Selected Passages from AGAINST SCHOOL

John Taylor Gatto

I taught for 30 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. 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. Who, then, is to blame? We all are. My grandfather taught me that. One afternoon when I was 7 years old I complained to him of boredom, and he batted me on the head. He told me that I was never to used 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. Certainly not to be trusted. From what I can see, the actual purpose of modern schooling has six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the traditional goals [To make good people; To make good citizens; To make each person his or her personal best] we are usually told. [To learn more, read Gatto's book The Underground History of American Education]. Here are the six I am talking about:

  1. The Adjustive or Adaptive Function: Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

  2. The Integrating Function: This might as well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

  3. The Diagnostic and Directive Function: School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one.

  4. The Differentiating Function: Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.

  5. The Selective Function: This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory (in the Social Darwinian interpretation of his work) of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help thins along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from the first grade onward were intended to to: wash the “dirt” down the drain.

  6. The Propaedeutic Function: The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage the continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed-down and declawed in order that government (controlled and owned largely by the owning class) might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.


John Taylor Gatto

Ordinary people have a right to govern themselves, to make something of themselves, not be prepared (in school, in work, in church, or anywhere) to fit into a pre-established hierarchy. Forced training is for slaves. Among free men, learning is self-discipline, not the gift of experts. Schools generally follow the Prussian/Spartan model, where the goal is service to business and the political state. Pedagogy is social technology for winning attention and cooperation (or obedience) while strings are attached to the mind and placed in the hands of an unseen master, a cradle-to-grave training, because an educated class poses a danger to plutocracies.

Andrew Carnegie was an enthusiastic supporter of Social Darwinist thinking (which is different than what Darwin himself proposed). J.P. Morgan worked resolutely for the restoration of a class system in America, and Anglo-American sovereignty worldwide. John D. Rockefeller Sr. said, “Survival of the fittest [in the Social Darwinian sense] is nature's way of producing beauty,” and approved school experiments to dumb down curriculum and seek more effective means of mind control. Hitler said of Henry Ford, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” and Ford received the Grand Cross of the Golden Eagle the highest award the German government could give a foreigner.

Suzanne Cornforth of Paschall & Associates, a public relations consultancy, was quotes in The New York Times as saying: “Today's corporate sponsors want to see their money used in line with business objectives. This is a young generation of corporate sponsors and they have discovered the advantages of building long-term relationships with educational institutions.”

The idea is to isolate children in custodial compounds where they can be subjected to deliberate molding routines. Forced schooling was the medicine to bring the whole continental population into conformity so that it might be regarded as a “human resource” and managed as a “workforce.” One way to manage this, for example, was to see to it that individuals were prevented from taking up their working lives until an advanced age when the ardor of youth and its insufferable self-confidence had cooled.

From the beginning, there was purpose behind forced schooling, purpose which had nothing to do with what parents, kids, or communities wanted. Instead, this grand purpose was forged out of what a highly centralized corporate economy and system of finance bent on internationalizing itself was thought to need: that, and what a strong, centralized political state needed, too. School was looked upon from the first decade of the 20th century as a branch of industry and a tool of governance. For a considerable time, probably provoked by a climate of official anger and contempt directed against immigrants in the greatest displacement of people in history, social managers of schooling were remarkably candid about what they were doing. In a speech he gave before businessmen prior to the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson made this unabashed disclosure:

“We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

By 1917, the major administrative jobs in American schooling were under the control of a group referred to in the press of that day as “the Education Trust.” The first meeting of this trust included representatives of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the National Education Association. The chief end, wrote Benjamin Kidd, the British social evolutionist, in 1918, was to “impose on the young the ideal of subordination.”

Students were to learn to think of themselves as employees competing for the favor of management, not as self-determined, free agents. The child was passing from its family “into the custody of community experts” in order to be dumbed-down in the effort for “the control of human behavior” and “to accomplish by education what dictators are seeking to do by compulsion and force.” This “impersonal manipulation” through schooling was to create a future in which “few will be able to maintain control over their opinions,” where “each individual receives at birth a multi-purpose identification number” which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of underlings and to expose them to direct or subliminal influence when necessary.

The Behavioral Science Teacher Education Program identified the future as one “in which a small elite” will control all important matters, one where participatory democracy will largely disappear. Children are made to see, through school experiences, that their classmates are so cruel and irresponsible, so inadequate to the task of self-discipline, and so ignorant that they need to be controlled and regulated for society's good. Under such a logical regime, school terror can only be regarded as good advertising. It is sobering to think of mass schooling as a vast demonstration project of human inadequacy, but that is at least one of its functions.

Schools train individuals to respond as a mass. Boys and girls are drilled in being bored, frightened, envious, emotionally needy, generally incomplete. A successful mass production economy requires such a clientele. Growth and mastery come only to those who vigorously self-direct. Even the term “kindergarten” was invented by philanthropists so as to “grow” children in the way they desired.

The strongest meshes of the school net are invisible. Constant bidding for a stranger's (teacher's) attention creates a chemistry producing the common characteristics of modern schoolchildren: whining, dishonesty, malice, treachery, cruelty. Unceasing competition for official favor in the dramatic fish bowl of a classroom delivers cowardly children, little people sunk in chronic boredom, little people with no apparent purpose for being alive. The full significance of the classroom as a dramatic environment, as primarily a dramatic environment, has never been properly acknowledged or examined.

Rockefeller's General Education Board wrote in 1904:

“In our dream... people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not yet to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is a very simple as well as a very beautiful one... we will organize our children... and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”

He who controls language and education controls the public mind.

In The Truth About American Schools, author Gerald Bracey, a well-known former school official, wrote, in discussing the condition he termed “over-education,” that “we must continue to produce an uneducated social class that will do... 'the nigger work,'” a term he attributed to Kurt Vonnegut.

Only an imbecile would pretend that school isn't a pressure-cooker of psychodrama. Wherever children are gathered into groups by compulsion, a pecking order soon emerges in which malice, mockery, intimidation of the weak, envy, and a whole range of other nasty characteristics hold sway.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, in Democracy in America, that: “[Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting; such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.”

