This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Breaking the vicious circle

In order to break the vicious circle of the blind and bland leading the blinder and the blander, perhaps the most intriguing option—which will of course never happen, at least not by choice—would be to close the schools. I am not the first to suggest this either, as other powerful voices have seen the necessity. One such eloquent thinker was the American novelist, D.H. Lawrence. Because his literary powers are greater than my own, I will allow him to expound on this particular point:

“…we really can make a move on our children’s behalf. We really can refrain from thrusting our children any more into those hot-beds of the self-conscious disease, schools. We really can prevent their eating much more of the tissues of leprosy, newspapers and books. For a time, there should be no compulsory teaching to read and write at all. The great mass of humanity should never learn to read and write—never…And instead of this gnawing, gnawing disease of mental consciousness and awful, unhealthy craving for stimulus and for action, we must substitute genuine action.”

“The top and bottom of it is, that it is a crime to teach a child anything at all, school-wise. It is just evil to collect children together and teach them through the head. It causes absolute starvation…and sterile substitute of brain knowledge is all the gain. The children of the middle classes are so vitally impoverished, that the miracle is they continue to exist at all…

“I don’t want my child to know that five fives are twenty-five, any more than I want my child to wear my hat or my boots. I don’t want my child to know. If he wants five fives let him count them on his fingers. As for his little mind, give it a rest, and let his dynamic self be alert. He will ask “why” often enough. But he more often asks why the sun shines, or why men have mustaches, or why grass is green, than anything sensible. Most of a child’s questions are, and should be, unanswerable. They are not questions at all. They are exclamations of wonder, they are remarks half-sceptically addressed. When a child says, “Why is grass green?” he half implies. “Is it really green, or is it just taking me in?” And we solemnly begin to prate about chlorophyll. Oh, imbeciles, idiots, inexcusable owls!”

“By the age of twenty-one our young people are helpless, hopeless, selfless, floundering mental entities, with nothing in front of them, because they have been starved from the roots, systematically, for twenty-one years, and fed through the head. They have had all their mental excitements, sex and everything, all through the head, and when it comes to the actual thing, why, there’s nothing in it. Blasé.”

Let me now try to justify this notion, which may sound like nothing short of madness.

The status quo is our greatest enemy. In a democracy, the status quo rules supreme, and the conventional wisdom is an almost invincible force. Our only choice is to find a way to render the status quo impotent and toothless, unable to inject its venom into the young minds of fresh generations.

The logical consequence, then, is that our task must be an educational one. In order to break the vicious circle of indoctrination through which the young are converted into the sleepwalking, will-less homo economicus, we’ve got to break the single institution by which the status quo is handed down. This means that we have to dismantle the school entirely.

You will struggle with this notion perhaps more than anything else I’ve said so far. That is how deep the conventional wisdom runs in our democratic blood. Such an idea as this sounds completely absurd; but it is the only way, I assure you.

The school is in fact the living symbol of the status quo. Within the school the child is taught that everything we’ve rejected in this letter is unquestionably true. Within the school the child is taught to think and speak only within the verbal universe, which he will then depend upon for the rest of his life.

There he is taught that he is a person and an individual; that sex is a physiological process; that he is to be patriotic, work all his life for a successful “career,” kill foreigners when the government calls, vote, and, most importantly, spend his money according to what he sees on television.

Upon entering school the child is capable of wonder. He is a genius of creativity, and has goals for his life which, although childish and ignorant, represent his vigor and spiritual integrity. He has human aspirations, even if they are unrealistic in the concrete form he gives them. When the child says he wants to be a fireman, he is saying he wants to do meaningful work which challenges his manhood, allows him to grow in courage, and impacts others in a meaningful way. In this sense, he knows exactly what he wants, and what he wants is a human existence. School destroys all that, eliminating all the highest of his aspirations and ensuring that, by the time he emerges, nothing will remain but the hopes and dreams of homo economicus. He will desire money, and will learn to judge his success or failure entirely by that measure.

Do you not see that no revolution in yourself or in your home will have a lasting impact while this institution operates and demands participation from the vast majority? The school is the modern parent, after all. Children spend the majority of their waking hours being formed in its walls. Once the child enters, its power will override any doctrines learned at home. It is an impossible adversary if it is allowed to survive.

Children go into the schools as little myth-makers, beings of utmost potentiality, all human possibility operative and open before them; and they come out homo economicus, speaking the language of the verbal universe. They’ll be able to communicate with their elders and talk about the market, about politics, about reality TV, about income mobility, about financing their first home, about what sort of car their going to buy, etc.

They’ll have become productive, pseudo-informed, successful, and spiritually neutralized. Their fiery minds will have been mechanized, and all the more if they proceed on to some college.

That is what the school inflicts upon the child’s soul. It isn’t intentional. It isn’t the fault of the teachers, who are usually good people, sensing that something is wrong but not really knowing what to do about it, and in any event being powerless to change the system in which they are enmeshed.

