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John Taylor Gatto, author Dumbing Us Down; Interview Transcript, Part 1

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storycon.org H2'ed 12/22/15
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So if some of your listeners who may be just new to thinking this way would leave the Marxist name calling aside and simply say let me see if I can profile the leadership mind in the western world over the past 200 years, it's a revelation to see that nobody, and I mean nobody who is anybody, thought that ordinary people were anything other than biologically degenerate, unrecoverable, and a constant menace to the good people. In fact, let me tell you that Charles Darwin probably in my calculations, is the premiere mass murder in human history -- not from his Theory of Evolution, but from his book The Descent of Man, published in this country in 1871, in which he informed the wealthy and powerful of this country that if the good breeding stock, the Scandinavian and English blondes, crossbred with Irish or Italians or Spanish, evolution would march backward into the swirling mist of the dawnless past. In other words, it was a responsibility of the leadership class to find a way to prevent...to restore class systems in our democratic society and to keep the good breeding stock from the bad breeding stocks -- I'm not making that up -- the book I just referred you to is every single library in the United States even though it's 140 years old. What explains its prevalence since I would be certain that not more than one of your listeners out of a thousand has ever read it, perhaps has ever heard of the book -- it led to an explosive growth in elite private boarding schools and elite private day schools in the United States -- the kind of schools that Bill Clinton and his wife sent their daughter to -- there was a Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.; the kind that George Bush and his father attended; the kind that Franklin Roosevelt attended; the kind that John F. Kennedy attended. How come this interesting fact, that the American political leadership of the left, mind you, sees to it that their own children are schooled a different way. What an immense irony, is it not?

Rob: It sure is. How is it different?

JTG: Good cop, bad cop -- they're the same people.

Rob: How is it different?

JTG: How is the...

Rob: Education different?

JTG: ...training of, let me call them...in order not to be inflammatory, the managerial class? The school training of the managerial class has nothing whatsoever to do with standardized tests, with subject learning, which itself is some fantastic mutilation of what you need to learn. Let me give you a brief workshop in what the central elite private boarding schools -- I'm talking about the inner circle 20 because the rest of the fringe tend to imitate public schooling, they're just a little cleaner and a little more civil in their daily operations. In the first place, throughout human history, what has been targeted as the most important thing to learn is expression in a convincing way -- that's the way you win allies, that's the way you sell your point of view; so at the top of the elite boarding school curriculum of power is to offer a chance to gain a strong competency in what used to be known as the active literacy -- reading is the passive literacy. The active literacies are speaking to any kind of audience and writing persuasively -- neither one of those things is touched -- maybe a little lip service paid -- in any public school in the United States. And a few of them, as they say, may pay lip service to it -- they don't do it because people who have a command of speaking and writing are dangerous people. So any number of excuses are made -- well you know the average teacher has 120 kids a day -- to collect even a one-page paper on a regular basis would overburden the poor dear, right? And when could we ever give people a laboratory in the well-known tricks of public speaking. Let me tell you we're sitting with a president who is superb -- I've never seen anyone like...he's not naturally that way -- he's received rhetorical training of an absolutely surprisingly excellent fashion -- it got him elected. And I'm not speaking critically or approvingly of it, I'm just saying that that competency is available to virtually everybody. Can you imagine a workplace, an economy of politics where people could, with such clarity and precision, represent what they have to speak -- that's deliberately kept from you, me, our children, and everybody listening to your show. Deliberately kept. The tricks are known since ancient Rome, probably before ancient Rome. And they've been passed down to a very, very, very elite fraction of the population for thousands of years. And so that's one of the central concerns of private schools like Groton, Saint Pauls, Hotchkiss...we can go on to the number 20 and we wouldn't get beyond them. The others imitate, sometimes well, sometimes poorly.

Second -- remember we're doing this is lieu of English, Social Studies, Math, etcetera -- they offer insight into all the institutional forms -- the army, the courts, the judiciary...excuse me...the legislatures, the churches, on and on, so that you can actually know what each -- I'm just doing this for an example -- what each protestant sect in its theology teaches as the purpose of life and the methodology to reach that purpose. Without knowing that, and much, much, more than that, you are like some helpless intelligent fool as you pass through your daily life, you are absolutely disadvantaged because you're unable to see how compellingly theology has written our laws, our customs, our preferences; and now it's true, it's thoroughly secularized today, but the line of ascent is very clear to see. Let me give you one example that'll turn a theory into practice. We're all aware that after World War II there were war crimes trials at Nuremburg in Germany and a number of German politicians and military people were condemned to death or life imprisonment for war crimes, and I suppose nobody challenges that at all until some gadfly -- in this case, me -- points out that Germany was far and away the most law abiding nation on earth...far and away. That no such thing as international law exists except in theology -- it's called natural law, the law imposed on the world around us by a Creator and that law can be read in the creation. Had Nuremburg followed positive law -- that's the law we're taught in law school -- every one of those people would have been exonerated, nobody broke a single law -- they were scrupulous about not doing that. But by natural law, they were justly condemned so that the leadership fringe in our country and in others, when it's convenient to drop the fiction of positive law, it's dropped. They achieve their effects by whatever logical system works at the moment, and in Nuremburg what worked was a return to natural law -- God's law. I don't believe ever mentioned in any textbook which covers Nuremburg, that you couldn't convict the people. Alright, so institute...insight into all institutional forms -- here's one thing that the American corporations have dropped the ball on -- in 1946, Franklin Roosevelt worked out a deal with the largest, most influential American corporations to absorb the soldiers coming home from the war. What they couldn't absorb would be absorbed by some phony educational policy called the ha....oh what was it, what paid college for a...give me, give me...an old man a (that's my wife)...you can go to college if you had been a veteran overseas.

