|The Home Schooler
A Biblical Light on Education -
With Special Emphasis on Home Schooling
Franklin Sanders with JOHN TAYLOR GATTO on
John Taylor Gatto was born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a river town where his grandfather was the town printer. He attended public schools and a private Catholic boarding school.
As a boy he worked as a sweeper in his grandad's printing office, snow shoveller, lawn mower, Kool-Aid and comic book salesman, and delivery boy for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph and Uniontown Morning Herald, among other jobs. After undergraduate work at Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia, he served in the U.S. Army medical corps. Later he did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva, the University of California, and Cornell.
After college, Mr. Gatto worked as a film scriptwriter, an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewellery designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hotdog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher. During his schoolteaching years he also entered the caviar trade, conducted an antique business, operated a rare book search service, and founded Lava Mt. Records, a documentary record producer.
He climaxed his teaching career as New York State Teacher of the Year after being named New York City Teacher of the Year three times. In a 1991 letter to the Wall Street Journal OP ED page he resigned while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. Later that year he was the subject of a Carnegie Hall presentation, which launched a career of public speaking about school reform. That has taken him over a million and a half miles in all fifty states and seven foreign countries.
His books include: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992); The Exhausted School (1993); A Different Kind of Teacher (2000); and The Underground History Of American Education (2001) For forty years Mr. Gatto has been married to the same woman, and has two grown children and a cat.
After reading Mr. Gatto's latest book, The Underground History of American Education, I asked him for this interview. I recommend the book to every person in America. You can order a copy for $36.00 postpaid (priority mail) from John Taylor Gatto , 235 West 76th Street, N.Y., N.Y. 10023. His website is www.johntaylorgatto.com.
Moneychanger A friend gave me your book and audiotape and you did a magnificent job. Not only from the standpoint of the objective history, but also for what you revealed about the subjective change that schooling works in us. It cultivates obsequiousness and flattery in a child and creates a truckling person while it replaces real education with studying things that really don't matter. The tragedy is taking kids who probably would be very intelligent, productive members of society and teaching them nothing but how to pass tests. They get out into the world and find they don't know anything and aren't good for anything. They can't succeed.
Gatto About ten years ago the country's highest rate of suicide for a coherent group, was the group that won the National Merit scholarships.
MC For those of us trying to understand modern American society, how we got here and how we can escape, you've given us a kind of unified field theory that "explains everything," centered on public education.
What happened? How did American change from a nation of free people -- entrepreneurs and small freeholders with their own judgement, an educated people -- into a nation of employees?
JTG Several overwhelming historical trends collided. After we won the American Revolution and passed through the decades they call the Federal period, it became fairly clear that the theory of social layering wasn't nearly as valid as many would like. I base that in part on Alexis de Tocqueville's reflections in Democracy in America..
MC What do you mean, "social layering"?
JTG Coming from the French aristocracy and very curious about the United States, De Tocqueville was impressed simultaneously by the energy and intellect of ordinary people. Historically those had been assumed to be impossible. He was also repelled by their vulgarity.
But ordinary people without a government boot on their neck were able to do just about anything. While that struck Mr. de Tocqueville as a wonderful thing overall, it struck a great many other people as not at all wonderful. Recall that during the American Revolution, very large numbers of Americans were horrified by the vulgar classes asserting themselves.
MC People like Alexander Hamilton?
JTG Yes, but there were many, many others. The rising capitalist class in the United States was particularly appalled, for example, the famous Boston Peabody family. They were underwriting railroad construction to the coal mines in what was then the West. They could foresee an industrial utopia arising from the enormous US coal resources by the century's end. I may be a little confusing here as I jump around historically. The U.S. was known to possess twice the coal reserves of all the rest of the world combined -- plus oil, twice as efficient as coal, had also come on line.
MC Are you talking about 1820 to 1860?
