Thursday, May 7, 2009


The inimitable John Taylor Gatto taught for 30 years in public schools. He was thrice named New York City Teacher of the Year, and also earned New York State Teacher of the Year honors.

Gatto once wrote an essay called "Some Reflections on the Equivalencies Between Forced Schooling and Prison." I know, I know, it's overreaching to compare public schools -- oftentimes unsafe places (replete with with metal detectors and security guards) which are sometimes put on lockdown -- to prisons. But still. I couldn't help but think of Mr. Gatto's essay this morning when I read a story in The Oklahoman headlined "Edmond district ramps up security at school." Jesse Olivarez reports:
Earlier this month, district officials finished installing new security features at [Clegern Elementary School]. Features include a new camera surveillance system and new pass keys to gain entrance to the school at 601 S Jackson.

Bill Powell, the school's principal, said the system has taken some getting used to, but it has made his school safer. "This is a very, very secure school now," he said.

The new camera system gives school officials a panoramic view of the school with 36 cameras mounted at key points outside the building, giving administrators a view of everything happening on campus. ...

After classes start, all doors to the school automatically lock. People inside can walk out, but the doors will remain shut to those without a pass key. Visitors must now identify themselves and wait to be buzzed in before they can access the school.

The photo accompanying the story is priceless. The warden principal at this elementary school has a smile on his face ("Ain't this dandy?") as he demonstrates the boffo new security system.

Interestingly, in his latest book, Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, Gatto shares a little tidbit about the father of America's current public school system:

Horace Mann himself called school "the best jail" to his financial backers, by which he meant that the jail you sentence your mind to when you go to school is harder to escape than any iron bars.

1 comment:

Michael said...

The quality of public education is perfectly captured by the need to twice label what is clearly a button.