John Taylor Gatto was twice New York Teacher of the Year and is the author of The Underground History of American Education. As a teacher dealing with bored students, he began to research the origins of American education, and discovered that it had its roots in Prussian militarism, and an actual plan to make the populace 'mediocre and manageable’. He says, in an article called, ‘Against School':
"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."
The rest of the article is here: http://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm
I find this perspective riveting and important. It’s true that much of traditional schooling promotes boredom and mediocrity. The whole system is unwieldy. The insistence on homogeneity is dangerous.
My ‘cocooning experience’ (see blog below) is giving rise to the conclusion that I’d rather focus on making my Mastery Club program available as a coaching program to conscious families rather than bang heads with the system in an attempt to have it accepted there. I believe strongly that mindset and life skills should be prioritised above all subject matter. As Nina says, when you know how to think, you can apply that to anything.
In the process of editing the SleepTalk® manual I came across an alarming study by Australian futurist Bernard Salt that backs up Gatto’s argument. Salt points out that in the 1930s a 12 year old was considered an adult; today adulthood often doesn’t fully 'set in' until the age of 30.
What is delaying the onset of maturity?
• a school system that keeps youth dependent
• an increase in pleasures such as TV, video games and online games and chat rooms without a balancing increase in responsibility (see next point)
• an actual LAW against working before the age of 15 and 9 months. (A 12 year old cannot even legally do voluntary work in some countries because of potential liability.)
• housing and education are so expensive that young people are forced to remain at home rather than cutting loose and developing independently.
If you would like your children to be more independent, give them more responsibility. Eg. Don’t wash and hang and fold their clothes for them! If they are 12 years old they can certainly do this for themselves. Here’s a last word from Gatto about boredom:
"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."
For more information about Bernard Salt’s work, go to www.bernardsalt.com.au
For more about John Taylor Gatto, www.johntaylorgatto.com.
To join the conversation about education, come along to Suburban Sandcastles’ film screening tomorrow night in Parkdale. The film, 'Most Likely to Succeed’, is all about the need for creativity and innovation in education, and how the current system is failing our children. (See more info and links below.)