The Underground History Of American Education - Chapter 14

Posted on 05/30/2005 in misc

Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. That is really all I can say after reading this chapter. In chapter 14 Gatto connects the history of Western spirituality and forced schooling in a way that I would not have believed possible 30 minutes ago.

I can't possibly do this chapter justice here. It's way too deep and the message is way too powerful. But since y'all are paying me to try...

You are paying me, right?

Gatto makes this key point.

Starting with Everson vs. Board of Education in 1947, powerful business interests were at work in a concerted effort to drive spirituality out of the public schools.

Why? Consider these passages from the book.

The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of discontent upon which mass production and finance rely. Once the mechanism is identified, its dynamics aren't hard to understand. Spiritually contented people are dangerous for a variety of reasons. They don't make reliable servants because they won't jump at every command. They test what is requested against a code of moral principle. Those who are spiritually secure can't easily be driven to sacrifice family relations. Corporate and financial capitalism are hardly possible on any massive scale once a population finds its spiritual center. For a society like ours to work, we need to feel that something is fundamentally wrong when we can't continually "do better"; expand our farms and businesses, win a raise, take exotic vacations. This is the way our loan/repayment cycle; the credit economy; is sustained. The human tendency to simply enjoy work and camaraderie among workers is turned into a race to outdo colleagues, to climb employment ladders. Ambition is a trigger of corporate life and at the same time an acid that dissolves communities. By spreading contentment on the cheap, spirituality was a danger to the new economy?s natural growth principle. So in a sense it was rational self-interest, not conspiracy, that drove enlightened men to agree in their sporting places, drawing rooms, and clubs that religious activity would have to be dampened down.
Simply put, spiritual, well adjusted people would never submit to their Utopian vision of the future. Gatto also has a lot to say about the Western brand of spirituality as practiced in the US, and how it provides a model for the education of our children.
In Western spirituality, everyone counts. It offers a basic, matter-of-fact set of practical guidelines, street lamps for the village of your life. Nobody has to wander aimlessly in the universe of Western spirituality. What constitutes a meaningful life is clearly spelled out: self-knowledge, duty, responsibility, acceptance of aging and loss, preparation for death. In this neglected genius of the West, no teacher or guru does the work for you. You do it for yourself. It's time to teach these things to our children once again.
Gatto delves further into the discipleship of Jesus Christ and how that provides a model for education, one that powerful interests have worked hard to erase. The discipleship model is based on four characteristics; A calling to follow, commitment, self-awareness and independence, and a master to follow. It's easy to see that forced schooling is nothing like that, and in fact is purposely completely unlike that. it's heady stuff, and there is more I want to say so I'm going to break this up and tackle the more spiritual side of the conversation next time.
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