On Education

What is education?

What is its purpose?

(Hint: Who am I? What is my purpose?)

The greatest history lesson on the history and purpose of education. Yet another example of institutionalization. John Taylor Gatto was New York City’s Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991. He was the New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.


The Meaning of the Word Education and Educator

What Education Is

The American education system comes from W. Germany and was taught at Harvard by Alexander Inglis.

6 Principals of Secondary Education

Cover of: Principles of secondary education by Inglis, Alexander James
Alexander Inglis’s 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education  makes it clear that compulsory schooling in America was intended to be what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s. John Taylor Gatto explains that the work of Inglis’s, who was a Harvard professor with a Teachers College Ph.D., positions school as a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole. In his essay Against School and book The Underground History of American Education, Gatto explains the six basic functions of school outlined by Inglis. (see Against School here, https://www.wesjones.com/gatto1.htm)

6 basic functions of school 

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. 
Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can’t test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. 
This might well be called “the conformity function,” because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. 
School is meant to determine each student’s proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in “your permanent record.” Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function. 
Once their social role has been “diagnosed,” children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits – and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. 
This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin’s theory of natural selection as applied to what he called “the favored races.” In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit – with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments – clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That’s what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function. 
The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

The Destructive Result of this Approach according to John Taylor Gatto

Gatto asserts the following regarding what school does to children in Dumbing Us Down:

  1. It confuses the students. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials, this programming is similar to the television; it fills almost all the “free” time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.
  2. It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.
  3. It makes them indifferent.
  4. It makes them emotionally dependent.
  5. It makes them intellectually dependent.
  6. It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).
  7. It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992).

The Banking System of Education

Compliance or Freedom and Transformation?

(from Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed)

Present day education uses a “banking” system of deposits in the form of communiques bestowed from the teacher on high. The student’s responsibility is to compliantly receive, file, and store those deposits and be ready to give an account when required. The content of the teaching is reduced to numbers without value or meaning or any practical use in the world. (according to Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

“Education thus becomes the art of depositing in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the banking concept of education in which the scope of the action allowed to the students extends to receiving, filing, and storing the deposits… In the last analysis, it is the people themselves that are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge, in this (at best) misguided system.” (pp. 71-72)

For apart from inquiry, apart from praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

“In the banking system of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by these who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teacher’s existence — but, unlike the slave, THEY NEVER DISCOVER THAT THEY EDUCATE THE TEACHER.” (p.72)
― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence;… to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.”
― Paulo Freire

According to Freire, true education is based on inquiry, dialogue, and praxis which results in freedom; from oppression and freedom to live a self determined life in order that we may bring transformation to ourselves and to the world we live in.

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
― Paulo FreireWe Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

(For more, see Critical Pedagogy below)

Personal Commentary: segregated or integrated with integrity?

By Ron Irvine

Since education is supposed to teach us to become contributing citizens in our communities, what sense does it make to segregate kids to educate them to live in a diverse community in the isolation and segregation that  private and charter schools have become; often intentionally? This makes no sense. Our public education system gives my kids the privilege of being educated in a setting where they are the racial minority just as we are in the neighborhood where we have chosen to live. There is 85% poverty among their class mates. This is a very important education-conformityperspective for my kids socially; and I can see their depth and maturity because of it.

This is what I have thought for many years, until listening to the video clips by John Gatto above. Now I see that even though public schools are less segregated from community than private and charter schools, they still, nonetheless, segregate children from their families and loves ones and hand them over to people that do no know them, professionals, that are supposed to be able to know these children and educate them better than their families and beloved community.

But school is more than just social integration. The content of the learning is locked into regurgitating facts for a test with an end of making money and becoming a part of the machine.

