When I was about ten, the owner of the building where my father was Super gifted me with a slightly obsolete but complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, he’d replaced this older set with a brand new one for his children. So the Britannica soon was set up on shelves in a small basement room called my “laboratory.” I conducted mayhem, anatomical dissections on a chicken, and the like there.
Already on the outs with the New York City Public School system for being noncooperative, I now plotted further acts of non-conformism by peppering my classes with vast newfound knowledge of the Reformation, Darwin, Edmund Burke, and Athenian democracy. To astound a history teacher, I dredged up the Defenestration of Prague as an example of what could happen to authority figures who get out of control. Since my gaze wandered to the window, he interpreted this as a threat. The principal called my father and advised him I was at it again.
Finding that just a little knowledge is dangerous and intoxicating, I dived deeper into Britannica. It was like knocking on the door of a vast storehouse of knowledge and having the portal swing open wide. My teachers disagreed. I would pepper classes with requests for further information on topics based on articles in the Britannica. My father was told I threatened the basis of the curriculum worked out by wiser heads than mine. One day I came home and found the door to the laboratory padlocked.
My history teacher looked especially smug in the following weeks. My father seemed relieved that he had no further requests to visit the school. I grew silent in class, which made the teacher happier.
My father was lax in the storage of his spare keys. A Super has many locks and needs spare keys for emergencies. Therefore, the spares need to be where they can easily be found. I located a spare key hanging from a stanchion about a week after he installed the lock. Waiting till my father was occupied, I quietly made my way in and returned to my studies.
Having learned that people in authority liked to suppress inconvenient knowledge and control access to knowledge, I was careful in revealing what I knew. I also learned that authorities would use dupes to silence those who inconveniently threaten their lock on information. Finally, I also learned that all the above could be subverted; if you were careful.
Somebody once said that one of the benefits of a lousy education is the constant pleasure of discovery. But, of course, this only works if your joy of discovery survives the effort to destroy it.