JTG Yes, for coal; for oil a little later. That period witnesses a reaction against the American Revolution and ordinary people of Benjamin Franklin's type. They were inserting themselves into leadership positions and, for the class-based English or German mind, that was "acting out of type."
MC So, we saw the political tussle between the "aristocratic" northeasterners and the Bank of the United States on one side and the upstart Andrew Jackson on the other?
JTG Yes, that is a clear example. Jackson in particular horrified the established classes. They began feeling that their position was somewhat tenuous, but at the same time some farsighted men saw what a source of dependable energy like coal would portend never mind oil, because it just enhances the potential.
All the toys of history, the little mechanical things that delighted kings and emperors, suddenly could be hooked to a dependable power source. Prior energy sources -- wind, water, wood, animals were all quite inefficient. But now the prospect of freeing people, manufacturing, and management from inordinate dependence on labour made itself, if not evident, at least tantalisingly discussed in drawing rooms. Then genuinely brilliant men like Carnegie and Rockefeller saw that the efficiency made possible by this energy source could be combined with a social efficiency that had never been achieved before. How? Through forced universal schooling.
I hasten to excuse myself from agitating class warfare here. These men genuinely believed that they were leading humanity to the millennium. Sure, they would have to break a few eggs along the way, but in the end everyone would benefit.
MC Sort of a noblesse oblige that obliged the smart and rich to determine the destiny of the stupid and poor. In one of his speeches Carnegie called it something like the "burden of the rich." It's a sort of twisted version of the theological doctrine of predestination. "I am rich because God or destiny or evolution has made me the best; since I am they best, I must tip my hat to heaven and now get busy reorganising human society around myself."
JTG Right, but we must be careful not to categorise these people too cleanly, because they often drift back and forth. Carnegie comes from humble beginnings, bootstrapping himself up without the benefit of schooling.
Schooling is a civil religion and at its beginnings was known as that openly. In a society without an established religion like Germany's and Great Britain's, schooling became our substitute. It still serves that function although it's in an advanced state of disarray. Like Humpty Dumpty I am not sure that it is possible to pull American education back together,.
Even the people who profit from it are deeply disaffected. I am rather old and old-fashioned, but still the degree of cynicism among those who profit from schooling appals me. Other large groups of society view it with implacable hatred and anger. But then, it couldn't be reformed without making it something else entirely, because schooling performs brilliantly the function it was established to perform. It creates the consciousness indispensable for a mass production economy.
MC In other words, a mass production economy must have mass men to achieve mass consumption?
JTG You absolutely can't have anything other than massified men and women. No one will gamble the huge amounts of money to tool up for this or that unless they are pretty much guaranteed a profit.
In the 20th century government has made those guarantees when market research crystal ball's gazing is hazy. We wouldn't have a computer industry if the defense department had not absolutely guaranteed hundreds of businesses, which ultimately failed, that it wouldn't matter if they succeeded or failed. Over a relatively short period of time, a couple of decades, enough of them succeeded to give us a head start in world technology. But without the defense department's money, that wouldn't have happened, at least not the way it did.
But it reaches much further than the defense department. My wife was the treasurer of a New York City school board. Because of her husband's prying character, I got to see all the papers that had passed through that school board that stretched from the upper west side of Manhattan between Columbia University and Lincoln Center. It spends about $12,000 a year on these kids, though you'd need to be a detective (or a school board treasurer) to track the revenue stream, so cleverly hidden.
It became instantly clear to me that public education was a relaying mechanism to distribute contracts and to supply employment. What the average parent in the district thought schooling's purpose was hardly entered the school board's deliberations. They were busy patting this hand and that and taking orders from this party or that. At first I though, "Well, it's only this school district." But by assiduously gathering countrywide data over a period of years, I came to see that it was the standard pattern everywhere. The talk about what the kids needed was superficial and quickly over with.
MC The real point was who was going to get the contracts?
