Skip School Now! It’s Time for DIY Education

I’ve been preaching it for years: It’s time for individuals with the skills and entrepreneurial spirit to just DO IT… and start creating alternative learning businesses, organizations and associations/groups so that anyone can choose to skip compulsory state schooling, and get the education they want for their children.

I was enjoying a new site to me this morning. It’s called Dropout Nation, edited by RiShawn Biddle. In a post from 2011 called The Promise of DIY Schools, RiShawn details how the concept of Do It Yourself (DIY) schools have been a part of our history for quite a long time, especially since the ending of slavery, when public schooling wasn’t immediately available to the children of recently freed slaves.

…Imagine if such DIY ethic was brought into reforming American public education? We’re not necessarily talking about the so-called unschooling movement (which consists of very few kids and their parents), or the more-mainstream homeschooling. This would go beyond that. The idea would be that teachers, parents or others committed to reforming American public education would simply start their own schools, either in their own homes, in storefronts or even in the basements of churches. While the schools would still be subjected to standards and accountability — including testing — to ensure that every child is getting high-quality instruction and curriculum, they would be able to create cultures of genius with little bureaucracy in the way.

I will have some fine points to add to this article, but suffice to say, it’s worth reading.

Another Skipping School post worth reading.

Advertisements

Skip School or Starve!

You read that right: Skip School or Starve! Sound a little drastic?

Maybe. But you’ll probably think that’s tame compared to the editorial I found at Las Vegas Review-Journal.com.

The real title of the piece by Vin Suprynowicz is called: Time to separate school and state. Yeah… we’ve heard it over and over again. Old news. Well read this in its entirety below, and let me know what you think.

In my opinion, he’s setting us up for accepting the idea of what I’ve been calling the Welfare Schools of the future. Essentially, the state will either have to crack down and force everyone into state institutions called schools, or they will have to allow people to simply leave and find their own means of gaining knowledge. This will leave, in the buildings we now call schools, thousands and thousands of children with parents who either can’t afford or can’t be bothered to provide educational opportunities for their children, outside of the instruction/indoctrination provided by the State.

But I’m taking up precious reading time. Please read this and think on it. I believe you will be able to see the future of Government Schooling from here:

Time to Separate School and State

rj-vin20suprynowiczBy Vin Suprynowicz
Posted: Los Vegas Review-Journal, December 26, 2010

We keep getting letters explaining government schools can’t turn out as good a product as private schools — even private schools spending less per student — since the private schools choose their students, while mandatory government youth internment camps have to “take every which one.”

In a speech he gave after being named New York City’s Teacher of the Year (yes, “public school”) in 1989, John Taylor Gatto famously said:

“Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts, from around 1850. It was resisted — sometimes with guns — by an estimated 80 percent of the Massachusetts population, with the last outpost, in Barnstable on Cape Cod, not surrendering its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by the militia and the children marched to school under guard. …

“Senator Ted Kennedy’s office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98 percent, and after it the figure never again climbed above 91 percent, where it stands in 1990. …

“Last month the education press reported the amazing news that children schooled at home seem to be five, or even 10 years ahead of their formally trained peers in their ability to think.

“If we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance,” Mr. Gatto continued, “we need to realize that the institution ‘schools’ very well, but it does not ‘educate’; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing. …

“Schools were designed … to be instruments for the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce … formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.

“To a very great extent, schools succeed in doing this. But our society is disintegrating, and in such a society, the only successful people are self-reliant, confident, and individualistic — because the community life that protects the dependent and weak is dead. …

“When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks, they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease. …”

There’s a lot more. You can find it easily online.

I’m just trying to imagine the men with the bayonets explaining to the residents of Barnstable, back in 1880, “See, when Alexis de Tocqueville toured the United Stated in 1831, he reported our American working class were more literate, better read, more up-to-date on the affairs of the day than those of any European nation. But we’re here to force you to give up the voluntary, community-based schools that accomplished that, and instead herd your kids into tax-supported, coercion based, collectivist government schools on the Prussian model because a bunch of Ph.D.s think it’s a better way for government to control the masses.

“Just think of it! By 2010 this town’s high school graduates won’t be able to reliably spell, count change, or structure a proper English sentence, all things your fifth graders can do today! We wish we could promise you better results, but after all, our new tax-funded youth propaganda camps ‘will have to accept every which one.'”

The premise was that government could do the job better, if they could just wrest those kids away from the bad influence of their parents. Yet now they explain they’re failing because “The parents aren’t doing their part”! This is like the Khmer Rouge saying their revolution couldn’t succeed until they killed every Cambodian who knew how to read, and then whining that of course, things aren’t working out: those darned educated elites refuse to do their part!

The current paradigm, endlessly brayed, is that we “have a collective responsibility to pay taxes to fund the schooling of other people’s kids, because they’re our future.”

In fact, we all know the Pilgrims were starving, back in 1622, thanks to similar collectivist notions.

Prosperity only came when Gov. Bradford authorized private gardens, with each family allowed to eat what they grew, and those who didn’t work condemned to starve.

Once they did this, no one starved. They voluntarily worked.

Since the “collective obligation” paradigm has failed so utterly in modern American schooling, as well, let me propose a new one: We have no obligation to educate anyone’s offspring but our own.

In fact, while we are, of course, free to indulge our instinct to charity by offering to voluntarily help fund the schooling of orphans and such, the nation will again thrive only when we realize this is a competition. I have a vested interest in seeing my own children receive an education. Meantime, I hope all you deadbeats out there don’t do a thing to educate your kids, because that will reduce the competition for my kids.

This is not an hereditary elite, but an equal opportunity meritocracy. Learn now or starve later.

The argument will be offered that the pathetic unmarried welfare mom will have no ability to fund her own kids’ educations, even if we allow her to keep the money she’s now spending in sales and property taxes (yes, renters pay property tax, even if it’s not itemized) since the father is a long-absent crackhead.

