Education and the Issue of Control

This is what we are like. …There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who’s in charge? …These two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up, and cause war, grief, and suffering.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat pray love

Many scholars over the years have studied and written about the past in attempting to understand the underlying dynamics that have caused us to bring upon ourselves war, grief, and suffering. What is it about the conditions of our past that lead us to such undesirable results? Are they simply character faults of humans or a reaction to historical conditions? I believe it is the latter and I think there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel of our historic past. There have been lights of understanding in this dark tunnel since ancient times and it is their wisdom that I will use to try to make the case.

Our Evolutionary Heritage

The first question that must be answered is: Why these two issues of love and control? Both have to do with our evolutionary heritage. For any species survival is a prerequisite, because survival of necessity had to come first whenever there is scarcity of food, clothing, shelter, and mates. The first order of business for all species was to control the supply. We know that many species do not survive even though they may gain a dominant position for a period of time; take for an example, the age of dinosaurs.

We are currently the most intelligent and dominant species on earth. Given the fact that humans are very good at solving problems, we can see how ingenious, and most often brutal, we have been in trying to gain control of other species to insure our own survival. For millions of years humans have become, through advances made in their culture, more and more ingenious. As long as they were members of small tribes of hunter/gatherers, cooperating for their mutual advantage, the societies tended to be egalitarian. Any conflict due to competition over scarce resources that may have arisen between tribes had an outlet through migration, for it was a big world with relatively few humans. But the continuing success of hunter/gatherers resulted in population growth and that pressure, building up over thousands of years, doomed their way of life.

Hunter/Gatherers Turn To Agriculture

Beginning about 10,000 years ago the transition began from a hunter/gatherer economy to an agricultural economy. This unforeseen and unplanned for consequence of human population growth is a relatively new phenomenon in human history and has yet to run its course. Success can be a mixed blessing because population growth has always been and still is in a race with available food, clothing, and shelter. It is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because greater numbers provide security (insurance against disaster) and a curse because when there is not enough food, famine is a constant threat for the vast majority of the population. To make sure that your family, tribe and nation would be able to survive the solution has been to control others, which leads to war, grief, and suffering.

Elitism Based Upon Control

Controlling others meant that in such societies, a small elite of the strongest, the most skilled, the most ruthless, and the cleverest were able to gain whatever surplus was produced. On the other hand, controlling others may have been a benefit historically. The surplus that the elite usurped provided the leisure, time not required for survival, to advance their cultures.

The major focus of our written history and the oral traditions of pre-history is a record of how the elite used their control of others to maintain their own status. And for most of history, the great majority of people have lived in an age of scarcity with barely enough to eat, clothe themselves, and find shelter from the elements.

The ones who have been in control used their power to obtain privileges of leisure (time not devoted to survival). The good things that everyone might dream of having were only available to this elite and the game of life has been to become one of the elite or, by making ourselves useful to their ambitions, at least to benefit by helping the elite to stay in power.

Even in so-called “classless societies”—communism in the former USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba—the few in control were “more equal” than others and ruled with an iron hand that matched the most despotic autocracies in history.

Control of others has been endemic in the world, reaching down to personal relationships in the family. Male dominance was the norm for most of history, even in the democratic United States, well into the last half of the Twentieth Century. Even today in some paternalistic societies, the alpha male has life and death control over the females, other male siblings, and children in their family.

Control By Authorities

The following quotation, taken from Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly, addresses the theme of control by government.

Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as “the most flagrant of all the passions.” Because it can only be satisfied by power over others, government is its favorite field of exercise.

Historically, many monarchs ruled with God given power, the epitome of control. Eventually, some people from the ranks of the elite felt that their elitist status was being usurped by the king, and rebelled. They did not intend to undermine control as the dominating force in society, but they started a process that eventually led to democracy, giving people the power to make decisions for themselves or through elected assemblages.

Traditional schools have a top-down decision-making “class” system, a hierarchical structure, where teachers are in the next to lowest “class” followed by students, an even lower class.

