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Docile, Passive Tools of Production

“Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production”

-Noam Chomsky

According to legend, I first encountered every intellectual’s lifelong companion, Literacy, as a mere child of three years. Both of my parents are intellectuals particularly skilled in the world of prose; as such, I was introduced to literacy as early as possible. However subtly, I must add; I certainly did not have the type of parents who overtly forced literacy and deep thought upon me. Instead, I was cultured in an environment in which books were in plain sight at any given coordinate within the house, perhaps even inside of the refrigerator.

Now, I did not immediately start reading Ulysses; I read the typical toddler fare, including such ponderous titles as Pat the Bunny. From here, I got into more scientific nonfiction, largely consisting of visually interesting books about astronomy and prehistoric life, most of which were quite obviously geared towards younger children. While these books were fabricated for the novice reader, they were far from lacking in substance. I began to invest all of my childhood curiosity in the Sciences, though I will admit that history and philosophy were not quite as accessible for me in those days. I pestered my parents to go to the observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. I memorized the scientific names of more than thirty dinosaurs. I even learned about the forbidden baby-making process! It was something of an intellectual renaissance, and nothing could ever stop it, not even a lobotomy! Right, about that…

I now charge two external influences with the destruction of the first Enlightenment period of my life. For starters, we have the rise of the totalitarian Television regime. I had been watching television for at least as long as I had been literate; I will not pretend to have been above such proletarian pastimes. However, the screen-viewing and reading had peacefully coexisted until age seven. By this time, the driving force of childhood curiosity had been thrown out of office, just like Salvador Allende, with a desire for immediate entertainment acting as my Augusto Pinochet. Now, only Spongebob Squarepants, anything on Cartoon Network, and the occasional Captain Underpants ‘novel’ could satisfy the military junta.

Now, the second external influence is the one with which I am truly incensed. The Chomsky quote at the beginning of the essay best expresses my feelings towards public education, except for this: if somebody were to ask me outside of the context of an essay about my feelings towards public education, my answer would be much more vulgar and vitriolic. The method taken by most public school curricula to teach reading comprehension is utterly banal. I could only take so much of the Fuhrer, I mean, Teacher, instructing the students to read pages 42-83 in the book, write down superfluous annotations. Reading should not be taught as another chore. It should be viewed as something to satisfy human curiosity; teaching it otherwise will force many students to resort to quick fix recreational activities, such as playing graphically violent video games endorsed by the military industrial complex.

In short, the combination of television and a public school curriculum designed to discourage creative thinking practically neutered my desire to read. However, there came a time around four years ago, a time in which I started to become more influenced by my parents than by my age peers. I noticed that my father was reading often about politics and [lack of] religion; authors such as Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Michael Lerner, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I decided to explore this genre myself, and political nonfiction was my genre of choice for the next few years, although I did not yet read very frequently. Unfortunately, my attention span was not yet refined, and I still believe myself to be somewhat intellectually delayed as a result of this.

Nowadays, I am beginning to explore the great novels. In the last year, I have read A Confederacy of Dunces, Robinson Crusoe, 1984, Slaughterhouse-Five and Notes from the Underground. I hope to become more well-versed in literature as I mature, and to continue to express my frustration with the flaccid ineptitude of many APS schoolteachers.

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