Saturday, December 26, 2009

From John Taylor Gatto's letter to the Wall Street Journal after he quit 30 years of teaching:

Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.

That idea passed into American history through the Puritans. It found its "scientific" presentation in the bell curve, along which talent supposedly apportions itself by some Iron Law of Biology. It’s a religious notion, School is its church. I offer rituals to keep heresy at bay. I provide documentation to justify the heavenly pyramid.

Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be "re-formed." It has political allies to guard its marches, that’s why reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different.

David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first—the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel "learning disabled" and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, "special education" fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.

In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.

That’s the secret behind short-answer tests, bells, uniform time blocks, age grading, standardization, and all the rest of the school religion punishing our nation. There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen—that probably guarantees it won’t.

How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it. I can’t teach this way any longer. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Well, I did it. I dove in. Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot to say, and I usually say it, and more often than not, I say it too loud! I don't deny it. My purpose here and why I chose the title I did will be the subject of my first post.

First, the title. This picture I have of Charlie with the ketchup bottle is my favorite. I didn't provoke this in any way and just happened to have a camera when he said "Mom, I'm hungry," picked up the ketchup bottle and started to help himself. Then I associated this with our lives as unschoolers. You want a meal? Have a meal! You just want ketchup? Have some ketchup! Don't let anything stop you. Seek what you are passionate about. I encourage this in my kids at every possible moment.

So now the purpose of my blog. I simply will use this place to journal our days and my thoughts about school (ack! a VERY hard word for me to say), unschooling here at the Dudgeon home, and life in general.

So, welcome! I hope you enjoy.