William Torrey Harris, the U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 – 1906: “Substantial education is the subsumption of the individual” and “The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places, so as to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. Schools should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.” He believed self-alienation is the secret to successful industrial societies. This is why schoolbooks, generally, are superficial and mindless, and deliberately leave out important ideas, refusing to deal with conflict.

The Prussian military mind, upon which most educational systems were built, and continue to be influenced by today, held a clear idea of what schooling should deliver: 1) obedient soldiers to the army; 2) obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; 3) well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; 4) well-subordinated clerks for industry; 5) citizens who thought alike on most issues; 6) national uniformity in thought, word, and deed. The whole tendency of education, from this perspective, is to create obedience. Administrative utopias are a peculiar kind of dreaming by those in power, driven by an urge to arrange the lives of others, organizing them for production, combat, or detention. The operating principles of administrative utopia are hierarchy, discipline, regimentation, strict order, rational planning, a geometrical environment, a production line, a cellblock. A mass production economy can neither be created nor sustained without a leveled population, one conditioned to mass habits, mass tastes, mass enthusiasms, predictable mass behaviors. The will of both maker and purchaser had to give way to the predestined output of machinery with a one-track mind. And when people are brought together to build a shopping mall, a dam, or an atomic bomb, nothing in the contract gives them latitude to question what they have been paid to do, or to stir up trouble with co-workers.

I don't mean to be inflammatory, but it's as if government schooling made people dumber, not brighter; made families weaker, not stronger; ruined formal religion with its hard-sell exclusion of God; set the class structure in stone by dividing children into classes and setting them against one another; and has been midwife to an alarming concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a fraction of the national community.

Free men and women are often very eccentric. Real books conform to the private curriculum of each author, not to the invisible curriculum of a corporate bureaucracy. Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself. Reading, and vigorous discussion of that reading in a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections, is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense. No one can do this very well without learning ways of paying attention: from a knowledge of diction and syntax, figures of speech, etymology, and so on, to a sharp ability to separate the primary from the subordinate, understand allusion, master a range of modes of presentation, test truth, and penetrate beyond the obvious to the profound messages of text. Reading, analysis, and discussion are the way we develop reliable judgment, the principal way we come to penetrate covert movements behind the facade of public appearances. Once you trust yourself to go mind-to-mind with great intellects, artists, scientists, warriors, and philosophers, you are finally free. As Paulo Freire said, “The land belongs to the tiller.”

Certainly it's possible to argue that bad readers [learners] aren't victims at all but perpetrators, cursed by inferior biology to possess only shadows of intellect. That's what the bell-curve theory, social evolutionary theory, aristocratic social theory, eugenics theory, strong-state theory, and some kinds of theology are about.

The truth is, however: genius is as common as dirt. Every human being is a genius, if allowed to flourish. Average men and women don't actually exist.

Here's a principle of real education to carry you through the moments of self-doubt. Education is a helix sport, a unique personal project like seatless unicycle riding over trackless wilderness, a sport that avoids rails, rules, and programmed confinement. The familiar versions of this are cross-country skiing, sailing, hang-gliding, skateboarding, surfing, solitary mountain-climbing, thousand-mile walks, things like that. I think of education as one, too. Helix sports are a revolt against predestination. If we understand that no one on Earth is like any other person, we will also understand that there can exist no reliable map to tell us al we need to do. If we aren't making it up as we go along, we aren't doing it right. Common sense should tell you it isn't “difficult” to teach children who don't want to learn – it's impossible. The role of educators, then, should be to inspire students to want to learn, and to assist them on their own self-made paths in doing so.

A relative handful of people could change the course of schooling significantly by resisting the suffocating advance of centralization and standardization, by being imaginative and determined in their resistance, by exploiting manifold weaknesses in the institution's internal coherence: the disloyalty its own employees feel toward it. This is cause for great hope. It took 150 years to build this apparatus; it won't quit breathing overnight. The formula is to take a deep breath, then select five smooth stones and let fly.

Or simply having the courage to question everything and allow honest answers to be heard.

Selected passages from The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed

Paulo Freire

I consider the fundamental theme of our epoch to be that of domination – which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved. Each and every human being, to a significant degree, is both an oppressor and a person oppressed – in need of liberation if he or she wishes to live a fully authentic, humanized life.

The struggle for humanization, for the emancipation of labor, for the overcoming of alienation, for the affirmation of men and women as persons, sooner or later leads the oppressed to struggle against those who made them so. In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather the restorers of the humanity of both.

This is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both. Any attempt to “soften” the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. In order to have the continued opportunity to express their “generosity,” the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this “generosity,” which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty. This is why the dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source. Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressed society?

But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or “sub-oppressors.” The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men; but for them, to be men is to be oppressors. This is their model of humanity. This phenomenon derives from the fact that the oppressed, at a certain moment of their existential experience, adopt an attitude of “adhesion” to the oppressor. Under these circumstances they cannot “consider” him sufficiently clearly to objectivize him – to discover him “outside” themselves. This does not necessarily mean that the oppressed are unaware that they are downtrodden. But their perception of themselves as oppressed is impaired by their submersion in the reality of oppression. At this level, their perception of themselves as opposites of the oppressor does not yet signify engagement in a struggle to overcome the contradiction; the one pole aspires not to liberation, but to identification with its opposite pole. Because of their identification with the oppressor, they have no consciousness of themselves as persons or as members of an oppressed class.

One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual's choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber's consciousness. Any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his or her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression. Thus, the behavior of the oppressed is a prescribed behavior, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor. The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes a myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.

