Dumbing Us Down -25th Anniversary Edition: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling - 25th Anniversary Edition Info

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Throw off the shackles of formal schooling and
embark upon a rich journey of self-directed, life-long learning

After over 100 years of mandatory schooling in the
U.S., literacy rates have dropped, families are fragmented, learning
"disabilities" are skyrocketing, and children and youth are increasingly
disaffected. Thirty years of teaching in the public school system led
John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental
schooling is to blame, accomplishing little but to teach young people to
follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.

He became a
fierce advocate of families and young people taking back education and
learning, arguing that "genius is as common as dirt," but that
conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and
problem-solving skills we're born with, replacing it with
rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment.

Gatto's
radical treatise on public education, a New Society Publishers
bestseller for 25 years, continues to bang the drum for an unshackling
of children and learning from formal schooling. Now, in an
ever-more-rapidly changing world with an explosion of alternative routes
to learning, it's poised to continue to shake the world of
institutional education for many more years.

Featuring a new
foreword from Zachary Slayback, an Ivy League dropout and cofounder of
tech start-up career foundry Praxis, this 25th anniversary edition will
inspire new generations of parents and students to take control of
learning and kickstart an empowered society of self-directed
lifetime-learners.


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Reviews for Dumbing Us Down -25th Anniversary Edition: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling - 25th Anniversary Edition:

5

Apr 06, 2008

Before reading this book I really thought I was 100% sure about my reasons to homeschool. Boy, was I wrong. I guess I was only half way there because now that I have finished this book, I realize that I never really saw the harms of the public school system 100%.

Our children are being limited every day by being locked away. Our children are struggling with learning more than they did before the system was in place like today. The role models they take on during school really are harming them. Before reading this book I really thought I was 100% sure about my reasons to homeschool. Boy, was I wrong. I guess I was only half way there because now that I have finished this book, I realize that I never really saw the harms of the public school system 100%.

Our children are being limited every day by being locked away. Our children are struggling with learning more than they did before the system was in place like today. The role models they take on during school really are harming them. But it is much more than that. And if you are a parent who cares about your child, you must read this book. There is no excuse to remaining ignorant about our public school system in America. Do it for your children. There is no other person in the world who cares more about your children than you, who knows what is better for your kids than you. But do your research. They deserve to be given the best education for life. ...more
1

Jun 03, 2008

This book gets a big "meh" from me. First of all, it's not so much a book as a group of essays. And I had to laugh when I opened the book and the print was freaking 18 point. (Like maybe we're not bright enough to follow along with typical 12 point print?)

I also have a problem with someone who spent his whole career in New York school systems making broad sweeping statements about public education in general. I have a hard time believing that a New York City educator understands ANYTHING about This book gets a big "meh" from me. First of all, it's not so much a book as a group of essays. And I had to laugh when I opened the book and the print was freaking 18 point. (Like maybe we're not bright enough to follow along with typical 12 point print?)

I also have a problem with someone who spent his whole career in New York school systems making broad sweeping statements about public education in general. I have a hard time believing that a New York City educator understands ANYTHING about the kind of education I had -- in rural Montana, where we had one school district for our entire town (and the ranch and reservation kids were bused in) and I graduated with 83 people. Those are two completely different worlds. And there are as many different school environments are there are different schools in the country.

It also bothered me that he made such generalized, sensational statements. ALL his students watch too much TV and it's ruining them. Really? Every single one of your students? How do you know that? He also said that double-income families are ruining our children, along with the lack of inter-generational interaction. How, then, does my life where both husband and wife work but kiddo spends all day with grandma and grandpa fit into that equation?

He has a few good points within the book, but I'm disappointed that what is supposed to be an intellectual argument relies so heavily on sensational, fact less claims and overgeneralizations.
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4

Nov 25, 2015

Wow, this read really had me questioning our educational system. Informative and fast read!
1

Sep 01, 2013

I checked this book out after a friend recommended John Taylor Gatto to me after an argument on a Facebook thread that started with a post about how we seem to be producing people who have contempt for science and reason.

Gatto spent a few decades as a NYC public school teacher, so in theory he should have interesting ideas about what's wrong with education and how to address the problems, but in practice, he doesn't.

In a nutshell his thesis is the public school system produces conformist I checked this book out after a friend recommended John Taylor Gatto to me after an argument on a Facebook thread that started with a post about how we seem to be producing people who have contempt for science and reason.

Gatto spent a few decades as a NYC public school teacher, so in theory he should have interesting ideas about what's wrong with education and how to address the problems, but in practice, he doesn't.

In a nutshell his thesis is the public school system produces conformist non-thinkers. And it's part of an implied conspiracy, which started after the Civil War, with the purpose of indoctrinating children by separating them from their communities and families and imposing systems of networks in place of community, with the ultimate goal of imposing centralized societal control. Things were so much better for education in 17th colonial Massachusetts where people had their own relationship with God and had to find their own truths. And we can only solve the problems we face and improve society by dismantling the educational system and everything that supports it and return to that never-never land of colonial Massachusetts by allowing the free market to take over and give people freedom of choice. Somehow, this will not only make education better but it will solve all of society's problems.

I found his argument lacking in many respects. He denigrates the education system as a whole but only ever worked in one district. He constantly emphasizes his experience as a teacher and status as one-time New York State teacher of the year but dismisses other people who work in the field. He idealizes the past, especially 17th century Massachusetts and his own childhood to contrast with everything he hates about modern life, but rather than address what changed in American life and why he implies it's some grand conspiracy to destroy society as a whole and produce sheep reliant on centralized authority.

