John Taylor Gatto
This book shocked me, and while I am not easily shocked, in shocking me made me realize how even my own radical outlook (as Howard Zinn notes, a radical is someone who no longer believes government is part of the solution) has come to accommodate, to accept, the most obvious tool of subordination, the public school system.
First, my fly-leaf notes, and then a couple of conclusions.
Constructive quote up front (xiv):
“We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness–curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight–simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student the autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.”
The author’s bottom line: public schooling is a deliberate transplant from Germany that Carnegie and Rockefeller and Ford and other foundations designed as a deliberate means of dumbing down the mass population and segregating elite learning from mass “functional” learning devoid of political or philosophical reflection.
Early on the author suggests that public schooling opened the way for marketing American over-consumption by killing independent thinking and crafting group identities defined by the group and its “lifestyle” rather than the individual’s own self-awareness.
Myself being a pioneer for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and now public intelligence and open everything, I was quite pleasantly surprised to discover that the author calls his vision of the correct approach “open source education.”
He works hard to blend in an astonishing array of both critical observers and political or foundation/capitalist figures going back to the 1700’s, which emphasis on the post Civil War era when the Northern schooling paradigm took hold, and the early 1900’s when the top educators of America, funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller family fortunes, set out to destroy the roots of the American dream–the self-taught frontier mentality in which there were no children, only young people constantly in the process of learning from real-life and fulfilling adult roles as soon as their bodies were able.
Schooling is about obedience, not about learning. The author says “Mandatory education services children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants.” (xxii).
Early on the author supports his radical critique by pointing out that literacy dropped with the spread of mandatory schooling, from 4% going into World War II to 19% going into Korea (a mere 10 years later) to 27% going into Viet-Nam.
Further on the author expresses the view that compulsory schooling set out to destroy self-reliance, ingenuity, courage, competence, and other frontier virtues, because they threatened management. He explicitly relates both the “scientific method” with social control, and takes pains to show how schooling is administrative control far removed from learning.
Across the entire book he catalogues with example and with gifted prose, the manner in which schools separate children from themselves, their families, and reality.
In describing schools as they should be, the author discusses the purpose of his guerrilla curriculum, to give his young adults time off to explore, to create “maps” as self-discovery tools and guides for others, and to unlock the hidden knowledge of the elderly.
He is virulently opposed to standardized testing that he says is a tool to segregate the population into five classes: gifted honors, gifted, special progress, mainstream, and special education. He points out that the latter category is the cash cow for schools, and that is one reason schools rush to “downgrade” students to that category.
He proposes that all parents and students refuse to take the standardized tests henceforth, and notes with appreciation the number of more enlightened colleges that now do not demand such scores. He goes on at length, with examples, to suggest that high test scores do not correlate with anything of significance.
He makes it clear that the greatest victim of this entire government-corporate-school bureaucracy cabal is the middle class student.
Gifted phrases abound in this book:
“fatal calculus in which real experience is subtracted from young lives.”
“Incomplete men and women with a shaky grasp of the past and no capacity to visualize the future.”
“Mass Testing institutionalizes dishonesty.”
He is most admiring of the Amish model, and I draw many parallels between the health care and the educational systems in the USA, both being 50% waste, fraud, and abuse.
The author considers the federally-mandated, bureacraticized and largely ineffective school system to be both a religion–a form of state religion, the state ubber alles–and a crime in that all who maintain the system benefit from it financially, while destroying the minds and hearts of generation after generation.
Most telling to me, as a student of information asymmetries and data pathologies that concentrate wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, is the author’s focus on schools as a form of “information deprivation.” On pages 106-107:
“The social order to which he [Playfair] and Smithy belonged was held together by deliberately depriving most people of information they needed to maximize opportunities.”
I put this book down feeling that it is incendiary in the most positive sense of the word, a form of creative destruction waiting to be implemented.
The book is very up to date with the current economic meltdown and the Goldman Sachs looting of the economy (who is in the White House matters not–Goldman Sachs going back to Rubin has owned the US Treasury, prints the money, assumes the debt “in our name,” and generally commits treason in the guise of economic policy-making).
Below are a selection of books that I would recommend along with this one. See all of my Amazon reviews, with links to the Amazon page as well as to my buried reviews, at Phi Beta Iota.
Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids
Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace
Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead
The Working Poor: Invisible in America
Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class – And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))
Election 2008: Lipstick on the Pig (Substance of Governance; Legitimate Grievances; Candidates on the Issues; Balanced Budget 101; Call to Arms: Fund We Not Them; Annotated Bibliography)
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All