Against Compulsory Schooling

Primary education, according to the United Nations at least, is a fundamental human right. Unlike other rights, though, education is compulsory. The right to free speech doesn’t legally obligate anyone to speak freely. Freedom of religion doesn’t compel anyone to be religious. The right to not be enslaved may prohibit people from contracting themselves into slavery but at least in the U.S. it’s not illegal to try, it’s just that such contracts are unenforceable. No other human right is forced on its putative beneficiaries at the point of a policeman’s gun.

This last phrase apparently strikes some as hyperbole, but in the United States it is not. American compulsory education is compulsory because nonattendance is against the law. The parents of truant children are criminals. When the kids are old enough to prosecute they’re criminals too. If parents keep their kids out of school or if kids insist on skipping someone is going to jail. Eventually they’ll have to submit or the kids will be forcibly taken from their parents and put into foster care or juvenile hall. Police are allowed to kill people for resisting enforcement. Laws requiring school attendance, like all laws, are ultimately enforced by violence up to and including kidnapping and death.

And yet this evident fact is not widely acknowledged. Educational discourse from across the political spectrum for the most part takes the compulsory nature of public education for granted. The questions asked are about what and how all children should learn, never whether anything is so important to know that all children should be forced to learn it at gunpoint, under the threat of kidnapping by police.

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The End of Policing Means the End of Capitalism — Some Likely but Rarely Discussed Economic Effects of Abolition

A great deal of discussion about police abolition concerns non-police responses to violent crime, but most police work is unrelated to violent crime. Most, maybe all, of this is economic in nature – designed to keep working people from using productive property to meet their own needs directly – to keep the commons enclosed. This work means the police are inextricably integrated into the economy in surprising ways that are largely undiscussed in the context of abolition, which would trigger monumental, almost unimaginable changes in how we as a society meet our human needs through work. It’s likely that the end of policing would mean the end of capitalism, which suggests that it won’t be easy to achieve given the magnitude of what’s at stake.

By police I mean anybody who’s socially authorized to enforce laws or other social rules through the unilateral use of physical force, up to and including the intentional infliction of pain and death. If they’re allowed to hurt people to enforce their commands but people aren’t allowed to hurt back in self defense they’re police. In this sense the existence of police to respond to violence is much less controversial than their other functions. Many, maybe most, people agree that potentially violent responses to violence are appropriate. A lot of the current discussion on post-abolition responses to violence centers on community organized and implemented solutions. It’s not hard to imagine members of the community willing to organize to deal with violence in their neighborhoods, in fact, as in the case of Uvalde and many other less extreme examples, the involvement of police often prevents this natural response.

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The Nose, The Grindstone, And The Monkey Wrench — How We Can Build Autonomous Economic Zones in Los Angeles Without Changing A Single Law

Autonomous Zones in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles informal, that is to say illegal, productive uses of land are ubiquitous. Activities like street vending, backyard restaurants, ghost kitchens, perpetual garage sales, all kinds of specialized retail, unlicensed day care, auto and bicycle repair and painting, massage and yoga studios, market gardening, music lessons, rent parties, plant nurseries, gypsy cab operations, furniture and computer repair, tailoring, live music, personal grooming services of every description, apartment-sharing by large numbers of people, raising chickens, pigeons, rabbits, parakeets, cockatiels, and even small goats. Unhoused people use land productively, illegally, and cooperatively by living on it in addition to many of the above activities.

Everywhere in this City adaptable, energetic, determined people find infinitely many creative ways to enrich themselves, their families, and their communities using whatever access to land they’ve managed to organize. Not only do they benefit themselves and their immediate communities this way, but their work makes the life and the culture of this City infinitely richer for almost everyone here.1 And yet all of these activities are illegal and the potential consequences are severe. They include eviction for renters and its attendant potential financial ruin and risk of homelessness, homeowners risk nuisance suits and potential property confiscation, also amounting to financial ruin and risk of homelessness. Everyone involved risks fines, arrest, imprisonment, and police violence.
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How I Met LAPD Officers Bobby Romo And Steven Valenzuela On Vermont Avenue Yesterday At 3 AM And What Happened Next

LAPD Sergeant Bobby Romo (36915), a twenty year veteran of LAPD.

I can’t sleep, so I walk. Three or four miles at 3 or 4 AM does wonders. I’ve been doing this for years without incident. People out at that time have their own private concerns and don’t seem to be much interested in interactions, which I’m also not. There is a certain sense of community among those of us on foot, though. For instance we like to say good morning or utilize some other way of signalling we mean no harm, but no one’s out there looking for conversation.1 I’ve walked hundreds of miles of LA streets in the middle of the night and have never spoken to a cop for any reason until yesterday.