His magic solution to go back to olden times by dismantling education as we know it, including any kind of structure in the lives of students, allow people to chose their own truths, or realities, and over time the free market will correct all of the flaws and society will change on its own for the better. In other words, valuing self obsession and self interest will make things better because things like reason and rationality are hostile to freedom and oppressive.

How a system that he claims worked in a small community almost 400 years ago will work in a massive and complex country that is the modern United States he doesn't explain in any detail. He just asserts it will. And he clearly has contempt for industry but is willing to sell things through the free market where only a massive industry could replace the function currently filled by the schools he wants to destroy. Simplistic, self-deceptive, sophist thinking at its best. ...more
3

Oct 17, 2007

While worth reading as an wake up call to all who think the only problem with our educational system is that it needs more money it should be taken with a grain of salt, or rather a slat block. Gatto is correct that schools act as mainly propaganda for the elite class and he may even be correct that compulsory education should not be the law of the land. (At least at the high school level) What he is not not good at is showing the whole picture.

He says that he wants a fair discussion about the While worth reading as an wake up call to all who think the only problem with our educational system is that it needs more money it should be taken with a grain of salt, or rather a slat block. Gatto is correct that schools act as mainly propaganda for the elite class and he may even be correct that compulsory education should not be the law of the land. (At least at the high school level) What he is not not good at is showing the whole picture.

He says that he wants a fair discussion about the subject but then engages in the same type of propganda he says he is against. For instance he hold Mass. in the early 1700's up as a model of how good life was before the socialization of schools, he claims that some studies show literacy was as high as 98%. However he leaves a few key facts out, the first is that there was compulsory education in that time, in the 1640's (starting in 1642) Mass. passed laws that made every town larger than 50 people higher a town educator, and every town over 100 families build a school, a few years later ('48) laws were passed that made compulsory the teaching of reading, laws, the Catechism and "some honest lawful calling, labour or employment." by either the parent or some sort of "master" If he is against schools as a socializing force then it would seem that he should be against the system he is praising that socialized children to the laws of the Catholic church.

The second fact he leaves out is context. He states that the lack of schooling and childrens curiosity led to these high literacy rates. He leaves out that most other countries (and colonies for that matter) did not have compulsory education. England is an example of one of these countries and their literacy rates have been shown in studies to be somewhere around 40-60% It appears that a closer look at his argument shows the opposite to be true in the case of literacy. The non compulsory areas had lower rates than Mass. this leads me to think that it is not compulsory education that is the problem, but rather the state of the current education system in America.

The third problem seems to be fairly obvious. As far as I could tell looking around, the studies show the literacy rates for citizens in a time when black people and women were not considered citizens, not to mention the study takes place in Mass. which was one of the most affluent colonies.

Since this is getting long I will not get into some of the other problems I see in his arguments, including a misrepresentation of Deweys ideas, and instead leave it with a note on his motives. If you go to his website you will see a link to a group he started called the Odysseus group (http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/odysse...) who's primary goal is for government schools to "forced to compete." and that "Free market choice will improve government schools, too" it seems fairly contradictory to me that someone who speaks against schools as a tool of the elite class would want to turn education over to the free market that has created so many problems (Enron, Water wars in Bolivia, Jail privitazions, Iraq, Health care industry in America, privitazion of the military in Iraq that has led to Blackwater, Halliburton, etc...) To sum up his argument it seems to be this: Industry has taken a hold of our schools and acts as a propaganda tool to socialize children to work in various industries unquestiongly, the short term solution? Give complete control over to these industries.

Again, this is not coming from some right winger trying to attack new ideas, I agree with most of what Gatto says about schools being a propaganda tool. I just disagree with his solutions and his propaganda as well. If you don't believe me look at my other book selections.

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4

Feb 04, 2013

Ugh, this book may have brought on my mid-life crisis. Not because Gatto is wrong, but because he's right. The education system isn't just broken, it's taking completely the wrong approach. It's designed to kill the spirit of enquiry.

I've attended several hearings addressing formal student complaints where the student is alleging the college-level education they received was substandard because they were 1) asked to read a text book, and not given a teacher-written summary of all material that Ugh, this book may have brought on my mid-life crisis. Not because Gatto is wrong, but because he's right. The education system isn't just broken, it's taking completely the wrong approach. It's designed to kill the spirit of enquiry.

I've attended several hearings addressing formal student complaints where the student is alleging the college-level education they received was substandard because they were 1) asked to read a text book, and not given a teacher-written summary of all material that will expressly be covered in the final exam** or 2) asked to select a research topic from a list of options, research it, and write on it, and were not told what to write about, what to include, and exactly how to structure it (there are complaints about this cruelly unfair practice every semester). This is not the student's fault: this is what the education system has done to them. We squished their passion, love for learning, and curiousity for its own sake before they were seven.

So, I agree with everything Gatto says about the problem, but I don't share the same enthusiasm for his solution: basically, charter schools.

Here in NZ we are about to introduce charter schools for the first time. One of the most enthusiastic proponants for charter schools is (self-proclaimed) Bishop Brian Tamaki, a "religious" leader who exhorts parishoners to tithe generously, while driving a NZ$75,000 car, arguably leading to the rapid shrinking of his congregation, as well as some very unhappy former church members. Mr Tamaki would like to run a charter school in a greenfields town development for church members, to teach children classes framed around his core fundamentalist Christian beliefs: including that women belong at home raising children and homosexuality is a sin against God.

