L. Neil Smith's
Number 351, January 22, 2006

"Down With Tolerance!"

Down With Tolerance!
by Ron Beatty

Exclusive to TLE

Usually, the articles I write are about the evils of intolerance, and the disaster that such brings to us each and every day. Today, I'm going to change course a little bit, and actually advocate intolerance.

For many years, we, as a people, have tolerated government interference in our private lives. We have tolerated the establishment and maintenance of government-run schools, which has led to students receiving, at best, a mediocre education. I recently saw an article by John Stossel which led to the conclusion that the longer students spend in government run schools, the worse they do, and the less able they are to think and learn. We have tolerated an atmosphere which lauds mediocrity, which attempts to ensure that the average American citizen is not capable of rational and critical thought and action.

Many of us have railed against the 'failures' of the modern educational system, not realizing that the system hasn't really failed. It has done precisely what it was designed to do, created a nation of drones who do and think what the state and media tell them to. For those who don't believe me, please, check it out yourselves. Look at the excellent research and information available from John Taylor Gatto detailing the history, actions, and results of the American 'educational' system.

Like many, if not most of us, I too was caught in the system. I was an exceptional student, until I ran into a teacher who couldn't stand the thought of a student who did so well in school that he was skipped one grade, and was being considered to skip at least one more. She did her best to totally eradicate any love of learning and knowledge from me, and damned near succeeded. She did her best to fail me, using any excuse she could come up with. (For Harry Potter fans, think Deloris Umbridge. You'll be right on target.) Fortunately, my parents, who couldn't understand how things had changed so drastically, and an honest principal, intervened. That year, as well, I read Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, which helped me get through the year, and the next year, in sixth grade, I had one of the greatest teachers I've ever known, Mr. Ronald Callahan. Mr. Callahan, if you ever read this, thank you!

The whole purpose of this somewhat rambling history is to reinforce that the school system is not about teaching kids to learn, it is about forcing them to conform.

I am proposing that we be intolerant to mediocrity, that we be intolerant to conforming, that we be intolerant of 'just fitting in' in order to get through the day. I am proposing that each and every one of us strive for excellence in all that we do and learn, and that we resist being 'pigeon-holed' into one narrow category. There used to be something called a "Renaissance man." What this was, was a person who was proficient in a wide variety of skills and range of learning. Not just mediocre, not just acceptable, but proficient!

In Time Enough for Love, Robert A. Heinlein had this following quote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

I still can't write a sonnet (at least not one I'll admit to!), but I have done most of the others, at one time or another. The problem is, little or none of my knowledge or ability came as a result of the educational system. It is almost entirely the result of self-study. When a topic interested me, I went and learned all I could about it. This includes: oceanography, astronomy, sociology, theology, history, archaeology, and a host of other subjects. I haven't done as well with languages, only being able to get by in French and Spanish, with a smattering of technical Russian, some German, and a little bit of Latin and Greek (very little!) Some day I hope to devote the time to bring my proficiency up in these, and learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic.

The educational system has removed the fun from learning, has taught our kids that being exceptional is not socially acceptable, except in certain defined circumstances, and has led us to a society that has no knowledge of its own history, roots, or culture. Instead, many of our young people adopt a fallacious culture, based on myth, or define themselves as hyphenated Americans, attempting to find or create a culture that they can accept and belong to. By the way, a culture based on myth is not automatically bad, unless and until it supercedes reality, not allowing the members of that culture to interact with the world around them in an effective manner.

I am proposing a culture, a society, and a way of life based on excellence! Excellence in learning, ability, knowledge, and above all, effort! For parents, teach your children to read, to learn, to explore their own boundaries, and to stretch those boundaries every day. When your kids want to learn, encourage them! Spend the extra few dollars to get the books on the subjects they're interested in! If you don't have the money, take them to the library! Make that little extra effort to help them. If nothing else, one night a week, read to them! It doesn't have to be something heavy. Perhaps The Princess Bride, David and the Phoenix, or even one of Burroughs' Tarzan or Barsoom books. Help to stretch their minds. Use fantasy, science-fiction, novels, anything to help them grow and explore. Above all, be accepting of their interests. Perhaps they might like something that you yourself don't. So what? They aren't you.

Learn. Be. Do. With Excellence!



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