Some time after 3 AM I was returning home from such a walk when I saw that the street I intended to use was blocked by yellow cop tape and there was an empty but lights-spinning cop car guarding the tape. No people, officers or otherwise, were visible on the entire taped block face. I took what I thought would be an effective detour around the cop conclave but when I got around to the street I live on I could see it was taped as well.
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Monuments, Altars, Ceramic Tiles, And The Passions Stamped On These Lifeless Things

Caleb Duarte Piñon distinguishes between monuments and altars. Monuments are overwhelming, huge, hard to break, violently jammed into the earth. They reinforce, reproduce, extend power. Monuments violently silence stories people tell about themselves, they suppress every story but their own. The stories told by monuments end in morals. They serve power, they work to control. Only the powerful can call monuments into being.1

Altars are human scale creations, spontaneously precipitated out of a shared desire to tell a shared story. Created both together and individually, this work coalesces socially to express something of the community. Altars are temporary, shifting, laid down upon the earth gently. They quietly amplify the stories people tell about themselves, they celebrate every story woven into them. The stories told by altars don’t end in morals. They don’t end at all, they’re liberating. Anyone can call altars into being.
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Why Are Children Forced To Study Mathematics At Gunpoint?

In the United States children are required to study mathematics for most of the time they’re required to attend school and yet essentially everyone hates it. Not just students, but parents and teachers as well. Very few remember any of it once they’re done with school, which strongly suggests that all those years of mandatory mathematics education aren’t serving the students themselves. If they were it wouldn’t be necessary to criminalize nonattendance, to force children into schools to learn mathematics at the point of a policeman’s gun.
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Leonhard Euler, Denis Diderot, Augustus De Morgan, William Gillis, and the Weaponization of Scientific Knowledge Authority

There is a story, universally known to mathematicians, about Leonhard Euler, Denis Diderot, Catherine the Great, and the epistemological authority of mathematics. It apparently first appeared in English in Augustus De Morgan‘s book A Budget of Paradoxes:

Diderot paid a visit to the Russian Court at the invitation of [Catherine the Great]. He conversed very freely, and gave the younger members of the Court circle a good deal of lively atheism. The Empress was much amused, but some of her councillors suggested that it might be desirable to check these expositions of doctrine. The Empress did not like to put a direct muzzle on her guest’s tongue, so the following plot was contrived. Diderot was informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical demonstration of the existence of God, and would give it him before all the Court, if he desired to hear it. Diderot gladly consented: though the name of the mathematician is not given, it was Euler. He advanced towards Diderot, and said gravely, and in a tone of perfect conviction: Monsieur, $\frac{(a + b^n)}{n} = x$, donc Dieu existe; repondez!1 Diderot, to whom algebra was Hebrew, was embarrassed and disconcerted; while peals of laughter rose on all sides. He asked permission to return to France at once, which was granted.2

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How I’m Using Mastodon Now

This essay is not a review of anything, it’s not a polemic, it’s not aimed at convincing you to act or refrain from action, it’s not a comprehensive introduction to a subject — it’s certainly not advice! It’s not essential, it doesn’t generalize, and I’m not even choosing my words carefully.1 I’m only writing it to avoid writing the essay I’m writing to avoid writing the essay I know I have to write. But it’s more than just a way to avoid writing other stuff, it’s some things I wish I could have read about Mastodon a few months ago, so I thought I’d write them down for other people.
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Anarchism isn’t a fantasy and it’s not a political theory — it’s a collective name for whatever forms of society can exist without murder as a political tool

When people say anarchism is a fantasy I believe they’re thinking of the apparent impossibility of setting up an anarchist government, imposing it on people, voting it into place, getting everyone to agree to its terms. They’re thinking of what would have to precede the first day of anarchism if anarchism were to be somehow instituted somewhere. And of the difficulty of keeping anarchism in place, protecting it against threats, maintaining it. This is a mistake.

Anarchism begins when people stop being coerced whereas political systems rely on coercion both at their beginnings and for their maintenance. Forcing people to stop being coerced is a contradiction in terms. Anarchism can’t be instituted or put in place, it can only coalesce. Anarchism starts when people stop obeying authority. So how do we get to a society without coercion? What’s the path to the anarchist utopia?
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Don’t Take Crenshaw — The Physical and Racial Geography of Bette Davis’s Famous Joke About Fountain Avenue

A mural of Bette Davis with the words 'Johnny Carson asked Bette Davis for "the best way an aspiring actress could get into Hollywood?" Ms Davis replied "take Fountain."'

Apparently Johnny Carson once asked Bette Davis to tell him the best way for a young actress to get into Hollywood. Her response, now a hot but still deliciously subpop tagline for the tens of thousands of industry-adjacent hipsterati who have tattooed it into their flesh, named trendy cultural objects for it, painted murals incorporating it, splashed it across Twitter feeds and everywhere, was “take Fountain.”1
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