Gatto, NYS Teacher of the Year (1991)

Hello Class,

John Taylor Gatto’s article was riveting, bringing awareness to the fallacies of the education system that goes ignored or forgotten. Gatto writes from the perspective of a far left-wing radical that is disgusted with America’s values, both educationally and socially. Very “tongue and cheek,” Gatto’s article may be hard for some to swallow.

Gatto begins by stating, “The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon . . . than to leave with one genuine enthusiasm.” Theoretically speaking, we as educators want our students to be passionate about their lessons (in our case, reading and writing). We hope they not only comprehend the work, but are able to apply it to their lives and in the future. Unfortunately, with class periods that last just over 1/2 an hour and bells signaling that the subject is no longer permitted to be discussed for the day, students only touch the surface of most topics.

Class Position, Emotional and Intellectual Dependencies are lessons that have been indirectly taught over centuries of education. “Individuality is a contradiction of class theory, a curse to all systems of classification,” Gatto mocks. Students are assigned classes, seats, regimented projects and papers, and must prove themselves through state and assessment exams. In what way does all this demanding and ordering of the students allow them to become independent, self-sufficient young adults? Children and young adolescents are conditioned to ask when they can use the restroom, ask when they can receive care for an ailment, and be called on when they have something to contribute to the class. Gatto puts it perfectly: “We’ve built a way of life that depends on people doing what they are told because they don’t know how to tell themselves what to do.”

Gatto’s final lesson, and in my opinion his most powerful message within the article, is One Can’t Hide. Gatto writes, “Aristotle taught that without a fully active role in community life one could not hope to become a healthy human being.” As we learned form our trip to School Without Walls, community service/life can be incorporated into a school day. There is a feeling of purpose and significance in the community when the students are involved.  These young adolescents gain an understanding and appreciation of basic needs that are often take for granted, and a personal connection with and respect for the community. SWW exemplifies it and Aristotle and Gatto preach it: community life and education beyond the classroom are necessary for the development of well-rounded, successful young adults.

I would love to explore further the time line of how education has plummeted since the 60’s. More shockingly, how television and stress have consumed the lives of young adolescents, and their parents/guardians, to the point of education becoming secondary.



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