[IAEP] Sugar Labs Mission & The 6 lesson Schoolteacher

Walter Bender walter.bender at gmail.com
Sun Apr 23 22:37:27 EDT 2017

On Sun, Apr 23, 2017 at 10:35 PM, Dave Crossland <dave at lab6.com> wrote:

> Hi
> I watched some of Papert's lectures from the mid 90s on YouTube last
> year... Is Mindstorms the definitive work?
> If sugar is "against school", by which I mean is not anti school but
> critical, is that worth encoding in the mission more explicitly?

Sugar is against teaching.


> Cheers
> Dave
> On Apr 23, 2017 1:09 PM, "Walter Bender" <walter.bender at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sun, Apr 23, 2017 at 11:28 AM, Dave Crossland <dave at lab6.com> wrote:
>> Hi
>> What motivates me to contribute to sugar labs is an intuition that it is
>> a reasonable response to the topics raised in the following essay.
>> Since we are talking about the mission, I wonder if my intuition is
>> correct. Is the mission of sugar labs to counter schoolteaching as
>> described below?
> Have you read Papet?  The phrases "explore, discover, create, and
> reflect" while "taking ownership and responsibility" are code for
> Constructionist Learning. But it might be interesting as an exercise to
> look at the specific ways in which Sugar undermines the Six Lessons. Thanks
> for sharing this.
> -walter
>> The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher
>> by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991
>> *Call me* Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better
>> to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an
>> instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at
>> all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it.
>> Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to
>> schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more
>> ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:
>> *The first* lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong." I
>> don't know who decides that my kids belong there but that's not my
>> business. The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be
>> returned to the right class. Over the years the variety of ways children
>> are numbered has increased dramatically, until it is hard to see the human
>> being under the burden of the numbers each carries. Numbering children is a
>> big and very profitable business, though what the business is designed to
>> accomplish is elusive.
>> In any case, again, that's not my business. My job is to make the kids
>> like it -- being locked in together, I mean -- or at the minimum, endure
>> it. If things go well, the kids can't imagine themselves anywhere else;
>> they envy and fear the better classes and have contempt for the dumber
>> classes. So the class mostly keeps itself in good marching order. That's
>> the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know
>> your place.
>> Nevertheless, in spite of the overall blueprint, I make an effort to urge
>> children to higher levels of test success, promising eventual transfer from
>> the lower-level class as a reward. I insinuate that the day will come when
>> an employer will hire them on the basis of test scores, even though my own
>> experience is that employers are (rightly) indifferent to such things. I
>> never lie outright, but I've come to see that truth and [school]teaching
>> are incompatible.
>> The lesson of numbered classes is that there is no way out of your class
>> except by magic. Until that happens you must stay where you are put.
>> *The second* lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light
>> switch. I demand that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping
>> up and down in their seats with anticipation, competing vigorously with
>> each other for my favor. But when the bell rings I insist that they drop
>> the work at once and proceed quickly to the next work station. Nothing
>> important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of.
>> The lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too
>> deeply about anything? Bells are the secret logic of schooltime; their
>> argument is inexorable; bells destroy past and future, converting every
>> interval into a sameness, as an abstract map makes every living mountain
>> and river the same even though they are not. Bells inoculate each
>> undertaking with indifference.
>> *The third* lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a
>> predestined chain of command. Rights may be granted or withheld, by
>> authority, without appeal. As a schoolteacher I intervene in many personal
>> decisions, issuing a Pass for those I deem legitimate, or initiating a
>> disciplinary confrontation for behavior that threatens my control. My
>> judgments come thick and fast, because individuality is trying constantly
>> to assert itself in my classroom. Individuality is a curse to all systems
>> of classification, a contradiction of class theory.
>> Here are some common ways it shows up: children sneak away for a private
>> moment in the toilet on the pretext of moving their bowels; they trick me
>> out of a private instant in the hallway on the grounds that they need
>> water. Sometimes free will appears right in front of me in children angry,
>> depressed or exhilarated by things outside my ken. Rights in such things
>> cannot exist for schoolteachers; only privileges, which can be withdrawn,
>> exist.
>> *The fourth* lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you
>> will study. (Rather, I enforce decisions transmitted by the people who pay
>> me). This power lets me separate good kids from bad kids instantly. Good
>> kids do the tasks I appoint with a minimum of conflict and a decent show of
>> enthusiasm. Of the millions of things of value to learn, I decide what few
>> we have time for. The choices are mine. Curiosity has no important place in
>> my work, only conformity.
>> Bad kids fight against this, of course, trying openly or covertly to make
>> decisions for themselves about what they will learn. How can we allow that
>> and survive as schoolteachers? Fortunately there are procedures to break
>> the will of those who resist.
>> This is another way I teach the lesson of dependency. Good people wait
>> for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of
>> all, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to
