Saturday, August 01, 2009

Community vs Networks

John Taylor Gatto's We need less school not more:Families, Communities, Networks and the Proposed Enlargement of Schooling (1991) is a very useful read because he helps people understand the difference between networks and communities.

"Net works-even good ones take their vitality from communities and families," he says.
"What is gained from consulting a specialist and surrendering all judgment is often more than outweighed by a permanent loss of a piece of your volition."

Compulsory schools masquerade as communities; they are in fact networks.

"Networks--don't need or want the whole person, but only a narrow piece of him; if you function in a network it asks you to suppress all the parts of yourself except the network-interest-part, a highly unnatural act though one you can get used to doing.

It's this fragmentation of the whole person that hurts communities-diminishing humanity-"networks, unlike communities, have a very narrow way of allowing people to associate..."

Gatto continues, "Networks like schools are not communities in the same way that school training is not education. By preempting 50 percent of the total time of the young, by locking young people up with young people exactly their own age, by ringing bells to start and stop work, by asking people to think about the same thing at the same time in the same way, by grading people the way we grade vegetables- and in a dozen other vile and stupid ways- network schools steal the vitality of communities and replace it with an ugly piece of mechanism."

"Nobody survives these places with his humanity intact, not kids, not teachers, not administrators, and not parents."

Community on the other hand is a place "that faces people at each other over time in all their human variety, good parts, bad parts, and all the rest. Such places promote the highest quality of life possible, lives of engagement and participation. This happens in unexpected ways but it never happens when you've spent more than a decade listening to other people talk-and trying to do what they tell you to do, trying to please them after the fashion of schools."

It's a pretty long address but worth continuing;

"I belong to networks myself," Gatto continues, "but the only ones I consider completely safe are the ones that reject their communitarian facade, acknowledge their limits, and concentrate solely on helping me do a specific and necessary task. But a vampire network like a school, which tears off chunks of time and energy needed for building community and family- and always asks for more- needs to have a stake driven through it's heart and nailed into it's coffin. The feeding frenzy of formal schooling has already wounded us seriously in our ability to form families and communities by bleeding away time we need with our children and our children need with us. That's why I say we need less school, not more."

If the goosebumps are not sprouting on your arms by now, I don't know if they ever will.

1 comment:

MariaD said...

I think the terminology shifted since early nineties. Or maybe it's just used differently in different circles. For me, schools are organizations; then there are communities - tight, either local or topic-centered. Networks, on the other hand, are open, free, and distributed. "Homeschoolers" is a network, "Cary Homeschoolers" is our local community, and "Cary Academy" is an organization (a local school).

An excellent book about the subject is called, "The starfish and the spider."

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