ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷 (pjammer) wrote,
ezekiel's chariot - 張敦楷

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Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out

John Taylor Gatto won the New York State Teacher of the Year award in 1990, then opened fire. While others made vague generalizations about how bad the public school system was, Gatto spelled out the reasons. School, he explained, was a program to manufacture consumers who would provide the base upon which a manufacturing industry would feed and a political system could control. Secondly, the schools themselves would be enormous job programs—with administrators, contractors, publishers, builders, and... oh yes... teachers. It's undoubtable that schools inflict severe damage on children, but is the problem going to be the end of our country, or the strength of it?

After 45 minutes, every child is interrupted by a bell... it teaches that nothing is ever worth finishing... or starting Gatto's description of the public school system reads like a conspiracy theory, and would be one if the original conspirators hadn't made their agenda public a century ago. It begins with the removal of a child from her family at the earliest possible age and ends with the release of an adult who has commercially and politically desirable properties—not the least of which are a predilection to follow authority figures and a limited ability to think critically. The fact that a reasonably intelligent person can thrash a high-school graduate in a debate is by design, not failure. But schools are an unqualified success, taken from a certain point of view.

To understand what we mean, we should describe some of Gatto's observations.
[1] Every school is divided up into cells (classrooms) where stimulus is kept to a bare minimum. Classrooms are mind-numbing, they force attention on the state appointed authority (the teacher) and confine the children to chairs where they sit immobile for up to an hour. The world is taught to them without ever being shown to them. They're taught a world disconnected with reality.

[2] After 45 minutes to an hour, every child is interrupted by a bell that signals the end of whatever they were doing (reading a passage, writing down a thought, discussing an issue, etc.) and summons them to shuffle off into another cell in the building. It teaches them that nothing is ever worth finishing, and therefore—by extension—nothing is ever worth starting, either.

[3] The subjects are taught without context. You are taught Math. English. Science. History. And so-on, as if each were separate worlds. Children are not taught how Math affects science which affected history which affected English and so-on. This constant subdivision means that nobody finds out what's really going on.

[4] Meaningless goals (grades) are set, encouraging children to compete for something which has no value (no employer hires by grades).

[5] Children are policed into respecting state authorities, even to the point of denying basic human dignities (such as being able to go to the bathroom without having to ask permission and get a hall pass). They become dependent on the teacher to tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

[6] The early years of learning are trivialized with “balloons, songs and funny games.” Then, when they're older, students are suddenly put in competition with each other and segregated into age-based classes. So no matter how secure a student was with what she understood, it was always clear who was one or more grades superior to her.

What does this give us? It gives us people who want instant meaningless reward, depend on someone to tell them what to do, specialize in only one narrow subject, and lack the skills to investigate on their own. We call them “consumers,” and they're perfect for a production-line economy.

- Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out, by Disenchanted.com

To me, the most damning indictment of our public education system is the fact that not a single smart person I've ever known has even once told me they liked their experience in primary and secondary school.

Why? Is it because of insufficient funding, as so many public school apologists claim?

Consider: per-pupil expenditures clock in at over US$8,000 in at some of the worst state public school systems like Washington D.C. or California. So in a classroom of 32 students, this works out to $8,000 x 32 = $256,000. That's over a quarter-million dollars on tap every year these states spend in every classroom.

According to a nationwide survey, the average annual salary of a public school teacher is $40,574. Throw in benefits, pensions and health care and call it $50,000.

A full-service (janitorial, maintenance and utilities inclusive) commercial lease for, say 2,000 square feet of office space (classroom) at $35/SQFT would equal $70,000.

Textbooks ($1000/student, amortized over an average 5 years of use) for 32 students: $6,400.

A single teacher, using 2000 square feet of mid-grade commercial office space, using $1,000 worth of books per student, can do the job for $126,400.


Would somebody care to tell me where the other HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS earmarked for the our youngsters go? And say what you will about the joys of enlightening young minds - you can't escape the truth that market forces matter. What kind of employees can you hope to attract (and retain) with a salary that cannot reflect an individual's competence or ability ... and a bureaucratic system designed to reward complicity instead of brilliance?

Repeat after me: market forces matter.

Next time I hear some elected official yammering about the need for more more more of my tax dollars to bankroll a bankrupt system (for the children, the children!), I'm going to put a bullet in the television set.

Foolish idealism can be forgiven. Willful ignorance cannot.
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