Monthly Archives: February 2007

Do you believe that you are complete and have the potential to fully develop yourself?


Do you believe that you are complete and have the potential to fully develop yourself? Do you believe that everyone else, the same as you, is complete and has the potential to fully develop himself/herself? If you do, please believe in it fully and put it into practice. Use your whole life to investigate it, verify it and prove it.

Be mindful of your existence. Also be mindful of other people’s existence.

Basically I feel there are two kinds of believes in this world. Some people believe everyone is complete and has the potential to fully develop himself/herself. The other people believe only a small group of people should be elite and be the managers and the mass should be dumbed down. A lot of people were taught with the second belief, didn’t question it and passed it down to the future generations. That is one vital factor of why we have corporation, schooling and state machine that enforces them.



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Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society

People are always scared of death. It is sad to think that we cannot smell any more, listen any more, and watch any more. But while we are alive, are we really listening, seeing, and smelling the moment? Are we living at the moment? Or are we actually dead? To live, just get rid of unnecessary thinking and let your “self” responds spontaneously without thinking.

Life, indeed is a poetry. We are alive. We need to express ourselves. We need to be passionate. We need to overcome our fears.

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Wish you happy every day

Wish you happy every day

Today is Valentine day. I went to do the meditation. It was the guided meditation. The host Ethan guided practitioners to wish happiness for various kinds of people in their lives.

It is really a good method. It reminded me the time when I graduated from my undergraduate. Then we were writing on each other’s yearbooks. Mostly people expressed their sad feelings for departure and wishes for success or fortunes. I, however, took the chance to humiliate my friends on their yearbooks, or simply wish them happy every day if we are not close enough to make jokes.

As I have written before on this blog, the way we lived when in college is different from students in the states. We are arranged by the school to live closely together for 4 or 5 years. As you live closely with any people, there are of course a lot of conflicts, not even mention that we didn’t even have the option of who we live with. But after 5 years of getting to know each other, there is some strong bondage between us. There was so much fun together. And you realize that they are not very different from you.

So from that experience, I learned one thing in my future dealing with other people. I treat strangers like old friends. I know we will be friends if we have enough time to get to know each other. I know that is what is going to happen no matter what an asshole the other person is. So if that is what is going to happen, why don’t let it happen earlier instead of later (after all the fighting)?

Of course I am aware that there are still barriers between strangers. But as I put down my own barrier first, I can easily see the chances when I can take initiatives to tear down the other person’s barrier as well.

My friends said then that I had such a strong confidence and was able to be always smiling. I didn’t like the word Confidence since I was not aware of that word. Now I know that if it is confidence, it is not as much confidence in myself as confidence in every other person’s potential to fully develop himself/herself.

As my teacher said and I quote here, “there are two kinds of love: incomplete love and complete love”. Sometimes lack of incomplete love makes us forget complete love. Sometimes being filled with incomplete love makes us pursuing the complete love. Complete love makes us more complete in incomplete love. Incomplete love is based on incomplete self. Complete love is based on complete self. Incomplete self is our reality. Complete self is also our reality.

It is Valentine. If you are still reading, I wish you happy every day.

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Where does the self disappear

Where does the self disappear

Not in a very good mood today, and thus didn’t want to do anything. So I went to Grassroots Nonviolent Resistance to Israeli Apartheid in Palestine. Of course I think this is an important event. But I don’t feel I can learn anything since I was quite familiar with these things in China.

I couldn’t understand much of the two presenters’ English. They just showed some pictures and videos. So there is not much I can say. But today’s event became very dramatic because several pro-Israel people also came to the event and had a big clash with the other side. A Jewish girl even lost control of herself and cried out loudly. Security was also called in to draw out a guy who kept asking about suicide bomber. People on both sides were very emotionally charged. I was just sitting behind three pro-Israel people and witnessed all the drama playing out. What interested me is to see those people who appears to me seems to be on the right side cannot treat those pro-Israel people fairly and nicely. I saw all those small self playing there. People are so self-centered. A guy who sat besides those three pro-Israel people seemed to want to play nice, giving those three pro-Israel people space to speak. But his small self always stood in the way. He thinks he is morally superior to those three pro-Israel people. He constantly tried to hurt their feelings, treating them like idiots. That, to me, is very racism. When the Jewish girl stood up to ask questions, another guy even shouted out: put some clothing on first. Then another lady called the Jewish girl bitch. Too far. Are they just trying to show they are more moral, more knowledgeable? They just made things a lot worse. All those illusory selves!!!