JTG Yes, that was the real point. But also in big city America it is very, very useful to be able to turn kids out for this or that purpose. In the liaisons between corporation business and government, to be able to display a certain "interest in the well being of the children" is one of the guaranteed ways to fasten on to the money express.
MC So public education is a gigantic public works project.
JTG Probably the largest in human history.
MC In Memphis, Tennessee, where Federal Express and I don't know how many other big corporations are headquartered, who is the county's largest employer?
JTG I can guess. [Laughing]
MC It is the school system. Every state devotes 40% or more of its budget to education. Never mind that, education and the need for more education funding are still used as an excuse for installing lotteries, which they've just done in Tennessee. Imagine how much money public education consumes! It is a gigantic public works project, expending huge amounts of money to soak up otherwise excess production and to employ millions otherwise unemployed -- or unemployable.
JTG Probably three to four million directly, but a great many others in the ancillary industries, publishing, food preparation, desk building, truck driving, etc. It is absolutely the largest employer and I think it's set up to be elastic. When jobs run short nationally, schools suddenly find a reason to employ para-professionals. They expand employment to lessen the revolutionary potential of too many unemployed.
This New York City school board rubber-stamped whatever the superintendent asked for. I was curious about that. When my wife got on the school board we didn't know anything about the politics and certainly she didn't run for the board to learn about them. We soon saw that all the other members were annoyed that a teacher's wife had been elected. All the other members were in one way or another politically ambitious and this was a career stage.
There was always someone on the school board who represented the real estate industry. Obviously they didn't announce that, but that is what they represented. Then there was always somebody who represented the major industry in town. The smaller the town the clearer that linkage becomes. The school board had been corrupted ("suborned" is the legal term) fairly early on by small payoffs and it became a relay for careers rather than representing the people.
Back to our historical discussion -- in that period up to the War [for Southern Independence] they began to restore the English order.
MC The class structure?
JTG Yes, but not out of motives the Marxists might ascribe. From a religious viewpoint, they were ordering society the way God wanted it. From a secular, Darwinian viewpoint, these were the evolutionarily advanced, securing their improvements. There are any number of ways to arrive at the same conclusion.
The War [for Southern Independence] removed the principle obstacle in this new social engine's path, a different way to think about what's valuable and what isn't. So from the end of the War in 1865 until the 1890s, these ideologues were absolutely in the driver's seat. They made heavy use of Darwin's second major book, The Descent of Man. He said that if the evolutionarily retarded who make up 95% of the population crossbred with the good stuff, evolution would march backwards. Disgusted shock waves ran through drawing rooms in Boston and New York, and probably in London and Paris and Berlin, too.
MC That spawned the eugenics movement that culminates in monsters like Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood. The population control movement has both an ideological and an economic function. "Ideological" because they think the gene pool has to be cleansed and they are the ones who rightly own the chlorine and ought to use it. "Economic" because too many people can destabilise the mass production-mass consumption society. Too many people can't be employed, so employers grind down wage rates, and the system creates a proletarian underclass always threatening to rise up and overthrow the system. By the way, what I have just laid out is not a Marxist critique.
JTG I understand it as a kind of a loyalist critique
MC My guess is that the "elite" in big business and government really believe that. That was my point to you in my letter about George Fitzhugh's book, Cannibals All (1852). Fitzhugh' theorises that the end of slavery (or serfdom) inevitably creates an over-population problem -- too many workers, not enough work. Then, because capital is so much stronger than labour, employers will always bid wages down to a starvation level and the starving will underbid each other for any work. That in turn marginalizes large numbers of people to starvation's edge, creating an underclass that continuously threatens revolution. Fitzhugh's case was strong, and the industrialising European states (especially England) yielded abundant current evidence to support it.
