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Thursday, April 13, 2017

John Taylor Gatto's Opus from The Underground History of American Education

242. Gatto's Educational Opus Compendium or What Needs to Be Done About Public Schools by John Taylor Gatto  
     Let me end this book, my testament, with a warning: only the fresh air from millions  upon millions of freely made choices will create the educational climate we need to  realize a better destiny. No team of experts can possibly possess the wisdom to impose a  successful solution to the problem inherent in a philosophy of centralized social  management; solutions that endure are always local, always personal. Universal https://www.blogger.com/null prescriptions are the problem of modern schooling, academic research which pursues the  will-o-the-wisp of average children and average stages of development makes for  destructive social policy, it is a sea anchor dragging against advancement, creating the  problems it begs for money to solve. But here is a warning: should we ever agree to  honor the singularity of children which forced schooling contravenes, if we ever agree to  set the minds of children free, we should understand they would make a world that would  create and re-create itself exponentially, a world complex beyond the power of any group  of managers to manage. Such free beings would have to be self-managing. And the future  would never again be easily predictable.  
     Here might be a first step toward such a great leap forward for human beings. Not a  comprehensive formula, remember, but a first step:       
     If we closed all government schools, made free libraries universal, encouraged public  discussion groups everywhere, sponsored apprenticeships for every young person who  wanted one, let any person or group who asked to open a school do so — without  government oversight — paid parents (if we have to pay anyone) to school their kids at  home using the money we currently spend to confine them in school factories, and  launched a national crash program in family revival and local economies, Amish and  Mondragon style, the American school nightmare would recede.      
      That isn't going to happen, I know.       
     The next best thing, then, is to deconstruct forced schooling, minimizing its school  aspect, indoctrination, and maximizing its potential to educate through access to tools,  models, and mentors. To go down this path requires the courage to challenge deeply  rooted assumptions. We need to kill the poison plant we created. School reform is not  enough. The notion of schooling itself must be challenged. Do this as an individual if  your group won't go along.      
      Here is a preliminary list of strategies to change the schools we have. I intend to develop  the theme of change further in a future book, The Guerrilla Curriculum: How To Get An  Education In Spite Of School, but I'm out of time and breath, so the brief agenda which  follows will have to suffice for the moment. As you read my ideas maintain a lively  awareness of the implicit irony that to impose them as a counter system would require as     dictatorial a central management like the current dismal reality. The trick, then, is not to  impose them. My own belief based on long experience is that people given a degree of  choice arrive without coercion at arrangements somewhat like these, and even improve  upon them with ideas beyond my own imagination to conceive. Such is the genius of  liberty.       
     Dismiss the army of reading and arithmetic specialists and the commercial empire they  represent. Allow all contracts with colleges, publishers, consultants, and materials  suppliers in these areas to lapse. Reading and arithmetic are easy things to learn, although  nearly impossible to "teach." By the use of common sense, and proven methods that don't  cost much, we can solve a problem which is artificially induced and wholly imaginary.  Take the profit out of these things and the disease will cure itself.     
      Let no school exceed a few hundred in size. Even that's far too big. And make them local.  End all unnecessary transportation of students at once; transportation is what the British  used to do with hardened criminals. We don't need it, we need neighborhood schools.  Time to shut the school factories, profitable to the building and maintenance industries  and to bus companies, but disaster for children. Neighborhoods need their own children  and vice versa; it's a reciprocating good, providing surprising service to both. The factory  school doesn't work anywhere — not in Harlem and not in Hollywood Hills, either.  Education is always individualized, and individualization requires absolute trust and  split-second flexibility. This should save taxpayers a bundle, too.      
     Make everybody teach. Don't let anybody get paid for schooling kids without actually  spending time with them. The industrial model, with pyramidal management and plenty  of hori-zontal featherbedding niches, is based on ignorance of how things get done, or  indifference to results. The administrative racket that gave New York City more  administrators than all the nations of Europe combined in 1991, has got to die. It wastes  billions, demoralizes teachers, parents, and students, and corrupts the common enterprise. 
      Measure performance with individualized instruments. Standardized tests, like schools  themselves, have lost their moral legitimacy. They correlate with nothing of human value  and their very existence perverts curriculum into a preparation for these extravagant  rituals. Indeed, all paper and pencil tests are a waste of time, useless as predictors of  anything important unless the competition is rigged. As a casual guide they are probably  harmless, but as a sorting tool they are corrupt and deceitful. A test of whether you can  drive is driving. Performance testing is where genuine evaluation will always be found.  There surely can't be a normal parent on earth who doesn't judge his or her child's  progress by performance. 
      Shut down district school boards. Families need control over the professionals in their  lives. Decentralize schooling down to the neighborhood school building level, each  school with its own citizen managing board. School corruption, like the national school  milk price-rigging scandal of the 1990s, will cease when the temptations of bulk  purchasing, job giveaways, and remote decision-making are ended.    