But those two presenters are indeed great people. They didn’t hold hatred against those pro-Israel people. They didn’t feel themselves morally superior. As one presenter said, he was not there to argue against something. He was there to WORK ON something, WORKING with the other side together to find a solution to stop the circular violence. Yes, when you live in a situation like they do, you don’t argue, you just WORK ON it. (I talked with one presenter after the event. He indeed is a very humble person. He has heart for people on the other side.)

Leaving the event, I went to Grand Sichuan to have some food. Two young Chinese came in and sat at the table besides me. Their presence there was so beautiful because I could feel there was no illusory self there. After all these days of seeing people’s stinking illusory self, it is really nice to be around some people who are not that self-centered. They both grew up in US. Both are artists. The guy is 26. The girl is 19. Listening to their conversation is like watching Before Sunrise/Sunset. Beautiful people. Beautiful conversation. He asked the girl what makes her happy. He talked about how Asian family usually stress too much on success, racing from beginning to end, without ever pausing to think what is the thing they really want for their lives. Many of his friends work now in big corporations. But he felt they lost their freedom of life. He talked about how Asian parents normally try to dominate their kids’ lives and how he fought back and tried to get their understanding that although he wouldn’t be the exact person his parents want him to be, he is becoming a better person.

Listening to them talking about their reflection on their lives and arts, I felt that it was like myself expressed in English except that I cannot express myself so well in English. It reminds me of my younger brother. He used to be quite different from me. But now he is more and more like me. I really don’t see how big difference people have between them. As long as people work hard, they seem to share very similar experiences. What is the difference?

Today’s fortune cookie: You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.

Yes, keep trying.

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Maradona–He is the king

He is dancing there.

Argentina is my most favorite football team. They have skill, speed, strength, and strategy.

As a man, when you are young, you need to live like Maradona, fighting with your countrymen, with your friends, to experience great joys and sadness, to go through huge ups and downs. It is merely a choice: what kind of life do you want to live? If you want to be like Maradona, then open yourself up. Don’t fight alone anymore. Don’t just fight for yourself anymore. You need to transcend yourself.

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Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto

Dumbing Us Down

Thinking after reading Dumbing us down.

No one can do a good job on education without reading Mr. Gatto’s books. Reading his book, you will have a feeling that education is the root of nearly all problems of our society. The education is to understand other social issues on a very deep level.

Brief recap of central points of his book:

  • the cost of learning is very low, almost free
  • genius is very common among us, everyone can be genius
  • without community life, one cannot be a full human being
  • family life is important in teaching love
  • local vs. global: any local community, if there is no external artificial disturbance, can be self-correcting, can grow,
  • you cannot love people you don’t know, act locally
  • community life is a connection between past, present, and future. Schooling, however, destroys the natural process
  • no one right way
  • what lessons children have to go through to be a fully human being
  • solitude is an important lesson, it gives the space and time necessary to develop the self
  • human being is not machine. Human beings are self-initiative and self-complete, while machine just follows command.
  • big dose of time is needed in learning

Very beautifully written book.

(To be continued…)

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Community VS. Network

Thinking after reading

Reading John Taylor Gatto’s speech “WE NEED LESS SCHOOL, NOT MORE”, it is a different feeling from reading his other essays in the past. When reading those essays, my reaction was usually: yes, right, I agree. But reading this essay, my response is: seriously, I need to think about this.

It is very good to be able to find a book that can challenge my assumptions, so I have to rely on my experience to rethink the whole thing and reshuffle the whole thinking.
From this speech, we can also see that education (a much better word is learning) is the deep root of our society. A thorough understanding of it will help us understand many other issues.

You should read Gatto’s speech. It is very well-written. And I am sure everyone will be provoked with a lot of different thinking. Here I just provide some comments I wrote along my way of reading, so you have a quick glimpse of his ideas. Original text from Mr. Gatto will be quoted. Comments will be in red and Italitc.

People who admire our school institution usually admire networking in general and have an easy time seeing its positive side, but they overlook its negative aspect – that networks, even good ones, take the vitality from communities and families. They make solutions to human problems mechanical, “by the numbers”, when a slow, organic process of self-awareness, self-discovery, and cooperation is what is required if any solution is to stick.”