I was also trying to point out that Harvard's Belknap Press keeps Fitzhugh's book in publication. Why? Why would the elite interest themselves in keeping in print an apologist for slavery? I am convinced they do it because the same elite who engineered public education really believe that Fitzhugh is correct. They believe he described a sort of natural law that threatens the whole set-up of modern society they have created. I believe Fitzhugh's theory lies behind the creation of the welfare state (to reduce and control the potential revolutionaries and the economy) and all the host of "automatic stabilisers" built-in to control the economy, from the 1948 Full Employment Act to highway construction to abortion to public education (which not only dumbs down the proletariat, but delays their entering the workforce).
JTG I see, and this is one of the "sacred texts." I'm certain that you are right in a larger sense, namely, that certain "sacred texts" are kept in print to train the next generation of managers. The omnipresence of Plato's Republic always intrigues me. [laughing]
MC Well, Plato first justified the idea of a ruling elite ("philosopher kings") benevolently controlling the idiotic underclass. As the most respectable figure to enunciate their ideology, it's only logical that they would keep going back to him, isn't it?
JTG Now notice this. Whenever a period of uncontrolled history opens up like that between colonial America and the War [for Southern Independence], it produces evidence to challenge this upper class underclass relationship, which brings out a real problem for social engineers to solve. If the blasted underclasses are determined to demonstrate that they don't belong in the category where Fate and the elite have put them, then something has to be done to make them get into the box and stay there.
MC And that something is?
JTG Public school. Of course, the healthy share of private schools follow the public school model, too. They operate more cosmetically because they are smaller and drawn from a more genteel class of customer. I am not including in that charge any of the elite private boarding schools, only the ones that fall outside the two or three inner circles. It's odd that the last two presidential elections should have caused an inquiry from the American journalist fraternity. Bush is from a top ten boarding school and Kerry is from a top ten boarding school. In the last election, Al Gore was from a top 10 elite boarding school. A number of the secondary candidates, like John McCain, the great champion of the people, also come from an elite top ten 10 boarding school, in his case so elite most people have never heard of it A large number of these elite school graduates show up in the national leadership, like Franklin Roosevelt from Groton and John F. Kennedy from Choate.
I spent a couple of years digging into the inner circle. There are 20 of that class, perhaps another 250-300 that imitate these schools, and the outer darkness for everyone else. What do these schools specialise in? After considerable labour I was able to list ten or a twelve qualities these schools aimed at. Immediately I saw the distinction between the best public schools and these private boarding schools, and how they train managerial cadre. Not in colleges but in secondary schools they are given their outlook and certain skills that are absolutely unavailable to public schools kids. Not unavailable legally, they simply don't make schooling's packed curriculum. If a kid's parents don't make up the lack, it's not likely to be made up. If it's not made up before the age of 18, it's hard to make up ever.
MC What characteristic or
JTG The most common is public speaking. That fussy term makes us think of someone making a graduation speech but basically it's the ability to swim in any sort of citizen pool, to be able to put together a compelling argument and to deliver it without biting your fingernails or sweating.
In thirty years of public school teaching I discovered something, to my satisfaction. If your English class (I taught English) specialised in public speaking in a relatively short time -- three or four months -- you would get at least competency out of virtually everybody, including kids who never ate off a table cloth in their lives. I could only extrapolate what would happen if the curriculum emphasised it for 12 years and the kids were aware of why it was important.
And this will tickle you, Franklin: in my historical reading I discovered that in colonial Virginia and a number of other states it was a crime to teach ordinary people the tricks of public speaking.
JTG Yes, public speaking (and writing) wre called the "active literacies." They allow an individual to enlist followers. That's dangerous, and can't be allowed to many.
The other chief distinction between the public schools and elite private schools is writing. There, too, I proved to my own satisfaction that even relative idiots can learn how to do short pieces of coherent, cogent writing. Practice over and over again and it just happens. And once it happens it never unhappens.
MC The students who learned these skills, public speaking and writing, were not from New York's upper class, were they?