     Install permanent parent facilities in every school with appropriate equipment to allow  parent partnerships with their own kids and others. Frequently take kids out of school to  work with their own parents. School policies must deliberately aim to strengthen families.  
     Restore the primary experience base we stole from childhood by a slavish adherence to a  Utopian school diet of steady abstraction, or an equally slavish adherence to play as the  exclusive obligation of children. Define primary experience as the essential core of early  education, secondary data processing a supplement of substantial importance. But be sure  the concepts of work, duty, obligation, loyalty, and service are strong components of the  mix. Let them stand shoulder to shoulder with "fun." Let children engage in real tasks as  Amish children do, not synthetic games and simulations that set them up for commercial  variants of more-of-the-same for the rest of their lives.  
     Recognize that total schooling is psychologically and procedurally unsound. Wasteful  and horrendously expensive. Give children some private time and space, some choice of  subjects, methods, and associations, and freedom from constant surveillance. A strong  element of volition, of choice, of anti-compulsion, is essential to education. That doesn 't  mean granting a license to do anything. Anyway, whatever is chosen as "curriculum," the  vital assistance that old can grant young is to demand that personal second or third best  will not do — the favor you can bestow on your children is to show by your own example  that hard, painstaking work is the toll an independent spirit charges itself for self-respect.  Our colleges work somewhat better than our other schools because they understand this  better. 
      Admit there is no one right way to grow up successfully. One-system schooling has had a  century and a half to prove itself. It is a ghastly failure. Children need the widest possible  range of roads in order to find the right one to accommodate themselves. The premise  upon which mass compulsion schooling is based is dead wrong. It tries to shoehorn every  style, culture, and personality into one ugly boot that fits nobody. Tax credits, vouchers,  and other more sophisticated means are necessary to encourage a diverse mix of different  school logics of growing up. Only sharp competition can reform the present mess; this  needs to be an overriding goal of public policy. Neither national nor state government  oversight is necessary to make a voucher/tax credit plan work: a modicum of local  control, a disclosure law with teeth, and a policy of client satisfaction or else is all the  citizen protection needed. It works for supermarkets and doctors. It will work for schools,  too, without national testing.  
     Teach children to think dialectically so they can challenge the hidden assumptions of the  world about them, including school assumptions, so they can eventually generate much of  their own personal curriculum and oversight. But teach them, too, that dialectical  thinking is unsuited to many important things like love and family. Dialectical analysis is  radically inappropriate outside its purview.  
     Arrange much of schooling around complex themes instead of subjects. "Subjects" have a  real value, too, but subject study as an exclusive diet was a Prussian secret weapon to     produce social stratification. Substantial amounts of interdisciplinary work are needed as  a corrective. 
      Force the school structure to provide flex-time, flex-space, flex-sequencing, and flex-  content so that every study can be personalized to fit the whole range of individual styles  and performance.  
     Break the teacher certification monopoly so anyone with something valuable to teach can  teach it. Nothing is more important than this.  
     Our form of schooling has turned us into dependent, emotionally needy, excessively  childish people who wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. Our national dilemma is  that too many of us are now homeless and mindless in the deepest sense — at the mercy of  strangers. 
      The beginning of answers will come only when people force government to return  educational choice to everyone. But choice is meaningless without an absolute right to  have progress monitored locally, too, not by an agency of the central government.  Solzhenitsyn was right. The American founding documents didn't mention school  because the authors foresaw the path school would inevitably set us upon, and rejected it. 
      The best way to start offering some choice immediately is to give each public school the  independence that private schools have. De-systematize them, grant each private,  parochial, and homeschool equal access to public funds through vouchers administered as  a loan program, along with tax credits. In time the need for even this would diminish, but  my warning stands — if these keys to choice are tied to intrusive government oversight, as  some would argue they must be, they will only hasten the end of the American libertarian  experiment. Vouchers are only a transition to what is really called for: an economy of  independent livelihoods, a resurrection of principles over pragmatism, and restoration of  the private obligation, self-imposed, to provide a living wage to all who work for you.  
     School can never deal with really important things. Only education can teach us that  quests don't always work, that even worthy lives most often end in tragedy, that money  can't prevent this; that failure is a regular part of the human condition; that you will never  understand evil; that serious pursuits are almost always lonely; that you can't negotiate  love; that money can't buy much that really matters; that happiness is free. 
      A twenty-five-year-old school dropout walked the length of the planet without help, a  seventeen-year-old school dropout worked a twenty-six-foot sailboat all by herself  around the girdle of the globe. What else does it take to realize the horrifying limitations  we have inflicted on our children? School is a liar's world. Let us be done with it.  

1 comment:

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