Aristotle saw, a long time ago, that fully participating in a complex range of human affairs was the only way to become fully human; in that he differed from Plato.
network schools steal the vitality of communities and replace it with an ugly piece of mechanism.”

It is a fact generally ignored when considering the communal nature of institutional families like schools, large corporations, colleges, armies, hospitals and government agencies that they are not real communities at all, but networks. Unlike communities, networks – as I reminded you – have a very narrow way of allowing people to associate,

Another instance might clarify this. Networks of urban reformers will convene to consider the problems of homeless vagrants, but a community will think of its vagrants as real people, not abstractions. “Ron,” “Dave” or “Marty” – a community will call its bums by their names. It makes a difference. People interact on thousands of invisible pathways in a community and the emotional payoff is correspondingly rich and complex. But networks can only manage a cartoon simulation of community and a very limited payoff.

One thing I do know, most of us who’ve had a taste of loving families, even a little taste, want our kids to be part of one. One other thing I know is that eventually you have to come to be part of a place, part of its hills and streets and waters and people – or you will live a very, very sorry life as an exile forever. Discovering meaning for yourself, and discovering satisfying purpose for yourself is a big part of what education is. How this can be done by locking children away from the world is beyond me.”
Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values that will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves wherever he is, whoever he is with, whatever he is doing; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.
This reminds me of my 5 years of undergraduate college life. My roommates and me, 8 people, lived together in a very small school dorm for 5 years. We didn’t have a choice who we wanted to be roommates. The school had arrangement of nearly everything of our lives. So we were just put together by the school. Of course, there were a lot of conflicts between us through those 5 years (but much better than the girls, who seemed constantly in a war time). But we live very closely. Most of us come from very far away, 1000 miles or 2000 miles away. Only during the winter or summer holidays, could we be separate. Furthermore, different from American universities, in Chinese university, there is a very clear concept of Class (Class as in Classroom, instead of Social Class). So for our grade year, we, around 50 students in this major, were split into 2 classes. We took around 90% of our courses together. There is a teacher from the department serving as class dean of us. Such kind of class is of course for easy social control. So we function as a unit of the school, which function as a unit of society. In a summary, we live very closely and have to interact with each other in numerous ways through out our daily lives for 5 years. Every night, after the dorm turned off the electricity and we had to go to bed, and before we fell asleep, we discussed many many things. When we got familiar with each other, there were nothing we didn’t discuss. A lot of topics, of course, were about females. So I guess this is what Mr. Gatto calls Community. I always felt bad that we didn’t have the freedom to choose who we wanted to be roommate with. And throughout of my college life, I always tried to socialize/network with students from other majors or other schools, to expand the scope my human contacts. I felt school deliberately arranged so, thus dumbing us down. After 5 years living together, however, we developed a very deep mutual understanding and tolerance towards each other. We know each other way too well. I learned to have fun there, and always tried my best to improve the situation at every moment. I learned that I could not change a person. It is better to tolerate and have fun together. Indeed, each person is so unique, having a unique character. We had a lot of fun in our last year in school.

So I learned friendship in my undergraduate. I learned to treat strangers like my old friends. I also learned about love during that time. She is very pretty. The first sight of her shocked me very much: she is so otherworldly. More importantly her personality is flowing very freely. Later I learned that she has a very caring and happy father. She learned about love in her family. Thus all the beautiful things she does come out so naturally.

My teacher said that for plus and minus to unite, reasoning is needed for them to gain permission to enter each other. Reasoning is natural. During my undergraduate years, I learned to tell myself to be rational because only by being rational can I grow. My teacher also said that there is a natural way to achieve unity of plus and minus, which is through love. I guess through my roommates and her, I learned of love. At that time, I felt so free. A yawn after a nap, can be so free, feeling like home, a home I have never been to. When she asked me what kind of boy is a good boy. I said that a good boy shouldn’t just love her or girls, he should also love other people and the world. I loved wherever I was, whoever I was with (I learned this specifically from her), whatever I was doing. I finally know to stop reasoning, and to feel, to feel strongly and deeply. Without that, all reasoning is castle on the sand, without a strong base. Most often, I know what to do directly by feeling, not by reasoning. Finally I don’t need to think all the time anymore.
To Mr. Gatto, community and family are very vital parts of life that make an individual fully human.