But this presupposes that minority women must always bear children to absentee crackheads. In fact, put young women in a position to say, “Wait a minute, you mean to tell me once I bear a child there’s going to be no government agency to provide me with food stamps, housing subsidies, and a basically worthless tax-funded ‘free education’ — that this kid will be worthless to help support me in my old age unless I pay for his schooling?” and you might notice something very refreshing happening,

You might notice those young women saying, “Well then, I can’t afford to bear a child by this shiftless gangster. I wonder if that young man who was so nice to me at church is still interested. He’s a little boring, but he might be the kind who’d actually land a job and stick around and help me raise my kids.”

Why couldn’t it work that way again? Because minority women, unlike Anglo women, are incapable of figuring this out for themselves?

What are you, a racist?

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal, and author of “Send in the Waco Killers” and the novel “The Black Arrow.” See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.

I Pledge My Children, to the State…

Wow… I wonder what goes through the heads of bureaucrats, that makes them think wasting time on an “I will be responsible for the education of my child” pledge is worthwhile?

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has recently released [10/2010] their Parent Pledge which—and I quote—is supposed to create “a caring, involved and accountable [public schooled] parent.”

[Update: 12/2016 – After a couple of administrations have come and gone, obviously this important document meant to create a caring and involved and accountable parent… has vaporized from the IDOE website. In fact, a search for “Parent Pledge” returns ZERO hits for the entire DOE IN.gov website. This should serve as a lesson to everyone that anything the government does to help you… is never intended to really help you. Requesting you to, “Sign zee paperzz,” is the first sign that the government wants to hold YOU accountable, not the other way around. PS: How many tens of thousands of dollars were spent on something that ended up being this uselss?]
ParentPledge
Sign Zee Paperz!

After rereading the document [view the PDF copy here], I had an epiphany! What Tony Bennett, the State Super of Schools really wants all good Hoosier parents to do … is HOMESCHOOL!

teen-girl-readingHoly Cow! I couldn’t believe it myself, but it’s right there, all in black and white, ready for everyone to sign and GET BUSY WITH HOMESCHOOLING THEIR KIDS!

But believe it or not, I think this form is a little TOO simple. Maybe it’s written for a certain grade level of adult reading. (What grade level is “Sheeple?) Anyway… Here’s what the pledge is really asking parents of publicly schooled children to do, in a “what they say” vs. “what they are really saying” fashion.

Buckle up! What they “say” vs. what they *mean:

As a parent, grandparent or caring adult I hereby affirm my commitment to the academic achievement and career success of my child. I promise to make the pursuit of knowledge a priority in my household.

* I promise to not abdicate my responsibility as a parent to direct the education of my own children. Therefore, I will not expect any government agency, including public State Schools to raise my children. I will also promise to be the sole arbiter of the definition of academic and career success.

To demonstrate my commitment to this goal, I pledge to adhere to the following principles:

* To demonstrate my newly reclaimed responsibilities as a parent, I will proudly call my child MINE, while gently reprimanding anyone (public school employees, politicians, social workers, nib-nose neighbors) who refers to other people’s children as the collective “ours.”
i.e. “We need to raise everyone’s taxes because it’s in America’s best interest to assure all our children receive the best free government accredited education possible.”
(Verbal spanking follows if gentle reprimands don’t work.)

Here are my core principles according to the State:

My child will read with an adult or be encouraged to read independently each day.

* I will read to MY child or encourage him to read on his own, as long as he likes, from books that interest him, each day.

My child will complete all homework assignments given by school instructors and will be encouraged to ask for help when it is needed.

* I will encourage my child to complete whatever project he begins, as well as any work I assign. I will–of course–answer his questions in a timely fashion and help him learn difficult tasks when asked.

My child will arrive at school on time, well rested and prepared for a full day of instruction and learning.

* I will not stress my child with busy-work so he’s well rested and healthy. He will be able to learn at his own pace, with an emphasis on what interests him. Instruction will take a back seat to learning and I will model the difference in our new learning lifestyle.

My child will treat teachers and fellow classmates with respect and compassion. I will make positive behavior the expectation in my household.

* My child will treat EVERYONE with respect and compassion. PERIOD. No matter what the situation, or whom my child is interacting with, positive and proper social behaviors are expected. I will provide models for this proper social behavior by being present in his life as much as possible (acting like an adult) and not expecting other adults to provide this important form of socialization.

My child will graduate from high school and will understand the importance of a strong education in determining future success.

* My child will graduate from high school and be prepared to lead an independent life as an adult. (I have no interest in rearing my children into their thirties. Really.) They will learn the true meaning of success–it is based on one’s character, not one’s diploma–before they graduate. (See next principle.)

I will encourage my child to dream big and always give 100 percent effort.

* My child will learn that 100 percent effort doesn’t always mean 100 percent success. Dream big, but expect to WORK and make lots of mistakes if you want to make your dreams come true. This will provide a balanced and realistic view of the world because there are no self-esteem building programs after high school and employers will NEVER tell you, “Good job!” when you really don’t deserve it. Heck! They will probably only grunt when you DO do a good job. Get used to it now.

I will treat my child’s teachers as a valuable resource and work with them to support academic improvement and classroom behavior expectations.

* I will treat everyone that can positively influence my child as a valuable resource for learning. We will be on the constant look-out for interesting people from whom we can learn interesting things. Our experiences will be broad and diverse because we will socialize with others with broad experiences, age ranges and lifestyles different from our own. By living this lifestyle, I will be modeling proper social interactions for my child. Some people call this “Socialization,” and they are absolutely right. Socialization is best handled in the home by the family. (Thank you so much for returning this responsibility to the home where it belongs! How this would work in a bland institutional classroom with 20+ other children, I’m not sure… but I suppose that’s the school’s job to figure out.)

I will monitor my child’s academic growth and stay as involved as possible in my child’s education. I will let the teacher know right away if I notice any problems.

