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Excerpt from Walking On Water

Giving Our Lives Away (p. 5)

From chapter "A Nation of Slaves"

We hear, more or less constantly, that schools are failing in their mandate. Nothing could be more wrong. Schools are succeeding all too well, accomplishing precisely their purpose. And what is their primary purpose? To answer this, ask yourself first what society values most. We don’t talk about it much, but the truth is that our society values money above all else, in part because it represents power, and in part because, as is also true of power, it gives the illusion that we can get what we want. But one of the costs of following money is that in order to acquire it, we so often have to give ourselves away to whomever has money to give in return. Bosses, corporations, men with nice cars, women with power suits. Teachers. Not that teachers have money, but in the classroom they have what money elsewhere represents: power. We live in a culture that is based on the illusion—and schooling is central to the creation and perpetuation of this illusion—that happiness lies outside of us, and specifically in the hands of those who have power.

Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss’s bidding (as she does hers, and he his, all the way up the line), and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o’clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?

Also expected is that we will be good citizens, good boys and girls all. We won’t question country, God, capitalism, science, economics, history, the rule of law, but in all those areas we will defer—and continue to defer—to experts, just as we were taught. And the experts themselves? It is expected that they will be exquisitely sensitive self-censors, knowing always what or whom to question, what questions to leave unexamined, and most of all which asses to kiss. And none of us, if all goes well, will ever question how these areas—religion, capitalism, science, history, law—trick out in our own lives, even as we give our lives away.