The Marred Origins of Public Education
John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.
In his groundbreaking books Weapons of Mass Instruction, Dumbing Us Down, and The Underground History of American Education, Gatto gives a teacher’s perspective on the origins, and problems of the public school system in the United States.
Here is an excerpt from The Underground History of American Education:
The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon’s amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous “Address to the German Nation” which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders.
So, the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:
- Obedient soldiers to the army;
- Obedient workers to the mines;
- Well subordinated civil servants to government;
- Well subordinated clerks to industry
- Citizens who thought alike about major issues.
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.
You can read the book free here.
The New American Academy writes about the Prussian Model of Education, of which our current system is based on, on their website:
Horace Mann, credited as the father of the American public school system, studied a wide variety of educational models before implementing the Prussian system designed by Fredrick the Great. King Frederick created a system that was engineered to teach obedience and solidify his control. Focusing on following directions, basic skills, and conformity, he sought to indoctrinate the nation from an early age. Isolating students in rows and teachers in individual classrooms fashioned a strict hierarchy—intentionally fostering fear and loneliness.
Mann chose the Prussian model, with its depersonalized learning and strict hierarchy of power, because it was the cheapest and easiest way to teach literacy on a large scale.
This system was perpetuated throughout the early twentieth century by social efficiency theorists who sought to industrialize the educational process. Led by educators such as Ellwood P. Cubberley, they used education as a tool for social engineering:
“Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life.” (Cubberley, 1917)
Building upon the depersonalized uniformity and rigid hierarchy of the Prussian system, they constructed an industrial schooling model designed to produce millions of workers for Americaʼs factories.
Believing that most of America’s students were destined for a life of menial, industrial labor, these theorists created a multi-track educational system meant to sort students from an early age. While the best and brightest were carefully groomed for leadership positions, the majority was relegated to a monotonous education of rote learning and task completion.
Consequently, our schooling system is still locked into the Prussian-industrial framework of fear, isolation, and monotony. For both students and teachers, procedure is emphasized over innovation, uniformity over individual expression, and control over empowerment. It is, therefore, not surprising that the majority of Americaʼs classrooms have changed little in over one hundred years.
This design was devised to prepare millions of workers for America’s factories, not to develop creative thinkers and learners.
It is ironic to me that the Progressive Movement in America has always relied on the state, one of the oldest and most violent institutions still in existence, to achieve its goals, often through force, or threats of force.
This initiation of aggression is always justified throughout history as being for “the greater good” of the nation or society as a whole. The good intentions of those in power always trump the desires and needs of the individual. This is never more true than in public schools.
According to the Wikipedia article on Progressivism in the United States:
Early progressive thinkers such as John Dewey and Lester Ward placed a universal and comprehensive system of education at the top of the progressive agenda, reasoning that if a democracy were to be successful, its leaders, the general public, needed a good education. Progressives worked hard to expand and improve public and private education at all levels. Modernization of society, they believed, necessitated the compulsory education of all children, even if the parents objected.
Only in our upside-down world is using force and threats of violence and cages to impose your will onto others considered “progress”. Astoundingly, adopting the Prussian model of forced education was, and continues to be, described as a great leap in “progress” by its supporters in the United States.
In 1840, the literacy rate in Massachusetts was 99%, with no help from forced, public education. Massachusetts passed its compulsory education law in 1852 (the first in the country). The literacy rates then began to drop; 96.1% in 1860, and 93.2% in 1870.
The current literacy rate in Massachusetts is around 90%.
Yes, literacy rates in Massachusetts dropped after compulsory schooling was put into place.
This is particularly noteworthy when the argument comes up that without forced, public education, the youth of our nation would be in miserable shape. The empirical data points to exactly the opposite being true. This is typical, baseless fear-mongering that the state always uses to maintain and expand its power.
Compulsory, public education is a recent phenomenon. In fact, some of the most barbaric and violent periods of human history occurred after compulsory education was adopted by governments worldwide.
The Bloody Consequences of State-Run Education
The 45 million killed in Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward”, the 20 million deaths under Stalin, over 300,000 killed under Mussolini, World War I, the Holocaust, World War II, and the over 1 million deaths of civilians in the last 10 years of the Iraq war were made possible largely by the instilling of nationalism, patriotism, and loyalty to the state by public education.
