schools on trial

schools on trial.png


april 2015:

It’s official: My book titled “Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Democracy Can Correct Our Educational Malpractice” will be published by Doubleday/Random House on February 16th, 2016!

oct 2015:

schools on trial nikhil


blurb about new book from Gatto.. nice.

The renowned JOHN TAYLOR GATTO has blurbed my forthcoming book SCHOOLS ON TRIAL (!!

Original Tweet:

gatto blurb for nikhil


dec 2015

SIR KEN ROBINSON endorses my forthcoming book SCHOOLS ON TRIAL!!



feb 2016 – schools on trial book review/interview – salon


picture has opening of ch 1 – radical notion that children are people…

@nikhilgoya_l @agileschools @tomisparker @guidovandijk @WillyWijnands  Chapter 1 & title is a very important mindset

Original Tweet:

the system is harmful. the system is culpable. however, what happens in nearly every instance is that instead of castigating the perpetrator of this crime, we – society – chide the victims. we blame the students for ‘refusing to be educated.’


Ad for my Google NYC talk on Friday

Original Tweet:


1960 – free school movement.. often overlooked… led by A.S. Neill

research by Peter Gray on these schools… that even when not forced to learn (basics).. learned.. more efficiently and w/o losing curiosity et al

8 min  – reason for book – 1\ expose ed  2\ offer blueprint of where it’s successful

9 min- big problem.. a lot of these schools are private…

10 min – my mission – that progressive ed should be able to reach most vulnerable in our society… ie: ny state progressive consortium… performance based tasks over standard tests…

12 min – i’m hoping to study progressive at least in communities of color

ideal vision – city as classroom itself… at that time – school w/o walls… so kids spent most of time in museums, libraries, bakeries, et al.. kids became re energized by idea of learning… these ideas were hashed out very thoroughly 68-72… i’m just trying to hash them out for the society we live in..

15 min – i wanted to bring these ideas from the 60s back.. ie: holt, illich,  goodman.. et al…

18 min – if the end goal is the same curriculum.. i don’t think that’s a very big iteration…

a nother way.. perhaps leap.. for (blank)’s sake

self talk as data.. as the day.

20 min – like the big banks.. i would like to break up the schools… ie: schools under 250… (after question on decision making)

21 min – always going to be some cohort of kids who doesn’t like decision…  then came to consensus

so.. via Nancy.. and Penelope… why.. with today’s tech.. would we spend time in meetings.. trying to get everyone to agree (consensus ness)…

perhaps we try.. dissensus (commonism).. antifragility.. to keep us all alive… ongoing regeneration…

26 min – on diff between test and assessment…


Excerpt of my book SCHOOLS ON TRIAL exposing the corporate attack on public education


rally against king as sec of ed


sec of ed – who instead:


feb 2016 – interview – new approach to broken school model

3 min – when children have control.. shaped by own curiosity

5 min – epic elementary –  in liberty – pbl school

14 min – try a pilot program – innovative pbl

15 min – ideal vision – john holt – learning w/in life/community/city

31 min – under every student succeedss act… 7 states moving away from stand tests

33 min – on race to top – massive pkg – 4.3 bill… not a program that was very well known in ed community.. that’s why wasn’t opposition in forefront…

34 min – interviewer: race to top never required common core…  standards but not common core..

Race to the Top, abbreviated R2T, RTTT or RTT, is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education competitive grant created to spur and reward innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 25, 2009. States were awarded points for satisfying certain educational policies, such as performance-based evaluations for teachers and principals based on multiple measures of educator effectiveness (and are tied to targeted professional development and feedback), adopting common standards (though adoption of the Common Core State Standards was *not required), adoption of policies that do not prohibit (or effectively prohibit) the expansion of high-quality charter schools, turning around the lowest-performing schools, and building and using data systems.

