The Underground History of American Education

July 29, 2004

On Waking Up

If you’ve ever been to see a stage hypnotist, you’ve seen the drill—a volunteer up on the stage is told to return to their seat, and that upon hearing a certain phrase, they will begin clucking like a chicken, or preforming some similarly outrageous behavior.  Sure enough, most of the time, that’s exactly what will happen.  On the other hand, if when they arrive at their seat, the person next to them tells them that “when he says ‘egg’, you’re going to cluck like a chicken”, odds are good that when the time comes, they’ll fail to cluck.  They woke up.

Much of what most of us call our everyday lives is more-or-less sleepwalking.  Going through routines and rituals on autopilot.  The more we can manage to wake up, the more we get to direct our own destiny—regardless of what we’ve been hypnotized to do.

K5 has an interesting review of John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education.

Gatto, an award-winning teacher who was both NYC and NY State Teacher of The Year, decided to leave at the height of his career, after writing a relatively scathing essay on the educational system for the Wall St. Journal.

Nine years later, he published this massively-researched tome that discusses the real state of American education, and how it got to this point, historically. 

Some of this has been a personal hot-button for me for several years, and I knew a bit of the historical context, but reading the first few chapters, I found I knew a lot less than I thought I did (not a new experience for me, of course.. lol).

Based on what I’ve read so far, it’s my personal opinion that anyone in the US who has, has had, or is planning to have kids, or who has ever been a kid (or is planning to be), probably ought to read it.  An online version is available here.  Unfortunately, if you’d rather read an e-book, you’ll have to roll your own.


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