A guide to realizing if
your child is at-risk, displaying
self-destructive behaviors, and
needs your help and intervention.
YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER
IN MATH AND SCIENCE CLASSES
you're a parent looking to help your son or daughter with
by John Taylor Gatto, Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures
Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert,
speaks on Changing Educational Paradigm
Let me tell you about Stanley, a young man I met while teaching in New York City. Stanley only came to school one day a month and got away with it because I was his homeroom teacher, and I covered for him. I didn’t do it to be a lawbreaker, but because Stanley explained to me where he was spending his time, and I agreed with him it was more educational than what went on in school.
It seems Stanley had five aunts and uncles, all in business for themselves before they were 21 – he wanted to follow in their footsteps. One was a florist, one an unfinished furniture builder, one a deli owner, one had a little restaurant, and one owned a delivery service. What Stanley did when he cut school was to work for no pay for all these uncles and aunts, one after another. He was passed from store to store doing free labor in exchange for the opportunity to learn the business.
"Hey, Mr. Gatto,” he said to me, “this way I get a chance to decide what business I want for myself. You tell me what books to read, I’ll read them, but I don’t have time to waste in school unless I want to end up like the rest of you – working for somebody else.”
After I heard that I couldn’t in good conscience keep him locked up. Could you?
Education for the masses
The secret of American schooling is not that it doesn’t teach the way children learn. It’s that it isn’t supposed to teach about being a strong, self-directed man or woman.
School was engineered to serve a modified command economy and an increasingly layered social order. It wasn’t made for the benefit of kids and families, as those people would define their own needs. School is the first impression children get of organized society. Like most first impressions, it lasts.
The dynamics that make forced schooling poisonous to healthy human development aren’t difficult to spot: the work in classrooms isn’t significant work; it fails to satisfy real needs pressing on the individual; it doesn’t answer real questions experience raises in the young mind; it doesn’t contribute to solving problems encountered in actual life. The net effect of making all work external to individual longings, experiences, questions, and problems is to render the victim listless.
This phenomenon has been well understood at least since the time of the British enclosure movement, which forced small farmers off their land into factory work. Growth and mastery come to those who vigorously self-direct. Initiating, creating, doing, being alone, reflecting, free associating – these are precisely what the schooling is set up to prevent.
Schools train individuals to respond as a mass. Boys and girls are drilled in being bored, frightened, envious, emotionally needy, generally incomplete. A successful mass production economy requires such a clientele. Small business and small farm economies, like those of the Amish, require individual competence, thoughtfulness, compassion, and universal participation. Our own economy requires a managed mass of leveled, spiritless, anxious, family-less, friendless, godless, and obedient people who believe the difference between Coke and Pepsi is a subject worth arguing about.
The extreme wealth of American big business is a direct result of school training in certain attitudes like a craving for novelty. That’s what the bells are for. They don’t ring so much as say, “And now for something different, thank god."
The history of scientific schooling
Between 1896 and 1920, a small group of industrialists and financiers, together with their private charitable foundations, subsidized university chairs and researchers, and school administrators spent more money on forced schooling than the government itself did with the aim of bending schooling to the service of business and the political state. Carnegie and Rockefeller themselves, as late as 1915, were spending more than the state. In this laissez-faire fashion, a system of modern schooling was constructed without public participation.
The motives for this involvement were undoubtedly mixed, but it will be useful to read this excerpt from te first mission statement of Rockefeller’s General Education Board, from a document called “Occasional Letter Number One”:
In our dreams ... people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions fade from their minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk.
We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have an ample supply.
