The Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The Chickens Coming Home to Roost

 

 

      The events of September 11th shocked me more than any event ever in my life. I felt sort of numb and at a loss for words for the first hour or two. It reminded me of how I felt when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I was in the 4th grade and playing ball on the playground when it was announced over the loud speaker. I just sat down and felt sort of like my childhood innocence was shattered in one instant. How could this happen to our beloved president who was so young, so good, so strong? We were the United States. I had been taught that we were always the good guy. We were a democracy and stood up for the little guys (smaller countries) around the world.

 

Almost four decades have passed since that first world shattering event rocked my world. And in those intervening years, I have learned of the many good things done in America’s name and I’ve also discovered through at least 20 years of diligent searching for knowledge and answers, of the horrendous crimes committed against humanity in our name. Of course the average American isn’t aware of most of our dark deeds because they are kept mostly hidden from the general public. The powers that be in this country as well as in other countries conceal what they’re really up to in order to more easily control us & to be able to stir up nationalistic passions of fear, pride, & hatred whenever it suits their purposes.

 

I remember a friend of mine from Switzerland telling me in 1976, that in order for the U.S. & Western Europe to enjoy the standard of living that we do, we were exploiting two thirds of the world’s population & resources. There’s an old saying that illustrates my point, “what Americans consider necessities are luxuries to Europeans & what Europeans consider necessities, are luxuries to Third World people.” All I know is that people will only take so much abuse & then they will rebel or react. People will not sit by and watch their children starve and die from diseases that are easily preventable.

 

A recent Joni Mitchell album has a song with the lyrics, “never since the time of Robespierre, have lawyers been more popular.” I was reminded of the French Revolution. The people were starving & begging for bread. When the queen, Marie Antoinette, was notified of the people’s pleas for a crust of bread, she sarcastically replied, “let them eat cake.” In other words, she didn’t give a damn. Like I said, people will only take so much & for so long. Everyone has their breaking point and the French exploded in a bloodthirsty rage we know as the French Revolution. And they chopped the heads off half of the wealthy elite of France including that arrogant twit, Marie.

 

In the world of today, we are all intertwined & interdependent to a degree never known before in the history of the world. What happens to the economy of one country has ripple effects to all other countries. Of course the major economies like the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan have a much larger impact & a much quicker impact on the rest of the world but nonetheless, the smaller countries economies eventually have an impact also. If people are being tortured & murdered in their own countries and flee to other countries, that too has an impact on those other economies. The pollution and warfare in other countries impacts the rest of the world. The release of radioactivity from Chernobyl didn’t just stay within the confines of Russia, the winds blew the radiation around the world & contaminated a good portion of the world.

 

I am going to attempt to connect the tragic events of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11th, 2001 with the pathetic U.S. educational system & my own life experiences, perceptions, & readings. I heard a quote from Leonardo da Vinci many years ago that went something like this; “Life is like a giant, jig-saw puzzle and the more you learn or the broader your range of studies & the greater your depth of study, the more pieces of life’s puzzle come together and the more you’ll discover or see the interconnectedness of everything.”

 

I have argued for many years that education is our best hope to save the world. Many people have disagreed with me & probably wrote me off as a conspiracy nut when I’d start going on about our educational system. I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s an overt or covert conspiracy or whether it’s just an unfortunate set of circumstances that have brought us to this sad, state of affairs.

 

Personally, I, in my heart of hearts, still do believe that our embarrassingly inadequate level of intelligence in this country is due to a mutual consensus amongst the “power elite” of this country that the “rabble” aren’t capable of managing our own affairs & can’t be trusted. Sort of a benevolent despotism. Which I believe is really to disguise their basic fear of the working class because if the working class had a truly quality education, we’d pose a real threat to their power structure.

 

I will try to control my conspiratorial rantings to the best of my abilities but I hope you’ll excuse my slips from time to time? My passions get the better of me from time to time. My desire is not to alienate my readers but to encourage them to pick up the search for truth for themselves.