The Industrial Age, hierarchical, command-and-control institutions that, over the past four hundred years, have grown to dominate our commercial, political, and social lives are increasingly irrelevant in the face of the exploding diversity and complexity of society worldwide. They are failing, not only in the sense of collapse, but in the more common and pernicious form—organizations increasingly unable to achieve the purpose for which they were created, yet continuing to expand as they devour resources, decimate the earth, and demean humanity.

Dee Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age

A Major Step Towards a New Paradigm

Beginning with the American Revolution there has been a recognition of the sanctity of individual rights that limits the control that one individual or group can exert over others. Nevertheless we still have the remnants of elitism based upon wealth, connections, and an educational system that encourages elitism, making some “more equal” than their fellow students. American history is a chronicle of giving up control. Things have changed dramatically in the last two hundred and thirty-four years, 1776 to 2010, and we now have the opportunity to realize the ideal set forth in our Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal”. (The masculine “men” represented the gender-free “human beings”, as it has historically in the English language.)

The reason this change is now becoming possible for more and more people is the amount of wealth that has been generated as the fruits of the Industrial Revolution. For those of us who live in economically advanced democratic countries, enough wealth had been generated that the basics of life can be taken for granted and we have leisure (time not devoted to survival) once only available to the elite. By the end of the first half of the Twentieth Century the vast majority of citizens were able to live in abundance. This change has been so sudden from a historical perspective—less than sixty years—a blink of an eye in historical time that we have yet to realize the advantages of giving up control. We have yet to come to grips with how these two issues of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief, and suffering. The advantage of control of others has been transformed into a disadvantage and I suspect that our problems with love are connected to control as well.

Now, in the 21st Century, for those who have moved into the Post Industrial Age, scarcity is not the problem for a growing number of people, and in fact need not be for those in poor countries. For those countries the problem is no longer scarcity, but rather the very elitism that brought us to the Post Industrial Age. All this has happened within my lifetime.

The democratic countries have been moving in the direction of giving up elitism. Using the United States as an example: in a period of less than ninety years women were granted equal voting rights with men, and the civil rights movement advanced the cause of African-Americans and other minorities. We have clearly benefitted as a nation from these developments. Instead of a small elite the vast majority of our citizens have the time to advance our culture because the basics for life can be taken for granted.

All the countries now in the Post Industrial Age have the same opportunities to use their newly gained wealth to make substantial advance in all aspects of their culture; politics, judiciary, arts, sports, financial institutions etc. We need to become aware that inclusion is better than exclusion.

The accelerated rate of change in our culture has taken our breath away and the implication of what is happening is unsettling. It is hard for us to realize what a remarkable opportunity is within our grasp, to give up elitism for egalitarianism. Whether we will do so remains to be seen.

Egalitarianism is defined as a belief in human equality of opportunity, especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs, with equal access to resources and to decision-making power. In order to complete the transition from elitism to egalitarianism a key ingredient is to regain the confidence we had in our own judgment as a preschooler before we were immersed in a school system designed for the Industrial Age.

A child at a year and a half has only two or three hundred words, but at six he knows thousands. And this all happens without a teacher. It is a spontaneous acquisition. And we, after he has done all this by himself, send him to school and offer him a great treat, to teach him the alphabet! [Bold added.]

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Our schools and our government, as well as well-meaning parents and relatives who grew up in an Industrial Age are trying to educate us for the future in the Industrial Age. But we are now living in the Information Age.

If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?

Maria Montessori, op. cit.

If we lack confidence in our own judgment, others will be able to control us and those who want to control us make every effort to insure that we are dependent, lacking confidence in our own judgment.

It was constantly impressed upon me in forceful terms that I must obey promptly the wishes and commands of my parents, teachers, and priests, and indeed of all grown-up people, including servants, and that nothing must distract me from this duty. Whatever they said was always right. These basic principles by which I was brought up became second nature to me.

Rudolf Hoess, Commandant at Auschwitz

What good fortune for those in power that people do not think.

Adolf Hitler, quoted by Rudolph Hoess, op. cit.

A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.

