The child is a potential threat to society: firstly the free, ungovernable and creative initiative of the child, and secondly its sensitive, mysterious and direct experience. The task of neutralising these threats begins with the parents before being taken up by the teacher.
The first thing for a teacher to do is to create a ‘school’ – a mediated environment separate from community, culture, context, society and nature. The simple act of separation is enough to foster confusion, stifle enthusiasm, warp relations between children and make learning a curiously unreal experience. After this critical first step, stunting initiative and denying experience are relatively easy.
The individual must be dependent on society for everything; for his food, shelter, security, knowledge, entertainment, health, transport and energy. The greatest threat to society therefore are people who can grow their own vegetables, build their own houses, protect themselves, educate themselves, entertain themselves, heal themselves, transport themselves around and generate their own energy. Independence, in short, must be crushed.
Independence is gained through initiative, which comes from uncertainty, confusion and the unknown, into which children are happy to plunge, heedless of consequence. This is not something they learn, but an inborn ability which all uneducated children possess. From a maelstrom of chaotic data and continual failure the child can pick out faint patterns, casually discard ideas or strategies that do not work and blithely continue playing, undaunted by apparent failure.
Your job, as a teacher, is to destroy this heedless insouciance and make sure that children approach uncertainty and confusion with extraordinary trepidation; recoiling, for good, at the slightest failure. They must be taught that the unknown is an intolerable, painful or humiliating experience.
This is done in stages. First of all you should introduce something called “learning” into the child’s life. This is the belief that in order to do something it must first be broken up into a set of abstract laws and skills which a child must learn. This approach to reality is so alien to the child, so confusing and painful, that it will soon learn to recoil from vast swathes of experience with abhorrence.
In addition, when the child is inclined to do something, it will find its ability to do so catastrophically restricted by the teacher, the school and the school syllabus which has near total control over what children can do, and when they can do it. What a child wants to do is forbidden during school time, and when he wants to do it is out of his control.
Next, the classroom experience must, for the young child, be so strange, stressful and artificial, that they will have nightmares about it for the rest of their lives. Children must not be allowed to freely explore their environment or playfully interact with it without being coerced towards an external measurable result. This is done through placing twenty or thirty children in one room, getting them all to do one thing, then rewarding them with positive attention and praise for producing a right answer. If the student cannot produce the right answer she is wrong, and does not win any positive attention or praise (or if her answer is particularly wrong, she is stupid and is laughed at). In addition to positive attention, praise or, in many cases, the relief of getting the right answer when asked, the child must also be rewarded with prizes for good marks, stars, grades, numbers and prestige. The child must be tested repeatedly and the results and league tables displayed.
The result of all these rewards is that the child will understand that original experience and the unknown are inevitably punished with disgrace and public failure, that life is a competition and that the main motivations for action are pride, fear and envy. He will begin to display the same behavioural characteristics as students the world over: competitiveness, snobbishness and exclusivity. He will focus on getting right answers, attention, marks, prizes, status and stimulation rather than on enjoying, understanding or perceiving what is going on; his own honest, ungovernable, and therefore socially disruptive, experience.
To subvert the child’s experience, focus, first of all, on the experience of other people, other authorities, external rules and imposed norms. This does not mean you cannot ask the child what he thinks, or that you cannot allow him to ‘express himself’; in fact this is to be encouraged in a liberal society as it gives an illusion of child autonomy, while, in effect, confirming nothing more than the opinions of the child’s parents, peers or celebrity heroes; which is to say, of society. It is also quite safe as, by the time the child reaches school, he will have spent most of his life in a mediated virtual environment and, despite being most likely apathetic, violent or hysterically self-centred, is unlikely to give unpredictable or genuine responses.
Note however that while you must always defer to the knowledge of the professional, you must, at the same time, be very careful not to dwell on that of the genuine connoisseur, genius or master – who tend to promote independence, appeal to the sense and perception of the child and pass on traditional knowledge which is of very little economic benefit.
After limiting the child’s understand of truth you should go on to curtail its experience of sensory reality. Anything more real than a limited band of ideas, emotions, passive virtual sensations and competitive sports must be excluded from the classroom. Unemployment, drugs, solitude, ecstatic art, quality, death, madness, birth, sex, love, beauty, God, silence, nature, free meaningful creation, all practical skills and crafts, and direct experience of nature are all banned from school. Students and teachers can talk about these things, but they cannot experience them. Children are not allowed to do nothing, they cannot be completely alone, they are not allowed to see or touch dead bodies, to watch a woman giving birth, to shape their own environment, to ride horses, to farm, to learn how to light fires or to live directly in the wilderness. Nature must only ever be experienced in the form of passive sanitised entertainment; ideally film, or, if necessary, the odd carefully structured holiday. Again, you the teacher do not have to do much to make sure this happens. Simply being in school is enough to isolate children from reality.
It is particularly important that students specialise. The more they interest themselves in a range of different subjects – arts together with sciences, but particularly abstract learning together with practical action – the more they will start to ask themselves what different things have in common; and that is extremely dangerous – because what different things have in common is the free experience of the individual child, or her common sense. A concern for the big picture could end up with doctors concerning themselves with architecture, lawyers investigating the origin of property or otherwise productive engineers wasting years of their lives staring at dandelions; and I don’t need to tell you how disastrous common sense can be.
Schools and Good Students
Schools are fundamentally the same everywhere. Styles of teaching change, but stunting initiative and denying experience are inherent in isolated and managed institutions; which is what all societies – whether democratic or dictatorial – demand.
Good students are also the same everywhere. They have shown that they are able to put the authority of the school and syllabus above their own instincts and they have shown they can tolerate institutional dependence and uncritically accept institutional rankings. After twenty years of school and university, and ideally another five to ten years as a junior, they will be given more freedom, until they have demonstrated that they are incapable of free creative thought, sensitive nuance feeling and spontaneous generous action, are they allowed to do as they like.