David from third world county has been posting far and wide about John Taylor Gatto’s, The Underground History of American Education. Or at least he’s posted about it at his site and this one and seems to think it’s a very important work.
Having begun reading it online, with all the danger of eyestrain that poses, I tend to agree. It is polemical but important. Sometimes polemic is simply the most rational reaction to truly awful circumstances. Who wants to hear a legalistic defense of a system that is victimizing all American children? Not I says the parent.
It reminds me of another piece that lots of people have read online. Dorothy Sayers’ essay titled The Lost Tools of Learning, is all about the Trivium, an ancient structure for learning that takes into account the natural aptitude of children for memorizing vast amounts of material up until the age of ten or so, their aptitude for argumentation and dispute following that, and their desire to eventually grow up and learn to function in the adult world after that.
In fact, the Sayers piece is so inspiring it has supplied much of the inspiration for the most rigorous part of the homeschooling movement: the Classical homeschooling method. Children learn latin vocabulary, conjugations, grammar, and poetry when they are young. They memorize poems, dates, geography, history, arithmetic, read great stories including the Bible and the ancient pagan myths and legends, are exposed to fine arts and art history, practice their handwriting, learn sentence diagramming and the parts of speech, memorize scientific facts, learn manners, receive some religious and moral instruction, and basically fill up their heads with facts as quickly as they can. This is fun for most kids, who are vacuum cleaners for information, ravenous learners if you only give them the chance to learn enough to satisfy them. Charlotte Mason’s Trivium Academy is one such example of classical homeschooling. The Well Trained Mind is another. Seton is another, named for the founder of the first free Catholic schools in America who became the first native-born American saint.