The state has a vested interest in shaping the minds of an entire nation, and to deny this conflict of interest is willful ignorance and naivety. The greatest beneficiary of state-run, forced education is the state itself.
Progressives and leftists who are so vehemently against US foreign policy and military conquest would be remiss to ignore that, historically, nationalistic pride, patriotic fervor, and support for military action is fostered first in government schools, when children are the most impressionable.
Yahoo News featured an article about a school teacher in Florida who attempted to force a student to put his hand over his heart, and pledge allegiance to the state and its flag:
Anne Daigle-McDonald, a teacher at Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill, Fla., made the student, a Jehovah’s Witness, place his hand over his heart during the Sept. 11 pledge, according to a report by the Tampa Bay Times. (Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden from worshiping objects — including the American flag.) When he resisted, she said, “You are an American, and you are supposed to salute the flag,” the boy told a school administrator.
According to several students, Daigle-McDonald admonished the class the following day. “In my classroom, everyone will do the pledge; no religion says that you can’t do the pledge,” she said. “If you can’t put your hand on your heart, then you need to move out of the country.”
School teachers nowadays look more like Thought Police and enforcers of state-approved opinions than they do facilitators of learning.
This is by design. As was mentioned earlier, a key objective of the Prussian model of education is to produce “Obedient soldiers to the army”, “Well subordinated civil servants to government”, and “Citizens who thought alike about major issues.”
The Empirical Results of Public Education
Where facts are concerned, the track record of public education is absolutely abysmal. If anyone other than the government were responsible, it would have been abandoned as a miserable failure several decades ago. Here is a graph that contrasts 40 years of federal funding for education, and its impact on reading, math, and science scores:
So, if all of that money isn’t going to actually teach students valuable skills and information, what is it going to, exactly?
The swelling armies of parasitic school administrators, of course.
According to this report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff grew 702 percent since 1950, more than seven times the increase in students.
An article by the Cato Institute’s Paul Ciotti examines the most expensive educational experiment ever performed in the United States. This experiment forever puts to rest the argument that the primary problem facing the public school system is funding.
Here’s a summary:
For decades, critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.”
In Kansas City they did try. For more than a decade, the Kansas City district got more money per pupil than any other of the 280 major school districts in the country. Yet in spite of having perhaps the finest facilities of any school district its size in the country, nothing changed. Test scores stayed put, the three-grade-level achievement gap between blacks and whites did not change, and the dropout rate went up, not down.
The rest of the article can be found here.
The government has a near-monopoly on education. As with any other monopoly, the result is always high prices, and poor service. To make matters worse, this is a monopoly you are forced to pay for via taxation.
If you don’t pay, they take your house.
It doesn’t matter how poorly of a job the government does with education, you’re going to keep paying your taxes. Of course public schools are a giant failure; what incentive is there for them to succeed?
Consider, for a moment, that the government is responsible for “educating” a child for 12 years. At the end of that 12 years, that child has absolutely 0 economic value, and 0 marketable skills. A high school diploma is worth nothing.
The only thing that possessing a high school diploma signifies is that you were sufficiently compliant for 12 years in a row. You are not taught to think, you are taught to obey. This basic tenet of “education” continues through college.
Richard Arum conducted a massive study, following 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009, and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities.
“Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called “higher order” thinking skills.”
Public Education: Human Obedience Training
I loathed school, and was nearly thrown in juvenile detention for being late or absent so many times. I hated going, and dreaded waking up each morning. I was actually lucky enough to go to Goddard Public Schools, which is, comparatively, one of the better school systems in the country.
I remember being called into the principal’s office one day, and having the “Truancy Officer”, a power-drunk, plump, brutish, unpleasant woman by the name of Trudy, berate me in front of the entire office, getting angrier and angrier as I sat in defiant silence, refusing to answer to her onslaught of questions and accusations.
Wikipedia has the following to say about truancy officers:
The position of a full-time truancy officer is generally viewed as being a relic from the 19th century when mandatory school attendance was relatively new.
Trudy threatened that if I didn’t straighten up, she’d be taking me straight to juvenile detention.
Forced education, threats of cages, and cartoonish, fat, miserable women screaming threats at children… Ah, what a wonderful time to be alive.
School was absolutely nauseating for me. To be frank, all of my teachers either thought I was retarded, or wanted to drug me, and I nearly failed out on several occasions.
