Zappa on School

| November 24, 2011

Schools train people to be ignorant with style.

As long as you are just smart enough to do a job, and just dumb enough to swallow what they feed you, you’re going to be alright.

Interestingly, I think this introduces something rather sophisticated. In order to learn how to do this, one would have to be smart enough to figure out how to be dumb enough. That is, being just the right level of dumb requires a great deal of thought. Don’t we demand this all of the time? Not that we believe too much in what we are being fed, but an agreement that we play along with the stupidity. We are comforted by the complicity. To feel secure in it, it needs to be an intelligent choice. This is why the correction of behavior is always accompanied with the demand to articulate the capitulation. Show that you know what you are doing in conforming. Show your work.

Schools, as a matter of principle, tend to treat as stupid anything that challenges this level of complicity, and squash them viciously.

Turning it inside out, one could argue that the highest stupidity is the particular kind of intelligence that schools demand of us. Not the apparent, and bare, intelligence that Zappa points to, but the sophisticated intelligence that is exhausted by the calculations of navigating the system. Of style.