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Debt, and Dumbness . . . .

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I was on the way here, and thinking again about John Taylor Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down” in combination with the inane statement “No Child Left Behind” (where are they going?  Who is leading?  What’s behind and what’s ahead?), and so forth, as I myself continue UNDOING the devastation of “success” in the U.S. Public Education system and reflecting on the valuable lessons I learned outside it, and trying to also spring my children, when able to. 

The local Libertarians (“LewRockwell.com”) had a neatly summarized article, fronting Mr. Gatto’s books, and adding (probably unconsciously) some subliminal comments blaming absent fathers, and a photo targeting our current President.  One of many reasons I don’t identify STRICTLY with the so-called “libertarians” (liberty for WHOm?).  MOre on that later.

Anyhow, the phone rang, the internet froze, then shut down, and another search found this article, this time BY Gatto, on Schooling.

I think in light of the $150million/year of taxes being spent, supposedly, to promote Marriage, Fatherhood, and mandate parenting classes on adolescent and above-level people (including some that ought to know how to behave by now) (if the educational system failed the FIRST time round, why should “WE, the people” pay them again to use the same approach — and it IS a similar approach, carrot & stick and patronizing — to teach kids they removed from homes (in support of a jobs base) to learn in herds, and then failing to excel in that environment, by and large?

What they don’t realize is that teaching and learning ARE about relationships.  They are NOT values-neutral, and it is virtually impossible to extract (OR “inject”) religion into a situation without assigning it a value called “peripheral” or “Relative.”  It’s a recipe for war among parents…

Plenty of other things, it seems, ARE getting injected around school grounds, or imbibed, and peripheral activities sometimes make the headlines.

THE relationship, primary, being taught in schools, this guy (Gatto) at least identified about 20 years ago, at least, and he is not the only one.

The Kansas City School District, one of the largest urban areas, is reversing the age-segregation into ability groupings, i.e., going AGAINST the trend of lockstep (goosestepping) education. 

I know I seem to be rambling here but the destination is clear — there’s a relationship between Dumb and in Debt, and the way to keep most people there is to keep them illiterate of what some of the “litterati” are doing.

And the way to smarten up is to Detach.

(it’s the manner, I’ll get around to the point eventually, for the more persistent readers…  After all, don’t some famous rivers do the same thing?  It adds to their beauty…  Enjoy the ride..)

So here’s Gatto on Against School.


How public education cripples
our kids, and why
By John Taylor Gatto
John Taylor Gatto is a former New York State and New York City Teacher of the Year and the author, most recently, of The Underground History of American Education. He was a participant in the Harper’s Magazine forum “School on a Hill,”

which appeared in the September 2003 issue.

