Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gatto got it

Schools were designed by Horace Mann and Barnas Sears and W.R. Harper of the University of Chicago and Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College and other to be instruments for 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.

John Taylor Gatto
NYC's Teacher of the Year, 1989

If public education truly created a thinking citizenry, it would be outlawed.

Arne wants CEOs to run schools. Arne wants 15-year-olds to save the economy. Arne grasps desperately at gravitas.

I want a dying republic to toss off the corporate crap. I want my kids to learn how to think. Mostly, I just want to teach science.

Not technology. Not engineering. Not complaisance.

I want assertive, thinking, engaged children who will tell me (eloquently, I hope) to fuck off once they're ready to remove their training wheels.

Democracy is dangerous. Thinking is dangerous. Public education should be dangerous as well.

(Yes, I've gone over the edge into full crank mode--if I don't find a crocus soon....)


This Brazen Teacher said...

"I want assertive, thinking, engaged children who will tell me (eloquently, I hope) to fuck off once they're ready to remove their training wheels."

I'm copy pasting this to my library of quotes on my laptop. If one sentence could say it all Doyle...

I'm a big fan of Gatto. Of course reading him a few years back made me almost quit teaching... still working on resolving that one.

Jenny said...

Good luck with the crocus. I'm thinking you may have months of crankiness ahead of you. Good luck.

Theresa Milstein said...

At first your post seemed outrageous, but the more I thought about it I realized that all this emphasis on testing is at the expense of creativity. I'm certified to teach Social Studies - a subject designed to teach what it means to be a citizen and how to question the government and media.

But if I don't have time because I'm teaching to the test...

Sue VanHattum said...

Yep, I'm with you. And yet...

We all started teaching because we believed in the other side of this multiple personality character we call school.

School can make a positive difference in kids' lives, but it's sure not through testing and standards.

doyle said...

Dear Brazen,

I know the feeling--we're in the middle of midterms this week, and while a lot of good things happen in our building, midterms and February both make me even crankier than usual.

Dear Jenny,

I usually find some before February ends--I got a sunny patch of garden that has not failed me yet.

Dear Theresa,

I suppose it is a bit outrageous, but an outburst on a tiny blog may be worse than useless--it helps me pretend I've done something while I continue to feed the beast.

The testing is driving education--we're focusing on the wrong things.

Dear Sue,

There's a lot of "and yet" in me as well--I'd leave if I thought otherwise.

If a child leaves our building less curious than when she came in, we have failed, no matter what the metrics.

John Spencer said...

I met someone recently who had my mother-in-law for teaching. I ask what class she took and she said, "It was FACS, but that's not really what it was. I learned so much more. I learned to respect myself and to think about the meaning of life."

I think we all find ways to subtly subvert the system. We're graffiti artists in a factory. We're like Banksy, just without the bravado. Perhaps the best place for a good teacher is right in the middle of the factory. Perhaps we're all playing "Schindler's List."

Tracy Rosen said...

I love you Mr. Doyle.

According to the groundhogs of the western hemisphere we've got about 6 weeks until the first crocus...keep 'em coming :)

Barry Bachenheimer said...

Dr. Doyle, You say kids should be pushed to think critically. While that is true, I've heard that from many folks for years, and many don;t truly know what that means.

I'd argue that school should be less about thinking, and more about creativity. In schools, creativity often means pulling out the crayons and posterboard and letting them draw. (Mike Schmoeker calls this the "Crayola Curriculum".) Instead, I'd say that rather than critical thinking, we need to embrace what Daniel Pink calls "Left Brainers" and help them see, learn, and practice the 7 facets of creativity.

John Spencer said...

Creativity is always analytical. Creation cannot happen without destruction. Creating a false dichotomy and labeling them as "seven facets" is actually far from creative in its approach. Don't get me wrong, I like Daniel Pink and I'm reading his book. I just don't think creativity and critical thinking are really much different.

doyle said...

Dear John,

I love the idea that we're Banksy lite, but then worry that the image might be just enough to take the edge off--I like to pretend anyway that I have an edge.

The best place for a teacher is, in fact, smack dab in the middle of the factory--if my kids are headed there, I'd like them to be able to live a life worth living.

Dear Tracy,


Dear Barry,

Creativity requires thinking--putting things together, seeing how they fit--science might be a bit more towards the tan-gram side instead of the finger painting side (it's constrained by rules keeping it literally "real"), but science (as opposed to technology) is all about creating.

I don't disagree with encouraging creativity, but I don't see critical thinking as contrary to creativity (though I may have missed your point).

I need to go read Daniel Pink. (I need to do a lot of things, including applying for that MSUNER grant.)

At any rate, you've gone pushed me to a new blog topic when I planned to grade papers. It's a great question, and a misunderstood one. I'll take my hacks at it.

doyle said...

Dear Tracy,

Leaving a smiley face as a complete response could easily be misconstrued--your comment left me beaming ear to ear, and I hold on to the 2 minutes of light we get each day.

(Which is to say it was not a flippant "=)"....)

lucychili said...

/me hides the crocuses

Emu said...

On how to tell someone to f--- off eloquently...

I think Dolly Levi already mastered this when she was speaking to another man(n) named Horace:
"Horace, you can snuggle up to your cash register. It's a little lumpy, but it rings!"

There is a big cash register, not in the classroom, but in managing education, (or what passes for education)