Prisons with books

One thing leads to another to another … Red Ice Creations is a Swedish source for podcasts that I’ve subscribed to for a couple of years. For 80% of the time Henrik Palmgren, the host, will take us down the path of extraterrestrials and ancient civilizations, none of which interest me – maybe even spooks me a little. I mean Henrik, please.

Bruce Veinotte
Bruce Veinotte
But that other 20% of the time makes the subscription worthwhile. He seems to be scouring the landscape looking or interesting people with different outlooks. He introduced me to Bruce Veinotte and the “School Sucks” project. I was a bit leery at first, as I am with so many of Henrik’s guests, but as I listened realized that Veinotte is intelligent, mindful, and counter-cultural. He reminds me of my son.

Judge for yourself. The first hour of the podcast is free to non-subscribers. If you want to hear the second, email me and I’ll see what can be done. Veinotte calls school a “jail with books,” and has very little use for the buildings or the teachers. He thinks that learning is a lifetime challenge, should be self-guided, and that we can dispense with regimentation, permission to go to the bathroom, hall passes, bells, lines, and that godawful focus on testing for temporary retention (before tossing the information aside). (I found the second hour far more intriguing.) His take on “bullying” is utterly sensible: It usually happens in prisons and schools, those places where people are held against their will.

Veinotte mentioned “the” nine-types of intelligence (as if). I am one of those people who always tested well on ACT’s and SAT’s. I happen to have the type of smarts that are valued in our society – pattern recognition, numbers, language skills. But oddly, I’ve noticed over time, I suck at things like chess and checkers and poker – I would call these “gaming” skills. I can see the past very clearly, but cannot anticipate the future (as in why you moved that bishop to that square). Also, I cannot tell you how an internal combustion engine works – way too may things going on there at once. I struggle with our snow thrower, our plumbing, building a simple staircase.

It just demonstrates that people have wide and varied talents, and that we overemphasize some, undervalue others. Anyway, “the” nine types of intelligence are actually a fairly comprehensive description of the many facets of the interaction of the human brain with nature. I found it in many places on the Google. Here they are:

  • Naturalistic: Living among the elements, plants, rocks, animals, harmonizing … these are our farmers, hunters, chefs, botanists, gardeners with that “green thumb.”
  • Musical: People sensitive to pitch, timbre, rhythm, harmony and who add so much to our lives.
  • Logical and mathematical: People who discern relationships and patterns, demonstrate sequential reasoning skills, and generate and use abstract thoughts. That’s me, I guess, or why I scored well on those damned tests.
  • Existential: These are our philosophers, religious types, who wonder why we are born, exist, what happens at death. I am drawn to this, but am not very good at it.
  • Interpersonal: People-smart. People who get along easily, size up, enjoy people. Blog behavior aside, this is me in real life. I enjoy meeting people, and look for reasons to like them.
  • Bodily kinesthetic Dancers, athletes, surgeons … all of those talented people out there who are not me.
  • Linguistic: To think in words and makes oneself understood. ‘Nuff said.
  • Intra-personal: Self aware – this, while evident in some people (my late older brother for one) at a very young age, is something we develop as we age … if we are paying attention.
  • Spatial: Thinking in three dimensions – understanding how a damned snow thrower works. These are the architects, mechanics, many artists, and those amazing people who design the cardboard containers that we use to ship products around the world. Have you ever wondered how they take a piece of cardboard and slice and dice it to the exact shape needed to hold your set of glassware you just ordered? I marvel at those designs. Just sayin’.

So go back to your SAT and ask yourself what were they testing, and how many ways there are that we can develop outside of formal schooling, which Veinotte says (and I agree) is a prison with books, and a waste of our precious time.

7 thoughts on “Prisons with books

  1. Technology has left most U.S. institutions in the dust. Labor markets and education are linked, and both suffer from an inability to adapt as needs arise. It’s McLuhan’s principle that only the young incorporate technology as it happens. Too many old farts in charge of too many important institutions makes young people crazy, and keeps them from reaching their potential. Add that to financial burdens caused by Wall Street greed, and you have a recipe for serious social/cultural decline. More loggers and miners won’t fix this problem.

    “Technology has been racing ahead of education in recent decades but the primary reason is that educational growth has been sluggish. We summarized the point in Chapter 3 with the quip “it’s not
    technology – stupid.” We will soon demonstrate that the inequality culprit is also “not immigration.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Veinotte is addressing the issue of herding kids off to classrooms, regimenting them, controlling their minds by insisting they regurgitate various “subjects” back, making them miserable, and calling it “education.” Technology aside (he mentions YouTube and “thousands of teachers”) this was true in the 1950’s too, when technology was nothing like now. The idea is to teach basic reading, writing, comprehension and rhetoric, and then let the child educate him/herself. I think the concept scares people.


  2. Obsolete model, agreed. But we’ve “invested” so much in brick and mortar, teachers and administrators, it’s nearly impossible to reverse direction, or adapt to new conditions. And how else could municipalities and counties justify ever-increasing property tax rates more and more are unable to afford? The control factor extends well beyond students, onto every property in the district.


    1. Yeah, too much invested. However, a building is a building and a room is a room, and they don’t have to be doing Prussian education in them. Kids could be self-directing. But I think the objective of public education is to keep them in the slow lane, unable to think critically, not knowing the words to use even when they know something is wrong.


      1. I think they’re calling the latest educational fad “The Race to the Top” now. Whatever that means, if the description at is any indicator, it is to the top of a heap of gobbledy-gook.

        “Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas:

        • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
        • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
        • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
        • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

        Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come.”


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