Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Schooling: A Highly Questionable Practice.

On March 9, 2003, the admissions officer at Harvard, Marilyn McGrath, on the front page of the New York Times, told readers Harvard only accepts students who show evidence of distinction. Many people skipped that article because they assumed they already knew that high grades get you in. But McGrath said test scores and grades are not evidence of distinction—you can’t get into Harvard that way!
I thought that was a stunning revelation. Not that I didn’t know it, but to actually admit it on the front page of the New York Times. Wow!
I wrote her immediately and asked, “What would an evidence of distinction be?” although I already knew the answer. The Harvard lady quickly covered up: her reply was an exercise in dissimulation, backing off her New York Times statement.
By the time someone reaches eighteen, there are tens of thousands of such people—but not millions—tens of thousands who have records of distinction. They have sailed around the world alone; they have walked from the South Pole to the North Pole; they’ve started a charity; they’ve earned a million dollars—not because they are such superior geniuses, but because a number of families preserve traditions of effectiveness and ways to reach real goals. The methods aren’t difficult and they aren’t expensive.
If you read Ben Franklin’s autobiography, you’ll see they were used among many ordinary people in the 18th Century United States. Franklin was thrown out of two schools before he was 11-years-old. He started a business selling beer to printers, through which he amassed capital to buy into a printing company later on. He was 12-years-old.
Once I was on that trail I looked into intimate details of colonial life here in the Americas. The minute you do that, detailed evidence appears about the different ways young people were reared back then.
Take the American Revolution, for instance. Virtually everybody who made the American Revolution was a teenager! Washington was the Grand Old Man. I think he was 42. But Jefferson and Hamilton and really the whole pack of them were 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. The myth that keeps us small and in our place blows away with that discovery. The US young people, with free minds, were able to overthrow the most powerful military nation on earth, Great Britain.

Schooling: A Highly Questionable Practice. John Taylor Gatto.

This is an excerpt from Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education.

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