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Broken Schools Part 2

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My last post was fairly well recieved and even generated a super lengthy posting, it has provided much motivation. For, even if I have been resistant to the effects of schooling, I have not been immune. I find my self asking 'but who are you to think that you may affect any kind of a change, even if only locally (at first)? What do I matter?'. And to that I reply 'what is this blasphemy you speak? do you seek to resign to failure, without even had begun?'.

From a young age, a deafeatist and submissivist attitude is instilled in us all, crushing whatever curiosity that we may have had as children. Think to yourself, children are born highly curiuos and interested in the world about them. By the time they are about 13 and properly when they are 16, all such is gone as they enter the adult world. If the natural and default mode amongst most is one of independence loving, world curious why then is the world filled with so many dissaffected, disinterested and dependent people? Perhaps something goes wrong somewhere? I have an answer and it has to do with what happens when you pull a rubberband too far and then let go suddenly. It snaps back to a state more brittle than before. You need to take it back to its natural state slowly, or better yet, never had stretched it in ther first place. What do I mean?

From a young age children are treated as if they are lesser beings, who need not concern themselves with important dealings of the world they so wish would acknowledge them. They are told to restrict (read bottle up) themeselves and to obey authority (as oppossed to respect and treat others fairly). They may not relieve themselves without a pass and not without permission. In fact they must ask permission for near everything. They may not move without permission or a bell tells them. They must compete for attention and quickly learn to become embittered towards their fellow students who might steal the attention away from them. As they grow, the constant bells, realization that they are not an individual but a mere number in the class they are taught indifference. Disinterest is done simply.

A barrage of unrelated subjects (many of them presented in an irrational manner) with constantly interrupted study periods are launched at them. How can you become attatched to learning if every 40 minutes a bell rings to interrupt your stream of thought? There is no better way to hinder concentration and progress than constant interruption. Anyone who has ever thought 'its gonna take a while to get back into this, get in the zone' knows what I speak of. How can you care for what you do if most of it is meaningless (seemingly), disconnected and no more than monotnous busywork never to be looked at again after two weeks? The thought would be 'If this is what it is like, how uninteresting it is when it is so simple then I dread to think what the more difficult aspects are!' (it is quite frustrating telling people that no, mathematics is alot more that adding and subtracting and that yes, you can in fact study only it for 4 years or more and yes, there is a use for it. yes i am sure that there is a lot more to it than 1 + 1 = 2).

To go from thinking one minute about how to conjugate a verb and the next, a bell rings and like conditioned rats, to move without thinking (except me, I had a bad habit of staying after and finishing what I was doing. I got many, many referealls for being tardy. hah i say) to our next destination to learn that some president never lied (mix them up a bit, the more disparate facts fed a person in a day the less likely they will remember any, making learning a most unpleasant thing which is good). How can a child learn to learn? We do not teach critical thinking, instead we teach how to cross reference and regurgitate what we are fed. We are taught how not to think, this is the easiest way. We are trained on how to fill forms and grouped and seperated (fist by age, then by so called 'ability', then by most thoughtlessly obedient etc). Multiple choice exams (those things used to cause me much stress) train on how to give expected answer. If is say this, will you say a) ,b) or c)?

And you know what? The teachers can do nothing, the walls of the burecreacy encage them quite securely. One misstep and they are out of a job. They can but attempt their best to learn the kids something given the constricting space of proper technique, cirruculum, no child left behind, political correctness and the list goes on. There is no freedom of movement.

Filled as children are with curiosity, seperation from the world of the grown makes them want to grow much too fast, they wish to know what it is they are missing. Which as they later find out, really is not much. Indeed they lose many rich experiences that might otherwise have been undergone in their eagerness to become members of society. Hurried and rushed to grow (mentally), by the time they are of age, with proper grooming for materialistic compulsion created by Television, they snap into place having been properly schooled/trained, undeveloped as people but ready to become functioning members of society. How many say they do not know what to do with their life? Just go through it, day by day not truly expriencing it?