JTG No, they were kids from Harlem and Spanish Harlem, which are close geographically but worlds apart socially. It wasn't very hard to do, so I don't pat myself on the back. You just have to make it a priority. After you penetrate those kids' shell of hostility (after 90 days of sincerity), they take to it like a duck to water because they are naturally more intensely social than other kids.
I spent five years with New York's upper west side elite at the very beginning of my teaching career. Then the school district tried to shake me loose by moving me from school to school so I ended up by mid-career in Harlem and Spanish Harlem
Their resistance was all superficial. They love having the power that anyone can master if he will go thorough the exercise. It's like lifting weights, if you lift often enough you will have a firm muscle. Speaking isn't any different
I gave three bottles of Irish whiskey to the custodian and he supplied me with a master key and an "empty room schedule." That way I always knew where I could pop the kids to do these exercises
It wasn't very hard to do and by the end of a single school year, they showed a wide band of competence and a couple who already showed flashes that they could be outstanding. I could only guess what would happen if the system made this a priority. Certainly we would have a much different social and economic system.
As far I can read America's economic layers, the easiest way for a nobody to move quickly into business success is through sales. Obviously if you can't put yourself in the other fellow's mind, which drama teaches, and stroke the other person's fears or ambitions(which literature and some other studies teach), you can't sell very well. So our standard school curriculum deliberately excludes a huge number of people from learning this very easily attainable skill. Why? They were "meant" to be the drawers of water and hewers of wood.
MC Most people would regard the children you taught as the hopelessly worthless scum of society and they probably looked like it, too. Were they just as belligerent and unpleasant as they could be when you first got them?
JTG They were.
MC But you taught them public speaking and writing. Then it is not inevitable that these people have to live out useless lives. That means, John, that modern society in its present structure is not inevitable.
JTG Not at all, and for that I wouldn't demonise the managerial classes, as the left likes to do. The blame lies more with a marked lack of imagination of what kind of economy we could have if everyone were competent.
MC Picking back up our thread of history, before the War for Southern Independence big businessmen began to see the possibilities of a mass production-mass consumption society -- "mass society." Then began the "co-operation of business and government in education," with business very much the senior partner. And they also needed public education to forestall potential competitors because they believed that over-production is the nemesis that inescapably haunts mass society.
JTG Yes, that was the fatal cancer of industrial capitalism..
MC Or as John D. Rockefeller put it, "Competition is sin." Since, potentially, every child born might bring with him some new industry to displace what presently exists, someone must get to that kid before he affects the economic equation.
JTG Yes, and the easiest way to do that is to make sure that the overwhelming number can't rock any boat.
MC By never awakening their mind to the fact that their mind is there. Carry this a step further. Everyday people have so much latent ability that it would erupt if schooling didn't suppress it. What would society look like if all these people were freed from regulation, class stratification, and schooling classifications -- freed of these anchors that government and big business and public education tie around their necks?
JTG I've never found any satisfactory speculation in print because the Darwinian void weighs down all the speculators. They believe that only a few can find ways to be useful so all the rest have to truckle under.
I travel constantly. Every once in a while I'll drive through a college town at night. The whole town will be blazing with lights, the streets will be full of people, and they'll all be moving at some brisk rate because they have some undertaking underway. They inspire and cross-pollinate each other. I went to Cornell for a while and Ithaca was a town very much like that, but I don't think we need a great university present to do that. That university lives in our flesh and blood, our spirit, it just must be allowed to express itself. In college I read Democracy in America and I had a particularly bad time with it. But when I read it again a few years ago, I could see that de Tocqueville had been dazzled by a world that he had never seen except at the court. All these bumpkins had a purpose and they were on their way with a project.
MC The general education level prevailing from the Revolutionary War to the War for Southern Independence amazes me. I have a BA, several years of graduate school, studied in Germany for a year, and am a pretty well educated person by today's standard. But for me to try to read Calhoun or Jefferson or John Taylor is a labour. It's all I can do to stay awake. In a history of the DuPonts, I found that one of the early DuPonts had written back to France in 1808 that 98% of the American population was literate. That's a far greater percentage than today. Those Americans, even farmers and mechanics, enjoyed a level of erudition, education, cultivation, aesthetic sensitivity, and elevation of character that is inconceivable today.