After failing Algebra 1 three years in a row, I finally gave up completely, and got my GED at age 17. (Ironically, I got the highest GED score in the state of Kansas that year.)
In my case, it wasn’t because I just didn’t like learning, was a bad student, or was lazy; quite the opposite. Nothing thrilled me more than learning, which made my experience in public schools that much more unbearable; it did nothing but keep me from expanding my mind, and did everything to crush my imagination, creativity, and individuality.
Albert Einstein once remarked:
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.
In Walter Isaacson’s famous biography, Steve Jobs told him,
[At school] I encountered authority of a different kind than I had ever encountered before, and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.
A study by Westby and Dawson asked teachers to describe their favorite students. Teachers overwhelmingly favored students with traits such as conformity, reliability, and unquestioned acceptance of authority.
Critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, and individuality need not apply.
No wonder I was never the “Teacher’s Pet”.
To quote Henry David Thoreau,
What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.
If anything, school was the only obstacle standing in the way of my success and happiness – an enormous, monolithic, immovable, and heartless obstacle that benefits teachers, union bosses, and bureaucrats at the expense of children.
Luckily for me, I had a stable home and a supportive family. My mother tried everything she knew. Before I got my GED, she discovered that one of the public schools in our city offered all of their High School classes online. This immediately alleviated a huge amount of my anxiety and depression.
Instead of spending 7-8 hours each day inside the four walls of a school, I could finish an entire weeks worth of school work in about an hour at home. When I was given the opportunity to take my education at my own pace, I flew through it, which gave me the rest of the week to pursue the things I was truly passionate about. I learned several times more valuable information in my free time than I ever would have in a classroom all day.
I spent between 1-4 hours on Friday completing all of my homework and tests for the entire week. (I got straight A’s in every single class, except for Algebra 1.)
This proved to me, once and for all, that the primary curriculum taught within public schools is nothing more than Human Obedience Training.
You are told when to be and where, are conditioned to automatically respond to audible cues such as bells and whistles like one of Pavlov’s dogs, are punished for questioning authority, and are forced into an environment where you must conform to your peers, or face ostracism, taunts, threats, and bullying.
That is all public schools exist for. The actual subject matter taught within the classrooms can be learned in 1/10 of the time for free on the internet, but it takes 8 hours a day to properly break down and rebuild young human minds as docile, obedient office zombies and cubicle drones who live their entire lives comfortably within the status quo.
Again, when you get into college, it doesn’t get any better. A report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 62% of colleges restrict free speech on campus.
“No public school in the United States is set up to allow a George Washington to happen. Washingtons in the bud stage are screened, browbeaten, or bribed to conform to a narrow outlook on social truth. Boys like Andrew Carnegie who begged his mother not to send him to school and was well on his way to immortality and fortune at the age of thirteen, would be referred today for psychological counseling; Thomas Edison would find himself in Special Ed until his peculiar genius had been sufficiently tamed.”
– John Taylor Gatto
The Epidemic of School Shootings
The system is inherently sick and destructive, and it is especially cruel towards those who yearn for creativity and individuality. Because of this, several times I, and many others like me, considered suicide. It is now no wonder to me why we hear of so many children hanging themselves in their closets, or overdosing on drugs.
Add on top of that the overwhelming pressure of hours of homework every night, and brutal “Standardized Testing”, and you end up with disastrous results.
As this article points out, the physical toll that public education takes on children is devastating enough:
“Diabetes rates among school-age children are sky-high, and the percentage of 6-to-11-year-olds who qualify as obese has nearly tripled since 1980. And what do children do in school? Exactly. They sit.
Inactivity is also bad for the brain. A 2011 study by Georgia Health Sciences University found that cognitive function among kids improves with exercise. Their prefrontal cortex—the area associated with complex thinking, decision making, and social behavior—lights up. The kids in the study who exercised 40 minutes per day boosted their intelligence scores by an average of 3.8 points.”
Public education is heading in the opposite direction by reducing physical activity in the form of PE and recess. Schools are increasingly forcing kids to sit still even longer, and be brow-beaten into memorizing endless amounts of useless information required to pass Standardized Tests.
When they are punished and drugged for “acting out”, it only exacerbates the underlying psychological harm being done to them.