* I will monitor my child’s academic AND character growth (at home) and then take action right away if I notice any problems. There is no need to notify a teacher, since they are not my child’s parent. Intermediaries aren’t necessary and only delay academic growth, not to mention suppress or counter proper character development. I WILL, however, be sure to notify the school–right away–if I notice my child’s teacher indoctrinating my child with values counter to those of our family.

Together, my child and I, in partnership with Indiana’s educators, will make education our #1 priority.

* Together, our family will take back our responsibility to educate our children and raise them to be responsible and educated adults. We will carefully choose those who are to be in authority over our children. (Possibly including Indiana’s Educators.) And finally, we pledge to make our home-learning lifestyle our #1 priority for our children and our family.

[Addendum: Please provide a similar pledge of responsibilities to the entire teaching staff of the school our child attends. We will schedule a meeting to interview each teacher and witness the pledges THEY sign… just so we know we’re all on the same page. Thank you.]

Yup, sounds like homeschooling, doesn’t it?

*NOTE: These principles were all derived without the use of tax dollars, government programs (or legislation),  suggestions from unions, psychological counselors, government employees or state school appointed parent councils. You are welcome.

BbB

PS: If you live in Indiana, and are interested in homeschooling but don’t know where to start, why not start here: http://www.ihen.org/helpfile
Or join IndianaHomeschoolers on Facebook

 

Tolstoy Paraphrased: Ignore the State and Skip School

 

tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy

Perhaps I went a little overboard?

 

Posting a huge essay by Tolstoy was a little too much for most people to handle, I’m guessing. I know… homework that’s too hard can be a little tiring and really, who needs to know what some old dead white Russian guy said over a hundred years ago? All I can say is you got one thing going for you: Since this isn’t compulsory public school, you can CHOOSE to not enlighten yourself, and you won’t be punished with a bad grade or a detention.

In the school of life, you can choose to be as enlightened or as ignorant as you wish. Those who choose to become enlightened will take the time to read and think and make connections between what Tolstoy said in the past about tyrannical governments, and what’s going on today. In other words, the people with the most connections will be ahead of the game “educationally” because they took the time to enlighten themselves on something they weren’t assigned to learn by the State.

So don’t go crying about how some people are getting a better education than you or your kids. Some people are taking more liberties with the expansion of their knowledge than you are.

In case you missed it the point of the Skipping School blog is this: Government-run State Schools pour billions of taxpayer dollars into an assembly line model of citizen production. Government Schools do nothing to EDUCATE people… they SOCIALIZE people. State Schools dupe parents into believing their children are being taught to think, gain knowledge, become educated and thoughtfully prepared for the “real world” which–ironically–has been forcibly kept out of their common life experience eight to ten hours a day for twelve years! All I want to do is point this fact out and let you decide if this is what you want for your family.

What you are about to learn today (if you are still reading, and if you are, God bless you!) is something you or your children will never learn in school. It’s just not available. And you won’t learn as much with this post, as you would if you had read my previous post with the full text of Tolstoy’s letter. But this particular point is important, so I’m paraphrasing in the event that Tolstoy’s name gives you a headache and makes you want to watch Discovery or History Channel for a break.

Now, for a more concise look at the meaningful point of Tolstoy’s Letter to Liberals, or “What is to be done?”

Ignore the State

The government in Tolstoy’s day wasn’t allowing people to have much liberty and freedom. The people were complaining. Some thought violence was the key. Some thought that working within the system to make it better was the answer. Neither were working for reasons Tolstoy goes into in his letter. He notes that government will never allow its authority to be undermined. They will anything to keep the people thinking they are making productive changes, and ignorant of the fact that they are not changing things at all:

[Working within the government to bring about change is], in my opinion, even less effective or rational. It is ineffective and irrational because government, having in its hands the whole power (the army, the administration, the Church, the schools, and police), and framing what are called the laws, on the basis of which the [people] wish to resist it — this government knows very well what is really dangerous to it, and will never let people who submit to it, and act under its guidance, do anything that will undermine its authority. [The government will never consent to the people’s real enlightenment.]  It will sanction all kinds of pseudo-educational organizations, controlled by itself: schools, high schools, universities, academies, and all kinds of committees and congresses and publications sanctioned by the censor — as long as those organizations and publications serve its purpose, i.e. stupefy people, or, at least do not hinder the stupefaction of people.

Note that State Schools are integral to the stupefying of the people. Think of every nation that devolved into a dictatorship in history, and you’ll find a state controlled education system, by which the youth were institutionalized by the state and not free to become educated outside of the purview of the state. I’m not saying we have that in America. What I am saying, however, is that we are close to a consensus among many Americans that schooling outside of the purview of the state is wrong and in some cases, should be illegal. How soon before that idea becomes actual law?

Tolstoy continues:

But as soon as those organizations, or publications, attempt to cure that on which the power of government rests, i.e. the blindness of the people, the government will simply, and without rendering account to any one, or saying why it acts so and not otherwise, pronounce its “veto” and will rearrange, or close, the establishments and organizations and will forbid the publications. And therefore, as both reason and experience clearly show, such an illusory, gradual conquest of rights is a self-deception which suits the government admirably, and which it, therefore, is even ready to encourage.

As long as the self-deception is encouraged, the people will blindly keep working hard against their own self-interests to infringe upon their liberties in the name of the peaceful democratic process.

The point he ended up making towards the end was that if moral people simply stood up, did what was right and ignored the State, then the State couldn’t do anything about it without tipping its hand to the fact that they were oppressive, violent and did not respect human rights.

What is to be done?

What Tolstoy came up with is simple, yet the hardest thing for many people to do:

[People must continue with] the simple, quiet, truthful carrying on of what you consider good and needful, quite independently of government, and of whether it likes it or not. In other words: standing up for your rights, not as a member of [some special government] Committee, not as a deputy, not as a landowner, not as a merchant, not even as a member of Parliament; but standing up for your rights as a rational and free man, and defending them, not as the rights of local boards or committees are defended, with concessions and compromises, but without any concessions and compromises, in the only way in which moral and human dignity can be defended.

