Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John Taylor Gatto - "Dumbing Us Down"

The solutions that Gatto comes up with to the problem of school:

1. Put less money into schools, give children time for independent study, give children more family time. Makes sense to me - school has a big influence of children, and it is hidden under the guise of being a Good Thing when actually a lot of it is to do with free-at-point-of-delivery childcare, increasingly wrap around, with breakfast clubs and twilight clubs and everything else. This child care makes it possible for both parents to work. Quite why two full-time working parents is seen as the golden chalice I do not know, but society seems to have got brainwashed into thinking that this is progress. So yes, I agree with all of this.

2. Introduce free-market education rather than government-monopoly education. Refund all the relevant taxes and leave communities to find their own solutions. What can I say except "yeah, baby!".

The last two essays in the book are about networks and congregations, and I confess that I understood less what he was trying to get at in these.

The networks idea is that a network of people is efficient in the pursuit of a limited aim, but it doesn't embrace the whole person. If you want to solve a problem, you might make a network to solve it, but you wouldn't then ask your collaborator to join you for Christmas. And he sees schools as networks, where only parts of a child's personality can be expressed and only parts of it are appreciated, rather than as communities, although schools probably usually see themselves as communities. He says that communities have people of all ages in them. But I'm not exactly clear what stops schools, necessarily, from being communities. And actually, I'm not sure that networks are as evil as he says they are.

The congregations idea is about a community having the right to freedom of association, and that people within a community can leave it and find another one if that one doesn't suit them, like church congregations (and his model is the early colonial era congregationalists). And yes, that kind of makes sense, although again, I'm not quite seeing how it could translate to mass schooling.


Leo said...

The idea that both parents working is good for the children is a corruption of the original idea.

What was good is that women were free to work for themselves. The corruption started when women demanded that the goverment provided for that right, through laws that force employers to give them paid maternity leave, with public childcare, etc.

Socialization is not good for small children, but because mothers wanted to work, they made up this positive interpretation of the situation which then was taken seriously and "proved" through pseudo scientific research, because the original reason for the argument was lost.

emma said...

The idea that both parents should work full time is certainly a corruption. It's one of those examples of where part of a good idea (women being free to work) didn't go hand in hand with the logical (to me) flip side which is... thus freeing up men to work less. Two parents each working part time seems fine to me; two parents working full time just pushes house prices up so almost everyone feels you need two full time incomes per family. The social shift towards childcare being something for a family to work out rather than something for the mother to work out didn't seem to happen in two-parent families, by and large.

And yes, there's the socialization myth again, now with added mama guilt :-)