The task is simple. We will organize children and teach
them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an
insider of modern schooling, H.H. Goddard, chair of psychology at Princeton,
said in 1920 that government schooling is “the perfect organization of the
hive.” He wrote that standardized testing would cause the lower classes to
face their biological inferiority (sort of like wearing a public dunce cap),
which would discourage their reproduction.
in 1930 sharpened our understanding by specifying in a resolution of its
Department of Superintendence that what was being served was an “effective use
of capital” through which our “unprecedented wealth-producing power has been
best seen as the critical terminal on a production line to create a utopia
resembling EPCOT Center, but with one important limitation: it isn’t intended
Out of Johns Hopkins in 1996 came this chilling news: The American economy has grown massively since the mid 1960s, but workers’ real, spendable wages are no higher than they were 30 years ago.
from the book
Fat and Mean, about the significance of corporate downsizing. During
the boom economy of the 1980s and 1990s, purchasing power rose for 20 percent of
the population and actually declined about 13 percent for the other 80 percent.
Indeed, after inflation is factored in, purchasing power of a working couple in
1995 is only 8 percent greater than for a single working man in 1905; this steep
decline in common prosperity over 90 years has forced both parents from many
homes and deposited their kids in the management systems of daycare and extended
Despite the century-long harangue that schooling is the cure for unevenly spread wealth, exactly the reverse has occurred – wealth is 250 percent more concentrated at century’s end than it was at its beginning.
Learning, Schooling, & Education
it clear in our minds that schooling is not education – you can easily
compensate for lacking a schooling, but there is no way to make up for the
damage that occurs without an education. Without that you are smaller than
you would have been.
brilliant and famous people have lacked a schooling – George Washington,
Benjamin Franklin, Admiral Farragut, Thomas Edison, Margaret Meade and many more
– but all of them had a fine education.
Schooling takes place in an environment controlled by others, through procedures and sequences more or less controlled by others, and for the purposes of others. There’s a value to this when the teachers are people who care for you and struggle to understand you, but schooling is never enough.
describes efforts largely self-initiated for the purpose of taking charge of
your life wisely and living in a world you understand. The educated state
is a complex tapestry woven out of broad experience, grueling commitments and
substantial risk taking.
In our own society, schooling can help or hinder learning, encourage or discourage education.
What Private School parents want
take a look at what parents at the finest private schools want from schooling.
I’ve been studying their expectations for nearly 20 years in order to compare
them with my own goals. I’m talking about the 20 ritziest private boarding
schools in America – schools like Groton, St. Paul's, Deerfield, Kent.
I’m going to ask you to note that none of the principles these parents seek cost a penny to develop. Everybody could do one or all these things with their kids just as well as Exeter or St. Paul’s could. What these elite private school parents want schools to teach their children, in no particular order of importance, are:
concern of private school parents is that the schools understand the partially
invisible qualification system that provides access to key positions in the
economy. These parents expect schools to qualify their children to move
freely through the economic system. But don’t we all want this?
Private school parents also demand individualized attention for their children, small classes, continuous pressure on their children to stretch individual limits, exposure to many different theoretical and practical aspects of life, exercises to develop self-reliance and self-confidence.
To be educated is to understand yourself and others, to know your culture and that of others, your history and that of others, your religious outlook and that of others. If you miss out on this, you are always at the mercy of someone else to interpret what the facts of any situation mean.
Now let me tell you something about the Old Order Amish, a group of 150,000 very prosperous people who came to America with little more than the clothes on their back. Everyone’s heard about the Amish but few people know the astonishing details. Here they are:
all members when interviewed by outside investigators report satisfaction with
They challenge a lot of conventional assumptions about what it takes to enter
business. They don’t have high school educations, they don’t have
specialized training, they don’t use computers, they don’t use electricity or
automobiles, they don’t have training in how to create a marketing plan.
the resources they transfer over from the farm are: an entrepreneurial spirit, a
willingness to take risks, innovativeness, a strong work ethic, a cheap family
labor pool, and high standards of craftsmanship. One of their values is
smallness. They don’t want their shops and industries to get large. This
spreads entrepreneurship widely across the whole settlement.
This also is a big part of the Amish definition of education. I’ll add a
figure out a lot about what the Amish believe an education is from the things
they fought the government about – and won – when the Supreme Court ruled they
had to go to school from first through eighth grade.
