150 or 200 years. I think American education has run on common sense and conventional wisdom pretty well for this time…”

If I could live off of the soft slavery of taxation and other government means I too could “prosper”. It would not make it right. Besides, the history of public schooling is mostly about one group of people trying to force their values onto another, which is very similar to how the religious wars of Europe emerged. In fact, a big motivation for the public school movement in the 19th century was fear of Catholic immigrants. Established Protestants wanted to use public schooling as a tool to suppress and get rid of Catholicism.

Brian again:

“I think NCLB may have the main effect of hardening ideological lines, and thereby making public education less and less tenable as time goes on. I hope I'm wrong.”

Government is 'the one gun in the room'. If you get control of the government you have the power to use violence, to tax and force people to do your bidding. (Of course, there are limits. In the long run, you still have to keep majority opinion on your side.) The NCLB represents a corporatistic enhancement to the system already nationalized under the USDOE framework. It serves the purpose of centralizing power and creates a clearer delineation of winners and losers based on political connectedness: hence the “main effect of hardening ideological lines”. The NCLB represents even more incentive and calculation issues which alone signals that it should be destroyed. But most likely, and unfortunately, reformers against the NCLB will not oppose its massive power grab. Rather, opposition educrats will try to get control of the newly formed power and use it for their own ends.

The only way to turn back on this road to totalitarianism is to have no government involvement in schooling or education whatsoever.

Dear Reason:
I think it wonderful if education and school were not synonomous. But in the modern world they are, which is why every country of the world has a school system to teach various levels of literacy, numeracy, science, and even history. The point of this is to create people who can reason with each other on a more or less equal footing. Without mass public education which at some level is compulsory, you end up with rule by a small feudal elite, rather than even the semblance of mass democracy, much less actors freely trading in an open mass market.

Philosophers from at least Hobbes onward (including Locke) have recognized that government involves some element of compulsion. The question is the level at which it should happen, not if it should happen. Just because the government uses coercive powers does not make us "slaves" or "totalitarians." By that definition, anyone anywhere who pays taxes is a slave, and every government is totalitarian. In short, the terms lose any meaning.

Tony Waters,

There are many things in your response I disagree with but I will choose one to comment on. Thanks for the reply.

You conclude:

“Just because the government uses coercive powers does not make us ‘slaves’ or ‘totalitarians’. By that definition, anyone anywhere who pays taxes is a slave, and every government is totalitarian. In short, the terms lose any meaning.”

True, not all governments are totalitarian, but all governments engage in egregiously immoral acts and should be done away with. Taxation is, indeed, akin to enslavement. Although in most cases taxation is a softer form of oppression when compared to false imprisonment, compulsory schooling (which compels parents and kids), conscription, bond-service and chattel forms of involuntary servitude. Try not paying your taxes and see what happens to you.

No one has a right to someone else’s money a priori. After all, government is manned by people. If a robber does the same thing as the government he is thought to be a criminal. Why not government? How about equality? Isn’t it justice when everyone lives by the same rules?

Government is a bankrupt idea. Here is a simplified definition:

Government is an entity with a monopoly over the threat and use of violence, including taxation, policing and defense, in a defined geographical area, where it also serves as the final arbiter in all disputes, including disputes involving itself.

How would you like to have the power to tax and be the judge in your own lawsuits? Government only gets more immoral the bigger it becomes. The seductions of power are too great. The Founding Fathers knew a lot about this of course. Many of them studied Hobbes and Locke (and many more), which is what the Federalist Papers are about essentially. However, Thomas Paine, in his more lucid moments, uniquely saw the futility in even limiting government:

“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.”

Reason, you quote Paine out of context and distort his point. That is unreasonable.

A few paragraphs later in Rights of Man, Paine writes: "The more perfect civilization is, the less occasion has it for government, because the more does it regulate its own affairs, and govern itself; but so contrary is the practice of old governments to the reason of the case, that the expences of them increase in the proportion that they ought to diminish."

