Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not a Creature was Stirring except a cat who looked like a mouse plus a review: Dumbing Us Down

I try to get to bed by 1o:oo every night. It is not always doable, but its a goal. Last night I was tired...in bed well before my goal. Tucked in and sound asleep with all the children; they have STAAR tests this week and have been told by their teachers how important a good nights sleep is...even if you are in K through 2nd and don't have testing yet. It is your responsibility to get a good nights sleep so you will be on your best behavior and quiet several halls away where your older siblings are eating mints and taking tests (evidently mints are a time honored tradition, much like mums, here in the south...but I digress). At approximately 11:27 (yes, I looked) I was awoken by a small "mew" sound. I shot a look at my fat cat sprawled on the bottom of my bed. I heard it again, and her mouth never moved. In fact, she looked at me like this...
Clearly, it was not Ashe. The two of us went off in search of the now much louder mewing...did the birds learn to meow? Didn't I tell y'all that the Murphy Farm grew by two birds last Easter, thank you very much Easter Bunny! I am trying to teach them to talk though my two girls tell me often that Parakeets have lost their ability to speak. That said, every time I walk in their room, I say in a high squeaky voice, "Nico, Kiki" convinced that they will repeat me one day and finish off my heart. Now Ashe began to hiss at an alarming frequency and began to hold back in the quest, ignoring the delicious looking birds room, so I knew it wasn't them. No, it go louder the closer to the lit up kitchen I got. There, Matthew had the tiniest grey cat with the largest voice captive in a cage. "I rescued it mom from the parking lot of the health club...can I keep it?"  I looked at Ashe, and though all she would do was hiss, I just kept thinking, "remember the last time you tried to bathe a cat and how that turned out...and this kitten stinks." But I just said put it in the garage with some food and make it stop making so much noise, and back to bed I went thinking what is it about my PA kids that has made their inner farmer come clawing to the surface. We can't get enough animals. Mariah took one look at the half dead kitten in the morning and claimed it...as if her crazy dog is going to be willing to share. But like that, it was settled.

Later, I couldn't help but think is it Nature vs. Nurture. I have been reading a book by John Taylor Gatto  called, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. He isn't very encouraging saying, "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." I had to use his words,because he is genius. Those words and his enthusiasm for education are what made this book such a long enduring success. He claims that he left a very lucrative career as a copywriter, and if you read the book, you will see that he must have been very successful. He can make you believe in a reading (a quick read, it wasn't easy to stop once in!! ) that all public schools should just be scrapped. They are too big and too expensive to just be reformed. In fact, Mr. Gatto claims that the Public School system is 100% successful in its true goals which have nothing to do with education, but instead with turning us into a population of materialistic, unattached, and distracted individuals that have no true support systems or values. That is a very lofty if misguided goal. I don't believe that it is the true agenda of the Public School System, however, there is much that rings true in his assertions. Societal problems that Mr. Gatto attributes to the school system include: provisional self-esteem or basing self-worth and value on something external; dependency on others to tell them what to do or fear of getting anything done without expert instruction; that no one can be trusted and you must watch everyone all the time; the demise of family and community in favor of shallow networks; drugs; suicide; and divorce. He said that the lessons of public schooling, "confusion, class position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, and surveillance. All of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius." He believes that school encourages youth, and consequently, the population, to sever community ties in favor of networks to gain better jobs and ways of life, but which are not rich sources of community--in fact are not community at all. He talks about successful communities who grow by like minded people moving closer to each other and helping each other....caring about each other. Not in a network because they fall into the same catch man area. Pretty heavy stuff for a mom who was just wondering why her PA kids keep bringing home animals and my city kids  are content to  watch TV...but what do I know.

Anyway, I can't help but think that Mr. Gatto has made an impressive start on the debate of compulsory schooling. Of course, this book was written initially in 1992 and I was reading the 1oth anniversary issue...the debates well underway. The book gives a wonderful explanation for many of the ills of our society that we currently are plagued with. Kids are very distractable...how could they not be if every time they begin to get interested in something a bell rings and they need to put it away and move to something else. Genius, but no real supporting research. I guess I need that because I am a product of compulsory education and would like an expert opinion or two. I am tempted to agree with him because he confirms my position that children should spend more time at home with each other than with teachers. I believe there is sufficient evidence to that, even the Bible and the Catholic church agree there, but I am not ready to scrap the entire public school system on Mr. Gatto's very persuasive and enthusiastic anecdotal evidence after 30 years in one city school district. Might a rural school have fared better if he had spent the same amount of time there. Can the national system of education really have a decades long evil agenda, even if it initially began that way? The system was self-perpetuation because it involves many individuals, a lot of money, and entire industries that now feed into it. Even the home school industry has many dollars riding on education. Which leads me to my original question that led to the search for the book...
artwork from digiscrap studio and holly murphy

And the one thing I really wanted to know, why I even bought the book was his idea that it takes about 100 hours to transmit the information to a child how to read, write, and do math once that child is sufficiently ready and zero money. If that is true, then I can definitely teach my children. Can I really home school, or do I need an expert to teach me how to do it...I was unable to find expert support (damn my compulsory schooling!) for that statement, however, I will keep looking. If its true, then really, I just have to make them love learning, follow their lead and natural inquisitiveness, keep them away from television (which Gatto said is the second agenda stealing our children away from their natural support) and wait until they are emotionally ready to learn. Then they will excel. In that case, Mr. Gatto has made me a believer. That is supported by the millions who do home school. I may be a product of my education, but I'm not stupid!

If you are even a little curious, whether or not you may choose to homeschool, this is an important look at the state of our nation's future...our youth. I have the book linked in my Amazon widget on this page...enjoy! I sit here several days after we adopted an abandoned kitten, much to Ashe's dismay, she is still hissing, and wondering if we are going to have to bury it, too...any cat experts out there...

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References:
John Taylor Gatto. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (p. 13). Kindle Edition.  

John Taylor Gatto. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (p. 16). Kindle Edition.

John Taylor Gatto. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (p. 33). Kindle Edition.



1 comment:

Lisa said...

I know you will be able to homeschool! It is a wonderful journey, one that has gotten even better as I have striven to let go of my "teacher" mindset and obsession with checking off boxes and teaching to the "test." That is what we were taught all through college and while teaching in the system. I have grown as much as my children have during our homeschooling and am really starting to follow their lead. My biggest goal is for them to love learning and have as many fun, educational, hands-on experiences as possible. :-)

Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your kind comments. I am also your newest follower! Please let me know if you are going to get to Philly this summer. I'd be happy to show you around! God bless, Lisa