Richard Mitchell Quotations

Richard Mitchell

A line runs from the meditations of the heart to the words of the mouth. The meditations are not clear to us until the mouth utters its words. If what the mouth utters is unclear or foolish or mendacious, it must be that the meditations are the same. But the line runs both ways. The words of the mouth will become the meditations of the heart, and the habit of loose talk loosens the fastenings of our understanding.

American public education is a remarkable enterprise; it succeeds best where it fails. Imagine an industry that consistently fails to do what it sets out to do. A factory where this year's product is invariably sleazier than last year's but, nevertheless, better than next year's. Imagine a corporation whose executives are always spending vast sums of money on studies designed to discover just what it is they are supposed to do and then vaster sums for further studies on just how to do it. Imagine a plant devoted to the manufacture of factory seconds to be sold at a loss. Imagine a producer of vacuum cleaners that rarely work hiring whole platoons of engineers who will, in time, report that it is, in fact, true that the vacuum cleaners rarely really work, and who will, for a larger fee, be glad to find out why, if that's possible. If you discover some such outfit, don't invest in it. Unfortunately, we are all required to invest in public education.

As schools, and consequently the rest of society, become more anarchic, the educationists can point to an ever greater need for the inculcation of values, and every failed experiment makes room for new devils in the guise of faddish innovations.

Bad writing is like any other form of crime; most of it is unimaginative and tiresomely predictable.

For those who have the power of language, it is a comfort to know that so many others don't.

[I]f a couple of callow noncoms can teach a pimply dropout to pack a parachute as though his life depended on it, why is it that sixteen years of schooling cannot teach a third-grade teacher to spell?

If a tax-supported government school system devotes itself to any values at all, it can always be made to do exactly that for any other values at all.

If our values are grounded, as we usually imagine they are, in evidence and reason, then those who can see the evidence and who know the ways of reason are likely to adopt them. However, if we find ourselves tampering with the evidence and tempering the power of language, the medium of reason, then perhaps we ought to reevaluate our values.

If you cannot be the master of your language, you must be its slave. If you cannot examine your thoughts, you have no choice but to think them, however silly they may be.

In the schools, rank and honor are accorded to the lovers of children inversely in proportion to the numbers of children with whom they deal. Those who deal with many children every day have the lowest rank. Those who deal with only a few from time to time have higher rank -- and pay. Those who never have any reason at all to even see a child from a distance are general officers, usually dignified with the title of "educators."

[I]t is very much in the interest of the policymakers and theoriticians of public schooling that there be problems and failures and that we know about them and also, even more curiously, that any kind of social disorder at all be made the business of the schools.

Literacy is not, as it is considered in our schools, a portion of education. It is education. It is at once the ability and the inclination of the mind to find knowledge, to pursue understanding, and out of understanding and knowledge, not out of received attitudes and values or emotional responses, however "worthy", to make judgments.

Lying and scholarship cannot live together, but lying and indoctrination are made for each other.

Now it seems that there are millions of Americans who can't think even in English...People in that condition don't think of themselves as being in that condition because people in that condition don't think of themselves -- they don't think at all.

One picture is not worth a thousand words. A picture isn't worth any words at all.

Rousseau had it backwards. We are NOT born free. We are born in the chains of the random and the reflexive, and are ignorant and unreasonable by simple nature. We must learn to be free, to organize the random and detect the reflexive, to acquire the knowledge of particulars and the powers of reason. The examined life is impossible if we cannot examine, order, classify, define, distinguish, always in minute particulars.

The books used in public schools are almost exclusively books designed specifically to be used in the public schools.

The consumer who is duped by misleading advertising does not need consumer education; he needs to know how to read and write. The housewife who can't figure out what ketchup costs does not need consumer education; she needs to know how to cipher. And as to those who want to live on Coca-Cola and Twinkies, frankly, it's their own damn business and we ought to leave them alone, but we might legitimately provide them with knowledge about biology and chemistry and then leave them alone..

The feelings, sentiments, values and responses of our children, or of any citizen, are none of the government's damned business. That we must support a government agency that gives itself to the emotional and ideological manipulation of citizens is infamous.

The history of mankind hasn't yet provided any examples of a decrease in stupidity and ignorance and their presumably attendant evils, but we have hope...We educate (well, we're going to educate, just you wait and see) all the people, not just the specialists, not any fraction of any kind, but everybody. History doesn't scare us. We're the Americans.

Thought control, like birth control, is best undertaken as long as possible before the fact. Many grown-ups will obstinately persist, if only now and then, in composing small strings of sentences in their heads and achieving at least momentary logic. This probably cannot be prevented, but we have learned how to minimize the consequences by arranging that such grown-ups will be unable to pursue that logic very far.

We able to see that our interest would be best served not by asking the state to promulgate our values but by forbidding the state to promulgate any values at all. If the state can espouse some value that we love, it can, with equal justice, espouse others we do not love.

When a brand-new teacher is given his certificate, the testing of his intellectual competence is over. From now on, he will be tested only in other matters: his ability to get along with assistant principals and guidance counselors, his dress and deportment, and the tranquility of his classroom. Unless he is visibly and outrageously ignorant and illiterate, no one will ever again assess the work of his mind.

When education fails to teach thinking, it fails in everything, and everybody talks nonsense.

When we read a sentence whose subject and verb don't agree, we don't reject it as meaningless and useless. We may shake our heads and sigh a little, but we know what the poor fellow meant, and we go on. When a computer "reads" a "sentence" with an equivalent error, it simply spits it out and refuses to work. That's how we can tell which are the machines and which are the people; the people will swallow anything.

You cannot, in fact, dream up anything so preposterous that you will not find it being taught in some school.

You can shoot the tiger, or stay out of his way, but you cannot pronounce him a vegetarian.