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An American Affidavit

Friday, December 28, 2018

2. I Quit, I Think: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

2. I Quit, I Think: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org
I Quit, I Think  
     In the first year of the last decade of the twentieth century  during my thirtieth year as a school teacher in Community  School District 3, Manhattan, after teaching in all five  secondary schools in the district, crossing swords with one  professional administration after another as they strove to  rid
themselves of me, after having my license suspended  twice for insubordination and terminated covertly once  while I was on medical leave of absence, after the City  University of New York borrowed me for a five-year stint  as a lecturer in the Education Department (and the faculty  rating handbook published by the Student Council gave  me the highest ratings in the department my last three years), after planning and bringing  about the most successful permanent school fund-raiser in New York City history, after  placing a single eighth-grade class into 30,000 hours of volunteer community service,  after organizing and financing a student-run food cooperative, after securing over a  thousand apprenticeships, directing the collection of tens of thousands of books for the  construction of private student libraries, after producing four talking job dictionaries for  the blind, writing two original student musicals, and launching an armada of other  initiatives to reintegrate students within a larger human reality, I quit.    
      I was New York State Teacher of the Year when it happened. An accumulation of disgust  and frustration which grew too heavy to be borne finally did me in. To test my resolve I  sent a short essay to The Wall Street Journal titled "I Quit, I Think." In it I explained my  reasons for deciding to wrap it up, even though I had no savings and not the slightest idea  what else I might do in my mid-fifties to pay the rent. In its entirety it read like this:    
      Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It  kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and  by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint  of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows     from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing,  represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.   That idea passed into American history through the Puritans. It  found its "scientific" presentation in the bell curve, along which  talent supposedly apportions itself by some Iron Law of Biology.  It's a religious notion, School is its church. I offer rituals to keep  heresy at bay. I provide documentation to justify the heavenly  pyramid.   Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession,  something like this would happen. Professional interest is served  by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the  laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract  giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be "re-  formed." It has political allies to guard its marches, that's why  reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers  can't imagine school much different.   David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal  development, when both are 13, you can't tell which one learned  first — the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I  label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too.  For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when  to go and stop. He won't outgrow that dependency. I identify  Rachel as discount merchandise, "special education" fodder.  She'll be locked in her place forever.   In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a  learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one  either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created  by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we  never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.   That's the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time  blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school  religion punishing our nation. There isn't a right way to become  educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don't need  state-certified teachers to make education happen — that probably  guarantees it won't.   How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don't need  more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices,  variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don't need a  national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives  arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate     indifference to it. I can't teach this way any longer. If you hear of  a job where I don't have to hurt kids to make a living, let me  know. Come fall I'll be looking for work.  

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