A bigger community is the culture, the country I live in. Through all the learning about this culture and its history, I became more and more a part of that big community. Knowing their suffering and fights generation after generation, I cannot be free. I have to care about many things, and I have to do many things. At the same time, getting nutrition from the culture everyday and contributing back are of great fun.
When I came to US, what I felt was that a big burden was lifted off my shoulder. Finally I didn’t need to care about all those things I had been caring so much. It is kind of feeling free. But I am hardly a human being anymore. All left in my memory was abstraction. The concrete detailed local experiences were all left in China. I had to integrate my life into this history here in US to be a human being again. It was not easy. Even though I came to abstract conclusion through my own concrete experience, when that concrete experience was stripped away (for example, when living in a foreign culture), the abstraction was also in a dangerous position. I took a wrong self as my true self. So as you see, even my own conclusion, when separated from local specific experience, cannot stay. If so, how can anyone teaches abstraction? However, so many people in this world only teaches abstraction, trying to tell you how you should live your life.

Right now I live in Harlem. This is a very dirty place. Garbage everywhere. You can even see human shit on the street. In the subway station, you can see many metro cards thrown on the track. I just couldn’t understand why they threw the cards on the tracks since the trash cans were just nearby. I guess it is just bad habits. Having stayed in the mid-west, especially in a beautiful campus and small down for a long time, Harlem was really a horrible sight for me. Although it remotely reminded me scenes in China, I think the sights here are still much worse. So everyday, I just don’t want to look at those things. It basically shuts my mind off. When walking in my old campus or the downtown, I liked whatever I saw. The beautiful scenery and street stores stimulated my mind, evoking feelings and imaginations. As a software developer, I need those images to stimulate my creative mind. My imagination basically stopped after moving to Harlem. I felt horrible. So my mindset everyday is that I don’t belong here. I just live here for convenience. I am not part of all these things. That creates a separation. To put it in a way, I am not feeling at home. Mr. Gatto’s article about community reminds me my exact feelings when in China before I went abroad. I realize that I need to love whoever I am with. I am here, this is my community. So if this place is dirty, I am part of the problem. It is not just “their” problem. It is also my problem. I am part of it. Thinking that it is their problem and I am not part of it creates separation. I need to feel at home here. No matter how unpleasant things are, living in a community means to accept them. If I don’t like it, I bear the responsibility to improve it. Realizing this, it feels like there is a structure change in my brain. Suddenly things are all different.

No matter where I am, love the place and be part of it. Don’t complain. If not satisfied, try to make it better.

I already knew this when in China. But somehow I have to find it again here in US. Maybe it is a good thing.

An important difference between communities and institutions is that communities have natural limits, they stop growing or they die. There’s a good reason for that: in the best communities everyone is a special person who sooner or later impinges on everyone else’s consciousness. The effects of this constant attention makes all, rich or poor, feel important because the only way importance is perceived is by having other folks pay attention to you. You can buy attention, of course, but it’s not the same thing. Pseudo-community life, where you live around others without noticing them, and where you are constantly being menaced in some way by strangers you find offensive, is exactly the opposite. In pseudo-community life you are anonymous for the most part, and you want to be because of various dangers other people may represent if they notice your existence.

A pseudo-community is just a different kind of network – its friendships and loyalties are transient, its problems are universally considered to be someone else’s problems (someone else who should be paid to solve them);”

that until 30 odd years ago you could escape mass-schooling after school, hut that now it is much harder to escape because another form of mass schooling – television – has spread all over the place to blot up any time spared by School.
I still remember my TV free time. In the summer, we, kids and adults, gathered under light bulbs. Insects were making loud sounds. Adults were telling all kinds of stories and life experiences. Such kind of life is no more after TV dominated every household’s night time. There is of course still some information you can get from TV. TV can be of good use or harmful depending on how you use it. But the information from TV is in no comparison to the information gain from real people, not mention that TV is often used as a propaganda tool.

Who can deny that networks can get some jobs done? They do. But they lack any ability to nourish their members emotionally.

At our best we human beings are much, much grander things than rational, at our best we transcend rationality while incorporating its procedures on the lower levels of functioning. That is why computers will never replace people, computers are condemned to be rational, hence very limited. Networks divide people, first from themselves and then from each other, on the grounds that this is the efficient way to perform a task. It may well be, but it is a lousy way to feel good about being alive.

I agree. But is corporation a network? If it is, how can we make corporation like a community while still keeping a free market?

