Pythagoras at Columbine

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / NoHier / DDD / School / Rant /
@ K. 2004 12 15

I wrote a little deschooling piece as requested by Birbeck College in the spring of 1999, posted here as a old introduction to FLEX. The shootings at Columbine occurred along about then and I would have sworn that I’d added comments and correspondence about my comments, mostly across the pond with Birbeck, at the end of that file, but now I can’t track those comments in any FLEX-related file. The comments must have been confined to the email correspondence: never got posted by pk. I learned something recently that relates, so I create this new module.

One of the points in the correspondence was that schools concentrate children all in one place: so terrorists can shoot them like fish in a barrel. United We Stand has been an anthem of civilization until recent times. When British redcoats warred on American colonists the redcoats attacked in a lump, dressed like male songbirds. The colonists had already made the same mistake against the natives and quickly learned: the natives spread out, they’d hide, they’d conceal themselves: colonists fall down dead. So the colonists tried the same tactics: and prevailed. The redcoats shot from the open; the colonists hid behind trees. American military strategy nevertheless continued to follow the United theme in most situations: until WWII and the bomb. By the 1960s when I was drafted, for certain situations, strategy was back to Spread Out: Hide.

2008 05 05 Alexander’s friend and general, Ptolemy (and his descendants), built The Library of Alexandria, the greatest library of the ancient world — all the manuscripts scholars regarded as important gathered into one place: to be burned out of existence when Julius Caesar squabbled with the Egyptian boy-king.

I’ve visited with that story numerous times, starting in my youth with the George Bernard Shaw play, and now I’m enjoying the hell out of Conn Iggulden’s Empire: the Gods of War. ConnIgg has Brutus (!) start the fire! Gee: first he kills all the Gauls, then he burns the world’s best written memory, then he assassinates his oldest friend, Caesar. Wow: our kind of guy!

The Pentagon’s internet was a post-bomb design: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But of course no one would expect the schools to follow current strategy: the generals there are all old white elephants.
Here’s the new point I hadn’t known previously. Pythagoras, of theorem fame, of Harmony fame, one of the astounding geniuses of ANY time, had no students. Eventually he found some kid to study with him by paying the kid. Eventually the kid came to appreciate his master and money started flowing the other way. Then Pythagoras and student found more students. Eventually Pythagoras even found a patron and built a school. An actual school in an actual building.
The school pissed off one candidate by not promoting him to the inner sanctum. So he burned the elect all to death in their school building. Thus passed the cream of ancient Greek genius: all in one smell foup.

That further reminds me: throughout history civilization has shown a conflict between greed and sharing. We commonly think that it’s alright for the stockholder to want to keep her share of the profits for herself and her family but we think the artist and the mathematician and the genius should share freely: whether she gets paid or not. Mathematicians have not always agreed. Whizzes would keep their theorems secret: raise their own value as problem solvers. (Innovative trumpet player Buddy Bolden covered his valves and hand with a handkerchief so other brass men couldn’t see his fingerings.)
Illich tried to give away his design for Learning Networks. I tried to give my low-tech internet away in that same 1970: 1971, 1972 … How retarded is MicroSoft and IBM to still be patenting things? selling things? raising the price? while pk can barely afford to eat? can’t heat his place in the cold?

A story is told about Pythagoras in which he orders the execution by drowning of a fellow who futzed with the square root of 2: an irrational number. Numbers whose decimals went to infinity without forming any recognized pretty patterns were taboo to Pythagoras. Moral: don’t trust even heroes overmuch. Jesus is so cool being a hardass under some kleptocrat’s boot; but watch out for him if he ever gets on the throne himself. God is the berries while he’s so far away; watch out for him if he ever gets close. Homeostasis applies to all living systems.
I once went gaga when I heard that Castro’s Cuba had a committee to maintain the revolution: until I learned that they excluded themselves from what was to be overthrown.
Even FLEX couldn’t have remained perfect no matter how hard I tried: even if it had been supported!
pk is a hero in pk’s mind; but don’t trust pk too far.
Trust evolution. Trust the void. Trust death. Trust extinction. Also trust forever striving. Seek goals. Seek amelioration. But don’t trust the goal or the amelioration.

2008 05 13 By the way the points referred to above where part of what got me arrested. The FBI and the sheriff assisted each other in assaulting my home: two teams in flack jackets, with automatic assault rifles, .45s … I got put down on my face, hand cuffed behind my back … and off to the sheriff’s office we went. There the cuffs were left on me, behind my back still, “for my safety,” I was assured — oh, the lies that officials tell — and they don’t even know they’re lying — that’s how stupid civilization has made us, while the sheriff’s man and an FBI officer interviewed me. The sheriff’s man proved to be a big pk fan, quoting pk to me, but he increasingly got shoved aside while the FBI guy combed me minutely for an excuse to turn the assault and detention into an actual arrest. And my point about Columbine was what provided it:

The FBI’s Juvé Martin asked me if I’d ever thought about Columbine. I answered, “Of course, I’d even written about it: to Birbeck College, University of London, and online at” And I tried to make my point about: how federalism endangers all by gathering people into predictable places, and so forth. But of course the FBI guy, who I doubt is capable of following the point on a good day, perverted my brilliant point into a confession that I was imitating the killers at Columbine: getting everything exactly backwards.
As one could almost guarantee he would.

Keywords deschooling, FLEX, Ivan Illich, networks, wish, future

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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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