Friday, September 17, 2004

On Education & Schooling

The Underground History of American Education is a book by John Taylor Gatto, who's a former New York City school teacher. During his 30-year career, he has taught at 5 different public schools, has had his teaching license suspended twice for insubordination, and was once covertly terminated while on medical leave. He has also won the New York City Teacher of the Year award three times and the New York State Teacher of the Year award once during the final year of his career. The whole time he has been an outspoken critic of the school system. Nine years after leaving his career, he published "The Underground History of American Education". Here he put's his version of what's wrong with American schooling.

His verdict is not what you'd expect: the school system cannot be fixed, because it has been designed not to educate.

The full text of the book is available online here.

There are links on top which take you to different sections of the book. The book is big, especially to read online. I'm looking for a PDF version which I can download, haven't found one yet.

Although it talks about the American system of schooling, I think it's important reading for everybody. I've just started with the Prologue and that itself is very, very interesting. One of his quotes "We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing system". Some of the things will ring true for a lot of us having done schooling in India.

In the past, I've always resented how Tata Consultancy Services and other software organisations have refused to interview graduates of non-engineering disciplines. This categorisation doesn't make any sense, except to the Visa authorities as they insist on 12+4 years of education like in their own countries. But instead of questioning the bigger issue, I think a lot of institutions in India miss a lot of good talent.

A friend of mine, Balu, & myself have had many, many discussions over the current school system in India and the kind of pressure it creates on the students. Balu, of course, has his own form of teaching which is quite revolutionary, to say the least. Additionally, both of us are totally against this universal system of awarding numbers to students as if children could be represented by just digits, that too within a finite range.

This system seems to carry on to the job scenario as well. Every year, during the aprraisal process, this is something which I have to go through with the rest of the team much to my immense discomfort at the system itself!

The tragic part is there doesn't seem to be any middle ground - you either accept the system or you're an outcast! Ridiculous! John Gotto addresses a number of these issues in his book. Hopefully, I'll be able to go through some of it to learn something useful!


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