John Taylor Gatto

In the realm of educators, John Taylor Gatto is somewhat of an anomaly. He was a New York City school teacher for thirty years. Over his career he earned many distinctive accolades including New York City, and State School Teacher of the Year many times. What is different about Gatto is obvious if you have read any of his  books and essays published over the years. He feels we need less schooling, and real choices in how we educate our children.

I am a huge fan of his, and with each of his books  I read, I am more convinced that our decision to home school our children is the right one.


Recently I picked up Dumbing us Down, The Exausted School and I have just finished reading  A Different Kind of Teacher. The latter is a perfect description of John Gatto. His ideas and appreciation of what young people are capable of is an affirmation of what I have always believed.

Genius is an exceedingly common human trait..”

In A different kind of Teacher Gatto asks just how public are our public schools?

He writes;

I feel ashamed that so many of us can not 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

He goes into great depths writing about what the true history of compulsory schooling actually is.  Do people know they have a choice? The hows and whys of  “public schooling” is an education in itself.

The oppressive influence of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, and their determination to build an efficient industrial state, led them to a plan to systematize the rearing of the young.

“At the core of this social strategy was the removal of important decisions from the familial and individual control and their reassignment to the legion of specialists.”

Without personal command over time and without the rights to associate freely with others and to speak freely, life begins to lose its meaning.”

“.. important life choices are not the proper province of any professional establishment

Whole people resist being told what to do and so are natural enemies of schooling

Gatto encourages people to seek the truth, for themselves and their children. He asserts that schools are not designed to encourage independent thought, creative or scientific minds. Look at history and you can plainly see that the school system is not broken, it is functioning exactly as it was designed to. The real problem is that we have surpassed the old design and need a new model to overcome the society of mindless consumption and bankrupt morality that persists in the west today.

To be free you need to celebrate your own history, humble and tormented as it might be, and the history of your own parents and grandparents, howsoever that history be marked by scars and mistakes. It is the only history you will ever have; reject it and you reject yourself.”

Live free or you won’t really be alive at all.”

Originally published November 2009

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