I didn’t know I hated school until I was about 60 – years old, maybe even later – maybe not until I began to live with death – my dear husband died and death gripped my heart – eventually, literally.
The agonizing clutch of loss of one so dear and essential, he who gave meaning to my life – because I chose he would and he could, made my view become that looking back to see what I’d done. Up until then I’d gotten together with Jack – the meaning in my life; the beauty, the color, the self-respect because he who I worshipped became with me and gave me reason to feel that way about myself, now wasn’t there to shore up my being. So, what had I done?
And pretty much, nothing, really.
That had been ok all those years – because he was here branding meaning onto my life.
Now when I look around I see the events of our lives together and am well pleased at what we did, what I did. But I now, for the first time, compare what I – we, even – might have done had we – maybe just I – not been so content, confident we’d found all we needed, and could find any more if it became that we needed more.
So I looked at my time as a student and later as an employee – a grocer – in my folks’ store; an office clerk – during school breaks; a parent – albeit accidentally, unwillingly, and then a school teacher –also unwillingly, but out of necessity.
I’d promised when I was 9 that I would not ‘be’ – do schoolteaching. But I did – for 15…20 years.
As a student at U. Chicago I had not had a background that enabled me to reach a maturity where I could understand the content of the courses – even French – let alone history, physics, social sciences. Even music – a year of fine arts study – I forget what that came under – I didn’t grasp that there was analysis to be made.
So I ‘fell in love’ and got married – and did a lot of things for 54 years (child, divorced, schooled, careered, married, traveled, another child, working at jobs in between). None of these was done driven by purpose – by a goal; rent, of course; dinner, a coat, transportation, etc. Except – I did manage to tell myself I wanted to work to repair the dreadfully damaging way of the world – attack to end capitalism – profit, growth – and all that means.
If I had known that – really known it, not just poked at it – said I’d do it – instead no-way got that that was A THING to do, to study, to connect to, to be, to become, I’d have lived so differently.
I realize this is not so different from many people’s lives, regardless the common question to a very young person, what do you want to be when you grow up. If I were ever asked that question – and I don’t remember having been, I never answered it. I never understood it…not until these recent 2 or 3 decades.
I did claim the meaningful direction against ‘the system’ about 45 years ago, but doing it as a position – What are you? (you know – secretary, janitor, cook, etc etc). There wasn’t a position 45 years ago, a job, as far as I knew. I did go to work for a community action program in Roanoke – from Chicago where I’d been schoolteaching. That’s likely what I’m talking about, the job as Education Organizer. But I quickly got myself kicked out of that position. It wasn’t right, anyway. I had no idea – well, I had a utopian idea – which I knew was inoperable – for this work. The idea I had was not far from what I’ve recently written, this book…School Is The Opposite Of Education a study to release us from our confinement
Now I have the wherewithal to look at the disorientation – the lack of orientation, of direction – the origins of that – which are social yes; gender sourced, class sourced, relative to the times. My folks did tell me I could be anything I wanted to. I just really wanted to be part of someone, embraced, sleep with – literally sleep, be adjacent to – to love and be loved – although elsewhere I’ll describe my truncated loving ability. And once – again – again – I had that I was done; not aimless – but not with an objective. …other than as I said – which took ages to search out.
I’ve said school got in my way – in retrospect.
What would I have done had there not been school – elementary, high – the wrong one, it turned out; I could have gone to the U. of Chicago Lab School – that would have changed everything. My folks moved from the area of a top high school in the country – Hyde Park High. But the U.C. school would have given me the same advantage – a place to think, to be with others who were not bogged down with hard working class lives like the people at the high school I did attend, bogged down with racism and sexism and efforts to fit themselves in to work I had no ability to see was what I was supposed to want too. Very classist distinction.
I didn’t ‘get’ it. I didn’t ‘get’ the cliques. I just knew I didn’t have friends. I had no enlightenment – except from home – and after a while from Young Progressives, of Progressive Party – good to do, good to do. But still, school being dominant, as far as I knew, being the parameter of my life – I just never knew I was supposed to ‘want to be when I grew up’!
Plus the dear parents kept me overoccupied – with piano and ballet lessons, the ballet, which seemed to be the direction I’d follow, became physically inaccessible for me, bursitis. So I was lost. I knew then I was shocked – in great pain at that loss, diversion, confusion, but could not think of an answer. I couldn’t go to Julliard or Bennington to study choreography – we didn’t know I had talent for that. And it was not evident that I could work up materials on my own. So that slid by.
Meanwhile, my immigrant folks were off-put by me, and I by them even though I highly regarded and lived according to their ways; classical music, no lie – a MAjor problem – I should have lied a lot! Commitment to communism – much the way devout children take up their parents’ religion. The distance between me and my parents could be why I so yearned to be close with someone – for me, a man; …could be why getting that alleviated yearning. In fact, when I got together with Jack I stopped having stomach aches!
