Sunday, 12 December 2010

John Taylor Gatto -Beyond Schooling - The Underground History of American Education

Because of this and other vital matters I made enemies of one and all!

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The Odysseus Group Fourth Purpose Films

Comments by Gatto | Brief Summary | Long Summary | I'd Like to Contribute! | The Odysseus Group Introduction | Intro Page 2 | The Episodes | Summary
What is The Fourth Purpose? | Technique, Style and Format
A Few Questions | Final Word



The Enigma of Public Schools
A Three-Episode, Six-Hour Documentary Series


One room schoolhouseThe Fourth Purpose will be the first documentary to provide a context within which the nature of the American public school system may be examined. Throughout history, schools have invariably offered their students guidance in achieving three key goals recognized as essential to living a meaningful existence:

  • To be a good person
  • To be a good citizen
  • To live the life one chooses
At the dawn of this new millennium, in the richest and most powerful nation on earth, is it not troubling to note that the school system which purports to serve more than 50 million of its children is routinely unable to deliver on any of those three goals? What is the reason for this? How badly damaged are our children? What can be done? These will be the questions addressed in our documentary as we explore our central theme: What is the purpose of the American public schools?

A nation that believes that it can live long, free and ignorant, believes what never was and never will be...
- Thomas Jefferson
[Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America
It would be a mistake to assume that the present-day educational system is unchanging. On the contrary, it is undergoing rapid change. But much of this change is no more than an attempt to refine the existent machinery, making it ever more efficient in pursuit of obsolete goals.
-Alvin Toffler
Comments by Gatto | Brief Summary | Long Summary | I'd Like to Contribute! | The Odysseus Group Introduction | Intro Page 2 | The Episodes | Summary
What is The Fourth Purpose? | Technique, Style and Format
A Few Questions | Final Word


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John Taylor Gatto’s Presentation Remarks
On The Fourth Purpose Film Series

For A New School of Thought
Project Introduction, May 15th 2003

I’m here to ask you to support the film, The Fourth Purpose, with money, ideas, work, and prayers, but without the money first, the rest of this airplane won’t fly. What we are after in this film is the destruction of the pernicious school myth, which has paralyzed social justice in the United States for a century. Schooling as we know it, is a powerful expression of the sickness of this society, not a cure for that sickness. While the myth lives, we will never revive the libertarian America most of us prefer in place of the present empire.


tavis cobum school documentary

This will be an outrageously entertaining film about schooling, with the entertainment part carrying the audience in and out of the tunnels of outrage. We aim to make a film that will permanently change the way the school debate is conducted. Bold, funny, astonishing, funny, intelligent, funny, informational, and transformational. And funny.

The model for reference is Ken Burns’ Civil War. When Mr. Burns approached the potential backers of his epic documentary, there had already been hundreds of films made about that war, and thousands of books written. Put yourself in the place of the folks listening to his opening argument: ‘…A 12-hour Civil War film—exclusively using still photographs, maps, and talking-head interviews…’—to go onto the huge heap of other coverage of that conflict. Wouldn’t sound promising to me. Yet enough people had faith that Burns could make us see the old chestnut in a new way, that he got his funding.

And 2.5 million American homes bought the Civil War series videotape, after the public broadcasts, to use it as a reference for themselves and their children. Every college and library in the land did, too.

Well today, 30 million American homes have children of school age, and every single one of us, or pretty nearly, went to school. It’s no idle ambition to say that we intend to end up in as many homes as Mr. Burns did, or that we expect to rival Shrek or Chicken Run with our animated history of schooling: two-hour segment alone.

The time for pussy-foot measures with the forced schooling institution is long past. It’s had over a century to prove itself and it is a ghastly failure.

What justice cries out for to break this logjam is shock treatment. Only a shocking bill of charges will wake the public up to the extent that the school argument will recover center stage. I know that ‘shocking’ sounds irresponsible, but in this instance you’d be misled if you thought disrespectful exaggeration and parody were the only ways to shock. Where schools are concerned there are mountains of shocking data of which the public is utterly unaware—accurate information, which is inherently destabilizing, subversive in the best sense. Within the past month, for instance, the admissions director of Harvard stated publicly to The New York Times, that Harvard turns down 80 percent of the valedictorians who apply because…Because Harvard only takes in kids with a track record of distinction. And being valedictorian doesn’t constitute evidence of distinction.

