Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Social Order / Central-Decentral / Deschooling / Subjects /

FLEX, pk, & Credentials

I am not licensed to teach in any state. My “license” is as a creature as much at liberty in the biosphere as is possible in kleptocratic human society who has devoted the bulk of his adult life to a variety of intellectual disciplines, reviewing experience against theory and theory against other theory. (Where no theory in my acquaintance gives proper account of the facts, I endeavor to develop my own. Visit Macroinformation for example.) I do have a few conventional certificates associated with teaching in “literate” (i.e., kleptocratic) societies in this (still — 2000 09 19, the Twentieth) Century, but, in accordance with Ivan’s Illich’s concept of deschooling, I keep silent about them. If you are capable of being my student (or my colleague), then hear what I say, see what I do, review my teaching, and grant or withhold your own personal license your own personal self. In other words, you (we all) should be your (our) own judge: don’t let “experts” (mis-)appropriate your (our) responsibility. All too often they’re credentialed cretins.

“What gives you any right to change the way people think?”
“Because we are artists.”
Bruce Sterling

Ivan Illich said that freedom from compulsory ritual (such as schooling) and freedom from being asked how a skill was acquired should come early in an short list of essential freedoms for a free, convivial society. That means that if you have a license, a certificate, or a degree, you should keep it to yourself. No one should be allowed (publicly or in commerce) to enquire about it. FLEX offered no certificates, required none, didn’t “allow” them.

Sometime around 1972 The New School for Social Research invited me to create a course for them on deschooling. (How’s that for irony?) If enough people registered for the class, they’d pay me a grand; otherwise nada. I designed the course, they cancelled it (too few registrants); but persuaded me to stick around and teach a couple of other courses. Then they asked me to list my degrees, awards, and so forth to the college catalogue division! No, Ma’am: deschooling, remember?


Thus, I became the only faculty member listed in the New School catalogue without any degrees after his name. But there was no asterisk explaining why.

flame proof
Withstands 1,800 Degrees!
thanx popsci

Like all my teaching, whether by word or deed, the result is non-existent: or at least invisible. People say, “Oh,” and go right on as before. These days few even bother to say the “Oh.” But I am here, this 2000 09 16, going to violate my own policy in order to emphasize it. (I hope.)

Naturally enough, as I tell stories about myself, I say “when I was in high school …” or “at my College graduation …” or “during my doctoral orals …” I trust you see that that’s different from wallpapering the office with framed parchments or cluttering your yellow pages ad with PA, MD, licensed plumber … In FLEX you simply offered yourself as a resource for healing, teaching Renaissance literature: English, or German speaking New York tour guide. You had to keep the MD, the MA and/or Ph.D., Berlitz certificate, or German passport to yourself. Whether you were any good should come out in the Peer and Consumer Reports. (If you’re a genius so far “ahead of your time,” then you’ll be out of luck whoever reviews your work.) FLEX didn’t care if you had an MD if your fellow healers called you a quack and your patients were all trying to sue. FLEX didn’t care if you didn’t have an MD if you made the blind to see or the lame to put aside their crutch and walk. (Cared humanly, but not institutionally; not in FLEX Parts I or II: the information institution (Parts I & II) archives the reported data and makes no claim about the truth of the reports. That’s up to the public itself to comment on in Parts IV A & B: Feedback.)

2013 08 05 The reader must have absorbed Illich’s outline for Learning Networks, Deschooling, Chapter 6, or my summary in the Deschool Menu page.

Personally, I believed before I ever read or met Illich that one should be judged by one’s behavior and performance; not by the sign on the door. But of course it’s no good: not among people trained (schooled) by kleptocracy for kleptocracy.

Most societies systematically encourage, concerning certain topics, the habitual confusion of symbols with things symbolized.
SI Hayakawa

The sign on the door is the principle thing they see. It’s the only thing the government officially recognizes. (See my module on Mental Modeling; also, my Cartamania.) A hundred years ago, indeed only fifty, if you wore a cross then the -word (Bowdlerizing K. 2016 08 01) fell out of the tree and his head just happened to get caught in the noose that innocently just happened to be there. No Christian ever committed a lynching. (Obviously: the “n-s” were never “Christian”; only the lynchers.) Now the license to heal is actually a license to kill, the license to educate is actually a shield for mental stunting: ignorance. We don’t want our children educated; we want them stamped: immune from responsibility for what the label says: like the tobacco companies.

Now the mislabelers also have the power to remove labels. The Church labeled Illich a priest. When he challenged them to be better Christians, they tried to peel the label off: they defrocked him. May I remind you that Christians supposedly believe that the only genuine representative of God two thousand years ago came without a label: the priests of the Temple of Jerusalem all had labels; Jesus was merely a carpenter. But the people the priests healed stayed sick; the people the carpenter healed got up and walked. At least according to the story. But the story is recognizably true no matter how fictitious. The Buddha’s ear lobes are pierced, the holes large from heavy earrings. But the Buddha removed his earrings even prior to his enlightenment: he was born in the palace, but walked out of it, leaving privilege behind. He wore no label despite the trace of having been labeled, certified a ruler. Jesus was born of heaven: but he removed the fake signs and gave only true ones. (I don’t know: with those miracles, maybe he did keep a couple of fake ones.)

God’s messengers come from the stable;
Not the cathedral


I was in the midst of collecting labels, paying high prices for egregious merchandise: a license to teach those skimmed as cream from the school system. The Ph.D. would license me as an elite teacher of other elite. I certainly didn’t want to teach in the school system (had to finally try to make a living somehow). Oh, no: universities: good universities. But even with my hypocrisy, there was still a problem: I’ll bet Illich didn’t meet many Christians in the Vatican; I couldn’t find many intellectuals at New York University Graduate School of Arts & Science. At Columbia I hadn’t had to go far before stumbling over someone who genuinely seemed to care about as well as know … practically anything: music, literature, movies … When NYT critic Bosley Crowther didn’t understand the latest great movie, my teachers would write to explain it to him. I mean the latest great movie: (L’Aventura, for example, James Zito, for example). Zito wasn’t a movie critic; he was a Shakespeare teacher. But it didn’t matter. He had a mind … not just for Shakespeare. He didn’t wait till he read what some other critic said and then recite it to Crowther (or recite Crowther to the other). No. Zito saw something akin to what Antonioni had done. (So did I. And Sam. And Anton …) The anointed critic did not (or the rest of us could have saved our breath.) At NYU I felt that sanctified moron, Bosley Crowther, was the faculty. The teachers were published, but were they literate? Not that I could tell. But whether they understood Chaucer or Shakespeare or not, they certainly didn’t understand what I said about anything.

Gotta go. I’ll be back to finish this.

2003 05 05 I’m back, but just for a footnote of sorts, bkMarcus just reminded me that Ludwig Wittgenstein did not have a high school diploma. Ludwig Wittgenstein! The most influential philosopher of the Twentieth Century! One of the most famous professors at Cambridge! Cambridge! (The context was that bk was accusing me of the above error for my habitual refusal to call good thinking about matters economic economics: bk was saying that all thinking about economics (good and preposterous) was economics.) (Similarly, I’ve stopped calling myself a Christian: not wanting to be associated with those kleptocrats who mis-appropriate the word.)

Apropos of credentials and of Wittgenstein’s lack of them, I must tell a favorite story of a relative-by-marriage. Logician Raymond Smullyan was teaching somewhere (Chicago?) when he was hired away by Princeton. He arrived in New Jersey and was handed a bunch of forms by the dean’s secretary. The secretary rejected his return offer: “You didn’t fill in the part about your Ph.D.” Raymond said, “I don’t have a Ph.D.” The secretary continued to object: “You didn’t fill in any information about any graduate school experience. You don’t say where you attended college. You don’t even say where you graduated from high school!”
“I didn’t graduate from high school,” Raymond answered.
“Then why are we hiring you?” the fuming secretary demanded.
“Because,” Raymond responded, “I wrote the definitive book on symbolic logic.”

That’s the story as I was told it by my wife. I tell it in quotes even though there’s no documentation: trust the spirit, not the letter of my report. Still, I find it important that the secretary said “we”: as though functionaries were part of the university. (See my story in my History of Schools where Eisenhower was rebuked for the same error.) I wish I had been there to add, “You didn’t hire him: you wouldn’t have hired him. Under you, the university could never have become great.”

Come to think of it, wasn’t she aware that Einstein didn’t have any damn degrees either?

That reminds me further: Samuel Johnson brought the German fad of achieved titles to the English speaking world when by hook or by crook he became Dr. Johnson. OK, he was a smart guy, he worked hard, he wrote the first generally used, widely quoted, dictionary … But how many English poets sound more pedestrian these days?
Do you really know anyone who’s read Rasselas?! (Shame on me: I certainly should have.)


The stable; not the cathedral:

Don’t forget: Gulliver too chose to end his days living in the stable: the smell of the horses reminding him of his favorite adventures and masking the stink of the humans.

Free Learning Course:

Text of flyer:

This course will give students an opportunity for group consideration of the history of educational ideals up to the present and the present’s demand for disestablishing schools and repudiating the schooled mentality. Pure intellection, if possible, is as humanely anemic as is unconsidered action. The goal of the course will be, to use Paulo Freire’s term, a praxis: an examined course of action. Therefore, there will be a disciplined consideration of what learning resources already exist, how they can be improved, and what new ones, if any, need to be instituted. Readings will include Illich, Buckminster Fuller, Holt, Silberman, Kozol, et al. Also to be considered is how to create a learning network in your community. Thus, the structure of various new educational action resources will be examined — among them, the Free Learning Exchange, the Education Action Fund, and Full Circle Association. Guest speakers can be invited if students so wish.

Paul Knatz taught English, including Poetry of the Later Renaissance, at Colby College. Founder and Coordinator of the Free Learning Exchange, Inc., a not-for-profit educational service for NYC. Engaged in writing a book, Paradox as Structure and Meaning in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

It’s hard to restore 4,000 censored text files, especially when you’re broke, old, losing your sight and hearing, your inventions plagiarized, not rewarded.
I’ll trim duplications.

Deschool Menu


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in deschool and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s