FLEX Meaning

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Order / Central-Decentral / Deschooling / Rants /

FLEX: the Meaning of It All

Learning versus Teaching
Independence Bureaucracy

We’re so proud of our free market economy. It certainly is better than many of the concoctions that have been foisted onto many other societies of the past and present. Let’s look at a modern supermarket as an example: You can walk, crawl, bike, bus, auto to one, or hire a cab. Once there, you can buy bread or cigarettes. Or bread and cigars. Or $30 worth of fresh vegetables and no meat. Or you can walk back out, no charge. The state does not force you to consume some quota of red meat or some other quota of peanut butter. You may be inundated with pleas, enticements, and seductions to let Betty Crocker do your baking for you, but there’s no outright compulsion. You can still grow your own tomatoes, even in a window box.

Facilitate: don’t regulate.

Why can’t we learn with similar latitude? Why can’t we buy so many dollars worth of English and no history? Or so many dollars worth of mechanics and no English? Once we’ve got it to our satisfaction, why can’t we stop, or turn to something else?

(Why twelve years?)

School had been torture to him. Yet he had not questioned whether one should go through this torture. He seemed to believe in education through subjection and torment.
DH Lawrence

Let’s pretend to hypothetically acknowledge the “necessity” of the state. (I don’t; but let’s pretend, for the sake of argument.) Let’s further hypothetically grant that it’s a conceivable part of the state’s business to insist on literacy and numeracy as necessary qualifications for an electorate: if you can’t read, you can’t vote). Even so, why can’t they just test for literacy and numeracy and mind their own business with regard to how it’s accomplished? to how long it took? how much it cost? to who else was engaged? Why, after the state’s test showed little pk to be reading at college level by the 7th grade), couldn’t they have passed me and then left me alone?
How can a “democracy” tolerate a prescribed curriculum? (How much of what’s prescribed in effect proscribes other things?)

The young are trained not in the skills necessary for survival as autonomous beings, not as mathematicians, authors, participants in democracy; but as employees. Business gets quasi-reliable labor trained at public expense. Of course with guns and drugs, the baby sitting has suffered. But since parents have already abdicated responsibility (the war between the state and the family, with the family losing wholesale, gets its own essay here), it goes on. For my own part, my ire has been lifelong at being told we lived in a free country but that if we didn’t go to school we would go to jail. The same result awaits those who fail to volunteer to pay income tax or who demur at being drafted [note] (no matter the absence of evidence of peril).

[The students] take away from school … such a strong loathing for the paths of science traversed by them that they never again take a book into their hands.

FLEX (Free Learning Exchange) would have remained the heart and soul of FIX (Free Information Exchange), but let me point to just a few obvious implications.

Part I Part I of FLEX was a data base that listed all persons who voluntarily registered an expertise in some field. The “field” didn’t have to be “thermodynamics” or “French Impressionism”; it could have been as simple and unpretentious as “teaching toddlers to tie shoe laces.” If you haven’t already, think for a moment on the inherent expandability of the idea: not just expert resources for learning (teachers and such); but every conceivable type of human resource where experience is involved: healers, plumbers, electricians, weather forecasters, engineers, architects, gardeners, attorneys, philosophers, writers, artists, agronomists, tailors, designers … See further how each naturally sub-divides: designers: of dresses, of cars, of interior coordination, of marital harmony, of societies, of corporate structures … Please notice that my designations attempt to be generic: note I do not say “doctors”; I say “healers”: the gypsy or the shaman may each make their claim. As with FLEX, Part I lists claimants; it makes no comment whatsoever on the truth of the claim. Once again, quality control is a function of whatever use is made of Part IV.
Part II Part II naturally expands to include automobile dealerships as well as bookstores: not to mention hardware stores, movie theaters, railroad depots, post offices …

tables to be made consistent

Do parts I & II sound a bit like the white and yellow pages of the phone book? Exactly. Or how about the card catalogue in the library? Listing, indexing, referencing and cross-referencing are hardly new; they’ve just never been done properly, never gone far enough. Do notice please the important ways in which FIX would have been unlike the phone book. The latter lists those for a given city or county who are renting phone service and who are not paying extra to have their listing not published. In contrast FIX would publish the data for anyone, anywhere in the world (or off the world, once that becomes appropriate) independently of whether they have telephone service (or email or even a street address — just say how others are to contact you).

