Have you recently had a conversation with an average twelve or fifteen year old who spends a good part of his day in a public school? Even better, have you heard the conversations of children that age talking to each other? What I have heard from school age children is proof that the public school system is doing what it was designed to do - even if it was not deliberately planned by someone.
I do not usually write book reviews as I spend more time writing than reading. But then I came across this masterpiece type of book that would be wrong not to share. It gave me clear insight into why my years in the American public school were spent educating the teachers instead of getting an education. They were great at giving assignments but most (not all) of them never taught their pupils to think on their own, and when someone dared to have their own ideas and opinions they were caught off guard. I don't mean to blame the teachers, I have had many that are great people but they were just as much victims of a failed education system.
This book is a must read for anyone who has any connection to the public school system (that would be everyone). It is not an expose of some conspiracy theory, neither is it an attempt for education reform. Suddenly things will make a lot of sense, things like why the literacy rate in this country was higher in 1840 than it is now. As John Gatto would say "what is wrong from a human perspective is right from a system perspective". We would not have the workforce this nation needs if children were raised individually (not as a herd) and inspired to think, to invent, to dream. They are now taught to think and be like everyone else, to be productive, and to conform to the image of this decrepit society. I am not surprised that homeschooling is growing at a fast rate in this country, and those who home school are usually adults with higher education who at one point decided to think for themselves. The uneducated don't question the status quo.
Here are a few quotes that might compel you to pick up this book: "The great destructive myth of the twentieth century was the aggressive contention that a child could not grow up correctly in the unique circumstances of his own family. Forced schooling was the principal agency broadcasting this attitude."(chapter 10 summary)
"Spare yourself the anxiety of thinking of this school thing as a conspiracy, even though the project is indeed riddled with petty conspirators. It was and is a fully rational transaction in which all of us play a part. We trade the liberty of our kids and our free will for a secure social order and a very prosperous economy. It’s a bargain in which most of us agree to become as children ourselves, under the same tutelage which holds the young, in exchange for food, entertainment, and safety. The difficulty is that the contract fixes the goal of human life so low that students go mad trying to escape it." (chapter 16 summary)
You can actually read the book online (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm), but I recommend sparing your eyesight and getting it at the local library.
If you are interested in how this relates to a design blog, I'll give you a hint. The public school system is a threat to sustainability... in other words - if this continues, the sustainability of human intelligence is in great jeopardy.