How to Improve Public Elementary Schools: Neighborhood Control of Neighborhood Schools to Build Intentional Community and Government from the Bottom-Up
John Taylor Gatto, who was twice voted New York State Teacher of the Year, broke all the school rules when he turned his high school students loose to travel all over Manhattan doing self-designed school projects. Gatto taught millions how to write their own scripts and be successful. Gatto discovered from his research that the 6 purposes of early public schooling in the United States were all about social engineering, preparing students to take their rightful place in society. For example, the first function or purpose of early public education was to "establish fixed habits of reaction to authority."
Before he died, Gatto was writing letters to Trump giving him advice on how to get elected president. Yet even socialist Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, endorsed Gatto's book The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling by saying, "It is a remarkable achievement... a pure indictment... I can't remember reading such a profound analysis of modern schooling. I admire what you have done."
Gatto said the system is not broken. It was built this way on purpose. Gatto said that dumbing children down is useful to a certain kind of class-based command economy. Gatto himself encouraged Open-Source Learning, which means learning sequences are personally designed. Everyone you encounter in life is a potential teacher. In Open Source, teaching is a function, not a profession. Everyone can learn, and everyone can teach himself [or herself] how to learn and how to teach others.
In Open Source, students are the active initiators. You either write your own script in life, or, by default, you become an actor in someone else's script. The easiest way to destroy curiosity is to sit people in chairs and threaten them with the upcoming test. Plato, the Greek aristocrat, said in The Republic and The Laws: "The ordinary population is dangerous if they learn to think."
John Taylor Gatto was an advocate of home schooling and he was against compulsory schooling. Gatto would probably support the voucher plan in education because it gives more choices to parents. Gatto said, "Grades don't measure anything other than your relevant obedience to a manager." "The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders."
Gatto said, "We all are vaguely aware that literacy is at the heart of an intellectual inner life, but what we don't understand is that prior to the first world war, literacy was commonly divided into passive literacy (reading) and active literacy (speaking and writing). And none of us are aware that in colonial days to teach active listening to ordinary people was a crime."
As a retired teacher, I have heard about the increasing stress that teachers, students, and parents are dealing with today. I think it is an indication that the 6 purposes of early public schooling in the United States haven't changed over the years. It is inescapable when you have a top-down bureaucratic system from state departments of public instruction, to township school superintendents, to the school principals, and down to the teachers.
One of the problems with charter schools and voucher plans is that when parents send their kids outside of the neighborhood school district to be educated, the parents and children become less connected to the neighborhood where they live. Parents should have the freedom to educate their children outside of the neighborhood school district if they choose, but they should pay for it out-of-pocket, not with public school funds. Moreover, if our school, work, friends, and leisure-time activities are closer to home, we reduce our ecological footprint.
There is a way to give more educational choices to parents and build grassroots community at the same time. Let us encourage neighbors to create their own social vision and worldview. Encourage them to think globally and act locally. Let each elementary school district create its own educational philosophy and school curriculum.
If the parents and residents of a neighborhood school district choose to be completely autonomous in creating their own schooling or unschooling approach to education--we should praise them and reward them for attaining a collective identity with common dreams. We could even lower their taxes.
This grassroots approach to public education could promote a sense of neighborhood togetherness and community solidarity. It may be that the best way to improve the world is to start at the ground level, the local level. We can build intentional community and government from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down.
Neighborhood elementary public school buildings need to be controlled by the residents who live there. Neighborhood elementary school-district residents can create their own educational system instead of relying on a bureaucratic system of top-down control. In the age of the internet, there are many models from which to get ideas. The elementary school building could also be used as a community center that provides services and recreation for all the residents in that school district.
Our neighborhoods can become places where neighbors commune with each other and with nature; places where neighbors find purpose and meaning in life; places where neighbors discover their true nature or their higher Self; places where neighbors experience God together; places where intentional community is built; places where people find their best friends; places where neighborly people find love.
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