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Sunday, March 05, 2006 

Why Schools Don't Educate

I am a big fan of the Natural Child Project. It is a great resource for parents wiht lots of interesting essays on topics the mainstream sites and magazines never touch on - but should. Anyways, I think this is one of the better essays and it applies to all of us - not just those who are parents. The author was the NYC teacher of the year in 1990. (I excerpted some of the more interesting passages but hope you will be inspired to go read the whole thing here.

Why Schools Don't Educate
by John Taylor Gatto

We live in a time of great school crisis. Our children rank at the bottom of nineteen industrial nations in reading, writing and arithmetic. At the very bottom. The world's narcotic economy is based upon our own consumption of the commodity, if we didn't buy so many powdered dreams the business would collapse - and schools are an important sales outlet. Our teenage suicide rate is the highest in the world and suicidal kids are rich kids for the most part, not the poor. In Manhattan fifty per cent of all new marriages last less than five years. So something is wrong for sure...

I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my twenty-five years of teaching - that schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very hard, the institution is psychopathic - it has no conscience...

Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.

Now here is a curious idea to ponder. Senator Ted Kennedy's office released a paper not too long ago claiming that prior to compulsory education the state literacy rate was 98% and after it the figure never again reached above 91% where it stands in 1990. I hope that interests you...

"How will they learn to read?" you say and my answer is "Remember the lessons of Massachusetts." When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.

But keep in mind that in the United States almost nobody who reads, writes or does arithmetic gets much respect. We are a land of talkers, we pay talkers the most and admire talkers the most, and so our children talk constantly, following the public models of television and schoolteachers. It is very difficult to teach the "basics" anymore because they really aren't basic to the society we've made.

Two institutions at present control our children's lives - television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the real world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, non-stopping abstraction. In centuries past the time of a child and adolescent would be occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn. A great deal of time was spent in community pursuits, practicing affection, meeting and studying every level of the community, learning how to make a home, and dozens of other tasks necessary to become a whole man or woman.

But here is the calculus of time the children I teach must deal with:

Out of the 168 hours in each week, my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self.

My children watch 55 hours of television a week according to recent reports. That leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up.

My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 6 hours getting ready, going and coming home, and spend an average of 7 hours a week in homework - a total of 45 hours. During that time, they are under constant surveillance, have no private time or private space, and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course, my kids eat, and that takes some time - not much, because they've lost the tradition of family dining, but if we allot 3 hours a week to evening meals, we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of 9 hours.

It's not enough. It's not enough, is it? The richer the kid, or course, the less television he watches but the rich kid's time is just as narrowly proscribed by a somewhat broader catalog of commercial entertainments and his inevitable assignment to a series of private lessons in areas seldom of his actual choice...

And these things are oddly enough just a more cosmetic way to create dependent human beings, unable to fill their own hours, unable to initiate lines of meaning to give substance and pleasure to their existence. It's a national disease, this dependency and aimlessness, and I think schooling and television and lessons - the entire Chautauqua idea - has a lot to do with it.

Think of the things that are killing us as a nation - narcotic drugs, brainless competition, recreational sex, the pornography of violence, gambling, alcohol, and the worst pornography of all - lives devoted to buying things, accumulation as a philosophy - all of them are addictions of dependent personalities, and that is what our brand of schooling must inevitably produce.

I want to tell you what the effect is on children of taking all their time from them - time they need to grow up - and forcing them to spend it on abstractions. You need to hear this, because no reform that doesn't attack these specific pathologies will be anything more than a facade.

1. The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. This defies the experience of thousands of years. A close study of what big people were up to was always the most exciting occupation of youth, but nobody wants to grow up these days and who can blame them? Toys are us.

2. The children I teach have almost no curiosity and what they do have is transitory; they cannot concentrate for very long, even on things they choose to do. Can you see a connection between the bells ringing again and again to change classes and this phenomenon of evanescent attention?

3. The children I teach have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today. As I said before, they have a continuous present, the exact moment they are at is the boundary of their consciousness.

