THE ROTO-ROOTER OF EDUCATION

The following is an excerpt from a two-hour interview with Dr. Caleb Gattegno conducted by John and Susana Pint in New York City on July 4, 1985.

BUREAUCRACY

If I had been made Minister of Education in a country, I wouldn't be more effective because... Neru used to say, "I'll send a command to my bureaucracy. Each of my secretaries is trying to please me. But then the command goes into the waters and spreads and they let it lie, they sit on it and until I come back to that problem, I wouldn't know what happened to my command, where it went! My impulse was to show them something that I wanted done, but inertia got hold of it."

This I have known for many, many years, that you can't work through bureaucracies -- and they are everywhere. Bureaucracies are not for initiation. Bureaucracies are not for innovations. They are only for carrying out things that are routine.

It's a huge problem! When you think how long ago it was that Jesus Christ tried to convince people that love is a lever for mankind -- and he hasn't yet succeeded after 2000 years!

RELIGIOUS CONVERSION AND THE PEDESTRIAN TECHNICIAN

You can say, "Everybody wants to love; everybody wants to be loved." You can say, "If Jesus Christ couldn't do it, how could I do it?"

JOHN PINT: He got stopped by bureaucracies, too.

CALEB GATTEGNO: Well, he has a church and the church is an institution... but there are means. If you bring things to being only gestures... People can take gestures and do things -- say, put a cassette into a machine. Everybody can do it. Press a button on an elevator: everybody can do that. Now this is the stage at which you have to bring things and when they are at that stage, [you're] all right.

So, if you say, "First you should be aware of awareness," well, what does it mean, "aware of awareness?" Even people who have worked with me for ten or fifteen years come again and say, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY AWARENESS?" Well, what can I do?

Now that is not a question to put -- it's not a condition to put on anybody. You can't say to anyone: "You must be aware of awareness." You have to take it upon yourself to bring the problem to the point where, if they get engaged in it because of one minute's worth of good will, they are hooked! And you are asking so little of them, so they will do it and they'll end up having what you want them to have. That's what the computer does, and the film too. [References to various literacy and math programs by C.G. -- Ed] These things are done by technology -- they can't be done by religious conversion. Now religious conversion is possible and there are many people who get converted. But there are many more who don't. So, I am essentially -- for the public -- a pedestrian technician. I walk slowly.

EDUCATIONAL DRAIN CLEANING

When they used to ask me, "How do you qualify yourself?" -- perhaps you heard me say this 25 years ago -- I used to answer, "I am the Roto-Rooter of Education." You know, that's a company that clears drains, and I work with the things that clog channels. I wanted to do that, but I do it technically by doing what is required. If I went out and asked people to convert before they joined me, I'd be a guru, I would be doing what is not my job.

SUSANA PINT: Some people have called us, "Gattegno's followers," but we're not Gattegno's followers.

CALEB GATTEGNO: Because Gattegno doesn't have followers. I don't see my followers... where are they? I discourage all of them and I do it deliberately. I must discourage people from this.

You see, I have a clinic here and I get people who come for help. Now, the public is sure that when you have a problem at school, an emotional problem or a pedagogical problem, it will take a long time to solve. When they come to me, I look at their problem and if it is one that will take a long time, I tell them, "Don't waste your money and your time," because this isn't the solution." But mostly I get people who in two or three sittings maximum, don't need to come again. Because I do not work on their weaknesses. Everybody wants to work on weakness, but I work on their strengths. That generates the dynamics and they feel that they are ready to move.


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