 

Let me state from the start that I don’t think that I am a genius or anything special but as Chomsky says, “anyone with common sense & a desire and commitment to a constant pursuit of truth” can discover for themselves what I have learned. And Chomsky is as good a place to start as any. I have only met a handful of people in my life who even know who Chomsky is. And that illustrates perfectly a point that Chomsky makes though not in reference to himself. He states that “intellectuals who dissent remain marginalized in most societies.” Here is a man that is on a list of the 10 most quoted people in human history including; Socrates, Plato, Buddha, & Jesus, and he is the only one living. He has written over 80 books and is a professor at M.I.T. one of the most prestigious technical universities in the world. Yet you never or I should say, once in a blue moon will you see him on national t.v. I believe this is due to two factors; 1)he doesn’t do well in 30 second little sound bites & his thoughts are much too deep & profound to be condensed in such a short amount of time, and 2)he is far too much of a threat to the powers that be.

 

I too, have effectively been marginalized but I in no way compare myself to Chomsky. I am simply another casualty because I have stood up on my hind legs and refused to cow-tail to those supposedly over me all my life whether in the school systems I have worked for or the private companies I have worked for. I remember a quote from Milton that went something like, “since when did truth ever have anything to fear from an open & honest grappling with falsehood?” In other words, why are the powerful so fearful of dissenting individuals if they are so sure of the rightness of their position? Only the guilty hide from the truth or have anything to fear from an honest inquiry.

 

If we were truly a democracy, we would have & encourage a free marketplace of all ideas & opinions. Don’t forget that Athens in ancient Greece was the birthplace of so called democracy & they killed Socrates, the father of Western Philosophy & the teacher of Plato, one of the most powerful intellects to have ever lived. Why was Socrates killed? Because he was a man of high principle and because his constant questioning of the so-called experts of his time embarrassed them & showed them for the arrogant fools that they were.

 

And to connect back to the title of this essay & to the horrendous attacks on the U.S. of 9/11, I personally am outraged at the insult to our intelligence when Bush & the media tried to write off the terrorists as attacking us simply out of jealousy of our freedom & democracy. I was taught or rather indoctrinated throughout my twelve years of public schooling that America was all about freedom & standing up for the weak and the oppressed around the world. That we stood for democracy and were the protectors of the world!

 

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s and had done a bit of traveling to Europe, and read a great deal of books on my own and was fortunate enough to meet several liberal professors and individuals that my eyes were gradually opened. If the U.S. is the defender of democracy then please explain to me why we have supported in terms of financing, selling weapons, training their secret police, & sometimes sending U.S. soldiers to such brutal & sadistic dictators as; the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Ossama bin Laden, President Noriega, President Marcos, President Pinnochet, President Somoza, Idi Amin, etc.? We get so self-righteous whenver the Russians or Cubans invade their neighbors but conveniently have a national lapse of memory when we do the same thing or when half of the son-of-a-bitches I listed above, turn on us & tell us to go fuck ourselves!

 

What a convenient selective memory we have. Well we may forget but most of the rest of the world hasn’t forgotten. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trying to justify or defend terrorism but I am trying to teach U.S. citizens of some of the many terrorist acts that have been  committed by our C.I.A. and other agents of our government under the guise of protecting U.S. interests.

 

Come on, let’s get real! When the boys in government or in corporate America throw terms around like U.S. interests or “National Security” what they are really saying is their—the wealthy’s—interest. For example, the U.S. Marine Corps invaded Nicaragua 9 times in the last century. And for what? To protect United Fruit Corp. It’s the same old story over and over again. They send our young boys who have been indoctrinated with all the propaganda all their lives about how wonderful and good the U.S. is in being the champions of democracy around the world and defenders of the free market enterprise system.

