Monday, January 10, 2011

It's a Pretty Low Number, I'm Thinking

I finally got around to reading Dumbing Us Down The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling  by John Taylor Gatto. It's been on my wish list at Paperback Swap for a long time. It's a short book--just over a hundred pages.

But it's a little outdated. And that's sad because I think some of the things he talked about are actually worse now. First, let's look at his numbers and then we'll talk about what might have changed in the last 21 years since he spoke these words.

(from a speech given in 1990)

"Out of the 168 hours in each week my children sleep 56. That leaves them 112 hours a week out of which to fashion a self.
According to recent reports children watch 55 hours of television a week. That then leaves them 57 hours a week in which to grow up.
My children attend school 30 hours a week, use about 8 hours getting ready for and traveling to and from school, and spend an average of 7 hours a week in homework--a total of 45 hours. During that time they are under constant surveillance. They have no private time or private space and are disciplined if they try to assert individuality in the use of time or space. That leaves them 12 hours a week out of which to create a unique consciousness. Of course my kids eat, too, and that takes some time--not much because they've lost the tradition of family dining--but if we allot 3 hours a week to evening meals we arrive at a net amount of private time for each child of 9 hours per week." John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down page 29.

Several things occurred to me while I was reading this. First of all, the "recent reports" are not recent any longer. I wonder what the average amount of T.V. watched is now? More than that, this was written before the Internet splashed into our lives. With the addition of computers, cell phones, handheld games, etc. what do you suppose is the new number devoted to "TV and other media" these days?

My guess is it's pretty substantial. The little 4th grade girl who lives across the street came over to jump in the leaves with my girls the other day. She held up her phone and asked where she could put it while she jumped.

I've also noticed that the school day is extended for a lot of students. There is after and before school tutoring, clubs and organizations after school, etc. The local middle school by our neighborhood has children still hanging out at the building well after 5:00pm. Why???

Then there is the homework number. I think it might be higher but it depends on what grade your child is in, what school they attend and also who their teacher is that year. Homework varies greatly. What would you say the average number of hours a week would be?

I can only imagine. Sweetheart only went to public school through 1st grade, but they had us busy. Boy did they ever! The thing is, this quote from the book sounds so grim. How can my child go to public school and still turn out OK? I don't think it's any secret that I'm not too fond of public school or its results. Most of my opinion changed when I changed from being the teacher to being the parent. That was a whole new perspective. When your child is in public school, you just have to spend so much energy making up for the deficits. And wondering about the what might have beens.

The funny thing is, I don't believe this is solely a public school issue. I know homeschool families who are involved in absolutely everything imaginable. Sure, the homeschool crowd may be a bit more gentle and easy-going, but if your child is spending so many hours a week in group activities and scheduled time...there are still repercussions.

As Americans, I think we are just too busy.

And I couldn't help but think about church while I was reading all this. Church activities can suck the time away from a family faster than anything.

I was struck by this section needless to say. I feel afresh the need to protect my children's time and to prayerfully consider activities they will be involved in.

What do you have to say about all this? What do you think the numbers would be today?

**Don't forget to check in on my kitchen! Go see what's new and shiny and what I think about while I cook.**


  1. Very interesting. I agree with a lot that you stated. Thanks for sharing about this book. God has been laying the word GUARD on my heart for a few months now. We are not hige TV, Media people compared to most, but even the little we do have has a influence. I also know that I can 100% agree with you on the church.

    We are not really involved with many activities outside the home other than church. But being that we are involved heavily in ministry as leaders it can be a challenge to guard our time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. So agreed. And yes, academic institutions are easy to pin point, but I'm amazed at how few have really caught on to the program oriented and segregated systems set up in most churches. Women's bible study, Men's book club, Awana for 4 year olds, not to be confused with 5 year olds, 6 year olds, whatever, Choir, Discipleship groups, etc.

    Life became so much more lovely when we simply started attending church as a family, and worshiping at home as a family, and serving others as a family. Children mature and are trained, and we're all blessed working and playing and living together.

    I know - what a novel idea! ;)

  3. I too am shocked at how many homeschoolers are never home. It makes my head swim to think about it.
    We have church on Sunday and Wednesday evening, piano lessons on Friday and have a little co-op with the cousins on Tuesday, and that seems like too much to me!
    I want my kids to have tons of time to get bored. That is when they get the most creative.

  4. Interesting! When I was at church last week, I saw a tween child playing games on her phone while in service! With ear phones on!
    I couldn't believe it. Every time I see her, she has that stupid phone in her hand with eagle eyes on it. I'm sure her parents are so proud that she's got the high score on her stupid little game.

    Makes me want to log my childrens' time : )

  5. I am so thankful that we only have one car -- if I really need to go somewhere with the kiddos, we can drop Daddy back off at work after lunch and have the car for the afternoon. But it makes it just enough of a bother to get out that I'm not even tempted to overschedule. And I have a GREAT excuse for not going to every playdate or event imaginable. :)

  6. Very interesting, indeed. That's a book I've been wanting to read, too. Seems like the author would write an update to it. I am in a constant battle with my daughter that thinks she has to do everything. NOT. We plan to do one activity. We are trying to instill in her that God and family are priority.


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)