See, this is where I'm not OK with charter schools. I can't think it's OK for the kids who attend this charter school to learn this, with no balancing opinion offered, even if this means other children at a different charter school would get a vastly better education than they do now. That price seems too high for me.I have no bloody solution. Home schooling? Rargh! It's unsolvable. I think instead I should buy a little cafe and make people happy with caffeine all day. *nods*

EDIT: Oh, also, 30 years (!) after this book was first published, nothing is better. It's worse.

** Also, exams = ridiculous. Rewarding memory over application of principles, deep appreciation, and creative problem-solving, and unlike any real-world scenario. ...more
4

Apr 29, 2007

Don't read this if you have or plan on having children that you won't be able to home-school, but a must read for everyone els. This is a damning indictment against the public school system written by none other than a teacher who lived it. Sure to cause riots once more people realize that twelve to thirteen years of their lives were utterly wasted.
5

Feb 18, 2008

This was an excellent book written by a NY teacher of the year who taught for 26 years in the "government controlled monopoly school system". It is an eye opener that what is needed is less money, not more. More choices, more freedoms, more time with children home, more time for children to be children, allowing them to learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Interesting to learn that the literacy rate in colonial America was close to total, and hasnt been that high since just before the Civil This was an excellent book written by a NY teacher of the year who taught for 26 years in the "government controlled monopoly school system". It is an eye opener that what is needed is less money, not more. More choices, more freedoms, more time with children home, more time for children to be children, allowing them to learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Interesting to learn that the literacy rate in colonial America was close to total, and hasnt been that high since just before the Civil War when compulsory schooling (government monopoly schooling) began. (An 1850's 5th grade math textbook would today be considered college level). The 7 lessons kids are learning that he talks about in the first chapter were a definate eye opener. I would dare say they are lessons no parent would wish their children to "learn". ...more
5

Sep 10, 2019

Dumbing us down is a short book by John Taylor Gatto. There have only been two books this year that upon finishing I was so impressed and blown away by that I felt the desire to reopen immediately and read again. The first was mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and now this here little gem dumbing us down. I’ve read plenty of great books this year already however when it comes to identifying certain books as essential and must reads for everyone, that is more rare. Some qualifiers for this year are Dumbing us down is a short book by John Taylor Gatto. There have only been two books this year that upon finishing I was so impressed and blown away by that I felt the desire to reopen immediately and read again. The first was mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and now this here little gem dumbing us down. I’ve read plenty of great books this year already however when it comes to identifying certain books as essential and must reads for everyone, that is more rare. Some qualifiers for this year are as follows, there are three. When it comes to thinking deeply about Christianity, Mere Christianity is a must read for every single Christian on the planet, in my opinion. War and Peace absolutely blew my mind when it came to how epic a book could be and the philosophy of history located at the end of the book; mind blowing. And now when it comes to education dumbing us down is a certified masterpiece, the type of book you recommend without hesitation, the type you buy a few copies of and find people to give them to. Certain books just catch you off guard, you open the first page unprepared as to what you will find hidden within. What I found within the pages of
Dumbing us down was truth, flat out truth, the truth about education and what a racket it is. Who can blow a whistle better than a public school teacher from New York that’s been doing it for over 3 decades ? Dumbing us down is priceless.


“Sixty-five years ago Bertrand Russell…saw that mass schooling in the United States had a profoundly anti-democratic intent, that it was a scheme to artificially deliver national unity by eliminating human variation and by eliminating the forge that produces variation: the family. According to Lord Russell, mass schooling produce a recognizably American student: anti-intellectual, superstitious, lacking self-confidence, and having less of what Russell called “inner freedom” than his or her counterpart in any other nation he knew of, past or present. They [held] excellence and aesthetics equally in contempt; were inadequate to the personal crises in their lives.” ...more
3

May 26, 2017

A for effort, A for anecdote. I found much relatable to my own experience and ideas. Although undoubtedly Libertarian in thesis I think there is something for everyone within the pages of this book if you give it a chance, regardless of your political affiliations. While written over two and a half decades ago it's not hard to draw parallels with the culture and dysfunction Gatto describes in his book with that of today.

The essays contained are the reflections of the author's time spent in and A for effort, A for anecdote. I found much relatable to my own experience and ideas. Although undoubtedly Libertarian in thesis I think there is something for everyone within the pages of this book if you give it a chance, regardless of your political affiliations. While written over two and a half decades ago it's not hard to draw parallels with the culture and dysfunction Gatto describes in his book with that of today.

The essays contained are the reflections of the author's time spent in and fighting with 'the system' (over 30 years of teaching in New York City Public schools as of 1990) for the sake of all it has failed, but even more so whose future it denies. He is humble enough to admit not having all the answers, encouraging us to participate in the dialog; as we are all accountable: part of a "network", links in the chains of "institution" we've created and become complacent with.

There were times I felt Gatto leaned too heavily on his own biases, conscious of this he would come round with a good save on the following page, or in the next chapter. None the less beyond any inferences based on his beliefs, background, and observations I am confident that John is truly passionate about reforming education for the better. Why trouble oneself writing radical books on the subject otherwise?

The book does come in light to some extent, on solution. Although Gatto provides enough discourse on what's wrong the overall gist is to get us thinking outside the box rather than keep locked into the insanity of add or subtract mentality (as the Federal debate begins over education spending).

