Archive for the ‘ of Other People’s Ideas ’ Category

Multinational Corporations: The Roving Band of Armed Thugs Argument Writ Large

I’ve introduced Jim Rigby in a post before. He’s a thought provoking writer and an open-minded conversationalist. He posted recently in support of a Noam Chomsky article. I responded to the shared post on Facebook (I think it’s a public post). In short, I’m responding to Chomsky’s point, reiterated in Jim’s article, that the state is the correct means to keep corporate power in check:

. . . the idea that increasing the power of the state would somehow decrease the power of the corporations that are protected and funded by the state requires some explanation at the least. To imagine that by voting, petitioning, protesting, etc., the government can be made to protect people from concentrations of capital and privilege requires deviating from all historical precedent . . .

Skipping down a bit to where Jim responds, with his usual politeness:

Jad, I am certainly happy to discuss where we disagree. I just didn’t want seem like your excellent arguments were unwelcome. I see corporations as concentrated private power. They are undemocratic and so unaccountable to the people. The state may create the legal definition of a corporation, but those private powers would still exist if we were to shut down the US government tonight. It is true that a corporation like Monsanto would not have to go through the charade of getting around government regulations, and they wouldn’t get government funding were there no government, but they wouldn’t not whither and die in my opinion. I believe they would simply take what they want as they do all over the world where governments are weak and cannot protect their people. If like some foreign corporations they hire their own private army, there would nothing to stand against them. However bad our situation is in the States, it is infinitely worse in nations where corporations are stronger than the local governments. The smaller the government the more tactics like capital flight make it impossible for people to collectively stand against corporate tyranny.

Here beginneth the actual post:

The power of concentrated corporate wealth is astounding, terrifying, and is a daily menace to the well being of humans all across the globe. No informed person with any empathy or degree of integrity can defend the existence of these behemoths who are, as you rightly note, undemocratic and unaccountable to . . . well, anybody–other than, perhaps a heavily invested shareholder.

It’s true, as well, that, were the United States government shut down tonight, Monsanto wouldn’t simply go away. But it would begin a very rapid decline. Contrariwise, since the US government isn’t likely to shut down any time soon, Monsanto will continue to grow in size and strength. Even if GMO’s fall out of favor, Monsanto has reinvented itself before (after DDT and PCBs became unpopular). It’s essential to understand that the unimaginable amounts of capital that Monsanto and the few thousand largest corporations have gathered didn’t come to them overnight. It’s been assembled, almost entirely through political means and specifically war profiteering, over the last 100 years.

One paragraph, super-brief history: After it’s founding at the turn of the 20th century, Monsanto grew rapidly as the fledgling American Empire found the need to assemble and enshrine a domestic chemical manufacturing base as it faced war with its suppliers in Europe. As the American war machine grew and spread around the world, Monsanto was contracted by the United States government to help develop the nuclear bomb and build the cold war nuclear arsenal. They also made a fortune selling DDT which the US military sprayed all over in Europe and the South Pacific to protect invading soldiers from disease. Monsanto was also an important manufacturer of Agent Orange during Vietnam. Despite not having almost no success in creating products for consumers, Monsanto has become one of the largest concentrations of wealth on the planet.

Besides channeling wealth from the working class to the war profiteers, the federal government provides key protections without which Monsanto and its ilk would quickly disintegrate. Perhaps the most important is protection for intellectual property. The United States legal system and enforcement apparatus recognizes Monsanto’s absolute ownership of certain genetic patterns. Independent farmers using non-GMO seeds are sued and have their land and products seized when Monsanto crops cross-pollinate. Other farmers who choose to stay out of the Monsanto GMO supply chain face a constant threat of losing their livelihood should an unfortunate wind blow.

The decisions of legal system are enforced, not by the private armies that you fear, but by federal agents. US corporations get their private armies, intelligence services (CIA) and diplomatic corps (State Department) without even having to pay for them. The relevant power dynamic isn’t between the corporation and the weak national governments, as you mention above, but between the weak national governments and the US government. Monsanto has an “in” anywhere around the world where the US government has influence over the local government. This global enforcement of “free trade” is paid for by the working class here at home, while the corporations reap the profits and the poor around the world suffer the side-effects.