*not required – unless see below… in red.. at least 212 of 500 points toward funding directly (more indirectly) relate to common core. and more to the practical/actual.. as a teacher for 20 years deeply involved in all the reform below – and witnessing/experiencing the underlying violence David Graeber writes of when money is our guide/god.. renders any talk of required/non-required ness moot.. and talk of points/criteria for funding.. pointless…

calling this a myth (which is what i found upon googling) and what the interviewer  was clinging to..- is the myth. we need to wake up.. money & violence still have us in a stronghold… [no matter how bitcoin ish and/or personalized ish.. they become… again .. via nikhil –  not iteration enough…]

Criteria for Funding

State applications for funding were scored on selection criteria worth a total of 500 points. In order of weight, the selection criteria were:

  • Great Teachers and Leaders (138 total points)
    • Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance (58 points)
    • Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals (25 points)
    • Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals (21 points)
    • Providing effective support to teachers and principals (20 points)
    • Improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs (14 points)
  • State Success Factors (125 total points)
    • Articulating State’s education reform agenda and LEAs’ participation in it (65 points)
    • Building strong statewide capacity to implement, scale up, and sustain proposed plans (30 points)
    • Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps (30 points)
  • Standards and Assessments (70 total points)
    • Developing and adopting common standards (40 points)
    • Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments (20 points)
    • Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments (10 points)
  • General Selection Criteria (55 total points)
    • Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools (40 points)
    • Making education funding a priority (10 points)
    • Demonstrating other significant reform conditions (5 points)
  • Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 total points)
    • Turning around the lowest-achieving schools (40 points)
    • Intervening in the lowest-achieving schools and LEAs (10 points)
  • Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 total points)
    • Fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (24 points)
    • Using data to improve instruction (18 points)
    • Accessing and using State data (5 points)

37 min – interviewer: how to force students who are not interested by age of 11 or 12….   nikhil: children are natural learners.. what i’ve found, ie: brooklyn free school.. (talks detox ness) – unlearn ad relearn… detox could take a very long time

unless… we hasten that..

41 min – suggested solution – pilot w/in schools, ie: independent project.. so can gradually detox

44 min – interviewer: when’s the point you go from individual learner to adult world… ie: lawyer/dr/architect – do we abandon all those boards/tests..

45 min – nikhil – your ie’s are of very standardized professions… dr/lawyer… but there are dr’s and lawyers that come out of these schools as well..

and might we imagine – dr’s and lawyers we have now.. not best they could be.. ie: following rules/standards rather than listening to people/hearts……. and/or might we imagine us all living a nother way… where there is less need/request/obsession with lawyers/dr’s…

46 min – interviewer: don’t you think they’ll be at a disadvantage… not starting test prep at earlier age..

we need a huge global pause/reflect.. on what is advantage /disadvantage.. to all of us..

thurman alive law… zinn on energy

53 min – q: on vision of this rolling out… a: more pilot programs to research – ie: school w/in school and chicago cities of learning and badges…. data base for kids to choose from..

55 min – in favor of free higher ed.. and that would include app fees…

57 min – on protfolio based approach to applying to schools and costs…

or imagine… hosting life bits

58 min – q: if you get here.. how to train teachers… a: agree.. that’s second biggest problem.. and i dont’ think i have an answer to that..

again – why change has to be for all of us…  – www ness…


panel (nikhil talk about 20 – 27 min)

32 min – on prepping for place in corp world vs prepping for a thinking citizen


I went on Chris Hedges‘ RT show to talk about my book SCHOOLS ON TRIAL, education policy, and Trump/DeVos. Disclosure: wearing a lot of makeup and hairspray.

nikhil: it’s a system of social control.. specifically designed to inculcate the traits of obedience and punctuality and respect for authority w/in working class children

chris: standardized testing.. a war on critical thinking

6 min – nikhil starts

8 min – nikhil: a very de humanizing and exhausting process.. adults.. a kind of amnesia toward it because would bring back all that trauma

12 min – nikhil: 1/4 of american school children live in poverty.. and richest country in world

13 min – nikhil: charter schools.. in poorer communities ie: new orleans doesn’t have any public schools left

19 min – nikhil: it’s a system of social control.. specifically designed to inculcate the traits of obedience and punctuality and respect for authority w/in working class children… founders wanted to create a system to perpetuate their own economic political system..

