The Underground History Of American Education - Chapter 10

Posted on 05/15/2005 in misc

Chapter 10 is all about Gatto's childhood and how it impacted his teaching methodology and ultimately his repudiation of the teaching profession. I found it a nice little story, but it didn't really connect with me, probably because I grew up a military brat and can not relate at all to spending my first 18 years in one small town.

That said, he does return to a couple of broad themes that he has touched on earlier in the book. He discusses the importance of kids being part of the adult world, and not being shunted off in a room with kids their own age.

No kid in Mon City reached for the "Events and Activities" page of the papers because there wasn't one, nor were there any special kid places that people of all ages didn't frequent. When the men weren't playing bocce at the Italian Club, kids were allowed, passing first through a barroom reeking of unpasteurized stale beer. No special life was arranged for kids. Yet there was always a full menu. Why a child would want to associate exclusively with children in a narrow age or social class range defies understanding, that adults would impose such a fate on kids strikes me as an act of madness.

This is one thing I think my parents generation did better than we do. We didn't have playdates when I was kid. I got dragged along to whatever social events my parents were attending and it was just expected that I would find a way to entertain myself without getting into trouble. We probably have catered a little too much to our kids. When I say we, I speak of Michelle and I personally, as well as our entire generation.

Shouldn't you ask why your boy or girl needs to know anything about Iraq or about computer language before they can tell you the name of every tree, plant, and bird outside your window? What will happen to them with their high standardized test scores when they discover they can't fry an egg, sew a button, join things, build a house, sail a boat, ride a horse, gut a fish, pound a nail, or bring forth life and nurture it? Do you believe having those things done for you is the same? You fool, then. Why do you cooperate in the game of compulsion schooling when it makes children useless to themselves as adults, hardly able to tie their own shoes?

I can't do most of that list. My kids probably can, combined they certainly can do more of that list than I. They are home educated, I wasn't. Coincidence? Probably not ;) This speaks directly to the value of kids being out in the world, and not locked in a windowless room viewing filmstrips of the real world.

This is sort of a throw away line at the beginning of the chapter, but to me it is the foundation of everything I believe about home education.

The immense edifice of teacher instruction and schooling in general rests on the shaky hypothesis that expert intervention in childhood produces better people than might otherwise occur. I've come to doubt that.

It's also probably one of the few things ever on this site that all homeschoolers will agree with :)

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