>> make the meanings of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that our
>> entire economy depends upon this lesson being learned. Think of what would
>> fall apart if kids weren't trained in the dependency lesson: The
>> social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-growing
>> counseling industry; commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with
>> television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun;
>> the food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if
>> people returned to making their own meals rather than depending on
>> strangers to cook for them. Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering
>> would go too -- the clothing business as well -- unless a guaranteed supply
>> of helpless people poured out of our schools each year. We've built a way
>> of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don't
>> know any other way. For God's sake, let's not rock that boat!
>> *In lesson* five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an
>> observer's measure of your worth. My kids are constantly evaluated and
>> judged. A monthly report, impressive in its precision, is sent into
>> students' homes to spread approval or to mark exactly -- down to a single
>> percentage point -- how dissatisfied with their children parents should be.
>> Although some people might be surprised how little time or reflection goes
>> into making up these records, the cumulative weight of the objective-
>> seeming documents establishes a profile of defect which compels a child to
>> arrive at a certain decisions about himself and his future based on the
>> casual judgment of strangers.
>> Self-evaluation -- the staple of every major philosophical system that
>> ever appeared on the planet -- is never a factor in these things. The
>> lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust
>> themselves or their parents, but must rely on the evaluation of certified
>> officials. People need to be told what they are worth.
>> *In lesson* six I teach children that they are being watched. I keep
>> each student under constant surveillance and so do my colleagues. There are
>> no private spaces for children; there is no private time. Class change
>> lasts 300 seconds to keep promiscuous fraternization at low levels.
>> Students are encouraged to tattle on each other, even to tattle on their
>> parents. Of course I encourage parents to file their own child's
>> waywardness, too.
>> I assign "homework" so that this surveillance extends into the household,
>> where students might otherwise use the time to learn something
>> unauthorized, perhaps from a father or mother, or by apprenticing to some
>> wiser person in the neighborhood.
>> The lesson of constant surveillance is that no one can be trusted, that
>> privacy is not legitimate. Surveillance is an ancient urgency among certain
>> influential thinkers; it was a central prescription set down by Calvin in
>> the Institutes, by Plato in the Republic, by Hobbes, by Comte, by Francis
>> Bacon. All these childless men discovered the same thing: Children must be
>> closely watched if you want to keep a society under central control.
>> *It is* the great triumph of schooling that among even the best of my
>> fellow teachers, and among even the best parents, there is only a small
>> number who can imagine a different way to do things. Yet only a very few
>> lifetimes ago things were different in the United States: originality and
>> variety were common currency; our freedom from regimentation made us the
>> miracle of the world; social class boundaries were relatively easy to
>> cross; our citizenry was marvelously confident, inventive, and able to do
>> many things independently, to think for themselves. We were something, all
>> by ourselves, as individuals.
>> It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math
>> skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for
>> "basic skills" practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the
>> time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I've just
>> taught you.
>> We've had a society increasingly under central control in the United
>> States since just before the Civil War: the lives we lead, the clothes we
>> wear, the food we eat, and the green highway signs we drive by from coast
>> to coast are the products of this central control. So, too, I think, are
>> the epidemics of drugs, suicide, divorce, violence, cruelty, and the
>> hardening of class into caste in the U.S., products of the dehumanization
>> of our lives, the lessening of individual and family importance that
>> central control imposes.
>> Without a fully active role in community life you cannot develop into a
>> complete human being. Aristotle taught that. Surely he was right; look
>> around you or look in the mirror: that is the demonstration.
>> "School" is an essential support system for a vision of social
>> engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid
>> that narrows to a control point as it ascends. "School" is an artifice
>> which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a
>> premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution). In colonial
>> days and through the period of the early Republic we had no schools to
>> speak of. And yet the promise of democracy was beginning to be realized. We
>> turned our backs on this promise by bringing to life the ancient dream of
>> Egypt: compulsory training in subordination for everybody. Compulsory
>> schooling was the secret Plato reluctantly transmitted in the Republic when
>> he laid down the plans for total state control of human life.
>> *The current* debate about whether we should have a national curriculum
>> is phony; we already have one, locked up in the six lessons I've told you
>> about and a few more I've spared you. This curriculum produces moral and
>> intellectual paralysis, and no curriculum of content will be sufficient to
>> reverse its bad effects. What is under discussion is a great irrelevancy.
>> None of this is inevitable, you know. None of it is impregnable to
>> change. We do have a choice in how we bring up young people; there is no
>> right way. There is no "international competition" that compels our
>> existence, difficult as it is to even think about in the face of a constant
>> media barrage of myth to the contrary. In every important material respect
