"BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!"
- Thanks to a couple of members on indigo-parents for passing along the link
to read this on line book.
The Underground History of American Education
Here is the first section of the book. I really had no idea about the true
history and true purpose of the public school system until I began reading
the words written by Taylor. That was many years ago, when my daughter was
in 5th grade, she didn't know how to spell many simple words such as
"does", and she was required to do huge division problems, but hadn't
memorized her multiplication tables. When I was in school, they gave us
timed paper drills until we learned them. Homework was often a nightly
3-hour struggle. She would balk, cry and claim ignorance of what to do with
the assignment. Her body was in school, but where was her mind? She was
kept in from recess because she was resistant to and slow in doing her
assignments, and soon she was happy not to go outside at all. The kids were
mean to her and talked about her behind her back, and played fickle friends
games. She was an artistic, creative, sensitive daydreamer. Then I found
out she could be homeschooled in 2 hours a day with a computer curriculum
-- that is all the academics that is covered in public school in a day -- 2
hours. And we were often spending 3 hours on homework alone! Thus began our
journey into homeschooling and unschooling -- and the writings of John
Taylor Gatto. He's one of my heros. "Looking backward on a thirty-year
teaching career full of rewards and prizes, somehow I can't completely
believe that I spent my time on earth institutionalized; I can't believe
that centralized schooling is allowed to exist at all as a gigantic
indoctrination and sorting machine, robbing people of their children. Did
it really happen? Was this my life? God help me."
Now that I got started on this book, I don't want to quit. Here's how it
"BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!"
Our problem in understanding forced schooling stems from an inconvenient
fact: that the wrong it does from a human perspective is right from a
systems perspective. You can see this in the case of six-year-old Bianca,
who came to my attention because an assistant principal screamed at her in
front of an assembly, "BIANCA, YOU ANIMAL, SHUT UP!" Like the wail of a
banshee, this sang the school doom of Bianca. Even though her body
continued to shuffle around, the voodoo had poisoned her.
Do I make too much of this simple act of putting a little girl in her
place? It must happen thousands of times every day in schools all over.
I've seen it many times, and if I were painfully honest I'd admit to doing
it many times. Schools are supposed to teach kids their place. That's why
we have age-graded classes. In any case, it wasn't your own little Janey or
Most of us tacitly accept the pragmatic terms of public school which allow
every kind of psychic violence to be inflicted on Bianca in order to
fulfill the prime directive of the system: putting children in their place.
It's called "social efficiency." But I get this precognition, this
flash-forward to a moment far in the future when your little girl Jane,
having left her comfortable home, wakes up to a world where Bianca is her
enraged meter maid, or the passport clerk Jane counts on for her emergency
ticket out of the country, or the strange lady who lives next door.
I picture this animal Bianca grown large and mean, the same Bianca who
didn't go to school for a month after her little friends took to
whispering, "Bianca is an animal, Bianca is an animal," while Bianca, only
seconds earlier a human being like themselves, sat choking back tears,
struggling her way through a reading selection by guessing what the words
In my dream I see Bianca as a fiend manufactured by schooling who now
regards Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:
Gives Jane's car a ticket before the meter runs out. Throws away Jane's
passport application after Jane leaves the office. Plays heavy metal music
through the thin partition which separates Bianca's apartment from Jane's
while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for relief. All the above. You
aren't compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are
compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process
children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is
terrified of physical harm happening to them in school, terrified with good
cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year. From 1992 through
1999, 262 children were murdered in school in the United States. Your
great-great-grandmother didn't have to surrender her children. What happened?
If I demanded you give up your television to an anonymous, itinerant
repairman who needed work you'd think I was crazy; if I came with a
policeman who forced you to pay that repairman even after he broke your
set, you would be outraged. Why are you so docile when you give up your
child to a government agent called a schoolteacher?
I want to open up concealed aspects of modern schooling such as the
deterioration it forces in the morality of parenting. You have no say at
all in choosing your teachers. You know nothing about their backgrounds or
families. And the state knows little more than you do. This is as radical a
piece of social engineering as the human imagination can conceive. What
does it mean?
One thing you do know is how unlikely it will be for any teacher to
understand the personality of your particular child or anything significant
about your family, culture, religion, plans, hopes, dreams. In the
confusion of school affairs even teachers so disposed don't have
opportunity to know those things. How did this happen?
Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on
detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like.
Building a child's mind and character is what public schools do, their
justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning.
Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and
certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them
can? There isn't any.
The cost in New York State for building a well-schooled child in the year
2000 is $200,000 per body when lost interest is calculated. That capital
sum invested in the child's name over the past twelve years would have
delivered a million dollars to each kid as a nest egg to compensate for
having no school. The original $200,000 is more than the average home in
New York costs. You wouldn't build a home without some idea what it would
look like when finished, but you are compelled to let a corps of perfect
strangers tinker with your child's mind and personality without the
foggiest idea what they want to do with it.
Law courts and legislatures have totally absolved school people from
liability. You can sue a doctor for malpractice, not a schoolteacher. Every
homebuilder is accountable to customers years after the home is built; not
schoolteachers, though. You can't sue a priest, minister, or rabbi either;
that should be a clue.
If you can't be guaranteed even minimal results by these institutions, not
even physical safety; if you can't be guaranteed anything except that
you'll be arrested if you fail to surrender your kid, just what does the
public in public schools mean?
What exactly is public about public schools? That's a question to take
seriously. If schools were public as libraries, parks, and swimming pools
are public, as highways and sidewalks are public, then the public would be
satisfied with them most of the time. Instead, a situation of constant
dissatisfaction has spanned many decades. Only in Orwell's Newspeak, as
perfected by legendary spin doctors of the twentieth century such as Ed
Bernays or Ivy Lee or great advertising combines, is there anything public
about public schools.
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