John Taylor Gatto – The Purpose Of Schooling
John Taylor Gatto (born December 15, 1935) is a retired American school teacher with nearly 30 years experience in the classroom, and author of several books on education. He is an activist critical of compulsory schooling, of the perceived divide between the teen years and adulthood, and of what he characterizes as the hegemonic nature of discourse on education and the education professions.
– Do we really need school? I don’t mean education, just forced schooling:
six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what?
– What does the school do with the children? Gatto states the following assertions in “Dumbing Us Down”:
It makes the children confused. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials that programming is similar to the television, it fills almost all the “free” time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.
It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.
It makes them indifferent.
It makes them emotionally dependent.
It makes them intellectually dependent.
It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).
It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervisedz…
Back to School with John Taylor Gatto
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal in 1991, the three time New York City Teacher of the Year and current New York State Teacher of the Year resigned, saying that he no longer wished to “hurt kids to make a living.” Upon hearing about this story 21 years later, I decided to investigate what drove a great teacher to say that. You could say that I was already predisposed to many of John Taylor Gatto’s ideas because I am a product of the public school system and have had to work very hard to retrain my mind and teach myself critical thinking.
After spending countless hours and 13 years in public school, I have to wonder if that was the best use of my time. “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen and the documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” opened my mind to rethinking education in the U.S. Would I have been better educated foregoing college for a trip around the world or going straight to work after the government no longer compelled me by law to sit in a room and stare at a chalk board?
They [the owners of this country] don’t want a population of citizen capable of critical thinking…They want obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly sh***ier jobs with the lower pay and longer hours and reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the moment you go to collect it…It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”
The Origins of Compulsory Schools
Gatto believes the US compulsory school system is designed after the Prussian (current day Germany) School system that was implemented between 1806 and 1819. He defines the Prussian School System as an “educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens-all in order to render the populace “manageable.”
To make his case he says, “William James alluded to it many times at the turn of the century. Orestes Brownson, the hero of Christopher Lasch’s 1991 book,The True and Only Heaven, was publicly denouncing the Prussianization of American schools back in the 1840s. Horace Mann’s “Seventh Annual Report” to the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1843 is essentially a paean to the land of Frederick the Great and a call for its schooling to be brought here. That Prussian culture loomed large in America is hardly surprising, given our early association with that Utopian State.”