That is another tragedy of the “school system”—that even if the teachers see what is happening, they cannot stop it because it is the only type of education we permit in our civilization. Everything must conform to our economic-industrial existence. That is why our schools will always be this production-model, uniform, homogenizing, lot manufacture, “system.”

The only real alternative would be to shut them all down. No, you cannot try to pass some legislation and “fix” the schools. You and I both know that government intervention is not a possibility, because the government itself has a vested interest in the status quo. The school is the place where you learn to trust the government, after all.

No—things will not change naturally sooner or later if we just ‘give it more time’. That is the doctrine of Progress speaking. You should be through with faith in automatism. Nor do I have a specific alternative for you, which is irrelevant anyhow. If you find out that smoking causes cancer, then the only wise decision is to stop smoking. If you can only say “I won’t stop until you tell me what I can smoke instead!”—then you are a fool. Again, if you are driving toward a cliff and someone warns you about the danger, they shouldn’t have to offer you an alternative route in order to get you to stop. You don’t need an alternative at that point. All you need to know is that the cliff is ahead.

School is our mental cancer—and unlike cigarettes, it does not just “increase the chances” that you’ll get the tumor: it ensures it. And the disease is always terminal. That’s its purpose. It sets children on a course toward spiritual self-destruction. You can worry about an alternative later—first you just need to stop what you are doing. In fact, it is entirely likely that the current establishment is blinding you to any alternative even if there is one. It is very possible that you will never be able to conceive of anything else so long as the present monstrosity looms large, blocking all light from your vision. That is why there is no time to waste and no reason to hold off.

Again, I know how mad this sounds, but do you really want another generation of “mass men?” Then we must at all costs stop cramming all young people into the classroom to be acclimated to the great herd of other child bodies. That’s where the process of compaction and impoverishment begins.

Until you have the courage to take drastic steps, then nothing will change. You can’t just take baby steps. Baby steps are for babies and politicians.

Did you really think it would be easy? Did you think it would be a walk in the park to right all these wrongs and bring about a restructuring of civilization? If you did, then again you have the status quo to thank for your delusion. The status quo teaches that all you have to do to make the world better is cast a vote. All the evils you sense, all the systems which oppress you, are addressed in the dim sanctity of that little booth with your piece of paper. That is the paralyzing promise you have to get beyond, or you won’t get beyond anything.

It is very difficult for a man to reject the system of which he himself is a product. We all have serious difficulty separating ourselves from the institutions and methods that formed us. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that we were taught to think of our “schooling” as one of our greatest privileges, envied by the world. Our privileged education is one with that silver spoon we spoke so much about in the beginning; it is another one of those things we were expected to be eternally grateful for having received.

We were also taught that this education was not only a gift, but a necessity, and that no person can expect to succeed without it. And so we have believed it, even if we never really found it to be true, and we are poised to pass this belief on to the future. That is the vicious circle which must be broken so that the madness can finally end.

If we managed to close the schools, I would call our generation one of the greatest there ever was. To break one’s own vicious circle, especially one with as much momentum as this, requires a spiritual virility few generations in the history of man have been able to muster. If we succeed, we’ll have created a historical discontinuity as deep as the one which created us.

Remember our shame?—our shame at the fact that we could not help but reveal the lie behind these schools, this economy, this political ideology? That is our shame, and our only responsible option is to use that shame to discover where and how all these “privileges” have actually been curses. Through this we can redeem ourselves by sparing the next generation such suffering. We can produce a generation without shame, or at least without our particular kind of shame.

We have to refuse to ever wave a silver spoon in front of a child’s face and tell him how good he had it, now that we know that having silver spoons is not really all that wonderful after all.

Bring the children home. Mankind got along quite well enough without schooling for thousands of years before us. It is an outright lie to pretend that no one can survive without an “official” education. If the child aspires to read and write, then so be it. Such things are only made difficult when we operate on the maddening assumption that they must be facilitated at a certain speed and under rigid classroom conditions. If we break away from the rigidity, we realize that it matters very little if the child moves slowly. All the better for him.

Without schools we might actually discover how useful libraries can be. If a child wants to learn, he can do it quite easily with a book or with a friend. He can’t do that now, though. No one recognizes autonomous learning as worthy of any consideration at all. Only what has the official seal of the school system receives any consideration, and this seal has little relation to actual intelligence, creativity, and general mental worth.

Spare them the curse of being taught to live in their heads. Let them live, as long as possible, in the real world. Let them meet a horse before they learn its “scientific name” and what its insides look like.

They won’t get a job, this next generation? We don’t want them to have “jobs,” dear reader. We want them to have something much more human than that. If you create the space, then perhaps truly human forms of work can be allowed to spring up and exist, designed for man and not for the Sacred Cow of the economy.

End the superstition of schooling. Bring the children home from the mental and spiritual cesspool; from the indoctrination; from the germs that necessitate continuous vaccinations. How grand an era would it be to have children at home again, where they do not need prescription drugs just to cope with the monotony. Mythopoeic civilization cannot exist without mythopoeic men, and such men will never exist so long as schools are the norm.

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