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Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 10th Anniversary Edition Paperback – February 1, 2002
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From Library Journal
In this tenth-anniversary edition, Gatto updates his theories on how the U.S. educational system cranks out students the way Detroit cranks out Buicks. He contends that students are more programmed to conform to economic and social norms rather than really taught to think.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This radical treatise on public education has been a New Society Publishers' bestseller for 10 years! Thirty years of award-winning teaching in New York City's public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders as cogs in the industrial machine. In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of Dumbing Us Down and to keep this classic current, we are renewing the cover art, adding new material about John and the impact of the book, and a new Foreword.
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Education is a political football, moved up and down a muddy field, kicked about for sport while a few get rich and many, including students and tax payers, get less and less value out of it. Much like our tax code, the system has become the problem. No amount of tinkering with it or throwing money at it will fix it. Schooling must change fundamentally. Between this book and "Deschooling Society" by Ivan Illich we can begin to understand both why and how to replace the mess that we have created with more natural, less costly and less stressful alternatives.
One of the most important aspects of educating a child is creating meaning, Gatto points out how students seem to be trained in a specific way, in order to move forward to the next step. "Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and education is a set of codes for processing raw date into meaning" (Gatto, 2002, p.3). Gatto discusses the idea of creating, not necessarily a complete understanding for purpose, but rather establishing an acceptance of the confusion and meaning behind the school curriculum. He believes that in order to create purpose and meaning, students must accept their confusion. "I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order" (Gatto, 2002, p.4). He points out that school curriculum encourages structure and regimentation, which places students in a pre-determined role within society. Gatto promotes his ideals of teaching, which follows the responsibility of all educators of establishing a connection between emotional and intellectual dependency.
Gatto discusses that school curriculum has no valuable objectives or purposes, but to press forward. He believes there is little purpose behind the "content" which is taught to students. "Originality and variety were common currency; our freedom from regimentation made us the miracle of the world; social-class boundaries were relatively easy to cross; our citizenry was marvelously confident, incentive, and able to much for themselves independently, and to think for themselves" (Gatto, 2002, p. 11). Gatto discusses the idea of free-thought for students in school. The school system has become an orderly and specified regimented organization for students to absorb information, relay on a test and move forward to the next level. Gatto believes there is little independency or individualism. The students are not given an opportunity to be different, to embrace that which defines them, instead they are told one way to think and how to arrive at that thought, in their way. According to Gatto, "School, as it was built, is an essential support system for a model of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows as it ascends to a terminal of control" (2002, p. 13). Gatto compares the school system to a pyramid and the students are expected to work together in a specified system to be up this pyramid, also known as the economy and to live by societal expectations. Interestingly enough Gatto has agreeable ideals of the school system, as what seems to be a "factory." Students do not seek purpose or value behind their education because they are following a certain curriculum which doesn't allow a lot of flexibility. Students are not given opportunities to embrace and interact with the world around them within the school system. It is essential that schools incorporate past connections in order to create an educational environment for which students can learn from the past and make an effort to avoid the same conflicts and work towards a progressive future.
So where do we go from here? How can we change the education system? Gatto believes that the system is based on a lot of corrupted ideals which consist of socioeconomic progression and conformity into society. He discusses progressing through the school system as a "talk show," "We are a land of talkers; we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach the "basics" anymore because they really aren't basics to the society we've made" (Gatto, 2002, p.24). Gatto makes a point has become a competition on talking. Teachers grade students based on social skills rather than other aspects. Teachers make an assumption: the less you talk, the less you know, this is not true. Intelligence and value in a classroom is based on the outspoken, rather than what can be said on paper. In a factory line, if just go along and never make a sound, you will not be noticed, regardless of your skills, but if you make a lot of noise and draw attention to yourself, you will be favored. Gatto reveals to the reader, the "psychopathic school," with which students are just pushed forward through grades, beyond their individual abilities and strengths. Students are no longer individuals. They are indifferent, rather than curious; they have a poor sense of the future and treat each other harshly. Students have very little opinion, according to Gatto, he taught classrooms full of what to be passive drones.
Gatto believes that the modern student lacks value and purpose; the student is not encouraged to be different. Gatto proposes that students are provided with a unique environment to grow and become progressive individuals. He discusses targeting the government and educational system; he believes that teachers and parents should embrace individuality. According to Gatto, "Lives can be controlled by machine education, but they will always fight back with weapons of social pathology: drugs, violence, self-destruction, indifference, and the symptoms I see in the children I teach" (2002, p.30). Regardless of societal standards, human beings are still unique individuals and no school curriculum can subdue that originality.
Until we change our definition of "education" and leave the public school monopoly in the failed archives of history where it belongs, we will continue to see more of the same, as Gatto describes:
"Young people indifferent to the adult world and to the future; indifferent to almost everything except the diversion of toys and violence? Rich or poor, schoolchildren cannot concentrate on anything for very long. They have a poor sense of time past and to come; they are mistrustful of intimacy (like the children of divorce they really are); they hate solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent, passive, violent, timid in the face of the unexpected, addicted to distraction."
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I have an even more radical idea. Maybe people just need to stop having kids. Period.Read more