from the newly released How to Raise an Indigo Child
The Little Red Schoolhouse Turns Indigo
One of the most brilliant people Ive come across thus far is John Taylor Gatto. Hes the New York Teacher of the Year whose in-the-know insights set the establishment on its ear every time they are presented.
For example, when Daniel and I gave his sisters, who are public educators, copies of Gattos book Dumbing Us Down the only comment one of them would offer was sounds like a burned out teacher. Appropriate feedback in this age of cynicism.
I am a teacher of adults. I understand the call to teach and what happens when you respond. I have met many teachers, and I hear loud and clear that its a battle trying to teach anything in the public school system. I also hear how one man did something to help his kids, often defying the system to do it. When you are fulfilling your purpose, for Gatto it is to teach, you dont get burned out. You learn.
Gattos learning is tantamount to coming out of Platos cave.
When I read Dumbing Us Down, I shared it with everyone my dad, friends, School of Metaphysics teachers and students. I knew for Dad it would help explain why we are not sending Ki to public school. For friends it might inspire them to break free from the well-oiled system and think for themselves. For potential School of Metaphysics students it might inspire the urge to know thyself that living metaphysics requires.
When I first read the chapter entitled The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher I was filled with admiration for someone who could so clearly elucidate the experience of millions. These common experiences learned 40+ hours a week for most of the year for 12+ years laid the groundwork for the majority of adult Americans living today. I often tell my classes, Whatever twenty-five years of teaching metaphysics and self counseling hadnt illuminated for me, The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher did.
The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher describes exactly what it says the seven key lessons Gatto, as a public school teacher, was expected to teach his kids. Beyond reading, riting, and rithmetic, these are ways of thinking ranging from class position (be happy and grateful for where you are) to intellectual dependence (always seek an expert). These are socialization skills intended to make it easier for society to function.
A favorite for metaphysics students is the lesson of the bells. This lesson defies the intrinsic laws of the universe by teaching disconnection and chaos. Its message that you need to follow the rules may intend to instill discipline and cooperation but to the intelligently engaged, the bells signal a disruption of self discipline, with a completely opposite effect. The bell says, This class is over, now move on. The student who wants to stay is in an immediate emotional quandary, even an ethical dilemma. How can such a youngster grow into a vital, creative, Self disciplined and Self aware adult when what they have practiced for years is something less?
For most, over time, the bells teach that nothing really matters. Why even risk being invested in something that is going to be pulled away from you? Gatto writes that more than one high school drop-out has told him they could never master the lie of pretending to be interested when they knew it would be over before they could finish or, in some cases, even start.
When you realize what 12+ years of this has done to your thinking, it is easier to understand why some people cannot sustain a commitment like marriage or how a student/employee can walk into a school/business and shoot his fellow students and teachers/workers.
Indifference disconnects humanity. Humanity is necessary for a reasoner to evolve. Humanity provides the basis for heart-centered connectedness where respect, love, concern, forgiveness, allowing, generosity, prosperity can be born.
The lesson of the bells is finality. It is all things must end, and they end without your input. It is too physically rigid to teach the individual. For individual creativity to mingle with discipline, for the student to find his passion and live it as long as it will carry him, he or she needs freedom. Reasoning requires concentration, sustained attention at will. Experiencing the freedom to complete what you begin encourages individual responsibility.
The problem is not what is taught in schools, nor is it the teachers who almost unanimously want to aid the kids. The problem, and even the teachers tell you this, is the bureaucracies. Those who have little if any contact with the schools they create: government representatives, administrators, labor union execs. The problem is schools are so big the individual gets lost. Children are taught to externalize their sense of self worth, well-being, health, prosperity, creativity, intelligence, humanity. They learn to look outside where these valuables will never be found.
For anyone to learn to know themselves they need time to be with themselves and with others. When children learn intimacy early, it becomes a talent, a part of them they carry throughout their entire life.
Grouping children by age is unnatural. It cuts them off from parents, family, friends, the very people they live with. Their community becomes a very limited one. When children are given opportunity to engage younger kids, they help, they teach. When given a chance to pair with elders they learn from the purest founts of wisdom life provides, the experience of others. Here they learn respect, how to view self and the world through many eyes, many points of view.
Gatto talks at length about the artificial environment of public schooling. Even likening it to a prison. This hit home in several ways for me. One was remembering images of the Columbine School in Colorado, the footage shot from a helicopter showed a complex of brick buildings, square, and with police combing the area. The scene looked like a prison! I was amazed I had never seen it before. The musty chemical cleaner smell of my 16 years in public (elementary through college) school comes back to me even as I write this. The hallways had a particular smell, the lockers, the gym. Yes, mass schooling affords us common experience, but at what price? And was it a price I was willing for my child to pay?
When I first read Gattos words another prison memory came forward in my thinking. This was my first day of first grade. My parents managed a motel where we lived. In the 1960s the big chain hotels were just getting started so, like many things in our history, there were lots of mom and pop businesses, from corner soda fountains to cleaners to motels like ours.
Living in this environment was an adventure, always meeting new people, getting to do grown-up things like answer the business phone or register people in a room long before I was an adult. It also meant my neighbors were not families with kids close to my age but Sally, the waitress at the restaurant next door, and Jeri, one of the maids.
When mother drove me to school the first day, it was a long, long way from home. It seemed we were in the car for hours. House after house passed by us as we twisted and turned on the hilly streets. I had no idea where I was.
Then as we crested another hill I saw it; a long grayish building, bigger than any building around it and stretching forever. Being a new school, the grass hadnt taken root yet so it was on an island of dirt separated from everything around it.
