Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dumbing Us Down Review

Dumbing Us Down
By John Taylor Gatto
First Published 1991
2nd edition published - 2002


This book is a collection of talks and presentations that John Taylor Gatto gave in the 1990s after he was chosen as New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990 and 1991 as well as State Teacher of the Year in 1991.

In the preface - John mentions his belief that government monopoly schools are structurally non reformable.

Here in Canada, the Catholics have been allowed to keep their own education system and schools. They used to be called the separate system, but now the catholic schools are publicly funded. 

Still, The Catholics have always provided a superior education and  it was an easy choice for me to send my son to a catholic school rather than the public one - especially after I saw just how rude the public schools kids were.

The local Catholic school in my neighbourhood is a small one. There are less than 200 students for 10 years of classes, Junior and Senior Kindergarten and grades 1 through 8.

Even the high school my son will be attending is small. It has around 700 students in 4 grades, and not the 1200 to 1500 that many of the public high schools have.

Chapter 1 - 7 Lessons that the Government Teaches

1 - Confusion - no cohesion in the curriculum, everything about the natural order and sequence of learning is disrupted as much as possible. Quality education implies a depth of learning. Kid don't get the chance to go into depth. They learn the basics and then get moved onto the next subject. I think that is why Unit themes are so popular in homeschooling circles. You get the chance to go into depth on one particular topic as much as you want and can absorb.

2 - Class Position - all students get graded to fit along the bell curve - and you stay where you are placed - why must that happen? 

3 - Indifference - the bells teach students that no work is worth finishing - when the bell goes, you drop everything and move to the next task

4 - Emotional Dependence - The teachers have to bribe the kids constantly to behave in class and to get good grades - they use candy or small toys as bribes and thus are turning the kids into performing as if they are in a circus - whuich technically they are!! But the kid dont learn how to study for their own sakes - they learn only to study if there is a reward - preferably a candy or a toy...  - asserting ones individuality goes against the teachers control - so the teachers punishes those whom he cannot control - sends them to the principal

5 - Intellectual Dependency - good students wait for the teacher to tell them what to do - good kids do whatever thinking the teacher assigns them with the minimum of fuss - bad kids are curious - they ask questions and demand answers  - this is a lesson for the world - that these well trained stuidents will wait for the boss to tell them what to do - which is the opposite of the workplace idea of "using your initiative is rewarded"

When I was doing surveys, I was told that I had to follow the survey scripts absolutely word for word. When I tried to change it to make it sound more natural and friendly, more like normal speech, I was told over and over again to STOP doing that. Read the script and ONLY the script. That was boring. I didnt last long in that job.

6 - Provisional Self Esteem - it is impossible to make self confident spirits (students) conform.

7 - You cannot hide - constant survellance at school, at home and eventually at the job - the idea of homework is to keep the student busy so that they dont have any "private" time.

I was asking questions about religion, and history from the age of 16. I have been a non-conformist since then as well. and I am teaching my son to always be asking questions as well. He's actually pretty smart and coasts along in school, getting a B average. He could do better, but there was no incentive in his small catholic elementary  school for him to try harder.

I am hoping that once he starts high school, he will have more choices and variety in the subjects he can do and therefore would be willing to work harder. One thing my son has done that goes against the school is that he chose NOT to be confirmed. This is a major catholic sacrament. Dad is not very happy, but my son made the choice and I agreed. I am actually thrilled that he has chosen not to do this. The lesshe is sucked into the church, the better. 

The only 2 major downsides we were told are - 1 - He cannot get married in a catholic church and 2 - he cannot be a godparent to someones child. It is NOT the end of the world to not be involved in these 2 activities. I have never been asked to be a godmother to anyone's child and I did not get married in any church. I got married outdoors in a rose garden. He can still get married in any other non-catholic church and he can also do what I did and get married outside. Problems solved.

 Chapter 2

Schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders.

Children have no sense of consequence, no curiosity, no sense of history, no sense of the adult world, they only live for the here and now!!

They are unfamiliar with talking about themselves to their friends, everything is kept superficial, they tend to keep themselves so private, they often lose touch with their own idea of who they are. 

They are dependent, passive and materialistic. They pretty much live in the world of "Gimme Gimme Gimme." and then get upset when they don't get what want they want. In fact the one reason why there is so much drugs, alcohol, violence and anger, is probably a reaction to the assembly line education everyone has received.

The best way to fix this??

Self Knowledge is the only basis for True Knowledge.

Give the child a problem and then leave the child to solve it on their own. They have to learn to think for themselves instead of being told what to do. This is the basis of Unschooling and home schooling. They need time to develop self knowledge. This time is being taken up with school, homework, sleep and so on. Very little private time for self knowledge.

I have forgotten pretty much everything I ever learned in high school, except for reading, writing and basic 'rithmetic. I only remember that I hated maths and that history was so boring but geography and computer studies were great. This was in 1981 and 1982 - my last 2 years at High School.

I spent the next few years bumming around various colleges and university trying to discover what it is that I wanted to be when I grew up. It was not until several years later once I was ain a fairly stable job, that I began re-educating myself. I purchased so many books, mostly second hand from my favourite second hand book shop. These books covered mostly history, but there was also literature, science, maths and computer technology. 