Click to enlarge: An unweildy but informative graphic showing the degree of “regulatory capture” Monsanto holds over the Federal state.

Corporate concentrations of capital and power do not obtain despite government interference; they would not have been achieved without government interference. Precisely the same is true for most of the monstrosities that sit astride the chest of humanity: GE, Dow Chemical (very similar trajectory to Monsanto), Exxon, Shell, General Motors, and so on.

This is not to say that everything produced by chemical processes and industrial manufacture is a priori bad. The organic nature of production for things of general (accountable, democratic) use to humanity is extraordinarily decentralized. This is wonderful for consumers, who can hold small, localized entities to account, but terrible for a centralized, militarized state, who needs single points of audit and control to drive industry in particular ways.

Gabriel Kolko demonstrates this rigorously in The Triumph of Conservatism. His evidence was among the most important in convincing me that there was no golden age of government regulation. The history of regulation is the history of eliminating small, local businesses and manufacture to assist in the ascendency of todays awful multi-national corporations.

If you’ve read this far looking for a reference to The Roving Band of Armed Thugs Argument, there it is. In short, a common argument for the necessity of a centralized, powerful monopoly on violence is that, without it, we’d be overwhelmed by crudely armed bad actors (roving bands of armed thugs). Because of that abstract (and fairly absurd theory), most folks put up with, encourage and pay for roving bands of armed thugs which actually are a plague in most metropolitan area (the police) and around the world (the US military). Similarly, in the name of preventing unaccountable accumulations of private wealth, most folks put up with encourage and pay for an agency of force that expropriates or destroys small accumulations of wealth and channels the resources, protections, and patronage into a few hands. Thus, in both cases, people are bamboozled into accepting something precisely the opposite of the actual solution to the problem they imagine.

Podcast Recommendations

Great Scott! The month, she is over, and I can’t bring myself to type-process any of the events of the last month. I’ve been meaning to explicitly point out some good podcasts that I’ve been listening to. That will have to suffice. Check them out:

  • The School Sucks Podcast I can’t over-hype this podcast/project. It’s fundamentally philosophically sound, thought provoking, and very entertaining. Also, the commitment to accuracy and the sheer amount of research is more than impressive. Start on episode 1. You’ll thank me.
  • The Corbett Report I can’t over-hype this podcast/project. It’s fundamentally philosophically sound, thought provoking, and very entertaining. Also, the commitment to accuracy and the sheer amount of research is more than impressive. Start on episode 1. You’ll thank me.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Religion

Here’s the introduction to this series. I followed up with a post on marriage, monogamy and violence and another on abortion. The time has come to dismantle Jay Batman’s spectacularly indefensible argument that women control religious institutions. Don’t laugh–okay you can laugh. Here’s what he says:

Consider the following from the article The Feminization of Christianity by Leon Podles, which finds church membership ratios overwhelming dominated by women: Roman Catholics, 1.09 to one; Lutherans, 1.04-1.23 to one; Mennonites, 1.44-1.16 to one; Friends, 1.40 to one; Methodists, 1.33-1.47 to one; Baptists, 1.35 to one; Assembly of God, 1.71 to one; Pentecostals, 1.71-2.09 to one; and Christian Scientists, 3.19 to one. Podles notes that when men do attend church, it is usually only because they are pressured into doing so by women.

Ah, so the members of the world’s religions–at least the western ones–are mostly females. They’ve used their dominant position in the church to take leadership positions and direct the police and military apparatus to enforce their will on manly men. Led by the heads of the catholic church Pope Clementine VII (successor of long-time Pope Johanna Pauline II) they . . . what’s that you say? All the Popes are male? All the clergy are male? The leaders and priest class of virtually every world religion are all males? And no army? No police? Well how do they force men to marry and inseminate women?