They demanded that:
Education for unique people
What can we learn from Stanley, the private school parents, and from the Amish? We hear endless talk about school reform, but real school reform would have to defeat the belief that any such reality as “mass man” actually exists. We would have to believe instead what our fingerprints and our intuition tell us – no two people are alike, nobody can be accurately profiled by numbers and graphs.
To have a kind of education that served individuals, families and communities we would need to abandon forever the notion – learned in school and reinforced through every institution – that ordinary people are too stupid, too irresponsible, too childish to look out for ourselves.
We need to admit finally that knowledge is a useful thing but that it is a far cry from wisdom and without wisdom we wander like lost sheep. We need to honor our founding documents and founding ideas, to acknowledge that each of us has the right to live as we deem wise. And if the way we choose means disaster for global corporations as the way of the Amish embraced by too many surely would, then that fateful choice must still be honored.
I want to leave you on a hopeful note. We have ample evidence from the experiment of American history that ordinary people, trusted to be sovereign, can do extraordinary things. We have abundant examples around us in the form of determined groups like the Amish, and determined individuals like Stanley that despite a discouraging political climate for writing one’s own script, it is still possible to do so – only a little courage is needed. I wish you that courage. We shall change this thing in time if we deny it our cooperation, affirming what our hearts and history tell us is true.
Instead of fitting people into the pigeonholes offered by the economy, how might education help students become self-confident, reflective, and creative adults?
Christian residential program
for young men, ages 16-20
Alliance for Intellectual Freedom in Education ~ Network of individuals whose objective is to eliminate governmental interference in education, particularly home education, by raising awareness of the unalienable rights of conscience of all parents to raise and educate their children as they see fit.
Citizens for Educational Freedom ~ Promotes the primary rights of parents to freedom of choice, justice and quality in education for all.
Coalition for Essential Schools ~ National network committed to increasing student achievement by re-inventing school design, classroom practice, leadership, and community connections.
Educational Research Service ~ Research and information source for education leaders and the public.
Educators for Social Responsibility ~ National leader in educational reform.
Institute for Humane Education ~ A powerful educational movement through which everyone gains the skills, knowledge and motivation to solve challenges and create a humane, healthy world for all.
PeaceJam ~ Dynamic international educational outreach peace program.
by Franklin P. Schargel, Tony Thacker, John S. Bell
Visit Youth Who Drop Out.
7-Lesson Schoolteacher ~ Our national curriculum.
A Wisdom Beyond Knowing ~ What form would knowledge take if we were to shift to a more all-embracing form of knowing?
Against School ~ How public education cripples our kids, and why.
American Schools and Learning Gender (pdf) ~ Michael Gurian looks at how boys and girls perform in school and how schools can help them learn to their potential.
Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives ~ Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. This became a taxonomy including three overlapping domains; the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective. Many links to articles, research, and other resources.
Class Size and Students At Risk ~ An overview of recent research on the effects of class size on the academic performance and behavior of students at risk.
Dialogue on Self-Esteem and Learning ~ What is self-esteem? Is it a self-concept, a self-image, a set of self-affirmations? Is self-esteem learned? Can self-esteem be 'pumped up' or must it grow through achievement? What is the role of learning in the development of emotional and intellectual well being? This is a dialogue and exploration about the relationship between learning and self-esteem that includes a number of leaders from the national self-esteem movement.
Education Reform Page 1 ~ These articles focus on the detrimental psychological effects of institutional rigidity and the "tough standards movement."
Education Reform Page 2 ~ These articles explore fundamental beliefs about learning and raise questions as to how to allow children to control their own education curriculum.
From Brain Scan to Lesson Plan ~ Neuroscientists are uncovering how the human brain learns, and will soon be able to translate that knowledge to the classroom. But more research -- and collaboration between psychology and other fields -- is needed.
If an Adolescent Begins To Fail in School, What Can Parents and Teachers Do? ~ How to identify teens who are at risk for school failure, where to find more information, and how parents and teachers can intervene.