JTG The great flowering of folk art, too, was nipped in the bud when small farms were destroyed. A lot of that was deliberate, although not in the Marxist sense --not a bunch of bad guys sitting around the table with their collars turned up, planning to harm the others. Rather, the self-designated "elite" was aesthetically revolted by the different patterns of culture that these people were bringing. In addition, lot of the younger people were caught by the possibility of an organised religion in mass society. It was a unifier that delivered universal purpose and gave you a set of marching orders. Something had to be found to replace Christianity and Darwin offered it: the progress of evolution to replace the progress of the soul.
MC We mistakenly view the Victorian age as an age of great faith, while in fact they were waiting for any excuse, to abandon Christianity. Darwin's first book sold out in a few days and immediately passed through the English and Western intellectual world as Christianity's replacement.
JTG Twelve years later The Descent of Man justified walling off the good stock from the bad stock and making the bad stock police themselves.
Mortimer Zuckerman, the publisher of U.S. News and World Report, wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine several years ago. I almost fell over when I read it. I couldn't believe that anyone would be that candid, but then, who reads Foreign Affairs? Zuckerman said that no one could catch the American economy for a hundred years. Why? Because the American workingman took such careful building. He now has such unusual characteristics that it would take a century to reproduce him elsewhere.
What are those unusual characteristics? He defines himself by what he buys, so when he has nothing, if you extend credit to him he will mortgage himself and his children forever just to keep consuming. That is one strength of the American workman. The second, that he lives in constant fear of losing his job. Since he knows he doesn't know how to do anything at all, he lives in constant fear, and that goes right up the line of management. He knows there are twenty or thirty or fifty people waiting for that job, and that makes him totally tractable and docile. If he loses his job he may never get a job again.
MC And the older he gets the less chance he has.
In a slightly different form, that is George Fitzhugh's argument in Cannibals All. The elite, however, is clever enough not to allow conditions to get so bad that the underclass in fact starves to death. That's why we must have the welfare apparatus and the other built in "stabilisers" installed since the New Deal. They prevent the system from destroying itself.
Terror keeps American workers in line. It is terror of losing your job, literally losing your "place in the world," losing the ability to do meaningful work even though the work is not very meaningful, as we all know. He is terrified that he will be cast into limbo. For a man it is the terror of being castrated.
JTG Well, that's priceless. Zuckerman in 1998 confirms what Fitzhugh wrote in 1854.
Recently a wealthy man faxed me. He grew up in an Indianapolis working class family in the 1960s. He said his Dad's ability to repair the house, build a garage, design and build several sailboats and do all kinds of mechanical things led him to the ability to do the same and through that, to academic competence.
Public education banishes kids from the working world. Our best example of what good flows from not banishing them is Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. By age twelve he is working a 60 hour week. He details the curriculum that he and friend put themselves through in their spare time. I'll tell you, Yale wouldn't dream of asking undergraduates to do that curriculum. Franklin came from a family of 16 kids, and the kids were working a 60 hour week
MC [Laughing] I noticed something when I moved out into the country. Farm kids have to pitch in. The Amish are the best example of that. Among the Amish around us I have seen five year old girls bring up half a dozen big Holsteins to milk, or twelve year old boys ploughing behind three big Belgians. Even on modern farms kids have to do everything. After about six months living out here it struck me that city-bred people can never even approach the level of competence and responsibility of the country-raised. If you live on a farm, you have to be able to make every mechanical repair yourself, and if you are not responsible for everything around you, nobody will be. These kids are not ruined. Far from it: they become great human beings.