 

There’s nothing even remotely free about our “free market system.” Rather, what they really mean is they want to be free to exploit the people & the resources of the world unfettered by petty nuisances such as fair wages for the workers, environmental concerns, the right to life, democracy, etc. And if any of the poor slobs in the various countries where U.S. corporations have businesses dare to speak out against the human or environmental injustices, we either jail them or kill them & label them as communists or subversives (our clients that is, the dictators, usually do the killing & torturing of the ‘communists’). How dare they claim that the U.S. doesn’t have the right to rape their country of their natural resources or pay their people slave wages or forcibly chase them off their own land!

 

And what about free enterprise here in the good old U.S. of A.? If you own a little mom & pop business and are going belly-up, tough shit! Pull yourself up by your own boot straps ala Horatio Alger—Reagan’s hero and role model. Just look at the great tycoons we honor in America; Rockefeller, Carnegie, Getty, J.P. Morgan, etc. Just good old hard work & perseverance—yeah, right! If you buy that, I have some prime swampland in Florida I’ll sell you real cheap.

 

How come when Chrysler was going belly-up, the U.S. government bailed them out and then Lee Iaacoca was hailed as the brilliant business manager? Pretty blatant double standards and hypocrisy I’d say. Or what about that mental giant and great communicator, Ronald Reagan? Do you remember his first act as president? He fired the air traffic controllers who had the audacity to go on strike. Talk about a stressful job. They were trying to highlight the serious shortage of air traffic controllers and the extreme dangers of our overcrowded skies and that moron not only fired them but he fired them for life. Reagan was one of the biggest union busters we’ve ever had, a true champion of the ruling class! It didn’t take him long to switch from being a democrat to joining the Republican ranks. What an honorable person. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, he gave MCA a sweetheart contract that helped them to eventually obtain a stranglehold on the entertainment industry. Yeah, MCA that bastion of free enterprise—the mafia.

 

Lest ye think me a bull-shitter, check it out for yourself. Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada was Reagan’s campaign manager and its well known that Laxalt was mobbed up. Or what about dear old Reagan’s “trickle-down theory?” He gave all those fantastic tax breaks to U.S. corporations under the pretext that it’d enable those poor, multi-millionaires to rehire the thousands of employees they’d laid off due to hard times. What was the result? Record mergers of corporations and record profits with very few employees rehired. “Let them eat cake” once again.

 

Or, what about Reagan’s other wonderful gift he gave us? Deregulation. Made it so much more dangerous to drive our freeways with the semi-truck drivers & their free rein to drive with so many of the safety requirements eliminated with one fell swoop. Or, how about his blank check for the “Star Wars” program that threw billions of dollars down the toilet—welfare for the rich i.e. $900 toilet seats & etc. and that hundreds of Nobel Prize-winning scientists said was ludicrous? And yet he wanted ketchup declared a vegetable to cut the budget on that wasteful program of free school lunches for school children on welfare. Or, the Savings & Loan Scandal that wiped out thousands of people’s life savings?

 

Yes, the free market! Free in the sense of it has always been open season on all of the poor & downtrodden of the earth! And what a national disgrace for that moron, Reagan, to compare those butchers of the Death Squads in El Salvador to our founding fathers! To connect back to our wonderful educational system, look, you too can be president of the most powerful nation on earth and be a total moron. Reagan who claimed that trees cause pollution & that once a Trident submarine fired it’s missiles, they could change their mind & recall the missiles. He was a national embarrassment and a testament to stupidity! Just goes to prove that intelligence doesn’t count for shit in this society. All you need to succeed in this country is to be a kiss ass and have no morals or conscience. Remember, Reagan spent 20 years as spokesman for General Electric giving the same speech i.e. the commies are coming. And General Electric “brings good things to light” like nuclear weapons.