The oppressor, who is himself dehumanized because he dehumanizes others, is unable to lead the struggle to be more fully human. The oppressed suffer from the duality which has established itself in their innermost being. They discover that without freedom they cannot exist authentically. Yet, although the desire authentic existence, they fear it. They are at one and the same time time themselves and the oppressor whose consciousness they have internalized. The conflict lies in the choice between being wholly themselves or being divided; between human solidarity or alienation; between following prescriptions or having real choices; between being spectators or actors; between acting or having the illusion of acting through the action of the oppressors; between speaking out or being silent, castrated in their power to create and re-create, in their power to transform the world. This is the tragic dilemma of the oppressed which their education must take into account.

Any pedagogy that is put forth must, therefore, be one which is forged with, not for, the oppressed. How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? The solution cannot be achieved in idealistic terms. In order for the oppressed to be able to wage the struggle for their liberation, they must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform.

Since it is a concrete situation that the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is established, the resolution of this contradiction must be objectively verifiable. Yet, one cannot conceive of objectivity without subjectivity. Neither can exist without the other, nor can they be dichotomized. To deny the importance of subjectivity in the process of transforming the world and history is naïve and simplistic. It is to admit the impossible: a world without people. This objectivistic position is as ingenuous as that of subjectivism, which postulates people without a world. World and human beings do not exist apart from each other, they exist in constant interaction. The more people unveil this challenging reality which is to be the object of their transforming action, the more critically they enter that reality. In this way they are “consciously activating the subsequent development of their experiences.” As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote, “The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men that change circumstances and that the educator himself needs educating.”

One aspect is to be found in the distinction between systematic education, which can only be changed by political power, and educational projects, which should be carried out with the oppressed in the process of organizing them. The pedagogy of the oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation.

Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence? There would be no oppressed had their been no prior situation of violence to establish their subjugation. Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons – not by those who are oppressed, exploited, and unrecognized. It is not the unloved who initiate disaffection, but those who cannot love because they love only themselves. It is not the helpless, subject to terror, who initiate terror, but the violent, who with their power create the concrete situation which begets the “rejects of life.” It is not the tyrannized who initiate despotism, but the tyrants. It is not the despised who initiate hatred, but those who despise. It is not those whose humanity is denied them who negate humankind, but those who denied that humanity (thus negating their own as well). Force is not used by those who have become weak under the preponderance of the strong, but by the strong who have emasculated them.

For the oppressors, however, it is always the oppressed (whom they obviously never called “the oppressed” but – depending on whether they are fellow countrymen or not – “those people” or “the blind masses” or “savages” or “natives” or “subversives”) who are disaffected, who are “violent,” “barbaric,” “wicked,” or “ferocious” when they react to the violence of the oppressors. Whereas the violence of the oppressors prevents the oppressed from being fully human, the response to the latter to this violence is grounded in the desire to pursue the right to be human. As the oppressed, fighting to be human, take away the oppressors' power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression. An act is oppressive only when it prevents people from being more fully human.

The oppressor consciousness tends to transform everything surrounding it into an object of its domination. The earth, property, production, the creations of people, people themselves, time – everything is reduced to the status of objects as its disposal. Even when this situation is resolved authentically by a new situation established by the liberated laborers, the former oppressors do not feel liberated. Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression. Formerly, they could eat, dress, wear shoes, be educated, travel, and hear Beethoven; while millions did not eat, had no clothes or shoes, neither studied nor traveled, much less listened to Beethoven. Any restriction of this way of life, in the name of the rights of the community, appears to the former oppressors as a profound violation of individual rights – although they had no respect for the millions who suffered and died of hunger, pain, sorrow, and despair. For the oppressors, “human beings” refers only to themselves; other people are “things.” Money, for them, is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal. For them, to be is to have and to be the class of the “haves.”

As beneficiaries of a situation of oppression, the oppressors cannot perceive that if having is a condition of being, it is a necessary condition for all women and men. This is why their generosity is false. Humanity is a “thing,” and they possess it as an exclusive right, as inherited property. To the oppressor consciousness, the humanization of the “others,” of the people, appears not as the pursuit of full humanity, but as subversion. The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They cannot see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have. For them, having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own “effort,” with their “courage to take risks.” If others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the “generous gestures” of the dominant class. Precisely because they are “ungrateful” and “envious,” the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched.

If the humanization of the oppressed signifies subversion, so also does their freedom; hence the necessity for constant control. And the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate “things.” This tendency of the oppressor consciousness to “in-animate” everything and everyone it encounters, in its eagerness to possess, unquestionably corresponds with a tendency to sadism. “The pleasure of complete domination over another person (or other animate creature) is the very essence of the sadistic drive.” Sadistic love is a perverted love – a love of death, not of life. As the oppressor consciousness, in order to dominate, tries to deter the drive to search, the restlessness, and the creative power which characterize life, it kills life. More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the oppressive order through manipulation and repression. The dominant “elites” consider the remedy to be more domination and repression, carried out in the name of freedom, order, and social peace (that is, the peace of the “elites”).

A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust. The man or woman who proclaims devotion to the cause of liberation yet is unable to enter into communion with the people, whom he or she continues to regard as totally ignorant, is grievously self-deceived. Conversion to the people requires a profound rebirth. And “the peasant begins to get courage to overcome his dependence when he realizes that he is dependent. Until then, he goes along with the boss and says, 'What can I do? I'm only a peasant.'”

“The peasant feels inferior to the boss because the boss seems to be the only one who knows things and is able to run things.” The peasants call themselves ignorant and say the “professor” is the one who has knowledge and to whom they should listen. The criteria of knowledge imposed upon them, however, are conventional ones. Almost never do peasants realize that they, too, “know things” they have learned in their relations with the world and with other women and men. It is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organized struggle for their liberation that they begin to believe in themselves. This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection. True reflection leads to action.

The correct method lies in dialogue. The struggle begins with men's recognition that they have been destroyed. Propaganda, management, manipulation – all arms of domination – cannot be the instruments of their rehumanization. The only effective instrument is a humanizing pedagogy in which the revolutionary leadership establishes a permanent relationship of dialogue with the oppressed. In a humanizing pedagogy the method ceases to be an instrument by which the teachers (in this instance, the revolutionary leadership) can manipulate the students (in this instance, the oppressed), because it expresses consciousness of the students themselves. A revolutionary leadership must accordingly practice co-intentional education. Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically; but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as permanent re-creators. In this way, the presence of the oppressed in the struggle for their liberation will be what it should be: not pseudo-participation, but committed involvement.

