Essay, Research Paper: Good Student


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In education and in other fields of life, people are separated and grouped into
“nice” sections. It has been going on for a long time, even before Plato
defined his ideal society. The separating of the good and bad, intelligent and
stupid, and high and low class will continue to be a part of who we are as a
culture, because our educational structure requires students to learn the
“basic skills.” A problem arises because many people do not fit nicely into
a box. I didn’t want to be in a box. I was not Gatto’s “good” student,
who waited on the teacher for instruction. (Gatto 169) I was driven to find the
answer before the teacher asked the question, not so I could answer quickly, but
for the reason of having time to do what I wanted. I am not one who likes
following other people’s trains of thought; I would much rather take a jumping
point, and go off in other directions. As in the time when one of my teachers
wanted a paper on an animal, and I wrote a story about two boys hunting a
squirrel. I didn’t like the teacher’s agenda, but I did it so I could go do
my own. When the class worked on mechanical procedures, as in Anyon’s
working-class schools, I looked for reasoning behind why. I thought in original
ways, and was successful at staying out of a box. I soon found I had another
dilemma, as a result of not fitting in, I failed at relating with other children
therefore, was rejected by my peers. When we were all classified and pegged at
the start of junior high, the other children were not pleased with the fact that
I was different and placed in the high level classes. I thought it odd that most
of the lower level children focused their rage on me, when I was very quiet, and
rarely bothered anyone. Gatto failed to teach them to “envy and fear the
better classes.” (Gatto 168) It was possibly to create an illusion of them
having a higher self-esteem by beating mine down. I just wanted everyone to
leave me alone. So, I let my grades fall, but for some reason that made them
even madder. As a last resort, I made everyone fear me through various violent
and illegal actions. It solved one problem, but in the process, I created myself
a criminal record and no one wanted to get near me for fear I might kill him or
her. I was the example of “following a private drummer,” the type teaches
don’t want. (Gatto 171) My family and I moved away, I grew up, and I started
high school. The four years I spent in secondary school were mostly uneventful.
The restrictions on what I could do during the school day were levied, as they
were in Anyon’s executive elite school. I joined the track team, learned how
to make friends by being nice, and found a group of others like me that I fit in
with. High school was very different from junior high; people looked up to me
for my intelligence, instead of trying to push me down. Maybe it was because I
focused my efforts on being nice and helping others, instead of forgetting about
everyone else. I came to understand that school did a poor job at teaching me
book-knowledge. Yet it put me in social situations that no amount of bookwork
could get me out of; it took non measurable skills such as reasoning with the
irrational. Facts couldn’t help me out in a physical conflict; logic and
experience in dealing with others helped to find a solution. The more that I
think about it, the more I believe that I mostly educated myself, and learned
about myself through interactions with others. School really didn’t teach me
book knowledge, but I learned who I am by attending. I am an exception to
Gatto’s lesson on intellectual dependency. I rarely “waited for an expert to
tell me what to do,” and that our economy depends on how well the public
follows the advice of experts. (Gatto 170) I believe our culture depends on the
economy, but that our economy depends on ideas and new products that only an
individual can think of. Gatto pointed out many other principals that school
teaches as externalities. I made an effort to not follow the school’s
curriculum, hidden or declared. The focus of Gatto’s “hidden” lessons is
conformity to the place assigned to you, and how to live in that position well.
The confusion Gatto teaches causes the student to break away from natural
thought, so the school can instill it’s own philosophy of reasoning. Gatto
correctly connected the patterns of a school’s class system to Plato’s.
Plato divided labor into three strict classes: the elite philosopher-rulers, a
middle class called auxiliaries, and the lowest class was the labors and
tradesmen. Plato’s class division is similar to the three level system I went
through in high school, of honors (high), 1 (middle), and 2 (lower). Schools
want their students to be well rounded, a jack of all trades, but they also make
the students master of none with bells putting the same value on each subject.
The emotional dependency lesson has the student rely on the teacher for rights,
known in school as privileges. Intellectual dependency has the student give up
their ability to make decisions without instructions. The testing and grading
methods hinder students’ ability to make opinions about themselves. School
convoys the message that students should not have time to themselves, but rather
the school should have control of the students’ daily schedule. The public
wants graduating students to have basic skills as a product of twelve years of
schooling, which can be taught much more efficiently to the select that posses
the desire to learn. The school’s purpose was to teach the basics, but I
wanted to know the complex. I believe that nearly everything taught to me from
school, I could have learned on my own. For the ideas I wanted to learn that the
school didn’t teach, I learned on my own and on my own time. I didn’t let
the teachers decide what I would and would not learn; I chose what I wanted to
learn. Through making choices, I made myself to be who I want to be. I didn’t
look to the school for emotional support, because I was a loner. School didn’t
give me a purpose of life; neither did it teach me a valuable trade for life.
School taught me many little things, many unusable facts, and how to do well on
standardized tests. Also, School many times limited my exploring. One common
instance of it’s limiting is when an English teacher would give me a list of
subjects to write on, with no option for other concepts. In the math and science
courses, I valued the few times that the students were asked derive the
formulas. School made an effort to engrain the belief that all commonly accepted
rules should be obeyed and all should conform to the methods the school taught.
The school’s view of education was on a different track than mine. 
Anyon, Jean. Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work. p186-201 Boston:
Bedford, 1998 Gatto, John Taylor. The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher. p166-173
Boston: Bedford, 1998
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