Where you disappointed with what you learned in school too? I remember, in high school, that I hated history class (I grew up in Belgium). It was nothing else but names, dates and places. We all had to learn that by heart. Unless you have a photographic memory, it was a grueling thing to remember all that. When the final exam took place, at the end of school year, I gave up half way my text book. I just couldn’t get any more dates, names and places into my poor brain. Yes, I was lucky and passed the exam. However, what was the point? It has been shown that after a year one forgets about half what one has learned in school. After three years that is about ninety percent. So what is the point of stuffing children with endless loads of data? Most of it they will never use later in life.
Later I learned that the school system, implemented by the government, is not about making you any wiser, but to instill obedience to authority; about taking away your own initiative, your own questions, your questioning of authority, your own innate wisdom, and so on, in order to make us into a powerless, obedient work force.
Do you still wonder why our society, and the world, is so screwed up?
There are many ideas and ways to create a more human friendly education for children. The Steiner and Waldorf schools are two examples. There always have been, and there still are, people who had ideas about education that would benefit not only the children, but later on the adults too, and by consequence the society they would create.
One of those people was Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the USA, who took the well-being of the children at heart. Jefferson understood that freedom depends on self-government: the cultivation of self-reliance, courage, responsibility, and moderation. Education contributes to both the knowledge and virtues that form a self-governing citizen. While Jefferson supported the idea of public education, he would not have placed schools under government supervision. Instead, he argued for the placement of each school at once under the care of those most interested in its conduct. He would put parents in charge.
Oliver DeMille writes in his book A Thomas Jefferson Education, that at present we get three types of ‘education’:
1. Conveyor Belt Education: trying to prepare everyone to fit into society and find a job, and teaching them what to think. Almost everyone in America today is getting this kind of education-which used to be reserved for those who simply had no other options.
2. Professional Education: from apprenticeship and trade schools to law, medical and MBA programs. They create specialists by teaching them when to think.
3. Leadership Education: which teaches students how to think, and to be leaders in their homes and communities, entrepreneurs in business, and statesmen in government.
Our present education system is geared to serve an authoritarian government to tell us what to do, and to fulfill a corporate need for workers.
How did this happen?
After the era of Thomas Jefferson, the USA entered the industrial era. The industrialists did not want a well educated population that could think for itself. They wanted a population that would be ignorant, powerless and obedient to fill the assembly lines in the factories. They were not interested in a school system based on Thomas Jefferson ideas. Therefore they adapted the ideas of Alexander James Inglis (1879-1924). Alexander James Inglis, who wrote Principles of Secondary Education, wanted to divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and so on, by which it would be unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole. That is, dangerous to the industrialists.
John Taylor Gatto (1935-), who was a Harvard professor with a Teachers College Ph.D., summarizes the six basic functions of school outlined by Inglis:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function.
Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can’t test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function.
This might well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function.
School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function.
Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function.
This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That’s what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function.
The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.
Since this was the school system adopted for the American schools, what were the results on the ‘educated’ population?
In a speech, accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto had this to say about the present status of children in school, based on his own experience as a teacher:
1. The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. This defies the experience of thousands of years. A close study of what big people were up to was always the most exciting occupation of youth, but nobody wants to grow up these days and who can blame them? Toys are us.
2. The children I teach have almost no curiosity and what they do have is transitory; they cannot concentrate for very long, even on things they choose to do. Can you see a connection between the bells ringing again and again to change classes and this phenomenon of evanescent attention?
3. The children I teach have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today. As I said before, they have a continuous present, the exact moment they are at is the boundary of their consciousness.
4. The children I teach are a-historical, they have no sense of how past has predestined their own present, limiting their choices, shaping their values and lives.
5. The children I teach are cruel to each other, they lack compassion for misfortune, they laugh at weakness, and they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly.
5. The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candor. My guess is that they are like many adopted people I’ve known in this respect – they cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers. Because they are not who they represent themselves to be the disguise wears thin in the presence of intimacy so intimate relationships have to be avoided.
7. The children I teach are materialistic, following the lead of schoolteachers who materialistically “grade” everything – and television mentors who offer everything in the world for free.
8. The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges. This is frequently masked by surface bravado, or by anger or aggressiveness but underneath is a vacuum without fortitude.
I think the industrialists did a good job. Considering the children of today are the adults of tomorrow, shouldn’t we take education in our own hands?