4. The children I teach are ahistorical, they have no sense of how past has predestined their own present, limiting their choices, shaping their values and lives.

5. The children I teach are cruel to each other, they lack compassion for misfortune, they laugh at weakness, and they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly.

6. The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candor. My guess is that they are like many adopted people I've known in this respect - they cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behavior borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers. Because they are not who they represent themselves to be the disguise wears thin in the presence of intimacy so intimate relationships have to be avoided.

7. The children I teach are materialistic, following the lead of schoolteachers who materialistically "grade" everything - and television mentors who offer everything in the world for free.

8. The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges. This is frequently masked by surface bravado, or by anger or aggressiveness but underneath is a vacuum without fortitude.

I could name a few other conditions that school reform would have to tackle if our national decline is to be arrested, but by now you will have grasped my thesis, whether you agree with it or not. Either schools have caused these pathologies, or television, or both. It's a simple matter [of] arithmetic, between schooling and television all the time the children have is eaten away. That's what has destroyed the American family, it is no longer a factor in the education of its own children. Television and schooling, in those things the fault must lie.

What can be done?...

Please visit the Natural Child Project website to read the second half of this essay and the first half in it's entirity. It is worth the click. Thanks.


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Just this evening, I spent five hours with Rue Kream, whose writings appear on the Natural Child website. I've known her since 1990. She's my husband's cousin's wife.

