Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Compulsory schooling is anathema to the American Way

Speaking of a society mainstreamed together by compulsory schooling and the devices (including press, radio, television) that facilitate the formulaic principles of obedience, blind loyalty and the regimentation of time and emotions that we're taught in those schools, John Taylor Gatto wrote:

We cannot grow or mature, like plants in too little flowerpots. We are addicted to dependency; in the current national crisis of maturity we seem to be waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do, but the teacher never comes to do that. Bridges collapse, men and women sleep on the streets, bankers cheat, good will decays, families betray each other, the government lies as a matter of policy--corruption, shame sickness and sensationalism are everywhere. No school has a curriculum to provide the quick fix.

The old Congregationalists would have been able to put their finger at once on the reason pyramidical societies, such as the one our monopoly form of schooling sustains, must always end in apathy and disorganization. At the root they are based on the lie that there is "one right way" in human affairs and the experts can be awarded the permanent direction of the enterprise of education. It is a lie because the changing dynamics of time and situation and locality render expertise irrelevant and obsolote shortly after it is anointed.

Monopoly schooling is the major cause of our loss of national and individual identity. Having institutionalized the division of social classes and acted as an agent of caste, it is repugnant to our founding myths and to the reality of our founding period. It's strength arises from many quartes, the antichild, antifamily stream of history being one-- but it draws it's greatest power from being a natural adjunct to the kind of commercial economy we have that requires permanently dissatisfied customers.
--pp 90-91

I had just written my entry on self sufficiency when I finished Dumbing Us Down. This passage really resonates with me because it captures nicely how I perceive modern day-to-day life. Americans in particular are just so confused about what goals they should be pursuing. Now in the greater scheme of things, I realize it is not up to me to determine what goals a human should set for himself, but I can stand honestly and say that those goals should not culminate in how much of the Target fall line resides in his closet. We're all so distracted by the accumulation and the "bling"--whatever bling means for you, be it fast cars, diamonds, wool yarn or artisan cheese-- that we get lost. The energy for true self-expression, not self expression using the latest fashions and toys, is gone or at best, waylaid.

What happens when the lights go out? The teacher is not coming.

I am proud to be among (and from, by the way) people who look past schooling as a means to education. You can obtain both simultaneously, yes; but more often than not school is perceived as something to be endured. Education is a lifelong process to those who truly value knowledge. A card-carrying Libertarian activist, I am out to protect our civil liberties, but as a well-schooled woman, never before recently would I have ever thought school was out to curtail them. Teachers may encourage you to think, but schools certainly don't want you to think too much. I started homeschooling my children for very different reasons than the ones now sustaining this effort. I hope it's enough.

I need to clarify: I don't think schools are evil. I love schools. I am a nerd. It is compulsory, generalized, rank and file public education that makes me want to implode. The children who don't fit into the boring, sit-down-and-regurgitate-what-I-said-to-you schoolrooms are summarily labeled with ADD or autism. If they don't pony up and trot when they "should," they must have a developmental disorder. It's not the child that's broken! Even the testers will tell you that the intelligence is there, apparent in the child. But those children don't fit in...to the school environment. They certainly find their way among their family, with their friends.... but the school is rigid. The assumption is now that the child must be repaired. I think not.

Gatto suggests the complete privatization of the school system. Give the money being funneled into this gargantuan set of industries -- the schools themselves, the textbook companies, the supplies manufacturers-- into schools that actually service the communities in which they exist. Waldorf, Montessori, Sudbury. Technical, Carpenters-- there are enormous varieties in schools that exist now that could have every child thrive. It can be done, but it's a scary process. And not one I have the leisure to wait for with my own children.


  1. School does not equal education. Even those at the highest levels are beginning to realize this, NCLB was their feeble attempt to do something about it.

    But I often wonder if *they* really want to fix the educational disaster in this country. If this nation suddenly turned out a generation of well educated students, who are taught to critically think, will the status quo survive? Do our companies want workers who will think for themselves, or do they want yes-men? Do advertisers want an audience who will question the integrity of an ad, or an audience that will mindlessly buy their product?

    This is about more than reading, writing and artithmetic.

    I have heard the term "human capital" used to describe public school students. These aren't potential profit makers, these are our nation's CHILDREN.

    The powers that be, and let's face it, the only true power in Washington lies with the lobby, don't want Americans to be self sufficient, critical thinkers. The bottom line for far too many companies would wind up in the basement. Too many government policies would be questioned. There would be a revolution of sorts that would outstrip the grassroots in a heartbeat. But if we are too busy buying the stuff that we are told that we must have, too busy making mortgage payments that we can't afford, too busy driving gas sucking SUVs that we can't afford, and too busy letting the establishment raise our children because we are too busy working to pay for all of our stuff, we don't see what is happening around us. They want it this way.

    And the best way to keep it this way is to insure that our children are even dumber and mindless than the adults are. And if our children don't fit this norm, drug them. If the adults don't fit the norm, drug them too.

    When the lights go out, NO ONE IS COMING. And your stuff goes bad, there is no gas for your SUV, and your kids run out of drugs. And you become disillusioned because no one prepared you. But isn't that the point here? Who is responsible for the preparation?

    Something has got to give in our society. We can't keep passing the buck, because the buck only goes so far before someone puts it in their pocket.


  2. Well written! I homeschool my three kids, one (academically)gifted, one ADHD, and one just plain weird, and this puts the finger on my reasons!