Mental Disorders in Children
Dr. Peter Gray wrote for The Atlantic:
“Suicide rates quadrupled from 1950 to 2005 for children less than fifteen years and for teens and young adults ages 15-25, they doubled.”
There has been a significant increase in anxiety and depression from 1950 to present day in teens and young adults and Gray cites several studies documenting this rise. One showed that five to eight times as many children and college students reported clinically significant depression or anxiety than 50 years ago and another documented a similar trend in the fourteen- to sixteen-year-old age group between 1948 and 1989.
In an article entitled The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders, he writes:
Children today spend more hours per day, days per year, and years of their life in school than ever before. More weight is given to tests and grades than ever before. Outside of school children spend more time than ever before in settings where they are directed, protected, catered to, ranked, judged, and rewarded by adults.
As a society we have come to the conclusion that children must spend increasing amounts of their time in the very setting where they least want to be. The cost of that belief, as measured by the happiness and mental health of our children, is enormous. It is time to re-think education.
Ironically, on Monday, the Overland Park, KS police chief said he wants to install gun cabinets that hold rifles and ammunition in local schools.
Police are using money from drug busts to buy equipment that could save lives during a mass shooting. The new equipment includes gun cabinets that could hold rifles and ammunition inside some Shawnee Mission schools.
The state-run, public education system is driving kids insane enough to shoot up the school, so the only solution is to have schools with built-in guns funded by the drug war?
Those kids who lack a supportive family, come from horrible home environments, and then are handed over into this mad institution are ripe for destruction, and the only thing our society can seem to debate about is whether we should let teachers pump a few rounds of ammo into these kids when they snap.
Think about this for a second.
Children are forced into the monolithic grinding stone of forced education where they are treated like mindless cattle. This report from McKinsey states that half the teachers come from the bottom third of their graduating college classes. According to the “Peter Principle”, the most incompetent among them now fill the roles of principals and administrators.
No wonder you hear stories about 5 year olds being suspended for chewing a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, or for committing crimes as heinous as shooting imaginary arrows at each other.
Just recently, a 6 year old boy in Colorado was suspended for “Sexual Harrassment” after kissing a classmate on the hand.
There has been a news story circulating recently about a 12 year old boy named Ryan Gibbons, who died because school officials confiscated his inhaler, which makes it inaccessible, and, therefore, completely useless for what it is intended for – namely, saving the child’s life in an emergency situation.
Peter Gray, Ph. D, and author of Free to Learn, wrote the following for Psychology Today:
Over the past few decades, the education-industrial complex has attempted to remedy the obvious failures of coercive schooling by adding ever more coercion, to the point where many children are literally being driven crazy (for more on that, see here and here).
NBC News recently reported on “Active Shooter Drills” conducted by Troy Buchanan High School where children are terrorized by gunmen firing blanks into classrooms, while other children covered in fake blood lie around pretending to be dead.
“This isn’t a bizarre, premeditated mass murder or some twisted sacrifice led by a student cult. These are the 20 minutes preceding an active shooter drill, the 13th one Missouri’s Lincoln County school district has staged in the past year.”
“In Missouri, it’s not only a trend; it’s the law. In August 2013, the state legislature took a cue from a handful of post-Sandy Hook lawmakers, like the ones in Illinois and Arkansas, and voted to require every school district to conduct simulated shooter drills. Because the law goes into effect this year, 20 superintendents from across the state are here to take notes.”
“I’ve done this like 10 times, and it gets me every time,” says Bargen, who agreed to do the drill as extra credit for drama class. “This one is even scarier because it’s on my home turf. It’s going to make me second-guess my school.”
Kiera Loveless, 17, who has done eight drills before, “thought it would be fun at first. Now I wouldn’t say fun exactly—it’s scary. But a good experience.”
The first time she participated, she was “terrified.” She’d only heard gunshots on television. “I didn’t even really have to pretend. I kept having to remind myself ‘this isn’t real, this isn’t real.’”
“There are several kids splayed out in the hallway, their fake blood still glistening. The kids start to rise, most nervously tittering, a few picking up shells as souvenirs. One girl, who has fallen on her stomach after getting “shot,” doesn’t get up. Her body is trembling. It doesn’t take long to realize she is sobbing.”
This is what public education has been reduced to; preparing to be shot.