What if you don’t want to be listed? Fine. Don’t. No one is forcing you. The information is voluntary only. (What if someone else registers you using your name? I never thought of that before this moment. I guess such a thing would inevitably happen. As it is, someone could order phone service in your name, couldn’t they? If they paid the bill, you’d have a phone delivered. Solution: Identify yourself. Decline. You’d be deleted from the data base.)

You could search for “midwives,” for example, not just in your city, but worldwide: or just by a particular block of a particular city: anywhere.

How is Part II different from the Yellow Pages? You can already look up attorneys or auto repair: they’ll even be alphabetized. Ah, you’ll only find them if they paid to be there. The one who paid the most all but blocks out the sun. The ads say “reliable,” “largest selection,” “quality and service you can depend on” … Not in FIX they don’t. Facts only, please. Text only as well. Every “ad” the same size. Same font, same pitch, same style. Informative names, yes; suggestive names, no. No totems. You can call your dealership Tiger Tear ‘Em Ups on the highway, but facts only will register at FIX. If you want to be thought of as a tiger or you want it believed that your ATVs destroy the terrain they rampage over you’ll have to hope someone says so in Part IV. LikeFLEX, FIX will swallow one “fact” only without proof: that you are what you say you are. If you register yourself as a cook, but can’t boil water, you will be registered as a cook. But watch out for Part IV. (As it is I can order phone service as George Washington. If I pay the bill, that’s how I’ll appear in the phone book. I could do the same with a restaurant reservation. They don’t check birth certificates. And even if they did, what would happen if I brought George’s?) (Should either institution review the claims of Parts I & II against the claims of Part IV A & B occasionally? I suppose it could but also see the necessity as trivial. Who that can’t boil water is going to remain registered as a cook if all peer and consumer reviews report otherwise and graphs or digests of those reports are linked to the registration?) (Hypertext now offers hot-links as you see here. I thought all this out in 1970. I was envisioning not PCs and other microcomputers; but terminals to mainframes in stamp-sized booths salted into every community: regularly updated printouts available through every library …)

Part III did get fragmentary realization within the first year after my founding of FLEX: dating services were opening up all over the place. FIX could be used as a dating service: why not? I know for a fact that FLEX was. Did the guy who registered for Primal Screaming imagine that we didn’t guess he was, among whatever other possible motives, hoping to meet people who might want to do more than scream? Who can guess all the motives of those who registered “guitar”? or “hygiene”? It’s not the business of a free institution to interfere. The people who build sidewalks don’t know if you’re going to commit murder or rape on those thoroughfares: it may be someone’s business, but it isn’t the sidewalk designer’s, nor is it the sidewalk’s administrators. Does the phone company cut you off if you use slang in your conversation? No, you can even plot treason. If someone comes after you, it’s least likely to be the phone man.

But a dating service, with it’s profit motive and limited focus is a perversion of FLEX/FIX. By 1971 you should have been able to find someone who just wanted a companion for a walk in the park on a given day. or a tennis partner. Imagine a public tennis court with a FIX terminal right by the entrance. No loose players around? Enter the data: “middle-aged intermediate: just wants to rally.” or “just wants to practice the lob: 3 PM, Central Park.”

If we still lived in a tribe and we all knew all two-hundred fifty people, there would be no need for any of this. You’d know who to see to supervise the tying of your laces, what you do when labor pains start, which of the kids likes to fish … FIX could fix what’s missing in the dehumanized present.

Part IV. Alas. FLEX never received a bit of feedback on its registrants. We never heard a single “the guy’s a weirdo, watch out.” Why couldn’t people seize the opportunity?

Imagine. Paul Newman registers with FLEX as an acting teacher or coach. He has to give his name. He doesn’t have to identify his age or gender (or religion or political affiliation, etc.). But we already know it. Much of it.

Paul Newman acting lessons (800) BIG ACTOR so many awards, so many nominations 50+ years experience so many millions netted $10,000 per half hour. No refunds. females only need apply 18 to 25 only (or parental and/or court release of liability) good mouth a must.

