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The Underground History of American Education 1346

Chris Acheson writes "John Taylor Gatto is a former New York City school teacher. During his 30-year career, he has taught at 5 different public schools, has had his teaching license suspended twice for insubordination, and was once covertly terminated while on medical leave. He has also won the New York City Teacher of the Year award three times and the New York State Teacher of the Year award once during the final year of his career. The whole time he has been an outspoken critic of the school system. Nine years after leaving his career, he published The Underground History of American Education (full text available here), in which he puts forth his insider's vision of what is wrong with American schooling. His verdict is not what you'd expect: the school system cannot be fixed, Gatto asserts, because it has been designed not to educate. Skeptical? So was I." Read on for the rest of Acheson's review.
The Underground History of American Education
author John Taylor Gatto
pages 700
publisher Oxford Village Press
rating 9
reviewer Chris Acheson
ISBN 0945700040
summary A damning look at the institution of modern compulsory schooling and the factors which brought it about.

The true purpose of schooling, according to Gatto, is to produce an easily manageable workforce to serve employers in a mass-production economy. Actual education is a secondary and even counterproductive result since educated people tend to be more difficult to control.

Over the course of the book, Gatto exposes many of the individuals, organizations, and crises (both real and manufactured) that helped to make our public school system what it is today. Such architects as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, and a handful of teaching and management experts sought to benefit directly from a dumbed-down citizenry. Others contributed in a naive attempt at Utopian social engineering, mostly unaware of the harm that they were doing. There was never any master plan, though. The author puts it best:

With conspiracy so close to the surface of the American imagination and American reality, I can only approach with trepidation the task of discouraging you in advance from thinking my book the chronicle of some vast diabolical conspiracy to seize all our children for the personal ends of a small, elite minority.

Don't get me wrong, American schooling has been replete with chicanery from its very beginnings: indeed, it isn't difficult to find various conspirators boasting in public about what they pulled off. But if you take that tack you'll miss the real horror of what I'm trying to describe, that what has happened to our schools was inherent in the original design for a planned economy and a planned society laid down so proudly at the end of the nineteenth century. I think what happened would have happened anyway-without the legions of venal, half-mad men and women who schemed so hard to make it as it is. If I'm correct, we're in a much worse position than we would be if we were merely victims of an evil genius or two.

Gatto maintains throughout the book that all individuals have an innate curiosity and desire to learn. Examples are given in the first chapter of prominent historical figures who prospered with little or no formal schooling. But I found the examples of desire for substantive education on the part of "the masses" to be most compelling:
When a Colorado coalminer testified before authorities in 1871 that eight hours underground was long enough for any man because "he has no time to improve his intellect if he works more," the coaldigger could hardly have realized his very deficiency was value added to the market equation.
The real function of the school system is not to empower people by giving them knowledge, but to crush this instinct toward self-improvement before it makes the workers too independent and troublesome. Another compelling example is the "Jewish Student Riots" described in chapter 9:
Thousands of mothers milled around schools in Yorkville, a German immigrant section, and in East Harlem, complaining angrily that their children had been put on "half-rations" of education. They meant that mental exercise had been removed from the center of things.

The book does have a few problems. Gatto is by his own admission somewhat casual about citing his sources. This is important because there are some assertions made that many will find dubious. For example:

Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered.
This would be a great fact to toss out when trying to convince someone that schooling is unnecessary. But where does this statistic come from? What does "wherever such a thing mattered" mean? Some readers may be willing to simply take Gatto's word for it and accept this assertion, but skeptics will be left unsatisfied. According to historical census data from 1840, the national average literacy rate for white adults was indeed approximately 93%, and the literacy rate for white adults living in Connecticut was 99.67%. Why not simply say that the statistic refers to white adults? The omission hurts the author's credibility in the eyes of a skeptical reader.

The other thing that I found disappointing is that Gatto doesn't discuss solutions to the schooling problem as thoroughly as I wanted. Throughout the book examples are shown of educational methods which have worked well. As I read, I mulled these over, and anticipated that the final chapter (titled "Breaking Out Of The Trap") would be a comprehensive look at these methods and ways to promote their implementation. But that final chapter is mostly a collection of anecdotes. Gatto does provide a short list of positive suggestions and a promise to cover solutions more fully in a future book.

The picture that Gatto paints for us of our school system and society is frightening, but I also found it comforting to see evidence that ignorance and apathy are not the natural state of humanity. I found hope in the fact that things were once different. Having a clearly defined problem that can be solved is preferable to having a vague suspicion that something is wrong, but no clear idea what it is.

The ideas presented in Gatto's Underground History have the potential to change our society and our individual lives for the better. Even when we are trapped within the system, knowing how it works and what it is really up to can help us retain our wit and our humanity. If you are a student, if you are a parent, if you know or care about anyone who is in school, or even if you are just concerned about corporate and government control versus individual freedom, you need to read this book.

You can purchase The Underground History of American Education from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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The Underground History of American Education

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  • by flint ( 118836 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:16PM (#10179588)
    it's no wonder he's written a tell-all book. Those who take the Vow of Poverty need to make a buck.
    • by mcovey ( 794220 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:08PM (#10182068) Journal
      Schools are not designed not to teach, kids are designed, or molded not to learn. Today was my first day of school as a junior. I have a civics class and to get an idea the teacher held up a picture of george bush and said: who's this. 80% of the class said bush and ~20% said the president. Then Cheny, only about 20% knew this one, and I answered cheny. Then kerry/edwards. Some said howard dean, someone said "didn't he drop out so that cheny you just held up could run?" and only a few knew who edwards was. Nobody had heard of the swiftboat/kerry/vietnam contreversy or the bush/national guard contreversy except me and my brother, out of a class of about 20. Kids today are too preoccupied with music and friends and being "cool" to care. Listen I'm one cool cat ;-) and I am plenty aware of the events going on in the world. My cisco systems networking, British English 12 and Precalculus classes are going to be HARD. Kids just decide to play dumb and take geometry junior year, rather than work hard, push themselves and move faster. It's pathetic and I blame the media and these hippy parents.
  • by outZider ( 165286 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:17PM (#10179599) Homepage
    Fans of Daniel Quinn should take note that this very idea has been around in both Ishmael and The Story of B. Our educational system isn't designed for learning, per se, but to train kids to be proper working adults, and to make sure they know how life "really works" in our culture.