Bertrand de Jouvenel des Ursins, quoted in Dee Hock, One from many: VISA and the rise of the chaordic organization


The elite have used rationalizations for centuries to justify taking limited resources for themselves that led to the necessity of controlling others with all its attendant horror. The following quotation is insightful in showing the justification for the fact that the economy of the city-state of Athens was built on the base of slavery and control. Classical Athens in 338 BC had a total population estimated at 250,000, but only 30,000 were freeborn men.

No trace of slavery ought to mix with the studies of the freeborn man . . . No study, pursued under compulsion, remains rooted in the memory.

Plato, The Republic of Plato

Slavery was so much a part of the cotton economy of our country at the time of the American Revolution that the most liberal of the southern elite, and many northern liberals as well, who were in the forefront of our struggle to gain control of their own destiny from British rule, justified slavery on the argument that Africans were not fully human.

Another rationalization is that giving up control of limited natural resources is too idealistic for today’s reality. We live in the real world where we depend on resources like oil to support our economy. We are unwilling to give up our lifestyle and we feel that we have no alternative but to make a devil’s bargain with those who have oil, allowing them to exert control over our destiny. The best answer is the one that Dee Hock has put forth in the book cited.

Without question, the most abundant, least expensive, most underutilized, and constantly abused resource in the world is human ingenuity. The source of that abuse is mechanistic, Industrial Age, dominator concepts of organization and the management practices they spawn.

Human ingenuity unlocked the power of the atom; it is not lack of ingenuity that is the problem, but not using our ingenuity to prevent others from exerting control over our destiny.

Leading the Way to Relinquishing Control

We have to show the rest of the world the advantages of giving up control. A key remaining task has to be to complete the process in our own culture, and the best place to start is in our homes and schools.

The task is too complicated to be changed by government decree. It will happen when a few brave pioneers will do what our forefathers did before us, at great risk and sacrifice; they chased a dream of a better life, if not for themselves then for their children. Thomas Jefferson was aware of the control exerted by any elite and put his trust for the future of our newly founded country in the people:

I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the conditions, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.

That should be the goal for our education system. We need to appreciate that we are all unique; nature does not create clones. As Emerson wrote:

We are by nature observers, thereby learners. Life wastes itself whilst we are preparing to live. That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily but involuntarily.

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion.

There is a fairer, more peaceful world when control of others has been given up. Mercantilism, colonialism, and empire building are all examples of one nation trying to control others, but it has almost always been an advantage won to be followed by resentment, revenge and, retaliation in a never-ending cycle of violence and devastation.

Sudbury Schools

What has this to do with education? Sudbury schools are an example of the advantage of giving up control over students, treating them as equals. Nevertheless, they are very successful in meeting the goals of education (such as getting a good job or being able to go on to college), but do not use the tactics, the means, the imposed curriculum of traditional education, which has to rely on control.

I had a conversation this morning with a person who’s always been skeptical of the Sudbury model.

She said, “I have a perfect example of why your schools don’t work. My granddaughter had to write a term paper for one of her first college classes, and she had NO IDEA how to do it! If she’d gone to a regular school, she would have had four years of training in writing.”

At our schools kids get training in problem solving and in being resourceful.

“What happened?”

“She had to go in to the professor and explain that she had never written a term paper, and he gave her a bunch of materials and some reference books, and she wrote it.”

“How did she do?”

“She got a B+.”

Lisa Lyons, Staff Member, Fairhaven School

Sudbury schools have given children the opportunity of being in control of their own life, and allowing them to become equal members of their school’s community. Students assume a responsible role in a democratically run school, an exercise in what society generally represents as being a prelude to assuming adult responsibilities. The school has a culture that rejects control of others and as a consequence it places no priority on any particular choice of life goals; it is a culture that does not support elitists’ attitudes.

Because they have control of their own life; students are more self-reliant, more imaginative, more focused in their selected life tasks, more confident in their ability to face life’s challenges, better able to find information, and to ask questions to advance their own agenda. It is their school’s culture that has taught them to respect individual differences.

It boggles my mind that the attributes we cherish in ourselves and in our friends—being interesting, insightful, creative, and independent—is what we are willing to sacrifice in children in exchange for the acquisition of knowledge that some of us deem it necessary to learn.

