F. Joseph Mako
Writing Assignment 1
September 22, 1998
In education and in other fields of life, people are separated and grouped into ?nice? sections. It has been going on for a long time, even before Plato defined his ideal society. The separating of the good and bad, intelligent and stupid, and high and low class will continue to be a part of who we are as a culture, because our educational structure requires students to learn the ?basic skills.? A problem arises because many people do not fit nicely into a box. I didn?t want to be in a box.
I was not Gatto?s ?good? student, who waited on the teacher for instruction. (Gatto 169) I was driven to find the answer before the teacher asked the question, not so I could answer quickly, but for the reason of having time to do what I wanted. I am not one who likes following other people?s trains of thought; I would much rather take a jumping point, and go off in other directions. As in the time when one of my teachers wanted a paper on an animal, and I wrote a story about two boys hunting a squirrel. I didn?t like the teacher?s agenda, but I did it so I could go do my own. When the class worked on mechanical procedures, as in Anyon?s working-class schools, I looked for reasoning behind why. I thought in original ways, and was successful at staying out of a box. I soon found I had another dilemma, as a result of not fitting in, I failed at relating with other children therefore, was rejected by my peers.
When we were all classified and pegged at the start of junior high, the other children were not pleased with the fact that I was different and placed in the high level classes. I thought it odd that most of the lower level children focused their rage on me, when I was very quiet, and rarely bothered anyone. Gatto failed to teach them to ?envy and fear the better classes.? (Gatto 168) It was possibly to create an illusion of them having a higher self-esteem by beating mine down. I just wanted everyone to leave me alone. So, I let my grades fall, but for some reason that made them even madder. As a last resort, I made everyone fear me through various violent and illegal actions. It solved one problem, but in the process, I created myself a criminal record and no one wanted to get near me for fear I might kill him or her. I was the example of ?following a private drummer,? the type teaches don?t want. (Gatto 171) My family and I moved away, I grew up, and I started high school.
The four years I spent in secondary school were mostly uneventful. The restrictions on what I could do during the school day were levied, as they were in Anyon?s executive elite school. I joined the track team, learned how to make friends by being nice, and found a group of others like me that I fit in with. High school was very different from junior high; people looked up to me for my intelligence, instead of trying to push me down. Maybe it was because I focused my efforts on being nice and helping others, instead of forgetting about everyone else. I came to understand that school did a poor job at teaching me book-knowledge. Yet it put me in social situations that no amount of bookwork could get me out of; it took non measurable skills such as reasoning with the irrational. Facts couldn?t help me out in a physical conflict; logic and experience in dealing with others helped to find a solution.
The more that I think about it, the more I believe that I mostly educated myself, and learned about myself through interactions with others. School really didn?t teach me book knowledge, but I learned who I am by attending. I am an exception to Gatto?s lesson on intellectual dependency. I rarely ?waited for an expert to tell me what to do,? and that our economy depends on how well the public follows the advice of experts. (Gatto 170) I believe our culture depends on the economy, but that our economy depends on ideas and new products that only an individual can think of. Gatto pointed out many other principals that school teaches as externalities. I made an effort to not follow the school?s curriculum, hidden or declared.
The focus of Gatto?s ?hidden? lessons is conformity to the place assigned to you, and how to live in that position well. The confusion Gatto teaches causes the student to break away from natural thought, so the school can instill it?s own philosophy of reasoning. Gatto correctly connected the patterns of a school?s class system to Plato?s. Plato divided labor into three strict classes: the elite philosopher-rulers, a middle class called auxiliaries, and the lowest class was the labors and tradesmen. Plato?s class division is similar to the three level system I went through in high school, of honors (high), 1 (middle), and 2 (lower). Schools want their students to be well rounded, a jack of all trades, but they also make the students master of none with bells putting the same value on each subject. The emotional dependency lesson has the student rely on the teacher for rights, known in school as privileges. Intellectual dependency has the student give up their ability to make decisions without instructions. The testing and grading methods hinder students? ability to make opinions about themselves. School convoys the message that students should not have time to themselves, but rather the school should have control of the students? daily schedule. The public wants graduating students to have basic skills as a product of twelve years of schooling, which can be taught much more efficiently to the select that posses the desire to learn.
The school?s purpose was to teach the basics, but I wanted to know the complex. I believe that nearly everything taught to me from school, I could have learned on my own. For the ideas I wanted to learn that the school didn?t teach, I learned on my own and on my own time. I didn?t let the teachers decide what I would and would not learn; I chose what I wanted to learn. Through making choices, I made myself to be who I want to be. I didn?t look to the school for emotional support, because I was a loner. School didn?t give me a purpose of life; neither did it teach me a valuable trade for life. School taught me many little things, many unusable facts, and how to do well on standardized tests. Also, School many times limited my exploring. One common instance of it?s limiting is when an English teacher would give me a list of subjects to write on, with no option for other concepts. In the math and science courses, I valued the few times that the students were asked derive the formulas. School made an effort to engrain the belief that all commonly accepted rules should be obeyed and all should conform to the methods the school taught. The school?s view of education was on a different track than mine.
Gatto, John Taylor. The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher. p166-173 Boston: Bedford, 1998