Spring Break is drawing to a close, with a four-week-ish slog to the relative freedom of summer vacation, when I go from being a stressed-out ball of blubber persisting on processed foods and frozen pizza to living like a chubby retiree. As such, it seemed like an opportune time to look at the state of education in the United States.
As I wrote this morning, lately I’ve been listening to quite a bit of the ideas of “unschooling” advocate John Taylor Gatto. Some of his views on adolescence (he says there really isn’t one, and that childhood essentially ends around the age seven) are pretty radical, though they aren’t without historical precedent, but for the most part, I find myself in agreement with assessment of the modern educational-industrial complex.
The first JTG video I watched/listened to
In essence, Gatto (should I call him “JTG”?) argues—and supports, with ample primary source research—that the modern system of “warehouse” schooling is not a proper education at all, but rather a massive system for indoctrinating students into compliance and mass conformity. He argues that little real “education” takes place inside of schools, and that a genuine education comes from within the student himself. In other words, all of the world is a “classroom” and everyone in it a “teacher” to the open learner. An elite, private or boarding school education is available to anyone, Gatto contends, for free.
Gatto famously quit after a long, celebrated career in New York City public schools in a letter to The Wall Street Journal entitled “I Quit, I Think” (note that the title has two possible meanings: the first, obvious one is the note of uncertainty the added “I Think” carries; the second one is the subtle implication that because “I Think,” I (Gatto) must quit). In short, Gatto came to believe that what he had been doing for years was actually harming students, rather than improving their lives.
Talk about a heavy epiphany.
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