"We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall." - Pink Floyd (1979)
This is John Taylor Gatto, a former teacher who got awarded "Teacher of the Year."
I've talked to a lot of kids, and none of them liked school. I daydreamed my way through it.
The mythologist Joseph Campbell said that what people want is the "feeling of being alive." You certainly can't get that from school. As for meaning, importance and community? You can forget that, too.
Here are a bunch of quotes by Gatto:
“When you take the free will out of education, that turns it into schooling.”
“I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic -- it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”
“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.”
“Shouldn't we also ask ourselves what the consequences are of scrambling to provide the 'most' of everything to our children in a world of fast dwindling resources? ”
“Self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge.”
“I urge you to examine in your own mind the assumptions which must lay behind using the police power to insist that once-sovereign spirits have no choice but to submit to being schooled by strangers.”
“Genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us.”
“What's gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.”
“In our secular society, school has become the replacement for church, and like church it requires that its teachings must be taken on faith.”
“...good things happen to the human spirit when it is left alone.”
“Individuality, family, and community are, by definition, expressions of singular organization, never of 'one-right-way' thinking on the grand scale. Children and families need some relief from government surveillance and intimidation if original expressions belonging to THEM are to develop. Without these freedom has no meaning.”
“I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.”
“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the institution 'schools' very well, but it does not 'educate'; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing.”
“The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn't know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainly not to be trusted.”
“The primary goal of real education is not to deliver facts but to guide students to the truths that will allow them to take responsibility for their lives.”
“Independent study, community service, adventures and experience, large doses of privacy and solitude, a thousand different apprenticeships — the one-day variety or longer — these are all powerful, cheap, and effective ways to start a real reform of schooling. But no large-scale reform is ever going to work to repair our damaged children and our damaged society until we force open the idea of 'school' to include family as the main engine of education. If we use schooling to break children away from parents — and make no mistake, that has been the central function of schools since John Cotton announced it as the purpose of the Bay Colony schools in 1650 and Horace Mann announced it as the purpose of Massachusetts schools in 1850 — we’re going to continue to have the horror show we have right now.”
“This was once a land where every sane person knew how to build a shelter, grow food, and entertain one another. Now we have been rendered permanent children. It’s the architects of forced schooling who are responsible for that.”
“The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the millions of careers devoted to tending them will seem incredible to you.”
“Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive.”
“Average men and women don’t really exist except as a statistical conceit.”
“As a writer, politician, scientist, and businessman, [Ben] Franklin had few equals among the educated of his day—though he left school at ten. (...)
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.”
“Imitation of notable models as an effective spring of learning; was the most ancient and effective motivation to learn—to become like someone admirable—put to death deliberately by institutional pedagogy.”
"Schools train individuals to respond as a mass. Boys and girls are drilled in being bored, frightened, envious, emotionally needy, generally incomplete. A successful mass production economy requires such a clientele. A small business, small farm economy like that of the Amish requires individual competence, thoughtfulness, compassion, and universal participation; our own requires a managed mass of leveled, spiritless, anxious, familyless, friendless, godless, and obedient people who believe the difference between Cheers and Seinfeld is a subject worth arguing about.”
“Work in classrooms isn’t significant work; it fails to satisfy real needs pressing on the individual; it doesn’t answer real questions experience raises in the young mind; it doesn’t contribute to solving any problem encountered in actual life. The net effect of making all schoolwork external to individual longings, experiences, questions, and problems is to render the victim listless.”
“Child labor becomes a label of condemnation in spite of its ancient function as the quickest, most reliable way to human independence.”
“Free will allows infinite numbers of human stories to be written in which a personal you is the main character. The sciences, on the other hand, hard or soft, assume that purpose and free will are hogwash; given enough data, everything will be seen as explainable, predetermined, and predictable.”
“In 1909 a factory inspector did an informal survey of 500 working children in 20 factories. She found that 412 of them would rather work in the terrible conditions of the factories than return to school. In one experiment in Milwaukee, for example, 8,000 youth...were asked if they would return full-time to school if they were paid about the same wages as they earned at work; only 16 said they would.”
“At the heart of the durability of mass schooling is a brilliantly designed power fragmentation system which distributes decision-making so widely among so many different warring interests that large-scale change is impossible to those without a codebook.”
“Limiting the power of government, in order to liberate the individual, was the great American revolutionary insight. Too much cooperation, avoiding conflict from ordinary people, these things aren’t acceptable in America although they may suit China, Indonesia, Britain, or Germany just fine. In America the absence of conflict is a sign of regression toward a global mean, hardly progress by our lights if you’ve seen much of the governance of the rest of the world where common people are crushed like annoying insects if they argue.”