A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness. The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration – contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance.

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. The raison d-etre of libertarian education lies in its drive toward reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

The “banking” concept of education says (a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught, (b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing, (c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about, (d) the teacher talks and the students listen – meekly, (e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined, (f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply, (g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher, (h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the student (who were not consulted) adapt to it, (I) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students, and (j) the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects. The more students work at storing the “deposits” (knowledge) entrusted to them by the “bankers” (teachers), the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world.

The more completely the majority adapt to the purposes which the dominant minority prescribe for them (thereby depriving them of the right to their own purposes), the more easily the minority can continue to prescribe. The theory and practice of banking education serve this end quite efficiently. Verbalistic lessons, reading requirements, the methods for evaluating “knowledge,” the distance between the teacher and the taught, the criteria for promotion: everything in this ready-to-wear approach serves to obviate thinking. Education as the exercise of domination stimulates the credulity of students, with the ideological intent (often not perceived by educators) of indoctrinating them to adapt to the world of oppression.

Education as the practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in relations with the world. In these relations consciousness and world are simultaneous: consciousness neither precedes the world nor follows it.

In problem-solving education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation. Banking education (for obvious reasons) attempts, by mythicizing reality, to conceal certain facts which explain why human beings exist in the world; problem-posing education sets itself the task of demythologizing. Banking education resists dialogue; problem-posing education regards dialogue as indispensable to the act of cognition which unveils reality. Banking education treats students as objects of assistance; problem-posing education makes them critical thinkers. Banking education inhibits creativity and domesticates (although it cannot completely destroy) the intentionality of consciousness by isolating consciousness from the world, thereby denying people their ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human. Problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality; thereby responding to the vocation of persons as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation. In sum: banking theory and practice, as immobilizing and fixating forces, fail to acknowledge men and women as historical beings; problem-posing theory and practice take the people's historicity as their starting point.

Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming – as unfinished, uncompleted beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality. People know themselves to be unfinished; they are aware of their incompletion. In this incompletion and this awareness lie the very root of education as an exclusively human manifestation. The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity. Education, in order to be, must become.

Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects. And no one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so. Problem-posing education, then, as a humanist and liberating praxis, posits as fundamental that the people subjected to domination must fight for their emancipation. To that end, it enables teachers and students to become Subjects of the educational process by overcoming authoritarianism and an alienating intellectualism; it also enables people to overcome their false perception of reality. The world – no longer something to be described with deceptive words – becomes the object of that transforming action by men and women which results in their humanization.

Problem-posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor. No oppressive order could permit the oppressed to begin to question: Why? There is no transformation without action. Authentic education is not carried on by “A” for “B” or by “A” about “B,” but rather by “A” with “B,” mediated by the world – a world which impresses and challenges both parties, giving rise to views or opinions about it. One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. It should not be our role to speak to the people about our own view of the world, nor to attempt to impose that view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their view and ours. In this way, the dialogue of education becomes the practice of freedom.

The important thing, then, from the point of view of libertarian education, is for the people to come to feel like masters of their thinking by discussing the thinking and views of the world explicitly or implicitly manifest in their own suggestions and those of their comrades. Because this view of education starts with the conviction that it cannot present its own program but must search for this program dialogically with the people, it serves to introduce the pedagogy of the oppressed, in the elaboration of which the oppressed must participate. Dialogue is radically necessary to authentic liberation.



How can we understand poverty? Are these charts good ways of understanding poverty?







One-of-a-kind objects, legacies, pedigrees.


To be used, spent.

To be managed.

To be conserved, invested.


Is for entertainment. Sense of humor is highly valued.

Is for acquisition and stability. Achievement is highly valued.

Is for connections. Financial, political, social connections are highly valued.


Social inclusion of people s/he likes.

Emphasis on self-governance and self-sufficiency.

Emphasis on social exclusion.


Key question: Did you have enough? Quantity important.

Key question: Did you like it? Quality important.

Key question: Was it presented well? Presentation important.


Clothing valued for individual style and expression of personality.

Clothing valued for its quality and acceptance into norm of middle class. Label important.

Clothing valued for its artistic sense and expression. Designer important.


Present moment important. Decisions made for moment based on feelings or survival.

Future most important. Decisions made against future ramifications.

Traditions and history most important. Decisions made partially on basis of tradition and decorum.


Valued and revered as abstract but not as reality.

Crucial for climbing success ladder and making money.

Necessary tradition for making and maintaining connections.


Believes in fate. Cannot do much to mitigate chance.

Believes in choice. Can change future with good choices now.

Noblesse oblige.


Casual register. Language is about survival.

Formal register. Language is about negotiation.

Formal register. Language is about networking.


Tends to be matriarchal.

Tends to be patriarchal.

Depends on who has money.


Sees world in terms of local setting.

Sees world in terms of national setting.

Sees world in terms of international view.


Love and acceptance conditional, based upon whether individual is liked.

Love and acceptance conditional and based largely on achievement.

Love and acceptance conditional and related to social standing and connections.


Survival, relationships, entertainment.

Work, achievement.

Financial, political, social connections.


About people and sex.

About situations.

About social faux pas.

Could you ...survive in Poverty?

...survive in Middle Class?

...survive in Wealth?