Tailing the listing are links: What fellow theater professionals say about Paul Newman; What theater goers say about Paul Newman.

Imagine one possible graph: a bell curve. Top of the graph is good; left side bottom of the graph is unacceptable; lower right side is the best. To the left are peers with the least experience. Or lowest career income: some standard. To the right, especially the lower right, are those with the most experience, or greatest income from related endeavors. On a scale of one to ten, four, five, and six will spread the mean. If IQs range from say ten to one-ninety, most scores will fall between ninety and one-ten: average.

I am no mathematician. Feel free to comment.

You can tell at a glance what the theater world thinks of Paul Newman. Link in deeper. You can search to see if Elizabeth Taylor registered an opinion. You can read it.

Now, I started out with a “real” Paul Newman and before long found myself fictionalizing what he expects to be paid and by whom. No offence intended. Paul Newman never registered. It’s a complete fiction. This is a fictitious “Paul Newman,” also with 50+ years experience: recognizable enough I hope for you to follow the point.

Now imagine a more mundane inquiry. You just moved. You need a plumber. Ask a neighbor? Ask the realtor? No need. Ask FIX. Maybe you’ll want to skip what his fellow plumbers say. See what his customers say!

You go to the doctor. You have two problems. Knowing doctors’ penchant for not listening, you’ve even written them down. The assistant asks you this and that. You point to your written instructions. At some point the doctor enters. You hand him the list. He takes point one first. At some point he goes out. He never comes back! He never addressed the second problem. You’re escorted to the desk. “$150, please.” shouldn’t you have some way to tell the world? How about the gas station on Route 66 that sold you the water pump you didn’t need when you were driving coast to coast. You got all the way back to Connecticut before learning of the fraud. But you’ve got the receipt. You know the name and address. shouldn’t your experience be published? How often would we be ripped off by thieves with an address if each of us could write a consumer report and have it published! any time we wanted?

Above, I referred to “obvious implications.” Aren’t they? They strike me as obvious. Why, after talking about it for twenty-eight years in as loud a voice as I could manage, have I heard not one response that convinced me that I had succeeded in communicating? I believe that several of my volunteers got all or at least most of FLEX: but what about FIX? I seldom talked or wrote about FLEX without broadening the implications. I know Arthur C. Clarke got it. That’s who I got it from. That’s why I was ready for Illich. I think it was Clarke. I’d have to go back and reread the early numbers of Horizon Magazine to be sure.

1960. 1961. Huge chunks of the information revolution were spelled out. Clarke was definitely one of the authors. They talked about a terminal in a doctor’s office being able to access data: statistics, research reports, medications, side-effects … Then they talked about an Inuit above the Arctic Circle being about to download a rare book … That was thirty-eight years ago. So where is it?

OK. Many of us are now on-line. There are links all over this site as well as others. You can print this page on your printer. You can download the source code. Your browser will read it again tomorrow when you’re not on-line. Yeah, but the people with the best access to information are the people least desperately in need of it? How does the jobless kid in Detroit get on-line? What about the starving kid in Bangladesh? The Inuit can download this page, or porno, but can he download the second Quarto edition of Hamlet? Any number of services will give him the phone number of anyone he can come up with the name and city for: in his Province! What if your old friend moved to France? While he’s doing so he’ll be inundated with ads. He asks a question and the first thing that comes up is an ad for books or CDs or videos on-line. He also had to pay some thousands of dollars for his PC not to mention more for the phone line, more for the ISP …

Why have we stood with one thumb in our ear and the other hand zipped tight in our pocket while freedom slipped once again out of reach?

Once upon a time an eighteenth-century gentleman could spend a pence for a paper: news, stories, articles … Now we spend a dollar for ads, ads, more ads, news, propaganda, ads, mind rot, ads. Why did we ever let broadcast television be given to us “free.” Couldn’t we see what would come of it? How did it ever happen that we pay $40,000 to Mercedes Benz so we could drive around giving their logo uncompensated publicity? I know why the NASCAR driver is plastered over with ads: they pay him! Actually, the products, as he gets them, may not be so bad. But why do the rest of us also look like sandwich boards? How can we pay $7 or $8 for a movie and then put up with twenty minutes of ads for other things? Why didn’t the first thousand of us march back to the office for a refund? Or to complain that the announced starting time for the movie was false? Why isn’t the theater “forced” (by consumer rebellion, not by any goddam law) to say “Ads: 6:30 PM; Star Wars: 6:50 PM”?

