Alright I need to talk about this book. It’s one of the books that allowed me to awaken. Now when you hear people talk about this awakening process I want to share with you what that means. It’s this process where you start realizing that most or all of the things you believe in were actually given to you by someone else.
It’s called conditioning and the best known experiment that describes this conditioning is the Pavlov Bell Experiment. Where he trained a dog to salivate from just hearing a bell. Pavlov trained the dog to associate the ringing bell with food. Human beings are just as easily conditioned and they can become conditioned either inadvertently or purposefully. The conditioning comes from parents, friends, teachers, school, religion, government, media, movies, television, advertising, and the internet.
One of the conditions that took until my early 20’s to unravel was my religion. I was raised Catholic and I was taught that when we die there were three options, either heaven, hell or purgatory and I wasn’t going to get to choose which one. I had to follow the rules and fear was instilled because I didn’t want to go to hell for eternity.
I developed a complex of extreme guilt and fear over my sins and sharing them to some guy wearing a robe in a confessional just didn’t seem to free my mind from them. Catholicism was such a huge component of my upbringing and the person who I trusted the most, my mother, still believes with the deepest conviction in the Catholic Church and that’s okay because her relationship with God and the church provides her with so much positive. Later on I developed a relationship with God, but I don’t use that term anymore. I use the word Source for my higher power.
For me, there were things that didn’t add up when it came to Catholicism. For starters one of the first things I wanted to be was a priest, which gives you an example of how devoted I was to my faith. Although there are 7 sacraments and to become a priest you cannot partake in the sacrament of matrimony. I asked many priests during this time why this was and my understanding is that it is a sacrifice so you could get as close to God as possible.
Which never made any sense to me, especially since other Christian denominations didn’t have this same rule. I then found out it was a perfect haven for pedophiles and not only that the Catholic Church covered it up and instead of prosecuting these priests they moved them to different locations. That was it for me, I don’t want to be associated with an organization that allows this kind of activity and even protects it.
So now there was a complete unraveling of my belief systems around the church and it took many years of this mental dissonance until I finally stepped away for good. The not being able to get married was the first kink in the armor which opened the door for more. This was an awakening process for me because I thought that the way I was supposed to live life was based on the doctrines I learned in Catholic school and in church and at home.
I thought this was the only way of life. I didn’t have any other options. I also didn’t get choose it. Supposedly that is what Confirmation, a ceremony that allows you to choose the Catholic Church and God but what 9th grader can make the choice of being a Catholic with such limited life experience? My identity was so entangled with the church, that it was a very uncomfortable process of stepping away from those belief systems. There was fear, sadness, and there was anger. My existence was based on these teachings and beliefs. It was the foundational component of everything and once the pillars started coming down it felt very terrifying.
The same thing happened in my early 30’s but this time with compulsory or mandatory schooling and by reading one book. The book was called Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto, just a regular guy who taught in the New York City Public School system for 30 years. He was pretty darn good at it too, winning best teacher in the entire city and I think maybe even the entire state. One day he finally saw what the schooling system was from his own unique perspective and while reading his book I said, “This makes a lot of sense.”
School was boring to me and the actual sitting in class and trying to pay attention was excruciatingly painful. Not always, but a majority of the time, especially the classes I didn’t like. I could never question the motives of school and I was told it was the best thing for me. Fortunately for me I was smart and I could get away with doing homework in the class before, cramming for tests, and applying myself in certain situations so I could impress my peers and teachers – that’s how I operated.
Then I get ahold of this book and this man John Gatto shares his epiphany of what mandatory schooling is doing. In his book Dumbing us Down he talks about the seven things compulsory schooling does to children. I want to go through those seven things and discuss them briefly and I want to see if it opens a new perspective to all of you who are listening. Maybe it will even cause a bit of an awakening.
The first thing mandatory schooling does according to Gatto is to create confusion. I’m just going to quote him because this paragraph is my favorite out of the entire book. “Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parent’s night, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world... What do any of these things have to do with each other?”
That’s a very good question. What is taught in school is a series of disconnected facts. I can tell you I go on social media and there is a lot of confusion with what is going on out there in the world. No one seems to know, there is conflict, there is division and there is certainly no consensus. What I see from a distance is confusion and often times I feel that way too.
You want to know the hardest thing for me to do as someone who is self-employed? To figure out how to make a business successful and the steps to take to get there, because I get distracted so easily with so many topics. There is a lot to learn and there is information everywhere. I can assert you school was certainly not designed to have people become successful business owners. There is a completely different way of thinking and whole new school of thought to learn and you can get that information from the internet, mentors or masterminds. The school system is definitely not teaching you those kinds of things.
