education and fear (2)


Samuel Nathan Gillian Jr. (1939-2016), MEd. (photo c.1978) [1]

To teach care is to teach fear(fulness)--to teach children to be terrified (in a good way) is education at its foundational best; there is nothing more basic that the human species must engage, and if we neglect this duty, humanity will fail, argues the author Sam Gillian. 

I know of only a couple critical thinkers and philosopher-types who have written more than one book on the subject "fear" in depth. I can think of no black philosopher who has written two books on fear that are in depth. This alone makes Bro. Gillian [2] a central 21st century figure to pay attention to in the philosophy of fear. Because of his life-career (Bronx, NY) as a middle school teacher and adult educator, his two books [3] are key to any study and articulation of a "pedagogy of fear." I guarantee you dear reader, Gillian is quite controversial (even radical) and will in spirit and rational thought challenge many assumptions typical of progressive education philosophy and child-rearing, care-giving etc. I think he is a progressive educator of the highest calibre but he is fiercely independent in how he thinks about progress and progressive ideas related to fear. That's what makes him a unique philosopher with lots to teach. 

He is incredibly clear in his writing and thus I would say his work is "the best" there is out there on fear, for the person on the street, so to speak, when it comes to being applicable ideas to ponder and apply immediately to our lives. His books are not shallow over-simplified "self-help" in the typical psychological way. They are more philosophical reflections and at times they are 'sermons.' He has integrated many others' thought throughout his years of study of fear [4], which began in 1972, he tells us in his brief bio. in his first book. He is an expert on fear, no doubt about it. His contribution to a good quality "fear education" is so needed today and in the future.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, his work is virtually unheard of in larger circles and in academia. I plan to write an intellectual biography of his life and work and reverse this invisibility. I look forward to anyone who wishes to discuss the "Gillianism of fear" (as I call it) [5]. 

[note: Prof. Cornel West has some similar notions as Gillian, e.g.,]


End Notes

1. Thanks to Bernice Gillian, Sam's wife, for this photograph. 

2. Bro. Sam or Bro. Gillian are terms I use as endearment and respect, and I have only used such because of Sam's own proclivity to do so with me (e.g., see the photo above where I overlapped the portrait of him with his book signing signature "Bro. Sam" and it was addressed to me as "Bro. Michael" in the inside cover of his second book I had purchased from him in 2005.

3. The Beauty of Fear (2002) and Terrified by Education (2005), by Phemore Press, his own publishing company. He published no other works under that press nor did he write any other books than these two. It is hard to find copies of these, but if interested you may try contacting Bernice who may sell you a copy of these titles

4. E.g., he was a big fan of the existentialist Ernest Becker, but also the likes of Jiddu Krishnamurti, Alan Watts and many others. Very eclectic (E-W) reading underlies his philosophy.

5. Contact me:

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The latest "white powder" in the mail hoax threats against Muslim Organizations this week and now the closing down of the entire LA School System in Calif by Education Officials... you really have to look at the twisting of discourse that is going on... which was well studied by myself (as a fearologist) after 9/11 and others like Gavin de Becker (a security expert in the US) and others... It comes down to the way knowledge is used in these "credible" (or more like incredible) "threats" to public safety... and how Officials in those domains of society make decisions. Without a doubt, LA Education officials are showing us all just how much they didn't learn their lessons after 9/11 as the entire W. world (especially in USA but also Canada) "panics" again, more or less. 

A long blog post could be written about this moral (safety) panic phenomenon, which is the "culture of fear" by any other name showing just how un-intelligent it is in the face of fear, terror, and then in contrast with what is merely a threat of fear and terror initiated by someone (as a criminal act). The "terrorists" today gotta be laughin' all the way to the bar, or wherever else they are celebrating the power of an email threat on a few school districts in the USA ... btw, New York Mayor and Officials (not in Education) decided there is no way they would close down schools broad brush like they did in LA. And, there is no facts or close to facts that show any real difference in these two localities, except that in the context of LA, it is the power of Education Officials to shut down or open schools, which is not apparently the same as in NY where the Mayor only has that power. I mention this because Education is the field I work in as a professional and to which I have been attempting to educate them on the role of fear and its irrationality for 14 + years. 