Even associations as inherently harmless as bridge clubs, chess clubs, amateur acting groups or groups of social activists will, if they maintain a pretense of whole friendship, ultimately produce that odd sensation familiar to all city dwellers of being lonely in the middle of a crowd. Who has not felt this sensation who frequently networks? Having many networks does not add up to having a community, no matter how many you have or how often your telephone rings.

While I work with grassroots folks, I do feel belonging to a community. Maybe it is not just with grassroots people that make me feel belonging to a community. It might be because of my involvement in various aspects of local community that makes me feel belonging to a local community.

The pathological state which eventually develops out of these constant repetitions of thin human contact is a feeling that your “friends” and “colleagues” don’t really care about you beyond what you can do for them, that they have no curiosity about the way you manage your life, no curiosity about your hopes, fears, victories, defeats.
Might be largely true. But not totally true.

then a social machine has been constructed which, by attaching purpose and meaning to essentially meaningless and fantastic behavior, will certainly dehumanize the student, alienate him from his own human nature, and break the natural connection between him and his parents,
What else do you think the meaning is that only half our eligible citizens are registered to vote, and of that half, a bare 50 percent do vote? In two party jurisdictions a trifle over 1/8th of the citizenry is thus sufficient to elect public officials, assuming the vote splits 55-45.”

No matter how good the individuals are who manage an institution, institutions lack a conscience because they measure by accounting methods.

Unlike true communities, pseudo-communities and other comprehensive networks like schools expand indefinitely just as long as they can get away with it. “More” may not be “better” but more is always more profitable for the people who make a living out of networking. That is what is happening today behind the cry to expand schooling even further, a great many people are going to make a great deal of money if growth can be continued.

The quality-competition of businesses, when it happens, is generally a good thing for customers, it keeps everyone on his toes doing his best. The competition inside an institution like a school isn’t the same thing at all.

What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
What I dislike the most when living in the Chinese culture is that everyone is trying to tell you how to live your life. To them, there is only one right way to live the life. It is totally insane to me. I couldn’t understand why they think that way. To me, everyone is so different. Later I realize that way of thinking everyone should live the same kind of life is deeply rooted in the Confucius’ teaching. It is very suffocating to me. It kills individuality. In the Chinese culture, there is no boundary between individuals. Everyone wants to stick their nose into your business. Especially in a family environment, it is really a mess because it is carried out in the name of love. It is very hard to learn to be independent and self-reliant in the Chinese family. That is how come I like the western style, the way how the westerners handle family relations.

Living in traditional Chinese community can also be very suffocating since a very strict hierarchy is maintained. You have to respect/obey many man-made artificial rules. So that is why I like the modern society for its allowing individuals to opt out of a geographic based community and network with other people sharing the same interests. Individuals have to have this freedom. A local community can be totally evil, bloody, barbarian. One good thing of mass production is that such kind of communities will be exposed. Gatto mentioned this as well in his book Dumbing Us Down.

Although all of Mr. Gatto’s criticism of mass production is legitimate, I still think that mass production, viewed historically, is a big advancement in human history. It is a process where the plus starts first, but at the same time, the minus is initiated and gets bigger gradually. Maybe mass production should be guarded as a historic advancement. Since we, together as human being, don’t have much experience in this new development, we need to wait for a while. In other words, we have to stabilize our new learning for a while before we can move on. So we have to go through mass production for a while before we can address its problems. It is just like how a human being learns. So I would rather think this way: we human being discovered mass production, got too excited (maybe crazy) of the benefits it can reap, and after a while of experiencing with mass production we gradually realize all the problems with it, and thus started to address those problems, hopefully without totally denying the positive effects of mass production.

One of the surest ways to recognize education is that it doesn’t cost very much, it doesn’t depend on expensive toys or gadgets; the experiences that produce it and the self awareness that propels it are nearly free, in fact.

Well, this is a central point of Mr. Gatto perspectives on education: learning cost very little. Read Nine Assumptions of Schooling.

Sixty-five years ago Bertrand Russell, the greatest mathematician of this century, its greatest philosopher, and a close relation of the King of England to boot, saw that mass- schooling in the United States had a radically anti-democratic intent, that it was a scheme to artificially deliver national unity by eliminating human variation, and by eliminating the forge that produces variation: the Family.””Break up these institutional schools, decertify teaching, let anyone who has a mind to teach bid for customers, privatize this whole business – trust the free market system.”

Yes, Gatto calls for a free market based learning system


Filed under Essay, John Taylor Gatto, Liberal Arts, unschooling, What is Learning