The Underground History of American Education - Chapter 1

Posted on 04/25/2005 in misc

I'm going to try to read Gatto's classic online over the next few weeks, one chapter per night, more of less. I started tonight with Chapter 1 (big surprise, eh?), The Way It Used to Be.

Chapter 1 is primarily a survey of school throughout history, with the central points being that

  • Most of our great leaders and thinkers spent very little time in formal school
  • School, where is existed, was primarily a tool used to keep the lower classes uneducated so they would not threaten the status quo.
  • Kids are capable of much more than we give them credit for today.

A few quotes that struck me as particulatly interesting...

Something in the structure of schooling calls forth violence. While latter-day schools don't allow energetic physical discipline, certainly they are state-of-the-art laboratories in humiliation, as your own experience should remind you.
With less than thirty hours of combined training and experience, a hundred million people are allowed access to vehicular weapons more lethal than pistols or rifles. Turned loose without a teacher, so to speak. Why does our government make such presumptions of competence, placing nearly unqualified trust in drivers, while it maintains such a tight grip on near-monopoly state schooling?
I've yet to meet a parent in public school who ever stopped to calculate the heavy, sometimes lifelong price their children pay for the privilege of being rude and ill-mannered at school. I haven?t met a public school parent yet who was properly suspicious of the state?s endless forgiveness of bad behavior for which the future will be merciless.
No public school in the United States is set up to allow a George Washington to happen. Washingtons in the bud stage are screened, browbeaten, or bribed to conform to a narrow outlook on social truth. Boys like Andrew Carnegie who begged his mother not to send him to school and was well on his way to immortality and fortune at the age of thirteen, would be referred today for psychological counseling; Thomas Edison would find himself in Special Ed until his peculiar genius had been sufficiently tamed.

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