Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto, Part I

You can read my notes on the Prologue HERE.

In Part I of The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto, the author, considers what education "used to be."  Education focused on duty, hard work, responsibility, and self-reliance.
"Young people in America were expected to make something of themselves, not to prepare themselves to fit into a pre-established hierarchy.  Every foreign commentator notes the early training in independence, the remarkable precocity of American youth, and their assumption of adult responsibility."
"Anyone worthy of citizenship was expected to be able to think clearly and to welcome great responsibility."
But there was, from the onset of the birth of our nation, an attack on Western ideals.  These ideas began to creep into our culture very slowly until the post-Civil War period and just in time for the Industrial Revolution.  One goal was to create a school environment that destroyed creativity, independence, and hope, frankly.  If a large portion of the masses could be forced into this new way of thinking, this would help build upon the new utopia that man has always strived to reach.

School was the easiest way to implement these ideas.  But this is dangerous because
"Utopian schooling is never about learning in the traditional sense; it's about the transformation of human nature."
"To mandate outcomes centrally would be a major step in the destruction of Western identity."
But it has happened already.  According to the author, by the 1960's this long push for forced schooling had done its job.  Human nature has been changed.  

One concept was to extend childhood and alleviate early responsibility.  Keep young people in school longer and create an atmosphere where they believe they (and their peers) are not capable of self-governance or independence.

Another idea was to eliminate real books and how we read them.  Hello, textbooks?  Real books force us to think.
"Real books transport us to an inner realm of solitude and unmonitored mental reflection in a way schoolbooks and computer programs can't.  Real books conform to the private curriculum of each author, not to the invisible curriculum of a corporate bureaucracy."
"Reading, and rigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its more fundamental civilized sense."
"Reading teaches nothing more important than the state of mind in which you find yourself absolutely alone with the thoughts of another mind, a matchless form of intimate raport available only to those with the ability to block out distraction and concentrate.  Hence the urgency of reading well if you read for power."
One more great quote from the author about reading:  (I love this!)
"Once you trust yourself to go mind-to-mind with great intellects, artists, scientists, warriors, and philosophers, you are finally free." 
That's just two points, but there are so many more packed into Part I; you will have to read it for yourself.  The bottom line is this: the author makes the case that
"...government schooling made people dumber, not brighter; made families weaker, not stronger; ruined formal religion with its hard-self exclusion of God; set the class structure in stone by dividing children into classes and setting them against one another; and has been midwife to an alarming concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a fraction of the national community."
I cannot say anymore, but I will return with Part II later.  For now, consider this:
"Growth and mastery come only to those who vigorously self-direct.  Initiating, creating, doing, reflecting, freely associating, enjoying privacy..." 
Now, ask yourself if schools today provide that to young people

Go to Part II.

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