I spent 5 years learning the TRUTH - especially concerning history, religion and shakespeare. I am astounded that there was not ONE single word mentioned in any of my english classes over the shakespeare  authorship debate. Not one!!! So I basically had to RE-EDUCATE myself all over again after I left High School. It was extremely enlightenng!!!

Chapter 3 and 4.

We all know the idea that "It takes a village to raise a child" What does that mean exactly?

In homeschooling terms, this means that members of the community are called in to teach or pass on their knowledge and expertise to those children who are being homeschooled. Community members are rarely or very seldom called into the schools to pass on their expertise. They are not considered by the teachers to be "experts".

The community has been stifled by the networks. Children are forced to attend schools and their jobs and in doing so they forms friends and networks. There is NO community in the school, university or the work place - because those groups do NOT help to raise a child. They are there for networking and making contacts. 

We all know that most people gets jobs based on WHO they know rather than WHAT they know. We can no longer rely on support from our community because we have been trained up since childhood to depend on our networks first and the communities second. And most of the time the networks cannot or will not give you the support you need when you need it. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Shakespeare Authorship Debate challenge for 2016

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the DEATH of the Man from Stratford, I have decide to host a Shakespeare Authorship Debate challenge. This is for anyone who does NOT want to read all those plays - for people like me!!  I have seen most of them as movies though. 

So I have resurrected my old Shakespeare blog and have issued a challenge for this year.

Read 5 Books in the Shakespeare Authorship Debate between now and Dec 31st 2016

Here is the link to my Reading Challenge.

If you wish to actually read the plays, Samantha Lin is hosting a Shakespeare Bardathon Reading challenge!! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Home Schooling is NOT Dangerous!!

Well today is the first day of my new NON FICTION challenge and I will admit I started a little early and read the first book in the days between Xmas and New Years. So this is my review. 

Title - The Year of Learning Dangerously
Author - Quinn Cummings
Publisher - Published August 7th 2012 by Perigee Books
Non Fiction Category - Education and Homeschooling

Excerpt from WSJ 

A Year of Learning Dangerously
My Review

If you homeschool your children for religious reasons, then I would strongly suggest that you do NOT read this book.

This books is the story of Quinns irreverent and hilarious journey through a year of homeschooling her 10 year old daughter in Los Angeles.

The daughter was NOT removed from public school for religious reasons. She was removed because she supposedly could not cope with the maths.

At the same time that Quinn and her partner Daniel, were homeschooling their daughter, Quinn was also learning everything she could about what it meant to be a home schooling mother.

Quinn made the time to attend several homeschooling conferences throughout the year. Pretty much all of these conferences were run by religious or ultra religious home schooling groups. The Duggar family in Arkansas (19 children and counting - TV reality show) were mentioned as they also homeschool their 19 children for religious reasons. In fact their religion is exactly the reason why they HAVE 19 kids.

Quinn also attended a homeschooling prom, and a homeschooling graduation ceremony.

Her comments on the people she met, the clothes she wore in order to fit in, and her opinion of the various different homeschooling curriculums, were often funny and I was often left giggling as I was reading.

The main reason I chose this particular homeschooling book, is because Quinn Cummings was a child actor. She was nominated at age 10 for an Academy award (for a movie called The Goodbye Girl) and she was also on a TV series called Family - also starring James Broderick, Sada Thompson, Meredith Baxter Birney and Kristy McNichol.  These names wont mean anything to youngsters these days, but 30 years ago (in the 1970s and early 1980s) these were BIG names and FAMILY was a well loved series. 

Quinn later gave up acting because she hated being forced to live her life in the public eye. She now owns and runs several online businesses. She has also been blogging online since 2005. Her blog is called the QC Report.

While I did think about homeschooling my son when he was a baby, as he grew older, his personality made that pretty much impossible.

My son is a very strong-willed boy and everything in his day, has to be negotiated. He negotiates what his time he has to go to bed, and how much time he gets online pretty much every day. He used to negotiate how much homework he would do before he went online, until he discovered that if he did all his homework at school, then he would not have to use up precious computer time, doing it at home. OK so he does still spend a lot of time online. But his writing, vocabulary, spelling and even his typing skills have all been well above his grade level. I consider that to be a excellent payoff.

So I gave up the idea of homeschooling, and began doing the afterschooling instead. This is what Quinn calls "part time" homeschooling.

From the age of 18 months to 3 and a half years, my son and I would walk along the street to his daycare every morning, and I would tell and show him the colours of all the cars parked along the street. I even explained difference between silver and grey (one is shiny and the other not). By the time he was 4 years old and ready for school, he had pretty much potty trained himself at age 2, he knew more colours and shapes than any other kid in the class and he had a vocabulary that stunned even me. He could even spell the word electricity because that was in his favourite book about trains that I was reading to him pretty much every night at bed time.

I can still remember him as a 3 year old, telling me one day that he would be "back in a jiffy, Mommy" Most kids dont even know that the word jiffy, even exists these days. He not only knew that word, he used it correctly as well.

I had a quick look at Quinns Blog and it appears that she and Daniel continued to homeschool their daughter. The most recent posts have indicated that the now-teenager and Quinn are planning to go to Italy for an educational trip this year.

Quinn on Wikipedia 

 Quinn on the IMDB

This is Quinn Cummings in 1977 as a Child Actor. She was nominated for an Academy Award (yes, an Oscar) for the Movie -  The Goodbye Girl.