I’ll add more in time. For now just let me add one more thought so I can get this mounted. I may have made a mistake those decades ago incorporating the word “free” in my title. I intended it in the sense of liberty, as in free press. I certainly never imagined people would use it to assume a free ride or a free lunch. Once upon a time in Pogo, a Khrushchev character was conversing with I believe it was the vulture: “How can you Americans brag about a free press? Some of those papers cost a dime!”

No worthwhile institution can be free of cost. Funded, it can be made free of cost to a particular category of user: poor people, for example. Funded, it can be made free of cost to all consumers and users: money, for example. People who work at the mint don’t also have to work in MacDonald’s in order to be able to work at the mint. No: the mint is an institution that’s funded. But you don’t pay the mint to use the money. You pay for the mint so that you have money to use. (It’s the bank you pay to use the money.)

If you read around a bit in the teaching, writing, or biographical sections, you will see the ambition of this site and perhaps imagine the difficulties involved in realizing that ambition. Frequently, the more important a file or section, the more diligently I work on it, the more (temporarily, I trust) discombobulated it becomes. I can’t afford to take such sections down till I perfect them. This isn’t art; this is survival. Not for me (I’ve already sacrificed my life); for you.

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
HL Mencken

I plead guilty to Mencken’s generalization, but only in part and with an explanation. Yes, I wanted FLEX and FIX to replace the government. I wanted a mature and responsible anarchism to take over. Further, I wanted to “run” the anarchism: but only as librarian. And guardian! See that it stays free, as long as I could, the best I could. Please note further, that it was our declared purpose (published in the budget proposals) that no one in the institution ever earn more than a lower middle-class income. I wanted to support my family, and that’s all. This was intended as yet another teach by doing. You were all supposed to notice, to admire, and follow suit. The biosphere could perhaps support several billion persons if only we could make greed unfashionable. That kind of teaching isn’t exactly your ordinary “urge to rule.”

In fact I take it back. Wanting you to choose freedom so that I may also be free, wanting to replace the government, the schools, the military, the medical establishment … with a single institution of free information is not an ambition to rule.

2000 10 15 DieOff.com’s excellent newsletter just made a wonderful point about the World Bank that relates perfectly to FLEX’s financing goals that I don’t believe I’ve ever succeeded in making anyone understand. The IMF and the World Bank insist that education and health care to Third World countries, however heavily subsidized, still cost something to the consumer. It costs $3,300 (or $33,000) to put you in school: you have to pay thirty-three cents. So the person doesn’t go to school. The State of Maine had a program where poor people could buy $1,000 worth of food stamps for $100. The people didn’t get any food stamps. So the state donated food to them: packaged foods: food with written instructions, nothing obvious, to illiterates. Much of the food was wasted.
I didn’t want the government funding FLEX: the government had already had decades to employ cybernetics for democracy. They didn’t do it. They were never going to get it. The kleptocrats are incapable of understanding where they’ve gone wrong. It cannot be explained to them. They speak and read kleptocratic English, not English English. I didn’t want the corporations funding FLEX (thought I went — reluctantly, with (justified) misgiving — to a few.

I wanted the public to fund its own freedom. I wanted anyone to be able to use FLEX whether they could afford a fee or not: not matter how small. We let the poor walk on the sidewalk even though previous few of their taxes went into it. Institutions should exist to provide service for those in need of it. Everyone who can should pay: those who can’t shouldn’t have to.