1. I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.

2. I know which rummage sales have “bag sales” and when.

3. I know which grocery stores' garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.

4. I know how to get someone out of jail.

5. I know how to physically fight and defend myself physically.

6. I know how to get a gun, even if I have a police record.

7. I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.

8. I know what problems to look for in a used car.

9. I know how to live without a checking account.

10. I know how to live without electricity and a phone.

11. I know how to use a knife as a scissors.

12. I can entertain a group of friends with my personality and my stories.

13. I know what to do when I don't have money to pay the bills.

14. I know how to move in half a day.

15. I know how to get and use food stamps or an electronic card for benefits.

16. I know where the free medical clinics are.

17. I am very good at trading and bartering.

18. I can get by without a car.

1. I know how to get my children into Little League, piano lessons, soccer, etc.

2. I know how to properly set a table.

3. I know which stores are most likely to carry the clothing brands my family wears.

4. My children know the best name brands in clothing.

5. I know how to order in a nice restaurant.

6. I know how to use a credit card, checking account, and savings account – and I understand and annuity. I understand term life insurance, disability insurance, and 20/80 medical insurance policy, as well as house insurance, flood insurance, and replacement insurance.

7. I talk to my children about going to college.

8. I know how to get one of the best interest rates on my new-car loan.

9. I understand the difference among the principal, interest, and escrow statements on my house payment.

10. I know how to help my children with their homework and do not hesitate to call the school if I need additional information.

11. I know how to decorate the house for the different holidays.

12. I know how to get a library card.

13. I know how to use most of the tools in the garage.

14. I repair items in my house almost immediately when they break – or know how to repair service and call it.

1. I can read a menu in French, English, and another language.

2. I have several favorite restaurants in different countries of the world.

3. During the holidays, I know how to hire a decorator to identify the appropriate themes and items with which to decorate the house.

4. I know who my preferred financial advisor, legal service, designer, domestic-employment service, and hairdresser are.

5. I have at least two residences that are staffed and maintained.

6. I know how to ensure confidentiality and loyalty from my domestic staff.

7. I have at least two or three “screens” that keep people whom I do not wish to see away from me.

8. I fly in my own plane or the company plane.

9. I know how to enroll my children in the preferred private schools.

10. I know how to host the parties that “key” people attend.

11. I am on the boards of at least two charities.

12. I know the hidden rules.

13. I support or buy the work of a particular artist.

14. I know how to read a corporate financial statement and analyze my own financial statements.

These two charts were taken from a book called A Framework for Understanding Poverty – written by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. – which has sold over 1,000,000 copies. This book strives to be an inspection of the social and economic class structure of the United States and seeks to provide those living in middle class and wealth with a better understanding of the challenges that face those living in poverty. The goal of the book is to provide the reader with "practical, real-world support and guidance to improve your effectiveness in working with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds."

But, the following article argues that Dr. Ruby Payne's analysis/viewpoint is deeply flawed:



Savage Unrealities: Uncovering Classism in Ruby Payne’s Framework

By Paul C. Gorski




Ryan Hill's response to Paul C. Gorski's response to Dr. Ruby Payne

This is a classic ad hominem response. This person doesn’t have his own ideas (beyond “we need to make society less racist”), so he attacks Payne as a racist/classist herself – not to mention “conservative” (only an ed school professor could think that this alone suffices as an epithet – you and I may agree that conservatism is generally bunk, but it doesn’t work as an argument for popular consumption). If his argument were stronger, he wouldn’t likely feel the need for name-calling.

That said, he’s not entirely wrong. Certainly there’s some element of classism/racism underlying the fact that for low-income folks to succeed in American society they have to be able to adapt to (as distinct from “adopt”) the norms and values of the majority. That doesn’t change the fact that it IS a fact though – currently at the very least. I’m not sure it has to be an either/or thing – we teach our kids to “code switch,” or display the norms of the majority when among the majority-developed power structures, and speak/act as you normally would when among friends and family. This way, we’re not granting merit to the values and norms of the wealthy, we’re just providing the tools by which to navigate in their world.

Whether the values and norms of the majority are in fact “better” than those of different minority groups – or indeed if the values are different (we know the norms are) – is an interesting and difficult question (are we prepared to say that there are no values that are better than other values? How do we go about ranking them?), but ultimately I find it mostly irrelevant. The question is, what actually WORKS to reduce or eliminate socioeconomic achievement gaps, and from an efficacy standpoint we know two things: 1) power is never given, it is taken, so good luck convincing the majority to give up power by adjusting their norms to the minority, and 2) it is possible to teach low-income students how to “take” power by learning to move in the world of the majority. In other words, it could be that Payne takes us into ugly territory that blames the victim too much, but what I care about is whether her conclusions from such an analysis yield better results than his relativism does.

Of COURSE there are structural problems that exacerbate and proliferate the effects of poverty, and of course that’s unfair and we should try to fix those problems. However, even when attempts to fix structural problems have been made (like the dramatic funding of low-income districts in New Jersey), they have mostly failed. More money, better resources, nice buildings, smaller classes, etc. haven’t closed achievement gaps in NJ at all. So while it’s probably true that across the country, low-income school districts are underfunded, it’s also true that funding them better won’t help until we fix other structural issues (mainly, the dominance of the teachers unions and the irresponsibility of the ed schools). Meanwhile, we could be teaching kids to “fake it till they make it.”

One could argue that my structural problems (unions, ed schools) are just as hard to overcome as his (poverty, injustice), but then he goes and takes aim at the very policies (choice, vouchers, NCLB) that enable true accountability for the schools and teachers who serve low-income kids. The very problem with unions and ed schools are that they’re not accountable and they do everything they can to keep it that way. Why he feels that these systems promote the tyranny of the majority I have no idea – he doesn’t explain – and why he doesn’t think we should try breaking that cycle while he tries to break his I also don’t understand.

My own ad hominem argument in this case goes something like this: People like this author typically blame the “system” or the “-isms” so that they don’t have to be on the hook for anything. They call for more funding because they suck at the teat of that funding (this guy is an ed school employee, ed schools rely on demand for teachers, more funding means more teachers, etc.), and when they GET that funding, as they have in NJ, DC, and a few other places, they keep saying “not enough” no matter how ridiculously high the funding is (Newark Public Schools spends $25,000 PER STUDENT – I’d be surprised if BD spends a third of that).