>> our nation is self-sufficient. If we gained a non-material philosophy that
>> found meaning where it is genuinely located -- in families, friends, the
>> passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in
>> curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent
>> independence and privacy -- then we would be truly self-sufficient.
>> *How did* these awful places, these "schools", come about? As we know
>> them, they are a product of the two "Red Scares" of 1848 and 1919, when
>> powerful interests feared a revolution among our industrial poor, and
>> partly they are the result of the revulsion with which old-line families
>> regarded the waves of Celtic, Slavic, and Latin immigration -- and the
>> Catholic religion -- after 1845. And certainly a third contributing cause
>> can be found in the revulsion with which these same families regarded the
>> free movement of Africans through the society after the Civil War.
>> Look again at the six lessons of school. This is training for permanent
>> underclasses, people who are to be deprived forever of finding the center
>> of their own special genius. And it is training shaken loose from its
>> original logic: to regulate the poor. Since the 1920s the growth of the
>> well-articulated school bureaucracy, and the less visible growth of a horde
>> of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, have enlarged
>> schooling's original grasp to seize the sons and daughters of the middle
>> class.
>> Is it any wonder Socrates was outraged at the accusation that he took
>> money to teach? Even then, philosophers saw clearly the inevitable
>> direction the professionalization of teaching would take, pre-empting the
>> teaching function that belongs to all in a healthy community; belongs,
>> indeed, most clearly to yourself, since nobody else cares as much about
>> your destiny. Professional teaching tends to another serious error. It
>> makes things that are inherently easy to learn, like reading, writing, and
>> arithmetic, difficult -- by insisting they be taught by pedagogical
>> procedures.
>> *With lessons* like the ones I teach day after day, is it any wonder we
>> have the national crisis we face today? Young people indifferent to the
>> adult world and to the future; indifferent to almost everything except the
>> diversion of toys and violence? Rich or poor, schoolchildren cannot
>> concentrate on anything for very long. They have a poor sense of time past
>> and to come; they are mistrustful of intimacy (like the children of divorce
>> they really are); they hate solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent,
>> passive, violent, timid in the face of the unexpected, addicted to
>> distraction.
>> All the peripheral tendencies of childhood are magnified to a grotesque
>> extent by schooling, whose hidden curriculum prevents effective personality
>> development. Indeed, without exploiting the fearfulness, selfishness, and
>> inexperience of children our schools could not survive at all, nor could I
>> as a certified schoolteacher.
>> "Critical thinking" is a term we hear frequently these days as a form of
>> training which will herald a new day in mass schooling. It certainly will,
>> if it ever happens. No common school that actually dared teach the use of
>> dialectic, heuristic, and other tools of free minds could last a year
>> without being torn to pieces.
>> Institutional schoolteachers are destructive to children's development.
>> Nobody survives the Six-Lesson Curriculum unscathed, not even the
>> instructors. The method is deeply and profoundly anti-educational. No
>> tinkering will fix it. In one of the great ironies of human affairs, the
>> massive rethinking that schools require would cost so much less than we are
>> spending now that it is not likely to happen. First and foremost, the
>> business I am in is a jobs project and a contract-letting agency. We cannot
>> afford to save money, not even to help children.
>> *At the* pass we've come to historically, and after 26 years of
>> teaching, I must conclude that one of the only alternatives on the horizon
>> for most families is to teach their own children at home. Small, de-
>> institutionalized schools are another. Some form of free-market system for
>> public schooling is the likeliest place to look for answers. But the near
>> impossibility of these things for the shattered families of the poor, and
>> for too many on the fringes of the economic middle class, foretell that the
>> disaster of Six-Lesson Schools is likely to continue.
>> After an adult lifetime spent in teaching school I believe the method of
>> schooling is the only real content it has. Don't be fooled into thinking
>> that good curricula or good equipment or good teachers are the critical
>> determinants of your son and daughter's schooltime. All the pathologies
>> we've considered come about in large measure because the lessons of school
>> prevent children from keeping important appointments with themselves and
>> their families, to learn lessons in self-motivation, perseverance,
>> self-reliance, courage, dignity and love -- and, of course, lessons in
>> service to others, which are among the key lessons of home life.
>> Thirty years ago these things could still be learned in the time left
>> after school. But television has eaten most of that time, and a combination
>> of television and the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent
>> families have swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids
>> have no time left to grow up fully human, and only thin-soil wastelands to
>> do it in.
>> *A future* is rushing down upon our culture which will insist that all
>> of us learn the wisdom of non-material experience; this future will demand,
>> as the price of survival, that we follow a pace of natural life economical
>> in material cost. These lessons cannot be learned in schools as they are.
>> School is like starting life with a 12-year jail sentence in which bad
>> habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards
>> doing it. I should know.
> --
> Walter Bender
> Sugar Labs
> http://www.sugarlabs.org
> <http://www.sugarlabs.org>

Walter Bender
Sugar Labs
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/attachments/20170423/68522845/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the IAEP mailing list