Grades not a mark of superiority? Imagine telling millions of school classes this at the beginning of each school year, posting a handbill to this effect on every bulletin board. And when the rioting died down, imagine what the teachers would say when asked, "Well, then, what is evidence of distinction?" How many could answer, do you suppose?

Now imagine dozens and dozens of pieces of similarly disquieting news, all true, communicated dramatically, even memorably, until a powerful tapestry is woven to reveal the degree to which our schools are a liar’s world. Imagine these kids and their families on the Internet, alerting everyone to the existence of such a treasure trove of truth, truth that reveals the inner logics of the school institution so that people are finally freed to think for themselves.

Laughing all the way, The Fourth Purpose will laugh this bizarre institution into tears. It will constitute an indigestible lump of laughter and well-earned scorn, which can neither be swallowed nor spit out by Schools. We shall pin the tail on this donkey once and for all. This dangerous donkey, I should say.
But think of our film as more thoughtful than humorous, more deadly serious than mocking.




Institutional schooling begins in this country in Boston, in 1851, in imitation of the Prussian model of 1819. From some measures there have been seventeen separate ‘reform’ movements nationally since then—every one of which has left forced schooling bigger, richer, and more dominant over the upbringing and future prospect of children.

To understand what defeats reform efforts, you have to peel back the layers of romantic rhetoric, the propaganda, the myths, and stare directly into the hearts and minds of those benevolent architects who gave us this radical institution. In the public mind, schools exist for three distinct purposes: 1) To make good people 2) To make good citizens 3) To make good lives by helping young people strive to be their personal best.

But since the Prussian school experiment, whose design has encompassed the totality of American government schooling since 1918, schools, stripped of the veils of romance, exist to facilitate the needs of a managerial utopia, a utopia whose ambition is nothing more nor less than social efficiency.

If you went back to the decades just before and just after WWI, you’d hear the term ‘social efficiency’ so often and from so many quarters: industry, commerce, religion, military, colleges and universities, that its meaning would hold no mystery. But these days you need a translator, so allow me. Hiding behind this technocratic metaphor is the simple idea: All of us are to be made perfectly and dependably manageable, using every trick of psychology, social pressure, or brute force known to history. Also, to make us more dependably predictable, in the interests of an economy of very big business, a tightly layered social order like England’s, and a big government whose agencies will coordinate and schedule just about everything in the life of the utopia.

To bring about such a result requires that most of us have to be infantilized—made childish—lifelong if possible. School has been the training laboratory for this project for between fifty and one hundred years, depending on the location. It is the most ambitious piece of social engineering in modern history, and has been a brilliant success in reaching its goals. Of course, these are hardly the goals of ordinary citizens, of families, of religions, or of cultures, but they most certainly are the goals of management, whether of business, army, or government.

As powerful and well funded as this monster is, it is at the same time, ironically, very delicate. Locally, it only takes a few determined people with staying power to temporarily grind these engines to a halt, sending reverberations of dissonance into every level of the system. Think only of the multi-billion dollar standardized testing aspect of the thing; with relatively little investment of time or money a well-orchestrated campaign to sabotage these instruments could be launched and prosecuted over the Internet. You need only think back to the mass of teenagers who brought the war in Vietnam to a premature conclusion, to see that an essential lynchpin of the fourth purpose system—testing—could quickly be destroyed. The fallout from such a termination would rock systematic schooling with unpredictable results for the stability of the institution.
But it would take a shelf full of books and journal articles to bring ordinary citizens who mow the grass and walk the dog and root for the Pittsburgh Steelers (Doesn’t everybody?) into a fully fleshed contextual understanding of this nightmare project to which they are, at present, inadvertently and unknowingly committed. And yet a film whose scenes would live in the imagination, one which could be invited home in video or digital form for repeated private showing, could go a long way in one shot to form the spirit of a resistance—a film which would know how to ask the right questions and pierce the smokescreen of illusion, which protects forced schooling.

