Thursday, October 21, 2010


Great article in the Guardian recounts an interview between Jon Ronson and Natascha Kampusch on her new book about her imprisonment, 3096 days.

It seems inexplicable that someone should kidnap and imprison someone and yet appear so normal on the outside, but instead of finding this inexplicable, Natascha explains that it was that gap between the person he was inside and the person he was on the outside that was the cause of his madness.  He couldn't reconcile the two, couldn't be the person he appeared to be, or yet the person he really was, and so she filled the widening gulf in between the two personas.  It is a profound insight which does ring true.  As people often say on forums nowadays *THIS*.

I have tried and tried to work out what happened when one day I suddenly saw the damage that can be caused by ordinary schooling, what it was that spoke to me so profoundly and made me know for sure that it would be wrong to continue to send my children to school.  It's this:  that schooling creates a widening gulf between the inner life and the outer life.  It insists that children learn certain things, behave in a certain way, gain acceptance and praise by conforming, by moulding their outer selves into something the schools can deal with.

The problem is that most of us are not conformist, not interested in the things which school wants us to learn, and not naturally as quiet and compliant as a good record at school demands.  How well we deal with the demands made upon us at an early age, may influence our success or failure for years, decades to come.

Many of us are therefore imprisoned inside a persona which enables us to function well within a school environment, which is entirely different from our natural persona, and which imposes a dual or multiple personality on us in order to succeed.  I don't mean to imply that Priklopil's madness was caused by his schooling, I don't know when or how he became the twisted kidnapper, rather than a fantasist... but I can't believe it can have helped. 

That gap between the person we know ourselves to be and the person the world sees, is responsible for an awful lot of evil in the world.  Whether our self-esteem gap means that we value ourselves much less or much more, it leads to trouble, depression, megalomania.

I feel that we need desperately to understand the difference between schooling, which involves telling children what it is right for them to be interested in, what it is right for them to learn, what it is right for them to do, and education, which tries to recognise each individual child as unique, and to draw out their unique gifts and talents.

The first takes a child, ignores their uniqueness and tries to mould it into the ideal, which appears to be an academic - something a relatively tiny proportion of the population is naturally inclined to be - and the second allows people to find themselves.  The first requires the system to ignore who a person is, inside.  The second allows children to align their exterior with their interior world, and to become the person they are meant to be.

I knew immediately which model I wanted my children to be subject to, once I recognised the difference... and it was literally like scales falling from my eyes.  I realised that a lot of what I had believed about schooling was merely propaganda, not what I had experienced myself.  I'm wondering how long it will take for the education industry itself to recognise the same thing.

I think that our experiences and our view of the world is influenced by the message we receive from other people about who we are, and so it is hardly surprising that Natascha appears to be somewhat introspective and disassociated from herself, observing herself.  She speaks in the interview about her irritation that her empathy for her captor is seen as a possible symptom of Stockholm syndrome, instead of a practical strategy for survival, which is what she thinks it was.  I wonder if she is right that her ability to see her captor as a flawed person first, was responsible for her survival; to have survived so long in a place which was virtually undiscoverable, means she must have been offering her captor something that he needed. Is that wrong or an indication of some sort of mental failure?  Or simply practical?

That she was psychologically capable of escaping her captor, after 3096 days in captivity, speaks of her strength and her will to survive the ordeal.  Many people, with much flimsier cages, never escape.

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