View Full Version : The Underground history of American Education.


Kunga Dorji
06-01-13, 12:59 AM
Have any of you ever wondered why the education system serves your children so poorly?

John Taylor Gatto is a now retired, highly awarded teacher from New York.
His main book "The Underground History of American Education is fully available on the web.

As we can't post commercial links:
Google his name and find his website.
The link to the book is the second from the top on the sidebar of the front page.
Near the top of that page, immediately above the picture of the front page of the book are links that allow you to read the whole book for free.

It is heavily referenced in its footnotes.

It is important, because key educators such as John Dewey were deeply implicated in the refinement of this system, and it has had knock on effects throughout the English speaking world.


Current developments in Australian education (esp the primary level) are now moving away from some of the serious problems that Gatto raises in his book.


Pages 52-53 Chapter 3, under the subheading of "Intellectual Espionage" are noteworthy

Specifically this quote:
Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably donít want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; itís too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?


and also the data from the same chapter under the heading "The Adult National Literacy Survey"

There has been a sharp decline in literacy especially since the mid 1940's to this point:
1993 analysis:
Ninety-six and a half percent of the American population is mediocre to illiterate where deciphering print is concerned. This is no commentary on their intelligence, but without ability to take in primary information from print and to interpret it they are at the mercy of commentators who tell them what things mean. A working definition of immaturity might include an excessive need for other people to interpret information for us.


The rest of the book goes into great detail about the reasons this state of affairs has evolved, in whose interests that state of affairs is, and the documentation that supports why it was done.


It talks at great length about the links of some of the key educators with the eugenics movement, and the argument used by the rich that they are rich because they are genetically superior. It also discusses the direct lineage of ideas linking the genetics movement to the human genome project. (In many cases the same individuals were involved).


The book also talks about the impact that the now largely discredited Skinnerian behavioural psychology model has had.


From my point of view this is a serious argument, as those who have been most damaged by their inability to force themselves into conformity with this model of schooling are the ones I am most likely to see with ADHD.


The system is also a serious issue for teachers as it was never designed to achieve its stated goals of maximising the potential of each student. This means that most teachers, who really do care about their students, really suffer when trying to make the system work.



I am sure there will be some who disagree- but the whole book is available for free at his website.

dvdnvwls
06-01-13, 01:50 AM
After my current frenzy over household administration, I'm hoping to tackle this book.

I happen to have been the kind of ADHD kid who found school relatively easy to conform with, but that doesn't affect what's really being said here.

Meagan
06-01-13, 01:57 AM
You might enjoy Alfie Kohn's book, The Schools Our Children Deserve.

Adduce
06-17-13, 08:44 AM
An interesting blog regarding the present education structure and how it could possibly be improved in future.

https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/voke-philofeducation/2012/03/12/linking-memory-and-creativity/

Unmanagable
06-17-13, 12:38 PM
This isn't directed at the book, but I feel it's on topic:

Having schools be allowed to teach actual documented facts vs. what appears to have won as the popular opinion would be very refreshing.

Presenting factual information that goes against what the system teaches makes individuals appear to be ready for the psych ward, or jail, or worse, to the rest of the folks who were easily "conformed" by what was taught.

And that appears to be the way the system likes it.

I don't see that changing within the system itself.

Kunga Dorji
06-19-13, 11:02 AM
This isn't directed at the book, but I feel it's on topic:

Having schools be allowed to teach actual documented facts vs. what appears to have won as the popular opinion would be very refreshing.

Presenting factual information that goes against what the system teaches makes individuals appear to be ready for the psych ward, or jail, or worse, to the rest of the folks who were easily "conformed" by what was taught.

And that appears to be the way the system likes it.

I don't see that changing within the system itself.


I think that teaching "documented facts" is far less important than teaching the analytical skills to help us tell what is a 'documented fact" and what is not. I remember doing a whole year of history when all we did was look at the source documents for the "Eureka Stockade" (a rebellion of gold miners in Australia against paying greedy government taxes) and see how those source documents had been selectively misquoted by the "winners" of that conflict to blacken the names of their opponents.

A "documented fact" is a very slippery thing, and the character of the person who wrote the document is always hard to confirm.

My education taught me not to trust what I was told in the newspapers, but to check and cross reference every alleged fact. Now there were any things I did not like about my education (bullying, obsession with winning meaningless sporting trophies), but my education in analysis of rhetoric is not something I regret.

