I’ve begun reading John Taylor Gatto’s “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling” and would like to invite you along for the ride.
I’ll be taking this bite by bite, starting with the Prologue and posting on it every other, or every third day or so, as time allows. Order the book and read along with me if you like.
But first, a small introduction. For those of you who have not heard of him, John Taylor Gatto, as the title indicates, was a schoolteacher in New York for nearly 30 years. He was highly recognized, yet controversial, and has written several books about (and against) the public school system since his retirement from teaching.
In WMI’s Prologue, Mr. Gatto jumps in, touching only slightly on his struggles within the school system (in which they at one time deliberately tried to fire him by covering up all evidence of a medically approved leave) and goes straight to the nitty gritty.
Do we really need school? I don’t mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary?
Mr. Gatto doesn’t hold back when he points to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as examples of individuals who did not spend 6-7 hours a day, five days a week, for twelve years studying away. In fact, all of these individuals were essentially homeschooled.
He goes on to introduce, for those who do not already know, that our American system of education is based on the Prussian model of the early 1800s, in which he writes:
But what shocks is that we should so eagerly have adopted one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture: an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens – all in order to render the populace “manageable.”
Scary stuff. Look around you, at the complacency, the eagerness to ‘go with the flow’ and the lack of innovation and willingness to take chances – this is what public education (among other things) is doing to us.
What I found interesting was the connection Mr. Gatto later makes between consumer consumption (and runaway consumption, which our country’s citizens still do whenever possible) and public education when he writes,
…mass production required mass consumption, and at the turn of the twentieth century most Americans considered it both unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn’t actually need. Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that count. School didn’t have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all.
I teach a class locally, Get Organized, Stay Organized, based on my book by the same name. You can find a Kindle edition by clicking on the link below or contact me if you are interested in taking the class or buying the book.
One of the main points I cover is to avoid over-consumption, this runaway trend of spending, collecting, keeping, and overfilling our homes and lives with STUFF. So Mr. Gatto really touched a nerve there!
He finishes off the prologue with a very important point…
…wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands…[mandatory education's] real purpose is to turn [children] into servants
And with this closing quote, I will leave you to think about what thoughts and challenges Chapter One will bring:
After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt.
Look for a review of Chapter One in a few days…