Very few books are able to impress, much less change a person's view of the entire system of public education. Here's one.
Normally a non-fiction education paradigm book is more suited to be a booster seat for my toddler but this book is different. Weighing in it at a slim 100 pages Dumbing us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto, is a quick read, yet it is not for the faint of heart. Speaking as a lifetime educator, Gatto uses his own childhood and insightful observations about the public school system to present truths about, the reasons for, the outcomes of, and the complete failures of institutional learning.
I'm going to give a few spoilers, but don't think that this is all there is. A lot is packed into this book. Organized like a conversation or confession, it is meant to break through your own perceptions of schooling. Gatto starts with a list of the seven real things he really taught as a public school teacher, no matter what subject he was teaching:
- Confusion: Everything is taught out of order and out of context.
- Class position: Stay in the class where you have been placed by an arbitrary system.
- Indifference: Don't care too much because the bell will ring soon, but pretend that you do so the teacher will like you.
- Emotional Dependency: Rights are granted or withheld by teachers and administrators at their whim.
- Intellectual Dependency: Good students wait quietly to be told the correct answer.
- Provisional Self-Esteem: Worth is based on school performance. School performance is based on an arbitrary number that a teacher chooses to give you.
- One can't hide: Big Brother is always watching, even at home.
This is a startling list, but recall your own education: if you attended a public school, is it true? Walking through examples Gatto shows us that not only is it true, it was also planned and implemented long before the American people knew what hit them. Without any partisan language or claims, Gatto makes clear that this system is a dismal failure. We have to change our ideas about education. Written in 1992, this author was before his time. His answers to this problem however, are based in the timeless simplicity of liberty, freedom, family, and local communities. Education can be changed from a progressive institution that creates half-human drones into a dynamic system that creates fully engaged human beings who are free citizens.
Worked into this book is a wonderful analysis of "networks" versus "true community" and "fully human" versus "divided minds". You will have to read that discussion--I'll not spoil it for you. John Taylor Gatto has been challenging philosophies behind public education for decades. I'm just sorry it took me so long to find this book.
The liberty movement is getting its philosophical footing solidified. Now is the time to reclaim our history and culture and find real answers to the problems created by progressive ideology. We must not forget to add education to our list of important debate topics. So pick up a copy of, or download to your Kindle, Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Challenge yourself and ponder the ramifications of a failed system on yet another generation of Americans.
Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
New Society Publishers; 2nd edition (February 1, 2002)