{{TEXT in TAN is the quote, to save indented space.  Font or style changes are mine.}}
I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom.
{{Before this was, I think, a copywriter.  He was making lots of money and looking for a more meaningful occupation.   Of all the kinds of people who OUGHT to be in “our” schools teaching, especially younger ones, it’s those who had an occupation or passion they have succeeded in OUTSide the educational system; some of their love for their subject matter (as opposed to “love of influencing little kids and being around them, with minimal monitoring”  might be contagious.}}
Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn’t seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren’t interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were.
Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers’ lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there. When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn’t get bored teaching students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that. Of course, teachers are themselves products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the children. Who, then, is to blame?
We all are. My grandfather taught me that. One afternoon when I was seven I complained to him of boredom, and he batted me hard on the head. He told me that I was never to use that term in his presence again, that if I was bored it was my fault and no one else’s. The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn’t know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainty not to be trusted. That episode cured me of boredom forever, and here and there over the years I was able to pass on the lesson to some remarkable student. For the most part, however, I found it futile to challenge the official notion that boredom and childishness were the natural state of affairs in the classroom. Often I had to defy custom, and even bend the law, to help kids break out of this trap.
The empire struck back, of course; childish adults regularly conflate opposition with disloyalty. I once returned from a medical leave to discover t~at all evidence of my having been granted the leave had been purposely destroyed, that my job had been terminated, and that I no longer possessed even a teaching license. After nine months of tormented effort I was able to retrieve the license when a school secretary testified to witnessing the plot unfold. In the meantime my family suffered more than I care to remember.
By the time I finally retired in 1991, 1 had more than enough reason to think of our schools-with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers-as virtual factories of childishness. Yet I honestly could not see why they had to be that way. My own experience had revealed to me what many other teachers must learn along the way, too, yet keep to themselves for fear of reprisal: if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive a schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness-curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insightsimply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.
But we don’t do that. And the more I asked why not, and persisted in thinking about the “problem” of schooling as an engineer might, the more I missed the point: What if there is no “problem” with our schools? What if they are the way they are, so expensively flying in the face of common sense and long experience in how children learn things, not because they are doing something wrong but because they are doing something right? Is it possible that George W. Bush accidentally spoke the truth when he said we would “leave no child behind”? Could it be that our schools are designed to make sure not one of them ever really grows up?
Do we really need school? I don’t mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what? Don’t hide behind reading, writing, and arithmetic as a rationale, because 2 million happy homeschoolers have surely put that banal justification to rest.
Even if they hadn’t, a considerable number of well-known Americans never went through the twelve-year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out all right. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln? Someone taught them, to be sure, but they were not products of a school system, and not one of them was ever “graduated” from a secondary school.
Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn’t go to high school, yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry like Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers, like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret Mead. In fact, until pretty recently people who reached the age of thirteen weren’t looked upon as children at all. Ariel Durant, who co-wrote an enormous, and very good, multivolume history of the world with her husband, Will, was happily married at fifteen, and who could reasonably claim that Ariel Durant was an uneducated person? Unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated.
We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of “success” as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, “schooling,” but historically that isn’t true in either an intellectual or a financial sense. And plenty of people throughout the world today find a way to educate themselves without resorting to a system of compulsory secondary schools that all too often resemble prisons. Why, then, do Americans confuse education with just such a system? What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?

. . .

We have, for example, the great H. L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not

to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States… and that is its aim everywhere else.
Because of Mencken’s reputation as a satirist, we might be tempted to dismiss this passage as a bit of hyperbolic sarcasm. His article, however, goes on to trace the template for our own educational system back to the now vanished, though never to be forgotten, military state of Prussia. And although he was certainly aware of the irony that we had recently been at war with Germany, the heir to Prussian thought and culture, Mencken was being perfectly serious here. Our educational system really is Prussian in origin, and that really is cause for concern.
The odd fact of a Prussian provenance for our schools pops up again and again once you know to look for it. William James alluded to it many times at the turn of the century. Orestes Brownson, the hero of Christopher Lasch’s 1991 book, The True and Only Heaven, was publicly denouncing the Prussianization of American schools back in the 1840s. Horace Mann’s “Seventh Annual Report” to the Massachusetts State Board of Education in 1843 is essentially a paean to the land of Frederick the Great and a call for its schooling to be brought here. That Prussian culture loomed large in America is hardly surprising, given our early association with that utopian state. A Prussian served as Washington’s aide during the Revolutionary War, and so many German-speaking people had settled here by 1795 that Congress considered publishing a German-language edition of the federal laws. But what shocks is that we should so eagerly have adopted one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture: an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens 11 in order to render the populace “manageable.”
It was from James Bryant Conant-president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist, WWII executive on the atomic-bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after WWII, and truly one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century-that I first got wind of the real purposes of American schooling. Without Conant, we would probably not have the same style and degree of standardized testing that we enjoy today, nor would we be blessed with gargantuan high schools that warehouse 2,000 to 4,000 students at a time, like the famous Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado. Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant’s 1959 book-length essay, The Child the Parent and the State, and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modem schools we attend were the result of a “revolution” engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis’s 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, in which “one saw this revolution through the eyes of a revolutionary.”
Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.


If the principles of an endeavor are understood, and they can be practiced, most kids (trust me) can “get it.”  This has been repeatedly proved in different circumstances.  Here’s another reference to how FAST kids can learn when not boxed up, sorted like fruit, dumbed down, labeled, and sent off the manufacturing line to their womb-to-tomb assigned place in life.