    There are always exceptions to the rule -- you will always find a teacher willing to go the extra mile, or a student who rises far above the rest. Mediocrity reigns in the American public school system, and it isn't going to change any time soon.
    • by CWCarlson ( 2884 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:01PM (#10180305)
      While the idea is vaguely outlined in both of those books, it is explored in greater detail in My Ishmael [amazon.com]. In it, Quinn goes on to explain that another significant goal of the educational system is to keep young people out of the workforce. If young adults started flooding the blue-collar job market (as they certainly would if compulsory education weren't the law), we'd have an even more severe unemployment problem than we do currently.

      It's nice to see that a person as public and respected as Gatto is starting to say these things.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:18PM (#10179617)
    Children should be with their parents and extended family. Having transient adult figures isn't the way to be raised.
    Children shouldn't spend all day with their human contact being dominated by others of exactly the same age. A child should have contact with a wide range of age groups.
    Children should be being taught by example.
    Children should learn the values needed to want to learn and understand the reasons why they should. Passing an exam doesn't make a person a good person, nor productive, nor creative, nor caring.
    The longer a modern education system is present in a society, the more the society dies.
    • by mdielmann ( 514750 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:59PM (#10180250) Homepage Journal
      Clearly there are a number of uninformed people with mod points today.

      The best way to learn to be something is to observe and emulate that which you wish to be. A fair number of sociologists have stated that the most important part of socialisation of children is from their interaction with their parents. There are a lot of opinions on this subject, but this is not a fringe opinion.

      This seems obvious, but can be missed when it opposes a common opinion, not unlike whether the earth revolved around the sun, or vice versa. This is the flow of the entire parent post (with the exception of the last statement), which I will enumerate.

      Children should be with their parents and extended family. Having transient adult figures isn't the way to be raised.

      If you want your kids to be like you, they have to know what you are like. This requires spending time with them, and letting your values show through.

      Children shouldn't spend all day with their human contact being dominated by others of exactly the same age. A child should have contact with a wide range of age groups.

      The goal of any parent should be to raise healthy, well-adjusted adults. Again, on the premise of emulation, that will not occur if the majority of their formative years (not counting sleeping time) are spent with something other than adults.

      Children should be being taught by example.

      I can't put it any more succinctly, but will add this. Adults learn through emulation, as well. Much of our learning is through texts/instruction, but most technical careers, and just about all less technical careers (manual labour, service industry, etc.) use a mentoring/apprenticeship element in some part of the training (in medicine, it's called residency). Why would children be different?

      Children should learn the values needed to want to learn and understand the reasons why they should.

      This is a concept that is beyond most children without seeing it somewhere else first. Sometimes delaying gratification has its benefits. This will be shown in a number of areas, such as a person's work ethic, how much they are willing to save, their desire to keep fit, and more. You will rarely learn this from your peers, and school puts almost no focus on this (beyond the technical elements).

      To dismiss this out of hand is a clear indicator that no thought has been put into this topic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:19PM (#10179630)
    My mother is a school librarian in NY and she has told me how Bush's current plan means that teachers teach tests instead of lessons, but I agree with this guy; it seems evident that the school system was designed to make quasi-educated, but more importantly obedient factory workers. You want your workers to be able to read instructions, etc, but not much more; not think on their feet or anything. Its the only explanation for the disparity between college and primary school; and now that everyone is going to college, it's becoming the difference between a masters and a bachelors.
    • by jayayeem ( 247877 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:33PM (#10179837)
      New York has 'taught to the test' a lot longer than Bush has been president. I moved to NY state when I was high school age, and spent 3 years learning to take 'Regent's exams.'
  • Quick Intro (Score:5, Informative)

    by Euphonious Coward ( 189818 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:19PM (#10179638)
    A quick intro to the ideas explained at length in the book may be found at The Six Lesson Schoolteacher [cantrip.org], from an article by Gatto published in Whole Earth Review in 1991.
  • On a similar topic: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tar-Palantir ( 590548 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:20PM (#10179648)
    I haven't read Gatto's book (though I should). I do have a recommendation for a similar work though: James Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me". It doesn't take on the whole education system (it's American history specific), but he does show at length that American history is deliberately taught in a way that discourages critical thought, heroizes the government, and suppresses historical dissent. Great read. Now I have to read the book actually reviewed...
    • by LaCosaNostradamus ( 630659 ) <LaCosaNostradamu ... m ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday September 08, 2004 @10:24AM (#10188654) Journal
      American history is deliberately taught in a way that discourages critical thought, heroizes the government, and suppresses historical dissent

      The antidote to this is Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States". Zinn's PHOTUS should be required reading in all American junior high schools. In contrast, I think a teacher would probably be fired (or strung up) for attempting to use it. America's dumbass parents don't want to hear about how American strikers were machine-gunned in the 1930s. Better for them to continue thinking happy thoughts about their beloved Land of the Free. {snort}
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:21PM (#10179654)
    If you've worked with little kids, one of the first things you notice is that almost every single one of them really, really wants to learn.

    But somehow, during about K-4th grade, most of the kids in the US educational system seem to have that crushed out of them.

    Personally, I don't think the schools are wholly to blame. Quite a lot of it is cultural. Kids learn early -- from TV, from movies, and even from books -- that it's cool to be ignorant, it's cool to be a wiseass, but it's never cool to be a nerd.
    • by solios ( 53048 )
      If memory serves, it didn't become Cool To Be Stupid until I was in eighth or ninth grade, which would have been the mid nineties: at which point even the smart kids I'd been in the gifted program with were acting like complete fucking retards because it was the in thing to do. :|

      Stupid conformity.
    • by NoData ( 9132 )
      You're right. But, consider our modern "service" society. What if everyone "self-actualized" their free-thinking, intellectually-curious, self-motivated selves? Who'd work the cubicles? Who'd work the phone support? Who'd flip the burgers? Drones are what we get because, in the end, drones are what we need.

