Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

I first read this book a number of years ago, and have to say that it was another push toward homeschooling for me, or at least, another piece of the puzzle that backed my decision. I am going to re-read it soon, but just glancing through it now, I was able to find the chapter called "School Daze". An excerpt:

[The gorilla (the teacher) is speaking to the girl (the pupil of the story)] "Most of the adults in your society seem to have forgotten what went on when they were in school as small children. If, as adults, they were forced to see it all again through the eyes of their children, I think they'd be astounded and horrified."
"Yeah, I think so too."
"What one sees first is how far short real schooling falls from the ideal of 'young minds being awakened.' Teachers for the most part would be delighted to awaken young minds, but the system within which they must work fundamentally
frustrates that desire by insisting that all minds must be opened in the same order, using the same tools, and at the same pace, on a certain schedule. The teacher is charged with getting the class as a whole to a certain predetermined point in the curriculum by a certain predetermined time, and the individuals that make up the class soon learn how to help the teacher with this task. This is, in a sense, the first thing they must learn. Some learn in quickly and easily and others learn it slowly and painfully, but all eventually learn it."
[ . . .]
"How else do you help teachers with their task?" [Gorilla asking the girl, Julie]
"Never disagree. Never point out inconsistencies. Never ask questions that go beyond what's being taught. Never let on that you're lost. Always try to look like you're getting every word. It all comes to pretty much the same thing."

The rest is even better. It goes into the reason we drag schooling out for so long, related to economics and other issues.

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Anonymous said...

Ishmael goes on to say he disagrees with homeschooling.

Silvia said...

Where does he say that? I haven't re-read yet. Which book? Ishmael or My Ishmael?

Anonymous said...

My Ishmael. But nevermind, I think I was wrong. I went back and re-read it, and it seems that he just sees home-schooling as a lesser of two evils.

Silvia said...

I do remember Ishmael talking about the way children used to learn, alongside their parents or other adults in their small communities. Must be in My Ishmael. I think that's certainly a vote against formal schools and for learning in your environment.

Anonymous said...

Ishmael's student is not said to be a boy or a girl. It never says in the book. The narrator is supposed to be you, the reader. Also homeschooling is not the point of the book. The point is that we need to realize that ever since the Agricultural Revolution and the Neolithic Revolution we have switched from being hunters and gatherers to farmers. This was a huge change because ever since then we have had machines and technology to do all of our work for us. If we can not be original and real again than what do we have to look forward to in the future??