And now you know our motives in trying to get this film made. We see our story unfolding in four parts: First, a comprehensive look at the Anomalies of Schooling, those contradictions which suggest either stupidity at work, or a purpose unstated; Second, an Animated History of the School Institution, culminating in the historical moment when the traditional purposes were derailed and the track preempted by The Fourth Purpose Express; Third, an eye-opening consideration of how the knowledgeable, the wealthy, and the powerful school their own children (in order, among other reasons, to be able to present evidence of distinction to Harvard!). At present, it’s our hope that this section will be written, produced, and directed by Lewis H. Lapham, editor of Harper’s Magazine, from whom we have a tentative commitment; and finally, Fourth, Breaking Out of the Trap, a focused consideration of various (already) working alternatives, which receive relatively little attention from the press.

For all the well-deserved criticisms that can be leveled against American political and economic management, it seems to me crucial to acknowledge that this is still the principal place on earth where serious criticism can be spoken without fear of prison—and with a decent chance of being heard and of making a difference.
Forced institutional Fourth Purpose schooling constitutes the major barrier on the road to a better society. By pre-empting the training of the young, and then mis-training those young deliberately, it guarantees social and economic stability at the cost of our chance to be better and of the very liberty promised in our founding papers. The price is too high. Fourth Purpose schooling must be locked back up in the Prussian box from which it escaped a century ago. Help us make this film to give courage, and a battle plan, to those who must undertake that struggle.





Continued Remarks by John Taylor Gatto
About Roland Legiardi-Laura, The Fourth Purpose
film series director: Who Is This Guy?


Roland—where to begin? I’ve known him for more than thirty years. And he can do anything—make miracles. Let me illustrate, let me prove this to you.

Look at his home all around you. This is his home. It used to be the dormitory of one of the Newsboys’ Lodging Houses, made famous by Horatio Alger…When Roland and a small group of his buddies got this place, it was a wreck. It looked like a place slated for demolition. Now it’s a registered city landmark building and Roland didn’t contract out the work; he couldn’t afford that. He personally did the plumbing, wiring, plastering, windows, and all the rest with his own bare hands. (And I wish he’d do mine!)
If you look out the windows over there, you’ll see beautiful little Tompkins Square Park—with one of the last stands of elm trees on the East Coast. Ten years ago that park was a disaster area, the trees in jeopardy. Then Roland and a few friends rolled up their sleeves and made the park’s rescue their own responsibility. Now look at it—an oasis.

If you turned left at the park and walked south a few more blocks, you’d be at the Nuyorican Poets Café, a world-famous venue for poetry, drama, and film. At least today it is. A dozen years ago it wasn’t much of anything, just a wreck of a building near the Hell’s Angels Headquarters, which once, back in glory days of the 1970s, had resonated with fresh voices and fresh dreams. Those dreams had gotten sidetracked. Roland played a vital role in giving this city back a unique institution, and he has served as a Poets Café Director for fifteen years. He invented a new art form at the Café, which is now imitated worldwide—The Fifth Night Screenplay Series—every week, for the past eight years, an original film script is read to a live audience by the best actors in New York City. Forty of these original scripts have already been made into films or optioned.

Each one of these prodigious accomplishments seemed impossible before he took them on. Just like his idea to make a film about poetry in Nicaragua, in the middle of its civil war, seemed impossible, even nuts. Well, I’m proud to say I gave him his first fifty bucks toward that crazy project, and even prouder to say that it won nine international film awards.

This guy comes by his interest in the film honestly, and personally, too. His uncle was Mischa Auer, the legendary lounge lizard, the houseguest from hell, in the great Hollywood comedies of the late 1930s and early 1940s, and his father directed the chariot race scenes in Ben Hur , while his mother played a slave girl. A decade before the Bolshevik Revolution, his great-grandad conducted the 3,000-piece orchestra of Nicholas II, the last Russian czar.

I hope you’ll help us raise the money for this film, because what Roland will direct will be a masterpiece.

Against School*
John Taylor Gatto**

How public education cripples our kids, and why

I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during
that time I became an expert in boredom. Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the
kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was
stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real,
not just sitting around. They said teachers didn't seem to know much about their subjects and clearly
weren't interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they
were.
Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers' lounge
can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there. When asked why
they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn't get bored teaching
students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that. Of course, teachers are themselves
products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and
as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the
children. Who, then, is to blame?

