Seven Lessons of Schooling

John Taylor Gatto in the first chapter of his book "Dumbing us Down" provides seven fundamental lessons that all teachers are supposed to give in a school, wherever it is, whether the school is in USA, Europe, or South Asia or Australia or in any other region or country like Pakistan. These lessons are the seven pillars of modern schooling. These may be regarded as the religion or belief system on which the schools are established, and questioning them is often regarded as sacrilage.

These lessons are:

1... Confusion: The first level is confusion, divide the curriculum into subjects so that there no connnection or integration remains visible to the eyes of the students. The number of topics taught in these subjects is amazingly large. But, unfortunately treatment to each concept is superficial. Indepth study of concepts and identification of interrelationships with other concepts is not the objective.

2... Class Position: Everyone knows one's class position. The age based criteria for a student to be in a particular class is not only ridiculous but is also not practiced or visible in any other organization of the world. Each student is numbered and has a unique id, and is allocated a numbered class where he is made to sit under some logic. It is told that a student who gets higher numbers and scores will be highly prized by the employers, although employers are rightly indifferent to the scores students have gotten.

3... Indifference. When the bill rings, stop what ever you are doing and move to the next period's subject. It does not matter whether your teacher wants you to continue or you want to continue the work or you want to finish it. The lesson from the ringing bell is that whatever you are doing is not important and could be left in the middle or wherever you are without any serious issue. 4... Emotional Dependency. The goal is to please the teachers and authorities by doing what they want. Wait for your turn. "By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors and disgraces I teach you to surrender your will to the predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld by any authority, without appeal because rights do not exist inside a school, not even the right of free speech, the Supreme Court has so ruled, unless school authorities say they do".

5... Intellectual Dependency: Just read the book as a gospel. The method being taught by the teacher is the only correct one. Either there are no other methods, or if they exist are either wrong or not important. Possibility that what is written in the book may be worong or unsbstantiated should never questioned. Believe in what is being told by the expert or the teacher posing as an expert.

6... Provisional Self Esteem. Make the students dependent upon the grades, happy faces, stars, acknowledgement of the teacher for evaluating their work. Ability of self assessment and self evaluation of one's work is not important. What is important is how the teacher or some external agency will judge you based upon the monthly grade sheet with impressive columns and number. Although all the teachers know how much effort goes in to assigning those numbers, yet those grades are every thing on which a student's self esteem should be based. Pursuit of self actualization and excellence is not the goal. Self assessment and self correction and knowing one self and evaluating oneself are not at all important. What is important is what the student's gradesheet made by the teacher says.

7.... You can’t hide. In school a student is watched all the time, never allowed to be in his own. Friends and family are encouraged to snitch and tattle on him. There is no time for privacy, individual thought, and introspection. Homework is an extension into the homes of students so that after hours they are still doing what the school wants them to do. The time with parents and family is made full of the fear and feeling of guilt for not having done the homework, or for not having prepared for the test. Parents' are made to reveal the private and inner thoughts of the students.

The seven lessons are necessary and extremely useful in developing the majority to be subservient, pliant and be available to fill the bottom of the social pyramid.

Geniuses, entrepreneurs, inventors, leaders, and trendsetters are those that defy and revolt against the seven lessons. They try to make sense by trying to understand in depth whatever they are interested in, they try to make connections and establish relationships. In this pursuit, they continue doing what they are doing irrespective of when the bell rings and a superficial treatment of another subject starts. They do not want or accept the externally assigned class position. They have a touch of class and are going to determine their own class. They are not emotionally dependent on external opinions to feel good. These are the people who reject the convention, select the less travelled road, ask the awkward question, refuse to submit to authority that does not make sense. Their self esteem is not dependent on happy faces and external grades, it depends upon their pursuit of excellence and self-discovery. They want to be away from the ordinary and mundane chatter, they are busy working on their project in their garages, and lost in books or among friends cultivating networks and insights about human nature. The school often labels them and ejects them out of the system. They are of no use to the status quo system. But, they are not worried. Because they will design their own system, create a new culture, a new way of looking at the world, and even transform it (for the better).

Thrust of Schooling

Look again at the seven lessons of school teaching: confusion, class assignment, dulled responses, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, surveillance -- all of these things are good training for permanent under classes, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius.

John Gatto in Dumbing Us Down