Myth of Ability cover

John Mighton, JUMP Math’s founder, wrote The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child in 2003.  It explores his work and teaching approach, as well as the development of the JUMP Math program.


Math is a numeracy program started in 1998 by mathematician, author and award-winning playwright John Mighton. We are a federally registered charitable organization based in Toronto, Canada. 

JUMP Math believes that all children can be led to think mathematically, and that with even a modest amount of attention every child will flourish. By demonstrating that even children who are failing math or who are labeled as slow learners can excel at math, we hope to dispel the myths that currently prevail. We offer educators and parents complete and balanced materials as well as training to help them reach all students

JUMP stands for “Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies.”

There are several core beliefs at the foundation of the JUMP Math philosophy:

  • New intellectual abilities can emerge suddenly in even the most challenged student from a series of small advances, just as a chemical solution can change colour with the addition of a single drop of reagent. More than any other subject, math is a tool for adding, in a methodical and effective way, the drops of knowledge that will transform a student.
  • This non-linear potential can only be nurtured if students are confident and attentive.  Teachers must pay attention to the psychology of the classroom to make sure that everyone is included, involved and participating, and supported with responsive instruction, praise and encouragement.  Children who don’t believe they can succeed will never do so. The JUMP program starts with a confidence building exercise that has demonstrably changed children’s perceptions of their abilities. 
  • By adopting the methods and principles of JUMP, schools can teach mathematics to a higher standard, without leaving students behind, and in a cost-effective manner.
  • There will always be differences between students, but we don’t need to exaggerate or highlight them by setting up unnecessary hierarchies.  By using materials and methods that minimize differences, teachers can cover more of the curriculum and can narrow or close the wide gap in student performance that exists in most classrooms.
  • Teachers will only succeed in helping all levels of student when they know how to determine what their students know, how to reduce concepts into the most basic elements of perception and understanding, and how to extend ideas in a way that is engaging while taking into account the student’s readiness to move forward.

Here’s another book I recommend (and have read) — the site is the review, not the book:


Uncovering the “Secrets” of High Poverty, High Success Schools



There is no question that economic deprivation clearly has an adverse impact on student achievement, as the effects of poverty, poor housing, inadequate medical care and many other factors are reflected in lower achievement by poor students.Nevertheless case studies of successful high poverty schools demonstrate time and again that effective teaching and leadership also have a profound and positive impact on student learning.  The “secrets” of these successful schools are never to be found in proprietary programs (Haycock, 1999).  Rather, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests the consistent themes that emerge repeatedly.  These themes come down to teaching and leadership variables that cannot be sold by vendors nor purchased by schools.  ** They can, however, be practiced and implemented by committed leaders.  This article summarizes some of these key ideas.


So HOW, and WHY, was the American public either so stressed, so frightened, or so hoodwinked into believing that these things COULD be sold? 

The Feds are CONSTANTLY reforming the schools, and demanding more blood ($$) from people who can’t afford it to experiment:  We “promise” we’ll make it better this time (quack, quack, quack….  If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, perhaps you’d better “duck.”)

Here’s $20 million for Columbus Ohio:

Feds award $20 million to reform 7 city schools

Saturday, June 19, 2010  02:50 AM


Seven troubled schools in Columbus will get an academic makeover this summer using more than $20 million in federal money.Some will adopt new pay-for-performance plans for teachers or shrink class sizes. Some will open twilight and Saturday programs for students who need different school hours. Most will hire coaches and specialists to help teachers improve and consultants to help make community connections.All will work tirelessly to turn the schools around, said Superintendent Gene Harris.”We will be rolling out things this fall that we haven’t done before,” she said. “We’ll be providing support for schools that we haven’t provided as effectively as we think we need to. We’ll be extending the day in ways we haven’t been able to do before.”Eleven school districts and three charter schools statewide were awarded part of a federal school improvement grant worth $95 million that was announced yesterday. More than 200 had applied. Locally, awards will go toward reform initiatives in 42 schools total and are split over the next three school years.

 To win the grant, schools had to pick one of four reform methods: replace the principal and at least half the staff, close the school and reopen it as a charter school, close the school and send students to a better one, or “transform” the school by training teachers, involving the community and studying student data.