      I recommend "The Technological Society" by philosopher Jacques Ellul. Basically, he argues post-industrial revolution, the whole Socratic notion of "know thyself" as the raison d'etre for the h
    • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:11PM (#10180460) Homepage Journal
      Didn't work for my kids... they see my wife and me almost constantly reading (even if a lot of it is on the Internet) and they are exposed to our interests in learning. In addition to being the ubiquitous (for /.) computer nerd, I also spend a lot of time reading physics and math. My wife loves history and even gives tours at the nearby Civil War battlefield. Our kids have the typical interests of kids (video games, Pokemon, etc), but are also very interested in science and history (among other things) because they get exposed to it. My oldest son (10) wants to be a scientist/inventor and my second oldest (8) wants to be a marine biologist and/or an astronaut. Granted we are not the typical family but neither are we those high-pressure overachieving types. The real culture that affects kids at that age is at home. I know by time I was old enough to be exposed to significant peer pressure, I was perfectly comfortable with the idea of being a nerd and enjoying learning because that's the way I was raised.

    • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:18PM (#10180564)
      If you've worked with little kids, one of the first things you notice is that almost every single one of them really, really wants to learn.

      But somehow, during about K-4th grade, most of the kids in the US educational system seem to have that crushed out of them.

      I work with kids anywhere from 4 years old to 15 on a regular basis. Kids are curious - yes. Kids want to learn what's important for them to learn - no. They want to learn about what they think is cool.

      Think back to your high school days. How many of the courses did you take that you actually cared about? Given the option, would you have been in that school, or been outside playing or at home playing computer games? How many of these courses that you didn't care about then, are you glad you took now?

      The whole premise behind the school system is that there are things kids Need To Know, and they're going to learn them whether they care about them at the time or not. Every time I hear someone suggest that kids should only learn what they're interested in I shake my head. It's only _after_ you need it that you realize what you needed to know, and very few kids have "planning for the future" as a priority at all.

      In summary, your observations are adequately explained by kids not being interested in complex subjects they don't care about, not by their desire to learn being "crushed" by some oppressive authority.
  • This is brilliant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pi_0's don't shower ( 741216 ) <ethan@isp[ ]rthw ... u ['.no' in gap]> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:21PM (#10179665) Homepage Journal
    This is so on-point it's frightening. I was a high school teacher in Los Angeles from 2000-2001, and it's frightening how much of what is articulated in this exerpt I *experienced*.

    We had a principal who was fantastic, because he was a former teacher from the area. But when he was replaced by someone with more "administrative experience" it was appalling how quickly things declined. Children aren't held to standards, parents come at odds with teachers, administrators point the finger at teachers, and the children are the ones left out in the cold.

    In just one year there, I was chastised for
    1) Driving students home to bad neighborhoods after dark.
    2) Creating an extra-curricular dance program that "interfered" with the students curriculum.
    3) Attempting to engage students with "dangerous" science demonstrations (i.e. using a bunsen burner constitutes dangerous, using 1 Tesla Magnets constitutes dangerous.)
    4) Breaking up a fight with my bare hands (I was chastised for "laying my hands" upon the students.)

    The list goes on. I truly believe that the entire system needs reform, from the bottom up and the top down. But without involved parents, administrators who take full responsibility, students who are forced to live with their choices instead of having excuses made for them, and up to date equipment and books, it truly is a lost cause except for the few self-motivated students.
    • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:37PM (#10179905)
      All of those examples seem to be primarily liability issues. So your problems may be the lawyers, not the schools. Which I can well believe.
    • by kevlar ( 13509 )
      This is why you send your kids to a reputable private school. In private schools the only thing you might see is parents getting pissed at teachers, but in any decent school the parents won't win (the exception is when money is involved but that is a rare occasion!).
      • by bomb_number_20 ( 168641 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:33PM (#10180788)
        Please. What you are suggesting creates an economic barrier to basic childhood education. Not everyone can afford to send their kids to a private school. Everyone should, however, have the right to a decent education.

        As funding for public schools continues to decline, it creates a larger separation between the rich and the poor and ensures an ongoing supply of worker bees. What I get out of your comment is that 'real' learning and knowledge should be constrained to private institutions where only the affluent have access. The public school joke is for the rest.

        IMO, This continues into college as well. What do you think the real advantages are of going to places like Harvard or Yale? Sure, the quality of education is good, but more importantly, the students who go there are sons and daughters of presidents, senators and CEOs. They are all socializing with each other and building relationships that they carry with them when they are running the country in 20 years. It is nearly impossible for the average person to make similar 'connections'.

        If we concentrate the learning into private schools, we are extending this problem into grade, middle and high schools and causing even further stratification between the upper and lower classes.

        public school sucks, but I don't agree with the 'oh well, send them to private school' solution.
    • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <{gorkon} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:59PM (#10180256)
      No the problem is NOT that the parents are involved....it's that they are NOT involved in their children's life. They are too preoccuipied with getting that Beamer then making sure that Johnny does his homework.

      That may or may not be the parent's fault. I have seen some parents who want to spend time with their kid, but can't because they have to go to work at 5 am to beat the traffic and they end up staying past 6 so they can avoid the traffic. Noone eats together any more (even my extended family has great difficulty getting thigns together during the holidays) and we spend many a off day at the office (if your in IT) so you can apply that patch during the downtime(doesn't happen much but it does happen).

      I have also seem some parents who don't give a crap about their kids. They figure once they are old enough to go to school that it's the schools problem...but then they come back on the teachers and say don't punish my kid. What are teachers to do? First thing I will tell my son's teacher is that they have my permission to punish him. If he is in a fight, they can put their hands on him and break it up. That's fine by me.
  • Premise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:21PM (#10179666) Homepage Journal
    he true purpose of schooling, according to Gatto, is to produce an easily manageable workforce to serve employers in a mass-production economy. Actual education is a secondary and even counterproductive result since educated people tend to be more difficult to control.

    I could agree with this, were my school more like a trade school, which it wasn't. Most of my elementary and later teachers actually encouraged some level of independent thinking and creativity -- others were often astounded whenever a student thought of 'the third way' One particularly poor teacher, 2nd grade, seemed only there for the money or until she could get somewhere else -- I was frequently on her bad side and grew to loathe school, prefering to be tardy by as much as 2 hours roaming woods and poking around a creek for frogs and snakes.

    I'm more likely to believe the role of schools in NYC was to keep the little animals manageable by compressing their little minds into a one-size-fits-all mould.

    I'd later find I had a very high IQ and did exceptionally well in college, after graduating highschool only by the merest of threads.

