Life Learning Magazine – The Hall of Mirrors by John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto does make his points so well! See the following…

The Hall of Mirrors by John Taylor Gatto

From Life Learning Magazine.

“As the twenty-first century begins its second decade, mass schooling is much as it was in 1910, at least for the poor and the ordinary. It is test-driven, bell-driven, pedagogue-dominated, and thoroughly dumbed down.”

Let me give you an excerpt from a boys’ manual of instructions on how to build things, published in 1937. It was sold on newsstands as The Amateur Craftsman’s Cyclopedia of Things to Make and was expressly intended, as it states in print, for ten to twelve year old boys.

I’ve selected the project on building a model racing schooner because I don’t want to shock you with the pages which teach boys how to “cut a new entrance into a frame home” or build “a small portable arc furnace” out of clay and bricks. So the modest schooner project will have to make my point by itself.

Let’s begin with glue to hold the ship together. Our ten-year-old will make that himself by melting toothbrush handles in acetone. Got that? Then, after he cuts and planes hull and mainmast, casts the keel in molten lead, masters diction like “jib-stay” and “peak halyard,” and uses his sewing skills to sew the foresail, he tackles the main assembly narrative:

“Spring the sides apart and slip the lower ribs in place at their proper stations. Set the ribs in so the bevel begins at edge of the side. Drive an escutcheon pin into each rib from each side. Make the inside keel from ¼- inch square wood. Fit it inside the inside stem in the notches of the lower ribs, and spring it over to, and inside of, the stern, as shown.”

There’s more, but you’ve heard enough, I think.

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That was 1937. Such instructions for little people were commonplace from Ben Franklin’s day until the end of WWII, but suddenly a new standard seemed to appear after that war was over. In classrooms in every big city at first, and soon everywhere, it looked like this:

a) Students were confined to chairs in quality-ranked classrooms, for six hours a day, 185 days a year.
b) Each day they were set to copying notes off blackboards to memorize and listening to lectures.
c) They were given regular paper/pencil tests to measure their obedience in memorizing, and publicly humiliated if they fell short.
d) Casting ship keels in molten lead was forbidden.
e) They were sharply enjoined to remain silent.
f)  Many other procedures, similar in spirit, were imposed.

Pedagogy had arrived, big-time.

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