And what can government do against such activity? It can banish or imprison a man for preparing a bomb, or even for printing a proclamation to working-men; it can transfer our “Literature Committee” from one ministry to another, or close a Parliament — but what can a government do, with a man who is not willing publicly to lie with uplifted hand, [work within the government, lying in order to get certain laws passed] or who is not willing to send his children to an establishment which he considers bad, [schools among other places] or who is not willing to learn to kill people, [conscripted for the purpose of killing state enemies] or is not willing to take part in idolatry, [the state sanction religion of the time] or is not willing to take part in coronations, deputations, an addresses, or who says and writes what he thinks and feel? By prosecuting such a man, government secures for him general sympathy, making him a martyr, and it undermines the foundations on which it is itself built, for in so acting, instead of protecting human rights, it itself infringes them.

And it is only necessary for all those good, enlightened, and honest people, whose strength is now wasted in revolutionary, socialistic, or liberal activity, harmful to themselves and to their cause, to begin to act thus, and a nucleus of honest, enlightened, and moral people would form around them, united in the same thoughts and the same feelings; and to this nucleus the ever wavering crowd of average people would at once gravitate, and public opinion — the only power which subdues governments — would become evident, demanding freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, justice, and humanity. And as soon as public opinion was formulated, not only would it be impossible to close the “Literature Committee,” but all those inhuman organizations — the “state of siege — against which the revolutionists and the liberals are now struggling would disappear of themselves.

So, what would happen if all parents suddenly stood up, and stood against the practice of compulsory state schooling? What if they started educating their children otherwise? The Public Schools as we know them, would probably not disappear, but they would certainly change. Would they change for the good? I submit they would HAVE to, for if they didn’t, then surely they would disappear, as all things do that are not wanted, needed or worth purchasing — within the free market.

 

Please read the complete “Letter to Liberals” at LewRockwell.com or my original post, commenting on the letter in full, here. You should also read the book:  The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Boetie, for more thoughts on ignoring the state.

BbB

Tolstoy: Ignore the State, Skip School

There is a famous letter by Leo Tolstoy typically called, “Tolstoy’s Letter to Liberals,” which I pass around as much as possible. Obviously, I believe that everyone should read it. The underlying theme of this letter is: There comes a time when governments become so oppressive that in order to function at all, one must decide to simply ignore the State. Just quit asking for permission and expecting the State to act in your best interests or anyone’s best interests.

How does this apply to Public Schooling? Read the letter and find out what Tolstoy thought of how the government used schools to keep “enlightenment” to a minimum and power centralized in the hands of the few.

Below is a copy of Tolstoy’s Letter to Liberals with an introduction by myself and the translator. The original can be found here: http://www.nationofcowards.net/done.html.

Please read, become enlightened and please act accordingly, especially when the nationalization of our health care industry becomes a sad reality.

What Is To Be Done?

Those who see the destruction of their rights and the real nature of their government often wonder what the best course of action is to set things right. The best advice I have seen on that score is a letter written in 1896 by Leo Tolstoy. In this letter, Tolstoy opposes attempts to the reforming of government both by revolution and by working for peaceful change from within or in accordance with the law (which is what the liberals of Tolstoy’s day were busy trying to accomplish … to no avail.) His reasons for opposing efforts to reform the government are perhaps the most surprising and eye-opening.

I have added links to Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and Etienne de la Boetie’s “Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” and other materials addressing the question of how to deal with the state following Tolstoy’s letter.

Here’s to enlightenment!

Sincerely,
Benjamin B. Bennett
[Any emphasis in the text is my own.]

Letter to the Liberals

by Leo Tolstoy

Note by Translator: This letter was addressed to a Russian lady who wrote to Tolstoy asking his advice or assistance when the “Literature Committee,” Komitet Gramotnosti, in which she was actively engaged, was closed. The circumstances were as follows: A “Voluntary Economic Society” (founded in the reign of Catherine the Great) existed, and was allowed to debate economic problems within certain limits. Its existence was sanctioned by, and it was under the control of, the Ministry of the Interior. A branch of this society was formed called the “Literature Committee.” This branch aimed at spreading good and wholesome literature among the people and in the schools, by establishing libraries or in other ways. However, their views as to what books it is good for people to read did not tally with those of the government, and in 1896 it was decreed that the “Voluntary Economic Society” should be transferred from the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior to that of the Ministry of Education. This sounded harmless, but translated into unofficial language it meant that the activity of the Committee was to terminate, and the proceeding of the whole Society was to be reduced to a formality.


The Letter Begins:

I should be very glad to join you and your associates — whose work I know and appreciate — in standing up for the rights of the “Literature Committee,” and in opposing the, enemies of popular education. But in the sphere in which you are working, I see no way to resist them. My only consolation is that I, too, am constantly engaged in struggling against the same enemies of enlightenment, though in another manner.

Concerning the special question with which you are preoccupied, I think that, in place of the “Literature Committee” which has been prohibited, a number of other “Literature Associations,” to pursue the same objects, should be formed without consulting the government, and without asking permission from any censor. Let government, if it likes, prosecute these “Literature Associations,” punish the members, banish them, etc. If government does that it will merely cause people to attach special importance to good books and to libraries, and it will strengthen the trend toward enlightenment.

It seems to me that it is now specially important to do what is right quietly and persistently, not only without asking permission from government, but consciously avoiding its participation. The strength of the government lies in the people’s ignorance, and government knows this, and will, therefore, always oppose true enlightenment. It is time we realized that fact. And it is most undesirable to let government, while it is diffusing darkness, pretend it is busy with the enlightenment of the people. It is doing this now, by means of all sorts of pseudo-educational establishments which it controls: schools, high schools, universities, academies, and all kinds of committees and congresses. But good is good, and enlightenment is enlightenment, only when it is quite good and quite enlightened, and not when it is toned down to meet the requirements of Delyanof’s or Durnovo’s circulars. And I am extremely sorry when I see valuable, disinterested, and self-sacrificing efforts spent unprofitably. Sometimes it seems to me quite comical to see good, wise people spending their strength in a struggle against government, to be maintained on the basis of laws which that very government itself makes just what it likes.