So, three points here. First of all, Paine states explicitly that the more perfect a civilization is, the less it needs government. But where is that near-perfect civilization? On a large scale it is nowhere to be found. You might find it in a chess club or something.

Second, he states that the closer a civilization is to perfection, the more it governs itself. In other words, it does have government. In the same work he praises the American government; it is not government he detests, but the "old" kind of government.

Third, his assertions are not entirely accurate. He is heavily influenced by Rousseau, and his emphasis on "natural" associations reflect this. He views America as a place of natural association and natural government; at times he translates this into "no government at all." He writes, for example: "For upwards of two years from the commencement of the American War, and to a longer period in several of the American states, there were no established forms of government." This is not true. Colonial government provided some of the structure for state governments; states began establishing their own constitutions as early as 1776.

Flaws aside, Paine's argument is much subtler and more interesting than a brief quote out of context (to support an extreme view) might suggest.


Points well taken! But that is why I quoted Paine conditionally and wrote "in his more lucid moments...".

Interesting. You don't attack any main point of my argument. Instead you act dismissive and write that I am merely trying "to support an extreme view". In this sense you wholly disregard the context of my communication, which amounts to much more than one quote!

Er, sorry. I meant to address you as "Diane". Mistakes come easy late at night...Thanks for the reply!

Oh my word you are Diana, not Diane.
Please forgive me.


No, I was responding to the quote in the context of your entire comment.

You wrote: "True, not all governments are totalitarian, but all governments engage in egregiously immoral acts and should be done away with."

That, in my view, is an extreme view.

"Government is an entity with a monopoly over the threat and use of violence...."

Unless your definitions of "government," "is," "an," etc. are substantially different from mine, I see no basis to this statement--unless, of course, all those involved in street brawls and westerns are government agents and I just don't know it.

You wrote: "The Founding Fathers knew a lot about this of course. Many of them studied Hobbes and Locke (and many more), which is what the Federalist Papers are about essentially."

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. It is one thing to be wary of government's excesses and to insist upon consent of the governed. It is another to declare government "a bankrupt idea," as you do.

There is every difference between wariness of the excesses of an institution and utter dismissal of it.

Diana Senechal


A government makes the rules but does not live by them. Just because this idea is popular or unbeknownst does not make it right. Our government says ‘Thou shall not steal’ but then taxes, confiscates through eminent domain, and inflates through cartelized central banking. The government says ‘Thou shall not kill’ but then conscripts (at least up until recently), which is oft a death sentence, and then decimates innocent foreign peoples.

Through that awful mechanism called “democracy” the ability to commit atrocities is only exponentially enhanced. No individual may opt out of subsidizing this tyranny. Any defense of such an organization is an extreme view and makes about as much sense as defending slavery.

ps. I am looking into Tom Paine closer btw. I would not want to misrepresent Paine or be associated with Rousseau!

Hi Diana and Reason:
The defintion of a state that Reason uses is, I think, a good one. Noth that it matters, but it comes form Leon Trotsky, by way of Max Weber. The point of it is not a libertarian one. Rather it is that the alternative to the state is even worse, i.e. anarchy. This is what happens when no one has a monopoly over the use of coercive violence. Stateless societies tend to be more violent than most (not all) societies with a state. They also tend to be much wealthier and more productive.

Thanks for the clarification, Tony, and thanks for pointing to Weber.

Weber writes that an entity is "a 'state' if and insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds a claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order." The key word here is "legitimate."

Weber does not say that the state holds a monopoly on violence--just on legalized uses of violence. Even that is subject to modification: one may commit violence in self-defense, for instance. Violence, of course, can come from many sources--most of which are likely nongovernmental--and is unlikely to cease under conditions of anarchy.

Diana Senechal

Your points well made.

Nice inputs Tony and Diana.Here is my response:

State and "legitimacy"?

A state does not need to wield violence “legitimately” in order to remain a state. A state would cease being a state if it confined itself to legitimate acts. All states are illegitimate because they rely on doing bad things, taking without asking, for their existence. To perceive of the state as legitimate is like thinking of slavery or serfdom as just.