Gatto makes reference to theologians and philosophers, and revolutionaries, some of which he is critical of, others not so much, and provides some very interesting, but un-cited claims, throughout; which also show up in the forward by Thomas Moore (a living Thomas Moore that is). There are some choice lines you will find, which I won't spoil here.

I thought about giving a review on each of Gatto's essays in the book, which are arranged as chapters, but without having source citations (which he did not provide) to cross reference I'll be simply be agreeing with what sounds good to me based on Gatto's years of teaching and wisdom (at that time) in six New York schools of vastly differing social strata; and that of my Public schooling.

I do intend to read Gatto's more recent books on this subject of compulsory / institutionalized "learning" better put: "schooling". I just hope it's not a continuation of more anecdote reorganized, although no doubt a tempered one at that.

Another fault I felt Gatto fell into was his focus entirely on the negative, leaving no redemption for any aspect of the current structure or those successful models within, which there must be. But that is his premise that we need to: tear down to reform.

Interestingly and although I haven't read very many philosophers, theologians, or politicians in great detail to spot Gatto's actual inspirations other than his fondness for Ben Franklin, I have read Patrick Pearse's Murder Machine from which many "bells" appeared to be ringing as I read this. ...more
5

May 03, 2013

Wow I just wrote a thoughtful and brilliant review of this book and then pushed the wrong button and lost. I will try to recap my brilliance. I just sat down and read this book this afternoon while watching my kids play at the park and in the yard and it was amazing and powerful. I am truly moved in ways that are uncomfortable. Do not read this book unless you are prepared to feel extremely uncomfortable with the statues quo of the educational system in this country. Before reading this I had Wow I just wrote a thoughtful and brilliant review of this book and then pushed the wrong button and lost. I will try to recap my brilliance. I just sat down and read this book this afternoon while watching my kids play at the park and in the yard and it was amazing and powerful. I am truly moved in ways that are uncomfortable. Do not read this book unless you are prepared to feel extremely uncomfortable with the statues quo of the educational system in this country. Before reading this I had already made the decision to begin homeschooling my children this fall, but after reading this book fall can't come soon enough. Be prepared for a completely out-of-the box approach to fixing educational problems and to open your mind and really question education, the purpose, the approach, the results, and so forth. This will make your head spin.

Mr. Gatto, a former school teacher, paints a picture of what really happens in the public school system, where "schooling" and "educating" are two different things and teachers have seven things they really teaches, none of which are education. He makes the case for how we have lost the indivdual spirit and creativity as our education system continues to turn more and more power over to central authoriteis who know best and we as a nation continue to spend more and more money to fix the problems in education. Not only education, but more importantly families have hurt by this, as children are forced to spend more and more time out of the influence of loving parents and siblings. Mr. Gatto ultimately explains that the compulsory education system can't be fixed because is is flawed and unqualified in its conception and execution. Our society as a whole is hurt by this process. We loose our sense of community and bettering ourselves and others. We are increasingly dependent on the experts to tell us what to do and how to think and this is only getting worse with Common Core rolling forward. We fail to let the free market forces and local choices define and perfect our school system and democracy to work by letting people alone to work out the best solutions.

In a away, I guess I am thankful that Common Core has come along and awaken me to the state of our educational system in this country. I am reading more and learning more than I probably would have otherwise. I feel empowered and I realize that I do know what is best for my children and family. There is a better way to educate the people of this country and it isn't a one-size fits all government monopoly on education aided by corporate and special interests poised to make money. ...more
5

Mar 24, 2008

Excellent. As with all my favourite books, I have lent it out and it is still out there! This book is proof that home educators are not obsessive nutcases, as he provides inside information on schooling in New York which spanned over 30 years. When I first got this book it followed me everywhere until I had finished it, even into the bath. This author can share my bath anytime, as long as I don't drop the book in, of course!
5

Jun 17, 2008

No other book has shaped my view about public school as much as this one. Gatto's analysis of the damage done to a student's curiosity is so incisive as to wake any educated parent to our failing school system.

I decided that normal people can home school their children after having read this book. Very influential and formative to how I want my children's education to be administered.
1

Feb 16, 2009

Author John Taylor Gatto is a two-time NYC Teacher of the Year whose treatise here takes exception to the quality of compulsory public education in America. He suggests that public education’s primary purpose these days seems to be the perpetuating the institution of public education. I can see his point here. As with most government programs, once they get rolling, you can add to them, you can tweak them, but you’re never going to blow them up, even if you’d like to start over from scratch.

Author John Taylor Gatto is a two-time NYC Teacher of the Year whose treatise here takes exception to the quality of compulsory public education in America. He suggests that public education’s primary purpose these days seems to be the perpetuating the institution of public education. I can see his point here. As with most government programs, once they get rolling, you can add to them, you can tweak them, but you’re never going to blow them up, even if you’d like to start over from scratch.

Where he loses me, though, is in suggesting that there’s a nefarious intent behind this undertaking; that there are evil overlords who want public schools to be inefficient, ineffective mechanisms designed solely to keep the masses in their place. Man up, John! Who are these overlords? Let’s hear some names, and see some examples! He points out that public education came of age during the industrial revolution, when manufacturers supported public schools because they were a training ground for their workers of the future, all conditioned-up nice like. Today, he contrasts, the public’s primary function is as consumers, so: the less-educated consumers are, the better. I disagree whole-heartedly. Disregarding for a moment the fact that corporate America doesn’t really have a seat at the table when it comes to education policy anyway, what American business, aside maybe from Big Tobacco, is enhanced by a less-educated populace? On the contrary, I hear many American businesses decrying the brain drain, and wondering where the next generation of innovators is going to come from.

