Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

01 April 2011

Book Review - Dumbing Us Down

Hi Everyone,

Today I'll review Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, award winning teacher of 30 years John Taylor Gatto looks at the education system in the western world.

Taylor Gatto is a deep thinker with a knack of looking at the world in a fresh way.

He defines the process of compulsory schooling as a structure designed to create individuals who are emotionally and intellectually dependent, indifferent to the value of what they are presented in the classroom, are encouraged to base their self-esteem around grades, fitting in etc. He does not say that all school children fit these criteria, simply that these were the messages he observed directly in his time teaching in mainstream schools.

One of my favourite quotes on homeschooling appears on page 24 of this book:
It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class.
It sums up one of the major reasons I homeschool my children. I have a strong belief that tolerance and acceptance of others comes from spending time with people from different cultures, ages, backgrounds and experience, which is why this quote resonates.

Another major point I took away from Dumbing Us Down was Taylor Gatto's distinction between networks and communities. He defines a network as a group on individuals interacting because of a shared interest or condition. Relationships generally finish when the interest fades or the condition changes (school) . Community is a group of people who know you on a deep level and will continue to be in relationship with you no matter what your circumstances and interests are. Community is invested in the individual person in a way no institution can be (familial).

Overall this is a fascinating book, whether you agree or are comfortable with all of John Taylor Gatto's points, he will make you think and reassess your views on education.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Taylor Gatto, John. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005.