    If you have a kid and your kid seems disinterested or hostile about going to school, you might consider getting more involved and learn about the teacher and the school. At an early age contending with a poor teacher can have a lifelong impact.

  • Educational Triage (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TrentL ( 761772 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:24PM (#10179703) Homepage
    Interesting ideas.

    My problem with current education is the ridiculous "leave no child behind" mentality. We don't need to send all these people to college. Let's be realistic about that and send some of them on the path to a meaningful trade. High school is all "college college college", and as a result, lots of kids get NOTHING out of it (and a bad side effect is that college is becoming the new high school with an influx of immature students). So, my proposed Triage:

    Kids who want to go to college.
    Kids who want to learn a trade skill.
    Punks who are on their way to prison. Priority #1 is separating this group from the first two.
    • I couldn't agree more.

      I taught a MATH 051 course my last year of college. This class covered nothing harder than learning how to figure percentages and doing basic conversions (ft. -> cm. and such). And yet of the entire 18 students (it was a small school, but this was one of 4 different sections of this class) I think 2 finished with a grade higher than a B.

      I asked them what they did when they went shopping and saw "20% Off"? Did they automatically assume they were getting a deal? And one girl told
    • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:38PM (#10179921) Journal
      What about "Kids who have no idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives"?

      That would be a bigger group than any one of yours.
    • by fbg111 ( 529550 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:57PM (#10180222)
      We don't need to send all these people to college. Let's be realistic about that and send some of them on the path to a meaningful trade.

      Considering that many colleges are glorified trade schools now anyway, I won't protest too strongly. But theoretically, college should be a place where students are taught the liberal arts that produce an educated, informed, and critcally-thinking citizenry necessary for democracy. History, Philosophy, Art, and Literature are all super-important in that respect, and one reason our society has become so dumbed-down and easily manipulated by politicians, the media, and large corporations is that people no longer see value in learning anything other trade-skills that will get them a job and some income as soon as possible. So theoretically, if colleges were still doing their job of reliably providing that liberal (as in classical, Enlightenment Liberal, not today's left-of-center political liberal) education, I would disagree with your assessment that not everyone needs college. But as things are today, I won't protest too much...
    • by wormbin ( 537051 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:26PM (#10180694)

      There is already a working example of this: : the German school system [thinkquest.org] (warning, this link contains cheesy midi music)

      They have have several different schools, some of which are geared for a working occupation and one (Gynasium) which is for univerisity bound kids. Kids are slotted into these schools at a very young age--10yo I think. One of the things that makes this work is that (supposedly) training in a tradeskill is not associated with low prestige like it is in the states. Being a cook or a car mechanic gets a fair amount of respect and does not result in a salary that is 1/10 of a doctor.

      I'm not German so if there are any Deutchlanders out there that can comment on their experiences with this system I would appreciate it.

    • by zoombat ( 513570 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:33PM (#10180802)
      Actually, that's essentially what they call tracking [psparents.net]. And it is controversial [stanford.edu]. Essentially because people who get tracked into the top levels tend to do very well surrounded by other kids who are intelligent, motivated, and supported. But those tracked into the middle or lower levels don't do well, and usually benefit greatly from being mixed in with the more advanced students.

  • by ACK!! ( 10229 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:27PM (#10179745) Journal
    Outside of the most ardent libertarians no one is seriously talking about chunking the one tax funded public institution which is literally the closest with local school boards to the electorate, the public school system.

    So for a public school system to survive what do we as a society need to do?

    Are voucher systems somehow the silver bullet or does that simply stretch public funds to private hands and further deplete the money to be spent on public education?

    Or perhaps what does real accountability mean? Or does it just mean more teaching to the tests?

    Is it the teachers fault or does society blame the teachers too much?

    What can we do?

    • by Solder Fumes ( 797270 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:54PM (#10180161)
      Homeschooling works. If the public schools were eliminated, along with the associated massive government expenditures, maybe taxpayers could actually survive on one income. You could still have private schools for certain situations, and teachers would become journeyman tutoring consultants to teach where needed.

      Don't tell me this would be worse than our current system. It's not possible to be worse. Maybe it would be a little tougher for people to not have government daycare, but then maybe they would realize that those last 12 years of childhood are the most amazing.
    • Solutions?

      We homeschool our children...

      I think a very good solution would be vouchers.

      I should be able to take ~my tax dollars~ and spend them in any way I like.

      If the local school is a good one, I'll spend them there. If the local school is bad, I'll spend my dollars at a private school or a charter school.

      Vouchers don't take money away from the local schools... it puts the money in the hands of the parents.

    • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:55PM (#10181122) Homepage
      Are voucher systems somehow the silver bullet

      They sort of are.

      The real silver bullet is an effective system of negative feedback. When the schools do a bad job, they need to be punished, and when they do a good job, they need to be rewarded. A simple idea.

      Simple, yes, but hard to do in real life. Teachers' unions, educational bureaucracies all the way up to the federal level, politicians making promises... all of these things can complicate the school system to the point where incompetence isn't punished, nor excellence rewarded. And attempts to use standardised tests to guarantee that kids are taught well, just mean that teachers will wind up "teaching the test".

      The best thing you can hope to do is to allow parents to move their kids around to the best schools. This will not, itself, fix the problem instantly; but it will introduce an element of feedback into the system. Over time, this will inevitably force the schools to improve.

      If a restaurant has poor food, people will take their business to other restaurants. It doesn't matter what kind of union the cooks have, it doesn't matter what kind of promises politicians might have made, etc. If the customers vote with their feet, the better restaurants will prosper and the worst ones will have to close. The same thing would happen with schools, but it would take longer (people eat several meals per day, but they would probably leave their kids in any particular school for at least a few months before deciding to move the kids somewhere else).

      I have debated this issue in the past with some people who claimed that parents must not be trusted to choose schools for their kids. That's lunacy. There will be a few bad parents, but by far most parents really want what is best for their kids. The parents and kids together are the best judges of how well a school is serving them.

      Note that middle-class and upper-class parents already have some freedom to pick schools; I know my parents, whenever we moved, would carefully consider what the schools were like, and they would only move someplace where the schools were decent. The poorest people, who are trapped in the bad part of town (no money to move somewhere else), those are the ones who really want school vouchers.