The matter is, it seems to me, this: — There are people (we ourselves are such) who realize that our government is very bad, and who struggle against it. From before the days of Radishchef (1) and the Decembrists (2) there have been two ways of carrying on the struggle; one way is that of Stenka Razin (3), Pugatchef (4), the Decembrists, the Revolutionary party (5) of the years sixty, the Terrorists (6) of the thirteenth of March, and others.

The other way is that which is preached and practiced by you — the method of the “Gradualists,” which consists in carrying on the struggle without violence and within the limits of the law, conquering constitutional rights bit by bit.

Both these methods have been employed unceasingly within my memory for more than half a century, and yet the state of things grows worse and worse. Even such signs of improvement as do show themselves have come, not from either of these kinds of activity, but from causes of which I will speak later on, and in spite of the harm done by these two kinds of activity.

Meanwhile, the power against which we struggle grows ever greater, stronger, and more insolent. The last rays of self-government — the zemstvos (local government boards), public trial, your Literature Committee, etc. — are all being done away with.

Now that both methods have been ineffectually tried for so long a time, we may, it seems to me, see clearly that neither the one nor the other will do — and why this is so. To me, at least, who have always disliked our government, but have never adopted either of the above methods of resisting it, the defects of both methods are apparent.

The first way is unsatisfactory because (even could an attempt to alter the existing regime by violent means succeed) there would be no guarantee that the new organization would be durable, and that the enemies of that new order would not, at some convenient opportunity, triumph by using violence such as has been used against them, as has happened over and over again in France and wherever else there have been revolutions. And so the new order of things, established by violence, would have continually to be supported by violence, i.e. by wrong-doing. And, consequently, it would inevitably and very quickly be vitiated like the order it replaced. And in case of failure, all the violence of the revolutionists only strengthens the order of things they strive against (as has always been the case, in our Russian experience, from Pugatchef’s rebellion to the attempt of the thirteenth of March), for it drives the whole crowd of undecided people, who stand wavering between the two parties, into the camp of the conservative and retrograde party. So I think that, guided by both reason and experience, we may boldly say that this means, besides being immoral, is also irrational and ineffective.

The other method is, in my opinion, even less effective or rational. It is ineffective and irrational because government, having in its hands the whole power (the army, the administration, the Church, the schools, and police), and framing what are called the laws, on the basis of which the Liberals wish to resist it — this government knows very well what is really dangerous to it, and will never let people who submit to it, and act under its guidance, do anything that will undermine its authority. For instance, take the case before us: a government such as ours (or any other), which rests on the ignorance of the people, will never consent to their being really enlightened. It will sanction all kinds of pseudo-educational organizations, controlled by itself: schools, high schools, universities, academies, and all kinds of committees and congresses and publications sanctioned by the censor — as long as those organizations and publications serve its purpose, i.e. stupefy people, or, at least do not hinder the stupefaction of people. But as soon as those organizations, or publications, attempt to cure that on which the power of government rests, i.e. the blindness of the people, the government will simply, and without rendering account to any one, or saying why it acts so and not otherwise, pronounce its “veto” and will rearrange, or close, the establishments and organizations and will forbid the publications. And therefore, as both reason and experience clearly show, such an illusory, gradual conquest of rights is a self-deception which suits the government admirably, and which it, therefore, is even ready to encourage.

But not only is this activity irrational and ineffectual, it is also harmful. It is harmful because enlightened, good, and honest people by entering the ranks of the government give it a moral authority which but for them it would not possess. If the government were made up entirely of that coarse element — the violators, self-seekers, and flatterers — who form its core, it could not continue to exist. The fact that honest and enlightened people are found who participate in the affairs of the government gives government whatever it possesses of moral prestige.

That is one evil resulting from the activity of Liberals who participate in the affairs of government, or who come to terms with it. Another evil of such activity is that, in order to secure opportunities to carry on their work, these highly enlightened and honest people have to begin to compromise, and so, little by little, come to consider that, for a good end, one may swerve somewhat from truth in word and deed. For instance, that one may, though not believing in the established Church, go through its ceremonies; may take oaths; and may, when necessary for the success of some affair, present petitions couched in language which is untrue and offensive to man’s natural dignity: may enter the army; may take part in a local government which has been stripped of all its powers; may serve as a master or a professor, teaching not what one considers necessary oneself, but what one is told to preach by government; and that one may even become a Zemsky Nachalnik (7), submitting to governmental demands and instructions which violate one’s conscience; may edit newspapers and periodicals, remaining silent about what ought to be mentioned, and printing what one is ordered to print; and entering into these compromises — the limits of which cannot be foreseen — enlightened and honest people (who alone could form some barrier to the
infringements of human liberty by the government, imperceptibly retreating ever farther and farther from the demands of conscience) fall at last into a position of complete dependency on government. They receive rewards and salaries from it, and, continuing to imagine they are forwarding liberal ideas, they become the humble servants and supporters of the very order against which they set out to fight.

It is true that there are also better, sincere people in the Liberal camp, whom the government cannot bribe, and who remain unbought and free from salaries and position. But even these people have been ensnared in the nets spread by government, beat their wings in their cages (as you are no doing with your Committee), unable to advance from the spot they are on. Or else, becoming enraged, they go over to the revolutionary camp; or they shoot themselves, or take to drink, or they abandon the whole struggle in despair, and, oftenest of all, retire into literary activity, in which, yielding to the demands of the censor, they say only what they are allowed to say, and — by that very silence about what is most important — convey to the public distorted views which just suit the government. But they continue to imagine that, they are serving society by the writings which give them the measure of subsistence.

Thus, both reflection and experience alike show me that both the means of combating government, heretofore believed in, are not only ineffectual, but actually tend to strengthen the power and the irresponsibility of government.