Education should be about learning to think,

learning to learn,

learning to ask questions,

learning HOW to ask questions,

learning how to listen to the views of others,

learning to learn from everyone’s views,

learning that we all see things differently,

learning how to dialogue about those difference in a civil way that expands our understanding beyond ourselves,

learning to live beyond ourselves,

learning to empathize with other people, all living things, and the earth,

learning that everything cannot be defined and labeled, and doing so is a form of discrimination.

learning to embrace the great mysteries of life,

learning to honor and respect the rich diversity that makes us human;

and mostly learning what a meaningful life is and how to self-define and live out a meaningful life.

For me, my ultimate lifelong purpose of education is to help me answer three essential questions:

  • Who am I? (my Identity)
  • Why am I here? (my Purpose)
  • What am I going to do about it? (my Mission)

Know any schools that teach this????


Education With Integrity: Strengthening Self and Voice

“The irony is that the university explicitly promotes authentic inquiry and genuine discourse, both non-violent ways of being in the world. Violence in the university comes not from our explicit mission but from our ‘hidden curriculum.’ Imagine a political science professor teaching a course on the values of democracy, but teaching it in a way that essentially says to students, ‘Listen to what I say, sit down, shut up, make notes on it and feed it back to me at the end of the term.’ What students are learning is not the values of democracy but the habits that keep you safe in a totalitarian society. The hidden curriculum is inculcating a completely contradictory set of values via pedagogical violence.”  http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200707/backpage.cfm

“In [academic] culture, the self is not a source to be tapped but a danger to be suppressed, not a potential to be fulfilled but an obstacle to be overcome. In this culture, the pathology of speech disconnected from self is regarded, and rewarded, as a virtue.” ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I now understand what Nelle Morton meant when she said that one of the great tasks in our time is to “hear people to speech.” Behind their fearful silence, our students want to find their voices, speak their voices, have their voices heard. A good teacher is one who can listen to those voices even before they are spoken—so that someday they can speak with truth and confidence. ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

What does it mean to listen to a voice before it is spoken? It means making space for the other, being aware of the other, paying attention to the other, honoring the other. ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

“So, you want us to stop being professors and become therapists.” No, that is not what I want. What I want is a richer, more paradoxical model of teaching and learning than binary thought allows, a model that reveals how the paradox of thinking and feeling are joined—whether we are comfortable with paradox or not. Behind the critic’s comment is a trained incapacity to see that heart and mind work as one in our students and in our selves. They cannot be treated separately, one by the professor, the other by the therapist. When a person is healthy and whole, the head and the heart are both-and, not either-or, and teaching that honors that paradox can help make us all more whole. ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach


Seeing Clearly. Seeing That Which is Essential

Jiddu Krishnamurti’s philosophy and practice in education

“Throughout the ages sages have warned us that we can’t see what is true even when it is presented to us because that which is true isn’t what we expect or want to hear. The traditional western symbol for this is choosing Barabbas; choosing what is familiar or most likegreat minds us over what is true or sacred.

“This is as true in educational matters as it is in religious ones. Modern education is so obviously failing to solve the world’s problems, is so rightly criticized for not meeting societies’ aspirations, and is so clearly unable to prepare people for the fundamental challenges of living. To solve these problems, we seem to need educational insights that marry the most profound learning possible with the everyday; the subtle with the mundane; or to put it another way, the sacred with the secular. I feel Jiddu Krishnamurti’s insights into education are such a marriage. I feel they are radical, that they meet the challenges of living at a profound level, and they do so at a time when such insights are desperately needed. Of all the many subjects that Krishnamurti addressed in his more than seventy years of writing books and speaking in public, I believe it is Krishnamurti’s insights into education that most people will eventually feel has had the greatest effect on the world.

