Since Education is back in the news because of the appointment of a Dutch Calvinist from my neck of the woods, I thought it might be a good time for people to examine just what is an “education”. John Taylor Gatto makes the distinction between ‘”education” and “schooling”. I have read his book “The Underground History of American Education”. He wrote an article in 2003 in Harper’s called “Against Education”. You have to subscribe to Harper’s to read the essay, but there are excerpts available on line. I’m not sure of some of his ideas about but definitely like some of his observations about how awful and mind numbing school can be.
You are made to sit in BOXES and are taught to behave so that when you graduate you can sit in another BOX all day long. And at the end of your life you end up in a hospital BOX and then a real BOX. Every four years, in preparation for the ballot BOX, for 18 months we were being herded into two awful BOXES called political parties. The whole process looked more like that cartoon of the cow staring at a meat packing plant with a sign that said “Enter Left” and “Enter Right”.
My 2¢ is that we need shorter work weeks with one parent working so they have more time to spend with their kids. I learned more from helping my Dad build a barn than I did from awful Miss Bloemendal who kicked me out in the hall every week. As an educator himself, he said, “Children should be hand made and not mass produced.” I read a lot of books. And I spent a lot of time in the woods making up stories of elves and other mythical creatures.
We hear an awful lot of yapping about “freedom”, but we imprison our children and literally imprision lots of teenagers. We imprison in prisons around 2.3 million people, more than any other nation. However, we are a big country. Proportionately though, we still imprison more than any other nation except maybe North Korea and Cuba. But according to Politofact, we don’t have accurate information on prison populations in those 2 countries, but they could be ahead of us. The point is whether we are first or third, it’s a disgrace.
Freedom should not be about the so-called free market of freedom to choose between 20 different cereals. It should more appropriately be about freedom to think differently and being able to freely express those different thoughts. But….(there is always a but), as much as we should respect individual freedom, with freedom comes responsibility to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Children should be free to have safe places to run and holler at the top of their lungs. They should also have mutual respect for others and the good manners not to scream in other peoples spaces. That goes for adults too!
Good manners and mutual respect for others opinions and cultures are great goals for an educated person. Since education is a journey, there will be many stops and starts along the way. So when you come across a different opinion, it is wise to take the PACE approach. Be Playful, Accepting, Curious, and Empathetic. Not an easy task especially the Playful part if it’s been knocked out of you due to years of being stuffed in boxes.
Notes: I got the boxes idea from the anthropologist and anarchist thinker David Graeber in his essay on “Revolutions in Reverse” and PACE from cognitive behavioral therapist Dorothy Dacar.