The silent spring of American education

If you enjoy a good rant and haven’t experienced John Taylor Gatto, you’re in for a treat. Gatto was an award-winning teacher before coming to believe that compulsory schooling is a sham foisted off on America for the needs of business, fear of a competent people, and a misreading of German mental science. His The Underground History of American Education is a gripping read — and it’s all available on the web. Gatto makes compelling arguments for dismantling our entire dysfunctional educational system.


Socrates foresaw if teaching became a formal profession, something like this would happen. Professional interest is served by making what is easy to do seem hard; by subordinating the laity to the priesthood. School is too vital a jobs-project, contract giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be “re-formed.” It has political allies to guard its marches, that’s why reforms come and go without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different.
David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first—the five-year spread means nothing at all. But in school I label Rachel “learning disabled” and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, “special education” fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever.


In 30 years of teaching kids rich and poor I almost never met a learning disabled child; hardly ever met a gifted and talented one either. Like all school categories, these are sacred myths, created by human imagination. They derive from questionable values we never examine because they preserve the temple of schooling.

Person John Ta
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