      By the way, public school systems spend a lot of money per student. The vouchers are generally for less than the public school system would have spent on a student. If a student takes a $3000 voucher and goes to a private school, that is usually a net profit for the public school. In my state, the average per-student spending is $9,454 per year [washingtonpolicy.org].

      For more on vouchers, click here: http://www.cato.org/research/education/vouchers.ht ml [cato.org]

  • by fbg111 ( 529550 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:28PM (#10179762)
    The true purpose of schooling, according to Gatto, is to produce an easily manageable workforce to serve employers in a mass-production economy. Actual education is a secondary and even counterproductive result since educated people tend to be more difficult to control.

    To anyone interested in this topic, I'd suggest also reading Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt's book, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America [deliberate...ngdown.com] . It'll make you want to homeschool your kids.
  • He also explains... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paulrothrock ( 685079 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:28PM (#10179767) Homepage Journal
    Why school is a society based on popularity. In a culture where people don't do any actual work all day (eg. school, wealthy ladies who leech off their husbands), that society invariably turns against itself, creating arbitrary judgements about the value of its members.

    Gatto's got it almost right, and has a lot of good ideas. Like having kids work from 14 on.

  • by cunniff ( 264218 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:28PM (#10179783) Homepage
    Caveat: I did not read the whole book, just browsed through the online pages. However, this seems like a classic example of the "hasty generalization" fallacy (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/hasty%2 0generalization [thefreedictionary.com]). The author extrapolates his personal experiences and assumes that they are representative of the whole nation's school system, weaving a conspiracy theory through it to further sensationalize it.

    First of all, there is no "national school system" in the United States. Each state is responsible for public education within its own borders. I don't know about New York, but at least in Colorado, the situation is nowhere close to that described in his prologue. If a Colorado administrator had subjected a student to the verbal abuse described there, they would be subject to disciplinary action at the least, and possibly termination.

    I know that education in the United States is not perfect. There are many areas that desparately need improvment, especially science and math education, but hysterical diatribes such as these do little to advance the dialogue and only serve to inflame the True Believers.
    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:57PM (#10180226) Journal
      I did not read the whole book, just browsed through the online pages. However, this seems like a classic example of the "hasty generalization" fallacy (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/hasty%2 0generalization [thefreedictionary.com]).

      The real irony here is that it is your own statement that is the hasty generalization. By your own admission, you didn't read the book.


  • Not available online (Score:4, Informative)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:29PM (#10179784) Homepage Journal
    Full text available here

    No, the full text is not available (as far as I can tell). From this page [johntaylorgatto.com]:
    Each month we will post a new chapter on this Web site. If you are patient, in 18 months you will have read the book in its entirety.

  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <.teamhasnoi. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:30PM (#10179803) Journal
    I can agree - education is going nowhere fast. I can't believe that kids are being taught how to use Powerpoint and Word in school. What happened to learning to think?

    Teach someone to think, and they can figure out Powerpoint and Word. Teach someone Powerpoint and Word and you have an idiot who can't do anything else.

    Every homeschooled person I've ever met have been crazy geniuses because they were taught how to think and reason. Of course, they are also socially inept as they didn't have to deal with masses of other children.

    Keep the population stupid, and they will be more apt to eat up your propaganda. Ignorance is bliss.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:14PM (#10180505)
      Every homeshooled person I've met has been quite socially skilled. Homeshooled people tend to be more attentive, more respectful, more engaging, and more engaged than institutionally "educated" children. Compared to the mal-formed social behavior I've seen in kids coming out of public or even private educational institutions, homeshooled childeren are social geniuses. This has never surprised me though, since people learn better from mentors (parents who love us) than from peers (other malformed socialially immature children.)

      Think again about your assertion and go have a conversation with a few kids from both these groups. Barring variations in personality, I suspect you will be pleasantly surprised by many homeschooled kids and will see that most institutionalized kids are actually much more socially inept. That has been my overwelming, though admittedly anecdotal experience.

      BTW, I've taught in public and private schools from 2nd grade through College. It has convinced me that the education system can't be fixed and that my decision to homeschool my children is probably the second most important and correct decision I've ever made.
  • by Ben Escoto ( 446292 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:31PM (#10179822)
    The true purpose of schooling, according to Gatto, is to produce an easily manageable workforce to serve employers in a mass-production economy. Actual education is a secondary and even counterproductive result since educated people tend to be more difficult to control.
    I'm currently teaching now (college level) and my parents were both public school teachers (elementary and high school level) all in the US. So I'm so glad I found out that our true purpose all this time wasn't to educate people! Congrats on enlightening us!

    But seriously, large organizations have no single "true" purpose which determines their effect, but are composed of tens of thousands of people, who each have different goals. Much more important is what the people actually doing the work (all the teachers and principles, who actually interact with the children) are trying to do, what their purpose is. It's laughable that we are against "actual education".

    Of course certain structural reforms could improve education. But to say that the true purpose of the American educational system is against education is silly.
    • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @04:24PM (#10181519) Homepage Journal
      >But seriously, large organizations have no single "true" purpose which determines their effect

      "The purpose of a system is what it does".

      Keep that in mind and you can cut through all obfuscation like a bandsaw through butter.

      So just take a look at what the school system does. My late mother was a teacher. She got memo after memo from upstairs and filed tons of paperwork. Her report on the percentage that bore on helping children to learn: 0%.

      Oh, and the author didn't say it was "conspiratorial", he said it was a pattern. As he points out, patterns are harder to change.
  • by dameron ( 307970 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:32PM (#10179827)
    That's exactly what I'd expect. Our public school system grew out of the industrial revolution's need for people to have a minimum skill set and be regimented from an early age to follow a bell system. Ring. Lunch. Ring. Work. Ring. Leave.

    Now that we're moving into a post industrial world (or that the industrial world is moving overseas) the regimenting is a bit less important and the skills taught have eroded to the point that McDonald's now has pictures of the food on the cash register instead of text.

    The schools are great at producing people with stunted reasoning skills who can be content working at Wal Mart and make great consumers, and who vote (when they vote, if the system were perfect they wouldn't vote at all) based on emotion and often against their own interests.

    There are some political parties who just can't afford to have an informed or educated electorate (hint: they tend to cut education spending and demonize teachers), and who's children never touch public school anyway.


  • by Blaede ( 266638 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:33PM (#10179848)
    How many times have we heard about parents pushing for easier or non-existent teaching for their precious and sensitive whelps and yet demand that they "graduate" despite not learning a thing?

