This is a continuation of highlighting the work of John Taylor Gatto, former New York Teacher of the Year. You can find his resignation letter on my Instagram or Facebook page. It is the post entitled, “I quit, I think”.
Gatto was a vocal critic of public schooling in America after spending almost 30 years inside classrooms. For some, his words will be a welcomed explanation to something you have known all along or felt in your gut but just couldn’t quite put into words. For others, his words will be uncomfortable. Particularly if you are a current teacher, currently have children enrolled in public schools, or believe public school is a necessary product for a productive society.
I was in the latter category at one time. His thoughts and many irrefutable facts stung, a lot. No one wants to think of themselves as participating in a system that can actually harm children. Could it be that he is just being dramatic or even cynical? I will let his words speak for themselves.
His expressions are shared because they ring true for many, many people who have been involved (or are involved) in the schooling system of our country. Given the current state of things with COVID-19 and schools either being shut down completely and utilizing virtual schooling or being open, but turned into significant isolation zones, I believe his words are more important than ever.
Maybe his explanations, thought-provoking arguments, and experiences will resonate and maybe they won’t. I do not share to convince you one way or another. I share because I was inspired and changed by his work.
The focus of this post is on his book, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling.
I learned about this book through a series of videos created by Brett Veinotte of the School Sucks Podcast, also a former educator. (Full disclosure: I have not read this entire book.) Instead, I have listened to the video series, thumbed through many chapters of the physical book, and pulled out some great quotes. I encourage you to listen to the video series on Brett’s site and to explore more of his work. His podcast is sophisticated, deep, and important. He covers a range of topics that are relevant to our society and invites guests who are critical thinkers. The conversations are straight-forward, raw, honest, and sure to teach you something of value.
Below are only two of Brett’s 13 videos on The Underground History of American Education. Enjoy.
Before you Send Your Child to Public School
An Angry Look At Modern Schooling (Chapter Two)
“The secret of American schooling is that it doesn’t teach the way children learn, and it isn’t supposed to; school was engineered to serve a concealed command economy and a deliberately re-stratified social order. It wasn’t made for the benefit of kids and families as those individuals and institutions would define their own needs.
Work in classrooms isn’t significant work; it fails to satisfy real needs pressing on the individual; it doesn’t answer real questions experience raises in the young mind; it doesn’t contribute to solving any problem encountered in actual life. The net effect of making all schoolwork external to individual longings, experiences, questions, and problems is to render the victim listless.”“An Enclosure Movement for Children”
The Underground History of American Schooling