Us Down - The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
A brilliant book by
New York State teacher of the year: John Taylor Gatto
by Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board
of Psychiatry and Neurology
"The aim of
totalitarian education has
never been to instill convictions, but
to destroy the capacity to form any." --Hannah Arendt
In this rare and insightful book, Gatto
explains the seven lessons that are taught in most schools.
They constitute a damaging and costly national curriculum. Here
is a summary of those principles, as expressed by the author in the
first person voice:
Confusion: I teach too much, and everything that I teach is out
of context. The orbiting of planets, the law of large
numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, assemblies,
Editors note: I have met
countless college graduates whose heads are filled with volumes of
academic jumble, but who cannot focus, live under constant stress,
can't make a decent income, and can't maintain a stable relationship
with a member of the opposite sex.
I teach students
that they must remain in the class into which they were
born, the class where they belong. If I do my job well, my
students will be unable to imagine themselves somewhere else.
They will envy and fear the upper classes, and have contempt for the
3. Indifference: I teach children not
to care too much about anything, even though they may desire
to do so. I demand that my students become completely involved in
my lessons, vigorously competing with each other for my favor.
4.Emotional Dependency: By using stars and
red checks; smiles and frowns; prizes and punishments; or
honors and disgraces, I force children to become emotionally dependent
upon my praise. This ensures my power over them. My
students surrender their will to the predestined chain of command.
Rights may be granted or withheld by any authority without appeal,
because rights do not exist inside a school. Even the right to
free speech - free thought as well - is suspended within the confines
of the classroom. Individuality is a contradiction of class theory.
Dependency: Good students wait for a teacher to tell
them what to do. This is the most important lesson that is
imparted to our children in school: We must wait for other people
- better trained than ourselves - to direct us and give meaning to our
Self-Esteem: I teach children that their self-respect
should depend upon expert opinion. My student's are constantly
evaluated and judged. Report cards, grades, and tests all teach us
that children should not trust themselves or their parents, but instead,
should rely upon the expert evaluations of certified officials.
People need to be told what they are worth.
7. One Can't Hide:
I teach students they are always
watched; that each individual is
under constant surveillance by either my
colleagues or myself. This forces my students to behave
appropriately, because they fear that someone is watching them, and will
punish them if they behave wrongly. There is no private time.
Furthermore, I assign a type of extended schooling called "homework,"
which ensures that the effects of my classroom travel into private
households. When students might otherwise use free time to learn
something unauthorized from a parent, through exploration, or by
apprenticing to some wise person in the neighborhood, they are kept
occupied with homework.
Presently, few people can imagine a
different educational system.
When proponents of educational reform
bring up the aforementioned flaws, they are met with traditional
opposition: "Kids have to learn to follow orders, if they ever expect to
keep a job." or "They have to go to school so they can learn
to read and write."
around 1850, schooling - as it is understood in the traditional sense
- was not considered very important
anywhere. Schooling existed, but not to the extent that it
presently does. Furthermore, students only attended the amount of
school that they felt necessary. Even without rigid curriculum and
mandatory attendance policies, people still learned to read, write, and
do arithmetic. Recently, Senator Kennedy's office released a paper
stating that prior to compulsory education, the literacy rate was 98%.
Following the implementation of compulsory education, the figure never
exceeded 91%. Additionally, the skills of reading, writing, and
performing arithmetic - when the pupil is eager and willing to learn -
can be mastered much more quickly than our present school system leads
people to believe. When an individual genuinely wants to
learn something, the speed at which he is able to comprehend that
subject matter is greatly increased.
Gatto's book strikes at the heart of modern social dysfunction. It
is a critical component of our understanding the problems -
high rates of mental illness, family dysfunction, violence, crime, drug
addiction, income inequity - that plague our society.
See Mr. Gatto's
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