    Ashamed to to say, I've seen this in my own family. A cousin of mine was coddled since he was born (hell he was in preschool an extra year, how fucked up is that?) by his relative caretakers (an aunt) after his mother died while he was a baby. Despite living in poverty, this person was spoiled continuously with toys. As I recall, he didn't stop playing with toys (complete Star Wars and He-Man collections, to name an example) till the 7th grade. Any attempts by the schools (throughout his schooling) to get him to learn or stay disciplined was met by a ferocious attack by his caretakers. Needless to say, he was socially promoted until he dropped out at 16.

    He has worked a total of 2 weeks in his life (he is 32 now), in jobs given to him by relatives in an honest attempt to help, despite he not having training for anything. He quit them after complaining he was actually made to work, doing tasks as running sales money to the bank, etc. His caretakers were equally vehement in their condemnation of his kin/employer about their requirement he work for his money. To this day he subsists on $600 a month for diabetes disability, and will likely continue until he dies. For somone who has worked a grand total of 80 hours in his entire life, he has inexplicably owned more vehicles than I have. Last I heard, his aunt was saving up money to get him his latest toy, a truck, since he's never owned one.
  • by dcigary ( 221160 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:34PM (#10179867) Homepage
    ...the public education system was very good to me. I'm a distinct individual who can operate independently and think for myself. The thought that I've been "bred" to be a "working stiff" in this U.S. economy is just a fabrica...

    ...Ooops, here comes my Boss. Gotta run....

  • I concur (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:35PM (#10179886)
    His verdict is not what you'd expect: the school system cannot be fixed, Gatto asserts, because it has been designed not to educate.

    I agree 100%.

    The true purpose of schooling, according to Gatto, is to produce an easily manageable workforce to serve employers in a mass-production economy. Actual education is a secondary and even counterproductive result since educated people tend to be more difficult to control.

    Again, I agree, but I have one thing to add. The US education system also serves as a babysitter up through undergraduate degrees. Education also helps keep unemployment down, and in the case of "higher" education, people are out of the workforce and they are _paying_ into the economy.

    And yeah, educated people are a pain in the ass for the "establishment". Try to get some menial "regular" job with a PhD. Who wants a person who is skilled in critical thinking and independant thought to ask people "Do you want to biggie size that?"

    In fact, education is overexaggerated. I routinely ask people "What percentage of the population has a college degree?" And I routinely get answers about 50-60% while it has been 20% for a long time, and it is increasing. I don't remember what its at now, but nowhere near 50%.

    I consider myself lucky in that I have done standard unskilled services work (convenience store clerk) and manual labor (landscaping and construction). I did construction when I was in college, and let me tell you, I felt very stupid for a month or so, even though I'm a good "booksmart" kind of guy. One skill I was really lacking was basic teamwork. Plus I did not know the vocabulary for the work, and basic stuff like using a level, plumbob, tape measure, etc.

    The reasons that I don't have a problem with the education system not educating are twofold. 1) People don't need to be educated and 2) those few that do need educating and are bright will get it.

    You can also see the role of being educated in our breeding habits. The more educated one is the fewer offspring they will have, and the inverse is true as well. Poor, uneducated people here in the US have tons off kids. Since kids when they are young are a liability, they tend to keep the poor poor. But one thing that I've noticed about the poor and their offspring, is that the children are more likely to take care of their parents when they are older. Whereas the wealthier/educated crowd are more independant in their old age because they do "smart" stuff like invest their money, have retirement funds, etc.


  • A "thinker" book (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:40PM (#10179944) Journal
    This is one of those books you have to let percolate a bit before passing (negative) judgement against it; I first read [jerf.org] the book just as I was getting my Master's degree and it is hard to come to grips with the idea of just how much of your life has been wasted by the system. A lot of you are still in school and the cognitive dissonance can still be bad for you.

    And I was even one of those who would attack the schools on other grounds, mind; I was open to the idea it was flawed, hell, I knew it was flawed, but just how deeply and how deliberately sent me into shock.

    Give it a try; more of my opinion in the above link, though I won't trouble Slashdot with it. Gatto really puts his case together well.

    Also, I observe there are a lot of Slashdotters who reflexively assume home schooling is some sort of evil. Make sure you first satisfy yourself that the institutional schooling we now have is not itself a form of evil, perhaps even worse. Having read both sides of both issues, at this point I consider not home schooling borderline child abuse. Most of the homeschooling flaws pointed out by people, such as the ever popular (and unfounded in my experience) "lack of socialization" is correctable, with parental effort. The flaws in institutional schooling are not; indeed, they are assumed "beyond reproach". What amazes me about the human spirit is how many escape the system as I did without a crushed spirit, not how well it works.
  • by snarkasaurus ( 627205 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:41PM (#10179967)
    One of the things forcibly impressed upon me from wasted years of "education" is the way school actively decieves you about the nature of the workplace.

    Medical education is my latest nightmare. It fills the student with theory and visions of how things "should" be done, and informs them not at all regarding how things ARE done. Pity the poor medical student on their first hospital placement. The garbage colectors know more about what the score is than they do.

    I've been out of public school for so long that I can't comment on how things are now, but higher education baby, that I can. What we have here is what I call Certification Syndrome. You aren't worth a damn to anyone unless you are Certified in some subject or other. Like a Certified Microsoft Engineer has a clue why XP screws up on one PC but not another.

    The unholy alliance of lazy large busineses looking for replaceable cogs and schools willing to crank them out is what we have these days. Unfortunately people trained to be good little cogs don't do great things. Bill Gates for example is not a good little cog. Bill doesn't have a CME either, I bet.

    Bottom line, if you want to be educated instead of trained, you have to WORK your ass off at it. Same for your kids. Teach them how to think, give them the tools of rationality or put up with them when they become Radical Vegan Socialists for Peace with a CME or an MD. Because that's what's fashionable at school this decade.

