Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"The Psychopathic School" by John Taylor Gatto

This is essay 2 in Dumbing Us Down.

Here, Gatto lists lots of evils which, he claims, are the result of TV watching or schooling, since that's what takes up most of most children's time. The short list of evils includes suicide, depression, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse... and, since he doesn't explain the causal link in any case, might just as well include ingrowing toenails, water on the knee, and the prevalence of cadbury's creme eggs next to the check out in Tesco.

He says that schooling makes children

- indifferent to the adult world
- lacking in curiosity
- have no sense of their future
- have no sense of their past, and how it shapes their present
- cruel to each other
- uneasy with intimacy and candour, since they have to develop protectivelayers of fake personalities to survive in school
- materialistic (since teachers materialistically grade everything, and because of TV advertising)
- dependent, passive and timid in the presence of new challenges.

This was odd to read. I think Gatto is more astute about what he is doing to children (as described in the 7-lesson school teacher) than in this description of what the impact is on the children in question. Not all schooled children are cruel, materialistic etc etc. And it's not immediately clear to me how the institution of school has these effects on people.

I also think his anti-TV stance is based on the bucket theory of learning - the idea that children sit passively and uncritically while the culture of TV is poured into them for hours a day. I suppose this is more likely to be the case if a child is schooled into the passivity of scheduling being done for them by teachers for most of the day and then TV watching is just an extension of it, but active use of TV is a wonderful resource and it's just the usual fearmongering about the evil of the TV set here I think.

I can see that if one had a child in school who was beginning to display these characteristics, one might be persuaded to remove them by reading this essay, but otherwise I was less impressed by the argument here.


RHJunior said...

Not every schoolchild is cruel, no.
But not every person who smokes dies of cancer, either.

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