Monday, 17 September 2012

Dumbing us down, by John Taylor Gatto

I had wanted to read this book for a long time as it is a classic critique of compulsory schooling, a few months ago I finally managed it and it was a sobering read.

John Taylor Gatto is a retired schoolteacher who taught in New York for 30 years, more than once winning the teacher of the year award. Surprisingly (or not...) he was (and is) a strong critic of mass compulsory schooling, even expressing his views (strongly) while accepting the awards.

The book was written in the first months after John Taylor Gatto left schoolteaching, it is a hard-hitting reflection on the significance of schools and schoolteaching, the difference between networks and communities, and what lies at the heart of being congregationally American as opposed to corporatively American.
These are the main points, what mainstream American (but it can be applied to the UK and most countries I can think of) school does to children:
  1. It makes the children confused. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorise 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.
  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
As an ex-teacher myself I recognise the truth in his words. We had already decided to home educate but this book made me very angry at all the wasted talent, creativity and joy of learning that is daily being eroded in children around the globe.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great book indeed. Any parent with young kids should read any of John Taylor Gatto's work immediately. I first learned about Gatto through watching the Ultimate History Lesson DVD. Stunning.

    My favorite Gatto quote: "Schooling is a form of adoption. You give your kid away at his or her most formative years to a group of strangers. You accept a promise that the state, through its agents, knows better how to raise your children and educate them than you do."


Popular Posts