Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Fourth Purpose of Education


My education is much slower than most - it works more on a "as needed" basis without a formal structure. But as haphazard as this seems to most - occasionally I do trip over a few jewels along the way. For example, I do remember when I was initially exposed to John Taylor Gatto - I automatically felt a sincerity within his stories and a harmony within his critical pedagogy approach to teaching. I was spellbound by his views on how our educational structure was complicit in the destruction of free thought...literally a basic social structure control which Gatto calls our "dumbing down". Here is a slice of his after college life:
Mr. Gatto worked as a scriptwriter in the film business, was an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hotdog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher. During his schoolteaching years he also entered the caviar trade, conducted an antique business, operated a rare book search service, and founded Lava Mt. Records, a documentary record producer, which won several awards for cover design and content, and which presented the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, dramatized, and the speeches of Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew, exactly as given.

Gatto was New York State Teacher of the Year when he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, I Quit, I Think.
We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work.

It was Gatto's influence which led me to Freire's earlier thoughts on the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and later to Douglas Rushkoff's ideas on Open Source Democracy. All of this related information seemed to fit like pieces of a puzzle - a puzzle just a few years ago I did not know existed. It spurred me to think about how we could liberate education - how we could liberate ourselves.

If through these links you read something you may relate to on some level - if you find enough interesting subject manner to warrant a more detailed look of Gatto's work or at least a bookmark for later - I would urge you to concentrate on reading or bookmarking Gatto's The Underground History of American Education. Thanks to the Odysseus Group and the Oxford Village Press for making this e-book possible. Of course, this and other work is available for purchase at the bookstore.

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