To be fair Jay and Podles do cover the clergy:

Podles goes on to critique the clergy, and what he notes is informative: “Because Christianity is now seen as a part of the sphere of life proper to women rather than to men, it sometimes attracts men whose own masculinity is somewhat doubtful. By this I do not mean homosexuals, although a certain type of homosexual is included. Rather, religion is seen as a safe field, a refuge from the challenges of life, and therefore attracts men who are fearful of making the break with the secure world of childhood dominated by women.

Lewis M. Terman and Catherine Cox Miles measured masculinity among men involved in religion, and their findings were even more striking: “Most masculine of all are still the men who have little or no interest in religion. Very masculine men showed little interest in religion, very feminine men great interest. Women who have highly feminine scores were also especially religious, while women who had more masculine scores were neutral or adverse to religion. The difference was clearly not physical sex, but attitude, or gender, as the term is now used.”

Let’s try to decode this. People of all genders with masculine traits tend not to be religious. Let’s assume Podles is also a misogynist. I wonder what he considers masculine traits . . . I’ll bet independently minded is on the list. Free thinking, willing to challenge authority, probably strong willed make the roll. Proud, self-interested, assertive–I think we’ve got a good picture here.

What do these things have in common . . . hmmmm. Well, for one thing, they’ll get a slave killed. Sure as shit if you can be legitimately aggressed against by a physical superior with the law on his side, you will radically shorten your life–or at least make it alot less bearable–by exhibiting Podles’ masculine traits.

Oh, something else in common, they are anti-virtues in almost all world religions. Some of them are even deadly sins! In religious “teachings,” the virtues are humility, obedience, submission, forgiveness, and an annihilation of free thinking, reason and evidence in favor of faith in that which cannot be demonstrated.

I’m not a expert in things Nietzsche–I need spell check to get his name right–but he seemed to have pretty much nailed the purpose of religion, which is to create virtues out of being small, passive and doormat-like–the survival strategies for people who are owned. It really reduces the incidents of rebellion and escape when you are not only physically dominated, but also convinced that submitting to domination is “the right thing to do.”

We live in a society based on violence, domination and physical superiority–that’s a basic analysis of anarchism. Religion provides shelter, validation and comfort (of a sort) to people who are physically and socially dominated. It also provides a very inexpensive and historically reliable method of control for people who own or control the people who go to church. Again, this isn’t a strange, new or radical claim, it’s sort of an axiom of revolutionary thought. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t stand scrutiny, but pointing out that churches are attended by women and staffed by “non-masculine” men sort of reinforces the argument.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Reproductive Freedom

Here’s the introduction to this series. I followed up with a post on marriage, monogamy and violence. Both posts together got combined and cross-posted at the Gonzo Times. Thanks to Punk Johnny Cash for the platform.

We continue today with a classic “men’s rights” position–one that, in it’s essence, I agree with. However, it’s so obviously disingenuous, always accompanied by massive misdirection, and seething with anger towards women that it’s a really interesting study of the misogynist mindset. We’ll lead off with a quote from Jay Batman.

The fact that I ejaculate during sexual intercourse does not mean that I consent to all possible outcomes including pregnancy and fatherhood. I have consented to the immediate sexual act, and in order for me to be considered a father, I must consent to fatherhood, which is a separate transaction altogether. I retain autonomy and sovereignty throughout all phases of my existence, and reject the idea that consent can be implicit. A woman may choose to engage in motherhood, but that in no way obligates me to the converse of fatherhood. It does not matter how many times I engaged in sexual intercourse, if my stated intention was merely sex, I cannot be said to have consent to reproduction.

Reproductive freedom for a male is summed up by the ability to deny consequence for consensual action, just as it is for a woman. If we are to be equal, a male’s ability to abort his decision by refusing to accept obligations for the consequence of sex in the form of parenthood must be honored . . . There are two distinct choices, but a woman’s feminist outlook seeks to render one choice out of two for any man in order to coerce and force him into a role she wants for herself. His capital must be pilfered to support and sustain her choice.