21 min – nikhil: creating a docile obedient citizenry..  and a population that is not very conducive to mental health

23 min – nikhil: when you go thru this process.. everyone else around you are doing it.. and families encouraging it..

25 min – nikhil: several proposals i’ve set out.. 1\ new deal 2\ community schooling – cincinnati ohio.. mental/dental/washer-dryer.. et al .. to alleviate conditions outside as much as possible.. until we figure out how to redistribute wealth..

chris: redefining intelligence

27 min – nikhil: curiosity/creativity/# of questions asked decline rapidly from kindergarten on




i see original title was via freedom and democracy… switched to freedom and creativity…

i like… because… thinking on demo schools and democracy.. as perhaps being so kind as to keep us from us… ie: the need to redefine decision making.. disengage from consensus et al.. perhaps commonism w daily dissensus to regenerate us.. keep us alive..


notes/quotes.. as i read (finally found in library – yay):


ch 1 – the radical notion that children are people


link between the design of schools – age segregation, prison-like atmosphere, authoritarian governing structure, and deprivation of freedom and rights – to the acts of aggression. out schools are veritable petri dishes for bullying behavior

begs rat park ness


why is bullying so common in traditional schools? the first reason is the autocratic governing structure that shuts our the voices of the incarcerated. ‘bulling’ wrote peter gray…’ occurs in all institutions where people who have no political power and are ruled in topdown fashion are required by law or econ necessity to remain in that setting. it occurs regularly, for ie, in adult as well as juvenile prisons. those who are bullied can’t escape, and they have no legislative/judicial power to confront the bullies’..

again.. begs we try a nother way..  a rat park way.. based on gershenfeld sel.. where everyone has something else to do – ie: besides bully.. incarcerate.. power up.. et al


accordindg to centers for disease control and prevention.. suicide is the third leading cause of death  for people between 10-24.. in addition,… cdc’s 2011 youth risk behavior surveillance survey revealed that about 1 in 12 high school students has attempted suicide and 1 in 6 has seriously considered it.

why are young people killing themselves in droves..? drug, alcohol, physical and sexual abuse, family dysfunction, depression, and academic pressure are the main causes. and school has a large part to play in this..

an oct 2011 paper.. seasonality of youth suicide and the academic calendar – back to school blues: provides some insight… benjamin hansen.. uni of oregon and matthew lang.. xavier uni.. came across starling data on youth suicides.. there was a sharp downswing in the number of youth suicides during the summer months of j, j and a, found nonsummer monty with lowest number of suicides is december..


could be weather.. et al.. but none of those theories panned out. so looked into 19 yr olds.. not in school.. the 19 yr old suicide rates does not decrease in summer.. suggesting high school calendar plays a role..

bullying and suicide..

what few realize is that due to the compulsory attendance requirement, students who are suffering because of issues related to school are effectively trapped.. day after day, they are lawfully forced to return to the very places where they are derided by other s and feel miserable..


ch 2 – the disturbing origins of compulsory schooling


it would be far-fetched to make the assertion that compulsory schooling has led to he decrease of literacy raters (99% to 14%).. as the skein of cause of effect would be too complex to unravel.. but what we can conclude is that it is not necessary to mandate formal schooling in order to spawn a literate society…

nice Nikhil


1819 – via gatto: the system was split into 3 tiers..  the elite (.5%) went to schools where they were taught’ how to manage materials, men and situations – to be problem solvers’… next tier 5.5-7.5%.. destined to be politicians, doctors, engineers, and lawyers… the remaining 92-94% went to an 8 yr period of compulsory schooling, where they learned ‘obedience, cooperation and correct attitudes, along with rudiments of literacy and official state myths of history… turning them into disciplined citizens faithful to the govt.


horace mann (intrigued by th routinization and age segregation) .. prussia.. et al.. ‘the whole scheme.. of prussian elementary ed is shaped with the express purpose of making 95 out of every 100 citizens subservient to the ruling house and to the state..


school was an agent of social control


1872 – harris – ‘the first requisite of the school is order: each pupil must be taught first and foremost to conform his behavior to a general standard’.. he pointed out a few duties of students, including punctuality, regularity, and silence, which would all have real-life application in their future work


until the mid 20th cent most students left school before attending high school. once high school became universal, going to college became the clearest distinguisher between the social classes..