    Next decade it'll probably be Radical Christian Conservatives For War. I don't see that as an improvement. You got a brain, you should get some decent software for it. God forbid you should have an origional thought.
  • In Education... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BJZQ8 ( 644168 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:43PM (#10179983) Homepage Journal
    I work in education, and never has a truer article come along in my memory. Schools are not here for teaching students; they have become self-perpetuating job-producers for people unable or unwilling to pursue "hard" jobs. Incompetent teachers are protected by unions and simultaneously given raises just for existing. Billions of dollars are poured down the drains of "technology" and "special education" with little or no accounting and rationale for them. In short, though, you will never change the system now. It is too entrenched. Much like the governmental system in general, it now feeds off itself. Try to run for President saying that you will dismantle the Education system...it's similar to saying you're going to get rid of Social Security. It is so entrenched in society's collective mind that it will never change without a revolution.
  • by matima ( 790264 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:44PM (#10180005)
    It's not just the format of American education that's the problem, it's the content and the objective.

    I think of American public schools like I think of American prisons. We really haven't figured out if we want to help the inhabitants improve, or babysit them to keep them from hurting others or themselves, and so far, we've done a shitty job of both.

    But perhaps that's oversimplified. There are many different pieces that join together to form the whole problem.

    1) Teachers - underpaid, underappreciated, and undertalented. We need to train, pay, and expect the best from teachers, and treat them with the respect and admiration deserving of the people who nurture the minds and interests of the next generation, because they are.

    2) Parents - underinvolved and unwilling to do their part. It used to be that if you got in trouble at school, it was nothing compared to the trouble that you'd get into when you got home. Conversely, parents used to be much more active and supportive of their children's education, and "active" is not defined by putting pithy stickers on the minivan.

    3) Students - "some children left behind." The hardest problem is that we have the mindset that school has a plethora of solutions for children with problems. It doesn't. Those places would be called "juvenile hall" or "psychiatric ward." Some students are going to misbehave, cause trouble, underperform, or fail, and we should let them. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up, and you don't get increasing results by applying declining standards.

    School was pretty boring and unchallenging for me, but it wasn't miserable. It seems like it's heading that way, though.
    • by vhold ( 175219 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @07:34PM (#10183819)
      "Some students are going to misbehave, cause trouble, underperform, or fail, and we should let them. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up, and you don't get increasing results by applying declining standards."

      This is a great statement. I have a slightly different perspective on it though. While my line of thinking, which is really just a sort of wishful thought, only seems to lead to declining standards, I think that the conventional measures for determining 'success' or 'failure' in education are pretty flawed to begin with.

      I went through 12 years of public education dealing with a constant expectation from parents and faculty that I should be getting straight A's instead of more or less a straight line of C's and D's. This expectation came from my general demeanor, and several years of intelligence testing and counselling. None of it would change the fact that I had no work ethic when it came to school assignments. I simply wouldn't, nearly couldn't, perform their repetitive chore version of learning.

      I was naturally curious, asked a ton of questions, generally would pay attention in class and I learned a lot that way, I was lucky that many teachers just gave me a benefit of the doubt in terms of their actual opinion of my intelligence, but that was often a source of frustration for both them and me as it almost never helped my letter grade. In this sense, I was in some small way benefited by a sort of declining standard. It wasn't full on decline because I still received low marks, but at least very few faculty actually seemed to look down on me, in the way that my parents describe how their teachers treated kids with low marks. As I got older, teachers generally gave me less and less of the benefit of the doubt and I progressively withdrew from caring about my education.

      It wasn't until my senior year in High School that I realized that my way had been nearly the best for me overall and I regained most of the confidence in my own intelligence that I had slowly lost through years of mediocre marks. Naturally what I had been doing with all that time I should've been doing homework was spent working on computers.

      What happened my senior year that was particularly lucky was a great irony, because my school was so fiscally poor, I was able to convince a couple key faculty that we should build a computer lab using a few underdeployed computers they had received on random donation, and that I knew how to do most of the work. For some reason, even with my poor reputation as a student, I was able to impress them with the proposal. With the sponsorship of one particularly progressive teacher I was able to waive nearly half of my classes since I'd already satisfied most of the curricular graduation requirements. We started out fairly small, but donations of mostly broken old computers started pouring in and we basically floored big chunks of the school district with how much we were able to do with so little by basically leveraging my skills for free. To them the scale of our technology project was unfathomable in such a cash deprived district.

      What really brought my confidence back though was when old teachers in whose classes I earned D's and F's inevitably swung by to check out what the big deal was and they saw what it was I was actually good at. The reactions were varied, a couple were actually hostilely dismisive to some extent, seemingly jealous that something could actually be created in such a forsaken environment, but particularly satisfying to me were a few teachers that actually apologized to me, a few years after I even had them as a teacher. They were just apologizing for their impression of my overall ability and were worried that I may have felt that they just wrote me off. At that point I was basically working with quite a bit of the faculty as more of a peer then a student as we expanded the network and tried to introduce extra PCs into various classes and train them on the software.

      Although the most hilarious aspect o
  • by subrosas ( 752277 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:45PM (#10180020)
    Our society doesn't care about education. Education is considered worthwhile if it:
    1. keeps kids locked up so their parents don't have to pay daycare
    2. insures our kids get jobs so that we don't have to support them anymore
    3. is cheap. No one likes property tax increases

    In the end, we get what we (as a market) ask for. If you think our system sucks, look at yourself and your neighbors to find the reason, not to some silly conspiracy.
  • Just my thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:48PM (#10180061)
    With the current standard testing procedures, there is false sense of progress and excellence. Many schools these days just teach the test. I have a few friends who teach and they all have to stop teaching history, science, etc to teach how to take some standard test because the school's budget is tied to the results. Some of them devote 40% of class time just to the test as mandated by the school or the school district. So the kids learn the test and nothing about other subjects.

    If the kids had the time, a lot of American curriculum is focused on memorization and facts not analysis and critique. I remember seeing a comparision of European math and science school books compared to American schoolbooks on the same subject (Algebra vs Algebra. Chemistry vs Chemistry). The European schoolbooks were 1/3 to 1/4 the size of the Americans yet Europeans generally score better in math and science. The difference was that the European books emphasized theory, analysis, and techniques and not graphics and exercises.

  • by lenski ( 96498 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:51PM (#10180117)
    My sister, a conservative Christian, chose to home-school her children. She had a relatively difficult time with the basic process, until she gave her children the freedom to learn and explore their world. After my sister accepted that lesson, the children have exploded out of the gate. They don't even slow down. Based our admittedly anecdotal observations of this particular situation, I believe some of what mr Gatto has said.