The free development of each was the condition for the free development of all Ken MacLeod

Now, getting rid of freeloaders is an entirely separate question. A malnourished, illiterate child in Bangladesh is not a freeloader: not yet: even if he’s already a pickpocket. Illich said that anyone should be entitled to so much use: after which they must pay: in teaching! (As well as perhaps in money.) (Money would recede in importance in a world that had been using FIX / FLEX for a while.
A possible solution could have gone something like this: cost of accessing and printing out one record is “$1”: pay $1 per record in advance, or pay $2 per record after thirty days, or pay $10 per record in ten years. …
Even before I founded FLEX I supported the ideas floating around that schools should be financed by the success of their graduates. Columbia should be due some percentage of my post graduation income. Any employers of mine should kick in some too. Once Columbia is more stinking rich than it is, it should reduce the percentages. The student should pay for 100% of his own education: after his education proves to be worth something to him.


I was drafted during the Berlin Crisis. I claimed status as a conscientious objector, but was denied it since I was not a member of any group such as the Quakers (a group I used to admire a great deal). My public education did not mention, let alone emphasize, too many details of the struggle c. 1776 between the conventionally religious and the deists, agnostics, heretics, and atheists who penned the basic documents of the experiment in secular society which is the United States. My Sunday School had taught me that we were a people who revered the Bible and the school didn’t contradict that teaching. Long before I approached draft age I was thinking: what happened to turn the other cheek? What happened to love thy enemies? What about … forgive those who trespass against us? Christianity to me had nothing to do with survival; it had exclusively to do with salvation, and not in this world. If the Axis had decimated us and enslaved the remainder, it would be obvious who was right and who wrong, wouldn’t it? Our fate was supposed to be in God’s hands.

(Mark Twain, upon visiting the wild west, said: “It was no place for a Presbyterian … and I didn’t remain one very long.” Though some of my childhood and much of my adulthood from my twenties to age 50 was spent trying to imitate Jesus (the Jesus I believed in till this year), I realized at age 50 how long I had been gradually, unconsciously, disassociating myself from the hypocrisy of those whose faith can be seen only by their self-proclamation of it. Now if anyone suggests that this sometimes disciple of Jesus and long-time servant of God is a Christian, I correct them. The Christians monopolize the name but are wholly lacking in the thing.)

But of course few of us exhibit any one philosophy consistently. (If there are any who do, and they aren’t certifiably, truly insane, then they’re more advanced than the rest of us put together.) I might have believed in and been able to join organized combat for a purpose I saw as germane to my social, cultural, and political interests. (Economic interests? Personal interests? No. Verboten). One thing that galled me was that the draft (a peace time-draft yet) not only compelled supposedly autonomous individuals, but also compromised any possible distinction in volunteering. The draft is an insult to vital young men. Enlistment, with incentives both positive and negative, is one form of draft-dodging. The morality becomes inexcusably muddled.

Anyway I was drafted, but promised on the processing form that though I didn’t believe in going to jail for five years any more than I believed in being drafted, they should not for a moment suppose that their logically preposterous vow to obey any and all orders could be morally binding. It could be legally binding only in a kangaroo court.

By the second day of basic training I made my first approach to the platoon sergeant to point out amid the hubbub which orders I was specifically not obeying. (He hadn’t noticed on his own.) I expected to be court-martialed before the week was out. (Maybe I’d get less than the five years threatened the other way.) By the time I had to point my disobedience out to him for the third time, and he only said, “Well, OK, so long as the Major doesn’t notice,” I realized how flabby the military posture was. (I never did see a major during basic training or I might have highlighted my defiance to him as well.)

PS: Despite his failure to cooperate in my attempts to make an example, I came to have a high regard for First Sergeant John Bradley. He gave his soldiering style. I was very sorry several years later to learn that he’d taken fatal bullets from an inept, or perhaps unhappy, recruit at the firing range.

Generic: licensed authority:

If you give Illich’s Deschooling Society a careful reading (out of print, formerly online at psu.edu, now online here, courtesy of K.), you’ll see a good source for many of my qualifications. An ideal civilization with a pure history would obviate many of the points. We do not live in such a civilization. We have a far from pure past and a far from pure present. We are not a civilized society: unless you accept the illusions concocted by barbarians for the purpose of harnessing you into docility.

A good civilization with a pure history wouldn’t need “equal opportunity” laws (which clearly mean unequal opportunity). Of course such laws violate the principle of equal opportunity. Then how in God’s name should we tolerate them? Because we had already long violated equal opportunity, not just in principle, but in deed upon deed. A period of reverse bias is required to so-much-as partially-redress earlier bias. Is it good balance? Good civilization? No. We’d already missed or rejected that option (if it ever was an option). See Cybernetics.

