Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Part 2 of The Crisis of American Schooling, According to Gatto

Here are points 12-21 of Gatto's reasons why the public school system has gone wrong and needs to change. Quotes are directly from his writing.

12. "Unknown to the public, virtually all famous remedial programs have failed. Programs like Title I/Chapter I survive by the goodwill of political allies, not by results."

I don't know enough about this to have an opinion. I also didn't try to write this point or the next two points in my own words because in Gatto's article this was all he'd written. 

13. "There is no credible evidence that racial mixing has any positive effect on student performance, but a large body of suggestive data is emerging that confining one group of children with children of a dominant culture does harm to the smaller group." 

I don't know enough about this to agree or disagree.

14. "Forced busing has accelerated the disintegration of minority neighborhoods without any visible academic benefit as trade-off."

Again, I don't know. It's certainly a point worth looking into further.

15. The continued emphasis on machines in the school system has not brought any significant positive changes in student performance; instead, reliance on machines brings passivity and apathy. 

I agree and disagree. Copy machines are some of the most useful, time saving appliances that can be found in a school. Telephones/cell phones and computers are a mixed blessing. The computer is beneficial for research, projects, and communication, but it should not be used as a complete substitute for books, hand-writing, studying, or physical and verbal contact with the rest of the world. Everything in moderation. Machines cause more separation between people, in my opinion, so "less is more" usually. Overuse of machines does create laziness as people rely on their own brains and hands less and less, too. 

16. The average elementary student is fully capable of learning any knowledge base they are interested in regardless of "sequences of development" mandated by government agencies.

Agree. Being home-schooled all my life, I witnessed many of my friends learn various subjects very quickly simply because they were interested, even in areas considered too "difficult" for them to maneuver or comprehend. But children are far, far more capable of acquiring skills than they are given credit for by adults. A seven year old boy, Riley, son of a cattle rancher I knew in Idaho, showed me how to saddle and ride a horse, feed calves from a bottle, operate a four-wheeler, and understand what a cow's different calls meant... all by himself. A five year old boy I know loved numbers so much that he began to do sudoku and beginning level algebra problems for fun. Children have different talents and different interests, which become evident if you listen and get to know them. 

Just read the series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder for many examples of children who didn't let their age stand in the way of their ability to do what they wanted in life. 

17. "Delinquent behavior is a direct reaction to the structure of schooling."

I don't know enough about this to agree or disagree completely. I do know that if a child is bored in half their classes because they are too easy and frustrated in the other half of their classes because they are too hard or confusing, then there is a much greater chance of them acting out. Also, dealing with the social maze of school with its cliques, teachers, and bullies is stressful. I do think that there are far more reasons for delinquent behavior in American youth than can be blamed on the schools, though.

18. The school system's emphasis on uniformity (conformity) detracts from the mind's natural resilience and versatility.

Mostly agree. Not all schools emphasize homogenization of the student population, especially due to the intervention of good teachers, which is encouraging. But one of the main rules of school seems to be "don't try to do anything that rocks the boat". This presents a barrier to a person who has a different idea of what they wish to pursue in their education. 

19. Teacher-training courses give little assistance to solving the problems faced by teachers.

I don't know enough about this to agree or disagree.

20. Schools wrongly insist on separating children by supposed differences, both subtly and intentionally, such as lower, middle, and upper "social class" and age.

Mostly agree. If children are going to be divided into groups, they should be divided according to actual ability of a subject and/or interest. If a child struggles with reading but does well with math-related work, they should be allowed to be in an appropriate reading level which lets them advance at their own pace, and they should also be allowed to enter a more challenging level of math. Every child will have different strengths and weaknesses. I like what I've read about Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, because it shows that not all intelligence is analytical (which is what is usually valued the most in schools).

For example, a little boy I know has a very difficult time in school. He is constantly reprimanded for being too loud, too talkative, too unfocused, too forgetful. But talk to him about reptiles, and he immediately lights up. In the outdoors, he becomes alert, concentrating on his surroundings, eager to discover the slightest movement or sign of animals or bugs. He will pick up a four foot long black snake without a moment's hesitation, cooly examining it and speaking about its habits like a trained expert. Nobody could doubt, after seeing this boy in his element, that he is an intelligent person with interests and goals in life. But when intelligence is seemingly only something that is measured by standardized testing and IQ level, society would label this child as "stupid" or "slow". 

As far as social class goes, I've seen teachers instruct, talk to, talk about, reprimand, and reward children differently based on which socio-economic class the children are from. Most teachers don't seem to do this consciously, but it happens anyway. 

I guess all this goes to say that separating a child into "grades" by age or social class is not the best method. And that a person can be very intelligent yet struggle with school-related areas. Groups of children with mixed levels of abilities can be beneficial, also, as they work and learn from each other.

21. "Efforts to draw a child out of his culture or his social class has an immediate effect on his family relationships, friendships, and the stability of his self-image."

I don't really understand what Gatto was trying to say here; I wish he'd written more about this. So I don't know enough to agree or disagree.

There you have it. Here is a quote by John Taylor Gatto that is a good summary of what he thinks is the solution to the problem of America's educational system today:

"How are we all as a society going to get to a better place in schools than the one we've gotten to at the moment? The only way I can see after spending thirty-five years in and around the institution (fifty-three if I count my own time as a student) is to put full choice squarely back into the hands of parents, let the marketplace redefine schooling, and encourage the development of as many styles of schooling as there are human dreams. Let people, not bureaucrats, work out their own destinies. That's what made us a great country in the first place."

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