What is to be done? Evidently not what for seventy years past has proved fruitless, and has only produced inverse result. What is to be done? Just what those have done, thanks to whose activity is due that progress toward light and good which has been achieved since the world began, and is sill being achieved today. That is what must be done. And what is it?

Merely the simple, quiet, truthful carrying on of what you consider good and needful, quite independently of government, and of whether it likes it or not. In other words: standing up for
your rights, not as a member of the Literature Committee, not as a deputy, not as a landowner, not as a merchant, not even as a member of Parliament; but standing up for your rights as a rational and free man, and defending them, not as the rights of local boards or committees are defended, with concessions and compromises, but without any concessions and compromises, in the only way in which moral and human dignity can be defended.

Successfully to defend a fortress one has to burn all the houses in the suburbs, and to leave only what is strong and what we intend not to surrender on any account. Only from the basis of this firm stronghold can we conquer all we require. True, the rights of a member of Parliament, or even
of a member of a local board, are greater than the rights of a plain man; and it seems as if we could do much by using those rights. But the hitch is that in order to obtain the rights of a member of Parliament, or of a committeeman, one has to abandon part of one’s rights as a man. And having abandoned part of one’s rights as a man, there is no longer any fixed point of leverage, and one can no longer either conquer or maintain any real right. In order to lift others out of a quagmire one must stand on firm ground oneself, and if, hoping the better to assist others, you go into the quagmire, you will not pull others out, but will yourself sink in.

It may be very desirable and useful to get an eight-hour day legalized by Parliament, or to get a liberal program for school libraries sanctioned by your Committee; but if, as a means to this end, a member of Parliament must publicly lift up his hand and lie, lie when taking an oath, by expressing in words respect for what he does not respect; or (in our own case) if, in order to pass most liberal programs, it is necessary to take part in public worship, to be sworn, to wear a uniform, to write mendacious and flattering petitions, and to make speeches of a similar character, etc. — then by doing these things and forgoing our dignity as men, we lose much more than we gain, and by
trying to reach one definite aim (which very often is not reached) we deprive ourselves of the possibility of reaching other aims which are of supreme importance. Only people who have something which they will on no account and under no circumstances yield can resist a government and curb it. To have power to resist you must stand on firm ground.

And the government knows this very well, and is concerned, above all else, to worm out of men that which will not yield, in other words, the dignity of man. When this wormed out of them, government calmly proceeds to do what it likes, knowing that it will no longer meet any real resistance. A man who consents publicly to swear, pronouncing the degrading and mendacious
words of the oath; or submissively to wait several hours, dressed up in a uniform, at a ministry reception; or to inscribe himself as a special constable for the coronation; or to fast and receive communion for respectability’s sake; or to ask of the head censor whether he may or may not, express such and such thoughts, etc. — such a man is no longer feared by government.

Alexander II said he did not fear the Liberals because he knew they could all be bought, if not with money, then with honors. People who take part in government, or work under its direction, may deceive themselves or their
sympathizers by making a show of struggling; but those against whom they struggle — the government — know quite well, by the strength of the resistance experienced, that these people are not really pulling, but are only pretending to. And our government knows this with respect to the Liberals, and constantly tests the quality of the opposition, and finding that genuine resistance is practically non-existent, it continues its course in full assurance that it can do what it likes with such opponents.

The government of Alexander III knew this very well, and, knowing it, deliberately destroyed all that the Liberals thought that they had achieved and were so proud of. It altered and limited trial by jury; it abolished the “Judges of the Peace”; it canceled the rights of the universities; it perverted the whole system of instruction in the high schools; it reestablished the cadet corps, and even the state’s sale of intoxicants; it established the Zemsky Nachalniks; it legalized flogging; it almost abolished the local government boards (zemstvos); it gave uncontrolled power to the governors of provinces; it encouraged the quartering of troops (eksekutsia) on the peasants in punishment; it increased the practice of “administrative”(8) banishment and imprisonment, and the capital punishment of political offenders; it renewed religious persecutions; it brought to a climax the use
of barbarous superstitions; it legalized murder in duels; under the name of a “state of siege” (9) it established lawlessness with capital punishment, as a normal condition of things — and in all this it met with no protest except for one honorable woman (10) who boldly told the government the truth as she saw it.

The Liberals whispered among themselves that these things displeased them, but they continued to take part in legal proceedings, and in the local governments, and in the universities, and in government service, and in the press. In the press they hinted at what they were allowed to hint at, and kept silence on matters they had to be silent about, but they printed whatever they were told to print. So that every reader (who was not privy to the whisperings of the editorial rooms), on receiving a liberal paper or magazine, read the announcement of the most cruel and irrational measure unaccompanied by comment or sign of disapproval, sycophantic and flattering addresses to those guilty of enacting these measures, and frequently even praise of the measures themselves.

Thus all the dismal activity of the government of Alexander III — destroying whatever good had begun to take root in the days of Alexander II, and striving to turn Russia back to the barbarity of the commencement of this century — all this dismal activity of gallows, rods, persecutions, and stupefaction of the people has become (even in the liberal papers and magazines) the basis of an insane laudation of Alexander III and of his acclamation as a great man and a model of human dignity.

This same thing is being continued in the new reign. The young man who succeeded the late Tsar, having no understanding of life, was assured, by the men in power to who it was profitable to say so, that the best way to rule a hundred million people is to do as his father did, i.e. not to ask advice from any one but just to do what comes into one’s head, or what the first flatterer about him advises. And, fancying that unlimited autocracy is a sacred life-principle of the Russian people, the young man begins to reign; and, instead of asking the representatives of the Russian people to help him with their advice in the task of ruling (about which he, educated in a cavalry regiment, knows nothing, and can know nothing), he rudely and insolently shouts at those representatives of the Russian people who visit him with congratulations, and he calls the desire, timidly expressed by some of them (11), to be allowed to inform the authorities of their needs, “nonsensical fancies.”

And what followed? Was Russian society shocked? Did enlightened and honest people — the Liberals — express their indignation and repulsion? Did they at least refrain from laudation of this government and from participating in it and encouraging it? Not at all. From that time a specially intense competition in adulation commenced, both of the father and of the son who imitated him.