Gatto’s background is in the New York City public school system. He first asks us to accept his assertion that NYC schools are in decline, though he again doesn’t provide any anecdotal evidence to support this, much less hard data. But even if you accept that premise, he parlays NYC’s decline into an across-the-board indictment for all public schools in America. He insists that despite the incredible amounts of money thrown at it over the years, that public education across America has collectively gotten worse, and then proceeds to blame this alleged decline (plus too much television) for all of the ills of society: poverty, divorce, and yes, our crumbling educational system is even to blame for Michael Bolton. To me, this seems like putting the cart before the horse. Isn’t it more likely these same societal ills have led to a less-educable populace? And does he really expect me to believe that my local, suburban public school system has the same problems as NYC?

He repeatedly throws out his "100 hours" theorem: that every ready-and-willing student can learn everything they need to know about reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic in 100 hours. Really, John?? Everything worth learning, in the equivalent of two and a half school-weeks? I hate to keep harping on the appalling lack of attribution, but: says who? Which studies have shown this? Where is your army of 100-hour-schooled geniuses, waiting to make their mark on the world? He makes several digs at the theory of evolution in this tract, so I can only assume his 100 hours includes zero time spent on any hard science. I guess it really doesn’t take all that long to memorize that God created us all 6,000 years ago, just as we are now, end of discussion.

Even if you accept all of these specious arguments at face value, I think my biggest complaint about Dumbing Us Down is its complete failure to suggest any workable, real-world alternatives. He clearly lauds home-schooling, without suggesting how single parents or families who need both parents to work are going to pull this off. Old-timey community schools also receive Gatto’s praise, but he seems oblivious that this would require time-travel back to the agrarian 1800’s. And in Gatto’s world, apparently every student is “ready and willing to learn,” so there’s no need to even think about children with special needs or learning disabilities.
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5

May 02, 2014

Brilliant summation about the fatal flaws of Modern Education

This book gives excellent words and insight into the sense that so many of us have about the perpetual decline of our "national education." Watching the national Common Core debacle that has engulfed our country we can see how prophetic this has become.
4

Jul 26, 2008

Written by a man that taught in the monopoly called public school system, won awards for it, and lists what he taught;
confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, and provisional self-esteem.
The national curriculum is a joke. And what is different from this book compared to others, he doesn't just list the things that are wrong with the system or bash the system. Mr. Gatto gives suggestions of tearing the institution apart and rebuilding it. Something Written by a man that taught in the monopoly called public school system, won awards for it, and lists what he taught;
confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, and provisional self-esteem.
The national curriculum is a joke. And what is different from this book compared to others, he doesn't just list the things that are wrong with the system or bash the system. Mr. Gatto gives suggestions of tearing the institution apart and rebuilding it. Something I've yet to read anyone else do.
There's interesting historical information about children in Massachusetts in 1850 being forced to go to public school at gun point. Not a good start and it hasn't improved much. ...more
5

Sep 26, 2012

I so appreciate Gatto's courage to write this book, even if at times I am put off my his brashness. But, if anybody is to know the real intention of America's schools it is this man, with over 30 years of public school teaching, and a fair shake of rule breaking to see what his students were really capable of. The "7 Lesson School Teacher" is the real gem of this book, although his other chapters have something to gain from too.

Quotes:

"School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are I so appreciate Gatto's courage to write this book, even if at times I am put off my his brashness. But, if anybody is to know the real intention of America's schools it is this man, with over 30 years of public school teaching, and a fair shake of rule breaking to see what his students were really capable of. The "7 Lesson School Teacher" is the real gem of this book, although his other chapters have something to gain from too.

Quotes:

"School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly taught."

"Pouring the money we now pour into schooling back into family education might cure two ailments with one medicine, repairing families as it repairs children."

"Discovering meaning for yourself as well as discovering satisfying purpose for yourself, is a big part of what education is."

"People are less than whole unless they gather themselves voluntarily ... only slaves are gathered by others."

"schools are not failing ... they are doing exactly what they are intended to do--ensure a docile, malleable workforce to meet the growing demands of corporate capitalism." from Forward by Thomas Moore ...more
4

Sep 17, 2016

There was a pink dog called Courage. Like it happens sometimes, he also fell in a day of mistakes. Then a black frock dressed proud lady came, to give him ' perfection classes'. He couldn't talk, walk, create pictures ,sleep , brush perfectly. Full of terrible dreams which made his eyes very red, he went to the washroom. A green fish saw him and said : courage, you are beautiful, as you are with all the imperfections.you can do anything. His fear departed. He was gleeful again. The teacher There was a pink dog called Courage. Like it happens sometimes, he also fell in a day of mistakes. Then a black frock dressed proud lady came, to give him ' perfection classes'. He couldn't talk, walk, create pictures ,sleep , brush perfectly. Full of terrible dreams which made his eyes very red, he went to the washroom. A green fish saw him and said : courage, you are beautiful, as you are with all the imperfections.you can do anything. His fear departed. He was gleeful again. The teacher vanished. Alas! Not Everyone gets awakened to our own unique discoveries.

The brick and mortar regions popped up unnaturally. It was a well thought plan by men like John cotton, Horace Mann in USA. The purpose for creating these public schools wasn't the welfare of the kids. Schools in the industrialized age, has the function of controlling the thought, behavior of pupils(scientific management). the pupils were to be trained to be productive workers and active consumers. Such half-baked future adults would be ideal for the democracy and the corporations. Individuals are stones subordinated to built the mighty pyramid.

