Teaching Confusion

How Public Schools Kill Curiosity
Photo of dilapidated classroom in old schoolhouse in northern Michigan, scribbled illegible text on chalkboard, american flag and bookshelf.

A book I’ve been reading has helped me understand the threat that homeschools pose. “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto, a best-seller for 30 years.

Gatto was a top educator in New York City. The chapters of the book are the speeches he gave while accepting teaching awards. Even while accepting the highest honors of his profession, Gatto saw there were problems with the education system in the very design of the thing. His contrarian takes are as fascinating as they are disturbing.

Gatto identifies the seven real lessons taught at school: 

Graphic reads: Teaching Confusion How Public Schools Kill Curiosity Confusion Confusion is a fact of life, but bad schools actively groom students into a perpetual state of confusion. In bad schools, the schools you see on @LibsofTikTok, kids aren't just taught to accept confusion. Does your kid's public school classroom have an LGTBQ flag? You can bet they're learning confusion. Class Position Kids come to "know their place," not question it. Indifference If your insights stop being relevant after the dismissal bell, why bother learning? Emotional Dependency Grades, awards, and disciplinary actions condition students to outsource their will to the classroom's "chain of command." Intellectual Dependency Deference to experts becomes a precondition of thought. Provisional Self-esteem Students feel they're worth as much as they're told they are. Students Can't Hide In school, there are no private spaces for children, and no private time. Source: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling John Taylor Gatto

Every minute of the day is accounted for by the warden. Students are encouraged to tell on each other—and on their parents.

Just like that, context is built where teachers actually feel students are safer at school than they are at home. At school they “affirm” a kid in the sex dysphoria that they helped create. Parents can’t be trusted with that privileged information—it’s our little secret, between student and teacher.

It’s not hard to imagine a world where parents are removed entirely. The state is fully in charge of raising the children of humanity. They’re “our kids,” after all.

For decades, school quality has been a concern in Michigan. But in the era of “social and emotional learning,” teachers don’t have to stand idly by and be accused of failure. They can argue a kid’s inability to learn owes to a parent’s inability to affirm. They can get Child Protective Services involved. 

This isn’t hypothetical, it’s already happening.

Now do you see the threat posed by homeschool families?

At home, a kid is not warehoused for eight hours a day with 30 other kids in an age-segregated environment. 

That eight-hour day is artificial. It’s not that 6-year-olds need to learn for eight hours—or 16-year-olds. Most college students don’t attend eight hours of classes in a single day. The only other thing that runs on eight-hour increments are Mom’s and Dad’s jobs. 

Now do you get it? It’s not just that homeschools have declined to render unto Caesar. It’s not just that the local school system and the nearby Catholic school both lose out on a $10,000 student. It is that, but not just that.

It’s not just that homeschools have declined to render unto Caesar. It’s not just that the local school system and the nearby Catholic school both lose out on a $10,000 student. It is that, but not just that. It’s that for every homeschool family, that’s one less paycheck.

It’s that for every homeschool family, that’s one less paycheck. As most tax collections come through the payroll tax, that’s one less taxpayer. One less person to pitch in to the war in Ukraine or Israel or wherever your tax dollars will be sent today.

That’s one less student conditioned for an economy that no longer exists. One less student to be groomed to be a Marxist, join a protest movement, and repeat the slogans and talking points they’ve been given.

At the end of the first chapter, Gatto gives the secret to his success in education. Homeschool parents know this from experience. Gatto writes: “Wait until someone asks, and move fast while the mood is on.”

When faced with a student who just got the hang of math, a bell is a terrible distraction. A bell, and the class change, destroys a fragile moment. Only now have we reached the point of education. Only now has the lightbulb gone off. 

Now off you go, it’s time to go learn about photosynthesis. This is anti-educational. And it’s exactly what the school system, even at the best schools, is designed to do. It’s a ball of confusion. That’s what our schools are today. 

When a family starts homeschooling, they’ve committed to make sacrifices together. Hayden Scharrer went from breadwinner to breadmaker by deciding to stay home after her second child. It’s not easy to walk away from one salary in a two-salary world.

Why are those proud few being treated as renegades? Accused of using homeschool to mask child abuse, and educational neglect?

Because they’re free. Because their kids are free. The school system really wants that $10,000. But society wants that second paycheck, for the child to get little parental attention, and for the child to attend a school that teaches confusion.

Is it any wonder that with divorce so prevalent, we have so many confused kids? Gatto identifies two problems in the modern day: The two-paycheck home, and the single-parent home. 

Both create the same problem: Kids growing up without the guidance and correction of the people who love them most. Their parents.

While you were fighting the war on men, and your wife was fighting the war on women, who was raising your kid? What were they teaching your kid? Even in the best schools, even from the best teachers, “Confusion” is the first lesson.

In a world of widgets, homeschools produce too many unique shapes.

Want to understand why homeschool families are the enemy of the state? Look at what they take off the table. That’s one less paycheck. That’s one less precious mind. That’s one more intact family.

Then look at the products of public schools. Who are they, and what are they doing? They don’t know. They’re confused. By design.

Now look at their parents. They’re angry. They were told they’d be happier apart, but they’re not. They’re filled with grievance. And they’re lost, somewhere off fighting the battle of the sexes.

James David Dickson is an independent journalist in Michigan and the host of The Enjoyer Podcast. Follow him on X at @downi75. He believes that education is a lifelong journey, not confined to school hours.

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