The failure of Progressive Education
Schools were designed by Horace Mann and by Sears and Harper of the University of Chicago and by Thorndyke of Columbia Teachers College and by some other men to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population. Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulas, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.
To a very great extent schools succeed in doing this, but in a national order increasingly disintegrated, in a national order in which the only “successful” people are independent, self-reliant, confident, and individualistic (because community life which protects the dependent and the weak is dead and only networks remain), the products of schooling are, as I’ve said, irrelevant. Well-schooled people are irrelevant. They can sell film and razor blades, push paper and talk on telephones, or sit mindlessly before a flickering computer terminal, but as human beings they are useless. Useless to others and useless to themselves.
The daily misery around us is, I think, in large measure caused by the fact that, as Paul Goodman put it thirty years ago, we force children to grow up absurd. Any reform in schooling has to deal with its absurdities.
It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does.
It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home demanding that you do its “homework.”
Ok, some rants just need to be posted — even if written by others.
Think this is the rantings of a cynical lunatic? Think again. This is taken from John Taylor Gatto’s book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. This speech was given by Gatto on January 31/1990 in accepting an award from the New York State Senate naming him New York City Teacher of the Year. Yes, he’s a teacher.
I just wish we could find another few hundred thousand teachers to stand up and scream the same message…