$20 million is what Jayce Dugard and her daughters (California) were awarded for a screwup of what were probably public school graduates Phillip & Nancy Garrido.  $20 Million to reform schools, $20 million to settle a lost childhood (and cover further exposure of screwups on the part of those who were supposedly monitoring a convicted rapist and convicted kidnapper…), and a paltry — was it $150 million?  To start over and try to teach us how to be better parents.

Is that REALLY what all those funds are for?




Here’s KANSAS CITY’s version of the same idea:

Forget grade levels, KC schools try something new

By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH Associated Press Writer

Posted: 07/03/2010 10:40:49 AM PDT

Updated: 07/03/2010 10:42:26 AM PDT


Click photo to enlarge
In this June 18, 2010 photo, Alex Rodriguez, 11, reads a book at his… ((AP Photo/Ed Andrieski))
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Forget about students spending one year in each grade, with the entire class learning the same skills at the same time. Districts from Alaska to Maine are taking a different route.

Instead of simply moving kids from one grade to the next as they get older, schools are grouping students by ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. This practice has been around for decades, but was generally used on a smaller scale, in individual grades, subjects or schools.

{{NO, actually, this practice has been around for centuries, if not longer.  It predates the school system we now think of as “ours” but which is only “ours” as to who is paying for it.  Rather than actually admit that the model failed, and we are going back to someone else’s model, this is introduced as “new and improved.”  Well, if I knock you down to the ground, and give you a hand(out) HALFWAY back up, I suppose that could be called “improved” but not in any “net” sense of the word. …  A whole lot of context and history is missing.}}

Now, in the latest effort to transform the bedraggled Kansas City, Mo. schools, the district is about to become what reform experts say is the largest one to try the approach. Starting this fall officials will begin switching 17,000 students to the new system to turnaround trailing schools and increase abysmal tests scores.

“The current system of public education in this country is not working” said Superintendent John Covington. “It’s an outdated, industrial, agrarian kind of model that lends itself to still allowing students to progress through school based on the amount of time they sit in a chair rather than whether or not they have truly mastered the competencies and skills.”

{{My kids could’ve told him this, by observation, before they were 10, probably… He is admitting the obvious, now that it’s obvious}}

Here’s how the reform works:

Students—often of varying ages—work at their own pace, meeting with teachers to decide what part of the curriculum to tackle. Teachers still instruct students as a group if it’s needed, but often students are working individually

This is the philosophy, at least one of them, behind homeschooling.  But if PARENTS do and fund it, they are right-wing religious idiots who JUST MIGHT be another cultist and dropout from this welfare society.

One of my long-term projects is to do a survey of EVERY PARENT IN THE U.S. CONGRESS & HOUSE OF REPS.  Some of them are young enough, I think, to have children probably still in high school, or just out of it. 

I wonder how many of these children attended the local public schools, or were they parochial (probably a  step up at least academically)?  Of course there are security issues, but are they advocating ONLY public education for everyone ELSE”s children as avidly as they are advocating Monogamy (a father, any kind of father — or give him to us — no, forget that, we’ve got programs to go get him — and we’ll fix it! — in every child’s life?) for OTHER folk.  Pay US and we’ll show you (not by example of course — let’s not get TOO zealous) how marriage is really done right. 

Google “Hot Mike Duvall” on this blog for a clue…



Class Warfare: Besieged Schools, Bewildered Parents, Betrayed Kids and the Attack on Excellence








Class Warfare: Besieged Schools, Bewildered Parents, Betrayed Kids and the Attack on Excellence
J. Martin Rochester
Encounter Books