Schools have wide array of tools to create the perfect child. Gatto clearly states the seven ingredients of a national curriculum.
1.Confusion: rainfall of facts with little context and connection. Insane adult in making.
2.assigning class positions: hierarchies of clever and weak, standardized tests , seating positions
3.inculcating indifference: short attention spans created by short periods and the ringing of the bell.
4.emotional dependency: kid depends on teachers approval like smile, Pat for grade.a powerful control tool.
5. Intellectual dependency: thought control by the teacher. Creates a dependency on experts. Thus, a highly specialised but dependent society.
6.provisional self esteem built purely on grades
7.one can't hide: the surveillance device by the teacher constantly hovering over the kid. Even extending to his house , as homework.

This lifeless machine is the perfect reciepe for further disorders and pscyopathic society.
The kids turn out to be indifferent to the weak, dried out, satisfied, deeply conditioned to rub nose before authority figures, very competitive, materialistic, isolated and hesitant for changes.
Highly individualistic , they are useless for the society . The pschyosis of such schools justify even suicides by children on the dog eats dog premise.

TV is another powerful control tool of the kids
After the prisondom of school. The kids fall under the trance of the box. They get exposed to violence,sex, drugs, reality shows, consumerism, nationalism etcetc. Enough, to perpetuate the same rants creating dysfunctional individuals.

Can such a gulag be reformed?
The philosophy for setting schools is itself against life,humane,freedom of the child. Cosmetic reforms like putting up more money, teacher training, remedial classes can't challenge the centralized, coercive ideology. The writer is fully supportive of a democratic, decentralize, liberty driven way. the family and community must be fully involved in education. children are respected. Self discovery is the way to wonder,learn and grow as whole human beings. Community service,apprenticeship also make the child sensitive, sharing, kind, seriously engaged in the world. I am more of a skeptic about his community centred learning
As very few parents disbelieve the schooling experts and are themselves highly trapped in through their own solid conditioning. The penetration of the idiot box, smartphones has in itself lead to a highly alienated enviornment in which communication is getting killed.
Overall, it is a deeply engaging, full of life, critical questions text. Kept on thinking for two hours or so over the issues in the book.

* Gatto was given best teacher awards. In the end seeing the destructive nature of teaching. He left the system and has been advocating unschooling.













...more
5

Jun 02, 2015

Absolutely outstanding! Must read! I have been hearing about this book in all of my 14 years of home education and can't believe I waited so long to read it.

John Gatto is an award-winning public school teacher who insightfully hones in on the invisible lessons the public educational system is teaching the children of this country: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependence, intellectual dependence, conditional self-esteem, and acceptance of surveillance.

Gatto's book, as Absolutely outstanding! Must read! I have been hearing about this book in all of my 14 years of home education and can't believe I waited so long to read it.

John Gatto is an award-winning public school teacher who insightfully hones in on the invisible lessons the public educational system is teaching the children of this country: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependence, intellectual dependence, conditional self-esteem, and acceptance of surveillance.

Gatto's book, as summarized in the introduction by David Albert, contends that "schools are not failing. On the contrary, they are spectacularly successful in doing precisely what they are intended to do, and what they have been intended to do since their inception. . .ensure a docile, malleable workforce to meet the growing, changing demands of corporate capitalism. . .a workforce that will not rebel, that will be physically, intellectually, and emotionally dependent upon corporate institutions for their incomes, self-esteem, and stimulation, and that will learn to find social meaning in their lives solely in the production and consumption of material goods" (xxii).

Gatto decries the loss of community (which has been replaced by networks), the separation of young from old, the removal of children from families, the idea of the "professionalization of teaching which preempts the teaching function which belongs to everyone" (16), the lack of free time for children to think, explore, and learn to serve. He proclaims a need for self-knowledge so that "they'll also become self-teachers--and only self-teaching has any lasting value" (31), and a need for men to teach boys to grow up. He realized himself, and knows children need to learn the same lesson, that we need something to do that is meaningful, that isn't absurd, that results in more than "a new abstract number in my bankbook" (40). "Discovering meaning for yourself as well as discovering satisfying purpose for yourself, is a big part of what education is. How this can be done by locking children away from the world is beyond me" (62).

Gatto claimed schools began from a fear of the poor, a fear of immigrants and Catholics, and a fear of freed Black slaves between the mid 1800s and the early 1900s, as well as a desire by capitalists to produce a compliant workforce. I thought this was an interesting perspective I had never before heard.

I am very intrigued by the correlation between Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the messages of this book. Gatto wrote a Monarch Notes guide to this classic novel, and I think I'm going to have to read the novel and Gattos' guide together as I continue to ponder these thoughts. ...more
5

Sep 01, 2015

John Taylor Gatto is one wise man. He has capture many sentiments that I would have never be able to materialize into words. The 7 lessons taught cracked me up because they are so spot on and obvious yet no one else has spoken up like Mr. Gatto.

Here's something that hit close to home and I've been saying this all along.

"The simplistic notion that "our schools are failing" easily translate into a limitless demand for more resources for the institution and it's supports; for books, for teachers, John Taylor Gatto is one wise man. He has capture many sentiments that I would have never be able to materialize into words. The 7 lessons taught cracked me up because they are so spot on and obvious yet no one else has spoken up like Mr. Gatto.

Here's something that hit close to home and I've been saying this all along.

