Schools Are “Synthetic Families”

Letter to my students – Eighth in a series

First, as always and since July 3, 1989 – I love you.  You mean a lot to me.  One of the cool things about being a high school music teacher?  More often than not … MUCH MORE OFTEN (sorry – NOT sorry – for the poor grammar; I am a  music teacher, not an English teacher & writing is a hobby for me, like golf – both hobbies humble me 😊) … the students who are in my music classes choose to be there.  So, any human being who chooses to be with me is a BLESSING / a gift / and I am honored!  One more time… and not the last time … I love you.

My thought for my students today is: please … block the idea:  the outside of you or anyone is THE best side of you and the most important side of you!  BLOCK THAT CRAP! 

What is the best side or really … could be the most important side …  YOUR HEART!!  Guard your heart!  Your conscience!   

Remember, these “letters” I write to you (my students and others) are letters I can only share outside of the public-school classroom in California.  Appreciate you reading it.  Means – you want to know more about my thoughts.  THANK YOU!  

As you (my students) know, I like to start with defining words.  If we are going to discuss a topic, a good starting point is a definition of key words / principles. 

What is the purpose of the government in a republic?  Republic, form of government in which a state is ruled by representatives of the citizen body. Modern republics are founded on the idea that sovereignty rests with the people, though who is included and excluded from the category of the people has varied across history.

What is the purpose of the family? The primary function of the family is to ensure the continuation of society, both biologically through procreation, and socially through socialization. Given these functions, the nature of one’s role in the family changes over time.,the%20family%20changes%20over%20time

From March 13, 2020 to let’s say, June 15, 2021 (in California), we were told to when / where / how to wear a mask.  We were told, “ZOOM IS GOING TO BE YOUR METHOD OF SCHOOLING.”  We were told a lot of things.  Given a lot of mandates to follow. 

Well, during the “shutdown / flatten the curve in two weeks,” no one (and I am sincerely thankful for ‘no one’) told us what we were going to learn / to experience.  I am going to share with you one of things I learned:  OUR NATION’S “FAMILY” HAS BEEN WEAKENED (maybe purposely)!    

Just as an aside, while seeing the DISASTER of “zoom education” / being on “shut down / flatten the curve for two weeks,” humans have not evolved all that much.  People are as mean / evil as ever!  Being put on “timeout by God,” I would have hoped we would have been more kind to one another; now knowing there is another way (COVID19) that we can die!  Meet that inevitable end sooner than we want.  I digress.

I just finished reading a fantastic book:  DUBMING US DOWN by John Taylor Gatto.  I strongly suggest my students (AND THEIR PARENTS; AND MY COLLEAGUES; AND ALL PEOPLE INTERESTED IN EDUCATION) read this book.  You need to see what a man was saying about schools (public schools) THIRTY YEARS AGO and how much of what he says has come of fruition!

In Gatto’s book, he has a term which gives me the chills.  The term is “synthetic families.” 

          (Written in 1992) “Schools, I hear it argued, would make better sense and be better value as nine-to-five operations or even nine-to-nine ones, working year-round.  We’re not a farming community anymore, I hear, that we need to give kids time off to tend the crops.  This new-world-order schooling would serve dinner (my knowledge:  there are schools in California that provide breakfast / lunch and then on weekends, provide food for the family), (just a reminder:  written in 1992) provide evening recreation (my knowledge:  there are schools that have after school programs “latch key” kids wait until they are picked up to go home), offer therapy (my knowledge:  there are schools in California that have “Wellness Centers.”  This is something that has happened in the last four-to-six-years.  “Wellness Centers” are there to help students deal with their emotional struggles.  And from what I know… there are situations that parents are not included.), (just a reminder:  written in 1992)medical attention (my knowledge:  there are some situations where students are treated without parents’ permission –A care provider may perform a routine test or treatment on a minor who is over the age of 14 without parental consent and without accompaniment, on condition that the minor him/herself gives informed consent for the medical procedure.), and a whole range of other services, which would convert the institution into a true SYNTHETIC FAMILY for children, better than the original one for many poor kids, it is said – and this would level the playing field for the sons and daughters of weak families.” 

          Yet it appears to me (John Taylor Gatto) as a schoolteacher that schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak communities.  They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each other’s lives.  (just a reminder:  written in 1992) Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any some idea of family to develop – then they blame the family for its failure to be a family.  It’s like a malicious person lifting a photograph from the developing chemicals too early, and then pronouncing the photographer incompetent.  Pages 64-65. DUMBING US DOWN 

I will give you one more section to read / think about…
(just a reminder:  written in 1992) Individuality, family, and community, on the other hand, are, by definition, expressions of singular organization, never of “one-right-way” thinking on a grand scale.  Private time is absolutely essential if a private identity is going to develop, and private time is equally essential to the development of a code of private values, without which we aren’t really individuals at all.  Children and families need some relive from government surveillance and intimidation if original expressions belonging to them are to develop.  Without these, freedom has no meaning.  Pages 66-67.

When I read this book, I felt a sense of guilt.  A sense of, “I was part of this system for thirty years.” 

Then, I took a breath and said, “Wait a second, Paul!  You were the teacher that read stories to your high school students and asked them, ‘how does that story work with band?’  You are the teacher that said, ‘Every rehearsal outside of the school day must be worth the time missed from your family! (and, I just said that this school year!).”  I told the students, “Nothing is more important than the time with your family, including our rehearsal!  No more SATURDAY rehearsals!  We are going to rehearse two-hours on Monday nights, not three-hours!  When you arrive at rehearsal and at the end of rehearsal, you NEED to say you did all you could to make that time worth the sacrifice of missing time with your family!”  Sure.  At the announcement, some students were mad.  Some students don’t care.  Some students were like, “heck yeah!  More time for my video games!”  I don’t care what they do with their time.  Would I like them to spend time with their families OUT OF THEIR BEDROOMS?  Of course!  But, in the end, they need to learn how to use “private time.” 