“From the full body of his work, we can conclude that, for Krishnamurti, education is

1.) educating the whole person (all parts of the person),

2.) educating the person as a whole (not as an assemblage of parts), and

3.) educating the person within a whole (as part of society, humanity, nature, etc.) from which it is not meaningful to extract that person. From the above it probably goes without saying, though it can not be said often enough, education is not about preparation for only a part of life (like work) but is about preparation for the whole of life and the deepest aspects of living.”  

jiddu krishnamurti and his insights into education

by Scott H. Forbes



Loss of the Capacity for Thought and Surprise

Education as a commodity in a consumer society

“Another price we pay for living in a consumer world is that we end of purchasing experiences rather than actively producing them. We have become spectators. In the consumer ecology, you substitute purchasing something for the experience and satisfaction of creating.

“Being a spectator — electrified, constantly distracted — means that we no longer require thoughts of our own. Instead of thinking our own thoughts, we rent or purchase the thoughts of others. Every time we watch television, we let someone else decide what we are thinking about. Do this long enough and the mind becomes colonized. The implications for democracy are obvious.

“Over time, we lose the competence to have a new thought and with it the experience of adventure or surprise. My wish for safety in the world, yielding sovereignty to my boss, living to another’s way, affects my capacity to be open to an experience or thought that I have not had before. How often do you hear people comment on what a unique experience it is to have time to think?

“This is true even in places of higher learning. A professor friend was having lunch with his dean. The dean said that he had been reading the anonymous neildegrassen on educationstudent feedback forms about the professor and noticed one thing different about the student evaluations this professor had received. When asked what was unique about the professor’s course, the dean said, the students answered that they had engaged in ‘thinking’. None of the other faculty member evaluations said that.

“The dean leaned forward, looked around to make sure no one was listening, and asked, ‘How do you get them to think?’ Thought, even higher education, has become the exception, a rarity.

What are the students doing if they are not thinking? Consuming. If you are a professor in a college classroom, you are in a room not of learners but of young people just sitting there as total consumers. They do not show up to learn; they show up for a resume that will get them a good enough job to pay off their jiddu-krishnamurti-on-intelligence-and-education2educational debt and provide enough extra for a good consumer life.

“Instead of valuing education, they are consumers interested in information. Information. Information is the booby prize in education. The culture of the university is no longer a place for education; it is a terminal to pass through in order to get somewhere. It is a high-level vocational education. It is a credential. It has replaced the creation of learning with the consumption of instruction.”

The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block

More From Krishnamurti

“What is the true function of an educator? What is education? Why are we educated? Are we educated at all? Because you pass a few examinations, have a job, competing, struggling, brutalizing ambition, is that education? What is an educator? Is he one who prepares the student for a job, merely for a job, for technical achievement in order to earn a livelihood? That is all we know at present. There are vast schools, universities where you prepare the youth, boy Jiddu-Krishnamurtioneducationor girl, to have a job, to have technical knowledge so that he or she can have a livelihood. Is that alone the function of a true educator? There must be something more than that, because it is too mechanical. So you say that the educator must be an example. You agree with that? You will have to follow the truth of the matter, to go into it. When you go into it you will see the truth of it, namely, no example is necessary.” – Krishnamurti, J. Krishnamurti The Collected Works Volume VIII

“You may be a sociologist, an anthropologist or a scientist, with your specialized mind working away at a fragment of the whole field of life. You are filled with knowledge and words, with capable explanations and rationalizations. And perhaps in the future the computer will be able to do all this infinitely better than you can. So education may have a different meaning altogether – not merely transferring what is printed on a page to your brain. Education may mean opening the doors of perception on to the vast movement of life. It may mean learning how to live happily, freely, without hate and confusion, but in beatitude. Modern education is blinding us; we learn to fight each other more and more, to compete, to struggle with each other. Right education is surely finding a different way of life, setting the mind free from its own conditioning. And perhaps then there can be love which in its action will bring about true relationship between man and man.”