We all are. My grandfather taught me that. One afternoon when I was seven I complained to him of
boredom, and he batted me hard on the head. He told me that I was never to use that term in his presence
again, that if I was bored it was my fault and no one else's. The obligation to amuse and instruct myself
was entirely my own, and people who didn't know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible.
Certainly not to be trusted. That episode cured me of boredom forever, and here and there over the years I
was able to pass on the lesson to some remarkable student. For the most part, however, I found it futile to
challenge the official notion that boredom and childishness were the natural state of affairs in the
classroom. Often I had to defy custom, and even bend the law, to help kids break out of this trap.

The empire struck back, of course; childish adults regularly conflate opposition with disloyalty. I once
returned from a medical leave to discover that all evidence of my having been granted the leave had been
purposely destroyed, that my job had been terminated, and that I no longer possessed even a teaching
license. After nine months of tormented effort I was able to retrieve the license when a school secretary
testified to witnessing the plot unfold. In the meantime my family suffered more than I care to remember.
By the time I finally retired in 1991, I had more than enough reason to think of our schools - with their
long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers - as virtual factories of
childishness. Yet I honestly could not see why they had to be that way. My own experience had revealed
to me what many other teachers must learn along the way, too, yet keep to themselves for fear of reprisal:
if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an
education rather than merely receive a schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness -
curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight - simply by being more flexible about
time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what

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autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.

But we don't do that. And the more I asked why not, and persisted in thinking about the "problem" of
schooling as an engineer might, the more I missed the point: What if there is no "problem" with our
schools? What if they are the way they are, so expensively flying in the face of common sense and long
experience in how children learn things, not because they are doing something wrong but because they are
doing something right? Is it possible that George W. Bush accidentally spoke the truth when he said we
would "leave no child behind"? Could it be that our schools are designed to make sure not one of them
ever really grows up?

Do we really need school? I don't mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a
week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what?
Don't hide behind reading, writing, and arithmetic as a rationale, because 2 million happy homeschoolers
have surely put that banal justification to rest. Even if they hadn't, a considerable number of well-known
Americans never went through the twelve-year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out
all right. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln? Someone taught
them, to be sure, but they were not products of a school system, and not one of them was ever "graduated"
from a secondary school. Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn't go to high school,
yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry, like
Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers, like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret
Mead. In fact, until pretty recently people who reached the age of thirteen weren't looked upon as children
at all. Ariel Durant, who co-wrote an enormous, and very good, multivolume history of the world with her
husband, Will, was happily married at fifteen, and who could reasonably claim that Ariel Durant was an
uneducated person? Unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated.

We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of "success" as synonymous with, or at
least dependent upon, "schooling," but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial
sense. And plenty of people throughout the world today find a way to educate themselves without
resorting to a system of compulsory secondary schools that all too often resemble prisons. Why, then, do
Americans confuse education with just such a system? What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?
Mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915,
though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for throughout most of the nineteenth century. The
reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking,
threefold:

1) To make good people.
2) To make good citizens.
3) To make each person his or her personal best.

These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or
another as a decent definition of public education's mission, however short schools actually fall in
achieving them. But we are dead wrong. Compounding our error is the fact that the national literature
holds numerous and surprisingly consistent statements of compulsory schooling's true purpose. We have,
for example, the great H. L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of
public education is not

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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. That is its aim in the United States . . . and that is its aim everywhere
else.

Because of Mencken's reputation as a satirist, we might be tempted to dismiss this passage as a bit of
hyperbolic sarcasm. His article, however, goes on to trace the template for our own educational system
back to the now vanished, though never to be forgotten, military state of Prussia. And although he was
certainly aware of the irony that we had recently been at war with Germany, the heir to Prussian thought
and culture, Mencken was being perfectly serious here. Our educational system really is Prussian in
origin, and that really is cause for concern.