Six Steps to Success
Throughout the centuries history tells of men and women with the midas touch, who achieved greatness against what seemed insurmountable odds. To some their successes appeared to be the result of blind luck, to others the reward for hard work, but the truth about the successes of men such as Andrew Carnagie and Henry Ford is much more interesting.
Success is a state of mind to which all people should aspire. Like many others you can unlock te gate to achievement and the fulfilment of yor personal desires. With the six steps outlined below anyone can arrive at a set destination, with the added advantage of renewed self-confidence and secure in the knowledge that every goal is attainable.
Step 1. Desire
The key factor involved in the process of achieving any desire lies in the response of one's mind to the objective. If a complacent attitude is apparent then there will be a lack of enthusiasm leading to failure or only half-success.
If a goal is to be reached determination is needed to carry set plans through to a successful conclusion. This determination must have enough mental 'weight' behind it to propel you forward onto the road of achievement. This mental state can only be instilled by one thing - desire!
As can be easily seen, when we look around us, it is this desire-force that has launched mankind on his frenzied zest for ever-new knowledge and has enabled him to push back the boundaries of science to never dreamed of achievement.
It is this same desire-force that must be used in our business and personal affairs if the success we seek is to materialize. It is not very hard to develop this kind of desire for all you have to do is go after what you really want - its that simple. With this desire you will have all the persistence you need to accomplish your goal. There is a great saying "you never fail until you give up"!
Take heed of what Napoleon Bonaparte said "What we ardently and constantly desire, we always get".
Step 2. Goals
If success is to come your must realise what is expected to materialize. This statement may seem obvious at first but if careful thought is given its meaning takes on deeper significance.
Many people fail to gain satisfactory results from their endeavours because they did not know what they wanted to accomplish in the first place. Your objective must not be hazy or incomplete. Before you reach your goal you must be able to identify how your life will be different when you achieve it. You must know exactly what it is that you want to achieve. How will your life be better/different? How will you feel? What way will you look? What situations will you find yourself in? Will other people in your life be effected and if so how will they react? You need a clear definite picture in your mind of what the attainment of your goal will mean to you.
Step 3. Belief
Belief is the back-up system of desire. It keep the fires of enthusiasm burning and makes us continually strive to get nearer the goal attainment. Faith can truly move mountains; the mountains of fear, inferiority, worry and low self esteem - 'the success killers'!
Once a goal is firmly fixed in mind and our desire-force is hurtling us toward seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the firm belief that we can gain a favourable outcome can spur us on to victory. When the mind has been manipulated to reflect this state, wonderful physical results can ensue, producing symptoms of success in our lives in every area imaginable.
Although many can attest to the power of belief and to the wondrous accomplishments that were achieved through nothing else except faith, it still remains that many individuals find it hard to believe that a positive outcome will be forthcoming when they are faced with momentous opposition. Whether the opposition is mental or physical the fact that nothing seems to be going right and everything seems to be wrong is enough for even the strongest of us to 'throw in the towel'. But it is in these very situations that faith can conquer all. Faith in yourself, what you are doing and belief that that your objective will be reached.
There are some who bemoan "easier said than done". This is exactly the kind of mental attitude that sustains the problems that they are trying to eradicate. If your belief power is not apparent, take hope for it can be acquired.
Each morning and night recite your intentions from a written list of your goals. Voice your belief in your own abilities. Tell yourself that in due course you will be successful. As you go about your daily affairs reflect as often as possible on your goals and affirm that they are yours now. Fool your mind into believing it and you will see your world reflect it!
Step 4. Plan
Having decided upon your goal and being determined to build your faith you need to give your desire-force a 'vehicle' through which it may materialize. This 'vehicle' will take the form of a definite plan of action.
Do you need to acquire certain skills? Do you need to know certain people or be in certain places to help you achieve your goal? Make a plan that will help you get closer to your end objective. Research your desires and get clear on what you need to do. Then do it!
Ensure that your plan is workable and realistic for you. Although your plan should remain flexible so that changes can be made when appropriate only make changes after careful consideration. Trial and error will eventually show the way to a good plan although you should be open to intuition also.
However, I should point out that, it is very likely your goal will materialize in a most unexpected way. The fact that you have set a plan for its accomplishment tends to set things in motion and like a chain reaction (or the butterfly effect) subtle changes made by you may cause dramatic changes elsewhere and your goal may come before your plan is completed.
Step 5. Visualization
Visualization is the art of creating mental movies of your completed goal. This has many beneficial effects upon your consciousness. Without going into the deeper esoteric benefits of using this art let me just say that you are truly designing your life when you use it. It has one other major benefit - it strengthens your desire and persistence because you momentarily experience the thrill of having achieved your goal!
Just form a mental picture of having achieved your goal. See what you will see. Feel how wonderful it will be. See how it effects everyone around you. Hear people congratulate you. When this state is experienced nothing will stop you in your quest for your objective and thus your belief-power will also be reinforced.
Step 6. The Subconscious Mind
It is within the subconscious part of your mind that you hold all th positive and negative beliefs about yourself - your self-image. These beliefs are reflected back to you in the form of attitudes. Therefore it is from the subconscious mind that the thought of failure or success comes.
Attitudes are just mental programs and so is your self-image. They can easily be changed (yes I said 'easily'). Any attitude or belief can be changed by using the formula outlined in this article - by combining affirmations with visualization. Henry Ford used it, as did Ralph Waldo Emerson and even Arnold Swatzeneger. It is reported in some circles that a similar technique was employed by Bill Gates to build his global empire. Andrew Carnegie used it exactly as described to attain and give away multi-millions even though he was an unschooled manual worker when he started it. Carnegie's legacy can still be seen today when you freely borrow a book from any Carnegie library of which there are thousands.
If you use these six steps there is nothing you cannot achieve. Luckily we have the advantage of living in the Twentieth Century with all its new technology and innovations such as hypnosis and subliminal programming. Use these steps in conjunction with your favourite personal development system and you are assured success. personal development

