You don’t have to always agree with John Taylor Gatto to appreciate his passionate, unique, and well-researched views—all of which are relevant to ZTC. This excerpt from his 2006 article The Richest Man in the World Has Some Advice for Us about College…(P.S. He didn’t take it himself):
North American economies dazzled the world for centuries because they encouraged resourcefulness, individuality and risk-taking to dominate the marketplace, and these qualities were encouraged in everyone, not just in the elites.
Three North American commercial juggernauts are currently blowing away competition all over China: computer hardware and programming, fast food franchising and commercial entertainment (singing, dancing, story-telling, games and all the rest).
Each of these businesses is almost exclusively the work of dropouts, from college, high school and elementary school. They are erected from imagination. Our fast food franchises don’t really sell “food” at all, but two intense tastes – salty and sweet – surrounded by clean, well-lighted places and spotless toilets and primary colors. They sell a return to early childhood and its simplicities.
Our computer world is built upon imagination inscribed on silicon chips on grains of sand. It’s magical. And our entertainment industry, which dominates China and every place else? Assembled from the raw material of people pretending to be who they aren’t and singing their hearts out about emotions some writer made up.
We need to realize what all this means. We need to follow the path opened by our unparalleled jazz domination of the planet.
Over in China, at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (the oldest continuous music school on earth) they have a hard time believing that jazz can even exist, that with imagination and courage you can hear a piece of music once and ring dazzling changes on it forever.
Jazz writ large has always been the key to North American genius. As David Richardo, the great philosopher of capitalism often said: The road to wealth comes from understanding what it is that you do best, then doing it. It’s time we abandoned the cowardly path of imitating what China and India will do best in the future, realizing that our own security can only be preserved by encouraging imagination.