We have seen the future, and it sucks.

How public education cripples our kids, and why

30th May 2011

Read it.

Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers’ lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there. When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn’t get bored teaching students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that. Of course, teachers are themselves products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the children. Who, then, is to blame?

By the time I finally retired in 1991, I had more than enough reason to think of our schools – with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers – as virtual factories of childishness. Yet I honestly could not see why they had to be that way. My own experience had revealed to me what many other teachers must learn along the way, too, yet keep to themselves for fear of reprisal: if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive a schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight – simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.

Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole.

One Response to “How public education cripples our kids, and why”

  1. ErisGuy Says:

    The “proletariat” exists only in the blood-soaked imaginations of Communists, who use the non-existant oppressed “class” as justification for murdering anyone who wore eyeglasses, ran a business, had a prosperous farm, or spoke a foreign language.

    There is no evidence that an educational, surgical incision is anything more than an outrageous metaphor. There is no evidence of the class unity of peasant and proletarians, nor can their be such evidence because the categories of analysis have less intellectual veracity than unicorns, Nazi race theory, and phlogiston combined. Gatto’s “insight” is yet more Marxism used to correct less Marxism (Ayersian educational theory). Gatto’s essay is a polemic similar to the Communist Manifesto and uses its terms and categories. It is empty and unreal.