I grew up at a time when I might have been given the choice of go to serve in the Vietnam war or go to prison (I would have chosen the latter) and I have never trusted authority or those who claim the ultimate truth of any fact.

Rant over.

Unmanagable
07-29-13, 04:29 PM
I agree, Barliman. My choice of words don't always accurately relay my complete thoughts, unfortunately. I'll try to clarify a little more.

The schools here don't allow some relevant information to be accessible, or even mentioned. Only selected information is made available, and depending on the topic, people fear even thinking about bringing some things up.

I still come across very significant things that are very well documented that I never sought out, or even knew existed, based on omission in the school system. I may have come across a few more things had I completed college, depending on what I chose to study, but many of the same topics are omitted there, too.

The schools in my area are forced to focus on memorization of the information that is made available, not how to seek out, absorb, digest, compare, research, etc. There may be some teachers with that style, but the system eventually chokes them out or silences them, too.

There's no doubt and no argument that the lack of analytical skills is a major factor. Having the ability and desire is a great start, but trying to learn in an educational environment that doesn't support different levels of learning (and are still full of bullying and people obsessed with seeking meaningless trophies, on and off the fields) is like slamming into a brick wall for so many.

Sounds like we have the same amount of trust in authority. :)

Kunga Dorji
07-30-13, 05:01 AM
:eek:I agree, Barliman. My choice of words don't always accurately relay my complete thoughts, unfortunately. I'll try to clarify a little more.

The schools here don't allow some relevant information to be accessible, or even mentioned. Only selected information is made available, and depending on the topic, people fear even thinking about bringing some things up.

I still come across very significant things that are very well documented that I never sought out, or even knew existed, based on omission in the school system. I may have come across a few more things had I completed college, depending on what I chose to study, but many of the same topics are omitted there, too.

The schools in my area are forced to focus on memorization of the information that is made available, not how to seek out, absorb, digest, compare, research, etc. There may be some teachers with that style, but the system eventually chokes them out or silences them, too.

There's no doubt and no argument that the lack of analytical skills is a major factor. Having the ability and desire is a great start, but trying to learn in an educational environment that doesn't support different levels of learning (and are still full of bullying and people obsessed with seeking meaningless trophies, on and off the fields) is like slamming into a brick wall for so many.

Sounds like we have the same amount of trust in authority. :)

What? Zero?

Meaningless trophies?
I cannot imagine what you are talking about!!

You know I have talked about the improvements in alertness and focus I have experienced following a "parachiropractic" treatment of my neck issues.

Those improvements are now deepening into full conscious control of my secondary pain and irritability issues with ongoing mindfulness training, and with careful assessment and analysis of problematic childhood experiences.

I mention these improvements to my remaining friends in my profession and it is almost amusing to see them duck for cover.
The underlying thought process appears to be:
"We cannot allow ourselves to even entertain these thoughts or we risk discovering you are right, and being nailed up and crucified as heretics- just as appears to be happening to you."

One learns a lot about the character and priorities of one's friends when one dares to make an observation without seeking the approval of the bourgeosie first! ( I have been dieing to find an opportunity to use the word "bourgeosie" appropriately- and I think I am right in recognising that this is the occasion.)

Unmanagable
07-30-13, 05:10 AM
Zip. Zero. Zilch.

There are few and f a r - b e t w e e n, rare exceptions.

Hathor
08-01-13, 04:23 AM
Hi Barliman, I stumbled upon Gatto by watching the doc "The war on kids" shortly after my diagnosis about 2 years ago. Reading his Underground history for the first time was quite the experience, back in High School I used to notice the info taught was useless to most, or would be useless if it was remembered much longer than the big test. (I call it post-sputnik math-robot malarkey) Also I used to think "This is just a place they keep us out of their hair till we are old enough to fend for ourselves". Of course Gatto says by High school we are old enough to fend, but are kept in institutions for other reasons... One thing I found interesting is that I am Canadian, but our system is virtually identical to what Gatto described, or at least was when I went in the 1980s

Since my diagnosis I have read Underground History about 3 times. I find the book is also very valuable for learning about American Politics (inseparable from education) and possibly Economics (I am pretty green in economics so not really sure)

I thought this book would appeal to you and considered mentioning it to you to return the favor for turning me on to "The Master and his Emissary", but like I suspected you are already on it! :)

Kunga Dorji
08-03-13, 03:52 AM
I agree, Barliman. My choice of words don't always accurately relay my complete thoughts, unfortunately. I'll try to clarify a little more.


