26 March 2009

Hidden Curriculum of Public Education

Whoa... rereading Dumbing Us Down by John Gatto, award-winning public school teacher. Chilling! Listen to this "advance praise" from the opening pages!
"I am not an educator, nor a parent, nor a concerned citizen. I am a product of the problems you describe. Although I had a passionate desire to learn, some excellent teachers and a diploma, I realized very soon how almost useless the whole experience had been for me. Parents, students, especially the students, need to know the things you talk about."

In the chapter entitled "The Pychopathic School" Gatto hits the nail on the head: "Two institutions at present control our children's lives: television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, non-stop abstraction. In centuries past, the time of childhood and adolescence would have been occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to becoming a whole man or woman... It's a national disease, this dependency and aimlessness, and I think schooling a television and lessons have a lot to do with it. Think of the phenomena which are killing us as a nation-- narcotic drugs, brainless competition, recreational sex, the pornography of violence, gambling, and alcohol, and the worst pornography of all: lives devoted to buying things, accumulation as a philosophy-- all of these are addictions of dependent personalities, and this is what our brand of schooling must inevitably produce."
Gatto has taught public school for 35 years and this is what he sees: indifferent children with no curiosity, children who live so in the present that they know nothing of the past and don't see the relation between today and the future. The children he teaches are "cruel to each other; they lack compassion for misfortune; they laugh at weakness; they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly." They are materialistic and uncomfortable with intimacy "because they are not who they represent themselves to be," he says they "are dependent, passive and timid in the presence of new challenges." This, trust me, is but a few paragraphs from a shockingly revelatory disclosure. Parts of the book are speeches he gave upon accepting awards for his excellence in teaching! I can't imagine the looks on the faces of the principals, fellow teachers, and parents in the audience when he said such things.
I'll just tantalize you with a few of the things off the list of seven things he teaches-- definitely not math, history, or english, much less things like Bible or character! The chapter, "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher" lists confusion as number one, and emotional and intellectual dependency as numbers four and five. Yikes! Thank God that we are in a country where we are allowed to homeschool our children the way, and the things that we choose fit.

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