 

I digress somewhat but not really in the big picture. We only get moron presidents like Reagan because of our ignorance as a people. And let me be clear as to what I mean by ignorance. I make a distinction between what I call innocent ignorance and willful ignorance. Ignorance simply means to not know. When you don’t know something simply because you’ve never been exposed to it i.e. heard, read, etc., that’s innocent ignorance but when somebody tries to share some knowledge or information with you and you purposely block it out, I call that willful ignorance and I do judge those people.

 

Our educational system rewards those who learn to compromise their principles, if they ever had any, and be quiet and obedient little automatons. If you dare to question what you’re told or ask questions that embarrass those in positions of authority, you are passed over for promotions, harassed or ignored until you voluntarily leave, or framed for acts you never committed. In short, the innovators, the mavericks, the free spirits, etc. are marginalized or made insignificant—pushed to the side & rendered ineffective because they have no voice, no forum.

 

I know I sound like I’m really out there but think about it. All the “radicals” of the 1960s were either jailed or killed. Timothy Leary, jailed. The Chicago 7—Abbie Hoffman & some of the Black Panthers (Bobby Seale, I believe?), Eldridge Cleaver, Stokeley Carmichael, Angela Davis, A.I.M. (American Indian Movement), etc. The message is loud and clear. And I have been an unwitting co-conspirator as a teacher in our illustrious system of oppression. It took me quite some time to come to the realization that we as teachers, have a handful of basic objectives if we are to be honest with ourselves. These objectives or basic lessons we are trying to indoctrinate students in are; to be on time, to bring your materials, & to cooperate, amongst others. So, in reality it’s all about breaking their spirits (like taming a wild horse) and teaching students to be good conformists.

 

And even more important than being good conformists (non-boat rockers) is learning to become a good consumer. Do you think all those corporations spend all those millions of dollars on advertising for nothing? No, they know that it’s a profitable investment because the majority of people have such an inferior education (poorly developed critical & analytical thinking skills) that if they see their ads often enough and even though the product has nothing to do with the sexy gal standing in front of it, they will buy the product because they will associate themselves (either men desiring the gal or women thinking men will find them desirable) with the product and therefore buy the product.

 

Okay, I’m going to get back to my central thesis; our educational system is both our enemy and our best hope—though I wouldn’t hold my breath (better to take your educational development into your own hands). I’m going to use my notes from an excellent book by John Taylor Gatto called, The Underground History of American Education, as a sort of framework upon which to make or build my point of view regarding our educational system.

 

In a short essay that Gatto sent to The Wall Street Journal titled, “I Quit, I Think,” he says, “Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents.” This hits home for me like a clap of thunder. My son was in the Talented & Gifted program in elementary school and he loved the one day a week that he went to T.A.G. but hated the other four days because he was bored and not challenged. I had tried for several years to convince my wife to let our son be home-schooled. She is a certified teacher with over 20 years experience and finished all the coursework for her Master’s degree but not her thesis. I earned a B.A. in English literature and have collected a library of over 7,000 quality books in classical literature, political science, history, philosophy, etc. Plus I have approximately 15 years experience as an educator.

 

Well, when Ryan was about half-way through 6th grade, my wife finally caved in and agreed to give home schooling a try. Our son loved it. We gave him a say or much more choice in what he studied—though within the parameters laid down by Oregon state requirements. I remember his shock when I told him that we wouldn’t be grading him but would give him suggestions on ways to improve upon his work. He also enjoyed the fact that he could do twice the amount of work he usually accomplished in school in half the time. This allowed him plenty of time to get his household chores done and still have plenty of time to play.

 

Ryan enjoyed home schooling for a few months and then when I had to go down to L.A. to deal with the probate problems regarding my mom’s estate, my wife put him back in school. Her argument was that she didn’t have the time or energy to sit down with him and go over his daily work after her day of work & that he wasn’t getting the proper ‘socialization’ skills. I was so pissed off when I returned that I was fit to be tied. I told her that she was too much a part of the system and therefore couldn’t be objective about it’s shortcomings. I also pointed out that he got all the socialization skills he needed by being in Little League, the bowling league, playing with his friends, & going to temple. She is too pig-headed though and I’ve had to sit by and watch our once well-mannered & intellectually curious boy become more and more rude & less and less interested in learning. Yeah, he’s getting those important ‘social skills’ he’s become a smart-assed teenage punk that screams and cusses at his mother and disrespects most adults and could give a shit less about school and learning!

