Training in Passivity

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Michael Strong cites John Taylor Gatto’s description of conventional K-12 education as thirteen years’ training in passivity and dependence, meaninglessness and incoherence:

The method is the only real lesson learned by the students. Existing K-12 education largely consists of experiential indoctrination in the lesson that learning is boring, humiliating, and meaningless and that therefore the only rewards in life come from intense stimulations. Appetites for community, spirituality, art, and nature are systematically stunted in our young people in the first 18 years of their lives. As adult consumers, they then go on to create the society in which we live.

As traditional cultures erode in the face of the media mass cultures, as addictive behaviors and substances degrade the lives of increasing millions, those of us who care about human well-being have one opportunity to new cultures which are more humane while also being suitably adapted to 21st century global society. Innovative enculturating K-12 education is the only means of raising new generations with the coherence and structure of a culture in the face of the avalanche of commercial stimulation that has become inescapable and will become as addictive as any drug.

The impact of traditional cultures around the world is decreasing. Tribal cultures in Africa, Indonesia, and South America are vanishing. Ethnic subcultures in the urban U.S. are gradually disappearing. A few mass media monocultures are taking over the world: a Muslim mass culture, a Hispanic mass culture, a Chinese mass culture, and an Anglo mass culture. The traditional idiosyncrasies, practices, prejudices, and virtues of those cultures in which mankind evolved are rapidly vanishing. Insofar as traditional cultures are being replaced by new idiosyncratic cultures, for the most part the new cultures are being formed by electronic media rather than by human beings.

Around the world, life with human beings in a common culture is being replaced by daily experiences of flashy, stimulating, electronic sounds and images. Electronic stimulation is becoming increasingly potent and seductive. Technology will continue to develop ever more compelling television and video, computer and video games, musical stimulation, and virtual reality. As a teen I read a science fiction novel in which most people no longer wanted to live life; they prefer to “experience” their virtual realities, complete with electrodes to stimulate the brain so at to simulate physical experiences and mental states. “Life” consists of the virtual experience of having sex with the most attractive partners, reliving the most transcendent religious experiences of saints and martyrs, or triumphantly fighting as a gladiator engaged in orgies of violence, all “achieved” while lying down in a lounger and not moving a muscle.

Each year advances in entertainment technology bring us closer to this world. The gaming world is now a bigger industry, by revenues, than the motion picture industry. These massive revenue streams will result in ever-larger investments in ever-more sophisticated virtual experiences. Role playing games and virtual reality technologies are rapidly becoming more intensely stimulating and more intensely real.

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