The odd fact of a Prussian provenance for our schools pops up again and again once you know to look for
it. William James alluded to it many times at the turn of the century. Orestes Brownson, the hero of
Christopher Lasch's 1991 book, The True and Only Heaven, was publicly denouncing the Prussianization
of American schools back in the 1840s. Horace Mann's "Seventh Annual Report" to the Massachusetts
State Board of Education in 1843 is essentially a paean to the land of Frederick the Great and a call for its
schooling to be brought here. That Prussian culture loomed large in America is hardly surprising, given
our early association with that utopian state. A Prussian served as Washington's aide during the
Revolutionary War, and so many German- speaking people had settled here by 1795 that Congress
considered publishing a German-language edition of the federal laws. But what shocks is that we should
so eagerly have adopted one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture: an educational system
deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students
appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens - all in order to render the
populace "manageable."

It was from James Bryant Conant - president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist,
WWII executive on the atomic-bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after
WWII, and truly one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century - that I first got wind of the
real purposes of American schooling. Without Conant, we would probably not have the same style and
degree of standardized testing that we enjoy today, nor would we be blessed with gargantuan high schools
that warehouse 2,000 to 4,000 students at a time, like the famous Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado.
Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant's 1959 book-length essay, The Child the Parent
and the State, and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modern schools
we attend were the result of a "revolution" engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines
to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis's 1918 book,
Principles of Secondary Education, in which "one saw this revolution through the eyes of a
revolutionary."

Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory
schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth
column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the
proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a
sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by

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age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that
the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole.
Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any
one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals
listed earlier:

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This,
of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or
interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know
whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is
to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those
who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role.
This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your
permanent record." Yes, you do have one.

4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by
role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So
much for making kids their personal best.

5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection
as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously
attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial
placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and
effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first
grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.

6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of
caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing
project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that
government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.
That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis
for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he
was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and
others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. Men like
George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood
that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but
also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time 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, among
them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

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There you have it. Now you know. We don't need Karl Marx's conception of a grand warfare between the
classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic or political, to dumb people
down, to demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don't conform.
Class may frame the proposition, as when Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said
the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons
to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in
every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult
manual tasks." But the motives behind the disgusting decisions that bring about these ends need not be
class-based at all. They can stem purely from fear, or from the by now familiar belief that "efficiency" is
the paramount virtue, rather than love, liberty, laughter, or hope. Above all, they can stem from simple
greed.

There were vast fortunes to be made, after all, in an economy based on mass production and organized to
favor the large corporation rather than the small business or the family farm. But mass production
required mass consumption, and at the turn of the twentieth century most Americans considered it both
unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn't actually need. Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that
count. School didn't have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because
it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all. And that left them sitting ducks for
another great invention of the modem era - marketing.

Now, you needn't have studied marketing to know that there are two groups of people who can always be
convinced to consume more than they need to: addicts and children. School has done a pretty good job of
turning our children into addicts, but it has done a spectacular job of turning our children into children.
Again, this is no accident. Theorists from Plato to Rousseau to our own Dr. Inglis knew that if children
could be cloistered with other children, stripped of responsibility and independence, encouraged to
develop only the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy, and fear, they would grow older but never
truly grow up. In the 1934 edition of his once well-known book Public Education in the United States,
Ellwood P. Cubberley detailed and praised the way the strategy of successive school enlargements had
extended childhood by two to six years, and forced schooling was at that point still quite new. This same
Cubberley - who was dean of Stanford's School of Education, a textbook editor at Houghton Mifflin, and
Conant's friend and correspondent at Harvard - had written the following in the 1922 edition of his book
Public School Administration: "Our schools are . . . factories in which the raw products (children) are to
be shaped and fashioned.. . . And it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the
specifications laid down."

It's perfectly obvious from our society today what those specifications were. Maturity has by now been
banished from nearly every aspect of our lives. Easy divorce laws have removed the need to work at
relationships; easy credit has removed the need for fiscal self-control; easy entertainment has removed the
need to learn to entertain oneself; easy answers have removed the need to ask questions. We have become
a nation of children, happy to surrender our judgments and our wills to political exhortations and
commercial blandishments that would insult actual adults. We buy televisions, and then we buy the things
we see on the television. We buy computers, and then we buy the things we see on the computer. We buy
$150 sneakers whether we need them or not, and when they fall apart too soon we buy another pair. We
drive SUVs and believe the lie that they constitute a kind of life insurance, even when we're upside-down
in them. And, worst of all, we don't bat an eye when Ari Fleischer tells us to "be careful what you say,"
even if we remember having been told somewhere back in school that America is the land of the free. We

Against School - John Taylor Gatto

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5 of 7 11/29/09 4:13 PM

simply buy that one too. Our schooling, as intended, has seen to it.

