John Taylor Gatto

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John Taylor Gatto (December 15, 1935 – October 25, 2018) was an American author and school teacher who taught in the classroom for nearly 30 years. He devoted much of his energy to his teaching career, then, following his resignation, authored several books on modern education, criticizing its ideology, history, and consequences.

Quotes[edit]

  • Regimentation, methodization, systematization, standardization , organization, coordination, disciplined arrangements, conformity - these things are at the very heart of our national state policies, and are the poison that has killed our families and left individual survivors in a numbed, angry, nearly hysterical condition.
    • The Exhausted School: Bending The Bars of Traditional Education, Berkeley Hills Books; 2 edition (2002) p. 156
  • A large fraction of our total economy has grown up around providing service and counseling to inadequate people—and inadequate people are the main product of government compulsion schools.
    • The Exhausted School: Bending The Bars of Traditional Education, Berkeley Hills Books; 2 edition (2002) p. 53
  • Limiting the power of government, in order to liberate the individual, was the great American revolutionary insight. Too much cooperation, avoiding conflict from ordinary people, these things aren’t acceptable in America although they may suit China, Indonesia, Britain, or Germany just fine. In America the absence of conflict is a sign of regression toward a global mean, hardly progress by our lights if you’ve seen much of the governance of the rest of the world where common people are crushed like annoying insects if they argue.
    • The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern School, Oxford Village Press (2000) p. 417
  • I feel ashamed that so many of us cannot imagine a better way to do things than locking children up all day in cells instead of letting them grow up knowing their families, mingling with the world, assuming real obligations, striving to be independent and self-reliant and free.
    • A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, Berkeley Hills Books (2000) p. 97
  • The primary goal of real education is not to deliver facts but to guide students to the truths that will allow them to take responsibility for their lives.
    • A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, Berkeley Hills Books (2000) p. 178
  • When American schooling stopped being primary for mental development and character training,.. it became a training ground to supply the existing economy with a particular kind of labor and customers that it needed. One buried byproduct of this shift was to sabotage free market principles. Because by conditioning children to what is, instead of what could be, it heavily subsidized existed commerce and social political dispositions.
    • “A Different Kind of Teacher: Nobody can educate you except yourself,” C-SPAN (January 5, 2001) [1]

“I Quit, I Think”[edit]

The Wall Street Journal, July 25th, 1991 [2]

  • I’ve taught public school for 26 years but I just can’t do it anymore. For years I asked the local school board and superintendent to let me teach a curriculum that doesn’t hurt kids, but they had other fish to fry. So I’m going to quit, I think. 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.
  • Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents... The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.
  • There isn't a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don't need state-certified teachers to make education happen – that probably guarantees it won't... We don't need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it.
  • How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum, or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn, or deliberate indifference to it.
  • There isn’t a right way to be educated; there are as many ways as there are fingerprints. We don't need state-certified teachers to make education happen — that probably guarantees it won't.

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling (2009)[edit]

New Society Publishers, 2013

  • [M]andatory public education in this country … was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending such a herd via public education.
    • Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, New Society Publishers (2013) pp. xix-xx
  • 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.
    • Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, New Society Publishers (2013) p. xxii
  • I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.
    • Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, New Society Publishers (2013) p. xxiii
  • Schooling is organized by command and control from without; education is self-organized from within…
    • Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, New Society Publishers (2013) p. 177

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992)[edit]

