Dumbing Us Down

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique indivdual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are , whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important; how to live and how to die.” – John Taylor Gatto

In Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Talyor Gatto, a picture is painted that says the reality is that compulsory government schooling has nothing to do with education, doing little but teaching young people to conform to the economy and social order. A multi-award winning teacher of over 30 years experience in New York, Gatto’s book outlines what he believes is the destructive nature of schooling and goes on to state that everything he has done in his career has probably been to the detriment of most students. He writes about the seven lessons that he has been mandated to teach: 1.) confusion 2.) class position 3.) indifference 4.) emotional dependency 5.) intellectual dependency 6.) provisional self-esteem 7.) constant surveillance and the denial of privacy.

Gatto says that schools in their current state are unreformable and is a champion of the homeschooling movement. He suggests that we should remove the certification requirment for teachers and let students learn about what matters to them, what their interested in, whenever and wherever this may take place.

The most powerful part of this book for me is the full transcripts of the acceptance speech’s that Gatto gave when recieving his many awards. He uses his own award presentations as a forum to attack the very same educational system that is honoring him. Gatto describes schooling, as opposed to learning, as a “twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it.”

No doubt, some would find this book controversial, but Gatto makes a compelling, passionate case against the one-size-fits-all model of education that is now so prominent.

Steve Hargadon recently interviewed John Taylor Gatto in the Future of Education interview series. You can find the recording at http://www.delicious.com/edtechlive/mp3?page=5

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