A man walking is never in balance but always correcting for imbalance.
Gregory Bateson

The correcting that now needs to be done involves the abuses of licensing by the false authority of government. The AMA is the licensed healer of the United States government. Osteopaths, chiropractors, and acupuncturists eke out a living in its shadow: like one-inch cacti at the base of an eighteen-foot sugaro. Gypsies or the shaman may be jailed.

Do the gypsies or the shaman have a good scientific basis for their practices? Not that I am aware of. How about the chiropractors? Not much. All right, but how about the AMA? The AMA has loads of scientific basis for certain, narrow areas of their practice; but is the AMA science-based as a whole? Certainly not. [will link to Medicine.] See Illich’s Medical Nemesis. [will link] The AMA has good basis for claiming to have healed this or that woman of breast cancer. Can they show that they weren’t making her sick in some other way while they were doing it? The drug the physician prescribes for you was rigorously tested for certain qualities. But was it rigorously tested for all qualities? After the doctor has shoveled you toward the bill paying counter after hearing the first five percent of your symptoms, can he claim to have been scientific? (Few will challenge any claim that he is a businessman.) (Sure he can claim science, but should we let the claim pass? Charles Manson seems to be forever claiming to be a moralist!) (So am I. Don’t take my word for it: look at the evidence!)

Medical Nemesis argues, rather convincingly and with strong statistics, that there is no rational evidence that doctors have any positive overall impact on health!

Conflicting Authorities

Back to the “authority” and “legitimacy” of “licenses”: One of the primary tenets of FLEX was that it should be a violation of principle to ask how a skill came to be acquired. The employer may test the typing ability of an applicant for a typing position; the employer may not ask if the applicant finished high school, attended the Mary Worth Secretarial School, or learned from her mother. Why not? Because we have to correct for a long existing bias: that the Harvard parchment in itself makes you better qualified than the candidate without one. See Description vs. Thing. Also see my Meta-Oxymoron thesis: nominalism was a necessary correction for the false authority of Scholastic Realism. But of course that problem was with us long before Abelard, Occam, or Aquinas. Every Westerner, whatever his “church” should recognize the situation in the story of Jesus*. Christians believe that Jesus represented God, that Jesus was God. For the last Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem, the “capital” of Judaism, the seat of the Temple of Jerusalem, first built by Solomon, which housed the Ark of the Covenant.

The priests of that temple said that they represented God. Did they welcome Jesus? Did they instantly make way for him as the head of the Sanhedrin? Did they abolish the Sanhedrin, no longer needing it? No. Rather they bated him. They initiated the series of travesties of law and justice that led to his illegal as well as abominable crucifixion.

But before that occurred, right at the start of the bating: where did Jesus do his teaching in Jerusalem? Till then, he’d done it in the open air. But this time he went to Jerusalem, to the Temple of Jerusalem. The Temple is a nest of walls, walls within walls. At its heart is the temple itself, the roofed part: a box. Inside that are three parts: the area for worship, the altar of worship, and the Holy of Holies: another box. Inside that is the Ark of the Covenant. The Chinese boxes arrive at their material kernel (the point being, its immaterial kernel).

Did Jesus lead his hearers into the temple? Did he stand at the altar and say, “These are new words for the Torah”? Did the priests worshipfully attend his words, then usher him to the Holy of Holies and say “This is where You belong: we leave it up to You and Your Father whether you climb into the Ark with Him”?
No. Jesus went to the Temple of Jerusalem and taught outside the temple itself: in the “garden,” or on its “porch” as it were.

1999 05 08 I’ve learned that the latter part of my point may be invalid. Teaching “outside” the temple was apparently normal. If anyone knows of any teaching that took place inside, please let me know.

The priests, scribes, and elders bated him and we know the rest of what happened.

(We also know how the world has been divided since then as to who was who, who was what, and what it all means.)

In other words: what hospital today would let a peripatetic carpenter heal within their surgery? No? None? Not even if he had a reputation for making the blind see? for raising the dead?

If Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple of Jerusalem, what might he do today at the Hospital of the Holy Savior?

(If Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, then perhaps we should have some sympathy for the priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, and moneychangers. Still, what sympathy should we have for the Romans who broke their own laws in permitting his crucifixion? Now: it was against Roman law for the Jews to execute anyone regardless of whether or not they had broken Jewish laws. So what should the incensed Jews have done? How about defying the law? crucifying him anyway? and then taking the consequences! Then the Christians could still have a martyr and the Jews could have theirs from the same situation! As it is, if we can believe the reports, they were just cowards and sneaks: backstabbers.)

The Jews didn’t start out with the intention of excluding God from their congregation. Quite the contrary. But that’s what Christians say they in fact did. Jesus’ visit to the Temple was an example of conflicting authorities.
Neither the United States nor any other society founded schools with the intention of keeping out the best teachers. But it can easily and objectively be demonstrated that they’ve all done it. Again and again. (They drive away the best students too.) You can disbelieve my personal story [pk’s Interrupted Doctoral Orals], but what are you going to do with the plots against Einstein: first, in Germany, against his getting his papers published; then, world wide, against his very life? (See the appended biographies in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.) For the US, remember the Scopes Trial. Check into the biography of Jonothan Kozol. Do you think these are aberrations? They certainly are. Do you think they misrepresent us? They certainly do not.

How many of you are there who have noticed that since founding FLEX, I have done next to no teaching inside the universities? (And each time I’ve allowed an exception, I’ve felt like a whore.)

Why are we so resistant to the very simple solution that Illich showed us and that I tried to lead you toward? Be rational. Stop letting the map be palmed off on you as the territory. [Map versus Territory] If the Harvard guy is the best worker, let him show you. If the P&S MD is the best healer, let him show you. If Jesus is the best healer, accept him. If the work proves fraudulent, expose him.

I have never suggested that you reject the MD out of hand. Neither have I ever proposed that you accept the gypsy out of hand. I joined Illich to say: look at their works, not at their papers. Or: check to “prove” correspondence between the works and the papers. Don’t just swallow the MA, the MD, or the PhD; peruse the thesis. Once there’s a track record, examine that.

Oh, but then you yourself would have to have some idea of what you were doing!


Illich had asked if we should let some group of “experts” in Chicago determine what our children must do. I echo No. But please notice: this does not preclude your following their advice. You can lock your kid in his room and put him and bread and water until he starts cooperating in reading the Chicago group’s reading list. The difference between “compel” and “recommend” is all important. So too is the difference between compulsion within the family and compulsion from the state. You threaten your kid, I’ll threaten mine. But what could possibly give me license to threaten your kid with bread and water if he won’t read some book I think he should read? Isn’t that what the school board does in effect? (Threatens the parents too.) [See Family.] As George Washington said, government is force.

Let’s say that you’re caught in a burning theater. You’re seated next to a wall. If the fat guy between you and the aisle doesn’t move, you and your family may burn. What if he isn’t moving on his own? Perhaps he’s already passed out from the smoke. Do you want someone to give you a lecture on every man his own autonomy? No. Slap him. Push him. Try to heave him into the crowd in the aisle away from your exit. But please don’t say you’re being polite, civilized, democratic …

If I thought burning all of you could possibly save me and mine, I’d do it in a heart beat. Might it contradict some -ism I’d once espoused? I don’t give a damn.

Which of us is the disease and which the healthy tissue? It’s me and mine who I am convinced are the latter, but that doesn’t matter either. To struggle to survive is a genuinely natural right. If anyone tries to legislate it, it’s after the fact. The fact far precedes the emergence of humans. It precedes the emergence of multi-celled creatures. If anyone tries to legislate against it, the laws are doomed. Impossible. I can think I’m right; you can think you’re right: what does it mean? What does it matter? If we’re all in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, I see no exit for me and mine unless you also exit: ahead of me. Or I’d have tried to burn all of you a long time ago.