They do not seek to learn, to expand or go beyond themselves because it is not their job. 'What you say? Learn that? But I cant, I am not capable enough.' They are intimidated by what is foreign 'Indeed I deserve to be ripped off because I have chosen the path of wilfull ingnorance. But that is ok, I have not a certificate which says I may do that, someone else must do it for me, for since it is not my job it is fine that I have not even an incling on what it is that must be done that I may be charged reasonably'. Quickly we learn that we are not capable of learning on our own 'What? no that other person is more capable because he went to school and partied, cheated and squeezed his way to a degree, we have no paper that says that fellow over there who spends 12 hours a day studying the matter is knowledgable so he certainly knows nothing. This is a go go world you know!'. How often do You say to yourself 'but I cannot do that, I can never be as good as that person' even if you would fail, you would reach further and gain more by having tried than not at all.

Please note that I realize the importance of guidance - in order that the speediest path to knowledge be taken and irrevalncies not be retrodden. Indeed, teachers would do better to act as guides and not indoctrinators. But each person requires a unique level of guidance lest their free will and intellectual creativity and freedom be stifled.

But then you know, it does not do to have people who feel that it is better to try something even if they may fail nor those who think they might be able to do some task on their own,who can think openly and reason freely running about - that would ruin the entire economy and destroy the polarization of society we so cherish!

Some quotes on the purpose of Schools from the original directives

John Gatto is a retired teacher of some 30 years experience who was highly respected by his community and enjoyed as one of the best teachers. Yet he has much to say agaisnt the school system. Although you or I may not necessarily agree with all he says he makes many stong points in this speech. I quote from the strongest below.

The BEHAVIORAL TEACHER EDUCATIONAL PROJECT outlines specific teaching reforms to be forced on the country, unwillingly of course, after 1967. It also sets out, in clear language, the outlook and intent of its invisible creators. Nothing less than quoting again "the impersonal manipulation through schooling of a future America in which few will be able to maintain control over their own opinions", an America in which (quoting again) "each individual receives at birth, a multipurpose identification number which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of their [underlings]", (underlings is my interpretation, everything else came out of the document), "and to expose them to the directors subliminal influence of the state education department and the federal department acting through those whenever necessary".

The project identified the future as one (again I'm quoting) "in which a small league would control all important matters, one in which participatory democracy would largely disappear". Children would be made to see that their classmates, and indeed the average man or woman were so inadequate, were so irresponsible that they had to be controlled and regulated.

According to the BEHAVIORAL TEACHER EDUCATIONAL PROJECT, post modern schooling would focus, (I quote directly from the document), "on pleasure cultivation and interpersonal relationships and other attitudes and skills compatible with a non-work world". It makes sense of course, doesn't it? That irresponsible semi-illiterate people could not be trusted with much responsibility so in the new change agentry schooling, which is called for by this national teacher training document, the teacher is a therapist, translating the prescriptions of the social psychologists into practical action research in the classroom.

The third critical gospel signaling a great transformation at hand, to those in the know, was Bloom's TAXONOMY OF EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES, which has, since its publication, spawned a number of descendant forms, like "mastery learning", "outcome based education" and "school to work" business-government-economic projects. Dr. Bloom's compilation was a tool, (I'm quoting from Dr. Bloom), "a tool to classify the ways individuals are to act, think or feel as the result of participating in some unit of instruction".

But why is all of this being done? One large piece of the answer can be found in the current edition of FOREIGN AFFAIRS MAGAZINE, which will be in all your libraries. It is surely one of the most influential periodicals in the U.S., perhaps in the world, which extols the American economy with its massive lead over Europe and Asia, and an article written by the owner of U.S. News and World report in the New York daily news by Mort Zukerman. Zukerman attributes our superiority which he claims can not be lost in the 21st century, so huge is it, to certain characteristics of the American worker and the American workplace. If you read between the lines of this article it's quite easy to see that the advantage that Zukerman boasts of can only come from our training of the young. What does the advantage consist of then? According to Zukerman in the first position, the American is a pushover, dominated by management, with little to say about what happens. By contrast says Zukerman, Europe suffers from a strong crafts tradition which demands a worker voice in decision making. Asia is even worse off: their tradition, religion, and government interferes with what business could do. The Islamic world is so far behind, so crippled by religion that Zukerman doesn't even bother to mention it.