"The simplistic notion that "our schools are failing" easily translate into a limitless demand for more resources for the institution and it's supports; for books, for teachers, for computers, for real estate (and hence for book publishers, graduate schools of education, computer manufacturers, and real estate developers) -- and for more time: for more pre-school, more homework, longer school years, the end of recess, and semi- (and soon fully) compulsory summer schools."

Education has turned into a business to support businesses and turn our submissive robots.

One day I want to visit Solitude and learn from this amazing man. ...more
5

Nov 12, 2010

This guy really hits the nail on the head. This book is definitely worth reading if you care at all about the education of your children.

Update (5/21/2015)
I just re-read this book. And I would change what I wrote from "definitely worth reading..." to "AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ if you have kids!"
4

Apr 11, 2008

After reading this book I was reassured that homeschooling my children was the best answer. The author is a teacher, and writes why he feels the school system is failing our children and our family. He is very big on interacting as a community rather than a network. He mentions things that had happened in the past, as far back as the time of Plato. The last chapter, did focus on religion, which made me a little uneasy. If it wasn't for that, then I would have given this book 5 stars. I would After reading this book I was reassured that homeschooling my children was the best answer. The author is a teacher, and writes why he feels the school system is failing our children and our family. He is very big on interacting as a community rather than a network. He mentions things that had happened in the past, as far back as the time of Plato. The last chapter, did focus on religion, which made me a little uneasy. If it wasn't for that, then I would have given this book 5 stars. I would recommend this book to every parent that is interested in the best way to help their children grow and learn. ...more
5

Jan 10, 2013

Gatto seemed to me at first, a bit to polemical and unbalanced, but I still thought he made some excellent observations. The content was definitely thought provoking and worthy of consideration. But now I listened to the audiobook again, he seemed increasingly reasonable and sound to me.

I wonder if my being home-schooled, played part in why I have a genuine interest in learning. As I've grown up, I've learned how odd, peculiar and strange I am in my curiosities. In my current job, I get to work Gatto seemed to me at first, a bit to polemical and unbalanced, but I still thought he made some excellent observations. The content was definitely thought provoking and worthy of consideration. But now I listened to the audiobook again, he seemed increasingly reasonable and sound to me.

I wonder if my being home-schooled, played part in why I have a genuine interest in learning. As I've grown up, I've learned how odd, peculiar and strange I am in my curiosities. In my current job, I get to work along side and initiate conversations with 100s upon 100s of youth and young adults. Sadly, many of the people I meet, seem to have few interest and lack personality, creativity and common sense. Many seem bored and apathetic and are unable enter into deep dialog. I am very suspicious that the public educational system, is in part responsible for this, especially when I meet a kid who is the exception to the rule and learn they were homeschooled.

Gatto experience coincides with mine and it seems we're in agreement on how the culprit is the "weapons of mass education" inflicted by our government. Consider the following observations Gatto made concerning the children he taught.

1. The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. This defies the experience of thousands of years. A close study of what big people were up to was always the most exciting occupation of youth, but nobody wants to grow up these days and who can blame them? Toys are us.

2. The children I teach have almost no curiosity and what they do have is transitory; they cannot concentrate for very long, even on things they choose to do. Can you see a connection between the bells ringing again and again to change classes and this phenomenon of evanescent attention?

3.The children I teach have a poor sense of the future, of how tomorrow is inextricably linked to today. As I said before, they have a continuous present, the exact moment they are at is the boundary of their consciousness.

4. The children I teach are ahistorical, they have no sense of how past has predestined their own present, limiting their choices, shaping their values and lives.

5. The children I teach are cruel to each other, they lack compassion for misfortune, they laugh at weakness, they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly.

6. The children I teach are uneasy with intimacy or candour. My guess is that they are like many adopted people I’ve known in this respect — they cannot deal with genuine intimacy because of a lifelong habit of preserving a secret inner self inside a larger outer personality made up of artificial bits and pieces of behaviour borrowed from television or acquired to manipulate teachers. Because they are not who they represent themselves to be the disguise wears thin in the presence of intimacy so intimate relationships have to be avoided."

---

So yeah, thanks Gatto! I can now blame my still being single on the dumbing down, curiosity killing public education system! Maybe they're the reason that girls who have tons of interest, depth and passion and whom are also able to enter into meaningful conversation, are one in a million!

Now with that silly rant aside, allow me to share some of the things I gleamed from this little book.

1. Schools teach confusion. Kids are overloaded with information, that is disconnected and out of context. As Gatto mentioned, one learns about "the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parents' nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world... What do any of these things have to do with each other?" So this results in heaps of cognitive clutter that lacks meaning. Also, this is quite unlike real life and how we naturally learn to walk, talk, farm, build, and cook, these things within the appropriate context, have an obvious purpose, sequence, goal and result. Even reading, writing and arithmetic could be learned in the natural way, if not for schools mucking up the process. Moreover, without the tyranny of mandatory public education, most people would likely devote themselves to a few things they're naturally inclined towards and become masters, instead of being forced to have a shallow, rudimentary grasp of several subject that are of no use or interest to them.

2. Gatto believes one reason kids are taught indifference in school, is that teachers hope to encourage enthusiasm for the subject and yet when the bell rings, they must stop whatever they're working on and proceed quickly to the next work station. “They must turn on and off like a light switch. Nothing important is ever finished in my class, nor in any other class I know of. Students never have a complete experience except on the installment plan.” He also thinks this has part in the short attention span. One thing I do notice is how learning becomes departmentalized. For example, you discuss history, only during designated discussion times in history class, the moment the bell rings and its time to go, so does the children's pretense of interest in history.