A Professor of Political Science who had been honored as a distinguished teacher at his university, Martin Rochester became deeply involved in public education as a result of his children’s misadventures in the classroom. Like most parents, he wanted to make a difference. Like them, his way of trying to contribute was to become a dogged volunteer in his children’s classrooms and his Parent-Teacher Organization. But what he found, in addition to overbearing administrators and overworked teachers, was a system which had contempt for the most fundamental elements of traditional schooling (ability-grouping, grades, homework, rigor, discipline, etc.), allowed nonacademic diversions to crowd out academic study, and subordinated a commitment to excellence to an obsession with “equity.” Rochester gradually evolved from concerned parent to informed critic. As he relates in “Class Warfare,” he became a familiar presence in front of local school boards and with the state education bureaucracy as well, and was finally asked to testify before the Missouri legislature on what he had discovered.
“Class Warfare” is a fascinating personal story of trying to fight through the education establishment maze, a story repeated every year by millions of parents looking for what’s best for their children in an era of stagnant test scores, classroom chaos, and bizarre educational theorizing. But this book is also a shrewd critique of why our schools fail. Taking the reader on a field trip that begins with his own upper-middle class suburban school district in St. Louis and then moves on to inner-city locales and some of the best private schools around the country, Martin Rochester shows how “pack pedagogy” has steamrolled parent resistance in promoting disasters such as whole-language, fuzzy math, multiple intelligences theory, teacher-as-coach, the therapeutic classroom, and all the other fads found in today’s schools. Rochester concludes that all children are being victimized, not only the most gifted, but also, more cynically, “average” students and those lower achieving kids whose supposed needs are now driving the entire curriculum.

Combining the eyewitness testimony of a parent with the perceptive analysis of a professional educator, “Class Warfare” provides an unusual glimpse into the malaise that afflicts our schools and a sensible prescription for how thing can get better.

About the Author
J. Martin Rochester is The Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is the author of five books on international politics, and has written widely on the subject of education in periodicals such as “Phi Delta Kappan” and “Education Week.” He is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at UM-St. Louis.

 And he smartened up QUICK about the suburban schools when it was his own son involved.  A chapter in there relates the resistance to a sensible math curriculum, and a protest of recognized mathematicians to the adoption of another one.  He talks about how this style cheats students in what are called “good” schools, also. 


NOTE:  My link to the Dr. Laura.com page should NOT be associated with my endorsement of anything else on the site.  ANyone that looks like this, for real, I have serious question abouts, even in a posed picture.



 One of the most serious indicators that we have significant DEBT problems which result from DUMBNESS problems is that we pay legislators to have conversations like this:

S. Res. 560:
A resolution recognizing the immeasurable contributions of fathers in the healthy development of…
Decade after decade:


Recognizing the immeasurable contributions of fathers in the healthy development of children, supporting responsible fatherhood, and encouraging greater involvement of fathers in the lives of their families, especially on Father’s Day.

Whereas responsible fatherhood is a priority for the United States;

Whereas the most important factor in the upbringing of a child is whether the child is brought up in a healthy and supportive environment;

Whereas father-child interaction, like mother-child interaction, has been shown to promote the positive physical, social, emotional, and mental development of children;

Whereas research shows that men are more likely to live healthier, longer, and more fulfilling lives when they are involved in the lives of their children and participate in caregiving;

Whereas programs to encourage responsible fatherhood should promote and provide support services for–

(1) fostering loving and healthy relationships between parents and children; and

(2) increasing the responsibility of noncustodial parents for the long-term care and financial well-being of their children;

Whereas research shows that working with men and boys to change attitudes towards women can have a profound impact on reducing violence against women;

Whereas research shows that women are significantly more satisfied in relationships when responsible fathers participate in the daily care of children;

Whereas children around the world do better in school and are less delinquent when fathers participate closely in their lives;

Whereas responsible fatherhood is an important component of successful development policies and programs in countries throughout the world;

Whereas the United States Agency for International Development recognizes the importance of caregiving fathers for more stable and effective development efforts; and

Whereas Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate–

(1) recognizes June 20, 2010, as Father’s Day;

(2) honors the men in the United States and around the world who are active in the lives of their children, which in turn, has a significant impact on their children, their families, and their communities;

(3) underscores the need for increased public awareness and activities regarding responsible fatherhood and healthy families; and

(4) reaffirms the commitment of the United States to supporting and encouraging global fatherhood initiatives that significantly benefit international development efforts.

GOOGLE “Warrior Gene” and William Bernett, and see what you get.
I much prefer the purpose of government, as stated in the Decl. of Independence. 

Written by Let's Get Honest|She Looks It Up

July 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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