Many people try to achieve goals. Most fail. Some strive, work hard and plan for all the details yet they achieve little or nothing at all. Others strive, work hard, plan and achieve huge success. Yet there are a few individuals who do little else than take small steps and seem to achieve a great deal with what seems like effortlessness. What is the difference between these people and which one would you like to be?
Most members of the human race fall into two categories - those who live in the past and those who live in the future. Most live in the past. Many of these are the people who achieve very little in their lives and are so fearful of the future that they dare not strike out to get anything. They are the under-achievers who hang onto bad episodes in their lives and either relive them time and again or look at new situations as similar potentialities. They say things like "all men are deceivers" or "all women are interested in is money" or "I can't do it. I tried before and it didn't work so why bother!". Due to bad experiences in the past they believe that all future events will turn out the same way if they dare to go after what they want.
The other type of person lives in the future. This type tends to create more of the things they want in life. They have a vision of where they want to go and exactly how they are going to get there. They work diligently at making concrete plans and they pursue those plans with a persistent ferocious appetite for success. These people are the high achievers - The Richard Branson and Bill Gates of the world. These people have much to teach us about setting and achieving goals.
However, there is a third type of person who almost goes unnoticed. They are the person who takes life in its stride and yet achieve most of what they want. I am sure you know of such a person in your life that just seems to saunter through life and yet they always come out on top. Or a person who you hear of that has decided to open a shop. You meet them a few months later and they have three shops all doing well! So what makes these people so successful and if they aren't living in the past and aren't living in the future where are they living?
I suppose you guessed it! Whether they are consciously aware of it or not they are living in the present. It is in the 'living' present that we have our greatest power. Everything happens in the present. You live your entire life there - even if your mind does not!

By becoming more aware of the present and by 'accepting' it as it is we are much more in control of our emotions and focus. When we live in the past we are fearful of making bad choices and/or getting hurt. We do not wish to recreate the past again! When we live in the future we can also be fearful of what might happen. But even if your future vision is full of power and worthy of working towards many people can, and often do, get stuck there. By constantly reaching for bigger and better goals they fail to enjoy what they have in the moment.
If you wish to start living a life that is almost effortless begin first by living in the present. Accept your situation the way it is and then you can enjoy what you have. Your focus changes from a memory of what was or a vision of what might be to a realization of what is. You become much more empowered to then see the beauty of life and also look at where you wish to make changes. But to make changes you must first accept the situation as it is. Trying to escape from your present only increases your focus on your problems by creating resistance to what is. Accept your life as it is now. Make no judgement, just accept it and then you will be free of doubt, worry, pain and fear. For you only experience these things when you live outside the 'moment'. personal development

Can you use hypnosis and self hypnosis to improve your health?

Well in 1958 the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and The British Medical Association concluded that hypnosis was indeed a viable therapeutic tool and approved its medical use.

Although there are many theories, no-one really knows how or why hypnosis works. However, the benefits of its use are clear. It has been used successfully in all manner of treatments from IBS to pre-surgery relaxation and post-surgery pain relief.

Olympic athletes, footballers, basketball layers, golfers etc., have known about the power of the mind for some decades now (perhaps the elite knew even further back). It has been shown in medical studies that when you visualise yourself performing a task your muscles respond in exactly the same way as they would if you were actually doing the task. Sports psychologist have used this to their, and their clients, advantage for years now.

The power of the mind is becoming more evident to the medical establishment as well. Everyone knows about the beneficial effects of using a placebo. It seems that if the mind is convinced that something is true then it will make it true even if the situation appears to be the exact of opposite in the 'real world'!

It seems that the quickest way to get the mind to accept a new belief is through hypnosis and self hypnosis. Phobias can be eliminated in one session now and new beliefs planted in the same aount of time.
The use of hypnosis as a weight-loss tool is well written about as its effectiveness in quitting smoking! It has been used very effectively in non-surgical breast enhancement and treating erectile dysfunction. So it is not very hard to believe that it could be used to convince the mind that health is abundant or that a particular unhealthy situation is reversing itself.

Once the mind becomes convinced that an unhealthy situation no longer exists and that health is abundant then just like the visualiser who makes his/her muscles respond to a mental image the person in discomfort or dis-ease can make his/her body begin to repair itself. Makes sense right!
No-one can predict the scope of hypnosis for healing. However, everyone knows of miracle healings that have taken place when a sick person has visited a spiritual healer, bathed at Lourdes, prayed etc. If these healings can take place then I see no reason not to believe that hypnosis can have the same effect.

Unfortunately, no large scale studies have been undertaken, to my knowledge, that have tested the power of hypnosis to cure chronic or terminal illness but I do believe there is enough evidence to suggest it is a very beneficial tool in recovery. self hypnosis

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