Rob: Yeah, they did have a plan and I can't remember the name of it either. But we know what you're talking about.

JTG: But it really took in close to a million returning vets. Imagine what happens to a nation that allows people trained to use deadly weapons to go unemployed for a long time. Well you don't have to imagine -- that's exactly what happened in Germany after the first world war, and that's how we got the second world war -- you don't do that. So it's the role of corporations in exchange for the privileges they're given, which are vast and awesome and no one ever gets to study in school, that they are to absorb the unemployed past -- I believe the figure is 5%; I mean there's an algorithm, it's worked out -- and you hire these people so that revolutionary conditions don't obtain, and the minute that the natural economy absorbs enough of them, you fire them, you turn them out -- that's been perverted by the corporations in the last 30 years to mean if you want to redeem your stock options, you lay off 10,000 people and your stock shoots up. I mean it's automatic, and now you cash your options in -- and to hell with the people whose marriages break up, you know, whose children revile them. But it was part of the unwritten bargain that in exchange for these privileges, these immense subsidies given to corporations, that they would make sure unemployment didn't rise above 5%.

So what we're after here is not bashing corporations, we're after the secrets of the boarding school curriculum of power and I'm giving you two. They teach a strong competency of speaking and writing, they deliberately focus on what's behind the machinery behind the curtain in institutions. The third thing would be child's play for any school to teach, and we don't -- it's a theory of human nature drawn from history, from philosophy, from literature, from law, from theology -- from all the accumulated wisdom of the human race produces a kind of profile of what common human expectation behavior is. So if now you throw a book in front of the kids instead of saying we're going to memorize To Build a Fire or A Tale of Two Cities, that we're looking for what this can contribute to a working paradigm of human behavior; if we did that with history, with theology, which of course is forbidden to be taught in schools for the simple reason that theological insight -- let's put God out of the picture for now -- theological insight is actually psychological insight and it is the densest, most continuous form of psychological analysis that we have record of; that the accumulated volumes -- Calvin's Principles of Christian Religion and a number of others are really psychological treatises; and if you screen out the supernatural part of them to deny this kind of insight to a new generation coming on, is a criminal act in my opinion. Well, so theory of human nature.

Number four should be the most obvious thing of all -- I used to have all black classes and all Hispanic classes from the island, and I used to say what you perceive as racial prejudice I believe is something else -- there may be a little tiny bit of racial prejudice. I say you don't dress, speak, behave in the rhythms or with the rules that the mainstream of society does, so you're objectionable to most of those people on one level or another. But if you mastered the mainstream social forms and the manners -- I don't mean if you absorbed them and made them your own -- if you mastered them the way you would master the French accent if you were going to travel to France, it's my belief that you would suddenly burst into a....onto a new plateau where what you thought was hatred of your background or your skin color, would almost vanish. So I said and we're going to make that a main objective study this year and you're going to get at least a month out of the classroom to go into the general society using these rituals of ordinariness, of customary behavior, and see what happens and report back. And of course, although I didn't know at the time, it was overwhelmingly successful, overwhelmingly...they couldn't believe it and I said yeah, just like speaking a foreign language. Well, the elite private boarding schools make sure that you automatically know to address your elders as sir or ma'am...you know, there's just hundreds and hundreds of these little details. When I attended Columbia Graduate Business School back in late 1950s in New York City, the first class we were given called Business Decision Making told us how many buttons to wear on our cuffs and on our shirt fronts; how to put our hands in our pocket -- I was appalled, I was disgusted, and yet I said this is an official subject and I'm in a college in graduate school. Why wouldn't it be then, if it's so important, an official subject in elementary school? Now, so that's number four, mastery of the social forms.

The fifth thing they teach, which once again common experience should show us, is that there is an immense prejudice in favor of people who are personally graceful, physically helpful, energetic, self-disciplined -- I've had an hour in private with the admissions officer of Harvard University and another hour with the admissions officer of Princeton, and I said there really is a prejudice against overweight people, sloppy people, etcetera -- they admitted it. They said that what those things are, are barriers to opportunity, and we want our graduates to have a maximum of opportunity so all other things being equal, if we have a choice between a graceful person with a B average and a clumsy person with an A average, we'll always take the B average. How come these things, if they're so close to the surface, aren't part of our regular discourse? It doesn't mean that they are morally or ethically right or wrong, it means this is the way things are.

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