In other words, blaming the isms and the whole entire system makes it so that nobody has to be accountable, and the cabal that profits from lack of accountability continues to grow in size and power. Anything that introduces accountability – whether to the parents or to the employees – threatens their gravy train and must be stopped at all costs. This is the attitude that underlies arguments such as the ones in this paper. The author may not share the sentiment – he may just be buying into the well-constructed arguments of those who run the show – but he might as well.

To put it one more way: this guy takes the identical position that the teachers unions take. He also believes that money and wealth dictate how society operates. No group spends more money on political campaigns than the teachers unions. Poverty and achievement gaps still exist. Doesn’t it stand to reason that the union approach actually promotes poverty and stands

in the way of its elimination? Or at least it’s not helping. If someone comes up with a way to break the cycle of poverty that doesn’t involve teaching low-income folks how to move in the world of high-income folks, I’m all for it. But until then, we should go with what actually works, and Payne’s framework has more evidence behind it than this professor’s does.

The author denigrates Payne’s approach as the “path of least resistance.” Well, given the enormous size and power of those aligned on BOTH sides of this argument erecting enormous barriers to change (unions on one side, wealthy people and institutions on the other, both culpable for the entrenchment of achievement gaps), maybe we should be looking for effective

paths that offer a chance of victory.



Hello, Everyone!

OK, so I started all this discussion about poverty and education to see what all of you

think of the Gorski article critiquing Ruby Payne's book.

Now here are my thoughts on all of this.

My mom showed me a copy of Ruby Payne's book Understanding Poverty and I read it with interest. I even photocopied many pages because I wanted to think about them more. Upon re-reading them several months later, I found something strange about them -- they felt incomplete, reductionist, too simple-minded. So I started looking to learn more about her and her book, and to see what other people think of it. This is how I encountered Gorski's article.

After reading Gorski's article I felt his position was the most solid. Most people are not aware of the depth and extent to which big business (the "owning class") has influenced education and society at large. If you have not read John Taylor Gatto's book The Underground History Of American Education, I highly recommend it. You can read most of the book online for free:



As part of your readings for this first partial, I included an essay by John Taylor Gatto -- the one called Against School. John Taylor Gatto was deep in the "trenches" of public education, far beyond anything Ruby Payne or Gorski have experienced COMBINED. And then some. He was named New York City "Teacher Of The Year" in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State "Teacher Of The Year" in 1991. And he did his teaching where poverty was grave and intense, deep in the same kinds of "trenches" that many teachers currently work in.

What his book reveals, in great detail, is how business giants such as Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and other tycoons, put more money into education than governments did because they wanted an obedient docile non-critical thinking "work force." Terms like "work force" and "human resources" and even "kindergarten" were created and promoted by these guys. The idea was (and still is) to take a child out of the family at a young age (when they are most impressionable), put them with strangers (teachers) in an institution (school) that will program them to respond to authority and not to think too much. This would, as a result, create a pliable work force willing to work long hours for peanuts, and thus keep the wealthy owning class in power, and abundance. (In fact, many argue, and I think rightly so, that the current economic crisis is designed to bring the USA and Europe back to a more serf-style form of existence, like in those days around 1900s when the big business owning class reaped enormous profits at the grave expense of average folk). President Woodrow Wilson very succinctly summarized this perspective:

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

And here's a quote from John D. Rockefeller, Sr's demented brain trust:

In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds, and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people, or any of their children, into philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen -- of whom we have an ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

This is why so many educational institutions are based on an old Prussian military model. (These wealthy business tycoons loved the Prussian military and sought to draw "wisdom" from them -- just observe any school and you will quickly see the military style influences at work). This is why we see the broadcast model of teaching: where the teachers speak and the students listen. This is why, specifically designed according with Pavlov's ideas, school bells go ring, ring, ring -- programming people into a mindless regimen while at the same time cutting off the depth of a subject -- go on to the next subject now, after just a brief hour, this one has ended. This is why the teacher stands at the front of the room, like a military general, with all the students (soldiers) facing that general in order to have information ("knowledge") of very limited kinds and forms poured into their heads. This is why students must raise their hands to get permission to speak and ask permission to go to the bathroom! Taking attendance teaches obedience, not responsibility. Grading is also a terrible reduction of human beings -- people are numbers, and can be reduced to numbers, as if this shows something empirical and thus of significant value; what it shows, in reality, is how well people are submitting to the programming, not actually thinking critically. And the fact that Ruby Payne emphasizes the importance of raising scores on institutional exams is a graphic illustration of how much she is quagmired into this sickness.

Some may argue that people NEED discipline to learn. This is false. What they need is self-discipline, self-motivation, and these are not things which can be forced upon someone from the outside. Look at how kids will read ENORMOUS Harry Potter books without any prompting or force from teachers or parents! Because they WANT to! Look at how quickly people learn how to ride a bicycle or drive a car (which cognitively are actually quite complex functions) with very little help and almost no motivation, if any, coming from teachers or parents. When kids WANT to learn, this is when and how they learn best, NOT from any "discipline" imposed from the outside. Imposing discipline from the outside is slavery. Period.

So it's not just about school supplies, how much and what kind, but about the very design and essence of schools. Payne in no way comes close to addressing these issues, as Gorski and John Taylor Gatto point out. Payne repeatedly does not give supporting evidence, does not provide scholarly studies to any significant degree, while Gorski and Gatto's works are full of not only real scholarly research but down-in-the-"trenches" experience.

I noticed that some people, in responding to Gorski's article, mentioned "political correctness" and that his article was an "ad hominem" attack. It is not either of these things.

First, his "attack" on the conservative viewpoint behind Ruby Payne's work is not an attack at all, it is simply valid and accurate. He is not name-calling, he is pointing out what Payne believes and where she comes from. If you call someone a Catholic, are you name calling? If you call someone a teacher, are you name calling? Most likely not; you are simply describing qualities. If someone is conservative in their viewpoints, it's valid to call them conservative. Same with "liberal." If someone is referencing (as Payne does) the Hoover Institute, an extremely conservative institution that receives most of its funding from Exxon, JP Morgan, Archer Daniels Midland, Merrill Lynch, and the Boeing Corporation -- which it does -- this is not only highly relevant, but quite revealing. No wonder Ruby Payne's book has sold over a million copies when she's got groups like Exxon and Boeing and JP Morgan in ideological agreement with it!