And not a protesting voice was heard, except in one anonymous letter, cautiously expressing disapproval of the young Tsar’s conduct. And, from all sides, fulsome and flattering addresses were brought to the Tsar, as well as (for some reason or other) ikons (12), which nobody wanted and which served merely as objects of idolatry to benighted people. An insane expenditure of money, the coronation, amazing in its absurdity, was arranged; the arrogance of the rulers and their contempt of the people caused thousands to perish in a fearful calamity, which was regarded as a slight eclipse of the festivities, which should not terminate on that account (13). An exhibition was organized, which no one wanted except those who organized it, and which cost millions of rubles.

In the Chancery of the Holy Synod, with unparalleled effrontery, a new and supremely stupid means of mystifying people was devised, viz., the enshrinement of the incorruptible body of a saint whom nobody knew anything about. The stringency of the censor was increased. Religious persecution was made more severe. The “state of siege,” i.e. the legalization of lawlessness, was continued, and the state of things is still becoming worse and worse.

And I think that all this would not have happened if those enlightened, honest people, who are now occupied in Liberal activity on the basis of legality, in local governments, in the committees, in censor-ruled literature, etc., had not devoted their energies to the task, of circumventing the government, and, without abandoning the forms it has itself arranged, of finding ways to make it act so as to harm and injure itself (14); but, abstaining from taking any part in government or in a business bound up with government, had merely claimed their rights as men.

“You wish, instead of ‘Judges of the Peace,’ to institute Zemsky Nachalniks with birch rods; that is your business, but we will not go to law before your Zemsky Nachalniks, and will not ourselves accept appointment to such an office: you wish to make trial by jury a mere formality; that is your business, but we will not serve as judges, or as advocates, or jurymen: you wish under the name of a ‘state of siege,’ to establish despotism; that is your business, but we will not participate in it, and will plainly call the ‘state of siege’ despotism, and capital punishment inflicted without trial, murder: you wish to organize cadet corps, or classical high schools, in which military exercises and the Orthodox faith are taught; that is your affair, but we will not teach in such schools, or send our children to them, but will educate our children as seems to us right: you decide to reduce the local government boards (zemstvos) to impotence; we will not take part in it: you prohibit the publication of literature that displeases you; you may seize books and punish the printers, but you cannot prevent our speaking and writing, and we shall continue to do so: you demand an oath of allegiance to the Tsar; we will not accede to what is so stupid, false, and degrading: you order us to serve in the army; we will not do so, because wholesale murder is as opposed to our conscience as individual murder, and above all, because the promise to murder whomsoever a commander may tell us to murder is the meanest act a man can commit: you profess a religion which is a thousand years behind the times, with an ‘Iberian Mother of God’ (15), relics, and coronations; that is your affair, but we do not acknowledge idolatry and superstition to be religion but call them idolatry and superstition, and we try to free people from them.”

[THIS IS IMPORTANT! THIS IS THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN WE DON’T LIKE THE SCHOOLS THE STATE PROVIDES FOR US? -BbB]

And what can government do against such activity? It can banish or imprison a man for preparing a bomb, or even for printing a proclamation to working-men; it can transfer our “Literature Committee” from one ministry to another, or close a Parliament — but what can a government do, with a man who is not willing publicly to lie with uplifted hand, or who is not willing to send his children to an establishment which he considers bad, or who is not willing to learn to kill people, or is not willing to take part in idolatry, or is not willing to take part in coronations, deputations, an addresses, or who says and writes what he thinks and feel? By prosecuting such a man, government secures for him general sympathy, making him a martyr, and it undermines the foundations on which it is itself built, for in so acting, instead of protecting human rights, it itself infringes them.

And it is only necessary for all those good, enlightened, and honest people, whose strength is now wasted in revolutionary, socialistic, or liberal activity, harmful to themselves and to their cause, to begin to act thus, and a nucleus of honest, enlightened, and moral people would form around them, united in the same thoughts and the same feelings; and to this nucleus the ever wavering crowd of average people would at once gravitate, and public opinion — the only power which subdues governments — would become evident, demanding freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, justice, and humanity. And as soon as public opinion was formulated, not only would it be impossible to close the “Literature Committee,” but all those inhuman organizations — the “state of siege,” the secret police, the censor, Schlusselburg (16), the Holy Synod, and the rest — against which the revolutionists and the liberals are now struggling would disappear of themselves.

So that two methods of opposing the government have been tried, both unsuccessfully, and it now remains to try a third and a last method, one not yet tried, but one which, I think, cannot but be successful. Briefly, that means this: that all enlightened and honest people should try to be as good as they can, and not even good in all respects, but only in one; namely, in observing one of the most elementary virtues — to be honest, and not to lie, but to act and speak so that your motives should be intelligible to an affectionate seven-year old-boy; to act so that your boy should not say, “But why, papa, did you say so-and-so, and now you do and say something quite different?” This method seems very weak, and yet I am convinced that it is this method, and this method only, that has moved humanity since the race began. Only because there were straight men, truthful and courageous, who made no concessions that infringed their dignity as men, have all those beneficent revolutions been accomplished of which mankind now have the advantage, from the abolition of torture and slavery up to liberty of speech and of conscience. Nor can this be otherwise, for what conscience (the highest force feeling man possesses of the truth accessible to him) demands, is always, and in all respects, the activity most fruitful and most necessary for humanity at the given time. Only a man who lives according to his conscience can have influence on people, and only activity that accords with one’s conscience can be useful.

But I must explain my meaning. To say that the most effectual means of achieving the ends toward which revolutionists and liberals are striving, is by activity in accord with their consciences, does not mean that people can begin to live conscientiously in order to achieve those ends. To begin to live conscientiously on purpose to achieve any external ends is impossible.

