"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

23 February 2011

Weapons of Mass Instruction

Gatto, John Taylor. Weapons of Mass Instruction. Canada: New Society Publishers, 2009.

I used to be an English teacher.  Actually, I used to be a fairly decent teacher; my students usually enjoyed my class, and it seemed to me that they were learning a lot.  I had good feedback on my observations from the administration and good test results from my students; I felt pretty successful.  However, there was always a nagging thought at the back of my mind:

When are these students going to use this information in real life?

I completely understand the real-life applications of strong writing skills or reading comprehension skills, but what about the more technical aspects of grammar?  If you are in a profession other than education or linguistics, has anyone ever, ever asked you to underline all the adjectives in a sentence?  Has your supervisor stopped by your desk and requested that you recite the characteristics of American Romanticism? Somehow I doubt it. 

Gatto, himself a former English teacher, questions not only the material covered in schools, but the methodology of schooling itself.  He posits that children who have been in school for 12+ years have not been educated, but rather trained into passivity and consumerism.  And I think he has a point. 

This book is fascinating, thought-provoking, and a bit discouraging.  I am so glad I was not reading this book while I was in a classroom, although it doubtless would have changed the methods I used.  I do agree with Gatto that school as we know it is not working.  The countless programs and dollars and methods and books thrown at schools every year - with little to no change in results - is evidence of that. There isn't a quick or easy answer to this problem, but it definitely is a problem that warrants addressing.

If you are an educator, a parent, or a student, I strongly recommend you pick up this book.  It is well worth your time.

1 comment:

Katie said...

You found Gatto!

Did you wonder, as I did, why EVERY education major in the USA is not required to read at least one of his books?

I think in the spirit of open-mindedness and tolerance and all that, that education majors (and most certainly parents) should be exposed to some of his thinking.

Very thought-provoking for me, certainly.