One book has left me speechless. Every time I read from it. A speechless soon met with an urgent compulsion to shout from the mountains. Every word.
A Different Kind of Teacher, by John Taylor Gatto, is not just about the devastation of schooling on America (the world?), but about humanity and what makes us strong and weak. (Go now and buy the book. It will change your life. I’m not making that up. Seriously. I’ll be here waiting.)
And since I can’t quote the whole book here, or even address many of his profound points (every paragraph), there’s this one:
“Owning a home is the foremost American dream but few schools bother with teaching you how to build one.
Why is that? Everyone thinks owning a home matters.
Last year at Southern Illinois University I gave a workshop in what the basic skills of a good life are as I understand them. Toward the end a young man rose in back and shouted, ‘I’m twenty-five and I don’t know how to do anything except pass tests! If the fan belt on my car broke on a lonely road in a snow storm I’d freeze to death. Why have you done this to me?’…
Does going to school matter if it uses up the time you need to learn to build a house? Or grow vegetables? Or make a dress? Or love your family hard enough you don’t need to switch them on and off like a TV set? Education matters, of course, but only flimflam artists try to convince you that school and education are the same thing.”
What should matter is so obvious and we still believe the lie that “grades” are what matter, or awards or test scores. Our kids grow up and marry but don’t know how to serve and love and commit. They have children but don’t know how to parent. They work but become financially shackled to things for which they don’t have the money. They have nice houses but don’t know anything about having a home. They drive nice cars and wear nice clothes and take nice vacations but they need medication to deal with what’s still missing.
But none of that scares us. “How am I going to pay for my kids’ college?!” I just heard a Dad panic, as if college is the magic bullet that will give his kids the good life and he’ll sacrifice everything for the illusion.
In short, we tell them they need to “find the good life” then lie to them about what that is.
In a society that raises cumulative generations of children who grow up clawing for a prize for just the prize’s sake, we lose empathy, joy, purpose and love. And that is a society that will self-destruct.
What do we do? We understand how to set our children up for real success. We give them space to learn, time to think and discover, freedom to grow and stumble, and examples of what’s valuable–relationships, work, responsibility, service and productivity.
We give them the good life.