Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see – Neil Postman

Gatto’s lesson one: Confusion

In the previous post, I outlined the seven lessons of the school according to John Taylor Gatto. In this, and following posts, I want to demonstrate the link between each of the seven lessons and education theory. This lesson is one, confusion.

Gatto (1992) argues that schools confuse because they change the sequence and pacing of knowledge. Bernstein (1990) agrees, he believes that schools do this because they pedagogise a real discourse (say, science) so that, rather than the real topic being taught it’s repackaged for a classroom. He called this process the pedagogic discourse. He argued:

it is not so much a discourse as a principle … this principle does not give rise to a  specialised discourse … it is … a principle for delocating a discourse for relocating it, for refocusing it, according to its own principle … from this point of view, pedagogic discourse selectively creates imaginary subjects.

(Bernstein, 2000, pp. 32-33).

Thus, the argument is that, rather than real science or maths or history, what schools do is teach a version of these subjects that has been pedagogised, and aren’t real.


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