Hanna Greenberg, Staff Member, Sudbury Valley School

A school should not be a preparation for life. A school should be life.

Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great

Although they have a very high success rate of academic achievement, they spend a small part of their school time on formal academic training. Instead, they occupy their time with conversation, play, reading, art, music, and a host of other activities. It is the very antithesis of traditional education.

I should say, of course, that “the” most educational thing in the world is conversation. That does have the property that it is complex, interactive, and ought to have a low cost, although often between children and adults it has a high cost and high risk for the children, but it should not and need not. Interacting with a complex entity is what life and thinking and creativity and art and science are all about. [Bold added.]

David Deutsch

In addition to the materials produced by the Sudbury Valley School Press, which has documented the school’s ongoing forty-one-year experience, there is also a rich literature on the negative aspects of control and the value to be gained by giving up control. To mention a few important works:

Selected Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Absorbent Mind, by Maria Montessori

Aims of Education, by Alfred North Whitehead

A Nation of Wimps, by Hara Estroff Marano

Turning Learning Right Side Up, by Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg

Individual Differences

All schools recognize individual differences, but in traditional schools it is an ideal to be pursued and not yet a reality. Because Sudbury students plan their own curriculum it is a reality; they do not need to conform to the agenda of others. Moreover, the school’s culture is the setting in which they have the time to develop the interpersonal skills that they will need to be effective in the real world after graduation. The following is a story told by a student in a Sudbury school.

This story first appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Free Times, the Diablo Valley School Newsletter, and is reprinted with permission from Diablo Valley School and Rose Hardesty.

What I Learned from Joanna

By Rose Hardesty

When you go to a Sudbury school you get used to a certain range of questions-especially from your family. “What are you studying now?” “You are studying aren’t you?” “How do you get into college from a school like yours, anyway?”

But at a family gathering a few weeks ago I got a question I had never heard before that honestly dumbfounded me. I could only blink in shock while I tried to process.

It came from my aunt, who runs a preschool and understands the concept of learning through play and how humans are naturally driven to learn. She has never seemed concerned about our schooling. So, when the question came up, I was floored.

“Is Joanna academically curious?”

Joanna? My sister? No one has asked me about Joanna before, and I was at a loss for what to say.

I could guess why she was asking. I happen to like academics, and always have. But I started out in a public school system where they are valued entirely too much, and it warped my perspective. It was a vital part of my growing up for me to realize that it was not the skill set that made me friends, or helped me resolve conflicts-while the pursuit of knowledge is one of things that makes us human, it is not enough to make me a healthy human being.

Joanna doesn’t have a particular interest in classes. She’s taken a few here and there. I asked her about it once, just to see how she viewed them.

“They were fun, but I don’t know… When I play a new computer game or something, there are instructions, right? I don’t read them. I just jump right in and figure it out as I play. To me classes are kind-of like instructions.”

So, when my aunt seemed concerned about Joanna, I was thinking, “Don’t you realize? She’s brilliant! Figure it out as you play, amazing!” But I couldn’t say that. Not when a key concern behind the question was “she realizes that classes are this wonderful thing … right?”

All the things that had been so difficult for me—interacting with human beings that weren’t teachers, for instance—came so naturally to Joanna, She was confident, outgoing, likeable.

My next series of thoughts were sort of indignant. So, you’ve never been worried about me, because I’m “academic”, but you’re worried about her? Don’t you realize how hard it was for me to start liking myself, and accept that although I tested well I wasn’t actually smarter than everyone else? You’re worried about Joanna, who never had problems believing in herself, who was cutting my food for me when I was still afraid of knives, and cooking when I was still afraid of the stove? Who goes up on STAGE, in front of people she doesn’t know, and performs? And sings. In front of people she doesn’t know!

When I was little, why weren’t you asking things like, “So, is Rose socially curious? Does she still hate running, and fear the monkey bars? Why doesn’t she ever go bare-footed? Has she come out of her shell, yet?”

