221. Four Kinds Of Classroom: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org
Four Kinds Of Classroom
Jean Anyon, a professor at Rutgers, recently examined four major types of covert career preparation going on simultaneously in the school world, all traveling together under the label "public education." All use state-certified schoolteachers, all share roughly common budgets, all lead to intensely political outcomes.
In the first type of classroom, students are prepared for future wage labor that is mechanical and routine. Of course neither students nor parents are told this, and almost certainly teachers are not consciously aware of it themselves. The training regimen is this: all work is done in sequential fashion starting with simple tasks, working very slowly and progressing gradually to more difficult ones (but never to very difficult work). There is little decision-making or choice on the part of students, much rote behavior is practiced. Teachers hardly ever explain why any particular work is assigned or how one piece of work connects to other assignments. When explanations are undertaken they are shallow and platitudinous. "You'll need this later in life." Teachers spend most of their day at school controlling the time and space of children, and giving commands.
In the second type of classroom, students are prepared for low-level bureaucratic work, work with little creative element to it, work which does not reward critical appraisals of management. Directions are followed just as in the first type of classroom, but those directions often call for some deductive thinking, offer some selection, and leave a bit of room for student decision-making.
The third type of classroom finds students being trained for work that requires them to be producers of artistic, intellectual, scientific, and other kinds of productive enterprise. Often children work creatively and independently here. Through this experience, children learn how to interpret and evaluate reality, how to become their own best critics and supporters. They are trained to be alone with themselves without a need for constant authority intervention and approval. The teacher controls this class through endless negotiation. Anyon concludes: "In their schooling these children are acquiring symbolic capital, they are given opportunity to develop skills of linguistic, artistic, and scientific expression and creative elaboration of ideas in concrete form."
The fourth type of public school classroom trains students for ownership, leadership, and control. Every hot social issue is discussed, students are urged to look at a point from all sides. A leader, after all, has to understand every possible shade of human nature in order to effectively mobilize, organize, or defeat any possible opponent. In this kind of schoolroom bells are not used to begin and end periods. This classroom offers something none of the others do: "knowledge of and practice in manipulating socially legitimated tools of systems analysis."
It strikes me as curious how far Anyon's "elite" public school classroom number four still falls far short of the goals of elite private boarding schools, almost as if the very best government schools are willing to offer is only a weak approximation of the leadership style of St. Paul's or Groton. What fascinates me most is the cold-blooded quality of this shortfall because Groton's expectations cost almost nothing to meet on a different playing field — say a homeschool setting or even in John Gatto's classroom — while the therapeutic community of psychologized public schooling is extremely expensive to maintain. Virtually everyone could be educated the Groton way for less money than the average public school costs.