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:

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.

2 Responses

  1. thomas s

    Gatto’s comments are certainly thought provoking, insightful. hope the educational establishment doesn’t have a contract out on him. but a few words re what is loosely termed “critical thinking”. we are all for it (or should be for it). unfortunately, however, what passes for critical thinking in many circles these days is merely a mulish “who sez” or “show me”. we must always remember that thinking critically, in it’s best sense, entails a number of prerequisites: intellectual humility; the ability to think logically; openess to/respect for facts/evidence; the ability to reflect; respect for authority (after all, 90 percent or more of what we claim to know comes to us on authority, whether from great minds of the past or from our teachers here and now); common sense; discernment (i.e. the ability to know the difference between good arguments and bad arguments, good sources of information and bad sources of information); recognition of the pitfalls of slavish committments to ideologies of one kind or other. I could go on but hopefully, I have said enough to make my point.

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