In Jay Batman’s world, and the world of most wildly uninformed people, abortion is a cakewalk. Simply kiss your sympathetic sexual partner on the cheek, drive up to the window of the friendly and inviting drive-thru clinic, terminate the pregnancy for $19.95 and be about your way.

The reality is much different and is covered so well elsewhere that I’ll just touch on the highlights here. In most places that offer reproductive services, and 87% of counties in the United States don’t, the rulers (overwhelmingly male) have legislated a whole host of hurdles for women to overcome: various combinations of multiple day waiting periods, multiple visits during which women must be instructed on fetal development, see sonograms, listen to fetal heartbeats, and undergo counselling. That’s two or three days off work, probably away from home (for many, more than 50 miles) at locations that are under regular threat of bombing and seeing providers that are not infrequently assassinated.

The various procedures, which could easily be carried out by a trained technician, must be performed by one of the 2000 or so medical doctors (mostly over the age of 50) that are still practicing. All these legal hurdles drive the price up tremendously.

To be fair, access to reproductive options are much better in some respects than in years past. In many places, it’s possible to get a morning after pill, which is reasonably convenient and affordable. But for the self actualized women who are able to overcome social and religious pressure, economic and psychological circumstances and take this kind of pro-active control, the morning after pill is rarely a necessity. For these women, partnering with responsible condom wearing men is the first line of defense against pregnancy.

That’s right, the least expensive, most available, and highly effective means that every man has at his disposal to avoid the snares and pitfalls that Jay Batman feels the all powerful and fiendishly deceptive gynarchy is laying out–the latex condom. It’s the kryptonite against the tricksters and gold diggers that populate his imagination and it’s at hand in every gas station, convenience store, pharmacy and grocery in the country.

Jay accepts that every woman should have absolute control over her body, and he expects them to exercise this control to avoid the burdens of parenthood. Every man has the same degree–actually a much greater degree given the relative costs and convenience of the remedies–of control in avoiding unwanted children. He still seems somehow more sympathetic and concerned for the man who has unprotected sex.

Now we come to the point of agreement, and this is a challenging idea that I first heard not long ago on the Flaming Freedom podcast (this episode touches on it). The idea is essentially that a man should have the right to abandon a child and essentially waive all future claims of custody, visitation, etc. in exchange for avoiding financial obligation.

I think Jay would be surprised at how unpopular the idea would be among fathers. Currently, they largely able to avoid financial obligation by threatening abandonment, maintaining a low legal profile, or simply not paying and hoping that the mother won’t go through the onerous, expensive, and time consuming process of attempting to bring the unwieldy court system to bear on the father.

Currently many less-than-honorable men get to have it all: freedom from financial obligation as well as contact with his children. In the world Jay imagines with an either/or choice, this would be virtually impossible.

That said, I think I am in agreement. In a world in which female reproductive options were as readily available and as inexpensive as they would be without puritanical male legal interference, where arbitration supported the enforcement of contracts freely entered without regard to gender, and most importantly–and this would be the biggest change, I think–where a woman faced no threat of violence for exercising her autonomy; in this world, I think that it should be possible for a man to opt out of fatherhood immediately following intercourse.

Such a world would be a radical, reality altering improvement for women.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Marriage, Monogamy and Violence

See here for an introduction to this series of posts.

Jay begins his post with the following premises:

. . . societal conventions that deny a man’s natural and innate inclinations to preach some false idea of domestication as the ideal are the creations of a matriarchal tyranny.
We men are not naturally inclined toward monogamy or marriage. Societies that promote such end results are clearly the product of male hatred on the part of the women who drive such values. Women have appropriated the state and religious institutions to systematically de-masculinize men and relegate us to a less virile, less potent existence.

One would think a libertarian would understand that a tyranny of any sort cannot exist without the use of force. I’m not clear on what, exactly, is preaching the idea of monogamy and marriage as ideal–I guess the Abrahamic religions (why not the Sarahtic religions?) are usually interpreted as endorsing these things–but whatever the source, it’s pretty clearly using non-violent persuasion to get the job done in the western world.

