THE LESSONS OF EDUCATION
John Taylor Gatto is a revered figure in the homeschooling and education reform movements in both Canada and the United States. He first came to world prominacne in 1991 when, upon accepting an award for the "New York State Teacher of the Year" he deliverd a speech that was shattering in itís indictment of the modern North American education system.
The speech was titled "The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher" and it outlined the seven essential lessons that all school teachers are compelled to teach because of the structural limitation of the formal education system.
In brief the seven lessons are:
1. Confusion. This lesson is manifest by the disjointed nature of education. Everything that is taught in schools is taught out of context. Facts are related with no connection to each other or an overall sense of meaning. Learning does not unfold naturally, but rather randomly, with knowledge related in small chunks of limited relevance. Subjects are learned, if they are learned at all, by rote memorization, and all that remains is the knowledge of a specialized jargon rather than the deeper meanings and profound learnings.
2. Class Position. Students are taught that they must stay in the class where they belong. There is no interaction between people of different ages or common passions. Once assigned to a class, students are numbered and are "there to stay." There is no way of moving between classes, despite being exhorted to higher and higher degrees of excellence by testing and other rewards programs. Students are essentially taught to know their place.
3. Indifference. Students are taught mot to care too much about any one thing. Predetermined class times marked by the ringing of bells interuppt the natural flow of learning and engaging with material. As a result, students are rarely able to generat enough passion for something that they will truly engage in it and care about it. A student in the middle of writing a poem at one moment must be in another space learning about sulphur the next. Things rarely get finished and passion develops against the odds.
4. Emotional Dependancy. In school, students are largely dependant on authority figures for their self-worth. Approval and disapproval come at high cost for the developing egos of children and adolescents. Good students figure out how to get approval from teachers and bad students donít. The legacy of marking systems, praise and evaluation leads to severe depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, or conversely, artfically inflated self-esteem that does not prepare a student for the confidence required in the world. Students are entirely dependent on teachers and other authority figures for their emotional fulfillment at school.
5. Intellectual dependency. Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. Creativity is stifled and individuality discouraged. Students receive high marks for regurgitating what the authority figure has said. They only have time to learn what is on the test, and they are then tested on how well they have memorized the facts. Passions are stifled, because there is simply not enough time to devote oneself to the pursuit of an esoteric interest and still memorize enough material to gain the approval of the educational authority figures.
6. Provisional Self-Esteem. Grades may measure the results of a studentís ability to memorize facts relevant to the test, but they go futher than that. Grades are often taken as a guide to how dissastified a parent and a teacher should be with a child. The cumulative weight of grading compels students to arrive at certain decisions about themselves and their futures. Ultimately, grading creates a compulsion throughout life to be told what we are worth.
7. One Canít Hide. There is no freedom in schools. Every act is monitored and watched. Students are taught to snitch on others to keep the authority of the school intact. Students are not given free time. Homework ensures that the authority of the classroom intrudes even into the time that students may spend with their families. Failure to complete homework is punished and thus students learn that there is no time or space that belongs to them.