Freedom,  Learning,  Living with Children,  Social Changes

Weapons of Mass Instruction (Highlights)

“Weapons of Mass Instruction is probably his best yet. Gatto’s storytelling skill shines as he relates tales of real people who fled the school system and succeeded in spite of the popular wisdom that insists on diplomas, degrees, and credentials. If you are just beginning to suspect there may be a problem with schooling (as opposed to educating as Gatto would say), then you’ll not likely find a better exposé of the problem than Weapons of Mass Instruction.” Cathy Duffy Reviews

Next up in the GATTO series is a focus on his book, Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling.

The book is both a history of schooling–how it came to be, why it is the way it is, and how the classroom and education policy have changed over the years. He pulls no punches and shines a light on the indefensible situation government-mandated schooling has created.

The red-tape is long and many teachers do not even realize that they have signed up for a social experiment. He details this thoroughly in the first chapter, Everything You Know about Schools is Wrong.

A Discussion

This quote jumped out at me because he combines the problem with the system, highlights the best qualities of youthfulness, and offers a solution all in one breath. Not to mention this part: “help kids TAKE an education rather than merely RECEIVE schooling”.

That is a powerful distinction.

His work has certainly solidified our dedication to homeschooling/unschooling, which has been a beautiful way for my children to capitalize on their best qualities.

By opting out of schooling we have opted into true education.

Like Gatto, I believe children deserve to be free to adventure, to follow their curiosity, to fail and try again without worrying about being marked down, belittled, or shamed for their failures. It is through trial and error that children are able to expand their abilities and to test themselves. By marking or highlighting with red ink every failure, we inadvertently drive some children towards perfection and others towards despondency. Do we really want children to stop trying or drive themselves mad in a quest for perfection? Neither of these extremes is helpful on the road to reaching one’s full potential.

Maybe we could stop grading and start mentoring. What if we stopped stifling adventure and curiosity and gave children space to develop their unique talents and abilities without continually comparing them to their same-aged peers? If we moved from marking children down to empowering them by elevating their natural abilities and helping to improve their skill sets, wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to support education?

I think so. But as Gatto points out in his Prologue,

“What if there is not a “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?

What say you?

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