Dumbing us Down

John Taylor Gatto wrote a book in the 90’s called Dumbing Us Down. In this book he made a controversial argument that our school system was not failing, but in fact was wildly successful. It is successful in what it set out to do: keep itself going and “teach school.”

He listed seven lessons that every schoolteacher teaches when they “teach school”. They are

1. Confusion. Nothing is taught in context, no subject is connected to another subject, nothing is taught in depth.

2. Class position. A student is in a certain class because that is where he/she belong. They might be able to move to another one, but probably not.

3. Indifference. Don’t care too much about anything, it doesn’t really matter, because when the bell rings it’s time to move on to something else.

4. Emotional dependency. A teacher has a lot of power over the children in his/her class. Good students learn to do what they can to please a teacher.

5. Intellectual dependency. Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do and what to think.

6. Provisional self–esteem. Another way to put it: they learn conditional love.

7. One can’t hide. There is no privacy, no where to go to get away.

It is Mr. Gatto’s belief that these teachings are leading to “pathologies” in our children. They become children who: are indifferent to the adult world, have no curiousity, have a poor sense of the future, have no sense of history, are cruel to each other, are afraid of intimacy, are materialistic, and are crippled when face with new challenges.

We’ve all been in the school system. Do you agree with Mr. Gatto’s assessment? What do you think can be done to help the schools, and the children?


5 responses to “Dumbing us Down

  1. That’s a big question! I agree with much of the assessment, but I don’t have the solution.

    I did really like Montessori when we sent Mitchell there – it addresses many of the issues pretty well. But then you start to worry about your kid….they will eventually have to exist in the world as it exists. Am I handicapping him with this path? Will he make the transition well in high school? College? Eventually, we opted to throw him into the “regular” system in 4th grade in the hopes that he would get the best of both worlds. The experiment continues…

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