A week or two ago, Gonzo and I took turns reading aloud from Dumbing Us Down — a collection of John Taylor Gatto’s speeches. His ideas have been following me around since, and I shared this quote (from “The Psychopathic School”) during my talk at a BCGEU conference this past weekend.
“This great crisis which we witness in our schools is interlinked with a greater social crisis in the community. We seem to have lost our identity. Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent; nobody talks to them anymore, and without children and old people mixing in daily life; a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present. In fact the name “community” hardly applies to the way we interact with each other. We live in networks, not communities, and everyone I know is lonely because of that.” (Dumbing Us Down)
Fantastically important questions arise from this — as community organizers, how to we build inter-generational strength and collective identity? How do we mitigate the alienating (and profoundly individualizing) affect of institutions on children and adults alike? What is the relationship between loneliness and social change, between loneliness and apathy?
(As I write this I happen to be working from the New York Public Library, where NBC is hosting “Education Nation,” a summit which (at least from the frantic crowds I see going in and out of the conference doors) appears completely devoid of any children whatsoever.)