"You either write your own script, or you become an actor in somebody else's script." -- John Taylor Gatto

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour."
-Winston Churchill

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of Congress.  But I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Warning: If you are easily offended…DO NOT READ!

At great risk of upsetting all of my dear family and friends who are public school teachers, I discuss a book I recently read.  I just have to respect a guy who is willing to take a stand.   Today that someone is John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing us Down and Weapons of Mass Instruction, New York City Teacher of the Year, 30 year veteran of public school instruction.  He now has devoted his life to fighting for school reform.  His latest book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, was a real eye opener for me.

I’ll give you two reasons to read this book

1.  Most likely you have been to public school yourself or you have children or grandchildren in public school – and you ought to hear his ‘insider’ side of the story.

2It is highly entertaining.  More entertaining than anything you will watch on your flat screen tonight.  It is funny, violent, inspiring, full of intrigue and conspiracy and there is plenty of drama.  In fact, I am willing to bet that at some point it will make you cry.  Gatto is hoping it will make you mad.  Mad enough to want to act.

Everything you know about school is wrong.  That is the title of the first chapter.  This newest revelation in the schooling world is full of research, experience and stories to illustrate his strong opinion of what is happening and what should be done.  He doesn’t apologize for his stand, he doesn’t sugar coat his ideas.  If you pick up this book you will get some straight talkin’. 

Here are just a few of his points:
1.    Education is essential. 
2.    Schooling gets in the way of what is essential.
3.    Only you can educate yourself.
4.    Modern schooling was specifically designed for a purpose and it is fulfilling that purpose very well: creating consumers.

There is little point in arguing that we have an education problem in our country.  We do.  Some of the more recent school reforms have done nothing to help and have only tied the hands of dedicated teachers and further squelched the enthusiasm of students.  We have a problem and we need to man up and do something about it.  After reading Gatto’s books I feel absolutely certain we have the wrong people at the head of education in America.  Let’s replace Arne Duncan with John Taylor Gatto.  It won’t happen because I am positive Gatto won’t stand for Chicago politics messing with this nation’s children…even if their parents think it will bring hope and change .  Or why don’t we oust Kevin Jennings, czar of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, founder of GLSEN (What is GLSEN??? Click here: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/about/history/index.html?state=about&type=about) and director while this recommended reading list for your publicly schooled children between grade 7 and 12 was compiled (Warning, some of the content is very explicit: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/booklink/7-12.html).

But wait, I slip back into my box-like thinking.  One of Gatto’s points is that fixing things within the system isn’t going to work.  It’s the system itself that is getting in the way of true educational reform.  Why?  When you are at the top, you just don’t want to change things.   And the system and methods of American education are designed to promote the consumerism our society is convinced is necessary for survival.  Throwing 4.5 billion into a race to the top is really just the same spin over again to get the public thinking something is being done.  And it is.  Your money is being spent on a system that will help millions of children discover they really hate learning.

Have you read Gatto’s books?  What are some of your ideas for changing the face of American education? 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Quote of the Day

No one but doctors and mothers know what it means to have interruptions.  - Karl A. Menninger

Trying to finish a post......

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

“I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; Believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.” – Judge Learned Hand

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kate Becoming

Author Gene Stratton-Porter was delightfully skilled in the art of character development.  She had a gift for walking a character right through the trials of life to be worked upon and end up reaching the full measure of their character – for good or for bad.  Her work is splendid.

Daughter of the Land is a story about Kate Bates, a woman with a dream.  She is a woman living in a man’s world with a mind for business and a strong work ethic, but life has a way of sending trials.  Kate Bates is so real, so fallible, and so strong.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “So Kate ‘cut that idea out’ at once, but the operation was painful, because when one turns mental surgeon and operates on the ugly spots in one’s disposition, there is no anesthetic, nor is the work done with skillful hands, so the wounds are numerous and leave ugly scars; but Kate was ruthless.”  I love Kate for it.  She sees her own weakness, and takes it head on.  She sees where she has made mistakes.  Mistakes that most people use as an excuse not to make anything of themselves, but Kate takes on her ‘ugly spots’ and makes them shine.

As often as not I wanted to throw this book across the room.  Reading about hard knocks can be painful.  But I hung in there and was rewarded with the final idea that “the more we get hurt in this world the decenter it makes us...it really seems as if failure and hardship make more of a human being of folks than success.”  I am enjoying pondering that idea.  All success and no failure or hardship doesn’t stretch us to become.  Kate is an example of becoming.

My one caution and warning is that the edition I purchased from Amazon is not edited well.  It can be irritating to read so many errors!  Stratton-Porter has written other marvelous books.  I can heartily recommend Laddie, Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost as well as A Daughter of the Land.  If you are in the mood for a lovely healing book, pick up something by Stratton-Porter.  Some of the most prevalent values in our country, once so common and now nearly extinct are oozing from her books.  It is a delight to spend some time reading about salt of the earth people who win at life in spite of adversity that seems nearly impossible to overcome.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Waiting your turn is often the worst way to get what you want.” - John Taylor Gatto