This conflation of verbal pressure with violent aggression seems to be a trend among misogynists. In another, follow-up post, Jay paints the following picture

Think of the man like the Gadsden Flag bearer, and you get the picture: he’s got it in his head that striking back is the way to go, but the female standing in front of him, though half his size, has a mouth like a Gatling Gun and can tear him to shreds with it. It’s emasculating, but it’s what women do.

This echoes a similar sentiment expressed by a commenter on a Punk Johnny Cash article.

Add to this, women who can’t keep their mouths shut, who use their words as surrogate baseball bats to bludgeon their man into submission; or women who stand in doorways to prevent the man from leaving the room/house so as to DE-escalate (caused mainly by the rise of “Feminism,” another statist invention). . . they kind of deserve what they get.

At least Jay pretends to live in a world where a verbal confrontation results in the powerful man gently weeping in response to a discussion with a woman. The second commenter seems more closely connected with reality, where 4 million women apparently can’t keep their mouths shut each year and get what, apparently, they “deserve”.

It’s important to frame a verbal confrontation in physically violent terms so that men who initiate aggression against people can be let off the hook on a pseudo-self-defense clause.

In the good old days, of course, even this nonsensical veneer of legitimacy wasn’t needed, and this brings us back to the topic of marriage.

Until the tyrannical matriarchy appeared on the scene, marriage was simply a legal claim to human property. If a woman was beaten, raped, killed, or forced into labor, the legal question was restricted to which man, typically a father or husband, owned her. If the perpetrator was the owner of the woman, the issue went no further. If, he wasn’t, restitution was owed to the owner and the attacker and often the victim were further punished by the legal authorities.

This arrangement varied slightly from place to place, but was always essentially a transaction among men:fathers and sometimes would-be husbands as part of an often much larger exchange of property.

Women, for their part, were kept by in a dependent state by the inability to own property, conduct business, travel unescorted, etc. The skill set they were consequentially raised to develop was that of a domestic servant, taking care of the children, the sick, the elderly and maintaining the household. They were raised to be obedient and submissive and were therefore amenable to religions, which praise obedience, submission and forgiveness as virtuous–more on this in a future post.

In the last fraction of human history, state capitalism has subsidized the movement of women into the workforce by taking over some of the traditional roles: care of children, the sick and the elderly primary among them. This isn’t, as Jay posits, a result of an emerging and powerful state-feminist alliance–such an idea is laughable when one compares the numbers of men and women among the captains of industry and social engineers that constructed the state welfare system–but as an entirely predictable corporate-state alliance that always seeks to subsidize inexpensive labor for the owners of capital.

Jay’s other point in the passage is that the women force men, through the apparatus of the state, I guess, into monogamous relationships. Again, this is absurd. Men have never been held to a standard of monogamy, certainly not in the modern west. Women on the other hand have always been held to an exacting standard with phenomenally inhumane penalties for adultery.

The fear of raising another man’s child factored into both the control of women’s freedom to move, to associate, and to own property as well as the devastating penalties exacted on women for sex outside of marriage. Men never faced anywhere near the same degree of retribution for non-monogamy.

As to what is “natural” for either sex, the point is moot and largely unknowable. In a few hundred years, when women have absolute and unchallenged control of their reproduction and face no physical threat from partners, it might be possible to determine what sexual behaviors are natural and which are a result of violent institutions. My guess is, nature being what it is, that people will tend towards a wide variety of arrangements that will overrun any modern predictions.

In any case, the current situation is rife with violence and the threat of violence as well as the historical hangovers of sexual repression and institutional dis-empowerment of women–reasoning about the future of human sexuality is like predicting the future course of technology at the point that the catholic church ceased systematic interference in the conduct of science.

Overall, the extraordinary claim that women are secretly controlling the agendas of institutions that have always been overseen and staffed by males and have always relegated women to a “less virile less potent existence” requires a tremendous amount of evidence. While Jay provides a number of anecdotal instances of women who act less than honorably toward men, by any metric and at any time and place in history, men have used their physical superiority and their political privilege to completely dominate women. This isn’t a matter of “reading the right books” as Jay complains he is always asked to do. It’s a recognition of very rudimentary and basic fact of human history.