When factory workers in China throw themselves off of tall buildings and bridges because they’ve been driven so insane by their work environment, everyone rushes to condemn the factory owners and managers.
When children hang themselves in their closets, overdose on drugs, and go on shooting rampages because they’ve been driven so insane by the environment of their public school, no one rushes to condemn the government or the public school administrators.
Would it be acceptable if someone tried to solve the problem of suicides in Chinese factories by telling the workers to just stop bullying, and be nicer to each other?
Who deserves blame, the children and the factory workers, or the school administrators and factory owners?
To escape blame, the government is always shifting responsibility onto violent video games, and bullying, of course.
Anyone who criticizes this monstrous system, or dares to suggest any true alternatives, such as homeschooling or unschooling, is excoriated and socially ostracized.
Homeschool kids have a negative stereotype. Meanwhile, public school kids are on Xanax, Prozac, and a multitude of ADHD medications, and going on shooting rampages.
Anyone who, like me, suggests that the environment of the system itself is to blame is demonized into oblivion.
Anti-bullying campaigns, crusades against violent video games, pushes to medicate children, and debates about whether to arm school staff roar on.
This is to be expected. Every time a truly crazy system like this is put into place, and the inevitable unintended consequences surface, instead of solving the root problem, the defenders of that system will always shift blame off themselves, and throw an endless amount of even more insane solutions at it, which only makes the original problem worse.
This is universally true with every problem the government causes and then makes worse with their insane solutions, from the War on Drugs, to the War on Poverty, to the War on Terrorism, to violence in public schools.
The defenders of these systems always use these problems to expand their own power, even when they have proven to be completely incapable of solving them, and in fact, have only made them exponentially worse.
They will label anyone who fundamentally questions the system as “radicals”, or “zealots”.
I am radically and zealously concerned about the children we are feeding into this system.
ADHD, Zero-Tolerance Policies, and The War on Boys
State-run schools are destructive, wretched environments for children, especially for young boys, who are treated as little more than broken girls.
With the relatively recent implementation of “Zero Tolerance Policies”, public schools are becoming increasingly hostile toward young boys.
According to this article in Time Magazine:
Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts.
Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint.
Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative–play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school.
Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.
The lengths they go to in order to force children, boys and girls alike, to conform and obey, oftentimes through medication, shows how absurd the whole thing is – they literally have to drug kids to get them through it.”
Dr. Gray describes the treatment process in this article:
Using the standard diagnostic checklists, the clinician then takes into account the ratings of teachers and of parents concerning the child’s behavior. If the ratings meet the criterion level, then a diagnosis of ADHD is made. The child may then be put on a drug such as Adderall or Concerta, with the result, usually, that the child’s behavior in school improves. The student begins to do what the teacher asks him to do; the classroom is less disrupted; and the parents are relieved. The drug works.
We can give them a powerful drug–a preparation of methylphenidate or amphetamine, both of which have effects on the brain similar to those of cocaine (but without the euphoria) and are, for good reasons, illegal to take unless you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and given a prescription. The drug works. The children become more tractable and classroom management becomes easier.”
He goes on to give a reason for the recent astronomical rise in ADHD diagnoses, especially among boys:
From my evolutionary perspective, it is not at all surprising that many children fail to adapt to the school environment, in ways that lead to the ADHD diagnosis. All normal children have at least some difficulty adapting to school. It is not natural for children (or anyone else, for that matter) to spend so much time sitting, so much time ignoring their own real questions and interests, so much time doing precisely what they are told to do.
We humans are highly adaptable, but we are not infinitely adaptable. It is possible to push an environment so far out of the bounds of normality that many of our members just can’t abide by it, and that is what we have done with schools. It is not surprising to me that the rate of diagnosis of ADHD began to skyrocket during the same decade (the 1990s) when schools became even more restrictive than they had been before.
One of the biological characteristics that predisposes for ADHD in the school environment, obviously, is the Y chromosome. For evolutionary reasons, boys are, on average, more physically active, more adventurous (in the sense of taking risks), more impulsive, and less compliant than are girls.
A normal distribution of such traits exists for both boys and girls. The distributions overlap considerably, but are not identical. The cutoff on the distribution that gets you a diagnosis of ADHD in our present society happens to be at a point that includes about 12% of boys and 4% of girls.
