Then his head fell back, and there was no convulsion in his face, only his mouth relaxing to a shape of serenity – but there was a brief stab of convulsion in his body, like a last cry of protest and Rearden went on slowly, not altering his pace, even though he knew that no caution was necessary any longer because what he was carrying in his arms was now that which had been the boy’s teachers’ idea of a man – a collection of chemicals.
He walked, as if this were his form of last tribute and funeral procession for the young life that had ended in his arms. He felt an anger too intense to identify except as a pressure within him: it was a desire to kill.
The desire was not directed at the unknown thug who had sent a bullet through the boy’s body, or at the looting bureaucrats who had hired the thug to do it, but at the boy’s teachers who had delivered him, disarmed, to the thug’s gun – at the soft, safe assassins of college classrooms who, incompetent to answer the queries of a quest for reason, took pleasure in crippling the young minds entrusted to their care.
Somewhere, he thought, there was this boy’s mother, who had trembled with protective concern over his groping steps, while teaching him to walk, who had measured his baby formulas with a jeweler’s caution, who had obeyed with a zealot’s fervor the latest words of science on his diet and hygiene, protecting his unhardened body from germs – then had sent him to be turned into a tortured neurotic by the men who taught him that he had no mind and must never attempt to think. Had she fed him tainted refuse, he thought, had she mixed poison into his food, it would have been more kind and less fatal.
He thought of all the living species that train their young in the art of survival, the cats who teach their kittens to hunt, the birds who spend such strident effort on teaching their fledglings to fly – yet man, whose tool of survival is the mind, does not merely fail to teach a child to think, but devotes the child’s education to the purpose of destroying his brain, of convincing him that thought is futile and evil, before he has started to think.
From the first catch-phrases flung at a child to the last, it is like a series of shocks to freeze his motor, to undercut the power of his consciousness. “Don’t ask so many questions, children should be seen and not heard!” – “Who are you to think? It’s so, because I say so!” – “Don’t argue, obey!” – “Don’t try to understand, believe!” – “Don’t struggle, compromise!” – “Your heart is more important than your mind!” – “Who are you to know? Your parents know best!” – “Who are you to know? The bureaucrats know best!” – “Who are you to object? All values are relative!” – “Who are you to want to escape a thug’s bullet? That’s only a personal prejudice!”
Men would shudder, he thought, if they saw a mother bird plucking the feathers from the wings of her young, then pushing him out of the nest to struggle for survival – yet that was what they did to their children.
Armed with nothing but meaningless phrases, this boy had been thrown to fight for existence, he had hobbled and groped through a brief, doomed effort, he had screamed his indignant, bewildered protest – and had perished in his first attempt to soar on his mangled wings.
But a different breed of teachers had once existed, he thought, and had reared the men who created this country; he thought that mothers should set out on their knees to look for men like [those teachers], to find them and beg them to return.