4 purposes of modern day schools: 1\ warehousing/babysitting  2\ teaching compliance  3\ ranking/sorting

noam: the whole ed and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent , and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on- because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions’

4\ indoctrination/conditions for entry into econ/social systems..


holt quote: – ‘the requirement that a child go to school.. 6 hrs/day.. 180 days/yr.. for about 10 yrs..  whether or not he learns anything there, whether or not he alrady knows it or could learn it faster/better somewhere else, is such a gross violation of civil liberties.. that few adults would stand for it.. but the child who resists is treated as a criminal.. with this requirement we created an industry, an army of people whose whole work was to tell young people what they had to learn and to try to make them learn it’


violation of us constitution.. 13th amend.. neither slavery nor involuntary servitude (a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one’s course of action or way of life)


the first and most obvious question is, what would working parents do if school were not compulsory?

let’s try this.. a 2 convo day.. everyday.. for all of us..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

the chief reason why there has been very little pushback against compulsory schooling is that the system works very well for the convenience of parents… that is why we need to build accessible alternative physical learning spaces to fill that need..

rather.. why we need to make that need irrelevant..


cevin: ‘the key to sustaining an abusive, oppressive system is to convince people that it holds merits for the victims’

1880s.. govt stats and census data for 12 states.. 6 with state controlled ed and 6 with ‘parent controlled ed… he (montgomery – attorney general) found that after a state adopted compulsory schooling, the criminal and suicide rate soared. his analysis also showed that there were ‘over four times as many suicides under state ed as under parental ed’


another concern is that some children are too young to make a decision about attending school or not.. i agree.. at the younger ages, parents would obviously have more control over this matter.

whoa. dang.

the same parents you said

‘the chief reason why there has been very little pushback against compulsory schooling is that the system works very well for the convenience of parents… that is why we need to build accessible alternative physical learning spaces to fill that need..’

another reason that begs we leap.. ie: we can’t put 5 yr olds (humans) on hold.. in spaces that can kill their curiosity.. when it’s that very energy we need modeled …

1 yr to be 5 – for (blank)’s sake

(then suggests.. that those who choose not to go to school.. are in the city as the day.. and quote matt hern for community ed ness)

this won’t work with parents working and other kids in school.. not enough people/connections to make the dance dance..

(then says.. getting rid of compulsory ed is not a first step.. must have alt first.. a movement)

i’d say.. yes.. an alt.. we need to model this alt in a fractal rep.. so people can believe a nother way is possible


ch 3 – no child left uncontrolled


gatto: ‘genius is as common as dirt.. we suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women’

rather.. we haven’t figured out – and executed a means to facil (not manage) a population of curious (not educated) people (all ages)..

in short we don’t need tests.. in stead we needs assessments and portfolios..

actually.. we’d do much better with simply leaving an hlb ish trail.. with nothing to prove.. rather.. as data to facil connections..


(when talking corp reformers.. no excuses policy on role of poverty on schooling).. nearly a quarter of american children live in poverty, putting this country just ahead of last=place romania in the rankings of developed countries’ child poverty rates.. it is one o of the most disgraceful scandals of our time.. yet it hardly matters at all in the calculus of the corp reformers – or they incorrectly argue that the very measures they propose will lift children out of poverty..


if the corp ed reformers were really committed to making life better for the poorest and most disadvantaged children in our society, they would stop making asinine comments like ‘poverty is not destiny’ but rather declare, as activist kenzo shibata once said: ‘poverty shouldn’t be. period.’ and they would call for wraparound services, free breakfast programs,early childhood programs for the poor, and adequate numbers of librarians and nurses in schools in order to ameliorate the effects of child poverty ..

