In my opinion, the mark of a good philosopher is not to elucidate complex ideas, but to declare simple, unacknowledged ideas that are, in retrospect, blindingly obvious. In other words, a good philosopher is the child who comes right out and says that the emperor is naked.
Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, is my favorite philosopher. Stand still for even a moment and he’ll hit you right between the eyes with a heaping dose of undeniable, unadulterated, unsettling truth. When he was invited to give a speech to a conference of homeschoolers and unschoolers, he responded with his characteristic brand of unadorned philosophical genius. Below is an excerpt, followed by a link to the entire speech.
“The need for schooling is bolstered by two well-entrenched pieces of cultural mythology. The first and most pernicious of these is that children will not learn unless they’re compelled to–in school. It is part of the mythology of childhood itself that children hate learning and will avoid it at all costs. Of course, anyone who has had a child knows what an absurd lie this is. From infancy onward, children are the most fantastic learners in the world. If they grow up in a family in which four languages are spoken, they will be speaking four languages by the time they’re three or four years old–without a day of schooling, just by hanging around the members of their family, because they desperately want to be able to do the things they do. Anyone who has had a child knows that they are tirelessly curious. As soon as they’re able to ask questions, they ask questions incessantly, often driving their parents to distraction. Their curiosity extends to everything they can reach, which is why every parent soon learns to put anything breakable, anything dangerous, anything untouchable up high–and if possible behind lock and key.”