Former teacher and continual educator John Taylor Gatto passed away this past Monday, Oct. 29th, 2018. His writings on the US educational system had quite an impact on this blogger. If you’ve never read any of his work, you owe it to yourself and your country to read his Underground History of American Education at least.
From the Foundation for Economic Education:
It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of a revolutionary educator, John Taylor Gatto. Gatto spent nearly 30 years as a teacher in the infamously rough New York City public school system. He was awarded New York City Teacher of the Year three consecutive years while also being recognized as New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991…
…Feeling the education system was beyond repair, Gatto could no longer in good conscience be an active participant. Rather than sending his letter of resignation to his superiors in his school district, he sent a copy of “I Quit, I Think” to the Wall Street Journal, where it was published as an op-ed on July 25, 1991.
In his biting resignation, he wrote:
I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.
I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t train children to wait to be told what to do; I can’t train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can’t persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn’t any, and I can’t persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn’t true.
Gatto dedicated the rest of his life to repairing the damage done by the public education system. He wrote several books on his experience in the classroom including Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling and Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling. His book The Underground History of American Educationis perhaps the most accurate and damning history of the American education system that has ever been written.
He believed that learning was actually inhibited by the classroom setting and that every single moment of life presented the opportunity to learn and grow.
Gatto encouraged parents to foster an environment where their children could follow their bliss rather than being stuck in a classroom, trained to be just another cog in the machine. He inspired teachers to reassess their reasons for becoming educators and to challenge the status quo.
He was also a firm believer in self-directed education, sometimes referred to as “unschooling.” He believed that learning was actually inhibited by the classroom setting and that every single moment of life presented the opportunity to learn and grow.
Alternatively, you can download a PDF copy by clicking here.