Monday, January 30, 2006

Fourth Purpose Schooling

My head and notebook are full of quotes and thoughts after listening to John Taylor Gatto and Rob and Cindy Shearer this weekend. The speakers dovetailed each other very nicely. Gatto gave us the state's vision for our children and the Shearers inspired us with a Godly vision for our children. The weekend left me inspired and challenged.

For those who may not be familiar with the John Taylor Gatto, he was the New York State Teacher of the Year on three occassions. After he was selected, he wrote an editorial I May Be A Teacher But I'm Not An Educator in the Wall Street Journal (read it here). In the editorial he quit his teaching postion saying that he was no longer willing to hurt children. He then began a quest to speak out on what's wrong in education and how the state educational system is actually dumbing us down to serve the needs of the state.

Gatto's talks were centered around the theme of "Fourth Purpose Schooling". He introduced each purpose in his first talk The Underground History of American Education. (You can read his whole book of the same title here. )

From the public's perspective he outlined the four purposes of education:
1. To make good people.
2. The make good citizens.
3. To allow each individual to be their personal best.
4. The managerial goal of social efficiency.

Gatto believes we have moved past the first three purposes in the United States. He asserts that we are now in the fourth purpose that of a managed economy directed by the state and its largest corporations. (This was first introduced in the late 1800's by the NEA's Committee of Ten and its suggestion of core curriculum standards.)

The partnership between the two will create a way to manage the economy and people toward the benefit of those entities. The large corporations define their needs and the state creates employees to fit those needs. Gatto describes on his website how this is accomplished,

All of us are to be made perfectly and dependably manageable, using every trick of psychology, social pressure, or brute force known to history.

To bring about such a result requires that most of us have to be infantilized - made childish - lifelong if possible. School has been the training laboratory for this project for between fifty and one hundred years, depending on the location. It is the most ambitious piece of social engineering in modern history, and has been a brilliant success in reaching its goals. Of course, these are hardly the goals of ordinary citizens, of families, of religions, or of cultures, but they most certainly are the goals of management, whether of business, army, or government.

If all of this sounds a bit far fetched and conspiratorial then let me remind you again of the words of Governor Jennifer Granholm from my state of Michigan. She said this in her state of the state address last Wednesday evening.

Now, when it comes to education, we will have one overarching goal: to become the best-educated workforce in the nation. To do that, we will give our children the tools they need to be successful in the classroom and in the 21st century economy.
Governor Granholm then went on to applaud our state education officials for creating a core curriculum that will facilitate that goal. That is Gatto's determiner of a fourth purpose school. Track the location from which the school takes its orders. The further from the building that a decision is made the more it becomes a school designed for a purpose other than true education of the children. Its purpose is one where the needs of the state and its workforce trump those of the student. Are the needs of Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and General Motors the best way to determine what our children are taught?

I will in future posts talk about some of the other things from the conference. I encourage everyone to read the Underground History of American Education and gain a greater understanding of the quiet social revolution taking place right before our eyes. You may not agree with all he says but he will definitely get you thinking.

This "reform" has implications for our society as a whole. Those of us who homeschool will be affected by the educational structure that is required for a managed economy. Standarized testing is the oil that makes the engine of this type of economy run. The state needs compulsory schooling and testing to ensure that all children are taught what they need to know to be a good citizen in the global economy managed by the state. (Note: Homeschooling is not desirable in in a managed economy. Just ask a German homeschooler Shiela Lange.)

A Good Life?
Governor Granholm in her speech defined a "good life" this way,

The foundation of a good life, of course, is a good-paying job.
Governor Granholm spoke as if this statement is an obvious truth. That may be true for her but it isn't my definition of a good life. Is it yours?

I wish I could write more about this. But I have to get to the education of my children. We are starting World War II today. Germany and Hitler are the topics of this week's reading.

Read more around the web
Ann at A to Z of Homeschooling also has a nice round-up of essays written by Gatto.

The Hoover Institution has an overview of the implications of the decision by the Committee of Ten in an article called The Traditional High School by Jeffrey Muriel.)

Chris O'Donnell did a chapter review of The Underground History of American Education last summer.

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