Learn in Freedom ~ Excellent site on education reform, including home-schooling resources and information on the effects of school on youth, families, and society.
Learning: The Central Dynamic of a Human Being ~ Learning makes us who we are.
Learning Disabilities ~ Resources, information, articles, programs, and organizations dealing with learning disabilities and learning differences.
Learning in the Information Age ~ Learning is most efficient when it is anchored in the context of the learner's life, whereas institutionalized learning de-contextualizes it and removes the foundations on which learning can meaningfully take place.
Manual on School Uniforms ~ Many parents, teachers, and school officials have come to see school uniforms as one positive and creative way to reduce discipline problems and increase school safety.
Multiple Intelligences ~ One of the most remarkable features of the theory of multiple intelligences is how it provide eight different potential pathways to learning.
School Matters ~ Information and analysis about our nation's public schools.
Secondary Education in the Life of American Adolescents ~ Perhaps the most revealing way of understanding the place of secondary school in students' lives is to compare the amount of time adolescents spend in school and other academic endeavors with the time they spend in nonacademic activities. Other ways include examining adolescents' attitudes and values regarding education, the nature of parental involvement in their education, and the extent to which adolescent peer groups support academic achievement. Finally, the place of schooling in adolescents' lives must be understood against the backdrop of risk behavior that is prevalent among teenagers in American society.
Taking Responsibility for Ending Social Promotion: A Guide for Educators and State and Local Leaders ~ Research indicates, and common sense confirms, that passing students on to the next grade when they are unprepared neither increases student achievement nor properly prepares students for college and future employment. Retention in grade also greatly increases the likelihood that a student will drop out of school -- and being held back twice makes dropping out a virtual certainty.
Teach the First Amendment ~ Lesson plans that draw young people into an exploration of how their freedoms began and how they operate in today’s world.
Teacher Connections: The New York Times Learning Network ~ Each school day, access a lesson plan based on the day's news.
Teaching Is not Learning - The Guided Discovery Approach for Learning ~ Teaching is about teachers; learning is about students. Learning takes place when the learner is personally engaged and allowed to discover. It is time to shift the focus from teaching to learning.
Teaching Tolerance ~ National education project dedicated to helping teachers foster equity, respect and understanding in the classroom and beyond.
The Case for Bible Literacy in Secondary Schools ~ An educated person is familiar with the Bible.
The Constitutional Basis for Home Education ~ An article by John Holt.
The Insidious Curriculum ~ How our educational system damages our ability to learn.
The Underground History of American Education ~ Why mass compulsion schooling is unreformable.
Theories of Learning Index ~ This site is devoted to discussions and information on newer views of intelligence, holistic learning and teaching, as well as suggestions on how to create teaching environments where optimal human learning is supported and nurtured.
Time Use in Adolescents' Lives ~ For many students, school is not only about classes, but it is also the hub of an active life; school is where they meet friends and socialize, participate in sports, pursue personal interests through a variety of activities, try out leadership roles, and express themselves through musical and theatrical productions. For others, school is the place where they are expected to be between select hours of the day, but the connection between school and the wider world, personal life, or future goals may be tenuous.
What is Unschooling? ~ John Holt defines unschooling as the natural way to learn.
What Should Parents and Teachers Know About Bullying? ~ Bullying in schools is a worldwide problem that can have negative effects on the general school climate and on the right of students to learn in a safe environment without fear. Bullying can also have negative lifelong consequences — both for students who bully and for their victims.
What Underachieving Middle School Students Believe Motivates Them to Learn ~ This study explores what underachieving middle school students believe motivates them to learn, adding to the discussion of how to help all students learn well and achieve to higher standards.
Why Schools Don't Educate ~ The crisis of our schools is just one part of the larger crisis of our society.
Youth Who Drop Out: Why They Leave and What Happens To Them ~ Information and resources on teen dropouts, truancy, and keeping teens in school.
© 2008 Focusas.com