 

Gatto also pointed out in his essay to The Wall Street Journal, “Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen.” Remember what I said earlier about Athens, the home of democracy and why they killed Socrates? Socrates knew that only by the constant questioning of everything and of those who claimed to be authorities could we get closer to truth. And of course those in power or control don’t like being challenged or being shown for the fools that they are.

 

Those who wield the power in the U.S. had to become every more sly and subtle in their methods of controlling the lower classes and one of their devices as Gatto points out was that, “During the post-Civil War period, childhood was extended about four years. Later, a special label was created to describe very old children. It was called adolescence, a phenomenon hitherto unknown to the human race.”

 

This reminds me of the fact that for centuries, a boy would serve a sort of apprenticeship under his father and learn his father’s trade. And I bet there was a lot less strife in their families than in our modern day American society. I have also thought and said so repeatedly over the years especially after my four years as a substitute teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District that we should let those teenaged students who are constantly disruptive in the classroom and didn’t want to be there, the option of leaving school and working at a job. I firmly believe that school is not for everybody and those most kids if turned off to school and given the opportunity to work at a variety of Mickey Mouse jobs, it wouldn’t take too long for them to realize that if they didn’t go back to school and get serious about learning, they would have a very bleak future of dead-end jobs.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I probably sound like a blatant hypocrite because I am so highly critical of our educational system and yet as I just said, kids will become much more highly motivated students once they’ve had a dose of “reality.” Though our educational system is seriously flawed, I still believe that most people need a modicum of education or they’ll be trapped in an ever-narrowing world of solely manual labor work like most of the poor Hispanic field workers. Again though I want to reiterate that I believe that the powerful vested interests who dominate this so called “democracy” of ours, don’t want all Americans to have a truly quality education because we would then be a serious threat to the entire power structure of this country.

 

Gatto echoes this with, “ordinary people send their children to school to get smart, but what modern schooling teaches is dumbness. It’s a religious idea gone out of control. You don’t have to accept that, though, to realize this kind of economy is put in danger by too many smart people who understood too much.” I would add to support Gatto in his statement of the “dumbing down of America,” a quote loosely paraphrased from Einstein, “it’s a miracle if by the time a child graduates from our public educational system there’s any of that holy seed of curiosity left in them.”

 

In other words, all children start out in life natural learners—constantly curious about everything—but after 12 years of the spirit-killing dull rote learning & memorization shoved down their throats, most kids grow to hate school & anything associated with learning. “Alan Bullock, the English historian, said Evil was a state of incompetence. If true, our school adventure has filled the twentieth century with evil.” And I couldn’t agree more! It is evil, pure and simple, that they have perpetuated against us. They have robbed us of our élan vital—our spirit, our creative life spirit. And I wish upon them the same fate as those in power during the French Revolution.

 

Jacques Ellul in an essay titled Propaganda elaborates on the subject with, “…once personal judgment and critical faculties have disappeared or have atrophied, they will not simply reappear when propaganda is suppressed…years of intellectual and spiritual education would be needed to restore such faculties.” In other words, no quick and easy fixes which we are so accustomed to in this country. It took years to get to this deplorable state and it will take years to begin to reverse this downward spiral our educational system has been on.

 

And once again to illustrate the extent of this evil perpetrated against our children, “once the best children are broken to such a system they disintegrate morally, becoming dependent on group approval.” We wonder why peer pressure is such a powerful influence on our children—duh! Isn’t it also interesting to note that as soon as kids graduate high school is when the military swoops on them? Is this mere coincidence? I don’t think so. I believe that the congressional/military/industrial complex knows exactly what they are doing & realize that this is the perfect time to snare their victims. Kids by this time are full of rage because they have been caged & treated like slaves for their whole lives, they have been indoctrinated into believing that America is the best country on earth & they are easily manipulated into joining the military & often don’t have much choice because the only kinds of jobs they can get are flipping burgers or pumping gas at minimum wage.