To me, Joanna is the perfect example of what going to a Sudbury school produces. She was never ruined; she is always curious. Learning to her doesn’t have to be associated with classes, and rarely is. The things she’s most proud of learning, “academic” or otherwise, she has taught herself—how to read, how to ride a bike, and so on. I know that she could learn any skill she thought was relative to her life.

I eventually stopped gaping and said something like, “I have no concern about Joanna whatsoever. I really admire her.”

Change Is Required

Change is required to make our schools more democratic but change will only happen when people are ready for change. They have to become aware that they need not give up the goals they value but only the means that are used to achieve those goals.

It is not enough to take steps, which may some day lead to a goal; each step must itself be a goal and a step likewise.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret

In a democracy coercion is not desirable and is always counterproductive.

If you treat individuals as they are they will remain as they are, but if you treat them as if they were what they ought to be and could be, they will become what they ought to be and could be.

Goethe, op.cit.

What better way than giving up control and treat students and teachers as equal partners with the rest of the adult citizens of liberal democracies?

If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.


It takes brave, hard working, and dedicated pioneers to take on such a transformation. But we come from a heritage of pioneers. There are many who would be capable and willing to accept the challenge. To the extent they are successful they would lead the way for others; to the extent they fail we will all learn from that failure. And it isn’t as if our traditional schools have such a high rate of success as noted by our desperate and expensive educational problems.

Money Is Never The Answer

For most towns educating represents the major expense, often half of the town’s budget. Measured by the Sudbury Valley School’s experience it does not seem to be money well spent. In 1968 SVS set tuition at the average per-pupil-cost in the neighboring public schools but the public school expenditures quickly surpassed our tuition and left it behind in the dust. The following quotation was taken from a talk given by Daniel Greenberg, a founder and staff member of Sudbury Valley School, on July 13, 2008 at the Summer Conference for staff and startup groups of Sudbury schools.

The per-pupil expenditure in our school is currently below $6,000. The average per pupil expenditure in the public schools in this region is over $15,000, and in private schools it is double that.

In public schools, $15,000 is only the publicly announced amount, and does not include a host of off-budget items such as federal and state grants, and the cost of capital improvements, insurance, legal advice, and other such services. Yet our school doesn’t feel poor, that’s for sure—just look around!

Part of the difference can be accounted for by the fact that Sudbury Valley School’s administrative costs are significantly lower. In traditional schools management and special teachers are a large part of the cost. Management is required to guide (read “control”) teachers and students, and to enforce discipline. In addition, special teachers and counselors are needed to mitigate the harm of a rigid controlled educational system. In a Sudbury school, such specialists are not required since students set their own agenda. Furthermore, students and staff are the only management; they have the responsibility for running the school. It is evident from the school’s success that inclusion is more effective than exclusion.

Means and Ends

Is giving up control so difficult for a liberal democracy? If we review the history of the United States it would seem so, since it took women one hundred forty-four years to gain the right to vote and they are still trying to end their unequal status. In a Post Industrial world can we afford another one hundred forty-four years? Is it possible that we lack the self-confidence to move any faster, or is the root problem a culture of control?

It would be a fortunate family who has a community, state, and nation which respected them enough to let them go—to let them fail or succeed on their own. In business, medicine, science, and manufacturing we have learned that experiments lead to new discoveries that benefit us all. We allow them to fail and try again, because such a system is more successful than a planned economy. Why are we willing to impose a state and national plan for education? Why do we insist on mandating the means as well as the ends? We are willing to support R&D for developing alternate sources of energy, why not education?

We have a Post Industrial economy and in the real world the measure of success of an educational system has to be: Are graduates of the schools able to meet the demands of that economy and other needs of the culture? Not only the needs of the culture at the time of graduation, but also the needs of the rapidly changing culture during the span of their working life.

What kind of education is appropriate in our Post Industrial Age? Research and Development is required and not massive government grand schemes. Only then will we be in a position to find a new direction for education.

A Prelude to a Possible Future, Four Case Studies

All four case studies I will present are examples of institutions that based their success on giving up control of others: one is from education, a second is from finance, the third is from manufacturing, and the fourth from labor, management and owner/developers. In the Post Industrial era we will need all our resources to solve the problems that confront us. That is the message of these pioneers that are leading the way into the possibilities afforded by giving up control and demonstrating that inclusion has opened doors that exclusion has kept locked.

