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May 23rd, 2005

Hey, I Went to That School!

From makovette: The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study. (Rather, I enforce decisions transmitted by the people who pay me). This power lets me separate good kids from bad kids instantly. Good kids do the tasks I appoint with a minimum of conflict and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to learn, I decide what few we have time for. The choices are mine. Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.

Bad kids fight against this, of course, trying openly or covertly to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn. How can we allow that and survive as schoolteachers? Fortunately there are procedures to break the will of those who resist.

This is another way I teach the lesson of dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of all, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that our entire economy depends upon this lesson being learned. Think of what would fall apart if kids weren't trained in the dependency lesson: The social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-growing counseling industry; commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun; the food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if people returned to making their own meals rather than depending on strangers to cook for them. Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering would go too -- the clothing business as well -- unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people poured out of our schools each year. We've built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don't know any other way. For God's sake, let's not rock that boat!

Yup, I went to that school.

-The Gneech

Fictionlet

Up until that point, the book club meeting had been a great night, but now Greg was struck with a sinking feeling in his stomach that things were just going to get worse.

"Uhhrr, yes," said the gawky adolescent who'd been monopolizing the conversation all night. "By the end I just know they're going to break up in a month. She's so shrill, I figure he's gotta come to his senses, right?"

After listening to this kid try to impress everybody with useless factoids and brow-beat them with his cleverness all night, Greg just couldn't take it any more. "Did you actually read Retrograde Manueuvers?" he asked. "They break up well before the end."

"Oh," said the kid. "Um ... well..."

"Why did you even come to this meeting, if you hadn't read my book?"

"I did read it! Well, I read part of it. I read Chapter Six."

Greg blinked. "Chapter Six? Just Chapter Six?"

"Well, um ... I was flipping through the book and I happened on the word 'breasts,' and..."

"So you read the chapter with the sex scene and none of the rest of the book."

"I was busy!"

"Er, yes," said Greg. "All right. Well, I'm going to get another coffee, if you want to skip ahead to the end 'til I get back."

-The Gneech

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A Quote I Happened Upon...

The fundamental experience of the writer is helplessness. This does not mean to distinguish writing from being alive: it means to correct the fantasy that creative work is an ongoing record of the triumph of volition, that the writer is someone who has the good luck to be able to do what he or she wishes to do: to confidently and regularly imprint his being on a sheet of paper. But writing is not decanting of personality. And most writers spend much of their time in various kinds of torment: wanting to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently. In a whole lifetime, years are spent waiting to be claimed by an idea. The only real exercise of will is negative: we have toward what we write the power of veto.
--Louise Glück, "Education of the Poet"

Alas

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