 

They have learned to hate & distrust adults because it is precisely adults who are constantly trying to break their spirits and force them into nice little predictable boxes. Parents become the main enemy because the sense of betrayal is so great. As parents we were always their protectors and then we made them go to school where they are often bullied not only by other students but also by a lot of incompetent & often mean-spirited teachers. I believe that if we sheltered our children longer, that is until their characters were more firmly established and their self-confidence was stronger and their analytical & critical thinking skills were firmly entrenched, they would be much better prepared to do battle with the outside world.

 

Of course if we had a truly democratic society and educational system, then we could entrust our children to their care with a lot clearer conscience. Gatto then goes on to raise several critical issues. “According to all official analysis, dumbness isn’t taught (as I claim), but is innate in a great percentage of what has come to be called ‘the workforce.’ Workforce itself is a term that should tell you much about the mind that governs modern society. According to official reports, only a small fraction of the population is capable of what you and I call mental life: creative thought, analytical thought, judgmental thought, a trio occupying the three highest positions on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives….According to experts, the bulk of the mob is hopelessly dumb, even dangerously so. Perhaps you’re a willing accomplice to this social coup which revived the English class system. Certainly you are if your own child has been rewarded with a ‘gifted and talented’ label by your local school.

 

….if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds….Mass dumbness first had to be imagined, it isn’t real. Once the dumb are wished into existence, they serve valuable functions: as a danger to themselves and others they have to be watched, classified, disciplined, trained, medicated, sterilized, ghettoized, cajoled, coerced, jailed. To idealists they represent a challenge…An ignorant horde to be schooled one way or another.

 

Well, to start off, I disagree with all the official analysis. Yes, there are those born with mental retardation to one extent or another but I believe that the vast majority of people have been told over and over again that they are dumb and have come to believe it. That is another aspect of the evil that has been committed against so many of our citizens. I have met so many people who, due to their bad experiences in public schools, leave school with a bad taste in their mouths and feeling that they are intellectually inferior or dumb. It doesn’t dawn on so many poor people who have accepted and internalized these negative labels that it could be the system, the teachers, and the methods of teaching that are at fault. And you know how much these incompetent, petty bureaucrats love testing. They love compiling statistics and playing with the numbers to support whatever their agenda is. It could be to illustrate how they need more money—usually to raise their salaries not the teachers’ or for materials and etc. or they can manipulate the statistics to assure their constituents that they have indeed seen academic progress in their students.

 

The term ‘workforce’ shows how they truly think of us i.e. cogs in the machine. And again, it all suits their purposes in that if we accept their claims that only a small portion of the population are capable of higher thought then it’s easier for us to accept the fact that only a small portion of the population are at the top and pulling all the rest of our strings and controlling the vast majority of wealth in this country.

 

The son-of-a-bitches don’t even teach us how to study and I believe it’s because it starts to touch on critical and analytical thinking skills which again are taboo because that would empower us. I’ll give another example from my own life. I had been attending community colleges in the L.A. area for about ten years before I met my wife and I got serious about pursuing a bachelor’s degree. I started attending a university and made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to drop out of any more courses. I took an intro to Western Civilization course and the professor said that our first test was going to cover a couple hundred pages from the textbook and 3 or 4 small paperbacks we’d read. He said he was going to pick 30 topics from the material and we had to choose 10 of them to write short essays on. I thought, my God, there’s several hundred possible topics he could choose from all the material we’d covered. I must have spent 40 hours studying for this test. When we got our test results, I got a D, and so did about two-thirds of the class and we raised such a fuss that the professor agreed to allow us to do a make-up test the following week. He also told us that there was a remedial learning lab in the library.

