Saturday, 16 April 2005

Quoting on education

The weekend offers time for reflection. Don Brash offered an education policy this week to make public schools more efficient. Education, he said, “is not the preserve of the Labour Party, the education bureaucracy and the teacher unions; it is the enterprise of every New Zealander concerned for our future.”

True enough. Let every New Zealander then reflect on the nature of the public school enterprise. Fortunately, some great thinkers already have:

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

-Mark Twain

“Earnestness is just stupidity sent to College.”
- PJ O’Rourke

“Education in the government's factory schools is pumping out an ever-increasing number of functionally illiterate and unemployable youths - good for nothing beyond stuffing a ballot box."

- Peter Osborne

"Mass production in education appeals to us as a prostitution we are not inclined to encourage. . . . Not only do I regard the thing miscalled education - which such a building as you propose is intended to serve - as murder, but a worse form of murder than war, because war disposes of the carcass while [your] so-called education murders the soul and leaves the dead to walk for a lifetime.”
- Frank Lloyd Wright

"To entrust government with the power of determining education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power of the master.”
- Orestes Brownson

“Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.... He must be taught to amass wealth, but it must be only to increase his power of contributing to the wants and demands of the state.”
- Benjamin Rush

“Schoolhouses are the republican line of fortifications.”
- Horace Mann

"Resistance to the full-scale institution of government compulsory schooling will only last for one generation. The first generation affected will accept it as a natural part of growing up."
- Johann Gottlieb Fichte, quoting Plato

"The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat."
- John Dewey

“Few systems boast incentives more perverse than public education, where teacher's tenure - not merit - is remunerated, students with an "appetite for destruction" are coddled with therapy, and school failure is rewarded with an increased budget. And these are the least offensive facets of child-centred, progressive public education. It's a sluggard of a system, and it's turning out bumper crops of ignoramuses, which, all too often, have no more than dangerously inflated self-esteems to show for years of compulsory attendance.”
-Ilana Mercer

“As a result of the fact that education has been tax-supported for such a long time, most people find it difficult to project an alternative. Yet there is nothing unique about education that distinguishes it from the many other human needs which are filled by private enterprise. If, for many years, the government had undertaken to provide all the citizens with shoes, and if someone were subsequently to propose that this field should be turned over to private enterprise, he would doubtless be told indignantly: "What! Do you want everyone except the rich to walk around barefoot?"
But the shoe industry is doing its job with immeasurably greater competence than public education is doing its job.“

- Nathaniel Branden

"The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogic profession for any suggestion that they should be dislodge from their dictatorial position; it will be expressed mainly in epithets, such as "reactionary," at the mildest. Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher moved to such indignation is: Do you think nobody would WILLINGLY entrust his children to you and pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?”

- Isabel Paterson

“... So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver: Obedient soldiers to the army; Obedient workers to the mines; Well subordinated civil servants to government; Well subordinated clerks to industry; Citizens who thought alike about major issues.”
- John Taylor Gatto

"You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:
The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong.
The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch.
The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study.
In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched.”

- John Taylor Gatto

“Learning is a conceptual process; an educational method devised to ignore, bypass and contradict the requirements of conceptual development, cannot arouse any interest in learning. The "adjusted" are bored because they are unable actively to absorb knowledge. The independent are bored because they seek knowledge, not games of "class projects" or group "discussions." The first are unable to digest their lessons; the second are starved.”
- Ayn Rand

“The production of monsters—helpless, twisted monsters whose normal development has been stunted—goes on all around us. But the modern heirs of the comprachicos are smarter and subtler than their predecessors: they do not hide, they practice their trade in the open; they do not buy children, the children are delivered to them; they do not use sulphur or iron, they achieve their goal without ever laying a finger on their little victims.

"The ancient comprachicos hid the operation, but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible. In the past, this horrible surgery left traces on a child's face, not in his mind. Today, it leaves traces in his mind, not on his face. In both cases, the child is not aware of the mutilation he has suffered. But today's comprachicos do not use narcotic powders: they take a child before he is fully aware of reality and never let him develop that awareness. Where nature had put a normal brain, they put mental retardation. To make you unconscious for life by means of your own brain, nothing can be more ingenious.

"This is the ingenuity practiced by most of today's educators. They are the comprachicos of the mind. They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a "Progressive" nursery school to adjust him to society.”

- Ayn Rand


Phew! Having reflected, you might now like to try the World’s Shortest Education Survey. How did you do?


  1. Well I got Liberator,and used to subscribe to their newsletter. I think you support Montessori? I used to do parent help and reading recovery at the local primary school and I can tell you Montessori kids were the worst. One child acted like a 2 year old at 5 - running around biting people and with no self-control. So it is complicated. My youngest never went to kindy and was put a year ahead at school. I taught her myself. A child learns more from a visit to the supermarket than scribbling with a box of crayons or tracing letters in sand.

  2. I got Liberator too, but then I doubt anyone's surprised.

  3. There was a positive article in the Free Radical about Monterssori schooling ... hang on (Googles away) ... here it is.


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