The Underground History Of American Education - Chapter 4

Posted on 04/28/2005 in misc

In Chapter 4, Gatto briefly recounts his 30 year career as a public school teacher. It's not the most exciting chapter, mostly a collection of stories to illustrate his central thesis that kids don't belong in school. A few interesting quotes...

The biggest mystery lurked in the difference between the lusty goodwill of first, second, and to some extent third graders; even in Harlem, the bright, quick intelligence and goodwill always so abundant in those grades, and the wild change fourth grade brought in terms of sullenness, dishonesty, and downright mean spirit.

I've notice this myself, and have mentioned on this site several times. It's universal to public school kids.

The highest school priorities are administrative coherence, student predictability, and institutional stability; children doing well or poorly are incidental to the main administrative mission.

Job one of any bureaucracy is to protect the bureaucracy. Independent minded kids don't help in that mission.

About one kid in five in my experience is in acute torment from the intimidation of peers, maybe more are driven to despair by the indifference of official machinery. What the hounded souls can't possibly see is that from a system standpoint, they are the problem with their infernal whining, not their persecutors.

Bullying in the public schools is a persistent problem. Really, it's a problem anytime kids congregate away from adult supervision. And even with metal detectors at the doors and drug dogs roaming the hallways, kids in school are for the most part unsupervised.

A relative handful of people could change the course of schooling significantly by resisting the suffocating advance of centralization and standardization of children, by being imaginative and determined in their resistance, by exploiting manifold weaknesses in the institution's internal coherence: the disloyalty its own employees feel toward it. It took 150 years to build this apparatus; it won't quit breathing overnight. The formula is to take a deep breath, then select five smooth stones and let fly. The homeschoolers have already begun.

Yes, we have.

Process kids like sardines and don't be surprised when they come out oily and dead. In the words of the Albany Free School, if you aren't making it up as you go along, you aren't doing it right.

And finally, Mr. Gatto pretty much says it all in one sentence.

My life experience taught me that school isn't a safe place to leave your children.
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