    I also know a teacher who is constantly fighting with the school system to let the students learn, rather than follow the party line.

    Background: My sister's original motivation for home schooling was to avoid some of the unfiltered acceptance of life-styles of which she disapproves. Also her expectation that the standard industrial schooling process would label her second child, a very energetic boy as having attention-deficit disorder and get "treated". I was pretty well concerned by this approach that my sister wanted to take. In the fullness of time, the positives of learning, self-confidence and genuine critical thinking will allow the children to become strong contributors to our society, probably a bit conservative but not rabidly dogmatic followers of some party line.

  • by servognome ( 738846 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @03:09PM (#10180423)
    I went to public school, I don't think they are unfixable. I think that the "lump all the students together" and educate to the lowest common denominator is the problem.
    There is a population drags down the learning of the rest of the students. Because kids are forced to go to school, and teachers are forced to not "leave any child behind" it drags down everybody. Throw the dead weight aside and let most of us learn!
    Luckily my school district offered a public highschool [greatschools.net] that was specificly for more advanced students (not just math/science, but also music & literature). This made the environment in the classroom for students and teachers more conducive to learning. More importantly, the teachers could teach more advanced concepts. Rather than doing a report basically summarizing "Frankenstein", you had to interpret the underlying messages. I learned more calculus in highschool than my first year of college.
    I had intelligent friends from jr. high who went to "normal" high schools and it ended up screwing up their lives. A few got in the wrong crowd and became alcoholics or total stoners, or the pace of their curriculum was so slow they'd get frustrated and quit learning. Some also went on to college, but lacked study skills so were slower to keep up with the faster pace of learning.
    Once we recognize that not all students are equally intelligent and that we shouldn't hold the more advanced ones (or even the average students) back so the slow kids "feel good about themselves" the better our school system will be. We do this for sports, if you're not good enough to make the team too bad.
  • Maybe off-topic..? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ImaLamer ( 260199 ) <john,lamar&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @04:06PM (#10181260) Homepage Journal
    I was doing a paper recently about "school violence" and I was suprised to find that most of our problems are because we've modeled schools after mental asylums.

    From Pedro Noguera's (Ph.D., professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley) paper: Preventing Violence in Schools Through the Production of Docile Bodies [inmotionmagazine.com]:

    When public schools were being developed in north eastern cities during the latter part of the nineteenth century, their architecture, organization and operation was profoundly influenced by the prevailing conception of the asylum. As the primary public institution designed to serve the needs of the indigent, the insane, the sick or the criminally inclined, the asylum had a profound influence upon the design and management of public schools. While the client base of the early prisons, almshouses and mental hospitals differed, they shared a common preoccupation with the need to control those in held in custody. ...
    While there is some evidence that schools were challenged in fulfilling their task of social control , in most cases it seems that they succeeded in producing "docile bodies"; students who were prepared to accept their roles as citizens and workers.

    The best quote from this paper is:

    "...urban education in the nineteenth century did more to industrialize humanity than to humanize industry"

    It was easy to make my case that metal detectors, and such, are no solution to the problems we face. Seems that only the intelligentsia get this as it's lost on school faculty.
  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @04:27PM (#10181550) Homepage
    The true purpose of schooling, according to Gatto, is to produce an easily manageable workforce to serve employers in a mass-production economy. Actual education is a secondary and even counterproductive result since educated people tend to be more difficult to control.

    Hate to piss on the parade, but this is exactly what they teach in Education Foundations 101, History of Education. At the University of Alberta, at any rate.

    I didn't realize it was some sort of secret.
  • by gwn ( 594936 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @04:55PM (#10181917)
    I am a certified teacher as is my spouse; we both have multiple university degrees, and two school age children. I have taught in both public and private schools and found both to have good and bad qualities. I agree fully with Gatto (read his work a while ago) about the purpose of public schools and where they are taking our children, to the factory floor (or lower with off-shoring). In the private school I saw the tuition dollar driving educational and advancement decisions, students advanced because the tuition cheque cleared. If you want to make the most of your student/child's education and give them the opportunity to grow and develop into their full potential remember the following: 1: Parents are the first and most important teachers. Your kids will follow your example; read a book, have a discussion, take a course, learn something new, and do this with them. 2: Know what happens in your student's school (public/private/home); call the principal, visit the teacher, send notes, follow up tests, question policies, etc. Don't let a problem be the first and only reason you talk. 2: When they are in a school you must provide positive support both direct (volunteering) and indirect (reading to kids, having books in the house, shutting off the tv/Nintendo/ps2/computer/etc) participation is paramount. 3: Talk about school with your kids; what did they learn, can they teach it to you? 4: Empower them with their right to a good education, and their responsibilities as a student 5: Take opportunities to expand their worldview; take them out of school for family trips, special events, bonding opportunities. 6: Finally, help them learn to make decisions and then let them make decisions. Yes, they will make mistakes and learn from them and grow... Of course there is much more you can do. If you do some of what I suggest you will be part of the solution. Of course you may drive some teachers and administrators nuts first and your kids will want you to walk way behind them at the mall...
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:46PM (#10185900) Homepage Journal

    I graduated from High School with a career 59% grade average. For those of you who didn't go to school in New York, that's basically an F average. I was awarded a diploma because I passed all of the required classes, barely. The conclusion you might come to is that I hate learning. But you'd be wrong.

    For someone who loves to learn, school is the absolute worst enemy in this regard. In my case, I would cut school simply to hang out in the library and study with notebook in hand. School is not about learning, it's about control, purely and simply. Some teachers could recognize your interests and help you along, but these teachers were so rare and could only do so much.

    I never did go on to college. I never even took the SATs. I regret nothing.

    One thing I said to myself then, which I say to myself now, is that the beaten path is the easy way out. Down that road is what everyone else has. A 9-5 job with unpaid overtime, living for the weekends, and genuinely being told what to do throughout life hoping that someone will someday appreciate your obedience and throw you some scraps. Public schools train you to fit in this kind of life. In my opinion, that's not life. I don't know what it is, but I can't imagine calling it life.

    You can take away my car, house, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, heaven forbid even my high school diploma, but as long as you haven't taken away my ability to think, I can still survive and I can still be happy.

    Like they said in trainspotting (but missing the point entirely): Choose life.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling