John Gatto believes that mandatory schooling does wrong by prolonging childhood, and Professor X claims that students are unprepared for college, and questions whether some should be admitted. Gatto uses historical references to support his claim that schools stifle independence. Professor X doesn’t think everyone is qualified for a college level curriculum. John Gatto is the last one would expect to be a retired school teacher, as he preaches the flawed ways of the public school system to anyone who will listen.
In his 2003 essay, Against School, Gatto interprets six ideas from Alexander Inglis’s Principles of Secondary Education.
These concepts were founded on the basis that with a large Prussian influence in American culture, an educational system was founded with the goal of rendering citizens less capable. Gatto witnesses this in the first of Ingis’s purposes, titled “the adjustive/adaptive function. ” The adjustive function describes how schools are designed to teach students to properly react to authority. If school is meant to preoare students for “the real world” this would imply that school is preparing students merely to be subservient employees, rather than independent entrepreneurs.
Schools also create a hierarchy between the students and teachers, discouraging any meaningful relationships from taking place. This hierarchy continues to thrive among the students themselves, a concept coined “the selective function. ” From grades to standardized testing, schools are a prime example of natural selection – encouraging those deemed most capable while leaving the rest behind. To sum up Inglis’s functions would be to say that mandatory education is soley for the purpose of turning children into cooperative, obedient members of the American labor force.
Those whonprove themselves worthy and rise above are become the next generation’s caretakers (the propaedeutic function), continuing the tradition of dumbing down our nation’s youth. These functions make up the fundation of John Gatto’s argument against compulsory education. Gatto is of the opinion that “genius is as common as dirt,” but our schools stifle that genius until it slowly fades away. Alternatively, in the 2008 article “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” Professor X discusses the paucity of true intellect in college today.
He begs the question of whether or not some students should even be admitted. Professor X teaches an English night class comprised mostly of middle-aged men and women looking to fulfill a job requirement. Though each year begins with a sense of hopeful enthusiasm, his mood slowly dwindles as he loses confidence in his students abilities. Professor X speaks of students who can barely form a complete sentence, are questionably illiterate, and have never used a computer. Every year, Professor X is forced to fail the majority of his class. Students routinely fail; some fail multiple times, and some will never pass. ” X is very aware that students do not take his class because they want to, but because they have to. This means that not only are his students impartial to the subject matter, but often incapable of even learning it. Could this incomprehension be a sign that many lack the basic skills necessary to survive college? Professor X alludes to an older woman under the pseudonym Ms. L. In her mid-forties Ms. L. was computer illiterate, could hardly form a coherent sentence, but still refused to ask for help.
Ms. L. paints a perfect picture of Professor X’s students – the students he wants so badly to succeed, but steadily spiral downward in a self-fulfilling prophecy of lethargy and incompetance. Ms. L. felt as though she’d won the battle simply by writing a paper in college, but she never actually writes a college paper, and according to Professor X she never will. Professor X’s claim that students are underprepared for college coincides with John Gatto’s theory of crippling our children through mandatory education.
If schools do little to prepare our children for the future, how can one expect high school graduates to be ready for college? Both Professor X and Gatto support education, but have mixed feelings about schooling. Throughout his essay, Gatto references Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain. These men are some of the greatest minds in history, yet were self-taught and hand had accomplished more than today’s average adult by their early teens (“unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated”). Professor X also agrees that education is beneficial for everyone.
With examples such as policemen, correctional officers and health-care workers, Professor X thinks that literature could open the door to a newfound way of thinking, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of the issues citizens are faced with daily. One of Professor X’s biggest gripes is that teaching English is so subjective, whereas other subjects simply require intensive memorization. This supports Gatto’s theory that children are no longer taking an education, but receiving a schooling.
He would also argue that this method of memorizing and regurgitating information is precisely what’s contributing to the downfall of our public school system. Gatto states that due to the current method of schooling, childhood is now extended two-six years. This ensures that high school graduates are still reliant, submissive children who have no clue how to face the “real world. ” Professor X deals with the aftermath of this process, trying to teach those who have been taught not to learn. X’s annoyance reflects the frustration faced when attempting to teach a group of alleged adults the most basic of skills.
In essence, Gatto’s claims of educational incompetance inspire Professor X’s theory that college students are unprepared. Clearly, there is no black and white, no right or wrong with this particular issue. Each author makes his points, and each leaves room for debate. John Gatto’s claims are offensive and shocking to say the least, but once processed offer a whole new world of insight. Gatto’s assesment that children now receive a schooling, rather than taking an education is spot-on. Instead of creating one’s own adventures, children are confined to a classroom where they learn of others’ doings.
Learning by trial and error has become a thing of the past. Children are taught to do everything right, every time, completely forgoing the notion of living and learning. Inglis’s theory that schools were put in place to create a docile nation may very well be correct. Babysat every moment kindergarden through the twelvth grade, college freshman find themselves drowning in their newfound independence. What’s a woman like Ms. L. to do? However, more than a handful of students make it out of high school with a clear head and strong goals.
Are these people anomalous, or simply representing the “propaedeutic function? ” Either way, not every college freshman finds his or herself in too deep. Many happily face the challenge, braving each new step with resilience and curiosity. Year after year, Professor X nearly gives up on students he believes to be unqualified, unprepared, and incapable of college. John Gatto does not believe in mandatory education, as it prolongs childhood thus creating childish adults. Both authors make very compelling points, making one look at the public education system in a whole new light.
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