JTG One interesting secret that public education doesn't mention: about 20% of the highest incomes in the country belong to "operatives," people who run heavy equipment or repair computers. They are one fifth of the top one percent of US incomes. In 30 years of school teaching I never encountered that interesting fact, although I must say that from time to time I suspected it.
MC What do you recommend for people with children in public schools? What can they do? If public education is so bad, what's a family with Mama working and two or four children do? Or a lone father or mother?
JTG First, that family relationship has to be quite active. The intellectual and character building part of it can't be, "What did you do in school today and let me help with the homework."
As far as homeschooling, I have been screaming at one expert for five years that he owes it to us to write a book. Pat Farenga, head of John Holt Associates up in Boston, ran a loose-knit association of 15, 000 homeschoolers. I asked him about ten years ago how a single mom, for example, homeschools. He said that about one quarter of his membership is in that position. Apparently there are a lot of ways to do that and probably it would be an art at all times -- but the best of our lives are an art.
At the end of each school year, I would take all my notes and throw them away because I found myself repeating what worked. There's nothing wrong with that, but I wasn't growing or experiencing any productive tension. I only do that by starting from scratch every year.
MC Any parent that engages in homeschooling finds out he learns as much as the child does.
JTG Even if your kid goes to a local public school, you have to homeschool and show the kid that education is something that you take. Nobody gives it to you. Micki and David Colfax wrote a great book, Trouble in Paradise. They homeschooled four sons in Northern California. With all the money they had in the world they bought a broken down homestead on a mountaintop that didn't have a road into it. For the first year they lived in a car while they cut a road into their homestead. For the first ten years they had to go a mile or further to draw water out of a valley and bring it up in buckets.
The first three sons were each accepted into Harvard on full tuition scholarships. The fourth son became a nationally known goat breeder and said he didn't have time to waste on college.
Colfax had been a college professor but was blackballed for some reason. They knew nothing about homesteading when they started out. It's not only inspiring and funny, the book explored areas of growth that we are never told that exist. We are never shown these examples. It's called "emulation". When I was a boy, we learned about David Farragut who commanded a warship at the age of twelve, and about Benjamin Franklin, who was working 60 hours a week at twelve, yet in his spare time putting himself through a curriculum that would choke a Yale student today. And we learned these things as the common diet of an elementary school in a coal-mining town, Monogahela, in western Pennsylvania, circa 1942. Those had vanished by the mid 1950s. By the 1970s or 1980s articles from the Harvard Education Review were claiming that emulation was a negative thing and should be kept as limited as possible or not used at all.
MC, If you try to follow a curriculum like a public school when you homeschool, you miss it..
JTG You miss a lot of it.
MC You torture yourself because people don't learn that way. Rather, they get interested in Egyptology and go read everything they can find on it. They glut on it, then go deeper or go to something else.
JTG You learn a lot more than merely Egyptology. The head of the human genome project, Francis S. Collins, was raised on a remote western Virginia sheep ranch and homeschooled with his four brothers. The method they used, he told the New York Times, would have gotten his mother thrown in jail and the kids thrown into Social Services. The four brothers, all different ages, had to decide what they wanted to study. Then they studied it exclusively as long as they were interested in it. When they weren't, they dropped it for something else. He went through Harvard with no trouble and he's has easily the most prestigious scientific job in the world today. And nothing they studied was in the sciences.
MC One thing surprised me in homeschooling. That alienation between parent and child which is programmed into public education does not take place because we spent time together. It took me a long time to figure this out and I would have been a lot better off if somebody had just beat it into my head at the beginning of our homeschooling. I don't care if my children learn to read and write or cipher or anything else. Just leave them with me the first twelve years of their life and I can train their character. That's the biggest job. When a child is taken away from you for eight hours a day to be indoctrinated by a stranger, even if the stranger is a very nice person, the child comes home a stranger, and you can never recapture that parent-child bond later.
