Today I came into possession of a thing I am most proud to have. On my way down the driveway, before starting my afternoon walk, I decided to check the mailbox. I pulled out a package and after glancing at the return address, immediately knew what was in it.
First published way back in 1991, "Dumbing Us Down" is a ground-breaking collection of speeches and essays written by the 1991 recipient of the New York State Teacher of the Year Award, John Taylor Gatto. From one of the essays;
Was it possible, I had been hired not to enlarge children’s power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy, on the face of it, but slowly, I began to realize that the bells and confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think, and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.
And from his 1991 acceptance speech "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher";
“School is a twelve-year jail sentence, where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school, and win awards doing it. I should know.”
(From The Odysseus Group web-site)
It was a scathing review of the New York public education system. I keep wondering if anyone clapped at the end.
I hurried up the hill with my package so I could drop it off inside the house before heading out for my walk. I knocked on my front door and breathlessly handed my oldest the envelope with the book inside. He wanted to know what had gotten me so riled up, so I explained. As he closed the door behind him, I heard my youngest ask him, "What's the deal with Mom?" "Oh," he explained, "She's just overly excited about a book."
Ah, may that ever and always be the case.
Mr. Gatto dedicated "Dumbing Us Down" to his granddaughter whose name means "the handwriting of God," and to "her mother." He tells them, "Sparkle and shine in the face of darkness, you two light up the shadows."