American School Teacher and Author
John Taylor Gatto
American School Teacher and Author
The crime of mass forced schooling is this: it amputates the full argument and replaces it with engineered consensus.
Who besides a degraded rabble would voluntarily present itself to be graded and classified like meat? No wonder school is compulsory.
The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous.
Much of the weird behavior kids display is a function of the aperiodic reinforcement schedule. And the endless confinement and inactivity slowly drives children out of their minds. Trapped children, like trapped rats, need close management. Any rat psychologist will tell you that.
The strongest meshes of the school net are invisible. Constant bidding for a stranger’s attention creates a chemistry producing the common characteristics of modern schoolchildren: whining, dishonesty, malice, treachery, cruelty. Unceasing competition for official favor in the dramatic fish bowl of a classroom delivers cowardly children, little people sunk in chronic boredom, little people with no apparent purpose for being alive.
Growth and mastery come only to those who vigorously self-direct. Initiating, creating, doing, reflecting, freely associating, enjoying privacy—these are precisely what the structures of schooling are set up to prevent, on one pretext or another.
School is the first impression children get of organized society. Like most first impressions it is the lasting one. Life is dull and stupid, only Coke provides relief. And other products, too, of course.
Education is not just learning dates and events from history but learning to apply the lessons of lives well lived and lives poorly lived -- and how to tell the difference.
Education is not just learning the facts of science but learning why they matter and how to apply them ethically.
Education is not just learning to read but learning what to think about what you read and how to choose worthwhile reading material. It's about learning to discern truth and falsehood in what you read.
One of the most important decisions you'll ever make is who will educate your children.
I feel ashamed that so many of us cannot imagine a better way to do things than locking children up all day in cells instead of letting them grow up knowing their families, mingling with the world, assuming real obligations, striving to be independent and self-reliant and free.
Genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us.
Shouldn't we also ask ourselves what the consequences are of scrambling to provide the "most" of everything to our children in a world of fast dwindling resources?
I've noticed a facinating phenomenon in my thiry years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelvant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anyting except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the instituion overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers to care and do work very, very hard, the instituion is psychopathic -- it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.
I urge you to examine in your own mind the assumptions which must lay behind using the police power to insist that once-sovereign spirits have no choice but to submit to being schooled by strangers.
By preventing a free market in education, a handful of social engineers - backed by the industries that profit from compulsory schooling: teacher colleges, textbook publishers, materials suppliers, et al. - has ensured that most of our children will not have an education, even though they may be thoroughly schooled.
Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.
It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does.
When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks, they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease, if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.
I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the school institution "schools" very well, though it does not "educate"; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.
School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned.