The Underground History of American Education
Someone reminded me of the book linked above, and I’ve begun to read it, online. I have read PARTS of it in the past. I find John Taylor Gatto’s writings to be fun to read, informative and knod, knod, knod respective.
Myself I was part of public schooling from 5 years of age up to … well, things got really dicey for me in my teens. I had thinking that wasn’t what school wanted. I hated school, in different ways, liking parts of it, but knowing that something could be different, that I was different, not suited to it.
I was 13 when my family moved from PA to FL and there in FL the schools wouldn’t take us children until we had a history of utility bills to prove residency. So moving there in October, I had a bit of freedom before being forced back into school.
I found things really strange when finally I was allowed to register and start going again. First off, I felt like I was signing my life away, and being put into some deep prison, paperwork they made ME fill out, 13-year old me, not that I wasn’t able to do it, but it was administrative garbage and made me sick to have to do.
Then I had to take a vocabulary test. This test would prove to the Admin’s what group I’d be put in. Since I was a literary lover I scored high to perfect on the “test” (a very simple/dumb test) I was put into the highest “track” –of which I think there were 5 levels.
This was an experimental school. The building was a large, round-ish building, divided up into multiple class-rooms, but not “rooms” the whole building was open, with the “rooms” being “dividers” — each grade could hear all the other grades, all tracks could hear all the other tracks. It was mass noise horrific. So we’d sit in our classes and for “test times” have no surety of quiet. Big deal, in actuality, I found it all a joke.
I had been involved in “music” since 2nd grade at my previous school in PA. In this new FL school they didn’t allow me to join the “chorus” since I didn’t have “credentials” that I could only have gotten in a previous class in the very school I was only then joining into. It was an impossible thing. It made me mad, for a short time. Not too long afterward I had the opportuntity to hear the ‘chorus’ and was immensely relieved that I hadn’t been able to join in. It was so juvenile, so beneath my experience and abilities.
That was the first time I had no music or art in my schooling career. The academics weren’t challenging, and I was in the highest track, mind you.
My memories of that time are so clear, and reading some of Gatto’s writings afresh … Dumbed-down isn’t what I was in, it was worse.
Well I had just that one year there, and went to a different school the next year, HS for 9th grade. This was a school so overfilled, it had split-sessions. I went from Noon-ish to 5pm. I had troubles due to Phys. Ed (Gym class) but besides that, it was a bad experience fully from the “feel” of the school. It had an “inner city” feeling to it, while not being part of any megalopolis, just one of the areas in S. Florida, it was situated right by I-95 in very old buildings (relatively speaking) and the teachers were so very different from any previous that I’d had. I think I’ve written about this before, mostly about the Gym class, but also about the Reading Lab I was put into for a spell.
That was a reprieve of sorts, that Reading Lab, where I got to read literature and short stories, and be tested for comprehension and pushed deeper into comprehensioned things, like a chain-reaction based on my comprehension — getting to read further things as a result.
This was individualized, and therefore a dream to attend to. The lady in charge didn’t feel like a “teacher” to me but an ‘overseer’ of sorts, like someone guiding, not necessarily “in charge of me” but showing me the path … though it wasn’t really like that, but just “seemed to be so.” It was moreso Mentor-ish, I suppose.
This wasn’t something that lasted very long, it was an outlet from another English class, just a Lab for a set time. The lady though was thrilled with me and made me see she saw me as quite an unexpected delight to work with. My comprehension was great, blah, blah, blah, which wasn’t inflating to me, I didn’t see how it was that incredible, it was normal, to me. :rolleyes:
I really didn’t like that school, for many reasons, and sooner than later, I refused to go to school. My mother tried to force me, but couldn’t enforce my going, I was a rock about it. I “begged” her to let me stay and she could “school” me at home. My mother didn’t know what I meant and said she couldn’t do that. So I just educated myself, reading every “Readers Digest Condensed Book” that we had, which was a few bookshelves worth of volumes. I watched old movies in the afternoons on the local PBS station. I listened to the radio, wrote things down, just did my own thing.
That was my best year in school, once I was home (I stayed in that school for less than 2 marking periods, or just that much.) In January a truant officer came to the house, and saw that I was home and had no beef to make with me, I was “home” therefore not of concern, he was out to find the trouble-makers. (Wow!)
That summer we moved to another area in S. FL and I was enrolled in 9th grade again in the local pubic HS. This school was different, moreso like the PA school I was last in, though still not as “something” to me, further behind academically it seemed. I found the music department to be a great place though, the lady in charge was wonderful and found my talents and let me do things that others in my grade weren’t supposed to do. School otherwise was no fun, not worth my time, it seemed. I survived the year there, and went back for 10th, but ran into my old sentiments of hating it too much and I once again quit. This time my parents contracted with our independent baptist church and made a deal to clean the school buildings nightly in return for tuition-free schooling (they had K4-12 school there.) I started in the middle of the first semester and finished out that year, and it was alright, but little better than public school. I went to 11th and had a struggle at the end due to many things and quit during the last couple of weeks. They tried to make a deal with me, to come to full summer school and make up therefore and get passed to 12th. I was done though. I washed my hands of it all.
I eventually got my GED, just to get it. I didn’t study, who needed to? I guess many needed to, but it was a cakewalk and oh, just something I did “because you are supposed to have a diploma” but it isn’t equal to anything if you are female, which I found out when I later went join the Navy, passing the entrance exam easily, and then them finding my GED and little bit of college not enough to let me in afterall. They tried to strong-arm me into delayed-entry, go to college for more credits, then be allowed in. I washed my hands of them right then.
The college I had was a small non-denominational Christian College. I spent my first year there under a music scholarship and enjoyed much of it, but found certain aspects more than I could stand, and therefore flunked some things. I did go back the next year and attained 2nd year status part way through, but then had to take one of the same classes again that I’d flunked and ended up flunking again (both times being because of the class of personality with the prof. … same prof. both years, I couldn’t do it.)
The point with me there though was my friends were in different classes and I studied there stuff with them … stupid me. 😉
I long before had learned that learning is not about “credentials on paper” but “what’s in my mind” and that has satisfied me all along. I have only had the problem of hating the structures I’ve been forced into, and held back by. I haven’t succeeded in life the way I wish I could have, but I’m satisfied overall, in many respects, about the ability to learn what it is I want to when I want to and that feels fine.
I’m a girl, married, stay at home mother of three, and a non-traditional sort of lady (INTp, more intellect than brawn, not as mundane chore-able as a woman is supposed to be as a stay at home wife/mother. Sigh.)
Before I ever got married I knew that my children wouldn’t ‘go to school’ — I couldn’t fathom WANTING to send them away, or give them to someone else. Once I was married and had my first child, I had such a strong emotional tie to him, I was a Lion-ess about it. Still am. 🙂
My children actually play more than they should, no doubt, but I would rather they do that, than even at home “force” them to sit and do “this or that” for educational purposes. I am friendly to “Classical Education” but don’t want to implement it in my home on young children. Though it’s a newer history of extending a child’s childhood into their teens, I am allowing it since I am keeping them home and making sure they read as easily as they can as early as they can without pushing. Thus far my 10 year old is reading heavily since 8 years of age, and my (newer) now 8 year old is reading more and more and more with each passing week. My 6 year old is able to read letters (alphabet) and is reading some words, I’m just not pushing him, letting it come naturally. I have found for all of them that they have reading abilities in the form of symbols from age 4 certainly, and alphabet too, but my allowing of them to play lets the actual “literary” reading ability form through time, and when I “test” them with something, a book, an Ad, something that might interest them, I aide them here and there, just don’t push, and eventually they blast ahead when it’s their time.
I could dedicate myself to have them learn to read at 4 to 6 years of age, but it has no bearing on their ability to read when older. I’d rather them just naturally incline to read and be able to read higher materials when they are interested in doing so.
I’m not for dumbing down thier education, just biding time until they are able to read well, and motivated to read more and able to read for themselves and then guide them into self-directed-learning. I don’t have a curriculum for them, but do choose books and things for them to do, and will be doing more and more of that as time goes on.
I want my chidlren to have developed intellects, to THINK, and to learn lifelong, for themselves. I want them to develop their specific talents and not limit themselves to anything particular but be diversified … the old-time way, the early American, the Athenian … etc.
I am thankful that my children haven’t had to be stigmatized at all by an external institution. What a magnificent background in this day and age in the USA. I’m trying to get them reading good materials and to be responsible in chores and thinking for themselves, to be ingenious when the need arises. We have animals to care for. This is a high calling, and one that I think so many people don’t consider a high calling, and few have ability to even have animals to care for (and some don’t even want to have the ability.) Animal husbandry is something one can learn about in books, but hands-on is greater. The experience gained, the responsibility gained, the satisfaction gained … it’s hard, but good work.
So I am hacking away at the full book online linked at the beginning of this post. It’s something I’m thinking that I’ll take index card notes on and jump off from that to read more source on history of the world in education. I read chapter 7 first, then started back at the beginning. Somewhere in there is talk of Athens, and it clicked with some memory of mine from my childhood, reading something somewhere and seeing the free society clearly in my mind and feeling as I did at that young age thinking about it, the clarity of freedom and ultimate understanding and living. 🙂 I’m ready for a full-tilt study of Athens right now. Yummy.