J. Krishnamurti Five Conversations 5th Conversation The Collected Works Volume XIII

“A school is a place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life. Academic excellence is absolutely necessary, but a school includes much more than that. It is a place where both the teacher and the student explore, not only the outer world, the world of knowledge, but also their own thinking, their own behavior.” Krishnamurti

“This is the function of all education. We need to bring about a good society in which all human beings can live happily in peace, without violence, with security. As a student you are responsible for this.” Krishnamurti

“To learn not only from books and teachers, but to study and learn about yourself – this is basic education.” Krishnamurti

See also: The Unconditioned Mind: J. Krishnamurti and the Oak Grove School

What is Education? (Debra El Ramey)

 “Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”

Critical Pedagogue

Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as:

“Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.” (Empowering Education, 129)
Critical pedagogy is a philosophy of education and social movement that has developed and applied concepts from critical theory and related traditions to the field of education and the study of culture.[1] Advocates of critical pedagogy view teaching as an inherently political act, reject the neutrality of knowledge, and insist that issues of social justice and democracy itself are not distinct from acts of teaching and learning.[2] The goal of critical pedagogy is emancipation from oppression through an awakening of the critical consciousness, based on the Portuguese term conscientização. When achieved, critical consciousness encourages individuals to effect change in their world through social critique and political action.
(Critical Pedagogy has as its roots the work of Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

Goals of a Montessori School

The main purpose of a Montessori school is to provide a carefully planned, stimulating environment which will help the child develop an excellent foundation for creative learning. The specific goals for the children who attend a Montessori school are presented below.

Developing a positive attitude toward school
Most of the learning activities are individualized:  i.e., each child engages in a learning task that particularly appeals to him…because he finds the activities geared to his needs and level of readiness. Consequently, he works at his own rate, repeating the task as often as he likes, thus experiencing a series of successful achievement. In this manner, he build a positive attitude toward learning itself.

Helping each child develop self confidence
In the Montessori school, tasks are designed so that each new step is built upon what the child has already mastered, thus removing the negative experience of frequent failure. A carefully planned series of successes builds upon inner confidence in the child assuring him that he can learn by himself. These confidence building activities likewise contribute to the child’s healthy emotional development.

Assisting each child in building a habit of concentration
Effective learning presupposes the ability to listen carefully and to attend to what is said or demonstrated. Through a series of absorbing experiences, the child forms habits of extended attention, thus increasing his ability to concentrate.

Fostering an abiding curiosity
In a rapidly changing society, we will all be students at some time in our lives. A deep, persistent and abiding curiosity is a prerequisite for creative learning. By providing the child with opportunities to discover qualities, dimensions and relationships amidst a rich variety of stimulating learning situations, curiosity is developed and an essential element in creative learning has been established.

Developing habits of initiative and persistence
By surrounding the child with appealing materials and learning activities geared to his inner needs, he becomes accustomed to engaging in activities on his own. Gradually, this results in a habit of initiative – an essential quality in leadership. “Ground rules” call for completing a task once begun and gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance for replacing materials after the task is accomplished. This “completion expectation” gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance.

Fostering inner security and sense of order in the child
Through a well ordered, enriched but simplified environment, the child’s need for order and security is intensely satisfied. This is noticed in the calming effect the environment has on the child. Since every item in the Montessori classroom has a place and the ground rules call for everything in its place, the child’s inner need for order is directly satisfied.


Reggio Emilia Education

The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It is a pedagogy described as student-centered and constructivist that uses self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery through a self-guided curriculum. At its core is an assumption that children form their own personality during early years of development and are endowed with “a hundred languages”, through which they can express their ideas. The aim of the Reggio approach is to teach how to use these symbolic languages (e.g., painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life. It was developed after World War II by pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy, and derives its name from the city.



“The child has a hundred languages.”

“The pleasure of learning, of knowing, and of understanding is one of the most important and basic feelings that every child expects from the experiences he confronts alone, with other children, or with adults. It is a crucial feeling which must be reinforced so that the pleasure survives even when reality may prove that learning, knowing, and understanding involve difficulty and effort. It is in this very capacity for survival that pleasure is transformed into pure joy.”
–Loris Malaguzzi, founder of Reggio-Emilia approach


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