The second thing mandatory schooling does is determine your class position. Mandatory schooling is designed to teach kids to envy the honors classes and to grow contempt for the dumb classes. Gatto uses the word lock down in his book and it’s fascinating to see how easy it is to have an entire nation on lock down during the pandemic.
If you heard any of my previous podcasts I talk about beliefs a lot and schools are a breeding ground for limiting beliefs? Have any of you created a core limiting belief that you weren’t smart enough? Well school is a place that causes this conditioning. School is a rigged competition and it teaches you your place on the totem pole. The idea is to entice kids to do better on tests so they can move up the class ranks, same thing we do out in the working world as adults. The lesson taught by ranks, grades, even witnessing socioeconomic status is that everyone has a proper place on the pyramid.
The third thing mandatory schooling does is instill indifference. Indifference means a lack of interest, concern or sympathy and if you don’t like the word indifference you can use the word apathy instead. Gatto states that he teaches kids not to care too much about anything, even though kids want to make it appear that they do.
Here is another excerpt from the book, “Students jump up and down in their seats with anticipation showing great enthusiasm for the best lesson plans. Then I ask them to shut that down and move onto the next work station, like a light switch. Nothing important is ever finished in my class nor in any class I know of.” He even mentions how years of bells will condition all but the strongest to have this feeling of indifference.
Something else these bells do is to teach you how not to stay in the present moment. You are sitting there in class completely engaged wanting to learn more about this subject of say Science, then before you know it a bell rings and now you have to go to a class you are not interested in like English. You sit in English class thinking about what you just experienced in Science class and what it will be like tomorrow, taking you completely out of the now. Are you a person that spends more time in the past or in the future then you do in the present? Not being in the present is what Buddha described as a cause of suffering.
The next thing mandatory schooling does is teach emotional dependency. In this section of the book Gatto talks about how individuality is suppressed. You don’t have many rights or freedoms in school. Another quote from the book, “Rights may be granted or withheld by any authority without appeal, because rights do not exist inside a school – not even the right of free speech, as the Supreme Court has ruled – unless school authorities say they do.” In school you are only given access to privileges that can be withdrawn, children become hostages to good behavior.”
The next thing mandatory schooling does is teach intellectual dependency, because good students are just chomping at the bit for a teacher to tell them what to do and guess what the bad kids do, the bad kids fight this, even though they don’t know what they are fighting against, because ultimately they get no choice in what they get to learn or when they will learn.
Another quote, “Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm.” Now who gets to decide what these kids get to study? It used to be the teachers, but now the teachers don’t even get to decide that. Another great thing Gatto says, “Curiosity has no important place in my work, only conformity.”
I remember when I worked 8 ½ years in precast concrete as a design engineer, how much repetition there was and very little room for creativity. It crushed my spirit in a lot of ways. My awakening is what allowed me to step away from that career and give me the space to find something I’m passionate about. The process of awakening from my conditioned beliefs paved the way for finding my purpose.
The next thing mandatory schooling does is teach provisional self-esteem. According to Gatto, “Our world wouldn’t survive a flood of confident people very long, so I teach kids self-respect should depend on expert opinion. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged.” What he means by the flood of confident people is the competition that would happen in capitalism. The 1% don’t want that competition.
This is what I was talking about when it came to limiting beliefs. All the way down to not being good enough, to being dumb, to even developing the inability to speak in front of groups of people. Public speaking is the number one fear in this country, all due to mandatory schooling. How can you become a leader if you can’t even speak in front of a group of people?
Last but not least, the last thing mandatory schooling does is teach kids that one can’t hide. Just so you know this book was written in 1992. This is the only quote I need to share from this section, “I teach students that they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by me and my colleagues.” Listen people, you cannot hide.
Dumbing us Down by John Gatto is the perfect sequel to George Orwell’s book 1984. We are being conditioned like dogs to conform, to obey authority, to be dependent on others for validation, self-worth and information. We are actually never taught how to critically think and ask questions. I hope you get this book and read it. It’s short and it’s an easy read, but it’s a great book to bring you along your awakening process. For you to start seeing things beyond the conditioning.
His other book Weapons of Mass Instruction goes into the details of how this schooling system was implemented by very powerful people from history. I’m going to do a full on special on the contents of both books, to paint the picture of how this conditioning and indoctrination has been in the works for generations, all the way to the mid 1850’s, maybe even before. Did you ever wonder why in such a capitalist driven country we have a socialist system like public schooling in place and not only that it’s required by law? That’s all I have for now, thanks for listening. Take care.