Early Lessons

Some Recollections of My Youth and What It Taught Me

Spiral Bound
by Daniel Greenberg
96 pages

“I used to think that my parents expected a high level of scholastic achievement from me, but now I realize they didn’t give a damn about school, for me or my brother. That seems the only rational explanation for their genuinely odd lack of response to our widely differing school situations. For example, my parents never knew anything at all about what I was doing at school, and never asked or cared. The whole subject was non-existent, doubtless a monumental bore. The family almost always ate together. Most of the time around the table was spent in animated, often heated, conversation, in which all of us participated. Every subject was dealt with in depth, usually amidst the clatter of violent disagreement. We talked politics, philosophy, religion, exegesis – but never do I recall a single word about school or schoolwork during all those years.

“Early-on in my involvement with a radical new school, a friend of mine suggested that instead of working to reform education, I should spend my time being psychoanalyzed, because obviously everything I was doing was simply acting out in rebellion against my father. At the time there was nothing I could say in reply, except that I thought, perhaps naively, that I had a worthwhile philosophy of education with positive merit to it. On occasion, my father's verbal support for the educational establishment, and his opposition to what I was doing, made me wonder whether my friend was right.

“Lately, however, I have come to the conclusion that he was dead wrong, and that deep down my parents had no more use for conventional schools than I do now. What they really wanted was for their children to grow up to be decent human beings, regardless of money, fame, career, or achievement. School was basically extraneous to their real goals.”