The Dreadful Treatment of Children Outside of School
Public schools certainly produce terrifying and traumatic experiences for many children. Unfortunately, the way we, as a society, treat children outside of schools isn’t much better.
Science is starting to find more and more evidence that ADHD is nothing more than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by the toxic environment of public schools, disrupted parental relationships, physical and emotional abuse, and chaotic early experience, as noted in this article on MSN.com:
“These children are hypervigilant because they are looking for dangers or threats,” says Frank Putnam, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “They become exquisitely attuned to sights, sounds and especially facial expressions or tones of voice that might be linked with impending trouble.“
Hypervigilance can look like hyperactivity or inattentiveness in school because these children are paying attention to “distractions” like the teacher’s face or another child’s movements, not their schoolwork. A slammed door might prompt them to jump from their seats—and cause a “fight or flight” response that might seem aggressive or defiant.
Trauma can also produce what’s known as a “dissociative” reaction. When a threat is physically inescapable, the body prepares for injury by slowing heart rate and breathing. The brain is flooded with endogenous opioids—the brain’s own painkillers—which cause numbness. In extreme cases, the person feels like he has “left his body” and is watching events from outside.
A sight, sound, smell or memory can trigger a return to this state. “Children may space out and appear to be daydreaming,” Putnam says. “They lose contact with reality and become involved in an internal world. Teachers see a child who is never paying attention. They still have their math book out when the teacher has moved on to history.”
Many children who are diagnosed with ADHD, Putnam believes, may actually be suffering from trauma. “There is probably a significant group of kids with traumatic hypervigilance or dissociation that interferes with attention and increases arousal and activity levels,” who are misdiagnosed, he says.
Early trauma has been shown to have significant effects on the early developing brain. Early spanking has been shown to be associated with trauma, poor cognitive development in early childhood.
According to an article published on Frontiersin.org;
A systematic review of the consequences of spanking which included 88 empirical studies reported that spanking was associated with moral internalization, aggression, delinquent and antisocial behavior, poorer quality of the parent–child relationship, poorer mental health, and an increased likelihood of being a victim of physical abuse.
Furthermore, spanking during childhood was associated in later adulthood with aggression, criminal and antisocial behavior, poorer mental health, and adult abuse of one’s own child or spouse. The only benefit of corporal punishment identified in this systematic review was improved immediate compliance.
One longitudinal study of discipline at age three found that, among girls, physical discipline was associated with a lower IQ (Smith and Brooks-Gunn, 1997). A subsequent study with a much larger sample and more effective control of confounding variables reported that spanking at 1 year of age was associated with aggressive behavior at 2 years of age and lower developmental scores at three compared to children that were not spanked (Berlin et al., 2009).
In spite of this, 70 percent to 90 percent of parents in the US hit or slap their children, and between 14 and 35 percent of mothers in the US hit their infants.
In a study published recently in the Journal of Family Psychology, it was found that parents of 2 year olds were hitting them an average of nearly 1,000 times per year.
“The degree to which the psychiatric community is complicit with abusive parents in drugging non-compliant children is a war crime across the generations, and there will be a Nuremberg at some point in the future” – Stefan Molyneux
Rebellious children are merely conscientious objectors to an absolutely insane world they’re being introduced into. They must be beaten and drugged into compliance.
Introversion: The Mortal Sin
I was especially hard for the one-size-fits-all education system to “deal with” – not only was I a rambunctious little boy who couldn’t wait to go back outside and pretend like I was G.I. Joe, but I was also an extreme introvert, a trait many teachers tried, and failed, to break me of. My desire to be left alone, and lack of “classroom participation” and enthusiasm was always brought up in parent-teacher conferences. None of these teachers could figure out why I couldn’t stand being there, and why I always did the bare minimum to get by. They couldn’t grasp the fact that I was just trying to endure it.
In a paper entitled Introversion: The Often Forgotten Factor Impacting the Gifted, the authors write the following:
School is not a positive experience for many introverts. It can be loud, crowded, superficial, boring, overstimulating, and focused on action, not reflection.
Modern schools seem to be designed for extroverts. From the beginning of the day (especially if they have to ride the bus), the day is full of large groups and large areas, large classes, lunch in a common area, physical education in a large group and in a large gym, locker rooms, assemblies, homeroom, etc.
The culture and environment benefit the extroverts because they match their needs and learning differences.
