dumbing us down pt 1

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man! i just finally got this book from the library. “dumbing us down: the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling” by john taylor gatto. i’ve been on the waiting list for months so i guess its pretty darn popular.

i think i’ll start blogging when i can about it as i go…its a fairly short book but very very fascinating already!

mr gatto was a new york city public school teacher for 26yrs when he wrote the book…and voted the new york state teacher of the year. the book is a serious criticism of the public school system.

his first part of the book, “biographical note”, about himself…i found this part really fascinating:

“…teaching is nothing like the art of painting, where, by the addition (emphasis his) of material to a surface, an image is synthetically produced, but more like the art of sculpture, where, by the subtraction of material, an image already locked in the stone is enabled to emerge. It is a crucial distinction. In other words, I dropped the idea that I was an expert, whose job it was to fill the little heads with my expertise, and began to explore how I could remove those obstacles that prevented the inherent genius of children from gathering itself.”

i think this is really enlightening! i’m going to try to keep this in mind while homeschooling. pouring knowledge into children, like they are a blank slate, is something that i don’t want to get sidetracked into thinking that’s what education is or should be about. its one of the problems i think as to why so many children learn so little…at least in comparison to what they COULD be learning, in public and private schools. forcing kids to learn stuff they don’t understand or are not interested in. it doesn’t stick. so much wasted time because the stuff doesn’t stick. i tell maeven all the time…there’s no point in reading (or talking to her) about a topic if she’s not listening. she won’t retain it. on the one hand, i don’t feel completely comfortable with her being completely in control of what she learns because i think adult guidance due to life experience is definitely beneficial…but on the other hand, force-feeding information is something i’ve never felt comfortable with. i think of all the stuff i was forced to learn in my own schooling experience and i know very little of it stuck. wasted time, as i said.

forgive me for scattered thoughts today…i have a nasty migraine…but i really wanted to post about what i’m reading while its on my mind…

anyway…the other reason i think this quote is so telling is because of the response so many people give to moms and dads that are not credentialled teaching their kids at home. for some reason so many people think that one must have this special training to teach. nothing could be further from the truth. in fact, i think its possible that that credential could actually hinder home education. that training teaches the teacher what i call “assembly-line education”…something that is completely not relevant at home. and frankly, i don’t think is all that appropriate in public and private schools either, but i digress.

right now maeven is young enough that the topics we are covering are easy for me because they are fairly simple. when she gets to topics i’m not so knowledgable about (actually, the history lessons we are covering are pretty new to me…don’t remember learning much at all about ancient egypt and such when i was in school!) i will seek out people to help or i will teach myself. either way, i don’t need a credential. i think a teaching credential is a waste of time and money and a lot of stress, if you’re not teaching in the public schools. (i can see where it would be useful if you are in the schools though, i just don’t agree with it so i would never want to be in the schools.) i decided against getting one a long time ago (i had been going in that direction and changed my mind) and i know a lot of people that are homeschooling their children that have a credential that don’t really use any of what they learned, so that kind of contradicts all those people who seem to think you need training to teach children. in fact, there was that article recently that proved just the opposite.

anyway, my kids need me now and i also have more to read in this book…and my head hurts…so i’ll write more later. 🙂

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