I know that problem.


The schools here don't allow some relevant information to be accessible, or even mentioned. Only selected information is made available, and depending on the topic, people fear even thinking about bringing some things up.

That is a big problem- especially in regard to the fuss about evolution theory.


I still come across very significant things that are very well documented that I never sought out, or even knew existed, based on omission in the school system. I may have come across a few more things had I completed college, depending on what I chose to study, but many of the same topics are omitted there, too.


History is written by the victor- and what is presented is often carefully screened to suit the convenience of those with wealth or power. That is rather well documented in the book I am referencing.

One of the courses I enjoyed most was in year 9 at school- a year on methods and materials used in the construction of "History".
That came just in time, given the serious attempts over the last few decades at historical revisionism regarding the mistreatment of the indigenous people in Australia.
That little episode was aimed simply at depriving the indigenes of land rights and making life easier for mining companies- but it was not easy for many less attentive people to see what was going on.



The schools in my area are forced to focus on memorization of the information that is made available, not how to seek out, absorb, digest, compare, research, etc. There may be some teachers with that style, but the system eventually chokes them out or silences them, too.


Memorisation skills are useful- but not when the facts are dubious.
IE one does need to have a sound knowledge of memorised anatomy and physiology to work as a doctor, and in any field, there is always a core of essential knowledge that one just has to have at one's fingertips
(scale patterns on the guitar fretboard if you will pardon the pun).

Memorisation, mnemonics, and skills like mind mapping probably need to be taught.


There's no doubt and no argument that the lack of analytical skills is a major factor. Having the ability and desire is a great start, but trying to learn in an educational environment that doesn't support different levels of learning (and are still full of bullying and people obsessed with seeking meaningless trophies, on and off the fields) is like slamming into a brick wall for so many.

Sounds like we have the same amount of trust in authority. :)

I am sure you are right - especially on the last point.

Adduce
08-03-13, 06:19 PM
Has anyone checked out the videos I posted in the thread 'teachers note to a 6 year old boy' in this section regarding memory techniques/mind-mapping.

Adduce
08-03-13, 06:43 PM
I think this article is relevant to the thread, which touches briefly on the present education system and its relationship with memory.

http://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2013/03/joshua-foer-talks-memory-technology-purpose-at-campbell-hall

I have recommended his book on a few previous posts as I believe it is a highly readable account of our relationship with memory.

Hathor
08-04-13, 03:01 AM
^thanks for the link^, I don't have time to read it right now, but a glance at the first paragraph shows great promise that Johshua is worth checking out, and I bookmarked it.

He depicts forgetting not as the sickness, but as a symptom of trying to consume too much too quickly without time to absorb.

Adduce
08-04-13, 04:39 AM
^thanks for the link^, I don't have time to read it right now, but a glance at the first paragraph shows great promise that Johshua is worth checking out, and I bookmarked it.

This video gives an entertaining description of the book by the author.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-E9MMTciBo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-E9MMTciBo)

The relevance to this thread is mainly at the end of the video, where the author discusses the usefulness of what cognitive psychologists know about memory and whether this could be used in educational practice.

Lunacie
08-04-13, 10:04 AM
I was reading "Understanding Women With ADHD" last week, the authors
discussed the idea that education changed in the U.S. when Henry Ford
invented the automobile assembly plant. Workers were needed for these
plants, people who could do repetitive tasks, not people who expected to
"reach their full potential." That makes sense to me. People who don't fit in
to that limited scope of education either make their own way or drop out.

-

Kunga Dorji
08-08-13, 11:03 AM
This video gives an entertaining description of the book by the author.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-E9MMTciBo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-E9MMTciBo)

The relevance to this thread is mainly at the end of the video, where the author discusses the usefulness of what cognitive psychologists know about memory and whether this could be used in educational practice.

Look at about 7:37
He is talking about creating images that have EMOTIONAL valence.
This method is not about "cognitive psychology" at all- it is about the psychology of emotion-- just as Damasio predicts with his "Somatic Marker Hypothesis"
The end bit about being Mindful and present is also valid.
Mindfulness is actually the opposite of ADHD, and Mindfulness has always been regarded as a trainable quantty in the Eaast.