Stateless societies seem primitive but one should not confuse causation and correlation. Modern civilization’s prosperity has occurred in spite of the rampant statism. Computer chips, afro hip-hop soul and increasing human longevity have emerged from the liberated ingenuity stemming from an ideology espousing the rights of life, liberty and property and its economic expression: capitalism.

That the modern state, from liberal democracies to Bolshevik dictatorships, has done nothing but destroy progress is a lesser known fact, sadly. The material productivity of capitalism has been perverted and enslaved by governments for “total” wars. Free markets, on the other hand, have no ‘one gun in the room’, no centralized power that dominates all and is based on coercion. A market society won’t end all crime and oppression, but it does have more checks and balances.

If stateless Somalia had remained untouched in its medieval form, with all the bells and whistles of hereditary status and limited productive capacities, its primitivism could never result in anything like the mass calamity of the War Between the States, WWI, WWII, the Holocaust, Bolshevik political famine, Maoist famine, Vietnam war, Iraq War, Rwandan genocide, the Great Depression, intervention in Guatemala, the FBI’s COINTELPRO, the eradication of the American Native peoples and … etc. Most of the conflict in Somalia stems from tribal ideology as well as the involvement of international political entities- the UN, the USA, and the USA’s Ethiopian minions, as well as a whole host of pseudo-government orgs.

The ruling classes of politicians, feudal lords, and slave masters are similar in that they require general acceptance among the masses for their survival. Therefore, societies enclosed by statism or feudalism are self-fulfilling tyrannies. Likewise, the recognition of inalienable rights of life, liberty and property, and seeing the value in the social division of labor under free market capitalism, is necessary for the next abolitionist movement: abolition of the state!

What fun. I enjoy the back-and-firth.

JR. Sometimes I try to figure out where to squeeze in a 6th habit of mind--"compared to what?" Our system of schooling over the past 150 years has never been as successful as we, its advocates, like to claim. Nor as much of a failure as its bemoaners argue. In part because we don't ask "compared to...?" Nor are we explicit about our definition of what it would accomplish i it met our purposes?

Diana, re subject matter. Yes--there is no thinking or solving problems without a "subject" ion mind The subject of our problem, so to speak. CPESS' curriculum was focused thusly ( in social studies/humanities) one year on "who's an American, anyhow?", one year on "what do we mean by power and who has it?", one year on the concept of "justice an fairness"--what do they mean, are they the same, including some comparative history, of each, etc; and one on....I can't recall???? It ha something to do with social change, but I forget the question. Then in 11th and 12th grades, depending on student's choices re their 7 major portfolios they might choose to deepen their knowledge and understanding of prior work or select a new topic--based on their independent study, courses we offered and courses offered by collaborating colleges. We did something similar in math/science. We spent two years (9th an 10th grades) - sort of - e=m squared.

Less is more doesn't, in short, mean nothing = more. DItto re learning "how to" read--it can't be leaned separately from reading "something"--and what that is may be critical to the kind of reader one becomes.

Thanks for asking, Diana.

Yes, Brian. An old socialist mentor of mine once wrote a great piece on just this topic re socialism--socialism from below or above. Whether the purpose of socialism was freedom or efficiency. What drives our ideas and ideals is fascinating to contemplate. Anarchists, socialists and communists fought briefly together against fascism in Spain long ago, but as George Orwell helped us see, they also represented very different ideals, and in fact the communists, capital C, undermined the socialists and anarchists in the final crunch. Yet within each there was also a spread of ideals. Maybe we belong to the same "party"???

I'm intend to go on your link when I get finish this response. Thanks.


p.s. I haven't responded to Tony and Reason because I'm still working on what to say!



Thank you for responding to my questions. I have more, but will save them for another time when they come up! I am interested in knowing the details of such a structure--what they read, how the teachers broke down such a vast subject, etc.

Diana Senechal

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