An "ad hominem" attack would be saying things like, "Ruby Payne is an idiot, who only has a narrow religious view that is supremely outdated," or even more subtle things like that, and ONLY doing things that -- attacking the person. The VAST MAJORITY of Gorski's article, if you look at it, focuses specifically on the ISSUES, not on Payne herself. He does mention that Payne says this, and Payne says that, but he is refuting WHAT SHE SAYS not who she is. This is why Gorski's article is stuffed full with

references to scholarly studies and works which have studied these issues in detail. So Gorski's article is not an "ad hominem" attack at all. Payne provides little to none of these kinds of references, as Gorski very eloquently and specifically points this out.

Payne has done NO real scholarly work of her own, unlike Gorski. And as far as her being "in the trenches" and "in the real world" I would argue she has not. If you are down in the "trenches" but you can't understand why a war is going on -- focusing on symptoms and stereotypes instead of root causes -- you can say that shooting down the enemy is a good thing, when in fact if one looked closely at the real issues and root causes one would say that the war shouldn't even have been fought in the first place.

Most wars are fought because the wealthy owning class wants more wealth and power, not because the average person wants to go fight. The same is true of public education. Interesting that we often refer to real-world work experience as being "down in the trenches." Why should it be? Who said so? Who made/makes it so?

The readings for the First Partial, then, are from several supremely important and deeply insightful works...


John Taylor Gatto


Michael Parenti


Paulo Freire

( NOTE: You should already have started reading these texts because these are things, just as the videos are, which you cannot do in one night -- you will need a couple of days, at the least, so make sure you are looking at these readings and the videos for the first partial SOON or you won't do good on the First Partial Quiz )

...that will reveal the depths of what is going on in education, and in society at large.

And for those of you who feel that it is important to have both scholarly perspectives and real-world down-in-the-"trenches" experience, these readings provide the full range. John Taylor Gatto, as I already have spoken about, was working down in the "trenches" for 30 years. And Paulo Freire was a Brazilian priest who worked extensively with the poor (the severely poor) and developed "liberation theology." And these people come from the full range of political perspectives, as well. Michael Parenti, who received is PhD in political science from Yale, is a brilliant social critic and analyst -- what most people these days would call a progressive Marxist. John Taylor Gatto is deeply religious and conservative. And Paulo Freire, a priest. So a whole political and religious range is covered here, and they all agree in perspective and analysis.

These texts will give you a good basic understanding of what the real root causes are, and what things are causing the problems. The root causes of these problems are, exactly, systemic. One can look at the daily experiences that people like Ryan and others experience in the classroom and try to fix those situations, which is good, but those problems won't go away until the system itself is changed. Every single human being has the capacity to become a saint or a gas chamber attendant -- it's the system/society they grow up in and live in that greatly shapes how they turn out. This is why what normally would be good decent people became Nazis who committed atrocities -- follow the orders to commit those atrocities or get shot.

A perfect example of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:



One of the guys who knows the most about this enormous garbage patch in the ocean, Charles Moore, says that there's no real point in going in and scooping up all that garbage and cleaning it out of the ocean until people stop using plastic so profusely and throwing out tons and tons of garbage -- you clean all that plastic crap out the ocean and it will be full of the same garbage almost instantly. If you empty the water out of the

cup, that's fine, but if the faucet is still running full blast, that cup is just going to fill up again:



So, you can't pull babies out of the water, and save them from drowning, if you yourself and the babies are 10,000 leagues under the sea. Payne is not helping teachers by giving them stereotypical descriptions of class structures; she is reinforcing these class structures, just as Gorski says.

Compare Ruby Payne to Paul Gorski:





And compare Ruby Payne's work and perspective to that of Paulo Freire, John Taylor Gatto, and Michael Parenti. There is simply no contest.

We should not be teaching people to "assimilate" if the idea is to assimilate into the current system. This is exactly the problem! That's like asking people to assimilate into slavery. The current system programs obedience -- and rewards those who assimilate either by (a) being perfectly docile to the system, or (b) fervently supporting it.

The truth is "wealth creates poverty," as Michael Parenti says. My aunt Kathleen, a Catholic nun who has also been a teacher and administrator in the educational "trenches" for many many years, agrees. Some people argue that Capitalism creates wealth, when the truth is it only creates wealth for a small minority of people.

Michael Parenti ~ Capitalism, Globalization, Terrorism & Conspiracy


Capitalism does give some people, like a fair number of people in Europe and the USA, a fairly decent standard of living, but it does so at the very painful expense of many others:



Currently, 50% of the world's population gets just enough to eat day by day. They have a little bit of food today, but they might not have any tomorrow. 25% of the world is literally starving to death. While 1% of the world's population controls between 60 - 90% of the world's resources (different sources report varying degrees). Even if it's only 60%, how did that 1% of the world's population get to own and control all of that? Was it because the rest of the world said, "Oh, you 1% you are so great, you just have it all!"??? Not at all. It came about by violence, force, manipulation, propaganda, systemic design, and education.

Here's a great documentary by the BBC that lays out the degree of manipulation we experience daily, and have experienced all our lives:



General Smedley Butler, the most decorated general of his time, gives a clear picture of how all this works in terms of war -- profit over people -- which one can easily apply to just about anything else in today's society:



And Alfie Kohn, in his book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, very eloquently shows how most competition is learned:



And Race To Incarcerate, by Marc Mauer, shows in great detail how the system works powerfully toward putting minorities and lower class people in prison for PROFIT:



The modern day prison system is SUPREMELY profitable, just as slavery was. Just as war always is. Just as programming people through education to value some things (competition, superficial knowledge, obedience, hierarchy, etc) instead of others (critical thinking, social justice, democracy) is supremely profitable.