Prior to the reading DUMBING US DOWN, I saw how much time was being taken away from the families!  I am a father.  I am a grandfather.  I know how quickly time changes both roles!  For gosh sake, in fifteen years, I will be SEVENTY-YEARS-OLD!  Some of my students just went, “WOW!  “E” is getting old!”  PJ Everts and Katy Everts – in a healthy family – should be out of our house within 20-25 years (they were!).  Well, I just finished my 32nd year teaching.  I have been a teacher longer than I was a “hands-on-father.”  Point being … there is a greater chance your career will be longer than your chance to be “hands-on-parenting.”  Your time as a “hands-on-parent” is BRIEF!  

Being a grandfather, what a drag it would be to miss all sorts of “grandfather moments” due to the fact I was too busy with work! 

Hello!!  What Gatto was writing THIRTY years ago … WE HAVE SEEN AND LIVED (and living) THE RESULTS! 

How did that ZOOM classroom go for y’all?  For FEW – GREAT!  For a large majority, TERRIBLE / DESTRUCTIVE!  Why?  Because those who were taught thirty years ago were constantly in the environment described by GATTO!  They were taught school was going to fill their time, their needs, and THEIR HEADS!  Boy!  Weren’t the parents’ eyes and ears opened following this experience?  You BET!  Better late than never! 

Private time?  Our current students have no idea what to do with their private time!  When I would give them private time … THEY WASTED IT.  Many of them admitted wasting their “private time.”  Why did they waste it?  Answer:  they did not know / learn how to use private time.  Private time was / is foreign to them, as private time was foreign to their parents. 

Our schools have become the unintended consequence:  SYNTHETIC FAMILIES.

What do you suggest we do, Mr. Everts?  TAKE BACK YOUR FAMILIES. 

Allow the negative(s) of ZOOM / RESPONSE to Covid19 be your inspiration to TAKE BACK YOUR FAMILY. 

  • Volunteer for your children’s school (I know our band students need BOOSTERS)
  • You contact the teacher with a loving and compassionate heart before the “F” is sent home. 
  • Look at your child’s grades more than the just during grading time
  • When your child says how mean and awful the teacher is, remember – YOUR CHILD IS A CHILD.  There are two sides of truth.  Give the benefit of doubt to the teacher! 
  • When there is a parent / teacher conference, sit on the same side of the table with the teacher.  Show the teacher, you (the parent) and the teacher are on the same side of supporting your child! 
  • Plan time for family activities!  As bourgeois as that sounds / 1950’s as that sounds, you only get so much time to be a family! 
  • Study how to be a better parent.  READ. READ. READ.  Ask other parents how to improve! 
  • Do all you can to be INDEPENDENT from the government (budget so your child does not need one meal from the school (again, I wrote DO ALL YOU CAN)
  • Know your rights as a parent!  And when you feel your rights as a parent are being taken away – FIGHT!  
  • Be FULLY involved with the physical / mental well-being of your child!  Know that legally (in several states), you don’t have to know / be informed.  UNBELIEVABLE!!  

Remember, according to GATTO, “The heart of a defense for the cherished American ideals of privacy, variety, and individuality lies in the way we bring up our young.  Children learn what they live.

How are you (the parent) living?  Is the way you (the parent) are living the way you want your children to live? To Learn? To Love? 

How are you (the child / the student / the scholar) living?  Are you fully invested in your time?  STOP WASTING YOUR TIME!  Be it time at school / with family / for others and yes.. PRIVATE TIME.  STOP WASTING YOUR TIME!  

We are at ANOTHER crucial time in our nation’s history!  Thanks to John Taylor Gatto and me for reading his outstanding book, you have been given some thoughts that were shared some thirty years ago.  Those were historical thoughts and now see how those historical thoughts have impacted our beautiful nation today! 

Children learn what they live! 

2 thoughts on “Schools Are “Synthetic Families””

  1. Boyd Latimore

    Thanks Paul – you find the most interesting reading material! Great info and interpretation, and as always a well said and important message.
    I was pleased to see that we (my wife and I) have done/been doing almost all of your family suggestions as our boys have been growing up – I think the biggest takeaway for most folks is to BE INVOLVED with your kids, MAKE TIME for that family to be and do things together.. I am reminded of a Cub Scout recruitment tool I saw years ago where the leader would have a paper measuring tape representing the 18 years until HS graduation… and subsequently removed portions based on what had already happened, when the tend to rebel and not listen as well, and show how little functional time you truly have to make an impact on your children.

    Great piece of writing, thanks for sharing!

    1. Dear Boyd,
      FIRST, MANY MANY THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT. Really means a lot to me. I am happy you enjoyed this “message.”
      A hope is my “imposed” silence in the class is seen as a way to be present with my students. If I were to share any of these ideas – IDEAS – with my students, I could lose my job. Of course, there are MANY, MANY other teachers who are able to share their stories / ideas. I am one of few “centrist” teachers on the campus. “centrist-to-the-right” to be very clear! I support the Founding Fathers’ documents. Never want us to be a “Theocracy” and certainly want us to avoid the secular leanings. Since I am one of few, I need to do all I can to stay on campus.
      I will continue to exercise my freedoms given to us by the “Creator.” I will figure out a way to connect with folks.
      Your “comment.” and the “comments” preceding this one, inspires me to continue to share my thoughts. Please consider sharing this and other “articles.”
      Many Blessings / Agape / Happy FOURTH OF JULY,

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