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An American Affidavit

Saturday, January 23, 2016

65. Teachers College Maintains The Planet: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Teachers College Maintains The Planet 

A beautiful example of true belief in action crossed my desk recently from the alumni 
magazine of my own alma mater, Columbia University. Written by the director of 
Columbia's Institute for Learning Technologies, a bureau at Teachers College, this 
mailing informed graduates that the education division now regarded itself as bound by 
"a contract with posterity." Something in the tone warned me against dismissing this as 
customary institutional gas. Seconds later I learned, with some shock, that Teachers 
College felt obligated to take a commanding role in "maintaining the planet." The next 
extension of this strange idea was even more pointed. Teachers College now interpreted 
its mandate, I was told, as one compelling it "to distribute itself all over the world and to 
teach every day, 24 hours a day." 

To gain perspective, try to imagine the University of Berlin undertaking to distribute 
itself among the fifty American states, to be present in this foreign land twenty- four hours 
a day, swimming in the minds of Mormon children in Utah and Baptist children in 
Georgia. Any university intending to become global like some nanny creature spawned in 
Bacon's ghastly Utopia, New Atlantis, is no longer simply in the business of education. 
Columbia Teachers College had become an aggressive evangelist by its own 
announcement, an institution of true belief selling an unfathomable doctrine. I held its 
declaration in my hand for a while after I read it. Thinking. 

Let me underline what you just heard. Picture some U.N. thought police dragging 
reluctant Serbs to a loudspeaker to listen to Teachers College rant. Most of us have no 
frame of reference in which to fit such a picture. Narcosis in the face of true belief is a 
principal reason the disease progressed so far through the medium of forced schooling 
without provoking much major opposition. Only after a million homeschooling families 
and an equal number of religiously oriented private-school families emerged from their 
sleep to reclaim their children from the government in the 1970s and 1980s, in direct 
response to an epoch of flagrant social experimentation in government schools, did true 
belief find ruts in its road. 

Columbia, where I took an undergraduate degree, is the last agency I would want 
maintaining my planet. For decades it was a major New York slumlord indifferent to 
maintaining its own neighborhood, a territory much smaller than the globe. Columbia has 

been a legendary bad neighbor to the community for the forty years I've lived near my 
alma mater. So much for its qualifications as Planetary Guardian. Its second boast is even 
more ominous — I mean that goal of intervening in mental life "all over the world," 
teaching "every day, 24 hours a day." Teaching what? Shouldn't we ask? Our trouble in 
recognizing true belief is that it wears a reasonable face in modern times. 

A Lofty, Somewhat Inhuman Vision 

Take a case reported by the Public Agenda Foundation which produced the first-ever 
survey of educational views held by teachers college professors. To their surprise, the 
authors discovered that the majority of nine hundred randomly selected professors of 
education interviewed did not regard a teacher's struggle to maintain an orderly 
classroom or to cope with disruptive students as major problems! The education faculty 
was generally unwilling to attend to these matters seriously in their work, believing that 
widespread alarm among parents stemming from worry that graduates couldn't spell, 
couldn't count accurately, couldn't sustain attention, couldn't write grammatically (or 
write at all) was only caused by views of life "outmoded and mistaken." 

While 92 percent of the public thinks basic reading, writing, and math competency is 
"absolutely essential" (according to an earlier study by Public Agenda), education 
professors did not agree. In the matter of mental arithmetic, which a large majority of 
ordinary people, including some schoolteachers, consider very important, about 60 
percent of education professors think cheap calculators make that goal obsolete. 

The word passion appears more than once in the report from which these data are drawn, 
as in the following passage: 

Education professors speak with passionate idealism about their own, sometimes lofty, 
vision of education and the mission of teacher education programs. The passion translates 
into ambitious and highly-evolved expectations for future teachers, expectations that 
often differ dramatically from those of parents and teachers now in the classroom. "The 
soul of a teacher is what should be passed on from teacher to teacher," a Boston professor 
said with some intensity. "You have to have that soul to be a good teacher." 

It's not my intention at this moment to recruit you to one or another side of this debate, 
but only to hold you by the back of the neck as Uncle Bud (who you'll meet up ahead) 
once held mine and point out that this vehicle has no brake pedal — ordinary parents and 
students have no way to escape this passion. Twist and turn as they might, they will be 
subject to any erotic curiosity inspired love arouses. In the harem of true belief, there is 
scant refuge from the sultan's lusty gaze. 

Rain Forest Algebra 

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