Beliefs and Behaviour Patterns are Neural Pathways that have Become Hardened.
As the brain is growing and forming in the young child, with each new experience a new neural pathway is created, and as those experiences are repeated that pathway or sets of pathways get used repeatedly. Thus certain pathways will become ‘worn’ or ‘hardened’.
This is necessary, and is how, for example, learning to ride a bike gets to a point where one does not need to think about it. The thinking during repeated raining has formed enough of a pathway series to carry out all the various task required to maintain balance, note direction, read the ground and so on.
In this way the child learns and stores vital skills, such as control of her/his limbs, balance, co-ordination.
So we know that it takes about 10,000 hours of training to become fluent in say a musical instrument so that one is a virtuoso, or indeed any particular skill/talent that is then viewed, in our culture, as ‘pretty damn good’.
This applies to physical action as much as thought processes.
We know that children learn much quicker when their learning is self-directed, and that the enthusiasm of the child is a major factor in driving what they will learn.
We know that infants and very young children learn at rapid rate, way beyond what is learned in later life, at university and as ones ‘career’ develops.
It stands to reason that this learning ability is a biological imperative. The child in nature has much to learn, much that is essential for self-reliance and thus survival or as I like to say ‘thrivial’. and not a huge amount of time to do it in.
Typically indigenous peoples children are fully competent by age 6. That is to say they are no longer utterly dependent and are considered an asset to their community. It is common for older children to care for the younger children, and there is much learning that is passed from child to child, rather than from adult to child. That comes later, as the child approaches young adulthood.
To give you an idea of just how much a typical indigenous person will learn, I have seen estimates of a comparison of botanical knowledge of a rain forest dweller compared to a European university trained botanist. The estimate suggests that the indigenous forest dweller contains the equivalent of 35 botanists with 15 years experience each!
That goes way beyond anything we in the West now consider an ‘expert’ or’ virtuoso’.
So given this amazing ability and capacity of the natural human being, what are the implications for a western child in a typical western school environment?
First off, how much time does a child spend in a school environment as opposed to the real world (which is where the natural child’s learning is based)?
What does the loss of that real-world learning mean for the western child?
Given the general tendency within indigenous peoples to respect the unique personal entity, to embrace diversity and independence along side interdependence, what does the teaching of ‘belief systems’ imply for the western child?
The Roots of Modern Compulsory State Education
To answer these questions, in the context of a western styled education, one has to go to the roots of that system and seek out the inspiration for it. John Taylor Gatto has done that in his phenomenal work, “The Underground History of American Education”. I will give a brief description here, culled from his book.
The initial inspiration for Western Mass Schooling, or Compulsory State Education, came from observations by the British in India of the Hindi Rote System of education devised for the lower classes within the Hindi system.. It was an Anglican Military Chaplain who first observed and understood how this system worked. His name was Andrew Bell.
What he saw and understood was that by gathering the children into large groups, where they had to learn drills by rote, where corporal punishment was widely used, where there was a number of powerful external imperatives to show that one had learned, (could repeat the scriptures, perform the rituals, read the texts,) the Hindi Caste system had created a solid state and class structure that had endured for thousands of years, and had resisted the British in spite of the British technological superiority in sea faring and in warfare.
Indeed there was meeting of minds in that the elites of both cultures recognised each other, and thus the British Raj, an accommodation of equals, both ruling their respective masses. The older was to refine the younger. And this was driven largely by commercial interests.
The Hindi Class System
The Hindi Caste system looked a bit like this :
Top 5% of three groups : in Order of Power : Brahmin’s (priests and the professions), Warriors and Administrators, Merchants and Land Cultivators
Lower 95% of two groups : Menials, and Untouchables.
The Brahmin’s ensured that the warriors, administrators and the bulk of the leaderships received a diluted insight into the drivers of this system, so that they alone retained overall control.
The lower 95% received the mass schooling, administered by teachers, who drilled student leaders, who then drilled hundreds of students, in groups of ten or so, all of this in large single rooms. The entire operation of each school was directed by a single Brahmin.
And all this because the belief systems were so entrenched by the time the child was 11 or so, ‘hardwired’ if you will, the overall system of the Hindi centralised power was secure.
“The entire purpose of the Hindu Schooling was to preserve the class system.” 1
At the time there was no formalised education in the British Empire, apart from the few elite schools and colleges. The peasant yeomanry were to a large degree self educated. Home schooled. The recent move from yeomanry to factory and mine worker had transformed the British Empire, though there was stiff resistance to this move, as the yeomanry/peasant came from a background of liberty and dignity. The Luddites were literate and clearly understood the what the coming factory system implied. The loss of their lands via The Enclosure Acts was a coercive move, designed to drive them into factories. Read E E Thompson’s fine work “The Making of The English Working Class” for a detailed look at who, who and why this process developed.
The concept of a proletariat had yet to be thought of, one that was required for maximum efficiency in a mass production economy.
The first expression of this kind of schooling arose from a complete mis-understanding , and can be found in the Lancaster Schools of England. Lancaster, a Quaker, was inspired by an account written by Bell in 1797 of the Hindi system. Bell had made it clear that such a system was an effective impediment to learning, and created in it’s subjects a docility perfectly suited to mass production labour. Lancaster missed this, and concluded that it would be cheap way to awaken intellect in the lower classes. A classic case of a genuine do-gooder who missed the point completely.
