Sunday, July 07, 2013

Creativity and Discipline

Let me tell you a personal story. My oldest, closest friend is a guy who came to the United States from Latvia when he was fifteen, fleeing from Hitler. He escaped to New York with his parents and went to George Washington High School, which in those days at least was the school for bright Jewish kids in New York City. 

And once he told me that the first thing that stuck him about American schools was the fact that if he got a "C" in a course, nobody cared, but if he came to school three minutes late he was sent to the principal's office--and that generalized. He realized that what it meant is, what's valued here is the ability to work on an assembly line, even if it's an intellectual assembly line. 

The important thing is to be able to obey orders, and to do what you're told, and to be where you're supposed to be, The values are, you're going to be a factory worker somewhere--maybe they'll call it a university--but you're going to be following somebody else's orders, and just doing your work in some prescribed way. And what matters is discipline, not figuring things out for yourself or understanding things that interest you--those are kind of marginal: just make sure you meet the requirements of a factory

~ Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power (p236)
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