The Radcliffe Statement

The Radcliffe Quarterly invited me to write a short piece for their March 1978 issue. I wrote about GWS, saying, in part:
The idea of “education” seems to me to have embedded in it a number of ideas, all of them newfangled, mistaken, and harmful. These include:

1) Learning is an activity separate from the rest of life, done best when one is not doing anything else, and best of all in places where nothing else is done.
2) Important learning is, must be, and can only be the result and product of teaching. What we learn for ourselves, from the experience of our daily lives, can only be trivial or untrue.
3) Teaching is best done, and most often can only be done, by specialists who do no other work.
4) Children cannot be trusted to learn about the world around them. They must be made to learn, told what to learn, and shown how.
5) Education is a people-improving process; the more of it we have had done to us, the better we are.
6) People are raw material, bad in their original state, but almost infinitely processable and improvable.
7) People have no right to refuse any processing or treatment that their betters believe will improve them.

. . . Aside from being deeply rooted in the harmful ideas about education just listed, [schools] treat their students with what Charles Silberman, no sentimental child-worshipper, once called “appalling incivility.” Beyond that, they are appallingly incompetent at their work, even as they define it, having always found it easier to blame all their failures on their students. Because the schools adamantly refuse to take the responsibility for the results of their teaching, they cannot even begin to learn how to do it. How much simpler to call students “learning disabled” than to figure out why they are having trouble learning what the teacher is trying to teach. Worse than that, the informal, haphazard, and fumbling incompetence of the schools in their earlier years, which at least left some room for the work of a few serious, responsible, and competent teachers, is now being organized into a system, a pseudo-science, which leaves no room at all. To be a truly responsible and competent teacher at any level of the system, up to and including graduate school, carries the grave risk of not getting tenure or being fired. In the country of the incompetent, the competent are not kings but pariahs.