whoa.. nice sentiment/actions 20-30 yrs ago.. but now that we have the means for 7 bn to leap to a nother way to live..  free breakfast just is an insult/bandaid

dang.. early childhood programs.. programs..? really..? like the ones where they go to indian reservations and get the pre schoolers ready for public ed..?


ch 4 – the right to learn freely


pathbreaking research discrediting the centuries-old conventional wisdom and acknowledging that ‘in some ways, young children are actually smarter, more imaginative, more caring, and even more conscious that adults are.. as alison gopnik puts int in her book – the philosophical baby. gopnik…notes that due to the plasticity of babies’ brains, ‘instead of experiencing a single aspect of their world and shutting down everything else they seem to be vividly experiencing everything at once..their brains are soaked in cholinergic transmitters, with few inhibitory transmitters to allay their effects’


ch 5 – the right to play


via research – biggest killers of creativity are constant surveillance, expected evaluation, rewards, competition and restriction of choice.. not coincidentally, these are the characteristics of the average traditional school


this is why kids with extravagant imaginations rarely fit in well in school


john holt: good behavior is mistaken for good character by teachers and schools..

alfie kohn: ‘fix the kids’ orientation follows logically from belief that kids need fixing.. indeed, the movement seems to be driven by a stunningly dark view of children – and, for that matter, of people in general

this has led some to argue that self-control equates to social control..

the point is that lifelong self-control and grit is not learned best thru obedience training, but thru exploration and play


there’s nothing wrong with children playing all day. the problem we run into is that it doesn’t fit many parents’ limited criteria of what real learning looks like: children in school sitting at a desk, head facing the chalkboard, and a teacher telling them what to do.. they say there’s a stark diff between work/play. in those parents’ eyes, children are wasting time and not doing anything productive when they play

again – from p 55 – why we have to have a better way – than young children not getting to decide on school or not


in his research, brown noticed that one common thread that linked mass murderers was the absence of play in their childhoods


chudacoff: designates 1900-1950 as ‘the golden age of unstructured play’.. child labor laws were in full effect, so children had more time for leisure. and parents were content w letting their children roam free w/in clearly understood limits.. but by second half of 20th cent.. what he calls ‘the commercialization and co optation of children’s play’  began occurring. there was also the problem of adult intervention in play. ‘ adults increasingly tried to restrict and control children’s pleasure by obliging them to follow adult tules, presumably for reasons of rationality and safety..


ironically, parents are one of the largest contributors to this problem (children deprived of excitement and social interactions of a healthy youth) .. many have turned days of free wheeling, unsupervised play in to wall- to  wall tutoring session and structured play dates

amount of time children participate in free play declined by 25% between 1981 and 1997..david elkind: children have lost 12 hrs of free time a week..

timeline ness


ch 6 — schools where children can be themselves

democratic and free schools


learning should be free of fear and be engaged in for its own sake. not to please parents. not to impress other people. not to get good grades. not to accumulate degrees or awards…this however is not an argument against portfolios and evaluations..

? what are the evaluations for..?

we can facil 7 bn following their whimsy everyday.. leaving a trail .. data for connections.. not data to be evaluated.. if person wants to look over trail and eval self.. ok.. but if truly free.. we most likely wouldn’t even spend time doing that.. thinking here of james bach – if it’s important .. you’ll remember it.. no need of list/doc..

so so far – mentioned alfie, matt, carol, john h, john tg, jiddu, gever, yaakov, laura p, peter, cevin, paulo, et al .. nice on history/gathering

and to detox – we can shorten that to 24 hrs.. if it’s all of us.. ie: 2 convos ness

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


in the 1930s .. lev vygotsky devised the term ‘zone of proximal development’ referring to he distance between what a learner can master independently and what the same learner can do with the help of an adult or other peers..


