Dumbing us down – John Taylor Gatto on public education
Friday evening I went to a presentation by John Taylor Gatto at Macalester College.
Gatto’s presentation, sponsored by the Institute of Theological & Interdisciplinary Studies, was thought provoking. So are his books.
John Taylor Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. In 1991, he quit because he no longer wished to “hurt kids to make a living.” He then began a public speaking and writing career.
Gatto is the author of the following books:
- Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992).
- The Exhausted School (1993).
- A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (2000).
- The Underground History of American Education (2001). (Complete Text online)
- Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling (2008).
In his article “Against School: How public education cripples our kids, and why (2001), Gatto says: “Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they’ll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology – all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.”
Gatto promotes homeschooling. He thinks compulsory schooling cripples children’s imagination and discourage critical thinking.