Sparta : The Legend of the 300
The rest as they say is History… I would add here that the inspiration for Western Military Training came from the legendary Spartan Culture, and within that the concept of the militarisation of an entire culture was perfected. This was what drove the tiny Prussian State from near collapse, to become one of Europe’s most feared fighting machines and thus a mighty Empire. That was where the first ‘kindergartens’ were crafted. The logic was impeccable. And it was the Prussian system that refined Compulsory State Education as we know it. It was American, French, German and English Coal and Steel Barons, and their paid Educators who were most inspired by the Prussian Military success at Waterloo.
I highly recommend J T Gatto’s work. It will reveal much about the history of the project for a world wide state sponsored system of compulsory education, and it has ever since defined the nature of our society and it’s ills and Gattos work will both shock and reward the reader many, many times.
So now that we have looked to the core inspiration, we can ask what are the implications for a natural child in a typical western school environment? Lets take a look at what happens to that child.
1. They are cut off from the real world experience, from the wider community and segregated from their parents.
2. They are forced into un-natural groupings, according to age and ‘ability’ to conform.
3. They are required to ‘learn’ what they are told to learn, which really means to memorise texts provided by the teachers, who have been given these texts by other unseen administrators of the system.
4. Failure to learn leads to punishment.
Early schooling is about learning to respond appropriately to authority. Obedience is inculcated in the first three years of primary school. (These days the State wants your children even earlier!)
Thus the child learns that his or her own interests do not matter unless they get approval from the teachers..
They will therefore choose an interest within the scope of what is offered, this in order for the psyche to survive, and become dependent upon external approval.
They will have to become devious, self-limiting and external cue driven because they are expected to NOT MAKE MISTAKES, (such is the nature of rote learning) and making a mistake, observing it and correcting it, (an internal feedback loop) is an essential part of the natural learning process. Once that is disabled, then self motivated learning is all but impossible. University offers a mime of this, as the context and texts are limited to what is required for the student top pass his or her exam.
Further Educational and Academic success are dependent upon fitting into the system.
Conditioning and Control
All of this conditions the child in ways that make them ‘ideal’ for working in factories and bureaucracy’s.
Their teachers and their parents have all been through and accepted this system, and this isolates the child, for there is no-one to talk to who understands what is happening.
Those that ‘do not fit in’ are then channelled towards unskilled labour or the military and police. And then finally there’s those who rebel, who become severely damaged by this system and become ‘drop-outs’ , whose chances of getting a ‘good job’ are diminished … they are demonised, and held up as a frightening example to the others.
Officers and Political Leaders are drawn from the better schools and colleges, or from a carefully screened few who work their way up the ranks.
For a more in depth understanding of this whole subject, the works of John Taylor Gatto, John Holt and Paolo Freire are among the best resources you can find. Alice Miller and Carl Rogers have done some of the best work on the psychological nature of this process and how that leads inevitable towards distress and dis-empowerment. Both point to ways in which this can be healed and undone. All these writers are all but ignored by the Educational Elites, and you will be hard push to find a student of Education or Psychology who has been given access to these learning’s within the confines of established academia.
In essence this is all about the control of meaning, of replacing inner meaning with received meaning ,and shutting the gate on the possibility of inner meaning arising as a threat to the established meaning. What this means is that the children develop belief systems about their abilities, about their place in society and indeed about their society itself (these beliefs are embedded in the texts of the subjects they are taught/forced to learn in school) by constant repetition. These beliefs become hard wired, neural pathways, and become a sort of ersatz identity, one that is defensive and quite resistant to alteration – held in place by fear.
And that is the nature of belief systems, state and commercial control, in a nut shell.
That is why 20 million taxpaying adults will allow a Government to rip them off, time and time again, to send their sons and daughters to war, to manufacture and then drop bombs on other peoples who have been demonised, all this in spite of a nagging sense that somehow it’s not right!
This is why some people will read one newspaper and others another, and they will sit in a pub, or on a TV panel, or in a Legislative Assembly and debate the issues, repeating what they have read, thinking all the time that their debates are genuinely based upon their own unique understandings and particular viewpoints, rather than share experienced knowledge culled from the wider world and information they have gleaned for themselves so as to enlighten each other. In debates, the winner takes all!
This is why the ‘new age’ leads to ideologues, fantasists and sectarian divides, because of this mode of reading and repeating what one has read. Original thinking is all but obliterated, and where it exists, it is limited to ‘invention’, ‘fashion’, ‘art’ and literature and corralled into a world that is carefully structured by this whole process. Thus the majority of people become mere repositories of belief.
TV and Advertising work because of this very fact.
Processed and less than optimum foods don’t help matters either.
A Violent System
What has to be understood is that this system was imposed and is inherently violent – as is the nature of the city state and industrialism. The natural child is robbed of his or her innate sensory acuity, and is practically blinded by this process, made emotionally blind because the child has to suppress his or her natural anger at this imposition in order to survive.
On top of this, parenting practices handed down over the years, from the elites, have made violence an acceptable mode of training. As Alice Miller points out a child who has been beaten or humiliated all the while being told by those they are dependent upon, those whose love they require for their own psychic development,’that this is for your own good’ must believe that admonishment, and will in turn do the same to their own children.
It was in 1998 that corporal punishment was outlawed in English Schools. At the same time, to counter that, increased testing was introduced – and we know that this increased testing has not led to an increased intellectual ability in our children. Schools were driven to meet targets in order to secure funding, and so the teachers role become that of a trainer for testing, rather than an educator. The system is designed so that tinkering with it appears to bring novel change, yet the core underlying dynamics remain in place and the power structures retain their over arching power.
If all this seems a bit too much or unlikely, than don’t take my word for it. Explore the issues I have highlighted, do your own research, check in with your own experiences and inner sensing, and decide for yourself.
Do what you love, it’s your gift to universe