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

Gatto’s lesson four: emotional dependency

Gatto (1992) argues that teachers use stars, reward charts, punishments, prizes, honour lists, stamps, stickers, grades and disgraces to

teach kids to surrender their will to the predestined chain of command … As a schoolteacher, I intervene in many personal decisions, issuing a pass for those I deem legitimate and initiating a disciplinary confrontation for behaviour that threatens my control.

(Gatto, 1992, p. 6).

Bernstein (2000) proposed that stakeholders in schools have three inherited rights, which operate at different levels of education. The second right is of interest to this post because it is the right to “be included, socially, intellectually, culturally and personally” (Bernstein, 2000, p. xx). Thus, the second right confers on students the ability to be included and to belong. Bernstein (2000) described this right as “a condition for communitas” (p. xx), which operates at a social level. This right implies that participation occurs in “procedures whereby order is constructed, maintained and changed” (Bernstein, 2000, p. xxi). Thus, education confers the right to participate in communities and groups. In each of these three rights, the individual is invited to be part of a community through their engagement with education.

Bernstein (2000) argued that education could be measured against its ability to meet the three aforementioned rights, so that it could be determined “whether all students receive and enjoy such rights or whether there is an unequal distribution of these rights” (p. xxi). According to Gatto’s seven lessons, perhaps education is not ever going to be measured highly.


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