3. Schools teach intellectual dependency and conformity, there is only one right answer that one must get from the certified professionals. It is obviously NOT in the schools interest to teach kids to reason and think dialectically for "Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism." So is it any wonder that there is a shortage of reasoning, creativity and exploration in our land? I get so tired of sameness and lack of originality that is rampant in America. Just think, if not for our educational system, maybe we could live in a world full of individuals, with their unique personalities, passions, quirks, skills, humor and strong opinions, undiluted, unashamed and on full display! Oh how this would be SO much more interesting, then the cookie cut clones, sliding out on the school conveyor belt. Everyone just trying to fit in, conform to pop culture, be cool and trample, ignore and mock the deviants. Cheers to the personalities that survive this horrible dumbing down process and still came out individuals, with their passions and curiosities.

4. The government has a monopoly on education and enforces its compulsory schooling for the masses. therefore, when the elite have misguided rules, ideas, requirements and restrictions, the poison spreads through the whole system instead of being isolated in one spot. Our current school system has little hope until the free-market principle is applied to education. All parents and children should have say in where and how they are educated, only then can there be true educational reform and positive competition. We need the principle of natural selection to root out the stupid ideas, the the governments monopoly guarantees retardation, lack of progress and stagnation. Throwing more and more money down this rat hole is not going to fix the problem, minor tweaks won't suffice, the government must get its mitts off the kids.

5. Gatto wrote some on the huge difference between family/community and networking. School is good for the latter, but not the former. Therefore, we need less schooling, not more. His response to people who say, "Well, how will the kids learn to read, write and add?" is that we should consider Benjamin Franklin who did perfectly fine without school! He cites a study that said if someone is motivated to learn, reading, writing and arthritic can be learned in 100 hours. Historically, in America, before mandatory, literacy was wide spread among children, and kids were reading at college a college level. Compulsory school was therefore, not as much about education, as about control and creating a predictable people, shaped by the elite.

There is so much more in this little book that is worthy of mention, like the congregational principle from early American history, among other things, but this review is long enough, so I'll bring it to a close. ...more
1

Sep 21, 2011

I didn't expect to fall in love with this book, but I also didn't expect to be so put off by it. The best part of this book is that it was short. That is the only reason I finished it. The author spends 100 pages ranting about the horrors of public schools. It's funny because I was thinking to myself, "it sounds like this guy is blaming public education for all the problems in this world." and then at the very end of the book he say's, "This system doesn't work, and it's one of the causes of our I didn't expect to fall in love with this book, but I also didn't expect to be so put off by it. The best part of this book is that it was short. That is the only reason I finished it. The author spends 100 pages ranting about the horrors of public schools. It's funny because I was thinking to myself, "it sounds like this guy is blaming public education for all the problems in this world." and then at the very end of the book he say's, "This system doesn't work, and it's one of the causes of our world coming apart." The other cause, according to him, is television.
So here's the thing, I actually agreed with some of the things he said. I do think there are problems with the school system, some of which he mentioned in this book. However, I already saw those things myself and I don't need some crazy fanatical guy trying to scare me out of the school system by saying things like, "No one survives these places with their humanity intact, not kids, not teachers, not administrators, and not parents." (pg. 56) huh? What are you even saying Mr. Gatto? That because I went through 12 years of public schooling I am no longer human? He really lost me there. I don't know what his definition of humanity is, but it's obviously not the same as mine.
So, his solution to all the problems is to de-certify teachers and do away with public education. That will make everyone self motivated learners who will observe the world around them and become brilliant scholars like Ben Franklin, Plato and Aristotle. We can all have picture perfect childhoods like the authors where we run around smoking all the cigarettes we can find and observing couples in the park making love on blankets all before we are eight years old. Sounds educational doesn't it?
Blech. I'm not going to pretend I have a solution to all the problems with education in America, but I don't believe this guy really has any good suggestions either. ...more
3

May 03, 2014

Not bad, but not great, either. For such a short book, there's a hell of a lot of repetition in it. Nearly everything this author has to say gets said in the first chapter; the rest is just other speeches in which he expounds the virtues of small-town life or goes into anecdotes or repeats "school sucks" with different words.

This collection of speeches is basically an overlong op-ed. While I agree with the content, that's sort of the thing. I already agree. This book is preaching to the choir, Not bad, but not great, either. For such a short book, there's a hell of a lot of repetition in it. Nearly everything this author has to say gets said in the first chapter; the rest is just other speeches in which he expounds the virtues of small-town life or goes into anecdotes or repeats "school sucks" with different words.

This collection of speeches is basically an overlong op-ed. While I agree with the content, that's sort of the thing. I already agree. This book is preaching to the choir, and that's about all it can do because it lacks structure, facts, sources, etc. There's also nothing to this book besides complaining. No strategies for improvement or even ideas for it. No acknowledgement that our school system is part of a bigger culture and cannot be radically changed by itself, because it's too connected. Very little on the context of schools at all, really. Plus, there's an overwhelming sense "well back in my day" going on. The author tells stories about how he grew up, and it's all very Norman Rockwell, and it's all very cute and idealized and sanitized. I just got the impression through the whole thing that if you're not in a 1940's-traditional-small-town-life, well, "you need to be fixed."

Basically, if you already don't like the public school system and need help articulating why, this book could be helpful. For everyone else, it's just retreading old ground. ...more

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