‘the only way you can stop a child from learning to read and likint it- in the densely verbal culture which surrounds us all with printed language anywhere we turn – is to teach it the way we teach it – john taylor gatto

my blood boils every time someone says that we need to get all kids reading on grade level..

huge resonation


paul goodman: according to some neurophysiologists, given the exposure to written code in modern urban and suburban conditions, any emotionally normal child in middle-class surroundings will spontaneously learn to read by age nine, just as he learned to speak by age three. it si impossible for him not to pick up the code unless he is systematically interrupted and discourage, for instance by trying to teach him in school’


a gallop poll found that only 20% of people in the us can give a strong ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you like what you do each day’


democratic and free schools most humane.. challenge is how to bring these schools so more communities..

or go even deeper..  sans schools.. a nother way.. godspeed.. for (blank)’s sake


ch 7 – not your father’s shop class

maker movement

workshop school


ch 8 – enrolling in the real world

ie’s of better higher ed..



(after section on uncollege and dropping out being ok for wealthy white males) low income and minority students should strongly consider going to college even when they may be saddled w enormous student loan debt and have no guarantee of financial stability. skipping out can be detrimental to their futures

oh my.

‘college is a purchased loyalty oath to an imagined employer’ explains .. sarah kendzior… college shows you are serious enough about your life to risk ruining it early on. college is a promise the economy does not keep – but not going to college promises you will struggle to survive’


our society has a very firmly rooted system of credentialism – an obsession wi credentials when it comes to hiring and social status. college is one of the few places where social capital can be amassed and premier credentials are earned. w/o them, there is little shot at climbing to a higher rung of the socioeconomic ladder


so.. perpetuate the climbing of the socioeconomic ladder..


the deck is stacked against african americans, so they are the ones who should least consider alternatives to college

dang. wtf


(section on apprenticeships)

ittycheria, when interviewing college grads from the most esteemed institutions, realized that most did not have anything much as yet to contribute to the company, nor did they have many relevant skills or competencies..

mismatch with above..  on getting those credentials to climb the ladder


bock (sr vp of people operations at google) .. when you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. and we should do everything we can to find those people..

those people are 7 bn of us..  we just don’t know/believe it.. because we’ve never set ourselves 100% free before.. we have no idea what we’re missing..


ray bradbury: i don’t believe in colleges and unis. i believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money..

and now web too.. if made it accessible to all..


molly: the reason people go to ivies is that it’s networking with the future lords of the universe.. they maintain this very hierarchical view of the world, where they know their place in it. they have this idea that people are chosen for things and that there’s a fair choosing mech. that’s just not the way the world runs. the world has never run like that

indeed.. molly


another bit on how bad credentialing is.. but how it’s how it is.. then to.. illich’s dream-law not gonna happen.. to ..some businesses using portfolios, badges, github profiles.. so i’m hopeful

hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. nikhil


ch 9 – school without walls


illich learning webs.. well ahead of his time.. but we haven’t harnessed its full potential yet

hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. nikhil


city as campus.. chicago/macarthur/badges/mozilla/..


most of all, badges are a godsend to self-directed and nontraditional learners..

or a distraction to equity for 7 bn


ideally, the city of learning initiative wouldn’t just supplement what happens i school, but would serve as a partial replacement of school itself.. abandoned and underutilized buildings could be turned into public spaces…

actually.. ideally.. we’d do city as school.. for all of us.. adults.. elderly… young children.. we all need to be set free.. and .. the dance needs all of us to work..


graubard: ton the sickness of american socieyt…

but just because the task is immensely difficult is no reason not to take a shot..

exactly.. let’s be bold.. but bold in a way that is deep/simple/open enough for all of us.. a nother way




we should look to our forebears – dewey.. montessori.. neill.. holt.. goodman … illich.. kozol.. kreire.. and understand where they succeeded and faltered.. and with that understanding.. stop pinning our hopes on a secretary of ed.. et al..

exactly.. i believe it’s this..  nikhil.. you of all people know we have to let go that much.. to see what we’re capable of.. we just need a mech to facil that chaos.. let’s give it a try..


the kids are happy

even if kids in one school are happy.. rest of world.. ie: parents.. aren’t (in bullshit jobs et al) ..

we can do happy for everyone.. but not thru the silo ness of schools ..