Free your children

by Yule Heibel on December 1, 2003

Brian’s son Tobin is having some interesting school experiences, which Brian kindly blogged about. Few things get my attention as quickly as qvetches about schools, and I left a comment. Then it occured to me that it’s probably not the case that everybody has read John Taylor Gatto — I keep forgetting this! — and that I should point to this essay, The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher, right here, on my blog. Have you read? You must. Print it out. Study it.

Considering the topic of my last blog, “play-playgrounds-laws/of/genre-expectations-discourse,” reading Gatto on how schools condition us to accept the status quo can be an eye-opener. The first lesson is “Stay in the class where you belong.” Fast-forward to adulthood: gender boundaries, anyone? Class boundaries of the “grown-up” kind? “…they envy and fear the better classes and have contempt for the dumber classes. So the class mostly keeps itself in good marching order. That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. [=society] You come to know your place.” Gatto’s lessons are chilling, the blueprint for societies going wrong: “In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer’s measure of your worth. […] Self-evaluation — the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet — is never a factor in these things. […] People need to be told what they are worth.”

Schooling stays with us long after we’ve left school. What are you still being schooled in? Is it worth it? Is it the best way?

“School” is an essential support system for a vision of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows to a control point as it ascends. “School” is an artifice which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution). [More…]

Take a look at John Taylor Gatto‘s website for further links, including this September 2003 Harper’s Magazine article, Against School. Gatto has had a tendency lately to propound too much conspiracy theory — that, since there is a benefit to keeping a population docile, stupid, and passive, there is an agency or a cabal at work to make that happen. I can’t follow him there; I think being docile, stupid, and passive is simply easier, and most people do what they’re used to. They send their kids to school for all the wrong reasons, the first being that they themselves went to school, so they can’t imagine an alternative; and they want their children to “fit in”; and they think the kids need to go to school to learn how to get along: these are terrible reasons, but they don’t necessarily constitute a conspiracy. But despite Gatto’s increasing forays into conspiracy-land, his critique of schooling remains sound.


brian moffatt December 4, 2003 at 11:32 am

Yule, I have to admit upon reading Gatto’s Six Lessons my mind ran immediately the larger world and the staus quo. More later.

Yule Heibel December 5, 2003 at 12:24 am

It all starts with the Family Romance and School, heh heh.

brian moffatt December 5, 2003 at 12:56 pm

I just got back from the school and parent-teacher interviews – it’s worse than I ever thought and much worse than Gatto would have it.

Anonymous September 17, 2005 at 5:09 pm

Thank you for the info!

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