Reminded of Dankora
by Tatiana Luna
I just read Against School by John Taylor Gatto. He puts facts, dates and names to a hunch that I have had since high school when I was having information crammed into my eyes and ears most of the time, but spent a good portion of my free time thinking and writing and reading fantasy novels: most people are stupid and immature and there’s some kind of pattern or even conspiracy going on.
My hunch wasn’t yet put into clear words or even a theory back then. Perhaps it was best illustrated by an idea that I formed for a fantasy novel in tenth grade: a society watched over by “Gaurdians” where everyone received an epiphany sort of thing during their adolescence that showed them what their destiny was, essentially what job they would have in the society. Dankora was considered a utopian society by its members because of how efficiently it worked and how predictable things were. The part that I started to write began with the main character, who was a neuroscientist, waking up from a recurring dream in which she sees an angel silhouetted by light. In my grand plans for the novel, this dream was a premonition of this angel falling out of the sky one day and completely changing the main character and revealing that there was a sinister and oppressive force behind this society.
Looking back on it, there is so much more meaning that I can read into this vision of a world and a story. I remember the experience of developing it, drawing pictures, writing down the thoughts that popped into my head like pieces of a puzzle that started to form a picture so clearly in my mind of this world and this woman, and I realize that I could barely wrap my head around some huge ideas that informed the picture of this world. Real, important ideas that took the shape of a fantasy world, because that was what I loved at the time, fairly well-written fantasy novels about women who broke out of normal roles and did something extraordinary. I never wrote beyond the first chapter, not really knowing how to develop such a long story and not knowing how to teach myself to do so. And the most vital piece of the story that was missing was a villain or an evil force: where did it come from? What did it look like? Perhaps I was even torn between liking this clean, efficient world and what I knew must be the destiny of the book: to tear it down.
Note: After some thought, Gatto’s article needs more citation and/or direct quotes. It makes me want to do my own research to come to my own conclusions on the sources. He has a very intriguing hypothesis, however, I wonder if all the men he mentioned as being behind the formation of the current educational system had such malicious thoughts in mind, or rather if they were simply rich intellectual men of their time who really thought they were preparing the country for an inevitable change in society.