From the field of education I have chosen the Sudbury schools and I have referred to them often in this article. From the field of finance, I have earlier referred to Dee Hock, founder of the VISA credit card system. The fascinating story of how competition and cooperation has made it possible to purchase goods and services almost anywhere in the world with a plastic credit card, as told by him in his book, The Birth of the Chaordic Age:

The worldwide success of VISA International, is due to its chaordic (chaos and order) structure: it is owned by 22,000 member banks, which both compete with each other for 750,000,000 customers and must cooperate by honoring one another’s $1,025,000,000,000 in transactions annually across borders and currencies.

Third, from the manufacturing sector, a Brazilian company facing bankruptcy began its recovery when the CEO shared control, first with management and, emboldened by success, with the workers; the more inclusion the greater the success. Semco is a company whose ways of doing business is totally opposite those of most corporations. The following dialog is taken from chapter 15 of the book Maverick written by Ricardo Semler, the visionary CEO of the company. A group of managers are debating a decision that is under consideration. It is the collective wisdom of the group that is portrayed. What is important to keep in mind is the shared philosophy that is central to any group attempting to find an alternative to hierarchical, command and control institutions.

“It’s airy-fairy,” sniffed Henrique Pinto, the dark-haired, mustached general manager of our Santo Amaro plant and one of a dozen or so managers gathered in a third-floor conference room.

“Airy-fairy?” I asked.

“The advantages you’re listing on the board can’t be measured, but the disadvantages are concrete. And costly. I call that airy-fairy.”

“He’s right,” said Clovis. “The cost of duplicating security guards, receptionists, secretaries, and all the rest is easy to add up. Motivation and feelings of belonging can’t be quantified.” He paused. “But doesn’t mean that the monetary values attached to the easily measurable items is greater.” [Bold added.]

“Then how will we know if we are making the right decisions?” Henrique wondered.

“We won’t,” I said. “It’s really a leap of faith.”

“We’ve taken leaps of faith in the past, and fallen,” Henrique broke in. “Like investing in Flakt. It’s been three years since we bought it, and it will take us five more years, at least, to see a profit.”

“You’re right, Henrique,” said Vendramin, who was sitting with his shoeless feet on the conference table (as usual), staring out the window (as usual). But we made the same decision about the biscuit machinery line. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars before seeing a return. Then we recovered everything in a single year.”

There are two things to keep in mind, the managers’ future was riding on their decisions; and when the workers were included the company (Semco) continued to gain in profitability.

The fourth example, Partners in Construction Cooperation (PICC), is a group representing labor, management and owner/developers in Oregon and Southwest Washington State. PICC is a “cooperation committee” open to all in the industry who finance, design, build, and use union construction projects. Cooperation among the craft unions is a key element of PICC. Regular “toolbox meetings” are held at which workers can openly share their thoughts and concerns. Owners and contractors draw on the experience of the workers to help solve problems.

PICC was launched in 1987. Its showcase project in February 1988 was a 105-unit Powell Valley Retirement Center in Gresham. Other projects followed, including the ARCO Sealifts in 1989 and 1990, four James River mill projects, and Intel’s research and development plant in Hillsboro.

As we enter the Post Industrial era these four are examples of what is possible if we can change to a new paradigm. They are all similar in that they gave up control for inclusion. They all present a successful working model of what is possible when we give up control of others. Each in their unique way has developed a prototype of the advantages made possible by inclusion rather than exclusion.

That is the challenge. It is always very difficult to make a paradigm shift because you have to change your worldview. People who currently enjoy elitist status, having mastered the art of control, will be fearful of change. We have to be both patient and persistent if we are to have an orderly transition to a more democratic future.

In Conclusion

Helen Adams Keller was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college. The story of how Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become known worldwide through the dramatic depictions of the play and film, The Miracle Worker. Her words are as relevant today as ever:

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less “showily.” Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself. ... Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.

Helen Keller, John Albert Macy, Annie Sullivan, The Story of My Life

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