A detail of George Deem’s painting School of Balthus (1985), reproduced as the cover image of Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto (2005, New Society Publishers).
The modern public school system seems to have been taken over by wacky leftist teachers indoctrinating their pupils instead of educating them. They push their personal and political agendas onto young impressionable children and insecure teens.
Not only that, taxpayers are constantly hounded to give more money for schools, under the auspices of doing it “for the children.” In reality, plenty of money has been given to public schools, year after year, but after being siphoned off into teacher and administrator salaries and benefits, the quality of public education continues to get worse.
The decline of public education is nothing new…
John Taylor Gatto (1935-2018) was a teacher in New York City’s public schools for over 30 years. Gatto was a revolutionary educator, the kind of life-changing teacher who transforms the lives of his students and empowers them to realize their full potential. He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. He used his platform to argue that conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills we’re born with, replacing it with constant supervision, rule-following, and artificial time constraints that lead to disillusionment and indifference.
His book Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992) introduced the now-famous titular expression into the common vernacular. His follow-up book, The Underground History of American Education (2000), was the result of ten years of research into public education, uncovering its roots in 19th century industrialism and the highly authoritarian, militaristic state of Prussia. His next book, Weapons of Mass Instruction (2008) focused on mechanisms of traditional education that cripple imagination, discourage critical thinking, and create a false view of learning as a byproduct of rote memorization drills.
Gatto advocated for self-directed, open source learning, and urged parents to take control of the education of their children, which motivated many parents to consider homeschooling, unschooling, or alternative schooling. Ron Paul strongly endorsed Gatto’s work, calling him a “legendary teacher” who helped shape his own thinking and homeschooling curriculum. But that’s not to say Gatto believed schools could not be improved. In A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (2001), Gatto addressed what steps are required in order to transcend the current flawed system. He emphasized the need to teach students critical thinking skills as a good starting place.
Sir Ken Robinson took up where John Taylor Gatto left off. His 2006 TED talk on “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” was the most viewed in TED’s history. Sir Ken argued for an end to our outmoded industrial educational system and proposed a highly customized, organic approach that draws on today’s unprecedented technological resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the 21st century. In 2015 he wrote Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, which lays out an actionable strategy to push for change at the very heart of the system, rather than just throwing money at it or running away from it.
It’s time to overhaul the education system. We think homeschooling is the way to go!
Advanced technologies allowing independent learning could very well doom public education as we know it. In the future, homeschooling may even totally replace public schools which could then be turned into multi-purpose community activity centers for athletic enrichment, experiential learning, and unstructured socialization. The pandemic has already proven that computers can turn into desktop classrooms. Through video conferencing the professional tutor comes to the student’s home, but since modern technology enables the tutor to be in many homes at once, his wages need not come from one family alone. Homeschoolers can now enjoy the best of both worlds – economy of scale (the virtual schoolhouse) and home-based expert instruction (the private tutor). High-tech homeschooling will be a modern convenience for accessing a personalized education that fits the needs of each student.