JTG You're right. In 30 years of teaching never once, not a single time, did I ever hear the parent-child relationship discussed in teacher room casual conversations or in teacher meetings. Not once in 30 years. The parents got three minutes each on parent night and that was it.
MC Public education relegates the parent to a position of irresponsibility. He can't be really involved in anything because the system has hijacked the child.
JTG Every single year that I taught, I made it my business to visit every home and talk to the parent like a colleague or the senior partner in this partnership. As a result, my discipline problems were about 20% of other teachers. The resources made available to me -- not money but ideas -- were so abundant that I could have taught for 150 years and never done the same thing twice. That's how much pooled wisdom exists among 130 parents.
MC Would you agree that sending your child to public school is very, very dangerous?
JTG A very dangerous thing to do. If circumstances compel you to do it, then you need an intellectual as well as a paternal relationship with your child. You need to get your child to study the processes of schooling and to understand that he is the principle source of his own education.
MC When they look at public education, most people suffer from a complete misapprehension. They say, "Look, you're turning out kids who that can't read, write, balance a checkbook, or think. You are a failure."
In fact, that's wrong, isn't it John?
JTG As you said, if you do the character job, a lot of the intellectual job just flows naturally out of that. If you do the intellectual job without the character portion of the upbringing, you've created monsters. You've created these Enron chaps.
MC [laughing] Who by the way are not an accident of the system, but its end.. All the games that Enron played depended on government regulation and the government creating an industry and yet somehow the blame never gets placed there -- a masterpiece of propaganda.
You've been very gracious with your time. Thank you so much. [End]
© 2004, The Moneychanger. Reprinted with permission. The Moneychanger is a monthly newsletter to help Christian people prosper with their principles intact in an age of moral and monetary chaos. Monthly, $149/year from P.O. Box 178, Westpoint, Tennessee 38486. Special reduced price subscription offer available on www.the-moneychanger.com."
Editor's note: We ordered The Underground History Of American Education, which, Lord willing, will be reviewed in the next Examiner. If ordered over the web, it comes with a tape, A Short, Angry History of Modern Schooling. The 90 minute tape is very enlightening. On it, Mr. Gatto shows how the education mess today is a result of a conspiracy of some very rich men, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, &c., who themselves had very little if any formal education (Carnegie had no formal schooling), yet these men forced education, sometimes at gun point, upon America. The conspiracy started in the late 1800s. The purpose of public education was to destroy the ability of the masses to think and reason independently for themselves. The goal was to make an illiterate consumer machine that would purchase the products offered by the industrial complex, a machine which would purchase their products without considering the long term effects of their purchasing actions. The conspiracy not only involved the common schools (schools for the common people who would need someone else to think for them), but involved the central government. The government was to pass laws that would go hand in hand with industry, which founded the common schools, to force the individual businessman out of business [e.g. Wal-Mart (mass marketing, which drives the small, independent man out of business), which is operated by people who cannot make change for $50 without the built-in calculator in the cash register]. The leaders in the industrial revolution realized that the entrepreneurial spirit of the independent thinking man, e.g., farmers, upon which America was founded had to be removed for these industrial leaders to make their money. They had to have a mindless populace to purchase their products without thinking.
Conclusion: the owners of the steel mills, &c., realized that they had to have a mindless consumer base if they were to make their money. Thus they forced a common school system upon America to build that mindless mass programed to shop, like one would mass produce nails. Just look around: The common schools have done a wonderful job as people must purchase whatever necessary to keep up with those around them. Moreover, the industrial leaders realized if they could keep the workers in fear of losing their jobs, they would be even more faithful slaves to industry.
Obviously, the goal of public education is to mass produce a mass consumption society, a society that does not commit the heinous sins of leadership and completion. When will Christians realize that the goal of public Education is to destroy their children? Christian parents must make a serious effort, especially with their sons, to teach their children to speak in public and to write sound, coherent papers. If they do not, the war for the kingdom of God is lost by default.
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