To blame women for perpetuating the institutions that have always assisted men in maintaining dominance is the height of chutzpah. To pity men that can’t willfully beat their “mouthy women” and then wonder why females avoid one’s ideology of freedom is willful callousness. To blame women in general for the behavior of the women that one chooses to associate with the definition of bigotry.

We’ve got alot more to cover folks, so if you have any desire to direct the conversation, please drop a comment.

Takedown of an Anarcho-Misogynist: Introduction

The next several posts will (barring sidetracking) be related to a discussion going on at the Gonzo Times. I’ve always liked the Times because they address issues that a number of other anti-authoritarian sites seem to overlook in the name of expediency. One of these issues is gender. As I documented in the previous post/podcast and as is summarized (along with subsequent developments) by Punk Johnny Cash in this recent post, a number of misogynists, some self-described, have predictably sprung up to attack those voicing questions and concerns about the treatment of women in pro-liberty circles.

Of course, there are alot of ins, alot of outs, alot of what-have-yous involved, but I tend to think that this sort of development is “a good thing.” Occasionally, it’s time to introspect and make sure one’s house is in order, both as an individual and, metaphorically, as a collective. On the rare occasions that reactionaries, especially those that are so obviously poisoning the well, pop up, it provides the rest of us a chance to state our position clearly to said reactionaries and to the rest of the world.

In this case, the world clearly needs to hear the liberty perspective spelled out. Virtually all casual observers believe that libertarianism is a post-hoc political conclusion based on anger towards and fear of government takeover by non-white and/or non-male people. This conclusion is based on the media amplification of a few conservative voices that, in fact, hold that position in ways subtle and obvious[1]

What we shall look at over the next few posts is a flurry of activity on the Gonzo Times website by one of the bloggers there, Jay Batman (one of the aforementioned self-described misogynists). His case, stated most comprehensively in an initial post can be addressed in a dozen ways that have sprung into my mind. I haven’t even finished reading it. Maybe he ends the entire thing with a retraction, in which case, my bad for not finishing before responding.

In any case, these issues deserve addressing as they will doubtless arise again (and again) in the future. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep at it until each and every failing is revealed, but I will do my best.

  1. [1] An compelling discussion on how ideology is used to provide psychic cover for prior trauma can be found in Freedomain Radio’s Bomb in the Brain series.

The Bikecast Episode #49: Flaming Freedom

While replacing my bike and repairing my mobile studio, I had more time to listen to podcasts. One that I’m really excited about is Prometheus Unchained a.k.a. Flaming Freedom. It’s an examination of GLBT issues from the liberty perspective. As I’ve noted several times, I think a major hurdle for alot of people–or a ready-to-hand-dismissal anyway–is the reactionary nature of a vocal minority of people who claim to be advocates of freedom or liberty. It’s great to hear this perspective and I imagine it will spark alot of conversation which, hopefully, will allow some of the remaining regressive cultural baggage of the movement to be examined. If you only have time for one podcast, give the Bikecast a pass today and go check out their show (but do come back ;-) . If you have time for two . . .


Download this episode of the bikecast

The hosts of the program are Neal Connor and Dale Everett. I’ve followed Dale’s blog anarchyinyourhead for years. Anarkitty cracks me the hell up.

Anarkitty lapsteading
Click for fullsize

As I mention in the podcast, Dale and Neal are part of the Free State Project which is currently composed of around a thousand people who have moved to New Hampshire in an attempt to create communities practicing voluntarism, anarchism, minarchism and all other manner of peaceful social interaction.

Besides being available in podcast form, Flaming Freedom is on lrn.com (internet radio) from Noon to 2pm EST on Sunday and 5pm – 7pm on Wednesday.

