A Political History of American Education
The danger of education...is that it so easily confuses means with ends...it quite easily forgets both and devotes itself merely to the mass production of uneducated graduates...people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade which they had and their contemporaries have conspired to call "life." ~Thomas Merton, Love and Living.
Prepare yourself for some disturbing sites that reveal historical, social, and psychological findings which neither teachers nor parents have been heretofore informed about. They are based on viewpoints and research of former New York City and state Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto.
- Choice in Education -- The origin of compulsory state school: Prussian military indoctrination. A three tiered system: [Sound familiar?]
- Excerpts from Gatto's Articles -- Survey the damage.
- The Curriculum of Necessity -- Could schools/society function if we really achieved our goals? Is numbing and dumbing down actually a necessity?
Is Gatto a pessimist or a realist? Sit with his viewpoints a while. Permit yourself to admire the demonic genius of a system that supplies workers to go into the horror of coal mines, steel mills, factory assembly lines and modern warfare in technolological society, then sustains this system so that "ad" men and politicians can promote the economy and protect existing wealth. Isn't is brilliant?
Also, reprint several selections from the following site, to gain a stronger sense of the manipulation practiced by the fast food industry.
- Food Politics -- How politics and big fast food business practices intertwine, to the detriment of our children and our society
- Corporate Watch Issues Library -- It's a full time job keeping track of how corporate power takes over more and more of our lives. A needed antidote is to make students more critical thinkers and consumers. Isn't corporate-supported standardized testing a clever way to tie schools up with teaching trivia so that there's no time to develop students into critical thinkers and consumers?
- Breaking the Bond -- (excerpts from
Joseph Chilton Pearce’s Magical Child, 1977). "Numbing" begins at birth?
What is the cost of freedom? Isn't it a "heroic quest" to seek to be free, dragons and all?
- Psychological Bars To School Improvement -- Read and contemplate the four barriers discussed by this author of Schools of Hope, Douglas H. Heath: Not Listening to and Respecting Students; Trivializing the Value of Education; Creating Schools That Are Unhealthy Social Systems; and Stagnating in Denial.
HOPES for SOLUTIONS
The benevolent universe premise is the idea that the world is fit for human habitation, that it is a source of infinite joy and pleasure, and that pain, ugliness, and disappointment need not be the focus of one's waking moments. Pain is addressed head-on, resolved to the best of one's ability, and then relegated to the back of one's mind while more pleasant issues are attended to. Difficulties that cannot be solved are endured, but they are not be the focus of thought. People who believe in and act on the benevolent universe premise are said to have a good sense of life.
The sites below suggest how light shines in darkness, how the heroic quest can overcome the heritage of our history.
- **Parker Charter Essential School in Ayer, Mass. (on the former Ft. Devens grounds) is the best example of a public school moving in the direction of a high quality, democratic education. Check out their curriculum, assessment, and other online resources!
- The **Coalition of Essential Schools Field Book also has numerous links showing how SOME schools avoid the problems Gatto cites.
- **Empowering Students: Essential Schools' Missing Link shows the process and difficulties experienced as teachers and students learn to take responsibility for learning.
- **Best Practices for Schools of Hope -- a collection of sites addressing the learning needs and styles of this generation
- **Yreka High School School Accountability Report Card -- One school's effort to make school learning more powerful and meaningful!
- **Defensive Routines and Organizational Learning -- Searching for the way out of "political" decision making and leadership. Given power, it seems natural for humans to want to be the hero of a childhood fairy tale. Ouch!
Despite the substantial obstacles we face, human obstinacy, ingenuity, and resiliency give hope that we need not accept the fate of those sent down into the mines or off to war. The human spirit, when nurtured, can prevail.
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