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An American Affidavit

Sunday, May 31, 2015

61. Education As A Helix Sport: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Education As A Helix Sport 

Here's a principle of real education to carry you through the moments of self-doubt. 
Education is a helix sport, a unique personal project like seatless unicycle riding over 
trackless wilderness, a sport that avoids rails, rules, and programmed confinement. The 
familiar versions of this are cross-country skiing, sailing, hang-gliding, skateboarding, 
surfing, solitary mountain climbing, thousand-mile walks, things like that. I think of 
education as one, too. 

In a helix sport the players search for a new relationship with themselves. They endure 
pain and risk to achieve this goal. Helix sports are free of expert micromanagement. 
Experts can't help you much in that moment of truth when a mistake might leave you 
dead. Helix sports are a revolt against predestination. 

Bringing children up properly is a helix sport forcing you to realize that no boy or girl on 
earth is just like another. If you do understand this you also understand there can exist no 
reliable map to tell you all you need to do. Process kids like sardines and don't be 
surprised when they come out oily and dead. In the words of the Albany Free School, if 
you aren't making it up as you go along, you aren't doing it right. 

The managerial and social science people who built forced schooling had no scruples 
about making your kids fit into their scheme. It's suffocating to the spirit to be treated 
this way. A young lady from Tucson wrote me, "Now that I'm nearly 25, 1 can hardly 
remember why I began to be afraid to go to school." I wrote back that she was afraid 
because her instincts warned her the school business had no use for the personal growth 
she sought. All pedagogical theory is based on stage theories of human development. All 
stage theories of child rearing talk in averages. The evidence before your own eyes and 
ears must show you that average men and women don't actually exist. Yet they remain 
the basis of social theory, even though such artificial constructs are useless to tell you 
anything valuable about your own implacably nonabstract child. 

I'm Outta Here! 

One day, after thirty years of this, I took a deep breath and quit. 


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