To live according to one’s conscience is possible only as a result of firm and clear religious convictions; the beneficent result of these in our external life will inevitably follow. Therefore the gist of what I wished to say to you is this: that it is unprofitable for good, sincere people to spend their powers of mind and soul in gaining small practical ends; e.g. in the various struggles of nationalities, or parties, or in Liberal wire-pulling, while they have not reached a clear and firm religious perception, i.e. a consciousness of the meaning and purpose of their life. I think that all the powers of soul and of mind of good people, who wish to be of service to men, should be  directed to that end. When that is accomplished, all else will be accomplished too.

[BINGO! LIVE ACCORDING TO YOU CONSCIENCE, BUT ONLY IF THAT CONSCIENCE (a clear and meaningful purpose in life) IS FOUNDED ON A RELIGIOUS CONVICTION (something that comes from without, not from within) AND PUT TO USE BEING OF  SINCERE SERVICE TO OTHERS. ALL ELSE FOLLOWS FROM THAT… NOT FROM LAWS OF GOVERNMENTS THAT CAN DICTATE FROM ONE TIME TO THE NEXT, WHAT RIGHTS OR DUTIES TO THE STATE PUT UPON YOU. -BbB]

Forgive me for sending you so long a letter, which perhaps you did not at all need, but I have long wished to express my views on this question. I even began a long article about it, but I shall hardly have time to finish it before death comes, and therefore I wished to get at least part of it said.

Forgive me if I am in error about anything.

Leo Tolstoy.

The letter was written in 1896, and is available in Tolstoy On Civil Disobedience and Non-Violence, Bergman Publishers, New York (1967), pp. 141-154.

ENDNOTES:
(1) Radishchef, the author of “A Journey from Petersburg to Moscow,” was a Liberal whose efforts toward the abolition of serfdom displeased the government. He committed suicide in 1802 -TR.
(2) The Decembrists were members of the organization which attempted, by-force, to terminate autocratic government in Russia when Nicholas 1 ascended the throne in 1825. -TR.
(3) Stenka Razin was a Cossack who raised a formidable insurrection in the seventeenth century. He was eventually defeated and captured, and was executed in Moscow in 1671. -TR.
(4) Pugatchef headed the most formidable Russian insurrection of the eighteenth century. He was executed in Moscow in 1775. -TR.
(5) The series of reforms, including the abolition of serfdom, which followed the Crimean War and the death of Nicholas 1, were, from the first, adopted half-heartedly. Since about the time of the Polish insurrection (1863) the reactionary party obtained control of the government and has
kept it ever since. The more vehement members of the Liberal party, losing hope of constitutional reform, organized a Revolutionary party in the sixties, and later on the Terrorist party was formed, which organized assassinations as a means toward liberty, equality, and fraternity. -TR.
(6) Alexander II was killed by a bomb thrown at him in the streets of Petersburg on the thirteenth of March (N.S.), 1881. This assassination was organized by the Terrorist party. -TR.
(7) During the Reform period, in the reign of Alexander II, many iniquities of the old judicial system were abolished. Among other innovations “Judges of the Peace” were appointed to act as magistrates. They were elected (indirectly); if possessed of a certain property qualification, men of any class were eligible, and the regulations under which they acted were drawn up in a
comparatively liberal spirit. Under Alexander III the office of “Judge of the Peace” was abolished, and was replaced by “Zemsky Nachalniks.” Only members of the aristocracy were eligible; they were not elected, but appointed by government, and they were armed with authority to, have peasants flogged. They were less like magistrates and more like government officials than the “Judges of the Peace” had been. -TR
(8) Sentenced by “Administrative Order” means sentenced by the arbitrary will of government, or the Chief of the Gendarmes of a province. Administrative sentences are often inflicted without the victim being heard in his own defense, or even knowing what acts (real or supposed) have led to
his punishment. -TR.
(9) The “Statute of Increased Protection,” usually translated “state of siege,” was first applied to Petersburg and Moscow only, but was subsequently extended to Odessa, Kief, Kharkof, and Warsaw. Under this law the power of capital punishment was entrusted to the governor-generals of the provinces in question. –TR.
(10) Madame Tsebrikof, a well-known writer and literary critic, wrote a polite but honest letter to Alexander III, pointing out what was being done by the government. She was banished to a distant province for a time and was then allowed to reside, not in Petersburg, but in the government of Tver. -TR
(11) By the representatives of the Tver Zemstvo and others, at a reception in the Winter Palace on the accession of Nicholas II. –TR
(12) Conventional painting of God, Jesus, Angels, Saints, the mother of God, etc., usually done on bits of wood, with much gilding. They are hung up in the corners of the rooms as well as in churches, etc., to be prayed to. -TR.
(13) As part of the coronation festivities a “people’s fete” was a ranged to take place on the Khodinskoye Field, near Moscow. Owing to the incredible stupidity of the arrangements, some three thousand people were killed when trying to enter the grounds, besides a large number who were injured. This occurred on Saturday, May 18 (O.S.) 1896. That same evening the emperor danced at the grand ball give by the French ambassador in Moscow. -TR.
(14) Sometimes it seems to me simply laughable that people can occupy themselves with such an evidently hopeless business; it is like undertaking to cut off an animal’s leg without its noticing it. –Author’s Note
(15) “The Iberian Mother of God” is a wonder-working ikon of the Virgin Mary which draws a large revenue. It is frequently taken to visit the sick, and travels about with six horses; the attendant priest sits in the carriage bareheaded. The smallest fee charged is six shillings for a visit, but more is usually given. -TR.
(16) The most terrible of the places of imprisonment in Petersburg; the Russian Bastille. -TR.

Other Useful Links:
“The Politics of Obedience: Discourse on Voluntary Servitude” (circa 1550), by Etienne de la Boetie, at http://www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/laboetie.html
“Civil Disobedience” (1849), by Thoreau, at http://www.cs.indiana.edu/statecraft/civ.dis.html
Bryan Caplan’s bibliographic essay on the literature of nonviolence and civilian-based defense, published by the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, at http://www.humanestudiesreview.org/hsrarchives/s94essay.html