Raph here with a few thoughts on John Taylor Gatto’s 7 Lessons:
If we are to be effective teachers, noble in our cause and driven to produce free thinking individuals, I think that it’s imperative that we keep Gatto’s Seven Lessons ingrained deep within us. Given the system in which we have to work, we should make a point to highlight these lessons and make our students aware of what actions are being taken to produce the next generation of vacant drones.
1. Make sure that the students are confused and overwhelmed. If anyone is going to have any knowledge of the world around them, if they are to understand anything about the nature of our surroundings, it should be this: The world is too big and out of control for anyone to be able to make sense out of every little thing. We must realize that by putting students in an uncomfortable position (school) where they are confused about their purpose and overwhelmed by the amount of work that they must do, that they will begin to ask questions as to why it has to be this way. We must take advantage of this system for our own benefit and allow for our students to realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.
2. Gatto states that students should learn to “come to know [their] place.” We should teach them their class position. The important issue Gatto addresses here is that students should be aware that their class position is ultimately decided by them. If they do a good job, they can move up, if not, then they must accept where they have been placed. What more motivation does a person need, really?
3. I love Gatto’s statement about the “lesson of the bells.” Basically the bells state that “no lesson is worth teaching.” No matter what we discuss in our classrooms, the bells will interfere and impose the authority of those in charge. Example:
Authority Figure: “Oh really? You were learning about something that interests you? Well that’s all well and good, but the bell has wrung and there’s no time for that shit in my class!”
Basically, this lesson states that, as teachers, we should use class time to plant the seed of interest so that students will seek out the information on there own time.
4 and 5. These two lessons from Gatto go hand in hand. We must teach kids “to surrender their will” and teach them to “wait for other, better trained people to make meaning in their lives.” This is where it becomes crystal clear that this is a list of what not to do. The lesson I learned from what he addresses with emotional and intellectual dependency is that we should make students aware of their rights and make them realize that although we are the teachers, we are not the ultimate authority as to what is and what isn’t in regards to the world.
6. I found the line, “self respect should come from expert opinion,” to be quite hilarious. This statement couldn’t be any more wrong. Report cards, tests, etc. as we have all learned to an excruciating degree over the past two months, are not adequate in judging whether or not someone is smart or learning. We should instill in our students skills that allow them to function in the real world. The emphasis should not be on grades. This is one of the things SWW got right.
7. Make your students privy to the fact that Big Brother is always watching. Point out the lack of freedom in our free country and I’m sure that will get them active in seeking ways to change things.
Gatto’s points are useful in the mentioned ways. Unfortunately, it seems the system actually does promote these lessons even though they would claim otherwise. But if the system is to change, we’re going to have to work within it, which I’m assuming is what Gatto did considering the fact that he was Teacher of the Year in 1991. He has some great ideas and judging from the inherent sarcasm of this text, he has some bigger fish to fry. I especially found his look into the past very interesting. He is able to identify what went wrong in the past and relate it to what is happening now in a very clear way. This is most interesting to me because as an undergrad I wrote a paper on how our country is still recovering from the Civil War. I even quested into the idea that the civil war has not truly ended. As I learn more about the education system, I’m certain it hasn’t.
I apologize for the ranting nature of this post, but I have finally overcome my writer’s block. Thanks for your time.