Education, Schooling, and John Gatto

“We want one class to have a liberal education.  We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” — Woodrow Wilson

Education and school have been the subject, direct or tangential, of a number of posts lately.  Most notably this fantastic, honest piece about Antigone’s school experience.  Government schooling is an emotionally charged subject since most of us attended school every non-summer weekday for 12+ years.  Many of us are sending or planning to send our children to this institution for the same duration.

The “public education” narrative is that the fabric of our civic society is founded on universal, compulsory education.  According to this narrative, the difficult and time consuming job of distilling curricula and applying it to individuals and groups of children in a scientifically validated manner should be left to state-certified professionals, freeing the parents for work more suited to their specific talents.  Deviating from this model will result in a society in which only the sufficiently wealthy and privileged will receive the education to succeed in life while the poor will not have access to the tools to remove themselves from poverty.  Additionally, many adults will not be capable of critical thought, but will instead learn about gods, ghosts, creationism, and a worldview supporting racism, nationalism, sexism and homophobia.  As with most state-centered narratives, the consequences it claims will inevitably occur are already manifest all around us.  State education has been, if not wholly responsible, at least a large component in creating the reality that we’re told we should fear.

The purpose of this post is to introduce and wildly recommend the works of John Taylor Gatto.  He was a teacher for 30 years, was awarded New York City teacher of the year 3 times and retired after winning New York State teacher of the year in 1991.  He’s got a handful of books–an online version of one is available via the prior link–plus he and his former students have been covered fairly regularly in mainstream’ish media.

My prescient partner Alisa got me a collection of his essays, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, during my brief stint as a high-school math teacher.  I expected it to be a motivational, Lean on Me style book.  Instead it was The People’s History of the United States, shredding everything I had previously been taught and understood about the role of state education in society.  Anyone who wants to speak authoritatively about education reform and definitely anyone who is considering how their own children are or will be educated would benefit tremendously from Gatto’s experience and research.

Well, that’s kindof it for the post–more of a slightly-too-large-for-a-comment-comment.  I am comforted by the fact that, should you read a few dozen pages of his work, your mind will be sufficiently blown to justify this recommendation.

I will leave you with  a couple sample passages with links to the relevant resources to tempt your palette:

There were vast fortunes to be made, after all, in an economy based on mass production and organized to favor the large corporation rather than the small business or the family farm. But mass production required mass consumption, and at the turn of the twentieth century most Americans considered it both unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn’t actually need. Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that count. School didn’t have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all. And that left them sitting ducks for another great invention of the modem era – marketing. — Harper’s Magazine (easier to read in this reprint)

Something in the structure of schooling calls forth violence. While latter-day schools don’t allow energetic physical discipline, certainly they are state-of-the-art laboratories in humiliation, as your own experience should remind you. In my first years of teaching I was told over and over that humiliation was my best friend, more effective than whipping. I witnessed this theory in practice through my time as a teacher. If you were to ask me now whether physical or psychological violence does more damage, I would reply that slurs, aspersion, formal ranking, insult, and inference are far and away the more deadly. Nor does law protect the tongue-lashed. — The Underground History of American Education (the entire book is available online)

I will tell you this – a kid who learns to read at five, and a kid who learns to read
at 9, will be indistinguishable to each other at the age of fourteen, assuming
they both like what they’re doing. On the other hand, we can say its too
inconvenient, or too expensive, to allow that and impose a learning curve in
first grade that produces this wonderful bell, we can then assign the people on
the fringes of the bell to special ed and the people in the middle of the bells
- the walls of the curve – to the dull classes and so on. And we will create a
class system by simply doing that. Inside of a year or two, the kids will impose
that kind of class system on themselves! It’s a phenomenally intricate, but
rather easy to unravel puzzle there – reading is pathetically easy to teach, you
assume that once you assemble 30 people in a room, and do it in the same
routines, that you’ll fail to teach it to some of them, that this bell will
appear, and the atmosphere in the classroom is that the humiliation of being a
dull reader or bad reader will never wear off. You can predict the rise of a
giant remediation industry.  — Interview with Jerry Brown