This is why Naomi Klein speaks about disaster capitalism, where these wealthy owning class vultures see huge profits in moments of crisis and take advantage of them for exactly these reasons:



The fact that Ruby Payne points out how current class structures are, may be helpful to teachers to a degree -- in a stereotypical sense -- in order to help people ("assimilate" = "obey") but it does very little to nothing to help them transcend the very systemic structures that cause the (oppression = poverty) they experience generation after generation. Teaching people to submit, to assimilate, to the current structures is exactly the schooling of turning people into slaves where they believe they may "advance" by "going along to get along," when in fact the vast majority of people die into the very same class to which they were born. The American Dream is a myth. The number of people, like Bill Gates, who go from poverty to wealth, is so minuscule as to be nearly non-existent (despite how much the media loves to pump up the very few examples that pop up highly infrequently). Most wealth is inherited, not gained by hard intense labor and brilliance toward some desired goal. And most people do not advance beyond the class they were born into. There are plenty of poor people who work intensely, and long hours, and who are incredibly brilliant, but the system does not allow them to advance. In fact, our Founding Fathers were mostly wealthy landowners -- part of the owning class -- who specifically set up our government itself not to have "checks and balances" in order to secure the stability of democracy, but to specifically make democracy extremely difficult to manifest, so that the owning class may keep their wealth and power and property secure.

Thus, as John Taylor Gatto talks about, schools perform these functions, specifically designed to be so by the owning class:

1. The Adjustive or Adaptive Function: Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

2. The Integrating Function: This might as well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

3. The Diagnostic and Directive Function: School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one.

4. The Differentiating Function: Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.

5. The Selective Function: This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory [in the Social Darwinian interpretation of his work] of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from the first grade onward were intended to to: wash the “dirt” down the drain.

6. The Propaedeutic Function: The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage the continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed-down and declawed in order that

government (controlled and owned largely by the owning class) might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

If the goal of an any educational institution is to have students get higher scores on institutional exams or to become better at assimilating into current structures in order to get into top notch private schools and thus reap the benefits of the current deeply ill system... I say that's not good. And definitely not good enough. That's like saying "Clear cutting forests is the best way to do things because it is the most efficient." Efficient in getting the trees cut down in the short term, yes, but devastating and highly inefficient toward a sustainable healthy future. Some of the "best" students and "best" teachers are often the most programmed -- they do what they are told, and in doing so they are rewarded. But only rewarded nominally. Like slaves, they struggle to get out of slavery only to be placed into the slightly better situation of debt bondage.

So, long story short? The current educational system is like a car that has its steering wheel designed so you can turn it but it doesn't change the direction of the car -- and the car is heading toward a cliff. One can say, "You are driving terribly! You should take better driving lessons! Turn!" And this may seem to fix a symptom or two, but the truth is the car (the system) is not designed to change. Schools are designed to function toward programming the public toward benefiting the very few capitalists who set it up for their own benefit. Same with the media, which they also own. The media is not conservative or liberal -- it's designed to keep debate within very narrow limits, generating "football team" kinds of discussions (my team is right! no my team is right! go team!) that divide (and conquer) people in order to keep them from focusing on the real and true issues. This is why we get weeks and weeks about Michael Jackson's death, or Bill Clinton's blowjob, and Ruby Payne's class-reinforcing superficial "analysis" of poverty selling a million copies, instead of in-depth critical discussions about real stuff.

The system is so ubiquitously profound in its effect on our ways of thinking that all of these ideas I am expressing here very likely seem "radical" or even crazy to most people. But if one does real research and deep thinking and observes what is going on in society and in schools, it becomes very clear very quickly. Go into any classroom (or think back to when you were in one) and ask yourself, "Does the teacher seem to be assuming the position of knowing everything, and doing most of the talking, while the students do most of the listening and learn how to obey?"

For me, good education should be a balance between three things:


received knowledge



critical thinking


)()()()) WHAT'S OUTSIDE THE BOX ()()))))


Received knowledge (things we have learned over time) is important. But all too often we only or mostly focus on this, and what we pass on with this received knowledge is generally very very very narrow, and very rarely questioned, challenged, or analyzed -- how many history books, for example, point out that Christopher Columbus, the "great explorer and adventurer," told indigenous people to go find gold, and if they found some he would give them a copper necklace, and if they didn't find any he would chop their hands off and let them bleed to death, and that he did this to THOUSANDS of indigenous people? Critical thinking is vital; we have the received knowledge we have because we chose to look at THIS instead of THAT, or THAT; change what you are looking at and you change what knowledge you have.

And creativity, thinking outside of the box, is the only way we are going to truly advance in this world -- the only way we are truly going to reduce poverty, environmental destruction, etc, etc. As Einstein said (I'm paraphrasing), "The problems of the world will not be solved by those ideas or people who created them." But, here we go, on and on, emphasizing mostly only 1/3 of this equation -- received knowledge, what's in the box -- and somehow we expect to make significant progress. This is why there is such huge emphasis on test scores, for example. And it's sad.

Compare how these news programs, for example, delve into the depths of the news as compared to Fox, CNN, Olbermann, etc:



And, finally, here is a good critique of Ruby Payne's work...


...and the extremely well done criticism of Ruby Payne's work by a 14-year-old kid!!!


I, too, have been a teacher for many years now. I have taught as an adjunct teacher in colleges; as a substitute teacher in grade schools, junior highs, and high schools; and now for the past 10 years in a university. It's pretty much the same everywhere -- people in general don't do much critical thinking, and they don't focus on core sources of problems but instead focus on symptoms, assuming that if we could just fix the systems the cancer would go away. It's like trying to row a boat with a toothpick and expecting to actually get somewhere. We need to change the system (toothpick) into something completely new that actually functions (a paddle).

Of course, I am completely open to and happy to continue discussing all of these issues -- from poverty to education and beyond. These are my viewpoints, and they don't have to be yours. You do NOT have to agree with me. But what I do ask that you do is to THINK deeply and seriously about these things.