New Society Publishers, 2002

  • Slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.
    • p. xxxiv
  • I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.
    • pp. xxxiii-xxxiv
  • Over the years of wrestling with the obstacles that stand between child and education, I have come to believe that government monopoly schools are structurally unreformable.
    • p. xxxvi
  • Years of bells will condition all but the strongest to a world that can no longer offer important work to do. Bells are the secret logic of school time; their logic is inexorable. Bells destroy the past and future, rendering every interval the same as any other, as the abstraction of a map renders every living mountain and river the same, even though they are not. Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.
    • p. 6
  • People learn to read, write and do arithmetic just fine anyway. There are some studies that suggest literacy at the time of the American Revolution, at least for non-slaves on the Eastern seaboard, was close to total.
    • p. 12
  • Pick up a fifth-grade math or rhetoric textbook from 1850 and you’ll see that the texts were pitched then on what would today be considered college level. The continuing cry for ‘basic skills’ practice is a smoke screen
    • p. 12
  • Schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: how to be a good Egyptian and remain in your place in the pyramid.
    • p. 14
  • It is time that we squarely face the fact that institutional schoolteaching is destructive to children. Nobody survives the seven-lesson curriculum completely unscathed, not even the instructors.
    • p. 17
  • School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.
    • p. 19
  • I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience
    • p. 21
  • The home-schooling movement has quietly grown to a size where one and half million young people are being educated entirely by their own parents; last month the education press reported the amazing news that, in their ability to think, children schooled at home seem to be five or even ten years ahead of their formally trained peers.
    • p. 22
  • Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted — sometimes with guns — by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.
    • p. 22
  • Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulas, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.
    • p. 23
  • It’s absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed it cuts you off from your own past and future, sealing you in a continuous present much the same way television does.
    • p. 24
  • Aristotle saw, a long time ago, that fully participating in a complex range of human affairs was the only way to become fully human.
    • p. 47
  • Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your roadmap through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.”
    • pp. 67-68
  • What's gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is one right way to proceed with growing up.
    • p. 68
  • Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even. The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.
    • p. 68
  • Mass education cannot work to produce a fair society because its daily practice is practice in rigged competition, suppression and intimidation. The schools we’ve allowed to develop can’t work to teach nonmaterial values, the values which give meaning to everyone’s life, rich or poor, because the structure of schooling is held together by a Byzantine tapestry of reward and threat, of carrots and sticks. Official favor, grades, and other trinkets of subordination have no connection with education; they are the paraphernalia of servitude, not of freedom.
    • p. 69
  • Mass schooling damages children. We don’t need any more of it. And under the guise that it is the same thing as education, it has been picking our pockets just as Socrates predicted it would thousands of years ago. One of the surest ways to recognize real education is by the fact that it doesn’t cost very much, doesn’t depend on expensive toys or gadgets. The experiences that produce it and the Mass schooling that propels it are nearly free. It is hard to turn a dollar on education. But schooling is a wonderful hustle, getting sharper all the time.
    • p. 70
  • By preventing a free market in education, a handful of social engineers, backed by the industries that profit from compulsory schooling—teacher colleges, textbook publishers, materials suppliers, and others—have ensured that most of our children will not have an education, even though they may be thoroughly schooled.
    • p. 85
  • By allowing the imposition of direction from centers far beyond our control, we have time and again missed the lesson of the Congregational principle: people are less than whole unless they gather themselves voluntarily into groups of souls in harmony. Gathering themselves to pursue individual, family, and community dreams consistent with their private humanity is what made them whole: only slaves are gathered by others.
    • p. 87
  • This was once a land where every sane person knew how to build a shelter, grow food, and entertain one another. Now we have been rendered permanent children. It’s the architects of forced schooling who are responsible for that.
    • p. 100

The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling (2001)[edit]

Vol. 1, New York and California, Oxford Scholars Press, 2017

  • Don't get me wrong, American schooling has been replete with chicanery from its very beginnings. Indeed, it isn't difficult to find various conspirators boasting in public about what they pulled off. But if you take that tack you'll miss the real horror of what I'm trying to describe, that what has happened to our schools was inherent in the original design for a planned economy and a planned society laid down so proudly at the end of the nineteenth century. I think what happened would have happened anyway-without the legions of venal, half-mad men and women who schemed so hard to make it as it is. If I'm correct, we're in a much worse position than we would be if we were merely victims of an evil genius or two.
    • p. 41
  • You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them in school, terrified with good cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year. From 1992 through 1999, 262 children were murdered in school in the United States.
    • p. 49
  • The idea of schooling free men in anything would have revolted Athenians. Forced training was for slaves. Among free men, learning was self-discipline, not the gift of experts.
    • p. 62
  • The secret of American schooling is that it doesn't teach the way children learn, and it isn't supposed to; school was engineered to serve a concealed command economy and a deliberately re-stratified social order. It wasn't made for the benefit of kids and families as those individuals and institutions would define their own needs. School is the first impression children get of organized society; like most first impressions, it is the lasting one. Life according to school is dull and stupid, only consumption promises relief: Coke, Big Macs, fashion jeans, that's where real meaning is found, that is the classroom's lesson, however indirectly delivered.
    • pp. 105-106
  • I don’t mean to be inflammatory, but it’s as if government schooling made people dumber, not brighter; made families weaker, not stronger; ruined formal religion with its hard-sell exclusion of God; set the class structure in stone by dividing children into classes and setting them against one another; and has been midwife to an alarming concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a fraction of the national community.
    • p. 113
  • Imprisonment schooling has no justification in science, common sense, or history. Get your children out of such schools if you want them to be educated. School means living up to the expectations of total strangers; education involves meeting your own expectations—GOAL SCHOOLS ARE UTTERLY INDIFFERENT TO.
    • p. 236

External links[edit]

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