Are you happy in your job at a charity?
If so, stop reading.
If you are ready to move on to a new job, I hope this post will give you some food for thought.
Have you ever stopped to consider why you might be unhappy?
Have you ever wished you could work from home?
When you’re at work, do you feel trapped, in windows that don’t open, in a fluorescent tomb?
Do you ever wish you could just be left to work in peace, free from office politics, interruptions, mandatory staff meetings?
Do you wish you were free from a hierarchy that means if you want more money you need to get a degree to do the job you’ve already been doing for five years?
John Taylor Gatto is a veteran NYC schoolteacher. I’ve enjoyed his books for many years, and used them when I was teaching children overseas.
I am going to quote John Taylor Gatto at length in this blog post. This speech is the premise of his book, “A Different Kind of Teacher”
The reason I am going to quote him is because he has some very good points that I want you to consider about how you respond to your nonprofit workplace. (if you would like to read the full text of the speech, click here.)
John Taylor Gatto says,
“The first lesson I teach is: “Stay in the class where you belong.””Know your place”
The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch. The lesson of bells is that no work is worth finishing, so why care too deeply about anything?
The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command. You do not have any rights.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study. Fortunately there are procedures to break the will of those who resist.
“This is another way I teach the lesson of dependency. Good people wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. This is the most important lesson of all, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that our entire economy depends upon this lesson being learned.
Think of what would fall apart if kids weren’t trained in the dependency lesson:
The social-service businesses could hardly survive, including the fast-growing counseling industry;
Commercial entertainment of all sorts, along with television, would wither if people remembered how to make their own fun;
The food services, restaurants and prepared-food warehouses would shrink if people returned to making their own meals rather than depending on strangers to cook for them.
Much of modern law, medicine, and engineering would go too — the clothing business as well — unless a guaranteed supply of helpless people poured out of our schools each year.
We’ve built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don’t know any other way. “
In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer’s measure of your worth. My kids are constantly evaluated and judged.
Self-evaluation — the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet — is never a factor in these things. The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents, but must rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched. I keep each student under constant surveillance.
The lesson of constant surveillance is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate. Surveillance is an ancient urgency among certain influential thinkers; it was a central prescription set down by Calvin in the Institutes, by Plato in the Republic, by Hobbes, by Comte, by Francis Bacon. All these childless men discovered the same thing: Children must be closely watched if you want to keep a society under central control.
It only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for “basic skills” practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I’ve just taught you.
We’ve had a society increasingly under central control in the United States since just before the Civil War: the lives we lead, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the green highway signs we drive by from coast to coast are the products of this central control.
So, too, I think, are the epidemics of drugs, suicide, divorce, violence, cruelty, and the hardening of class into caste in the U.S., products of the dehumanization of our lives, the lessening of individual and family importance that central control imposes.
Without a fully active role in community life you cannot develop into a complete human being. Aristotle taught that. Surely he was right; look around you or look in the mirror: that is the demonstration.
“School” is an essential support system for a vision of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows to a control point as it ascends.
“School” is an artifice which makes such a pyramidal social order seem inevitable (although such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution).
In colonial days and through the period of the early Republic we had no schools to speak of. And yet the promise of democracy was beginning to be realized.
We turned our backs on this promise by bringing to life the ancient dream of Egypt: compulsory training in subordination for everybody. Compulsory schooling was the secret Plato reluctantly transmitted in the Republic when he laid down the plans for total state control of human life.
The current debate about whether we should have a national curriculum is phony; we already have one, locked up in the six lessons I’ve told you about and a few more I’ve spared you. This curriculum produces moral and intellectual paralysis, and no curriculum of content will be sufficient to reverse its bad effects. What is under discussion is a great irrelevancy.
Look again at the six lessons of school. This is training for permanent underclasses, people who are to be deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And it is training shaken loose from its original logic: to regulate the poor. Since the 1920s the growth of the well-articulated school bureaucracy, and the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, have enlarged schooling’s original grasp to seize the sons and daughters of the middle class.
With lessons like the ones I teach day after day, is it any wonder we have the national crisis we face today? Young people indifferent to the adult world and to the future; indifferent to almost everything except the diversion of toys and violence? Rich or poor, schoolchildren cannot concentrate on anything for very long. They have a poor sense of time past and to come; they are mistrustful of intimacy (like the children of divorce they really are); they hate solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent, passive, violent, timid in the face of the unexpected, addicted to distraction.
“The modern workplace isn’t just hostile to those of us with dreams or a creative spirit, the modern workplace has become hostile to those of us who want to be human.” -Steve Havelka
When I stopped working for other people and started working for myself, I realized how much of a HOLD school has on how we respond to things.
It took a long while to shake the idea that I had to “act busy” or “waste time” if I finished early, if someone was paying me to be in an office.
I was programmed to look over my shoulder, even if I was doing something legitimate.
At my job I was constantly interrupted, and could not get things done.
I was forced into a rigid schedule that made me feel so trapped.
I was judged by my outfits and tried to buy fancier outfits so the boss would stop criticizing me. But he was prejudiced against me, so no matter what I wore, he would criticize it. And meanwhile I had more credit card debt.
I would go out to eat to try to make myself feel better with fancy food. It didn’t really work.
If I didn’t get promoted, it was a measure of my worth. My boss would dictate arbitrary things to be done, and I was supposed to do them instantly, whether or not there were more important things to do. It was a repeat of school.
When I left full-time nonprofit employment, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Suddenly I wasn’t being watched.
I wasn’t being controlled.
I didn’t have a career ladder to climb. I didn’t have to bow and scrape to anyone.
I wasn’t being told what was important anymore.
I wasn’t made to go sit in a prison and look busy.
It was a terrible freedom and it was too much for me. I looked for work for years after, trying to recreate my own slavery to the system.
But during those years, I realized how much I actually needed to live on, and how a lot of what I thought I needed was merely a smokescreen for “what society needs you to have for a corporate job” like fancy car, fancy clothes, fancy jewelry, fancy perfume, fancy shoes, fancy house, etc.
And now, finally, I feel free of all of that. And if you’re interested, I’d love to tell you more about it.
How about you?
Would you like to create your own methods for judging yourself and your accomplishments?
Would you like to do a self-assessment instead of waiting for an annual review?
Would you like to make your own entertainment instead of waiting for others to entertain you?
Would you like to work from home instead of in an office?
Is there something you’re fascinated by, that you’d like to study in more depth? Why not do that now?
Are you interested in looking at other ways of being in the world?