thinking through school

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance”

-Will Durant (1885 – 1981)

Much of the radical community compares our schools to jails and places where children are kept to slave away hard hours for nothing but a grade that doesn’t mean much in the long run. After attending the March 18th Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco, I realized this message seems to be one that is heavily preached from pamphlets, posters, t shirts, and patches. This anti education sentiment does not only hold it’s ground in high school, but college as well. I find that many of my radical friends look down on me for going to college yet preach the word of Noam Chomsky or Ward Churchill. Why is this? Why in this community has education been turned in to this evil dragon just trying to make you bow down to its wishes?

In the CrimethInc essay “No Masters” it states “If you liked school, you’ll love work. The cruel, absurd abuses of power, the self-satisfied authority that the teachers and principals lorded over you, the intimidation and ridicule of your classmates don’t end at graduation.” In some ways I agree with this statement. I admit I hated high school but it wasn’t because of the work I did but it was because of the idiots who couldn’t sit down and let the teacher discuss a book with us or the silly pep rallies I was forced to go to because of school spirit. I also am forced to admit I did not come on to the scene of my freshmen year of high school getting straight A’s; I had to learn how to learn. This is a concept that many radicals refuse to admit is that school is never going to be something that comes easy to you, one has to work at it (oh no I used the “w” word!). A common area that, not only radicals hate, but most high school student’s dislike, is math. Even mentioning the word makes some people curl up in the fetal position, but the concept of learning math is not because teachers are mean and like to force us too learn the quadratic formula or cosigns, the reason math is required is that scientifically, math stimulates our brains more than any other subject. It’s like biking for the brain! If you want to think about it in more logical terms, math makes as much since as anarchism, both concepts attempt to attach concrete solutions too abstract ideas. This essay is not about math, even though I could fill a whole newspaper with info about it so I will come to another point of education, and that is ignorance.

Most people of heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss” but if ignorance is bliss then so is a bullet to the head. The radical community has this idea that the schooling system is so fucked up that we should just drop out. What good does dropping out do anyway? Yes, you are no longer being oppressed by the forces of homework and grades but what do you miss from it? In an ideal setting the radical community would be able to self educate everyone and not worry about oppression and what not. One thing I respect more than anything is self education. All of the great scholars like Plato, Socrates, Isaac Newton and even Einstein were able to do this, but the plain fact is most people do not have the will power to diversify themselves like a college education would. When most people ask me what I’m going to be when I get out of college I simply tell them “I don’t know, I just here to learn.” to most people that drops their jaw. “Blasphemous! You don’t want to hurry out of here to get a good paying job at a firm or company.” I treasure my education greatly. Everyday I sit in a class where teachers have spent at least 8 years teaching the same subject, so you know they love it and even if it’s a class I dislike, I can still get a kick out of how passionate a teacher can get talking about his or her subject. It’s truly beautiful. What I’m getting at is that for 99% of the population, dropping out will solve no problems. What dropping out allows one to do is to not get a well rounded experience on an academic level which is one full of critical thought.

This leads in to my final point of why the radical community needs education and schooling. I mentioned before that my friends regard Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill as people who know what they’re talking about. Yet who are these people to the radicals? They are the leaders. They are telling us, the actors, what’s going on and if we are left with just the ideas of a select few this will cause more problems then it already has. Dropping out, as I mentioned before will not help most people, but if one finds that this system is too oppressive for them, an easy and effective solution is skill shares. This allows people from different backgrounds to share their knowledge and learn something more. The large point I am trying to express is the radical community needs to strive for higher education because it would better us off. It would prevent what is currently happening which is the bureaucratic protests and lack of informing not only the radical community of the big picture problems, such as mistakes of the past, but informing society as well. The issue of education is a sticky one and with this article I have barely skimmed the surface but now the match has been lit. This article is done. The ball is in your court (or the book for that matter).