I am sure that if my mother had put me through the ringer of mental health services, I would have been diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s and ADHD, and I would have been sufficiently medicated to fall in line with the preferences of my teachers, and the public school system in general.
Enrico Gnaulati, Ph.D., writes the following in his book, Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder:
In its milder form, especially among preschool- and kindergarten-age boys, it is tough to distinguish between early signs of autism spectrum disorder and indications that we have on our hands a young boy who is a budding intellectual, is more interested in studying objects than hanging out with friends, overvalues logic, is socially awkward unless interacting with others who share identical interests or is in a leadership role, learns best when obsessed with a topic, and is overly businesslike and serious in how he socializes.
If we don’t have a firm grasp of gender differences in how young children communicate and socialize, we can mistake traditional masculine behavior for high-functioning autism.
This only added to my hatred of school. Dr. GnaulatiI notes,
Highly intelligent boys who happen to be introverted by temperament are probably the subpopulation of kids who are most likely to be erroneously labeled autistic.
When we mistake a brainy, introverted boy for an autism spectrum disordered one, we devalue his mental gifts. We view his ability to become wholeheartedly engrossed in a topic as a symptom that needs to be stamped out, rather than a form of intellectualism that needs to be cultivated.
Boys like William don’t need to be channeled into unwanted and unnecessary social-skills classes to obtain formal instruction on how to start and sustain normal conversations. They don’t need to be prodded to be more sociable with the neighborhood kid whose mind works completely differently from theirs. They need unique school programs that cater to the mentally gifted in which others will not be chagrined by their intense love for ideas and where they have a shot at making true friends and therefore have the opportunity to feel truly sociable.
I was completely incompatible with a system hell-bent on making me compatible. In this artificial, forced system, the only option I, and many other children, saw to get out was to take our own lives. I ended up dropping out at 17, got my GED, moved out on my own, and started a business.
The way children in general, and particularly boys, like me, are being treated by this system is just monstrous. The inevitable one-size-fits-all nature of forced, public education is wrong-headed in its inception, and destructive in its execution. Because of this, intelligent teachers with empathy and sensitive consciences rarely ever survive in such a brutal system.
Gulty by Association: Teachers, Administrators, and Unions
As I stated recently, half the teachers come from the bottom third of their graduating college classes. Intelligent, caring teachers either remove themselves from the system once they see how harmful it is to children, or they get so frustrated at the ludicrous policies that they seek other work.
What remains are people who are too oblivious to see what’s going on, mindlessly obedient people who follow instructions without question because they were molded by the system themselves, or people who are aware of what is going on, and either feel no empathy, or actually take delight in harming children.
This is a problem few are aware of, but a quick Google search pulls up an enormous laundry list of news reports about teachers all over the country abusing children verbally, psychologically, physically, and even sexually.
This is to be expected from a system of coercion originally designed by the Prussian government to break children, and form them into docile, obedient workers and soldiers. A system like this depends upon a legion of oblivious, unthinking, obedient teachers, administrators, and supporters to carry out its goal.
In 2010, The New Jersey School Board Association posted an article on their website written by Jean Harkness, one of their policy consultants. In the article, she interviews Dr. Alan McEvoy, professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University about his research concerning teachers bullying students.
Dr. Alan McEvoy, professor of sociology at Northern Michigan University, is a leading authority on harassment and bullying. He has been a pioneer in research that focuses on teacher (and coach) bullying.
In a recent interview Dr. McEvoy shared his views and research findings, including his pilot study, Teachers Who Bully Students: Patterns and Policy Implications.
“Teacher bullying is a common problem that exists in most schools,” said McEvoy. His research found that 93 percent of the 236 teachers and students surveyed reported that teacher bullying occurred in school and the subjects were in agreement regarding who the bullies were within a school. Results from his follow-up study supported these results as well.
Colleagues rarely report bullying because incidents are contained in the classroom, hidden from the observation of other adults, he reported. Additionally, the students and faculty surveyed perceived that there was no effective or meaningful redress for complaints against teachers for bullying; and that there were seldom negative sanctions for teachers who were reported. The perception that school incident reporting and investigation mechanisms are complicated and ineffective perpetuates the silence and secrecy that enables bullying.
In a 2004 study titled, “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature”, commissioned by the Department of Education, it was found that nearly 10 percent of all public schooled students had been raped, abused, or sexually harassed by teachers.