I keep thinking of the "costs" of the LA School-based Authorities today, acting on an email threat. You want to read a few of their "reasons" which always come down to the same thing... (when under pressure of the fear of being sued if they don't keep kids safe at schools--or the "but if something bad does happen?" -- all of which are xtreme applications of the "precautionary principle"--but that is another argument for another time)... I keep thinking what do the children and youth and families of entire city as big as LA take home from staying home... because of an email? Talk about terrorizing one's own people in the name of "safety first"... that's always the reason the Officials gave after 9/11, including going to War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq and the mess of costs that has produced (likely Islamic State bred upon that error of the US illegal invasions into sovereign nations). 

Tell me, Education Officials, now what... there was no attack today... but what about tomorrow... and the next day? and next... now what are you going to do? what money (for one) are you going to spend to try to keep every child and youth safe in your school systems... and then, are you going to try to keep them safe when the walk home from school or go somewhere else after school and what then, are you going to do ... any time, any place... you see, it is a slippery slope of irrationality that is winning the day... not intelligence, not intelligent Defense, or Security... it is madness caused by moral and safety panic (assumptions)... of course, the Officials can always throw it back at me or anyone who critiques them as "What would you do if you were in our place?" ... that's of course a distractive argument that goes no where because it doesn't exist and because they don't really care what I would do ... because they would never let me get into power in that place where they sit and make these kinds of decisions and cover them with "reasons" based on patterns (i.e., fear-patterned) Discourses. That's what I want to end with... 

To end this initial blog, I want to put this distinction about Discourses... that came to me while reading only one news blog on this LA action (and NY reverse action)... it is that we citizens, leaders of all kinds, have to be honest about what is going on in a culture of fear--denial is deadly. The so-called "reasons" are that people have to be making "rational" and "reasonable" and "responsible" choices to protect the absolute safety of all their children and youth who are students under their care during a school day... but let us not be fooled (not anymore after what we learned in post-9/11)... that "Safety-Discourse" (or argument they make) is a "Fear-Discourse" in disguise, and their "Rational-Responsibility-Discourse" is a masked nightmare which is really "Irrational-Irresponsible-Discourse." 

They use language that is false and highly destructive. Anyone in high fear (panic) will do this to justify what they have done. In my view, and many others in the security business, and who study fear and social moral panics in a culture of fear... all of them will tell you how fear-based and irrational it is to do what the LA Education Officials did today... and one can only imagine how long they will keep doing it and/or other school districts will do likewise... I don't buy it for a minute that "safety first" is the only "first" value on the block... on the table... no, my friends, and fellow educators, what is first is Intelligence ... a good assessment of risks and costs... that actually comes before trying to secure safety... that's what all security experts will tell you... but when people are in fear of being sued because something horrible happens (and US society is really good at that-- finding someone to blame and sue)... then you have Fear running the entire program... and Educators of all, are people who should be well-educated about risk, fear, danger and their interrelationships. I have been trying to get Education Officials everywhere to listen to what good education exists out there... and how to operate from fearlessness not fear... in making any decision about anything... I always believed (ha ha) that Education was about fostering Intelligence... you can see what I am a big believer that Fear-Discourse rules Education (and has for a very long time)... 

Give me a shout... if you all want to know more... if you want to challenge me... go for it... respond on this blog, or email me rmfisher.88[at]

Oh, and Pres. Obama, you may want to look at my book I sent you near a yr. ago, offering to "educate" yourself and your governments on fear and fearlessness... that is, Intelligence as "first" and Safety as "second" (or third, or fourth)... that's another debate... a long one... for another time... 

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