Tuesday, April 01, 2008

John Taylor Gatto on Education

Have any of you read John Taylor Gatto's books on education? They are passionate, intelligent, and very, very disturbing. His descriptions of the problems with most public education is on the money, as far as I'm concerned. And while I at times take issue with his solutions, as the years pass I find myself more and more in his corner. If you'd like a sample, read his essay "The 7-Lesson Schoolteacher," which is summarized by Dave Pollard on his How to Save the World blog as follows:
(1) confusion, incoherence and disconnection (by teaching without context), (2) know and stay in your place, (3) don't care too much, (4) how to be emotionally dependent, (5) how to be intellectually dependent (wait to be told what to do and think), (6) your self-esteem is provisional on what others think of you, (7) you can't hide, even long enough to think for yourself. The system was designed to produce compliant industrial workers, but now operates on its own momentum. Unschooling is the only way out.
While Gatto is talking about K-12 education, I must confess that I don't see college being a whole lot different, and that goes double for theatre education.

1 comment:

Director said...

Totally true. When I taught high school, it was very difficult because I wanted them to think and be independent as far as working on assignments goes, but anytime I tried to establish context, grant a little independence, or get them excited about a topic, they just got the deer-in-headlights look. I tried to wean them away from being dependent upon hand-holding by the teacher, but I'm not entirely sure I succeeded.

I read an article very recently -- I wish I could remember which magazine.. Time, US Weekly or The New Yorker, for sure. Not sure which date, though. Anyway, they interviewed this guy who is supposed to be one of the foremost K-12 education visionaries in the country.

One of the questions was "If you were the Secretary of the Department of Education and had carte blanche power to do whatever you wanted with the nations schools, what would you do?"

He basically said something along the lines of: Scrap the 7am-3pm thing, make it 24 hour schools where the families pick which hours are best for them (parents working late shifts, kids who work better in afternoons, etc). Scrap the national testing and focus on teaching through process rather than content.

Anyway, bunch of other ideas. I can't remember them all, but I remember agreeing with almost every one of them.