This is the second half of the transcript of my Podcast: John Taylor Gatto, author Dumbing Us Down and Weapons of Mass Instruction.
Thanks to Tsara Shelton for helping with the transcript editing.
John Taylor Gatto is the author of Weapons of Mass Instruction, Dumbing Us Down, and he was awarded as the New York State Teacher of the Year, and the New York City Teacher of the Year a number of times.
We pick up the interview talking about how public education is designed to stifle creativity, one of the ways the manager class stifles education that Gatto covers.
JTG: Number six in the secrets of the boarding school curriculum of power is an emphasis on independent work. Obviously in all crises situations in your life you'll need to distinguish yourself -- you are unlikely to have a private coach saying, 'do this, do that, memorize this, memorize that,' but if you submit to that for 12 years you will be an A+ student and you will be helpless for the rest of your life. You'll be somebody's flunkey and somebody's clerk -- you have to generate the lines of meaning and the lines of attention in your own life. Now there's a mixture, but the mixture's always in favor of independent work. It hardly exists, does it? In public school? Remember?
Rob: Are there kids...
JTG: All these things by the way cost nothing to do, and a certain fraction of the homeschooling population knows this, are doing it. And I would say in the measurable future, if you're up against somebody who has been homeschooled, you're at a huge disadvantage.
Alright number seven is a familiarity...
Rob: Wait, wait, wait...John, John, John, John, wait...let me just do a station ID, and then I have a question for you.
Rob: I'm talking now with John Taylor Gatto. He's the author of Weapons of Mass Instruction and Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. And we've been talking about how the schools for children of the management class send their children, where the heads of corporations send their children -- are different from public schools, from compulsory public schools; and we've gone through the first six examples and we're moving onto the seventh. I have a question though before you're back on number 6...
JTG: Yeah, sure go ahead Rob.
Rob: Which is about emphasis on independent work....are there some kids who need structure and need the kind of rules and overseeing -- what's your take on that?
JTG: Obviously that's true and there's a big variation in human behavior, in human personality -- the difference in attitude on the part of an authority, if you believe this principle that only independent work will free you to be an independent human being, a liberated human being, is that you give the minimum that in any situation you can, and you're always looking at the moment that your subject seems to master that to push them farther. And in funny way it's part of that cruder principle that a lot of us are familiar with -- I certainly am -- of not being taught to swim but being thrown in the deep end of the swimming pool. Now it's not quite that crude, but you're always looking for the moment when you can say 'look I'm going to throw you into the deep end, you get yourself out;' you're looking for that, you're pushing for that at all times; you're not coddling any more than you need to.
Number seven is probably my favorite -- and by the way, these aren't ranked in order of importance; they're ranked according to which one came to mind while I was typing -- this one is quite brilliant, and I'm going to have to preface it by reminding your listeners that Plato, thousands of years ago, said that to manage a society you basically have to destroy the imagination of most people...you know, you banish the poets and the creative people because they set up narratives that are disturbing in the minds of people you want to be obedient. So Plato not only said that, but 1500 years after Plato, John Calvin, in the institutes of the Christian religion, designed exactly the school system we have today -- I mean down to minute particles -- and he said the major job is to destroy the imagination because people with an imagination, you can't figure out, and they have the capacity to unpleasantly surprise you in the future. So if we jump from Calvin, you know, this rigorous, religious nod of the past to the great liberal philosopher, Benedict Spinoza in Holland...now I know you've heard him called Baruch Spinoza, but in his lifetime he never signed his name Baruch Spinoza -- I won't go into why the difference occurs, it's not hard to find out if someone bothers to bring it to your attention. Spinoza in, the book is called Tractatus Religico-Politicus, published in 1690 and read by every leader in the American colonies and every European leader redesigned the school system, very much as Calvin had designed it; he said the majority of the common human race is murderously irrational and unless you can control their minds in childhood and destroy their imagination, they're going to get the good people. It had an immense influence. And 125 years after Calvin, the head of the University of Berlin's philosophy department, Johann Fichte, who had replaced Emmanuel Kant in the chair, said...not only said the same thing to the King of Prussia -- the book you'll want to pick up is Addresses to the German Nation -- but he said that school ought to be enforced at bayonet point -- nobody should have a choice of keeping a kid out of school because that's the way you lose battles. If they retain an imagination he said, they will contradict orders from the commanding officer. And that's exactly what the creators of American pragmatism said in the late 1890s; the most famous name among them is William James, but the most influential is the American philosopher Charles S. Peirce. They recreated institutional schooling, once again, as a way to destroy the imagination. So we have this continuous line of bigtime thinkers -- nobody contradicting them throughout history. I'll speak for the western world, I suspect if I were knowledgeable enough to speak for the east, we would find an identity there.