Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dumbing Down in Seven Lessons

Dumbing down has been the major public school policy for a few decades now, and from all indications, it is working well. Local, State, National and International test results all show that while our kids are still as intelligent as ever, their essential knowledge and skills are on a steep downward incline with no change in sight.

So we must assume that the schools are operating as they are intended, and that their purpose is not to turn out well informed citizens, but people that the government calls "human resources" who will be obedient, docile, and dependent. How does the government do that? The process is described in John Taylor Gatto's classic book, "Dumbing Us Down, The Hidden Curriculum" While the schools claim to be educating, the seven lessons teach quite the opposite. They are as follows:

1. Confusion. Everything is out of context, disconnected and unrelated to real life. Confusion is thrust upon kids by strange adults, each working alone, pretending to an expertise they do not possess. All information is fragmented -- the opposite of cohesion. It's like TV programming. Gatto says, "I teach students how to accept confusion as their destiny."

2. Class Position. Children learn their place in the grand pyramid. School teaches children to accept being numbered; not to imagine themselves somewhere else; to fear the better classes and to have contempt for the dumb classes; to stay where you are put.

3. Indifference. This is taught by the bells and buzzers and other distractions. Nothing is so important that it can't be interrupted or stopped. Years of bells condition children to know that no work is worth finishing. They, "innoculate each undertaking with indifference."

4. Emotional Dependency. Kids must surrender their will to others. They learn they have no rights in school, unless school authorities say they do. There is no individuality in the classification system. They become dependent on gold stars, prizes, "honors," smiles, frowns and even disgraces. They are hostages.

5. Intellectual Dependency. Children must wait for others to tell them what to do, and to make meaning of their lives. Teachers and other school employees decide what children study, regardless of the child’s interests or desires. Whether or not they “learn” it, means their “success” or “failure.” Curiosity has no place; only conformity.

6. Provisional Self-Esteem. This lesson is that a kid’s self-respect should depend on the opinion of others. Children must be evaluated and judged, and found wanting, imperfect, “learning disabled,” ADHD or some other fictitious abnormality. Self-evaluation is never accepted. Gatto: “The lesson of report cards, grades and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should rely on the evaluation of ‘certified’ officials.”

7. You Can’t Hide. Students learn that they must always be under surveillance by teachers and other staff. The lesson here is that children are not trusted and their privacy is not legitimate. The purpose is to maintain constant central control over society. The State cannot allow too many citizens to listen to any drummer other than its uniformed marching band.

Middle class parents, having been through the school mill, seldom believe that their child’s school is one of the bad ones. They learned all seven lessons, most important of which is waiting to be told what to think and do. Our society is made up today largely of what Gatto calls, “psychic invalids” who must be fed, clothed, entertained, medicated, educated and otherwise served by “others.” In fact, the economy would probably fall apart if a large portion of us suddenly did not feel helpless but became more self-sufficient.

Gatto concludes, “The seven lessons are prime training for people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.”

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