Much of that was true of Jack, too; immigrant parents, never enough material security, sufficiency, warmth from parent to child. And Jack too, took up his parents’ standards.
HUH! I just glanced back to see the computer underlined a word – overoccupied – because it’s a misspelling according to the on-line dictionary – and got reminded of the other main loss in my childhood. I played baseball. In another time and place I would have been a contender!!! It still brings up all the sorrow at all the limits that prevented that pursuit. Closure of that direction – for gender, for class, for having no idea that I might DO that – certainly not available as it was to some stars in high school – I mean – I was stellar!! at it! – and that too, didn’t happen.
Chalk up another confusion, disorientation….
All these bounded by school, confined into the school structure – as people are confined into the job structure – limiting everyone’s (yeah – not EVeryone’s) life by the 9-5, it’s called.
Hating school – that I came upon these last years – is the same hate I advocate about our relationship to all aspects of our lives, the controls against us being permitted to build enjoyable, fulfilling lives for ourselves, for us all. My hatred of school is just seeing the role it plays in confining me and my fellow people, in constraining our view of our place in the world.
I’ve gotten people together to talk about the approach I take. I warn people – I’m not going to tell you a program – what to do instead. I’m going to urge you to propose how else to live than using that structure. Nevertheless we get together and they say …do school this way; do school that way; they always propose school – fixed, of course, as the answer to the problem that school is. …the way they say ‘capitalism’ – fixed, reformed, repaired, as what to do about capitalism. Well, no, the people I gather with don’t say that. But they do call out for jobs! school! both of which intentions show the breached view available.
So, the call, my call, is for us to live together – as I say many times throughout these chapters. Now I’ve gone to describing it as let’s live together like Pesach (Passover) dinner. Everybody gets together and be-s and does and says, young, old, die alle meshpochah – the whole family – of people. We do what needs to be done, what we want done, what we want to do, no age segregation. We teach and learn and study at the site, in a classroom, on location, wherever whatever we do is being done. Work becomes how we live, amid not work. It becomes our joy. Everyone works – all members of society be productive. Everyone assumes an obligation to produce necessities, which are pleasures too, and to not produce anything – just relax, just sit and have a coffee and a smoke – well, not a smoke – but reproduce the market gathering – walk to the market – not drive to the mall – and visit with each other.
A health clinic on every corner, next to a farm, with livestock on it, rotating through the sections, feeding the earth that feeds them – and us, across the road from the opera house and the stadium, across the street from the community house and the grocery store, shops integrated with farming, not concreting the land, healing it, reclaiming it, living city-rich far from cities. As well as living in urban density. Everyone has to do stuff – that’s our way, human’s way. Capitalism prevents that. Considering then that all people can work – 2yearolds, 90 year olds, what do you think is the percentage now of people that work – in the U.S. and in industrialized nations. 10%? I think so…
In that circumstance work becomes that wholly other arrangement that is part of the meaning of our lives along with all else that we do – that we have TIME to do – because maintenance takes up such a small amount of our time – 10 hours a week – unless we WANT to spend 100 hours a week at it because it’s so splendid – maybe just for a few weeks – or years – or our lifetime – up to us – as needed, wanted.
Can you see it? Which part can’t you see? Can we talk about what you can – not see? Can we get together over the idea and start to build our daily lives toward this direction? We’d have to change the laws that make us watch our children every minute, so they can go off to where they would, to do what they would – – yeah that takes some work. But first we have to stop aiming for what one struggling student called ‘free compulsory education’. We know what she meant. But it comes out ‘funny’ – free compulsory…
Some responses have been ‘these ideas have to wait until we’ve actually gotten to the better way to live’. But it’s working to enact these ideas that will bend us toward building that better way to live. After all, these put us up against the system that murders us for resisting our Owners’ processes. So it’s a long haul to start to get there…
So let us name things to do. Jobs. Work. Then let us describe our behavior together. It includes teaching each other how to do it; includes agreeing to do it. It includes working out ways to do it. It includes language skills, including beginning reading and writing – because we like to teach – we enjoy sharing our knowing and our questioning.
Only in the capitalist system is there a disease of not ‘knowing’ oneself, of having to go off to ‘find’ oneself. The alienation required in capitalism creates the loss of oneself, and that need to commoditize finding oneself – through paying for counseling – or traveling East to meditate – religion-surf.
This book describes the alternative to school. It says we should live together. It says ALL study can go on living together and doing what’s necessary to live together. We’re supposed to enjoy being here, I say, not constantly be trying to come out of being disturbed by what we have to do. Claiming our minds through the way we live is not utopian; it’s essential. It goes together. As we live together we be ourselves, together. And we just teach and learn all the stuff and do it.