Hundreds of kids most older than me swarmed in and out of this hive. Even at six, I knew something was wrong and it wasnt because I didnt know who these kids were. It was because I did not know them. Id never seen any of them before, anywhere. We hadnt grown up together. I didnt see them at church or the grocery store.
I knew how to make friends. Church gave me an opportunity to learn that, as did meeting relatives who lived far away. Half-day kindergarten closer to home the year before had strengthened these social skills. Making friends wasnt a problem, being a stranger was. Here I was overwhelmed. Here the seeds were planted for things I would be seeking to understand all the way through college.
My mother was the next to the last mother to leave. I did not want her to go, to leave me with these people I had not learned to trust, surrounded by kids I didnt know. I was petrified, but I tried to be brave. I wanted to be a big girl as mother kept encouraging. Looking back she must have been torn, since she would not have anticipated my strong emotions. After all, kindergarten hadnt been like this, and she was doing what she had been told was best for me.
When mother walked out the door, I wanted with all my heart to run after her, but I didnt. I swallowed my fear and began my long school career of courting the favor of teachers. Yes, I excelled at learning because of this well placed desire. After all, I could have decided to court the favor of the kids at probably a high cost.
I didnt know about prisons at age six, but when the door closed behind mom I experienced it. I was trapped with no way out. I didnt know where I was or anyone here, but I did know when I was supposed to get out. 3:30. Little did I realize it was a twelve year sentence.
I had very benevolent teachers some mentors like J. T. Gatto. But what I would not recover until I found the School of Metaphysics was my sense of community. Young and old, rich and poor, all inclusive. Much later I would realize that the great failing of mass public schooling is the segregation by age. All the children of a particular age are forced to be together. It is not natural.
So Daniel and I asked ourselves, how can we best educate Hezekiah?
Even some of the students who have lived here at the College of Metaphysics were shocked to hear me say, I would never homeschool Hezekiah. They look at the way we live and come to the conclusion that Ki is being homeschooled. For people making such judgements it is a lesson in how appearances can be deceiving.
I have a great respect for those who homeschool, but I want Hezekiah to be exposed to as much wisdom as possible. Every day his father and I imagine what will enable this to occur. Here at the College of Metaphysics, Hezekiah lives with different people every six months while always having the security of mom and dad and his extended aunts, uncles, godparents in Pam, Paul, Laurel, Sheila, Teresa, Christine, and young friends ranging from seven-year-older Briana to year-and -a-half younger Iris.
He has lived with people of different races, from several countries, bringing experiences I would have loved growing up. Ki became familiar with Spanish by hearing Paulina, a student from Chile, speaking her native language on the phone every day. The surrounding countryside is his science lab where the entire life cycle of a frog is eight feet from the backdoor and the natural stone driveway can become the Amazon under the direction of Dr. Pam or Paul Madar. The clear night sky becomes a planetarium revealing every planet and star in the heavens for a budding astronomer enthralled with all things Star...Gate, Wars, Trek. He learns writing every day with Dad and practices it when he wants to make a sign for his lemonade stand or a birthday card for his four-year-old friend Iris.
Here Ki is surrounded by ages four to seventy-four. His teachers include youngsters and teens in public school and homeschooled. Some hold degrees in geology, agricultural economics, womens studies, journalism, recreational therapy, science, business, psychology. As new college students arrive, the worldly experience of his community grows. What a great environment to raise an enlightened soul! Everyday I am so grateful for this opportunity for it is surely a treasure trove for any Indigo.
One evening students and faculty were gathered to share dinner. At six, Ki would eat a couple bites then pace, creating one of his plays, like a screenwriter in a creative frenzy. Daniel gave everyone present some food for thought when he asked, If Hezekiah was in school, would he be allowed to walk around, singing and talking, like he does?
We talked about our own upbringing and how unnatural it is to expect children, particularly boys, to sit still for long periods of time. It used to be accomplished, and any old timer will tell you this, by reward/punishment, promises of teachers smiles and good grades to take home or threats of harm and physical reprimand. It now reminds me of how we train animals. The sad truth is corporal punishment has been traded for a much more malicious and insidious form of external control: drugs.
The dinner conversation was rich that evening and everyone seemed to see the difference for a child that environment can make. The biggest difference I saw was the ratio of teachers to students. This means that at the College of Metaphysics everyone is a teacher, even Hezekiah! At most public and private schools, the age discrimination eliminates this experience of giving and receiving of knowledge and wisdom. Every day we pay for this as a society.
The next day, Daniel and I were talking and he said, Thats why the Little Red Schoolhouse worked. Everyone was a teacher except the youngest. The teachers taught everyone, the kids taught other kids the basics of life and learning. The community was formed because people learned to live together.
This is the high price of schooling as weve accepted it, Gatto says. We have lost community. Community is what I had lost when I was abandoned to first grade. My community had changed from people of all ages grandparents, friends, and strangers who became friends by staying at our motel, to a handful of middle-aged adults and lots of kids my age. No grandparents. No babies. Not even any teenagers until I became one myself. I couldnt describe what Id lost, but I felt it for years.
Ive slowly realized the depth of what we are forging with the College of Metaphysics. Yes, it is a university for spiritual, intuitive man that serves this world. More and more I see it as serving those from the inner worlds as well. We, people who are applying metaphysical principles, are building a community based upon spiritual enlightenment. This place encourages multidimensional living. It invites the soul who wants to accelerate spiritual growth.
Such a community is a daring concept to some. For me, for Daniel, for Hezekiah, and for the people we share a great deal of our life with, it is what we are on the planet to do.
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©2002 School of Metaphysics