John Taylor Gatto Against School Essay Pdf Sample


Lee MandonDr. RiemanEnglish 1101xNovember 18, 2009National Pride

A large portion of John Taylor Gatto’s essay

Against School

discusses the reasoningand history behind our public school system in America. In some ways I agree with him; the public school system is in definite need of revamping, while educators are in desperate need of anew system to teach our kids. According to Gatto, the school system in America was meant tocopy the Prussian school system. Regardless of whether or not this is true, I think the biggestquestion should be why we have not done anything to reform the school system? There should beno reason for graduates to feel as if they have wasted the last fifteen years of their life with pointless busy work. The creativity that was once praised has been pushed aside for a curriculumthat is based on “establishing fixed habits of reaction to authority.” Rather than praisingindividualism and innovation, Gatto believes our school system emphasizes the exact opposite,conformity and inanity. Joseph Addison said it best when he said “What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul.” Our Nation’s needs and functionality have changed since thedays when the original system was put into place. A more liberal education that focuses more onindividual’s strengths and interests is needed for our public school systems.With our public schools comes a structured curriculum, which I believe to be the maincause for concern in regards to our schools. The purpose of schooling in America is “1) to makegood people. 2) To make good citizens. 3) To make each person his or her personal best,” whichGatto argues to be false (35). He believes that the current school system is intended to create an

Mandon 1

For other people named John Taylor, see John Taylor (disambiguation).

John Taylor Gatto[1] (born December 15, 1935[2]) is an American author and former 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. He is best known for his books Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, which is sometimes considered to be his magnum opus.

He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.[3]


Gatto was born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a steel town near Pittsburgh. In his youth he attended public schools throughout the Pittsburgh Metro Area including Swissvale, Monongahela, and Uniontown as well as a Catholic boarding school in Latrobe. He did undergraduate work at Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia, then served in the U.S. Army medical corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Following army service he did graduate work at the City University of New York, Hunter College, Yeshiva University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Cornell.

He worked as a writer and held several odd jobs before borrowing his roommate's license to investigate teaching. Gatto also ran for the New YorkState Senate, 29th District in 1985 and 1988 as a member of the Conservative Party of New York against incumbent David Paterson.[4] He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991.[3] In 1991, he wrote a letter announcing his retirement, titled I Quit, I Think,[5] to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, saying that he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living." He then began a public speaking and writing career, and has received several awards from libertarian organizations, including the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Excellence in Advancement of Educational Freedom in 1997.[6]

He promotes homeschooling, and specifically unschooling and open source learning. Wade A. Carpenter, associate professor of education at Berry College, has called his books "scathing" and "one-sided and hyperbolic, [but] not inaccurate"[7] and describes himself as in agreement with Gatto.[8]

Gatto is currently working on a 3-part documentary about compulsory schooling, titled The Fourth Purpose. He says he was inspired by Ken Burns's Civil War.[9]

In 2011, Gatto had two major strokes. The stroke occurred after he completed the filming of "The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto"[10] which was released in early 2012 by Tragedy and Hope Communications.[11]

Main thesis[edit]

Gatto asserts the following regarding what school does to children in "Dumbing Us Down":

  1. It confuses the students. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials, this 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.
  2. It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.
  3. It makes them indifferent.
  4. It makes them emotionally dependent.
  5. It makes them intellectually dependent.
  6. It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).
  7. It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised.[12]

He also draws a contrast between communities and “networks,” with the former being healthy, and schools being examples of the latter. He says networks have become an unhealthy substitute for community in the United States.[citation needed]


* '[The Adventures of Snider, the CIA Spider]]' (2017, Lost Tools Press)ISBN 978-0-9892800-3-7


  • The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto (2012) - interview [13]
  • Thrive (2011) - appearance
  • Human Resources Documentary (2010) - appearance

See also[edit]

Other critics of public education:


  1. ^After learning he was regularly confused with another teacher named John Gatto, he added Taylor to his pen name.
  2. ^"Birthdatabase (.com)". Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  3. ^ abNew York's Teachers of the Year, New York State Education Department (accessed April 5, 2014).
  4. ^"THE ELECTIONS; New York State Senate". New York Times. November 10, 1988.
  5. ^"I Quit, I Think". Jerry Mintz. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  6. ^"[1]". Alexis de Tocqueville Award. April 5, 2014.
  7. ^Wade A. Carpenter (2007). "For Those We Won't Reach: An Alternative"(PDF). Educational Horizons. 85 (3): 153n8. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2011-07-22. 
  8. ^Wade A. Carpenter. "Behind Every Silver Lining: The Other Side of No Child Left Behind"(PDF). Educational Horizons. 85 (1). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2011-08-21. 
  9. ^The Fourth Purpose Documentary SeriesArchived 2009-04-03 at the Wayback Machine., Fourth Purpose Films (accessed March 21, 2008).
  10. ^"The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto (Intro + Hour 1 of 5)". YouTube. 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  11. ^"The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto". Retrieved 2014-03-10. 
  12. ^See John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down. The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, Iceland Gabriola: New Society Publishers, 2005, p. 2–11
  13. ^"John Taylor Gatto". IMDB. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 

External links[edit]

Writings and lectures[edit]



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