 

I made a bee-line to the lab and had a rather fascinating discussion with the gentleman who ran it. He had a Jesuit education and had taken like 4 years of Latin and 3 years of Greek. He asked what my major was and I responded that it was philosophy. He asked why I chose philosophy and I said because it was the first subject I had stumbled on that I could really sink my teeth into. I also said that I wanted to develop my critical and analytical thinking skills and I told him how disappointed I was with the courses I had taken so far in the philosophy department. He recommended a book with lots of practice exercises to develop these skills. I attended the workshop he gave and I learned the simple process of making memory slips and how to zero in on the main idea of each paragraph and how to turn it into a question and how to break the answer down into small segments or components which were easier for the brain to memorize. On the make-up test, I scored an A and I have used memory slips ever since for just about every subject I can think of.

 

You see, throughout middle school, high school, and the ten years of junior colleges I’d attended, I’d always been given Scantron tests of either true or false or multiple choice and never an essay test. What an eye-opener and a powerful tool I had gained with that simple technique of memory slips! Well I’m on a roll about my experiences and I’m going to go with it.

 

I never thought I was anything special and it didn’t dawn on me until I was somewhere in my 20s that when I was in the 6th grade they said I was reading at the 11th grade, 6th month level and yet, not once in all my years of public schooling, did a counselor ever call me into their office and say to me that I obviously had the intelligence and should be on a college track i.e. taking courses to prepare me for college.

 

I think it really hit home when in 1981, I was a ‘cub reporter’ for the Paramount Journal. Paramount was where I attended jr. and sr. high school. My job was to try to increase the subscription rate for the Journal. The owner/editor felt it’d be a good idea for me to interview prominent members of the community to hopefully find some information we could use in our Booster Club sales promotion. One of the ‘prominent community members’ I interviewed was the principal of my former high school from which I had graduated. And if I remember correctly, he was the dean when I attended and was the one who almost threw me in juvenile hall for ditching school so much in the 11th grade. I forget exactly how I brought the subject up during the course of the interview but I asked in a roundabout way why students who clearly scored very high on the tests they gave us in the 6th, 8th, & 10th grades were not put on a college track? The principal replied rather matter-of-factly that we were an industrially-zoned town and therefore we were all on a vocational track. I thought to myself, the audacity of these bastards, you live in a working class industrial area and they automatically relegate you to working in a factory for the rest of your life—no matter what your scores on the I.Q. tests they’d given you. How dare they! They were playing god with our lives.

 

I want to bring up another couple of examples from my own life as to how they screwed me & probably tens of thousands of others. My next clue, no, I’m mistaken, this clue came in 1971 when I joined the U.S. Army. After a couple of days into my Basic Training at Fort Ord, CA, they gave us a series of tests. A week or so after we took the tests, they took me and about 4 or 5 other guys out of my company to a series of meetings with some generals or colonels (I often got mixed up on what exactly their ranks were) We must’ve scored pretty high on our tests because they were trying their best to get us to re-up (sign up for a longer commitment to the army). They wanted us to re-up for 6 yrs. And to go to O.C.S. (Officer Candidate School). They were promising us the moon. They said they’d train us in whatever field we wanted and that we could be stationed anywhere in the world that we wanted. I politely declined their offers but I wanted to say that I didn’t even want to be a squad leader. I hated watching all the petty, mean-spirits who even though they had only been there a week or two, relished giving the poor guys right off the bus, a bad time. I didn’t even stick it out for the two years I had signed up for I hated the military so much. I was stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX and orders came down that half of us were going to Vietnam and the other half to Germany. I didn’t know what half I’d be in and I wasn’t politically aware but I trusted my guy instinct and didn’t think Vietnam was a good idea so I kept going A.W.O.L. until they let me out with an Undesirable Discharge.