If Genghis Khan tells me to clean his latrine with my tongue, I understand my choices. It won’t do me any good to argue about human dignity. He doesn’t believe in it; or he doesn’t regard me as human. I can do it, and maybe live, maybe only for more torments; or I can refuse: and watch my family dismembered, watch myself being dismembered … Etc. He can injure me and mine. But will he tell me he’s doing it for my own good? Will he enslave me and call it democracy? If I had a time machine, I’d do almost anything to escape contemporary hypocrisy.

But alas! How could I then participate in evolution? (Wouldn’t I also then miss the most interesting of all times?) If success isn’t an option, it’s still best to try anyway. Anyone should be able to see just how conspicuous a fossil I’m trying to leave so that some future archeologist may see that we may have been fools, but we weren’t all equally so, “democracy” or no, not all equally culpable.

Ark of the Covenant:
God in a box

The spirit of God was supposed to dwell in the Ark of the Covenant. In a conversation with a minister the other week, I interjected “God in a box.” That reverend assured me that I was far from the first to make that witticism. Did the others also then ask this question:

Does God dwell in the box of his own volition? Or is God being held captive?
(Read Frazer’s Golden Bough and see my comments. [Magic Menu.])

Does God choose the Ark? As shelter? What does God need to be sheltered from? Isn’t it more like a genie in a bottle? Who ever has the bottle has the power? Isn’t the real purpose of a church, a priest, a shaman … to nail the magic entity down so that the church etc usurps the power? Aren’t churches always telling us who’s saved? Who’s damned? Who’s in? Who’s out? How do they know? Isn’t that supposed to be up to God? At Judgment Day, will God be a rubber stamp for the Church prosecutor?

William Butler Yeats wrote a play in which the protagonist is a priest who’s forever praying for this and begging for that. Finally he prays something to the effect of: who am I to be asking, steering, directing? You’re God. You do what you see fit and please pardon my insolence.

It’s a wonderful passage. I’ll find it and fix my poor paraphrase.

2005 03 14 I’d previously misspelled ark, now corrected I think.

Jonothan Kozol: Kozol’s Calumny

In 1972 or thereabouts the great Paulo Friere was feted in New York. A criminal in Brazil, he is a hero for many teachers and theorists of education. His crime? He taught illiterate adult Brazilian peasants to read. He taught them well. He taught them fast. He showed that it could be done in a matter of weeks. How? First he gave them some rudiments of the alphabet. Then he gave them material of interest to them. Newspapers, political tracts, articles on land reform …!

I was of course there, handing out my material on FLEX. Senior Friere was introduced by Jonothan Kozol. Mr. Kozol had wormed his way back into the school system; most of the attendees were still in the school system; FLEX had left it. FLEX was my announcement of departure. During his introduction Jonothan Kozol heaped scorn on those “who acted as though the school system didn’t exist.” To whom could he possibly have been referring? I have never met anyone, I have never heard of anyone, who didn’t believe the school system exists or who acts as though it didn’t exist? How would such behavior be possible? (Are there any atheists who don’t acknowledge the reality of the Catholic Church? No, it’s the Church’s creed that the atheists deny, not the Church’s presence.)

Then why was it so clear he was referring to me? He said such people were “crazy.” Strong murmurs of approval. Even Friere was still smiling. What did my hero imagine was being referred to? I moved through social chill for the remainder of the evening. I guess Friere was a revolutionary in his country but a reactionary in ours. I had been really looking forward to introducing myself. After all, Friere had gotten an awful lot of good press from Illich. No. FLEX’s tires had been slashed in full public view.

With FLEX I’d gone clear around the most radical of them, far outflanked them: you have a bad institution; here is a good one. Isn’t that what Friere himself had done? If he had done it in Brazil, why couldn’t I do it for the world? (Admittedly, the seed was planted merely in New York, but by 1972 other Exchanges had sprouted on every continent. I was getting mail from countries I’d never heard of. I’d heard my name mentioned out loud by strangers I’d never met in neighborhoods I was silently visiting for the first time.)

I’d never thought I’d see Kozol, another hero, acting the counter-revolutionary calumniator, the well-poisoner.

2002 08 05 insert: Illich’s 1995 Introduction to Matt Helm’s Deschooling our Lives reminds me that Kozol was one of the school critics he’d invited to CIDOC while writing the essays that became Deschooling Society. That makes me all the more disappointed in him.

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.
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