Now for the good news. Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are
fairly easy to avoid. 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.

** 09/2003 Harper's Magazine. Copyright of "Against School" is the property of Harper's
Magazine. Its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written
permission except for the print or download intended solely for the use of the individual user.
Content provided by EBSCO Publishing.

* John Taylor Gatto is a former New York State and New York City Teacher of the Year and the
author, most recently, of The Underground History of American Education. He was a participant
in the Harper's Magazine forum "School on a Hill," which appeared in the September 2001 issue.
You can find his web site here.

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The Underground History of American Education « John Taylor Gatto « Books pdf « Downloads

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John Taylor Gatto’s seminal work establishing the true nature and purpose of American “Education”. An entertaining read with sources of information provided Gatto makes an airtight case against western “education”.
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  • DAMN IT, OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT THE PROPERTY OF THE STATE, CORPORATIONS OR TEACHERS! (BAFS)
  • Michael Gove axes six-week summer holidays for schools

    The education secretary is warned a 'free for all' could emerge after headteachers get the freedom to set their own term dates
    Micgael Gove aexs six week school summer holidays
    Michael Gove floated the idea earlier this year when he complained that the structure of the school term 'was designed when we had an agricultural economy'. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

    The tyranny of the summer school break – an unbroken six weeks of freedom for pupils and inflated holiday costs for their parents – could soon be over, after the Department for Education announces that all schools are to get the power to set their own term dates.

    The change is included in the government's deregulation bill, which removes the role of local authorities in fixing the dates of school terms and leaves the decision to school leaders and governors.

    However, some school leaders warn that too much variation could lead to chaos for families with children at different schools.

    Academies, free schools and voluntary-aided and foundation schools already have the ability to set their teaching hours and term dates. Among those doing so is Boulevard academy in Hull, which plans to reduce its summer break to four weeks. Andy Grace, the headteacher, says the extra two weeks of school will help parents who struggle with childcare for the longer holiday.

    The new legislation extends the freedom to all state-maintained schools as the education secretary, Michael Gove, pushes for a rewriting of state teachers' terms and conditions through the independent School Teachers' Review Body.

    The change is due to take place from September 2015, affecting the 70% of state primary schools and 30% of state secondaries still under local authority control.

    "It is heads and teachers who know their parents and pupils best, not local authorities. So it is right that all schools are free to set their own term dates in the interests of parents and pupils," a spokesman for the Department for Education said.

    Under the rules the school year will still have a minimum 190 days of term time. Currently, pupils get six to seven weeks off in the summer, with two weeks at each of Christmas and Easter as well as three week-long half-term breaks.

    Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the new timetables could mean difficulties for parents with children at different schools. "Most schools choose to follow the local authority calendar because they know that it's better for parents who have children in different schools and teachers who want their holidays to coincide with their children's," Lightman said.

    "The problem will come if no one is responsible for creating a co-ordinated calendar for an area and it turns into a free-for-all. Somebody needs to take the lead locally on deciding term dates and it makes sense for this to be the local authority, even if schools aren't required by law to follow it."

    The change was floated earlier in the year by Gove, who complained that "the structure of the school term and the school day was designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy".

    The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, last month supported a similar move, saying that all schools should be able to offer longer school terms and extra classes without having to "jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops".
     
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    Belarion Armillus Al Dajjal
    Jack Parsons - Scientist of the Apocalypse

    All our institutions in the Dajjalic West and even Churches and Masajid ("Mosques") are owned or controlled by Satan, the Jewish-Judaic Qabbalah and the Illuminati, but how many of us, including the Atheists, really give a damn?
    Religions (except the Satanic ones!) and God(s) (except Lucifer!) have failed us!  BAFS
     

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