Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Bad Ideology of Public Schools

School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers.  School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently.  Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they’ll never be bored.  Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology — all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid.  Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues.  Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned.  Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.

First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands.  Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants.  Don’t let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day.  If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as  pre-teen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there’s no telling what your own kids could do.  After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt.  We suppress our genius only 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.

John Taylor Gatto, “Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why.”  Harper’s Magazine, September 2003.

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