His analysis makes further telling points about the American worker and the American consumer. Like nowhere else, he says "workers in America live in a constant state of panic, a panic against being left out, they know that companies owe them nothing, there is no power to appeal to for management's decisions. Fear is our secret supercharger, it gives management the flexibility other nations will never have". Zukerman says that even after 6 years of economic expansion, American workers including management workers fret they might not survive. He is boasting of course - this is not a critical article, this is a laudatory article. In 1996 almost half the employees of large firms feared being laid off. This is double the number fearful of being laid off in 1991 when things were not nearly as good as they are now. This keeps wages under control.

And finally, our endless consumption completes the golden circle. Consumption driven, says Zukerman, by an astonishing American addiction to novelty which provides American businesses with the only domestic market in the world. Elsewhere in hard times, business dries up -- here we continue to shop till we drop, mortgaging our futures to keep the flow of goods and services coming. Remember this is not in any way a critical article. There can be no doubt that the fantastic wealth of American big business is a direct result of school training. Schools training a social lump to be needy, frightened, envious, bored, talentless and incomplete. The successful mass-production economy demands such an audience. It isn't anybody's fault.

A higher mission would exist too. Schools would serve as "instruments of managed evolution, establishing conditions for selective breeding before the masses take things into their own hands" (now I quoted that from a published essay by Edward Thorndike at Columbia Teacher's college in 1911). Standardized testing would separate those fit to breed and those fit to work and those unfit. Back before WW1, educational psychology, which was the creation of Edward Thorndike, had established that certain kinds of mental training in history, in philosophy, in rhetoric, for instance, made students resistant to manipulation because it developed independent intellect, it reduced their plasticity. That knowledge coupled with the new German directive to serve corporation and government, provided a sufficient motive to dumb instruction down.
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It's always interesting to see parallels between my thoughts and those of others.

I, too, have struggled quite a bit with the defeatism and self-doubt. The phrasing is even almost identical: "you're just one person, you can never make that much difference. Be content to affect things on just a small scale." But as I trace that back, I can clearly see its origins: the only adults who ever told me that as a kid were the same people who disapproved of my critical, curious attitude towards life.

The more I think about it, the more I am firmly convinced that a single individual, working hard and choosing his battles wisely, could totally reshape the future of the world. We live in an era of unprecedented interconnectivity and access to information distribution. Even in ages past, a few people have successfully started movements that changed the course of history. How much more power do we have nowadays to accomplish something similar?

I think the reason it hasn't yet been done is not because it is too hard, or even impossible; I think it hasn't been done because everyone has been trained to believe they cannot do it.

It's eerily fascinating to see Gatto's reasoning play out about the long-term effects of our educational model. Just last night I had a similar realization: the most effective means to remove power from a large body of people is to remove their capacity to think. Cutting off information, suppressing dissent, and even providing outright misinformation can work, but those methods are fragile and eventually will be overcome. The only truly lasting and crippling way to subvert a democratic society is to remove the people's ability to think.

The natural result is that power is no longer decentralized across the entire populace, but slowly congeals into ever-smaller areas of influence. The number of people with any meaningful amount of power continues to dwindle, until the system basically creates a ruling class. It is my belief that this has already happened, based on analysis of the types of people who hold prominent offices in our government. Eventually, the natural power struggles within that ruling class will eliminate members until power shifts to a single person. This leaves the door wide open for the establishment of a despotism, with the added bonus that the general populace has been too docile for generations to do anything about it.

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I very much agree with you. In fact I noticed that I agree much with you and as well share alot of your interests. Are you sure we arent twins seperated at birth? :D

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