DSM: Method in the madness...

Joseph Moore (joseph@ivorycc.com)
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 10:38:32 -0700

Check out that last topic from the writing test from the article I emailed a
couple days ago:

Your school is sponsoring a voter registration drive for 18-year-old high
school students. You and three of your friends are talking about the
project. Your friends say the following.

                Friend 1: ``I'm working on the young voters' registration
drive. Are you going to come to it and register? You're all 18, so you can
do it. We're trying to help increase the number of young people who vote and
it shouldn't be too hard -- I read that he percentage of 18-to-20-year-olds
who vote increased in recent years. We want that percentage to keep going

                Friend 2: ``I'll be there. People should vote as soon as
they turn 18. It's one of the responsibilities of living in a democracy.''

                Friend 3: ``I don't know if people should even bother to
register. One vote in an elections isn't going to change anything.''

Do you agree with friend 2 or 3? Write a response to your friends in which
you explain whether you will or will not register to vote. Be sure to
explain why and support your position with examples from your reading or
experience. Try to convince the friend with whom you disagree that your
position is the right one.

OK - so, Friend 1 clearly sets accepted expectations: it's not WHAT you vote
for that matters, it the voting itself. (Note that no tyrant would have a
reason to oppose voting, per se, as long as the things voted on were under
his control.) So, percentages of people voting is what is to be discussed,
NOT how YOU are going to fulfill your duty to govern via the specific things
you vote for or against.

Then, friends 2 and 3 set the acceptable range of opinions - this is key,
this is why John Gatto had to go buy his own copies of books for his kids to
read, so that the 'right' answers were not predetermined via the questioned
allowed at the end of the chapters. Other questions and their possible
answer become irrelevant within the context of 'succeeding' in school - hey,
and school prepares you for life, right?

The results of the method revealed in this test are impressive: an 18 year
old high school senior is lead to believe she has examined an important
issue, weighed the pros and cons, and reached an informed decision. In fact,
she has been lead by the nose to accept one of two positions (or, as likely,
to spend a lifetime oscillating between two positions) out of many. If the
training works, all other positions will appear suspect - they are not
officially sanctioned, they must be at least a little crazy. The student
will be under the impression - reinforced by years of 'success' in school
and not easily disabused - that she is a well educated critical thinker.

A successful way to inoculate someone against thinking is, like the polio
vaccine, to expose them to a weakened strain. His mind thinks he's already
thought about that, so he needn't trouble himself any more over it. School
is wonderfully efficacious in this regard.

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