 

Several years later in 1978, I was in Portland, OR and was tired of getting nowhere in my life so I thought I’d try to join the Navy because I figured that I’d at least get to see a bit of the world. I thought I’d take the test first before I told them about my Undesirable Discharge because they might go to bat for me once they saw my test results. I took the 3 hour test downtown and then the recruiter said to me, “we’re not accusing you of cheating but would you mind taking the vocabulary section over again because we’ve never had anyone score as high as you did on it?” I said, no problem and retook the vocabulary section. When all was said and done, the recruiter wanted to place me in an advanced electronics program which would take a year and a half of training. I was flattered because I’d always thought that I was a moron when it came to mechanics or electronics and I remembered that in the army, most of the advanced training programs only took about two to six months of training. Well, when I told him of my Undesirable discharge from the army, he tried his best but found out that if I’d applied within 4 yrs. Of leaving the army, it would have worked but now it was too late. Oh well I figured, it was their loss. I couldn’t believe that I was so desperate I was willing to give up my freedom again! [I had been reduced to asking friends if I could crash on their couches & time and time again, my ‘friends’ had turned me down]

 

Another interesting experience in my intellectual awakening was the English Placement Test. I took it at Cerritos Community College in 1976 and scored so low that they put me in what we use to refer to as ‘Bonehead English.’ I’d sit with headphones on and listen to a cassette of crap like “see Dick & Jane, see Spot, “ etc. I did it for about a week and said the hell with this. Then five years later at Long Beach City College, I had to take another English Placement Test and I scored in the top 10%. Go figure it? The only thing I can figure is that I was doing a lot of reading in those 5 years and that must be what helped me so much? They say that if you read high quality, challenging books, the author’s style & etc. rubs off on you?

 

One more personal anecdote; in 1982 when I started at California State University at Long Beach, I took an Introduction to Literature course with a Mr. Garrot. He reminded me of Sidney Poitier and was one of a handful of teachers in my life whom I felt was truly an inspiring teacher. I enjoyed his lectures so much that I’d often go to his office hours just to talk. And I’ll never forget his telling me one day, “Rob, you’re not getting what you need here. Most students just want to know what’s going to be on the test, they they’ll memorize it, spit it out for the test, & then forget about it. But you’re different. You want to know for knowledge’s sake. You should go to a university like Stanford.” I was blown away when he told me this and I thought to myself, yeah right, I can barely afford Cal State Long Beach & that was only because my girlfriend had moved in with me and was working as a teacher and paying most of the bills!

 

Okay, enough digressing down memory lane, let me get back to Mr. Gatto. And here we come upon an important note but not the most critical point in this book. “With conspiracy so close to the surface of the American imagination and American reality, I can only approach with trepidation the task of discouraging you in advance from thinking my book the chronicle of some vast diabolical conspiracy to seize all our children for the personal ends of a small, elite minority.

 

Don’t get me wrong, American schooling has been replete with chicanery from its very beginnings and for instance, school superintendents as a class are virtually the stupidest people to pass through a graduate college program, ranking 51 points below the elementary school teachers they normally ‘supervise,’ —on the Graduate Record Examination—, and about 80 points below secondary-school teachers; while teachers themselves as an aggregate finish seventeenth of twenty occupational groups surveyed, indeed it isn’t difficult to find various conspirators boasting in public about what they pulled off. But if you take that tack you’ll miss the real horror of what I’m trying to describe, that what has happened to our schools was inherent in the original design for a planned economy and a planned society laid down so proudly at the end of the 19th century. I think what happened would have happened anyway—without the legions of venal, half-mad men & women who schemed so hard to make it as it is. If I’m correct, we’re in a much worse position than we would be if we were merely victims of an evil genius or two.

 

…If there is a way out of the trap we’re in, it won’t be by removing some bad guys and replacing them with good guys. Who are the villains, really, but ourselves?”

 

—Rob DeLoss, October 26, 2001

26 replies
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