from 29 december 2002
blue vol II, #63
Opinion Archive

How Our Schools Create Sheeple

Why most Americans are unable to perceive and protest
America's slide into fascism

by John Kaminski

In 1896 the famous John Dewey, then at the University of Chicago, said that independent, self-reliant people were a counter-productive anachronism in the collective society of the future. In modern society, said Dewey, people would be defined by their associations-not by their own individual accomplishments. In such a world people who read too well or too early are dangerous because they become privately empowered, they know too much, and know how to find out what they donít know by themselves, without consulting experts.
- Kurt Johmann

The question on the minds of many people with consciences who are so aghast at the sudden savagry of the new terror-based policies of the U.S. goverment is how has the American public so silently and willingly acquiesced to the dishonest and murderous attitudes of George W. Bush and his criminal oil cartel.

The hypnotic power of television is of course one main component of the fearful powerlessness that now grips the American populace and has the rest of the world cringing in fear about where the power elite's military monster will strike next. That is a subject for another time.

The real credit for this continuing American coma belongs to something that has been right in front of our eyes all the time. It's something we have supported, spent our money on, and prayed for, something we have participated in ourselves.

The reason Bush has been able to get away with lie after lie in his drive to obliterate our Constitution and install himself as dictator of the world is our public school system. What they did to all of us is directly related to what is happening now in the world.

This connection becomes perfectly obvious when you read Kurt Johmann's essay, Unschooling: Self-directed learning is best, on his website (

Johmann, a software developer who lives in Florida, quotes John Taylor Gatto, an award-winning teacher who taught in New York City government schools for 26 years and quit teaching in 1991 "so he wouldn't harm any more children." Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and other books investigating the fallacies of public education, insists American public schools teach a hidden curriculum of seven lessons:

  1. Confusion. Gatto notes several things contributing to what he calls the lesson of confusion, including: a lack of subject-related context for what is taught; too many unrelated facts and unrelated subjects; a lack of meaning and critical thinking about what is taught.

    About this lack of critical thinking Gatto says: "Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized, since everything must be accepted."

    With this kind of training, how would it be possible for a kid to know what valuable things are NOT in public school curricula? And by extension, how would it be possible for that same adult to discern that what her leaders tell her about American history bears little resemblance to what happened to the victims of those who wrote the histories?
  2. Class position. Gatto points to the way students are kept in the same class by age, and, within this age classification, further classified and separated depending on how the students have done schoolwise (for example, classification into so-called gifted classes).

    About this lesson Gatto says: "Thatís the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place."

    As someone who has suffered from this myself, you have to ask how many learning opportunities are lost because children are not properly identified using rigidly mechanistic criteria
  3. Indifference. For this lesson Gatto is referring to the effects of the ringing bell that announces the end of the current class and the need of the student to drop whatever she is doing and proceed to the next class where a different teacher and subject await her.

    About bells Gatto says: "Indeed, the lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything?"

    And as far as educational evolution goes in kids, this rigidity causes children to assign equal value to all classes, say math and gym, without regard to their relative importance
  4. Emotional dependency. This lesson results from students having to submit to the designated authority, the teacher, regarding their personal desires during class time. As Gatto says: "By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command."

    By the time this learned tendency reaches adulthood, it prevents many people from realizing there may be more qualified candidates other than the two corporate-approved rivals for any given office
  5. Intellectual dependency. This lesson is similar to the lesson of emotional dependency, since both lessons teach students submission to the designated authority. In the case of the lesson of intellectual dependency, the students specifically learn submission to establishment authorities, including the teacher, on intellectual matters.

    This definitely discourages thinking "outside the box" when alternatives are presented to any given problem.

    As Gatto says: "Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to study, I decide what few we have time for, or actually it is decided by my faceless employers. Bad kids fight this, of course, even though they lack the concepts to know what they are fighting, struggling to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn and when they will learn it. How can we allow that and survive as schoolteachers? Fortunately [Gatto is being ironic] there are tested procedures to break the will of those who resist."
  6. Provisional self-esteem. As Gatto says: "The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth."

    As a result, when people get older, they may not be able to determine the worth of a given activity without someone whose authority they covet approving their decision. Put more simply, they may not be able to think for themselves
  7. One cannot hide. By this lesson Gatto means the effect that constant surveillance has on students as they are watched by teachers and other school employees. About the underlying reason for this surveillance Gatto says: "children must be closely watched if you want to keep a society under tight central control. Children will follow a private drummer if you canít get them into a uniformed marching band."

    How many passions have been lost to students who were told their natural aptitudes were leading them in the "wrong" direction, and whose talents were blunted by the corporate-approved drive toward regimented conformity?

    Besides teaching this hidden curriculum, Gallo asserts, the schools also separate children from their families, thereby weakening the bonds of family. This attack against the family is a part of the larger campaign in America to atomize people into individuals, so that having only themselves, they are weak and helpless and unable to resist the establishment, Johmann notes

Having read this laundry list of what public schools do to our children, isn't it clear that our government is behaving in the same way as our monolithic school system, and isn't it even clearer that this process is not producing thoughtful human beings? Instead, the vast majority are the flag-waving zombies who cheer as American military might murders innocent children in faraway places, and turns its own citizens into robotic, thoughtless advocates of "the war on terror"?

If you have kids in school, be sure and study Johmann's website and its links before you make the decision to get them out of public schools as fast as you possibly can.

- John Kaminski

John Kaminski is a writer who lives on the coast of Florida whose education really didn't begin until he got out of school.

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