“Ordinary people send their children to school to get smart, but what modern schooling teaches is dumbness. It’s a religious idea gone out of control.”
An interesting conversation on the P45 discussion forums coincided with an incredible article that I had just read by John Taylor Gatto about the history of the American school system. The article was in Disinformations’ wonderful ‘Everything you know is wrong‘ volume.
The discussion on the forums (well, okay bitching session really) related to folks’ irritation with the way in which some others peppered their conversations with excessive use of words like ‘obviously’ and ‘basically’.
Well, teachers of English as a foreign language call these overused phrases and expressions ‘placeholders’. The most common example would be a long, drawn-out use of the word ‘well…’ which preceeds a response to a question or statement. It’s entirely understandable – and anyone who has lived in a foreign-language speaking country will appreciate how useful these placeholders are. I was rather fond of using the word ‘pues..’ when I lived in Valencia to give me some time whilst I tried to circumnavigate my appaling Spanish grammar.
However, we’re talking about something else here. We’re talking about native English speakers. We’re referring to the fact that basic oratorial skills have dipped dramatically in the last century. Much of this has to do with the adoption of different methods for teaching the alphabet and then basic phoneme recognition from the time of infancy.
However, according to the breathtaking work of Gatto, there is now abundant and irrefutable evidence that generations of sucessive American governments systematically and knowingly dumbed down the quality of oratorical and literal education in order to create a vast population of alienated and non-repsonsive people who would make perfect factory drones for big business as run by the likes of Rockerfeller and Carnegie. Who – conincidentally enough – were instrumental in creating the pedagoic principles which founded American and European education methodology.
The result? A half-planet of people who cannot articulate the most basic of arguments, write properly or sustain a conversation. Think I’m making this up? Have you watched Fox News? Have you watched Sky News? Have you seen the level of public debate that takes place between the pages of any Murdoch-owned tabloid newspaper? If you can get past the naked women, Big Brother related idiocy and the stories involving footballers who have been arrested for rape and drunk-driving, you will find a letters page which has all the conversational sophistication of a bar brawl between two lobotomized hamsters.
This inability with basic communication ranges from the guy this morning who requested his train ticket in Killester station by throwing his coins in the hatch and shouting the word ‘Harmo’ at the bewildered ticket guy, to cockney Londoners suffixing every statement with a loud, shrieked and aggresive ‘yeah?’ which seeks confirmation of what they have just said. Dubliners tend to go for the slightly more verbose ‘you know what i mean?’ question tag, but the idea is the same.
Gatto is an American grade school teacher (teacher of the year in New York city three times) who has devoted himself to charting the history of forced schooling and the social engineering principles that underly it.
He claims, in basic black and white english, that Rockerfeller and other industrial giants of the early 20th century set about influencing American education policy with the express purpose of reducing school students to a position of total dependence on the school system (and therefore the state) for any hope of success in life. The school system was to be a factory of colonization and enslavement where the student population would lovingly submit themselves to the will of big industry and slavishly follow the instructions and will of their social superiors.
In order for the populace to follow such instructions they would have to be alienated, inarticulate and unable to deconstruct even the most basic of information thrown at them.
To be honest, the whole thing read like the plot of the Matrix and had me scrambling for the index to check Gattos’ references. I did and they are impeccable.
Ya know what I mean?
Gatto, being the benevolent sort of soul that he is, has decided to shoot himself in the foot (financially at least) and stick the entire text of his groundbreaking book ‘The Underground History of American Education’ online for free. That’s right: for free. Personally I think he’s mad. But then again he is a teacher, and as I know only too well, you need to be slightly mad to want to be in that profession. All joking aside, it’s an arresting and alarming work of research and vision.
“If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fiber (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.”
Fin out more about John Taylor Gatto