This is going to be short. I’m in a rush. But I really want to share it.
John Taylor Gatto was a veteran teacher (an award-winning teacher) before he became an author and lecturer. I can’t believe I never heard of him in all my years as a teacher. But I’m reading him now.
In John Taylor Gatto’s “Against School: How Public Education Cripples Our Kids, and Why,” he calls schools “virtual factories of childishness” –places where children are taught to be immature, passive, bored, boring and unintellectual. Gatto quotes H.L. Mencken, who said that the aim of public schools was not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. . . . Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim.. . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”
“Against School: How Public Education Cripples Our Kids, and Why” brings up important historical, controversial, philosophical issues; I wonder (rhetorically) : why didn’t anyone introduce me to the writings of Gatto when I was in my teacher education program?
Gatto cites the (mostly horrifying) writings and doings of James Bryant Conant, Alexander Inglis, and others who promoted the changes to U.S. education many, many years ago and who helped give birth to what we have today: “not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers… a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education,” –the notion that it’s in the best interests of big business as well as big government to keep the masses uniform, unintellectual, and dependent.
Doesn’t that immediately bring to your mind the more recent speech of Common Core-financier Bill Gates, in which Gates refers to schools, students, and taxpayers as the “uniform customer base”? Watch that one minute clip.
In his conclusion, Gatto writes:
“Now for the good news… School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they’ll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology – all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.
First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don’t let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a preteen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there’s no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”
Read the rest here.