A wretched system like this draws to it, like flies to manure, some of the worst kinds of people in society.
To make things worse, some teacher’s unions even think teachers should be rewarded with cash after being found guilty of raping their students.
To make his case, Senator Capri Cafaro is repulsively exploiting the child abuse death of a 14 year old kid. Teddy Foltz-Tedesco died last year after his mother pulled him out of school to hide his abuse from authorities. The boy was finally beaten to death by the mother’s boyfriend.
In keeping with the government’s long tradition of being incompetent in every possible facet of existence, this young child’s abuse was already reported to Social Services. Social Services failed to act, and now, in response to THEIR OWN failures, politicians want to give them MORE power. This is a brand of mania that you can only find in government: an agency bungles its authority, and the solution is to give them more of it.
If the rare case of an abusive homeschool parent can serve as an indictment of homeschooling, why can’t the more common case of a sexually abusive teacher serve as an indictment of public schools? By this politician’s own logic, all government schools should have been shutdown long ago.
Add school shootings, gang violence, fights, bullying, and administrative abuse in the form of zero tolerance policies that brand and label young kids as criminals, and public school is clearly a much more dangerous proposition.
The government has no place pointing the finger of suspicion at parents. We are the ones who have every possible reason to be suspicious of them.
More and more parents are taking a closer look at this twisted system, and are now seeking alternatives. It is becoming increasingly obvious how unhealthy and destructive this system is for children during crucial stages of human development.
The further we get away from, and fight against nature, the more unintended consequences arise. If we don’t focus on the underlying issue, but instead try to treat the symptoms, children will continue to suffer. Children have been educated by their parents, in their home and community, for thousands of years. It is no sign of progress when children are being bused off to prison-like institutions straight out of the 18th century where violence is common, and performance continues to decline.
The accusations that are thrown at homeschooling and unschooling pale in comparison to the horrifying realities happening in public schools every day.
I have written previously about self-directed education, homeschooling, and unschooling in this article. I featured an incredible story about a school teacher in Mexico who, with no resources other than the internet connection on his home computer, scrapped the school-mandated curriculum, allowed his students to learn whatever drew their interest, and ended up with an entire class that scored higher than the national average in all categories, with one student receiving the highest math score in the entire country.
I also write about Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University in the UK. In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Mitra conducted experiments in which he gave children in India access to computers. Without any instruction, they were able to teach themselves a surprising variety of things, from DNA replication to English.
One of the most astonishing experiments in self-directed learning was conducted by Nicholas Negroponte, cofounder of the MIT Media Lab. The experiment was called the One Laptop per Child initiative. Wired.com reports:
Last year the organization delivered 40 tablets to children in two remote villages in Ethiopia. Negroponte’s team didn’t explain how the devices work or even open the boxes. Nonetheless, the children soon learned to play back the alphabet song and taught themselves to write letters. They also figured out how to use the tablet’s camera. This was impressive because the organization had disabled camera usage. “They hacked Android,” Negroponte says.
Using technology and the power of the internet to enable children to direct their own educations is truly “progressive”.
I will conclude with these words from Dr. Gray:
It seems to me that we have two choices. We can continue stumbling along with our coercive system of schooling and continue to fight our children’s instincts, using drugs or whatever other means we must to dampen their cries for freedom. Or, we can adopt what to most people today seems like a radical, even crazy approach to education, but which to hunter-gatherers seemed like common sense. This radical approach is to let our children educate themselves, while we provide the conditions that make that possible.
The idea that children can direct their own education, and can do it well, seems absurd to most people today; we are so conditioned to the idea that education requires top-down direction and coercion. But, for those who are willing to take a look at it, the evidence is overwhelming that the hunter-gatherer approach to education can work beautifully in our society today.
I’ve described that evidence in previous essays (see, for example, this one). We can build play and learning centers—similar to the Sudbury Valley School—that provide children with the resources they need to educate themselves. The essential resources include access to lots of children of mixed ages to play with, access to the tools that are crucial to our culture, and access to caring adults—all within the context of a moral community that embodies the highest values of our society.
Amazing as it may seem to some, this can all be done at far less expense and trouble than that extracted by our current system of coercive schooling. And this sort of institution—unlike our standard schools—is filled with excitement and joy.